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, January 14, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q29

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q29-31) is Redemption; Union with Christ; Effectual Calling. (see Harmony Index)
We continue our study in the catechism by seeing how the redemption purchased by our Savior is applied in our salvation. Let us begin by pondering Titus 3:5-6, one of the Scripture references assigned to this answer, and including verse 7 also: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
May God grant us a deep appreciation for this precious truth, and may our understanding continue to shape our thinking, doing, and speaking toward all that is well-pleasing in his sight.
WSC Q29 How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit[a].
[a] John 1:12-13; John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5-6.
Question 29 asks how are we made to take part in the redemption Christ bought, and answers that we take part in the redemption Christ bought when the Holy Spirit effectively applies it to us.
Comments and Considerations:
The previous catechism study mentioned John Murray’s book Redemption Accomplished and Applied, with emphasis on the “accomplishment” side of the title. This catechism question looks at the other side, the “application.” As Murray explains in his wonderful and instructive book, that application includes us being partakers in:
Effectual Calling
Faith And Repentance
Union With Christ
These are the various “steps” in the application of redemption. Some of these steps occur virtually in the same moment; but in the process of redemption, there is an order and progression. As Paul wrote in Rom. 8:29-30, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” The other aspects listed above are assembled from the study of Scripture. Murray writes:
The provision which God has made for the salvation of men ... has in view the manifoldness of man’s need and exhibits the overflowing abundance of God’s goodness, wisdom, grace, and love. This superabundance appears in the eternal counsel of God respecting salvation; it appears in the historic accomplishment of redemption by the work of Christ once for all; and it appears in the application of redemption continuously and progressively till it reaches its consummation in the liberty of the glory of the children of God. (Part II, Chapter 1, p. 79)
Again, our fathers selected their words carefully, drawing from the explicit teaching of scripture saying, “we are made partakers.” According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, that is “one who has or takes a part, share or portion in common with others; a sharer; a participator.” Thus we share or participate in what Christ did on our behalf on the cross; the definition even adds “an accomplice or an associate” to show our close identity. Consider Paul’s words in Gal. 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (KJV).
And notice, “we are made…” It is not something we have initiated, done, or accomplished, but rather an application made “to us by his Holy Spirit.” The Scriptures are very clear: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-12). And again: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).
Finally, understand that the Holy Spirit’s work is “effectual.” Subsequent catechism questions will expound on this point; but it is a term too precious to pass by now, so let us mediate on that word in the context of our effectual calling—particularly as it relates to the order of salvation. Consider this precious gem found in Phil. 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” And also, “Faithful is he that called you, who also will do it” (1Thess. 5:24).
Indeed, to God alone be the glory!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Living freely as we do, enjoying much prosperity, it may be difficult to understand total misery and despair, and truly to appreciate what many of us have never experienced. Yet we have each felt fear and inner desperation, a sense of doom and pending judgment. When we read stories, see movies, or watch the daily news, we observe personal tragedies or destructive events that make us say, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.” If we know Christ, we know we have been redeemed from the power, condition, and condemnation of sin, though we may not fully appreciate the dire straights we were really in before faith. If we do not know Christ, we are blinded to our true situation. This may be one of the reasons that the poor and miserable of this world are more likely to be receptive to God’s Word, while the rich and self-sufficient fail to grasp the true plight of their earthly and eternal condition. Col. 1:13-14 describes four things that Christ does for those who come to him. What are those four things and how would you describe them in more detail?
2.     When did God decide to redeem a people to himself? See Eph. 1:11 and Question 20.
3.     Whose choice was it that determined who would be redeemed from their sins? See Rom. 9:15-18.
4.     All three persons of the Godhead (the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) have a part in the plan of redemption. What part did Jesus perform? See Gal. 1:3-5.
5.     Because of sin and its effects upon us, our hearts are hardened against God. Left to ourselves we do not desire nor have the ability to turn to God. But God’s plan leaves nothing to chance; he will see to it that all who he purposes to redeem will come to him (John 6:37-39). What member of the Trinity will cause the change of heart necessary for God’s redeemed to believe and come to Christ in faith, repentance, and obedience? See John 3:3-6.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 29 & WLC Q# 58
WSC Q29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A.        We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit[a].
[a] John 1:12, 13; John 3:5, 6; Titus 3:5,6.
WLC Q58. How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured?
A.        We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost[a].
[a] John 1:12, 13; John 3:5, 6; Titus 3:5, 6.
Questions for further study:

Though the Shorter and Larger Catechism Questions are asking in essence the same question, there is a difference here in what is being asked and answered. What is in view, or what may our fathers be doing in the asking and answering of the Larger Catechism Question?   

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