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, July 8, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q50


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
As we said last time, the questions in this section of the catechism deal with how we are to worship the holy God who created all things. As human beings, we are easily confused about what constitutes proper worship. So remember, “When in doubt, read the instructions!”
Ps. 139:23-24 comes to mind: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Scripture tells us much about our self, our God, what he commands of us. In addition to external obedience, God cares about our “heart,” or heart attitude. The heart represents our wants and desires, our inclinations and predispositions; it is the center of our being. Ps. 139 addresses the heart of the matter in our heart’s relationship with God and our attitude about worship.
What ought our attitude to be as we approach God in worship? The psalmist says, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Ps. 122:1). The catechism lesson before us now deals with our “receiving, observing, and keeping” the second commandment; that really is a heart issue above all else.
May the Lord grant us understanding and a right heart to serve him in ways that are honoring to our call in Christ and the eternal purposes of our God.
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WSC Q50. What is required in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word[a].
[a] Deut. 12:32; Matt. 28:20
Question 50 asks what the second commandment requires, and answers that the second commandment requires us to receive, respectfully perform, and preserve purely and completely all the regulations for religion and worship that God has established in his Word.
Comments ad considerations:
This is a concise statement of what is required in the second commandment, based on two straight forward Scripture passages. The first is Deut. 12:32—“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” In Deuteronomy we have a repetition of the law and history of Israel just before the conquest of Canaan; it consists of three great speeches and/or legal compendiums (or summaries) made by Moses as he instructs and challenges the people in these farewell addresses.
The law given in Exodus is repeated in Deut. 5, and followed by the familiar exhortation of Deut. 6:4-9, with its far-reaching implications:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This exhortation to teach, remember, and obey is followed in the next several chapters by examples of God’s care, judgments, warnings, and promises. Throughout this section are reminders like these: “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the LORD your God...” (Deut. 8:1-2); “therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always” (Deut. 11:1); and “you shall be careful to observe all the statutes and judgments which I set before you today” (Deut. 11:32). In chapters 12-26, we observe regulations concerning worship, food, judges, and other applications of the law. In this section, we find Deut. 12:32 and the principle that regulates our approach to and worship of God.
Notice how the catechism parallels Deut. 12:32. The second commandment requires the…
Receiving – “Whatever I command you” – We are to receive what God has commanded and what he has revealed in his inspired Word. Deut. 29:29 is another reference.
Observing – “be careful to observe it” – We are to take great care with regard to obeying all that God has commanded.
Keeping pure – “you shall not add to it” – We are bound to obey only that which he has commanded; as our Lord said, we must not be distracted by the traditions of men (Matt. 15); in worship, whatever is not commanded is forbidden; thus the introduction of any impurity or distraction is denied.
Entire – “nor take away from it” – We shall keep all that he has commanded; here our fathers drew from Matt. 28:20, and the words of our Lord: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The next two catechism questions deal also with the second commandment.
·      The second commandment forbids the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.
·      The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.
The statements are clear: 1) we are not our own; God has propriety over us because 2) he is sovereign; 3) He has a zeal – is jealous (WSC Q49) – for his own worship, and 4) he forbids us to come in any way not appointed in his Word. These truths along with the requirements of the current catechism question form what we call the regulative principle of worship. True worship is what is commanded only; whatever is not commanded is therefore forbidden.
“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 any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture” (WCF XXI.I).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        The law God is given in three parts. The civil law gave rules specifically for the Old Testament nation of Israel; the moral law tells God’s people how to behave; the ceremonial law contained long lists of rules about how Israel was to approach and offer sacrifices to God in worship. The ceremonial law was to be a picture of what Jesus would do when he came. Read Heb. 10, especially verses 1 and 10. What is said here concerning the ceremonial law and our relation to it now that Jesus has come? (1)
2.        When we approach God in worship, may we do it in ways we think best, or is there a defined approach that God desires? How does Jesus state this in John 4:23-24?
3.        What kind of attitude(s) ought to express our approach to and worship of God? See Ps. 122:1 and Ps. 5:7.
4.        What is the instruction regarding his ministry that the apostle Paul gives to Timothy in II Tim. 4:1-3?
5.        Read Lev. 10:1-3. According to events described in this incident, how seriously does God take the manner and method by which we approach him in worship and service?
1) Now that Jesus has come, we no longer need the pictures. We know the true priest and the true sacrifice God has provided. However, the ceremonial law still gives us good pictures of what Jesus did, and we can still learn from our study of them. But we no longer have to keep that part of the law. The moral law, however, is still for us to obey in the pleasing and honoring of our Heavenly Father, though “we have been [saved and] sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10).
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q50 and WLC Q108
WSC Q50. What is required in the second commandment?
A.  The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word[a].
      [a]  Deut. 12:32; Matt. 28:20
WLC Q108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A.  The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his Word[a]; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ[b]; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word[c]; the administration and receiving of the sacraments[d]; church government and discipline[e]; the ministry and maintenance thereof[f]; religious fasting[g]; swearing by the name of God[h]; and vowing unto him[i]; as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship[j]; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry[k].
      [a]  Deut. 32:46-47; Mat. 28:20; Acts 2:42; 1Tim. 6:13- 14
      [b]  Phil. 4:6; Eph. 5:20
      [c]  Deut. 17:18-19; Acts 15:21; 2Tim. 4:2; Jam. 1:21- 22; Acts 10:33
      [d]  Mat. 28:19; 1Cor. 11:23-30
      [e]  Mat. 18:15-17; 16:19; 1Cor. Chapter 5, also 1Cor. 12:28
      [f]  Eph. 4:11-12; 1Tim. 5:17-18; 1Cor. 9:7-15
      [g]  Joel 2:12, 18; 1Cor. 7:5
      [h] Deut. 6:13
      [I]  Isa. 19:21; Ps. 76:11
      [j]  Acts 17:16-17; Ps. 16:4
      [k] Deut. 7:5; Isa. 30:22
Question(s) for further study:

WLC Q108 expands upon WSC Q50 by listing out what is required in eleven particulars.  How might these eleven particulars be arranged under the three categories of receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire the duties required in second commandment?

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