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 24, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q48


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
Have you ever had someone jealous for your complete attention, affection, time, or presence? There are two sides to jealousy. Jealousy can be positive when its motive is pure and reasonable; but given the sinfulness of human nature, that’s not often the case. So jealousy usually has a negative connotation. Then our understanding comes up against Scripture passages like this one that describes the jealousy of God for his people—“For thou shall worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). Maybe someone could correct me on this point, but in theological catalogs of the attributes of God, I’ve never seen “jealous” listed as one of his traits. Yet in Ex. 34:14, even his name is “Jealous.”
Check out a thesaurus and you won’t be surprised by the synonyms found there; most are negative from a human viewpoint. But check a dictionary, and you’ll notice that the English root word for jealousy is zeal. Try some synonyms for zeal: passion, fervor, fire, ardor. What lessons come to mind if you substitute those words for “jealous” in the verse above?
Let me ask my opening question again. Have you ever had someone jealous for your complete attention, affection, time, or presence?  The answer is yes, and always. The Triune God of heaven and earth, “whose name is Jealous,” desires your full attention, affection, time, and presence. As a matter of fact, he is quite zealous about it.
May the Lord bless us to prayerfully appreciate the full meaning and implications of this catechism study.
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WSC Q48. What are we specially taught by these words, “before me,” in the first commandment?
A. These words, before me, in the first commandment teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God[a].
[a] Deut. 30:17-18; Ps. 44:20-21; Ezek. 8:12
Question 48 asks what we are specifically taught in the first commandment by the words “before me;” it answers that the words “before me” teach us that God, who sees everything, notices and is very offended by the sin of having any other god.
Comments and considerations:
Are you teachable? The previous catechism questions instructed us as to what the first commandment requires and forbids; here our fathers point us to what is taught in the words before me. Are we teachable, open-minded, and ready to take to heart what is taught here? If not, we need to be honest with ourselves and with God concerning our true attitude as we study this question.
Many years ago, I heard a down-to-earth, faithful-to-the-Bible pastor discuss obedience like this: “You may not be willing, but are you willing to be made willing?” He pointed to Phil. 2:12-13—“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God will change your will, if you are willing—if you pray for him to do so (Matt. 7:8). He will “wiggle your willer,” in the words of that faithful pastor; he will realign your will to his desires, if you seek him out to do so. I’ll never forget that phrase “wiggle your willer;” it still makes me smile when I think of it, and its truth never fails to encourage me.
The fact is, God does [see] all things; he [does take] notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god. He cares about our hearts, not simply about the outward appearance of religious devotion (I Sam. 16:7; Is. 29:13; Mark 7:6). In my many years as a workplace trainer and supervisor, and as a teacher of children and adult Sunday school classes, I have learned to recognize both teachable and indifferent students. The teachable ones are mentally engaged, eager to learn and participate; the indifferent ones are passive, dull of hearing and dull of heart. Truly the Lord is correct: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). The book of Proverbs is filled with examples of both sides of this equation.
When people are disengaged from the things that please God, it is usually because their heart and mind are engaged elsewhere; they are distracted and would rather be somewhere else; they would rather be anywhere other than Coram Deo, before the face of God.  G.K. Chesterton was correct when he said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything,” and will take unto themselves other gods, idols of the heart.
The lesson is clear for the teachable and hungry heart, eager to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God. He alone is to be to be worshipped and glorified; nothing and no one may come before him.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Ps. 44:20-21. We may pretend a love for God and no other, and others might watch us and think our lives acceptable to God. But what does Ps. 44:20-21 say about God’s knowledge of our attitude and motives?
2.        How was God offended, and how did he demonstrate his displeasure in I Sam. 5?
3.        God is very serious about being acknowledged and worshipped as the only true God. How does Is. 42:8 demonstrate this fact (compare to Acts 12:21-24)?
4.        What does Eph. 5:5-6 say will be the outcome for those who hold other gods “before” the Lord? (Also see Heb. 10:3)
5.        What is the specific warning found in Deut. 6:10-15?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q48 and WLC Q106
WSC Q48. What are we specially taught by these words, "before me," in the first commandment?
A.  These words, before me, in the first commandment teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God[a].
[a]  Deut. 30:17-18; Ps. 44:20-21; Ezek. 8:12
WLC Q106. What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
A.  These words before me or before my face, in the first commandment, teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh special notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God: that so it may be an argument to dissuade from it, and to aggravate it as a most impudent provocation[a] as also to persuade us to do as in his sight, whatever we do in his service[b].
      [a]  Ezek.8:5-6; Ps. 44:20-21
      [b]  1Chro. 28:9
Question(s) for further study:

What motivation(s) to service in our God does WLC Q106 add to the answer of WSC Q48 and why? 

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