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, June 3, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q45


Westminster Shorter Catechism Q45
The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
Here’s a simple test question: You wake up in the middle of the night, and your house is on fire. You can only grab one thing on your way out the door. What would it be? You may be pausing at this moment to think it; but remember, with flames all around and your life in peril, you don’t have but a moment to make that decision. So, what would you grab?
I once heard a minister of the gospel use that illustration to make the point that whatever is most important to a person is that person’s god. Our answer to the question says a lot about what truly holds the affections of our heart.
As we pray through this study, may we not be like the individual of Romans 1:18 who “holds (or suppresses) the truth in unrighteousness!” May God grant us the grace to root out those sinful desires that hold first place in our hearts. As he has commanded, may we truly have no other gods before Him.
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WSC Q45. Which is the first commandment?
A. The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me.[a]
[a]  Ex. 20:3; Deut. 5:7
Question 45 asks what is the first commandment, and answers that the first commandment is: You shall have no other gods before me.
Comments and considerations:
Perhaps you have used the following simple three-part approach to personal Bible study: Look at a particular text and ask, 1) What does it say, 2) What does it mean, and 3) What does it command? The length of your answers may vary depending upon the complexity of the text and the depth of your inquiry. The important thing is to follow the sequence, keeping the text within its context in order to reach the best understanding.
This method seems simple enough as we approach the first commandment.
1) What does it say? It says we are to have no other gods before our God; this statement is in the context of the Preface to the Ten Commandments.
2) What does it mean? It means what it says. There are other gods (lesser deities, both material and spiritual, imagined and real), desires of the heart that are not allowed to have first place before our God, the only true God.
3) What does it command? We are to give the true God first place in all things, in worship and in honor, possessing no other gods before Him. As our Lord summarized the first table of the Law, you are “to love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Luke 10:27).
Another approach to Bible study is to review words and terms within the text to determine the right meaning and implications. Using this method to understand the first commandment, we notice these points:
Thou – A second person pronoun meaning “you;” it is both singular and collective as God addresses the individual, his covenant people, and all his creatures. This command is personal and calls for a personal reaction and responsibility.
Shalt – A verb of obligation, intent, and expectation; it implies “must!” It should not be confused with lesser synonyms. In its old English, it rightly carries the Biblical imperative to do that which is owed.
Have – To possess; to hold in possession or power as something that is connected with, or belongs to one; to hold; to regard; thus, to have in honor.
No – A word expressing negation, denial, or refusal; nay; not; not at all; not in any respect or degree. It is a word that denotes active refusal. Are there other gods out there wanting and vying for my attention, worship, love, and devotion? Yes! But for the keeper of this commandment, No!
I will leave the last four words – other gods before me – for your own study. But you can see how this exercise works in drawing out the meaning of the text.
When God gave this commandment, idolatry of all types was common among the pagan nations. But even behind these not-so subtle forms of image worship were the deeper roots of idolatry within the heart and mind. The subtler forms of idolatry are found in every time and place. Look around you and within, and you’ll be forced to admit that’s true. Our Lord and the apostles clearly point out the root cause of the idols of destruction which remain in the unregenerate and unsanctified heart: Matt. 19:16-22; Acts 5:1-11; Phil. 3:18-19; Col. 3:5; James 4:1-6. Simply put, we create these gods, material and immaterial, to suit and serve our own sins, lusts, and self-centered desires. These idols, no matter what their form, are anything that robs God of his rightful place in our heart; denying him the reverence, honor, and worship due him alone.  To Him, and to no other, belongs that first place of heart and mind.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read the first commandment in Ex. 20:3. Simply put, what is this commandment saying? When this was first proclaimed, what was the prevailing attitude of the nations regarding the use of idols? What is the attitude of our culture today? The answer to that can be found in some of what follows.
2.        Read Ex. 32:1-4. What idol did the people make in this incident? What occurred immediately following the making of the idol?
3.        The children of Israel struggled with many different idols from the pagan cultures they encountered. But not all idols are fashioned from stone, wood, or precious metal. What is the idol found in Matt 19:16-22? (Also see Matt. 6:24.)
4.        What is the idol represented in Acts 5:1-11?
5.        The Apostle Paul describes those who are enemies of God in Phil. 3:18-19. How does he describe an idol?
6.        Read Col. 3:5 where Paul describes other forms of idolatry. Does he make a distinction between immorality and what we might describe as the “desire for things”? What is common about the things he describes as forms of idolatry? (Also see James 4:1-6)
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q45and WLC Q103
WSC Q45. Which is the first commandment?
A.  The first commandment is, Thou shalt have no other gods before me [a].
[a]  Exodus 20:3; Deut. 5:7.
WLC Q103. Which is the first commandment?
A.  The first commandment is, Thou shall have no other gods before me [a].

      [a]  Exodus 20:3; Deut. 5:7.

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