For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q12


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q12-13) is The Covenant of Works. (see Harmony Index)
This study introduces another precious theme central to our knowing and doing the Christian life; that theme is the covenant. Once again, we enter into our study with the prayer that we would draw near to our God, with hearts grateful for his many blessings.
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WSC Q12. What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience[a]; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death[b].
[a] Compare Gen. 2:16, 17 with Rom. 5:12-14; Rom. 10:5; and Luke 10:25-28 with the covenants made with Noah and Abraham.
[b] Gen. 2:16-17; Jas. 2:10

Question #12 asks what did God’s providence specifically do for man whom he created. It answers that God made a covenant with man to give him life, if he perfectly obeyed, and instructing him not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or he would die.
Comments and considerations:
If you’re new to the faith, this may be the first time you have considered these questions and answers; but for many, this ground has been plowed several times before. Yet I dare say that God’s Word always bears fresh fruit no matter how many times its truths are opened for display, for it is alive and powerful (Heb. 4:12). I mention this because it struck me in the reading of this question and answer that it assumes the Creator-creature distinction - a divide between an infinite, a totally independent and self-sufficient God, and his finite creation. That gap exists in fact, but the infinite God initiated a formal agreement to close that yawing chasm. He promised to bind himself to his dependent creatures, and to provide for their every need. One of the definitions of providence is “the act of providing,” and God did not leave his creation to fend for itself; as it is rightly states in this catechism, he personally “entered into a covenant of life with [man],” binding himself by that contract and all that it entails. 
The covenants are of singular importance for understanding the work of redemption. Much space has been devoted to the study of the covenants. But for now, let us ponder the Creator-creature distinction, knowing that whether we are new or old in our understanding, we never cease to be utterly dependent upon our sovereign God and need to place our faith in his providential care. So that we might more fully appreciate that distinction, let us consider the word “estate.”
“Estate” basically means “an established standing or status.” Ponder for a moment the crown of creation when God formed man and breathed into him the breath of life (Gen 3:7). He entered into a covenant of life in a standing unequaled upon the stage of sovereign providence. 
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained,
What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?
For you have made him a little lower than the angels, and you have crowned him with glory and honor.
You have made him to have dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen— even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas.
O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8:3-9)
Truly, what is man, O LORD, that you are mindful of him? What is man that you would redeem him at such a costly price when he wanders off theestate of your loving kindness? What is man that you would pursue him with an infinite love when he falls from his standing of honor and grace in the wondrous covenant of life?
O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    A covenant is an agreement between two persons that promises certain benefits if certain conditions are met. When people make a covenant, it has to be exactly what both of them want before they agree upon it, as each person promises to do certain things for the other. If one of them fails to keep their part of the covenant, the other person is freed from keeping it. When God makes a covenant with people, it is not between two equals, however. God, being much greater than man whom he created and owns, promises covenant blessings, and requires that man keep his commandments. Read Ps. 103:17-19. What information is stated here?
2.    When God placed Adam in the Garden, he told him that he could use anything that was there as he liked, except for one thing. What one thing was forbidden? Read Gen. 2:8-17.
3.    God is independent, which means he can do whatever he pleases and needs nothing apart from himself. Upon whom does man, along with the rest of creation, depend for his daily needs? Ps. 104:27-30.
4.    God created man physically alive, but he also gave man spiritual life in order that he might know and have fellowship (communicate) with God (Gen. 2:7). What did God say would happen to the life God gave Adam if he did not obey him perfectly? See Rom. 6:23 and Eph. 2:1.
5.    Because of Adam’s sin, what is now needed, and what must man do? Read John 17: 3 and John 11:25-26.
Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 12; WLC Q# 20, and WCF VII.I-II
WSC Q12. What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?
A.  When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience[a]; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death[b].
 [a] Compare Gen. 2:16, 17 with Rom.5:12-14; Rom. 10:5; Luke 10:25-28, and with the covenants made with Noah and Abraham.
[b] Gen. 2:16-17; Jas. 2:10

WLC Q20. What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?
A.  The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created was, the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth[a]; putting the creatures under his dominion[b], and ordaining marriage for his help[c]; affording him communion with himself[d]; instituting the Sabbath[e]; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience[f], of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death[g].
[a] Gen. 2:8, 15-16
[b] Gen. 1:28
[c] Gen. 2:18
[d] Gen. 1:27, 28
[e] Gen. 2:3
[f] Compare Gen. 2:16,17 with Rom. 5:12-14; 10:5; Luke 10:25-28, and with the covenants made with Noah and Abraham.
[g] Gen.2:17

THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. VII.
Of God's Covenant with Man.
I.    The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant[a].
[a] Isa. 40:13-17; Job 9:32-33; Ps. 113:5-6; Job 22:2-3; Job 35:7-8; Luke 17:10; Acts 17:24-25

II.  The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works[a], wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity[b], upon condition of perfect and personal obedience[c].
[a] Gen. 2:16-17; Hos. 6:7; Gal. 3:12
[b] Gen. 3:22; Rom. 10:5; 5:12-14, 5:15-20; Gal. 3:10; 1Corth. 15:22, 47
[c] Compare Gen. 2:16, 17 with Rom. 5:12-14; Rom. 10:5; Luke 10: 25-28; and with the covenants made with Noah Abraham.
Questions for further study:

If one definitions of providence is “the act of providing,” what are the things God provided for man at creation described in the Larger Catechism?  Are these not covenant blessings?

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