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, October 22, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q16

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q14-19) is Original Sin. (see Harmony Index)
People tend not to think about the implications of their actions. The word “implications” is derived from a Latin word meaning “to interweave, entangle, or entwine”—and so often a careless action leads to a tangled web of trouble. The just-do-it attitude of our culture certainly leads to thoughtless action. But in this, we are not so different from our first parents Adam and Eve, who surely failed to consider in advance the consequences of their rebellion in the garden. That first sin, committed at the beginning of time, has had a devastating effect on all subsequent people and events.
In contrast, Jesus Christ, the second Adam and our new federal head approached every step of his life with careful thought; he fully understood the implications of every step of his saving work—every step necessary and effective to undo the consequences of our first parents’ act of self-will. As a beloved church father put it, “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.”
As we ponder this lesson, may we as individuals, families, and as a church family consider the covenant implications of our every thought and actions, “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing [all] into captivity to the obedience of Christ” II Cor. 10:5. May we know God’s blessing as we study this week’s catechism question and answer.
WSC Q16. Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity[a]; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression[b].
[a] Acts 17:26. See under Question 12.
[b] Gen. 2:17. Compare with Rom. 5:12-20; I Cor. 15:21, 22.
Question #16 asks if all mankind fell in Adam’s first disobedience, and answers that since the covenant was made not only for Adam but also for his natural descendants, all mankind sinned in him and fell with him in his first disobedience.
Comments and considerations:
In Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, we find this definition of “posterity:” Descendants; children, children’s children, &c. indefinitely; the race that proceeds from a progenitor. The whole human race are the posterity of Adam. See from there the word “progenitor,” which Webster goes on to define as: An ancestor in the direct line; a forefather. Adam was the progenitor of the human race. “Progenitor” comes from two words—pro, meaning before, and gigno, meaning beget, a word familiar to us from reading Biblical genealogies.
Connection, origin, identity, and our covenant relationship with Adam—all this is clearly taught in Scripture and understood by God’s church. Back in 1828, the federal headship of Adam to the whole human race was even used to form definitions of common words in the dictionary of the day. But in the iWorld* culture in which we now live, such connection, corporate identity, and covenant understandings are pushed aside in favor of hyper-individualism. The iWorld* culture sees no connection to the past, and thus takes no responsibility for the effect of its actions upon others now or in the future; the members of this culture break God’s laws with pride and with seeming impunity. It’s as if people live in a bubble of insensitivity, burst eventually by the reality of outcomes and unintended consequences.
Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression? Scripture is clear and we are surrounded by the evidence. One has to marvel at the realization that must have befallen Adam and Eve the nanosecond after their experiment in self-assertion—their want of conformity unto, and transgression of, the command of God. In the blink of an eye, all changed. They sensed immediately the crushing weight of the implications of their actions; their paradise became a nightmare of sin and hate, for them, their children, their children’s children, …generation unto generation. It would take one willing to pay the price of real active obedience, one willing to obey where Adam wouldn’t and now couldn’t. It would take one who could awake by faith from the crucifixion-induced sleep of death, to break the eternal and cursed nightmare Adam and Eve brought upon their posterity.
In the traditional world, now beginning to fade into memory, people believed in the providence of a sovereign God. We were taught that our times and places, even our family identities, had design, meaning, and purpose. We were to learn, to build relationships, to confront and overcome differences and sinful behaviors—in other words, like Mom used to say, we were to “grow up and learn to get along.” If our fathers failed us, our pastors and teachers pointed us to a Heavenly Father who never does, and never will! In fact, difficult relationships with fellow sinners led us to appreciate the most pleasant of all relationships, with Jesus, the kinsman redeemer who gives us a new identity and an eternal family.
I’ve been speaking in the past tense because such clear teachings from God’s Word are not taught consistently in the homes and schools of our culture anymore. God’s plans, and the implications of his and our actions, are ignored by the iWorld*. May we, however, hold fast to the decrees of the all-wise and sovereign God who established covenant bonds. May we teach those decrees to our children, so that they might understand their identity in Him to whom alone belongs all praise, honor, and glory.  
Note: *iWorld: The present-day society in which the immediate desires and wishes of the individual reign supreme, above the world of traditional morality and relationships, the tWorld of traditional Western cultural value and society.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    This catechism question is based on the idea of covenant and representation. Whatever a representative does, it is as though the people he represents have done it as well. This can be observed the signing of peace treaties today. It would be impossible for all of the people living in two warring countries to get together for a meeting; so each country sends a representative to the meeting. Whatever the representative says, his country is saying. If the representative signs a peace treaty, his country has in fact signed it. Sometimes a people will choose their own representative, and at other times someone in authority may make the choice for them. God chose Adam as the first man to represent all mankind. How should we acknowledge God in this covenant relationship He established? Read Rom. 11:33 and Ps. 145:17.
2.    Because of this covenant relationship in which Adam represents all mankind, what was the result of Adam’s sin upon all of his descendants? See Rom. 5:16.
3.    What does Rom. 5:14 say was one of the effects upon all mankind as a result of Adam’s sin?
4.    In His grace, God provided a new beginning to counter Adam’s fall. Who is the new man? See Rom. 5:15, 18-19.
5.    How is this new man able to save others from the effects of sin and Adam’s fall? See Is. 53:5-6.

Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 16, WLC Q# 22 & WCF VI.III
WSC Q16. Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression?
A.  The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity[a]; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression[b]. 
[a] Acts 17:26. See under Question 12.
[b] Gen. 2:17. Compared with Rom 5:12-20; I Cor. 15:21, 22.
WLC Q22. Did all mankind fall in that first transgression?
A.  The covenant being made with Adam, as a public person, not for himself only, but for his posterity, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation[a], sinned in him, and fell with him in that first transgression[b].
[a] Acts 17:26.
[b] Gen. 2:16-17; compare with Rom. 5:12-20; 1Cor. 15:21-22.
Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the
Punishment thereof.
III.They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed[a]; and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation[b].
[a] Acts 17:26; Compare Gen. 2:16, 17 with Rom. 5:12, 15-19; I Cor. 15:21-22, 45, 49.
[b] Ps. 51:5; John 3:6; Gen. 5:3; Job 15:14; Rom. 3:10-18.
Questions for further study:

Note the progression of understanding and words used from the shorter to larger catechism and confession, words like posterity, public person and imputation and corrupted nature.  What additional light do they bring to our understanding of the first transgression?    

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