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, August 20, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q8

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q7-8) is The Decrees, or the Eternal Purpose of God. (see Harmony Index)
The catechism continues with the theme begun in Question #7—the decrees of God, which “are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” Now the question is this: How does God carry out (or execute) his eternal purposes? In other words, how does God do what he has foreordained?
Knowing and doing—as we have all experienced, it is one thing to know what to do, but altogether another thing to actually do it! We observed this pattern in a previous catechism question, and it is repeated often in Scripture. Do you recall this two-part principle for the Christian life, and which question defines it? (See Note 1 below, for the answer.)
May the Lord grant his Church a deeper appreciation for his infinite wisdom and providence, and provide us with obedient hearts as we continue our mediations in the Confessions of the Church.
WSC Q8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A.  God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence[a].
    [a] Rev. 4:11; Eph.1:11; Ps. 148:8; Is. 40:26; Dan. 4:35; Acts 4:24-28

Question #8 asks how God carries out his decrees and answers that God carries out his decrees in creation and providence.

Comments and considerations:
God executes his decrees in the works of creation (designing and bringing all things into existence) and providence (maintaining His purposes in every detail of unfolding events). Look carefully and prayerfully at the Scripture references associated to this answer. If you have a Bible with marginal cross-references, you will most likely find many more verses to ponder on these points.
Again, we appreciate the care with which our fathers in the faith selected each word. In this study, we consider what it means that “God executes.” The root of the old English word “execute” touches upon the word “seek,” which carries with it the idea of going beyond merely performing or doing a thing. Literally, it means “to follow out or through; hence, to perform; to do; to effect; to carry an undertaking to completion.” There is a deliberate nature to this word; it implies the authority and the power to carry out a thing with an unimpeded finality. Applied to legal matters, we might discuss “the execution of law or justice;” in this context, “execute” means “to carry into effect the law, or the judgment or sentence on a person; to inflict capital punishment on; to put to death; as, to execute a traitor.”  The word can also be used to mean “to complete, as in a legal instrument, as by signing and sealing a legal document; as, to execute a deed or trust”.
Why is this significant? Well, this is how our fathers understood the way our God insures that all he has foreordained comes to pass. There is one final entry for “execute” in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: “To perform the proper office; to produce an effect.” We could spend much more time considering the authority of God’s “office,” and the infinite power at His disposal “to produce an effect” with unimpeded finality in all His decrees in the works of creation and providence.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    God always works to carry out his eternal plan and to cause all things to happen exactly as he has foreordained that they will. God carries out his decrees in two ways: 1) in creation, so that it would work as he purposed, and 2) in providence, so that all events occur as he wills. Read Ps. 135:5-6. What does the Lord do? Where does he do this? Read Dan. 4:35. With what two kinds of creatures does God do whatever he pleases? Who can stop him?
2.    According to the “laws of nature,” at what temperature does water freeze? What always follows after winter and spring? Does water flow uphill? Why is there fragrance in a flower? There is a seemingly unending quantity of these so-called “natural occurrences”—patterns which we can count on, like mathematical equations and scientific certainties that allow us to aim at the planet Mars and land a robot there. Why does the universe “obey” these laws, these divine decrees?  Read Ps. 104:5-9.
3.    Read Ps. 104:10-30. What things listed here are examples of God carrying out his decrees in creation?
4.    When we study science, we study God’s decrees in creation. But what would be our course of study if we wanted to observe God’s providence? Read Dan. 2:21 and Acts 17:25 (see Note 2).
5.    Each individual event of Joseph’s life reported in Genesis might appear to be made up of unconnected and random details. In the end, however, how does the Bible describe them through Joseph’s lips in Gen. 50:20? What NT verse does this compare too? (See Note 3.)
6.    As it must have been for Joseph, it is often very difficult or even impossible for us to know how evil events and actions carry out God’s decrees. Even the disciples of the Lord Jesus had a hard time understanding the reason for the death of Christ (Matt. 6:21-23); yet in the end what did they finally come to understand?  Read Acts 4:27-28.
1- Q-3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
Ans: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
2- Answer: History
3- Answer: Rom 8:28
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 8; WLC Q# 14 
WSC Q8. How doth God execute his decrees?
A.  God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence[a].
 [a] Rev. 4:11; Eph.1:11; Ps. 148:8; Isa. 40:26; Dan. 4:35; Acts 4:24-28

WLC Q14. How doth God execute his decrees?
A.  God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will[a].
 [a] Eph. 1:11; I Peter 1:1,2
Questions for further study:

Thought the self-same question, how does the answer to the Larger Catechism differ to the shorter and what bold proclamation is being reinforced?

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