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 5, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q64



In this section of the catechism, each commandment is stated and expanded upon, through its requirements, prohibitions, and sometimes, additional instruction. A good example of this is our current study of the fifth commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother.” From Scripture we see that this commandment has implications for our relationship with other types of authorities as well. How we relate to one another is highly important to our God. The Apostle Paul, after providing a wonderful doctrinal treatise in the first half of Ephesians, begins the second half with the exhortation to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love,” working to maintain “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” going on to show how this is to be done in all our various relationships (Eph. 4:1-3 cp. 4:11-6:9). To further illustrate, even in the midst of persecution, in I Timothy 2, Paul exhorts that prayers be offered for all men, especially for kings and rulers in high places.
How we relate to others in the “several places and relations” in which God has put us is extremely important. And, discerning the application derived from the principles of the Law-Word of God will inform us as to what is required in “preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone” who is “called into the one hope of [our] calling (Eph. 4:4). May our prayer once again be that God gives us the grace to embrace with a glad heart and joyful obedience all that he has commanded.
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WSC Q64. What is required in the fifth commandment?
A.  The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals[a].
[a]  Rom. 13:1, 7; Eph. 5:21-22, 24; 6:1, 4-5, 9; I Pet. 2:17
Question 64 asks what the fifth commandment requires, and answers that the fifth commandment requires us to respect and treat others, whether above, below, or equal to us, as their position or our relationship to them demands.
Comments and considerations:
What if you had access to the smartest man in the world, someone who was both wise and willing to share his vast knowledge in an understandable way for your guaranteed benefit? Your reaction to that possibility would probably run along one of three typical tracks: 1) serious skepticism and denial, 2) ambivalent doubt and indifference, or 3) curious anticipation and inquiry. The reason for the varied responses is the knowledge that whatever the offer, responding to it involves personal investment and trust. By our very nature, affected by the fall of Adam, we are self-centered creatures who fear exposure (Rom. 1:18). We are “bent” (as C.S. Lewis put it) on self-preservation even when it may be to our own hurt. Thus our first parents hid themselves from their first parent, their life-given Heavenly Father. That is why it is so hard for us to give anyone else first place over ourselves. As was said in the previous lesson, the fifth commandment lays the foundational first principle in our horizontal relationships. And so we have outlined here that which is required in “the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.” We are to give deference to others, putting others first (Matt. 20:28).
But back to my beginning point: What if we had access to the smartest and wisest man, the one with the answers to all our dilemmas? The answer should be obvious, because the “what if” answer is in fact a reality in that we have in fact the very word of God, and God Himself “who has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (II Pet. 1:3). What if we simply listened to him and did what he said? If we were doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22), what might be the results?
First of all consider these phrases: preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations. How refreshing it would be to see real-time respect and the preserving of the honor of others on the world stage today! How different this world would be if each person fulfilled personal obligations and commitments in meaningful ways! Wouldn’t that be novel in this world of near constant rancor, disrespect, and personal attacks and defamation of character? And notice how our catechism frames this in our 360 degree relationships of superiors, inferiors, or equals.
As always it is instructive to note the Scriptures our fathers referenced in these catechism lessons. Of particular note here is I Pet. 2:17. First, note how chapter 2 opens:
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Next, Peter speaks to the dynamic of the Body of Christ:
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
And then in verses 16-17:
...as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.
Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
Again, what if we simply listened to him and did what he said? How different might things be? We know the reason for our stumbling; our sin and sinful nature are great (Rom. 7). But greater yet is our Savior, our redeemer King. By his grace, his redeeming and enabling power (Rom. 8:4), we can be doers of the word, and not hearers only and fulfill the law’s requirement in preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Prov. 6:20-23. What straightforward lessons does this wisdom passage teach? What does it command? What are parents’ several duties and responsibilities within the context of this instruction, and what are a child’s?
2.     This commandment is repeated in the NT in Eph. 6:1. (Please read it.) Is it enough simply to know what parents want us to do? If we know what they want, what should we do?
3.     The question above would seem obvious, but we do not always honor our parents as we should. What do Prov. 12:1 and Prov. 13:1 say about this?
4.     When a child becomes an adult, does the command to honor his parents cease? See Prov. 23:22 and Lev. 19:3.
5.     What should our attitude be toward our parents and those in authority as they grow older? See Lev. 19:32 and I Pet. 5:5.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q64, WLC Q126 and 127
WSC Q.64. What is required in the fifth commandment?
A.  The fifth commandment requireth the preserving the honor, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals[a].
[a]  Rom. 13:1, 7; Eph. 5:21-22, 24; 6:1, 4-5, 9; IPet. 2:17
WLC Q126. What is the general scope of the fifth commandment?
A.  The general scope of the fifth commandment is, the performance of those duties which we mutually owe in our several relations, as inferiors, superiors, or equals[a].
[a]  Eph. 5:21; 1Pet. 2:17; Rom. 12:10
WLC Q127. What is the honour that inferiors owe to their superiors?
A.  The honour which inferiors owe to their superiors is, all due reverence in heart[a], word[b], and behavior[c]; prayer and thanksgiving for them[d]; imitation of their virtues and graces[e]; willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels[f]; due submission to their corrections[g]; fidelity to[h], defense[i], and maintenance of their persons and authority, according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places[j]; bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love[k], that so they may be an honour to them and to their government[l].
[a]  Mal.1:6; Lev. 19:3
[b]  Prov. 31:28; 1Pet.3:6
[c]  Lev. 19:32; 1Kng. 2:19
[d]  1Tim. 2:1-2
[e]  Heb. 13:7; Phil. 3:17
[f]  Eph. 6:1-2, 5-7; 1Pet. 2:13-14; Rom.13:1-5; Heb.13:17; Prov. 4:3-4; 23:22; Exod. 18:19, 24
[g]  Heb. 12:9; 1Pet. 2:18-20
[h] Tit. 2:9-10
[i]  1Sam. 26:15-16; 2Sam. 18:3; Esth. 6:2
[j]  Mat. 22:21; Rom. 13:6-7; 1Tim. 5:17-18; Gal. 6:6; Gen. 45:11; 47:12
[k] 1Pet. 2:18; Prov. 23:22; Gen. 9:23
[l]  Ps. 127:3-5; Prov. 31:23
Question(s) for further study:

What key word does the Larger Catechism use to expand our consideration in this instruction?  How many points do our father’s make in presenting the scope to which we owe honor to those in authority?

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