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.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q68

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q63-81) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The Second Table. (see Harmony Index)
We continue our study of the sixth commandment. As we meditate on it, remember that in approaching any text or Biblical topic, it’s wise to ask three questions: “What does it say? What does it mean? What does it imply or command?” Finding out what the word states can be a relatively simple task, or it can be quite complex. Understanding its meaning involves various degrees of effort, contemplation, study, and discussion. The final part, discovering the implications and application, requires that we consider both personal and corporate obedience; the implications of the Law-Word of God are far-reaching, since it directs every area of our thinking, speaking, and doing.
All this, though absolutely necessary for the true disciple of Christ, can be difficult and wearisome. However, the ultimate goal is clear. Solomon puts it in the simplest of terms: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
Once again, we need to bathe our study in prayer that the God of all mercies will continue to grant us grace in our ability to understand and keep his Law-Word. May our lives be to the glory, honor, and pleasure of our great God and King, as “he leads [us] in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
WSC Q68. What is required in the sixth commandment?
A.   The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others[a].
[a] Eph. 5:28-29
Question #68 asks what the sixth commandment requires, and answers that the sixth commandment requires making every lawful effort to preserve one’s own life and the lives of others.
Comments and considerations:
Okay, this is interesting. Look at the thirteen words which summarize the requirements of the sixth commandment: all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others. Now check the Scripture reference, Eph. 5:28-29. It says, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” Is this a typo? I don’t know how many times I’ve studied the catechism, and this is the first time I truly took notice of this reference. Only one verse is linked to this very important answer, and it doesn’t seem to fit this topic… Or does it?
First of all, there are many verses that could have been used to make the case for this catechism answer. But remember, our fathers weren’t as into “proof texting” as many modern teachers may be. Several recent catechism commentaries cite many appropriate verses—but not Eph. 5:28-29. Also, the Larger Catechism provides a rather extensive list of references, expanding this thirteen-word statement into a statement of all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others that is 122 words long; it references no less than 25 separate points, with 41 different verses or passages. But the Larger Catechism leads off with Eph. 5:28-29, the sole verse associated with the Shorter. So how did our fathers see this? Because this is no typo; there is a connection and profound depth to their reasoning (Isa. 1:18).
Consider this: What is the root of all murder? It is a lack of love in its most deadly expression—a disobedience to the entire Law as summarized by our Lord: You shall love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Now, what was the first institution ordained for a godly and stable society? Answer: marriage. In that institution, from whom does responsibility and accountability flow? Answer: The head of the household, the man; he sets the example and tone for what transpires within the home; his first responsibility is to his wife. Therefore, with charity and purity of heart, husbands are to “love their own wives as their own bodies,” thus preserving their own life, and the life of others, as all men, women, and children are accountable to do. And notice also, this is just as the Lord does the church.” No, this is no typographical error; our fathers made no mistake. Their wisdom exceeds ours; Eph. 5:28-29 perfectly fits the question at hand in fulfilling the sixth commandment requirement.
Yes, there are other verses that could be referenced. But consider this: If men (husband and fathers) followed Paul’s instruction faithfully—“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (I Cor. 11:1)—in obedience to Eph. 5:28-29, how different things might be in the world around us, which seems to place so little value on the preservation of life, reputation, and the tender care of others.  
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        God values human life, so we must value it too. God wants us to preserve and protect human life. However, we are not to try so hard to protect human life that we do what is not lawful, and sin against God. Read I Pet. 2:13-14. What does this passage warn us against? According to verse 14, who or what has been given the charge to avenge wrongdoing?
2.        The catechism question, expanding on the sixth commandment, instructs us to care for the needs of others. Read I John 3:17-18 and explain what we need to learn and do in this context.
3.        We often see the “religious life” as forms of worship and a “personal relation” with God. Read Is. 53:3-10. What is in the instruction, warning, and promise being given here?
4.        Is our caring for the life and needs of others to be reserved only to fellow believers in Christ? See Rom. 12:17-21.
5.        We are also taught to preserve and care for our own life. But there are times when we may be called to give up our lives and personal comforts for a higher purpose and cause. Read and think about what Jesus is teaching in Matt. 10: 32-33, and 39.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q68, WLC 135, and WCF XXX
WSC Q68. What is required in the sixth commandment?
A.  The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life, and the life of others[a].
[a]  Eph. 5:28-29
WCL Q135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A.  The duties required in the sixth commandment are all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves[a] and others[b] by resisting all thoughts and purposes[c], subduing all passions[d], and avoiding all occasions[e], temptations[f], and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any[g]; by just defense thereof against violence[h], patient bearing of the hand of God[i], quietness of mind[j], cheerfulness of spirit[k]; a sober use of meat[l], drink[m], physic[n], sleep[o], labour[p], and recreations[q]; by charitable thoughts[r], love[s], compassion[t], meekness, gentleness, kindness[u]; peaceable[v], mild and courteous speeches and behaviour[w]; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil[x]; comforting and succouring the distressed and protecting and defending the innocent[y].
      [a]  Eph. 5:28-29
      [b]  1Kng. 18:4
      [c]  Jer. 25:15-16; Acts 23:12, 16-17, 21, 27
      [d]  Eph. 4:26-27
      [e]  2Sam. 2:22; Deut. 22:8
      [f]  Mat. 4:6-7; Prov. 1:10-11, 15-16
      [g]  1Sam. 24:12; 26:9-11; Gen. 37:21-22
      [h]  Ps. 82:4; Prov. 24:11-12; 1Sam. 14:45
      [i]   Jam. 5:7-11; Heb. 12:9
      [j]   1Thes. 4:11; 1Pet. 3:3-4; Ps. 37:8-11
      [k]  Prov. 17:22
      [l]   Prov. 25:16, 27
      [m] 1Tim. 5:23
      [n]  Isa. 38:21
      [o]  Ps. 127:2
      [p]  Ecc. 5:12; 2Thes. 3:10, 12; Prov. 16:26
      [q]  Ecc. 3:4, 11
      [r]  1Sam. 19:4-5; 22:13-14
      [s]  Rom. 13:10
      [t]   Luke 10:33-34
      [u]  Col. 3:12-13
      [v]  Jam. 3:17
      [w] 1Pet. 3:8-11; Prov. 15:1; Judg. 8:1-3
      [x]  Mat. 5:24; Eph. 4:2, 32; Rom. 12:17, 20-21
[y]  1Thes. 5:14; Job 31:19-20; Mat. 25:35-36; Prov. 31:8-9
Of Church Censures.
I.    The Lord Jesus, as king and head of his church, hath therein appointed a government, in the hand of church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.[a]
[a]. Isa. 9:6-7; Col. 1:18; I Tim. 5:17; I Thess. 5:12; Acts 20:17, 28; Heb. 13:7, 17, 24; Eph. 4:11-12; I Cor. 12:28; Matt. 28:18-20; John 18:36
II.  To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue whereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.[b]
[b]. Matt. 16:19; Matt. 18:17-18; John 20:21-23; II Cor. 2:6-8
III. Church censures are necessary, for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren, for deterring of others from the like offenses, for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump, for vindicating the honour of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel, and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.[c]
[c]. I Cor. 5:1-13; I Tim. 5:20; Matt. 7:6; I Tim. 1:20; I Cor. 11:27-34; Jude 23
IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper for a season; and by excommunication from the church, according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.[d]
[d]. I Thess. 5:12; II Thess. 3:6, 14-15; I Cor. 5:4-5, 13; Matt. 18:17; Titus 3:10
Question(s) for further study:
What does it mean, or how would you define what is meant to preserve our own life, and the life of others?  How would you measure such action or inaction, and to whom or what body would you seek counsel, instruction, and/or appeal too regarding the matter of ones endeavor to preserve and protect life?

