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 Q17

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q14-19) is Original Sin. (see Harmony Index)
The previous two catechism questions dealt with “the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created” and the fall of “all mankind…in Adam’s first transgression.”  Now we come to Question 17, which deals with the disparate estate that the fall brought upon all mankind—“sin and misery.”
As we ponder the significance of the fall and its universal effects, we ought to reflect upon the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” and the “so great salvation” his finished work provided for his own held captive to the consequences of the fall.
May the Lord grant us a grateful and rejoicing heart in the mystery of his great love and compassion, for we have abundant reason to praise him in every way, which is our first call and purpose.
WSC Q17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery[a].
   [a] Gen. 3:16-19, 23; Rom. 3:16, 5:12; Eph. 2:1; Gal. 3:10
Question #17 asks what happened to man in the fall, and answers that man fell into a condition of sin and misery.
Comments and considerations:
In G.I. Williamson’s study book, The Shorter Catechism, Volume I, he says in lesson 12 (in which he combines Questions 16 & 17), “In this lesson we consider one of the most difficult doctrines for human beings to accept. Just as a person who has some terrible disease like cancer hates to hear what the doctor has to say, so we, as sinners, hate to hear what the Bible says concerning our sin and misery. And yet, the strange thing is, that no one can really escape from these facts by hating to hear about them.”  Williamson shows how we are surrounded by the undeniable facts of our condition; he then describes the different ways people try to explain the human condition. He concludes that, “the difference is only in the fact that the Christian has some understanding of the reason for this sin and misery.”  
I’ve heard that the Bible is 80% narrative – stories within the story of the fall, its effects upon all people, and the various aspects of redemption. To quote Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages” (As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7). This is not unlike the lesson of Ecclesiastes in its search for meaning in man’s existence. While the Preacher describes all as “vanity and grasping for wind” (Ecc. 1:14b), the Bard describes the “Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history,” calling it “second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” Of course Solomon in his wisdom saw the end differently: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13-14). Solomon struggled to understand this world of sin and misery, as we all do; yet he remained teachable and ultimately understood that God “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in [our] hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecc. 3:11). Our God and the things that he does may be past finding out and humanly incomprehensible, but He is knowable (Deut. 29:29). And as G.I. Williamson says, we “as sinners, [may] hate to hear what the Bible says concerning our sin and misery,” but if we do not “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18), but rather embrace it as one seeking healing from the death blows of sin and the disparate estate in which it placed all mankind, then truly we’ll find the hope of glory, the salvation of our souls, meaning, and life everlasting.
There is much to ponder in this short catechism lesson, much to learn and gain if we give proper heed. How did our Lord put it? “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Those are comforting words indeed for those who dwell in the estate of sin and misery.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    When Adam and Eve sinned and the fall took its effect, they did not immediately die physically; rather, they became spiritually dead on the inside, and their bodies began to die. How did sin and misery first manifest itself following their disobedience? Read Gen. 3:6-10.
2.    Catechism Question 10 asked how God created man; the answer states, “in His own image; in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; with dominion over the other creatures.” Question 1 teaches us that man’s chief end (primary purpose) in life is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Reading Gen. 3:8-19, in what ways were God’s creative purposes for man affected by the fall?
3.    Likewise, how is man’s relationship with other men changed by the fall? See Gen. 4:1-10.
4.    Adam was created in the image or likeness of God. In whose likeness were those born after Adam? See Gen. 5:1-3.
5.    In the midst of the curse, God provides the gracious promise of redemption. How is that promise revealed? See Gen. 3:15 (cf. 1Cor. 15:22).
Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 17 & WLC Q# 23
WSC Q17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A.  The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery[a].
[a] Gen. 3:16-19, 23; Rom. 3:16, 5:12; Eph. 2:1; Gal. 3:10.
WLC Q23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A.  The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery[a].
 [a] Rom. 5:12, 3:23; Gal. 3:10

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