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, September 30, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q61


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
Do you know of parents who drop their children off at Sunday school but then head home or out on errands? Perhaps they return for the worship service, or perhaps they don’t. It has been rightly said that we teach our children whether me mean to or not. They learn by watching their parents; what is (or is not) important to the parents has a similar importance to the children. In his book Rediscovering Catechism, Donald Van Dyke makes a case for “the importance of bringing our children into an intimate relationship with God through catechizing.”  We adults are faced with the same need. A true and “intimate relationship with [our] God” must be a high priority especially for adults, for how can we impart something to others we do not possess for ourselves?
How can we achieve this relationship? The answer lies in the familiar theme of committing ourselves to God’s ordained means of grace—the Word, sacraments, and prayer. WSC Q61 asks what the fourth commandment forbids. This is important, because it forbids those very things that are a hindrance to our drawing near in an intimate relationship with our God. He bids us come, that we might know him, and he has provided both the means and the warnings that we might come forward freely to truly glorify and enjoy our God and precious Savior. We need to prayerfully give heed to the call of our God, and draw near in individual and corporate fellowship as his people.
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WSC Q61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations[a].
[a] Neh. 13:15-22; Is. 58:13-14; Amos 8:4-6
Question 61 asks what the fourth commandment forbids, and answers that the fourth commandment forbids failing to do, or carelessly doing, what we are supposed to do. It also forbids treating the day as unholy by loafing, by doing anything in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thinking, talking about, or working on our worldly affairs or recreations.
Comments and considerations:
The catechism defines sin as any want of conformity or transgression of the law of God (WSC Q14). So for each commandment, the catechism describes both what is required and what is forbidden; we can be guilty of sins of commission and sins of omission. The fourth commandment forbids the omission or careless performance of the duties required in keeping the Sabbath holy. We might be prone to think that the sin of omission is passive, simply something left undone. But neglecting the duties required does not result in a vacuum; the moment there is an absence of material, that hole is filled with something else, regardless of our attention or lack thereof.
“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” according to the old saying; if we are not actively doing the right thing, our laziness will attract temptation, and sinful thoughts will lead to sinful actions. Many Bible verses prove that point. Though the sin of omission may be partly passive, we are also active and intentional in our efforts to avoid our duties to God! The vacuum of omission will pull in all kinds of distractions to fill the void left by disobedience. Have you ever wondered why our society seems so noisy these days? Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” In suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18) we turn up the noise and fill the void with many and varied entertainments, those unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations which our catechism describes. We profane the day by activities ranging from lazy idleness to the doing that which is in itself sinful.
The catechism refers to the careless approach we often have toward the Lord’s Day. It is not a difficult word to understand; it simply means, having no care, free from anxiety, unconcerned; as in “I could care less.” The opposite, of course, is to be careful, cautious in one’s actions, taking pains; exact, thorough, circumspect. To be careless about the Lord’s Day is a dangerous thing—dangerous because it incurs God displeasure and keeps us from experiencing God’s blessing as it is described for us in Is. 58:13-14:
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Amos 8:1-6, paying particular note to verse 5. God was not pleased with Israel over many issues. How would you describe their attitude toward the Sabbath, and how did this witness to their attitude toward God?
2.     Sometimes we can do a right thing in a wrong way. If we do something in an incorrect or sinful manner, what is the effect upon the right thing we are trying to do? Read Mal. 1:6-8. How does it relate?
3.     Our hearts need to be prepared for coming into the presence of God in worship. What does Isa. 66:1-2 say should be our mental attitude in our approach to God?
4.     In our busyness, time is a precious commodity. Many activities take up our time and occupy our thoughts. How we use the time God has given, and our attitude and desires about the time we give to him, is no small thing. Read and think about the lessons found in II Cor. 5:14-15, Ps. 119:147-148, 164, and Eph. 5:15-20.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q61, and WLC Q119
WSC Q61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A.  The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations[a].
      [a] Neh. 13:15-22; Isa. 58:13-14; Amos 8:4-6
WLC Q119. What are the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required[a], all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them[b]; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful[c]; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations[d].
      [a]  Ezek. 22:26
      [b]  Acts 20:7, 9; Ezek. 33:30-32; Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13
      [c]  Ezek. 23:38
      [d]  Jer. 17:24, 27; Isa. 58:13
Question(s) for further study:

How does the Larger catechism ask the same question differently, and what might be one point our fathers may desire to make in approaching the same question in this manner? 

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