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, May 6, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q41



The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q39-42) is The Law of God; Christian Liberty. (see Harmony Index)
“The Bible was not given to satisfy my curiosity [or to entertain me]—but to change my life.” I don’t know where I first heard that statement (or variations of it), but for me, it has been a helpful reminder in setting my priority wheels in the right direction. The message is simple, yet profound, especially in an age centered on entertainment and amusement.
It’s interesting nowadays how movies are rated by their box office financial success. Entertainment has become so central to our culture that we read about the gross receipts of our favorite movie or book at the cash register, like baseball fans read scores and statistics on the sports page. The content of a movie does not seem to matter much any more; a film’s value is determined by what I find interesting, how it makes me feel, or its ability to retain my attention. This hit me the other day when I caught myself riveted to a TV commercial which told me nothing about the quality or value of a product which, up until those thirty seconds, I had never considered possessing. Our society can be defined by the board game title “Trivial Pursuit.” The substance of many conversations, the way we use free time, even our worship and Bible studies—all are often a matter of self-centered entertainment.
However, for Christians, this should not be the case. God calls us to make good use of our time (Eph. 5:16), to pursue right priorities (Matt. 6:33), to change behaviors and attitudes towards wisdom, and not to be conformed to this world (Rom. 12:1-2). We are to be conformed in mind, will, and action to our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). This doesn’t happen by way of mindless entertainments. No, “the Bible was not given to satisfy my curiosity [or to entertain me]—but to change my life.” That reality ought to keeps us from trivial pursuits and mindless activities; it ought to compel us to wholeheartedly pursue God’s purposes and righteous ways. Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended—not for mere entertainment, or simply to satisfy even my theological curiosity—but as a means of grace to change my life? The answer to that question is in the following study.
May our Lord continue to work in us individually and as a covenant body of confessing followers of Christ, not only to know his will, but to do it (Phil. 2:13).
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WSC Q41. Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A.   The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments[a].
[a] Deut. 4:13; Matt. 19:17-19
Question #41 asks where the moral law is summarized, and answers that the moral law is summarized in the Ten Commandments.
Comments and considerations:
We are about to embark upon a study of the Ten Commandments as the Shorter Catechism takes us further into this second section of catechism, the duty which God requires of man (Q39). Following the question at hand, we will deal with the “sum of the Ten Commandments,” the preface, and each commandment in turn.
As we have seen (Q40), man, created in the image of God, has a conscience to inform him when he is obeying God or sinning against him. But that conscience has become darkened by sin. So God recorded the law to clarify, define, and teach us right from wrong. “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.’ So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (Ex. 34:27-28). As a summary of God’s revealed will, the Ten Commandments give us a basic understanding of God’s desire. Because of the way the law was given (Ex. 19:10-13; cf. Ex. 20:20)—the time, place, and original audience (the Exodus generation)—it is sometimes thought that the law was meant for the children of Israel alone, as part of God’s covenant with them for their salvation. In reality, the law was given “because of transgression” (Gal. 3:19), so that all God’s people might comprehend their sinful, needy condition: “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20).
Why did the writers of the catechism use the word comprehend? Literally, it means to “to take in or take with, to grasp or seize.” It goes beyond mere understanding. Think in terms of the apprehending of something you’ve sought after, the way you hold on to it once you have it. Webster’s dictionary adds these definitions: “to embrace, to take to mind, to take in or include by construction or implication, to conceive.” Perhaps our forefathers wanted us to realize that the reception of the law is more than acknowledgement and obedience. Hear Deut. 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” We are to do all the words of the law, not only the works. We are to bring every thought captive (II Cor. 10:5). As Paul says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). This is what our Lord meant when he dealt with the heart of the matter, saying, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matt. 5:21-22). Our Lord had deeper understanding —a deeper comprehension! — of the law than his contemporaries; he showed the true nature of sin in the deep recesses of the deceitful heart.
When we truly comprehend the implications of our failure to keep all of God’s law, we might despair of our ability to please the Lord and find acceptance in him. But along with that law there is the blessing which is found in the lawgiver, the one who alone kept the law perfectly for his people, that he might impute righteousness to them by grace:
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. ...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Rom. 10:4, 9-11).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Because of the effects of sin, we cannot always trust our conscience. So where has God recorded the law in summary form? Read Ex. 34:27-28.
2.        As a summary of God’s revealed will, the Ten Commandments provide a base from which the Bible provides deeper explanations of God’s desires. How did Jesus demonstrate this in his earthly teachings? See Matt. 5:21-22.
3.        God takes his law very seriously, to the extent that he explains how we are to approach him to receive that law. How does Ex. 19:10-13 describe this? What is God’s intent, as seen in Ex. 20:20?
4.        What does Jam. 2:10 say about keeping God’s law?