1 comment:

  1. As question was asked about what about "mercy" regarding the 6th commandment?
    Thanks for the question.
    These studies, any study in the word, is nearly endless and open ended. Regarding “mercy” which some would say is the flip side of grace; Grace – extending unmerited favor; Mercy – withholding merited judgment – benevolence. These are over simplified definitions, but the Larger Catechism Q135 speaks to what is “required” in the 6th commandment at length, in part listing “charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness and kindness” offering also “requiting good for evil.” G.I. Williamson in his excellent commentary addresses this point saying, “Because by the amazing love and grace of God the Christian has himself been reconciled to God. Therefore he should be willing, even eager, to be reconciled to his fellow men as far as possible.” Q136 of the Larger Catechism regarding sins “forbidden” in the 6th commandment, includes in the long list: “desire for revenge, all excessive passions, and distracting care, etc.” All these catechetical points provide and draw upon numerous scripture references by which we can infer that mercy by definition is the summary of the Golden Rule, by which if mankind adhered, let along Christ’s followers, we would all be the better!
    Starr Meade – in Training Hearts and Teaching Minds, who I use for these studies, speaks rightly that as with all the commandments, it is a matter of the heart – as Christ taught, and unmerciful thoughts of hate is the source of all murderous thoughts and actions. I think Shakespeare says it best: “The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth like the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes: 'tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes the throned monarch better than his crown; …..It is an attribute to God himself.
    Hope this helps little to answer your question.