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, November 26, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q22


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q21-22)is The Person of Jesus Christ the Mediator.(see Harmony Index)
The previous study dealt with our Redeemer in the context of who. Now we consider how. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man? You’ve heard the phrase “walk the talk.”  It’s a reminder that there is little merit to simply saying you will do something if you never follow it up with action. A person may talk the talk, but can he walk the talk, actually doing what he says? This matches James’s admonition that “to him that knows to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jam. 4:17).
Our Savior not only talked the talk; he walked it perfectly. Even more, consider the fact that not only was the Word spokenin ages past (Heb 1:1), but it walkedon earth as well, the Word incarnate (Heb 1:2). When it comes to “walking the talk” at best we are only playing a feeble catch-up to him who has gone before us. As such we are called to grow in grace and in knowledge as disciples of Christ, who we behold in perfect truth and grace.
As we study this question, may the Lord grant us understanding of this precious confession concerning the “very God of very God” who “became man” forever.
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WSC Q 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul[a], being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her[b] yet without sin[c].
[a] Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:14, 17
[b] Luke 1:27, 31, 35
[c] II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; I John 3:5

Question 22 asks how Christ, the Son of God, became man, and answers that he became man by assuming a real body and a reasoning soul. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to him; yet he was sinless.

Comments and considerations:
Luke tells us that “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). But what exactly was she thinking? For her, the miracle of the incarnation was no abstract theological dictum; it was a flesh and blood reality, her flesh and blood, born out of an amazing promise into the most improbable of circumstances. Parents want great things for their children, but this child was something different. Did she ponder Simeon’s prophecies, that “this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against… [and] yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:33-35)? Surely she did.
In time we have come to understand the truth and eternal implications of that moment, in what it means to “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He is:
The Christ, the Savior Messiah, promised from the beginning. What Eve hoped to see, Mary held in her arms. How long, oh Lord, how long?
The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the one who joined in the chorus, “Let Us make man in our image,” and who condescended to take on the form of human flesh.
The Son of Man, prophesied by Daniel, having a true body, small and frail, and a reasonable soul to grow with mind and body as he learned obedience, even unto death. What can this be, but the wondrous coming of a kinsman redeemer?
Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and conceived in the mind of God in eternity past, with such love as to overpower a resisting flesh to bring forth history-changing life – not in opposition to the true nature of “being”, but in harmony with this flesh subject to death. Why would he do this? How does the Psalmist put it? “But I am a worm, and no man. But You are He who took Me out of the womb: You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth” (Ps 22:6, 9, 10).
“The One who is and who was and who is to be,” born of Mary yet without sin, to save his people from their sins. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Mary pondered all these things. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines ponderas, “To weigh in the mind; to consider and compare the circumstances or consequences of an event, or the importance of the reasons for or against a decision.” Webster includes the verse from Luke 2 as an example. This definition is very close to the definition of the Greek word: “To confer, to put one thing with another in considering circumstances.”
There is much to ponder here. Theologies and confessions, sermons and songs, metaphorical narratives and accountings of Christ’s incarnation have been written and proclaimed in endless number. And so it will be without end, for indeed it is an infinite wonder.
“My soul [does]magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever” (Luke 1:46-47, 54-55).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    Human beings are made up of two parts. First, there is the part we cannot see, the soul, our immaterial being that never dies. Second, there is the part we can see, the body, the physical dwelling of our soul. What do the Scriptures teach regarding Jesus Christ’s physical nature? See Heb. 10:5-7 (see note 1).
2.    Even though Jesus was truly human, like us in every way, he became this way very differently. What was different in how Jesus became man? See Luke 1:26-35.
3.    Every human is born after Adam, in his image. What does Rom. 5:19 say is the result of this fact?
4.    Jesus, being born differently, without sin or the effects of Adam’s sin, lived a life of perfect obedience. What did he tell his disciples just before going to the cross for their sins? See John 14:30-31.
5.    Jesus spoke clearly about himself, and others who lived with him observed and gave witness about his life. Read John 8:29 and I Pet. 2:22 and answer this question: Could anyone else say the same things without being a liar?
6.    As all humans have their beginning in Adam (the source of all human existence), Jesus offers a new start as the new (or last) Adam for mankind (I Cor. 15:45), a new representative without sin (Heb. 4:14-15). Why is this important for us? See II Cor. 5:21.
(1) This is a central doctrine of the Christian faith. When Jesus became a man, he was not just God in a human body. He assumed or took to himself a human body and a human soul, while he continued to be God in every way. He was also completely man just like every other human being, living a life of perfect obedience to God in the place of those who would believe in him. To do that, he had to be fully human just as we are.

Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 22 and WLC Q# 37
WSC Q22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A.  Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul[a], being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her[b] yet without sin[c].
[a]  Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:14, 17
[b]  Luke 1:27, 31, 35
[c]  II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; IJohn 3:5
WLC Q37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A.  Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul[a], being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her[b], yet without sin[c].
[a]  John 1:14; Mat. 26:38
[b]  Luke 1:27, 31, 35, 42; Gal. 4:4
[c]  Heb. 4:15; 7:26
Questions for further study:

The larger catechism provides the same question and answer as the parallel shorter, except for one phrase.  What might our fathers want to convey in this additional wording and differing set of support scriptures?

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