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, April 29, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q40


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q39-42) is The Law of God; Christian Liberty. (see Harmony Index)
According to the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q93, “The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body, and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he oweth to God and man: promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it.”
As we enter into that section of the Shorter Catechism that deals with the Law of God, it is good to consider the statement above, with its implications for our daily walk. May our Lord grant us both the knowledge and grace to serve him, and one another, in faithful and joyful obedience to our calling in Christ.
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WSC Q40. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A. The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law[a].
[a] Rom. 2:14-15; 10:5
Question 40 asks what rules God first revealed for man to obey, and answers that the rules he first revealed were the moral law.
Comments and considerations:
There are a couple of things to notice before we get into the heart our study. First, the paraphrase which precedes the comment section of each of these lessons is taken from Starr Meade’s excellent family devotional based on the Shorter Catechism—Training Heats, Teaching Minds—a book I highly recommend to you, the readers of these studies. Notice in this case how the paraphrase refers to “rules” in the plural, rather than “the rule” stated in the original question. That paraphrase is not inaccurate. When we speak of God’s law (or the civil code or law of a land, as another example), we think of one law system, made up of many rules. WSC Q41 teaches that the moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments, and we know those commandments can be broken down further into more specific applications.
Okay, a second thing to note: neither WSC Q39 nor Q40 are limited to the duty required of the Christian. Both refer to man, believer and unbeliever alike. All mankind is accountable for obedience to the law of God. Even though we know where that moral law is summarily comprehended, and where the detail can be found as well, not all societies and individuals throughout history have had that understanding. Not every culture has been privileged to possess a clear knowledge of God’s inspired and revealed will. It is in that context that the Apostle Paul correctly states that they are still without excuse:
“... for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them ...” (Rom. 2:14-15).
This catechism question recognizes that responsibility of all people everywhere to obey God’s law. The conscience of man, “the work of the law written in their hearts” is eventually manifested in the writing of that law in stone, recorded for the ages: “For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them’” (Rom. 10:5). As Paul points out in Rom. 2:15, the Gentiles may not—and in fact, do not—have the words, but they do have “the work of the law written in their hearts.” All men inherit this moral conscience from Adam. As Ecc. 3:11 says, God “has put eternity in their hearts.”
But Scripture makes plain the effects of sin upon man’s moral understanding and knowledge of God. Men “did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:28); they “changed the truth of God into a lie” (Rom. 1:25); “their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21); they loved “darkness rather than light” (John 3:19); they “suppress[ed] the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18); thus “professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22). For this reason, the written law was needed. For “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20); it is the schoolmaster that brings us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Paul confessed that though he had been highly religious, he was in fact the greatest of sinners (I Tim. 1:15); and he was made aware of his sin through the law: “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Rom. 7:7-9).
However, apart from the commandment, obedience to the moral law is still required. Ecc. 12:13-14 says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: 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.” And again, as Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40). And James 2:10—“for whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” Thus, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic. 6:8). Therefore we conclude: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        God has revealed his will in the moral law. He gave the Ten Commandments to his people at Mount Sinai; and he revealed more and more of his will over the centuries, recorded in Scriptures. But what about those who have never heard or read the Bible? God made man in his image, with a conscience, an awareness of right and wrong. Even in his fallen state, sinful man knows when he is following God’s rules and when he is not. Read Rom. 2:14-15. Where does this verse say that the requirements of the law are written for those who have never had the law?
2.        Is the moral law of God only for a particular people and time? What did our Lord teach concerning our attitude regarding the law? See Matt. 5:17-19.
3.        The word “sanctify” means (in part) to separate or set something aside for a specific purpose. By honoring and keeping God laws, what do we demonstrate about our God? See Lev. 20:7-8.
4.        God places great emphasis upon the importance of his law. In the law he demonstrates what pleases him and what he desires in our heart attitude. He shows us how we should live before him and in relation to each other. What does Mic. 6:7-8 say about this?
5.        The law provides another important function regarding our seeing the need for salvation. What is that function? See Rom. 3:20.
Also see WLC Qs 92-97, & WCF IXX.I.

Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q40, WLC Q92-97, WCF XIX.I & XX.I.
WSC Q.40. What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A.  The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law[a].
[a] Rom. 2:14-15; 10:5
WLC Q92. What did God at first reveal unto man as the rule of his obedience?
A.  The rule of obedience revealed to Adam in the estate of innocence, and to all mankind in him, besides a special command not to eat of the fruit of the tree knowledge of good and evil, was the moral law[a].
[a]  Gen. 1:26-27; Rom. 2:14-15; 10:5; Gen. 2:17
WLC Q93. What is the moral law?
A.  The moral law is the declaration of the will of God to mankind, directing and binding every one to personal, perfect, and perpetual conformity and obedience thereunto, in the frame and disposition of the whole man, soul and body[a], and in performance of all those duties of holiness and righteousness which he oweth to God and man[b]: promising life upon the fulfilling, and threatening death upon the breach of it[c].
[a]   Deut. 5:1-3, 31, 33; Luke 10:26-27; Gal. 3:10; 1Thes. 5:23
[b]  Luke 1:75; Acts 24:16
[c]   Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10, 12
WLC Q94. Is there any use of the moral law to man since the fall?
A.  Although no man, since the fall, can attain to righteousness and life by the moral law[a]: yet there is great use thereof, as well common to all men, as peculiar either to the unregenerate, or the regenerate[b].
[a]  Rom. 8:3; Gal. 2:16
[b] 1Tim. 1:8
WLC Q95. Of what use is the moral law to all men?
A.  The moral law is of use to all men, to inform them of the holy nature and the will of God[a], and of their duty, binding them to walk accordingly[b]; to convince them of their disability to keep it, and of the sinful pollution of their nature, hearts, and lives[c]: to humble them in the sense of their sin and misery[d], and thereby help them to a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ[e], and of the perfection of his obedience[f].
[a]   Lev. 11:44-45; 20:7-8; Rom. 7:12
[b]  Micah 11:8; Jam. 2:10-11
[c]   Ps. 19:11-12; Rom. 3:20; 7:7
[d]  Rom. 3:9, 23
[e]   Gal. 3;21-22
[f]   Rom. 10:4
WLC Q96. What particular use is there of the moral law to unregenerate men?
A.  The moral law is of use to unregenerate men, to awaken their consciences to flee from wrath to come[a], and to drive them to Christ[b]; or, upon their continuance in the estate and way of sin, to leave them inexcusable[c], and under the curse thereof[d].
[a]   1Tim. 1:9-10
[b]  Gal. 3:24
[c]   Rom. 1:20; 2:15
[d]  Gal. 3:10
WLC Q97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
A.  Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works[a], so as thereby they are neither justified[b] nor condemned[c]; yet, besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good[d]; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness[e], and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience[f].
[a]    Rom. 6:14; 7:4, 6; Gal. 4:4-5
[b]  Rom. 3:20
[c]   Gal. 5:23; Rom. 8:1
[d]  Rom. 7:24-25; Gal. 3:13-14; Rom. 8:3-4
[e]   Luke 1:68-69, 74-75; Col. 1:12-14
[f]   Rom. 7:22; 12:2; Tit. 2:11-14
CHAPTER. XIX.
Of the Law of God.
I.    God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity, to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it[a].
[a]  Gen. 1:26-27; Gen. 2:17; Eph. 4:24; Rom. 2:14-15; Rom. 10:5; Rom. 5:12, 19; Gal. 3:10, 12; Ecc. 7:29
CHAPTER. XXI.
Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day.
I.    The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.[a]  But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture[b].
[a]  Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1-4a; Ps. 50:6; Ps. 97:6; Ps. 145:9- 12; Acts 14:17; Ps. 104:1-35; Ps. 86:8-10; Pa. 95:1-6; Ps. 89:5-7; Deut. 6:4-5
[b] Deut. 12:32; Matt. 15:9; Acts 17:23-25; Matt. 4:9-10; Deut. 4:15-20; Exod. 20:4-6; John 4:23-24; Col. 2:18-23
Questions for further study:

In this harmony, how many Larger Catechism questions expand upon the base instruction of the Shorter, and what are the basic points?  What do we learn regarding Adam’s ability to keep the law prior to the fall?

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