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 24, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q13

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q12-13) is The Covenant of Works. (see Harmony Index)

While listening to a local Christian radio station, I learned that a debate was scheduled to take place at a particular church that does not hold to a theologically Reformed viewpoint. The topic was Calvinism verses Arminianism. I could not help but wonder what the quality of that debate would be, and which “experts” would take each side. It is interesting that the debate over the issue of free will and sovereign grace continues, and that a fellowship within the Arminian camp is hosting such an event.
This week’s catechism question touches on one of the areas of ongoing debate within the broader church, the issue of freewill and the effects of the fall of Adam. Again we approach our consideration prayerfully, wanting to come, by the Holy Spirit’s aid, to a better understanding of the truth, so that we may be more fully sanctified unto our Lord. This desire is in line with our Lord’s priestly prayer: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
WSC Q13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A. Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God[a].
[a] Gen. 3:6-8, 13; II Cor. 11:3
Question #13 asks if our first parents remained as they were created, and answers that, left to the freedom of their own wills, our first parents sinned against God and fell from their original condition.
Comments and considerations:
We begin with a quote from G.I. Williamson’s excellent Volume I Study in the Shorter Catechism: “God created man in the estate of innocence. He was God’s true image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. But he was not yet confirmed in that blessed condition. God set before our first parents two alternatives. On the one hand, there was the path of perfect obedience. And this path could lead only to life everlasting. ‘The man that doeth them [God’s commandments] shall live in them,’ says Paul (Gal. 3:12). But on the other hand, there was the path of disobedience. And this path could lead only to death. ‘For in the day that thou eatest thereof,’ said God to Adam, speaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, ‘thou shalt surely die’ (Gen. 2:17). It is this that we are to think of when we read, in the Catechism, that our first parents were ‘left to the freedom of their own will.’ This means that our first parents had two important things. 1) First they had liberty to follow the path of obedience unto life or the path of disobedience unto death. … 2) Secondly, they had the ability to choose either one of these two alternatives. In other words, they had the power within themselves (because God had created them with the power) to do good, or evil. As we shall see, in our further studies in the Catechism, it is this power or ability to do either good or evil that was entirely lost in the fall.”
Williamson goes on to explain that “after the first sin, Adam and all other people descending from him remainat libertyto do either good or evil,” but man’s abilityto do good, his free will, is now subject to his fallen condition, for Scripture makes it clear throughout that “there is none that doeth good, no not one” (Rom. 3:12). We will soon see the catechism’s definition of sin, “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” Apart from this fine definition, sin may be termed in different ways as it manifests itself in the human condition. For example, Adam and Eve’s transgression could be seen as defiance in determining for themselves the definition of right and wrong; they fell prey to faulty reasoning, as they were tempted. Instead of relying on the wisdom and authority of their loving God, they opted to take a self-assertive, independent path, with its unintended and ruinous consequences.
As we will see, the catechism’s definition of sin is straightforward (Q14). Definitions like the one above can be somewhat rational in explaining what happened. Whether we try to rationalize, study to understand why, or simply state the fact as it is, our first parents did fall “from the [wondrous] estate wherein they were created by sinning against God.” The next several questions deal with the fallout of this event—the entrance and destructive effects of sin. But the story doesn’t end there. Question 20 finally pierces the darkness by asking, “Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?” The short answer is, “No, he did not!” Our hearts are filled with unspeakable joy and thanksgiving, for truly “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5b).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    God put man in a place of privilege. Made in the image of God, only man could worship and communicate with God; only man could reason, remember, plan, and decide. But with such a high privilege there also came responsibility. Read Deut. 10:12-13. What responsibility has God called his creation to perform?
2.    When Satan tempted our first parents, what tactic did he use? (Gen. 3:1-6) How did Jesus not succumb to the same tactic? See Matt. 4:4.
3.    When we sin, we may often sin against other persons. But ultimately, against whom are we really sinning? See Ps. 51:3-4.
4.    The first sin of Adam and Eve is called the Fall. Their actions had far reaching effects on all mankind. According to Psalm 14:1-4, how far did their actions reach in the effect of sin on our lives?
5.    From Shorter Catechism Question 10, we learned that God created man in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. What are the effects of the Fall on man’s condition relating to these things? Consider I Cor. 2:14; Is. 64:6; Rom. 1:21-23, 25.
6.    When created, man was given the high privilege and responsibility of ruling over the creatures, taking care of creation, and using his abilities wisely in service to God. What effect did the Fall have upon man and his calling? Read James 4:1-4.

Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 13; WLC Q# 21, and WCF VI.I 
WSC Q13. Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?
A.  Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God[a].
[a] Gen. 3:6-8, 13; II Cor. 11:3
WLC Q21. Did man continue in that estate wherein God at first created him?
A.  Our first parents being left to the freedom of their own will, through the temptation of Satan, transgressed the commandment of God, in eating the forbidden fruit, and thereby fell from the estate of innocency wherein they were created[a].
[a] Gen. 3:6-8, 13; Ecc. 7:29; II Cor. 11:3
Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the
Punishment thereof.
I.    Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit[a].  This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory[b].
[a] Gen. 3:13; II Cor. 11:3; Gen. 3:1-14
[b] Romans 5:19, 20, 21
Questions for further study:
We might perceive the Fall and the entrance of sin upon creation as a great tragedy, and indeed the deadly effects of the first transgression are undeniable and quite evident for all to behold. Yet our fathers present another side to the equation recorded is the Confession of Faith.  What might that be? (1)

1. Our God’s wise and holy counsel in the purposing of all to his glory.

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