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 20, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q43


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
The formatting to this lesson differs in that the Training Heart and Teaching Minds questions are at the end after the harmony with WLC Q101 is reviewed. We will refrain from the usual opening remarks and get right to the study at hand. As always, let us pray that the Lord will grant his blessing upon our study.
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WSC Q43. What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A.   The preface to the Ten Commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6
Question 43 asks what introduces the Ten Commandments, and answers that these words introduce the Ten Commandments: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
Comments and considerations:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).
G.I. Williamson writes in his Shorter Catechism Study, Volume II, “Another false teaching that is current today is that which fails to see the unity of the Old and New Testaments. The basic error in this teaching is the thought that the law of God (the ten commandments) is regarded differently in the two testaments. One form of this error is to say that the people of God in the Old Testament period were required to keep the law of God first, and then were saved by God as a reward for their obedience. But we notice from the words of the preface (Q. 43, Ex. 20:2) that this is not true. When God delivered His people out of slavery in Egypt, it was not because they had kept the ten commandments. No, He first delivered them, and then gave them the ten commandments. So they were not expected to try to keep the law in order to be saved. Rather they were expected to do this because they already had been saved. And this is exactly the way it is in the life of the Christian.”
As we consider this excellent explanation, we might even go further and reason that Israel under bondage could not have kept the law even had they wanted to, especially because their captors refused them proper worship and recognition of their God. But the point here is that when we consider Israel’s release from their house of bondage, we do see a picture of a believer’s deliverance and salvation from the bondage of sin, and thus a consistency in the relationship between Law and Grace. By the law we see and know the reality of sin’s deadly curse (Rom. 6-7); by free grace we find salvation and deliverance from that condemnation (Rom. 8:1). We realize God’s purpose that now, as “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10), we should and are now able to live “that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4). Thus the preface of the Ten Commandments lays the foundation for a right understanding for the redeemed individual’s relationship to the law. This truth is often repeated in the Old and New Testament alike: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (I Pet. 2:9-10 cf. Ex. 19:5-6).
We should here at WLC Q101
WLC Q101.What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A.     The preface to the ten commandments is contained in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Wherein God manifesteth his sovereignty, as being JEHOVAH, the eternal, immutable, and almighty God; having his being in and of himself, and giving being to all his words and works: and that he is a God in covenant, as with Israel of old, so with all his people; who, as he brought them out of their bondage in Egypt, so he delivereth us from our spiritual thraldom and that therefore we are bound to take him for our God alone, and to keep all his commandments.
Notice: “...as with Israel of old, so with all his people; who, as he brought them out of their bondage in Egypt, so he delivereth us from our spiritual thraldom; and that therefore we are bound to take him for our God alone, and to keep all his commandments.” Note the word “thraldom,” which implies slavery. Since we have been delivered, Peter says:
“As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:15-19).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Ex. 20:2. What is God saying to the children of Israel, and what might be the purpose for this opening comment to the Ten Commandments?
2.        We often look back at historical events to remember specific lessons. What is being remembered, and how is it expressed in Ex. 15:1-2?
3.        What are the people being reminded of in Deut. 5:1-6?
4.        What are the people being reminded of and instructed to do in Deut. 4:5-8?
5.        God did amazing and powerful things for the nation of Israel in the OT. He saved them in a mighty way, delivered them from their enemies, and gave them great blessings. God has done much greater things for his people today. He has saved us in a mighty way from sin and from his wrath for our sin. He has delivered us from our enemies—sin, Satan, and death. God has given us great blessings by adopting us as his children, giving us the Holy Spirit to live within us, and giving us eternal life. If the Old Testament people of God had good reason to obey the moral law, what should be the attitude of those who follow Christ today? Read II Cor. 5:1-15.
6.        We read in the OT how the Israelites were special because God was near to them, nearer than he was to any other nation. God is not only near to his people whom he has saved through Christ; he actually lives in them by the Holy Spirit. God has promised to be our Father. What does he expect of his own children? Read II Cor. 6:16-7:1.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q43, WLC Q101
WSC Q43. What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A.   The preface to the Ten Commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6
WLC Q101.What is the preface to the Ten Commandments?
A.   The preface to the ten commandments is contained in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage[a]. Wherein God manifesteth his sovereignty, as being JEHOVAH, the eternal, immutable, and almighty God[b]; having his being in and of himself[c], and giving being to all his words[d] and works[e]: and that he is a God in covenant, as with Israel of old, so with all his people[f]; who, as he brought them out of their bondage in Egypt, so he delivereth us from our spiritual thraldom[g]; and that therefore we are bound to take him for our God alone, and to keep all his commandments[h].
[a] Ex. 20:2
[b] Is. 44:6
[c] Ex. 3:14
[d] Ex. 6:3
[e] Acts 17:24, 28
[f] Gen. 17:7; Rom. 3:29
[g] Luke 1:74-75
[h] I Pet. 1:15, 17-18; Lev. 18:30; 19:37
Question(s) for further study:

WLC Q101 speaks at length to God’s sovereignty, character, and being. What definitions can you find for “thralldom” used to describe our spiritual condition, and how does this help us understand the nature of our liberty in Christ?

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