5.        Despite our continued sinfulness, what blessing and promise is described for us in Rom. 10:4, 9-11?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q41, WLC Q98-100, and WCF XIX.II-VII.
WSC Q41. Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A.   The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments[a].
[a] Deut. 4:13; Matt. 19:17-19
WLC Q98. Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A.  The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments, which were delivered by the voice of God upon Mount Sinai, and written by him in two tables of stone[a]; and are recorded in the twentieth chapter of Exodus.  The four first commandments containing our duty to God, and the other six our duty to man[b].
[a]   Deut. 10:4; Exod. 34:1-4
[b]   Mat. 22:37-40
WLC Q99. What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the Ten Commandments?
A.  For the right understanding of the Ten Commandments, these rules are to be observed:
1.     That the law is perfect, and bindeth everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin[a].
2.     That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures[b].
3.     That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments[c].
4.     That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden[d]; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded[e]: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included[f]; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included[g].
5.     That what God forbids, is at no time to be done[h]; what he commands, is always our duty[i]; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times[j].
6.     That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto[k].
7.     That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places to endeavour that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places[l].
8.     That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them[m]; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them[n].
[a]   Ps. 19:7; Jam. 2:10; Mat. 5:21-22
[b]   Rom. 7:14; Deut. 6:5; Mat. 22:37-39; 5:21-22, 27- 28, 33-34, 37-39, 43-44
[c]   Col. 3:5; Amos 8:5; Prov. 1:19, 1Tim. 6:10
[d]   Isa. 58:13; Deut. 6:13; Mat. 4:9-10; 15:4-6
[e]   Mat. 5:21-25; Eph. 4:28
[f]   Exod. 20:12; Prov. 30:17
[g]   Jer. 18:7-8; Exod. 20:7; Ps. 15:1, 4-5; 24:4-5
[h]  Job 13:7-8; Rom. 3:8; Job 36:21; Heb. 11:25
[i]    Deut. 4:8-9
[j]    Mat. 12:7
[k]  Mat. 5:21-22, 27-28 (See in number 99 {1 before.); 15:4-6; Heb. 10:24-25; 1Thes. 5:22; Jude 23; Gal. 5:26; Col. 3:21
[l]    Exod. 20:10; Lev. 19:17; Gen. 18:19; Josh. 14:15; Deut. 6:6-7
[m]  2Cor. 1:24
[n]  1Tim. 5:22; Eph. 5:11
WLC Q100. What special things are we to consider in the Ten Commandments?
A.  We are to consider in the Ten Commandments, the preface, the substance of the commandments themselves, and several reasons annexed to some of them, the more to enforce them.
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. XIX.
Of the Law of God.
II.  This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables:[b] the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.[c]
[b] James 1:25; James 2:8, 10-12; Rom. 3:19; Rom. 13:8-9; Deut. 5:32; Deut. 10:4; Exod. 34:1
[c] Exod. 20:3-17; Matt. 22:37-40
III. Besides this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits;[d] and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties.[e]  All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.[f]
[d]  Heb. 10:1; Gal. 4:1-3; Col. 2:17; Heb. 9:1-28
[e]  Lev. 19:9-10, 19, 23, 27; Deut. 24:19-21; see I Cor. 5:7; II Cor. 6:17; Jude 23
[f]. Col. 2:14, 16-17; Dan. 9:27; Eph. 2:15-16; Heb. 9:10; Acts 10:9-16; Acts 11:2-10
IV. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the state of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.[g]
[g]  Exod. 21:1-23:19; cf. Gen. 49:10; with I Pet. 2:13-14; I Cor. 9:8-10
V.  The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof;[h] and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it.[i ] Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.[k]
[h] Rom. 13:8-10; Rom. 3:31; Rom. 7:25; I Cor. 9:21; Gal. 5:14; Eph. 6:2-3; I John 2:3-4, 7; cf. Rom. 3:20; Rom. 7:7-8 and I John 3:4 with Rom. 6:15
[i]  Deut. 6:4-5; Exod. 20:11; Rom. 3:19; James 2:8, 10-11; Matt. 19:4-6; Gen. 17:1
[k] Matt. 5:17-19; Rom. 3:31; I Cor. 9:21; Luke 16: 17-18
VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned;[l] yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly;[m] discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives;[n] so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin,[o] together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience.[p]  It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin:[q] and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law.[r]  The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof:[s] although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works.[t]  So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and not under grace.[u]
[l]  Rom. 6:14; Rom. 7:4; Gal. 2:16; Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:4-5; Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 8:1, 33
[m]            Rom. 7:12, 22, 25; Ps. 119:1-6; I Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:14-23
[n] Rom. 7:7, 13; Rom. 3:20
[o] James 1:23-25; Rom. 7:9, 14, 24
[p] Gal. 3:24; Rom. 7:24-25; Rom. 8:3-4
[q]  James 2:11-12; Ps. 119, 101, 104, 128
[r]  Ezra 9:13-14; Ps. 89:30-34; Gal. 3:13
[s]  Exod. 9:5-6; Deut. 5:33; Lev. 18:5; Matt. 19:17; Lev. 26:1-13; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 6:2-3; Ps. 19:11; Ps. 37:11; Matt. 5:5
[t]  Gal. 2:16; Luke 17:10
[u]. Rom. 6:12-15; cf. IPet. 3:8-12 with Ps. 34:12-16; Heb. 12:28-29
VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the gospel, but do sweetly comply with it;[w] the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requireth to be done.[x]
[w] Rom. 3:31; Gal. 3:21; Titus 2:11-14
[x] Ezek. 36:27; cf. Heb. 8:10 with Jer. 31:33; Ps. 119:35, 47; Rom. 7:22
Questions for further study:

The Larger Catechism outlines how many rules to guide us in the right understanding in observing the Ten Commandment?   How is the duty stated in WLC Q99.4 consistent with principle outlined by the Apostle Paul in Eph. 4: 25ff?  How does the Confession explain the obligation of the moral law upon all, especial those under grace?

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