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, October 14, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q63

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q63-81) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The Second Table. (see Harmony Index)
We turn now to the fifth commandment and the honoring of father and mother and—as we shall see—all the authorities God has placed over us in various spheres.
The catechism gives a great definition of sin: “any want of conformity or transgression of the law of God.” Probing deeper into the nature of sin, we find that at its first expression in Scripture (Gen. 3) and throughout God’s Word, sin is an attitude of independence and self-assertion. Sin says, “I will decide for myself what is right or wrong;” it rebels against any external authority. Some of us may remember an old TV commercial about a pain-relieving medication, where a young woman under the stress of a headache shot back at a caring parent, “Mother, I’d rather do it myself!” The words were said with all the body language and facial expression of exasperation, scorn, and contempt.
Those of us who remember this little scene may chuckle at it, but that commercial did catch our attention as a piece of human truth we have all experienced. We have all known and expressed scorn for authority; at times, we have been the recipients of sinful defiance and rejection of authority. It is the nature of sin ingrained in each one of us to love self above others, with a special disregard for those authorities placed over us by God for our care and protection. Most of the Ten Commandments begin with “Thou shall” or “shall not”; the fifth commandment is one of the exceptions, as it gets right to the point.
May God give us the grace to learn this lesson, to believe and obey his every word, and to pray expectantly, “Thy will be done,” by each of God’s precious children, young and old alike.
WSC Q63. Which is the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16
Question 63 asks what the fifth commandment is and answers that the fifth commandment is this: Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Comments and considerations:
When being questioned (tested) regarding the law, Christ was asked which was the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:34ff). In answering, Jesus did not single out one as greater than another, but rather summarized the Ten Commandments in a two-part requirement to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself, both equally important. James tells us that if we do not keep the whole law but stumble in one point, we are guilty of all (James 2:10). All of the Law is binding and must be lived in two directions: vertically in direct relation to God, and horizontally in relation to one another. The first four commandments deal with our vertical relationship with our heavenly Father; in the last six commandments, God addresses the horizontal relationship, beginning with the principle of authority and the family.
As we will see in the next several lessons, this commandment goes beyond the basic authority of parents over their children, to other authority structures designed for an orderly society. But as the family is the first divinely established institution for protection, training, and disciplining of the individual, the fifth commandment lays the foundational first principle in our horizontal relationships. It is unique in that it carries with it a promise and grave implications: “Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land....”  When sin entered paradise and reared its serpent head, it was with an attitude of disrespect for the word and will of God. The serpent simply questioned God’s authority, asking, “Has God really said?” (Gen 3:1), and so opened a crack of doubt which became a floodgate of disobedience and death. How important is the honoring of your mother and father? It is the headwaters from which all true humility and obedience spring.
Jesus summarized the second table of the law by saying it is kept by loving your neighbor as yourself. In Luke it is recorded that one of Christ’s listeners, still looking for loopholes, asked, “Well then, who is my neighbor?” Jesus went on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. In the scale of things consider this; we are to love our neighbor, and our nearest neighbor is our parents; our first test is to our father and mother. Our parents are our first encounter with the call to covenant obedience, an opportunity for great blessing or great failure.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        What is the summary of God’s moral law? (See Mark 12:30-31.) A summary leaves out the details and gives only the main points, but the details still remain. So as we learn the Ten Commandments, we are not to think that we must do only and exactly what it says and nothing more. We must also keep all the laws that each commandment summarizes. Read Rom. 13:6-10. The fifth commandment is in essence a summary of how God wants us to behave toward all types of people and authorities, not just our parents.
2.        Rom. 13:1-2 and I Pet. 2:13-14, 17. What authority are God’s people to respect and honor?
3.        What relationships does Col. 3:18-21 describe? What are the authority structures listed in this passage and how do they relate back and forth?
4.        What authority structure is being described in Heb. 13:17?
5.        We are to respect and honor those who rule over us, but does the fifth commandment have implications for our relationship with those who are not in authority over us? See Rom 12:10 and Phil. 2:3-4.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q63, and WLC Q123 - 125
WSC Q63. Which is the fifth commandment?
A.  The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee [a]
      [a]  Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16
WLC Q123. Which is the fifth commandment?
A.  The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee[a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:12
WLC Q124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?
A.  By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents[a], but all superiors in age[b] and gifts[c]; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family[d], church[e], or commonwealth[f].
      [a]  Prov. 23:22, 25; Eph. 6:1-2
      [b]  1Tim. 5:1-2
      [c]  Gen. 4:20-22; 45:8
      [d]  2Kng. 5:13
      [e]  2Kng. 2:12; 13:14; Gal. 4:19
      [f]  Isa. 49:23
WLC Q125. Why are superiors styled father and mother?
A.  Superiors are styled father and mother, both to teach them in all duties toward their inferiors, like natural parents, to express love and tenderness to them, according to their several relations[a]; and to work inferiors to a greater willingness and cheerfulness in performing their duties to their superiors, as to their parents[b].
      [a]  Eph. 6:4; 2Cor. 12:14; 1Thes. 2:7-8, 11; Num. 11:11-12
      [b]  1Cor. 4:14-16; 2Kng. 5:13
Question(s) for further study:

The Larger Catechism’s instruction here teaches us that relationship of all superior authorities that flow out of the natural connection of father and mother.  How is that to be viewed, expressed and function from the greater to the lesser and lesser to the greater?

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