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, April 17, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q57


Our catechism study now takes us to the fourth commandment which concerns the Sabbath. This commandment opens with the word remember. That’s worth thinking about: the Sabbath, which is so obviously designed for our benefit and God’s honor, is so easy to forget! The blessing and necessity of the Sabbath have eluded both our society and, woefully, the church as well. Why is that? As we ponder this lesson, let us pray that we would appreciate the precious truths and joys of the Sabbath and that we might respond faithfully as God’s worshippers.
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WSC Q57. Which is the fourth commandment?
A.   The fourth commandment is, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15
Question 57 asks what the fourth commandment is, and answers that the fourth commandment is: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
Comments and considerations:
This commandment is reviewed in six questions instead of only four; there is much to be considered. Future questions deal with what is required and forbidden in the fourth commandment, which day of the week is the Sabbath, how it is to be hallowed, and the reasons for doing so. This first question and answer simply state the commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” It is a creation ordinance: “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (Gen. 2:1-3).
For the moment, let us consider the word Sabbath.
I remember when I first came into the “Reformed Camp,” a place of “Sabbath Keepers.” Yes, I came from a Christian home with an evangelical background. But although the Lord’s Day was important in our understanding, it didn’t hold the Old Testament significance in this Dispensation of Grace, this Church Age, when supposedly any day, time, or place could be dedicated to worship, or—better—praising God; the Sabbath Day was thought to be an ordinance for a different time and people. So I had some unlearning to do, and I studied afresh what Scripture taught on this topic. Struggling as I was under this new Sabbath understanding and burden, I had an observant pastor say to me one day that I was completely missing the point; the Sabbath is not a burden, but a blessing. It was meant to free me from my labors and cares, and provide me a blessed rest and enjoyment of God’s promises and provisions. The Sabbath is a blessing, not a burden! There are none so blind as those who will not see; and I was totally blind to the blessing of the Sabbath until that faithful Reformed Presbyterian pastor spoke those words.
The word Sabbath means figuratively “a time of rest or repose; intermission of pain, effort, sorrow, or the like”; and we know it as “a season or day of rest; one day in seven appointed for rest or worship” (Webster’s 1913 Dictionary).
I have several valued fruit trees in my backyard, but the fig tree is my favorite; it not only provides wonderfully large, dark, and abundantly sweet figs, but gives summer shade and beauty, too. However, I recall in the winter on a particular Sunday when there were several folk at our home, enjoying an afternoon lunch and fellowship. One of them noticed my fig tree, which looks rather pathetic. “What wrong with it?” they asked. “Nothing,” I responded. “It is in its dormant season. I trimmed it back—pruned it—getting it ready for the spring’s warm sun and the new growth and joy it will bring.” When you think about it, that fig tree is enjoying its Sabbath rest. God has built in to the creation order a cycle which gives rest and protects, nourishes, revitalizes and restores his creatures; he prepares the fig tree for new growth and fresh fruit produced for his glory and our enjoyment. 
This is the Sabbath principle.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Gen. 2:1-3. In six days God created all things from nothing, and he rested on the seventh day. Was he tired after all his labors? Did he run out of ideas for additional things to be created? Of course not. But the fact remains that for his good purpose, God chose to make the seventh day a special day of rest and peace, a day to ponder his wondrous creation and providence. For this and many other reasons, “the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
2.     In the Law, the Lord commanded the keeping of the Sabbath. He also established other special days (and even years) as a time of Sabbath rest. According to Ex. 31:12-13, what was one reason for doing this?
3.     At times in his earthly ministry, Jesus did things on the Sabbath that angered the religious leaders (the Pharisees). In one particular incident found in Matt. 12, how did Jesus identify himself in verse 8?
4.     After Christ completed his work on the cross, rose from the grave, and was seated at the right hand of the Father, the Sabbath continues on the first day of the week. According to Acts 20:7, on which day of the week did the church meet? What did they do? Also see I Cor. 16:2.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q57, WLC Q115
WSC Q57. Which is the fourth commandment?
A.  The fourth commandment is, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it[a].
[a]  Ex. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15
WLC Q115. Which is the fourth commandment?
A.  The fourth commandment is, Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.  For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested in the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it[a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:8-11
Question(s) for further study:

Look at the last phrase of our Catechism proof test.  It is often thought that wherefore means where, but in fact it is a conjunction meaning why, for what reason, because of what. It could also be phrased therefore.  So the question is, as a concluding point why, for what reason did our Lord set-up as special (hallowed) the Sabbath day? It was always meant to be a what? 

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