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, August 7, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q71


In this catechism study, we look at what is required in the seventh commandment. First, notice that we are not only required to take care of our own behavior, but we are also personally accountable for the preservation of the good behavior of others. In other words, by our thoughts and actions, do we help or hinder others in their self-control and right behavior? Second, notice the progression of “heart, speech, and behavior.” It is the heart that controls our talk and walk.
So let us approach this instruction prayerfully, that He who has promised to supply our every need will do so as he has purposed. May He impress His Word upon our heart and mind to the end that we might know and joyfully do His every command.
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WSC Q 71. What is required in the seventh commandment?
A.   The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbour’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior[a].
[a] I Cor. 7:2-3,5; I Thess. 4:3-5
Question #71 asks what the seventh commandment requires, and answers that the seventh commandment requires us and everyone else to keep sexually pure in heart, speech, and action.
Comments and considerations:
“[When we] offer morality by external control instead of inner transformation, —when the controls go away, so does the morality.”
–Joel Belz, “Warning Signals” (May 3, 2003, World Magazine).
This quote reminds me of a brief conversation I once had with a Christian woman regarding the Islamic Burqa and her opinion as to merits of wearing such apparel.  I was taken aback by her opinion that leaned toward favoring head-to-foot covering of women in the Muslim religion. Somehow she had missed the point of Jesus’ teaching that it is not so much what goes in (or on) a person that defiles them, but what comes out. “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Matt. 15:15-20). Again, Joel Belz puts it well: “Offer morality by external control instead of inner transformation, — when the controls go away, so does the morality.” Thus we see in today’s lesson that what is required in the preservation of our own and our neighbour’s chastity begins with the heart that controls our speech and behavior. And it is multi-directional, having to do not only with guarding my own heart, but also with making sure my speech and behavior do not cause another—my neighbor—to stumble in those same areas.
Again, words are fascinating things, like “well-driven nails” when rightly used (Ecc. 12:11). Our fathers chose the word chastity to explain this seventh commandment requirement; that seems appropriate, and it is. However, looking a little closer we find a fuller understanding of the word. The root of chastity is chaste, which first meant “clean, pure,” and subsequently, “virtuous, undefiled, and sexual purity, celibate.” From there however, we find this definition in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary: “Pure from all unlawful commerce of sexes. Applied to persons before marriage, it signifies pure from all sexual commerce, undefiled; applied to married persons, true to the marriage bed.” Notice this phrase “unlawful commerce.” What did that mean in its original context? We know that commerce has to do with the buying and selling of commodities, the exchange of goods between individuals. Unlawful draws implication from the meaning of the covenant union of marriage, the binding contract of protections and accountabilities. There is much food for thought here, as our definition shows its application before and after marriage. Further, Webster references I Pet. 3:2 in the usage of chaste to reinforce his definition, which in the Greek means again “clean, pure, and innocent.”
Let’s delve deeper into the meaning of innocent. Like most words, it has many definitions. Here its meaning is this: “1) not harmful; free from that which can injure; 2) morally free from guilt; not tainted with sin; pure; upright; 3) free from the guilt of a particular crime or offense; 4) lawful; permitted; as, an innocent trade.” Think about that. How many times have we read or heard of someone who has taken part in a sexual indiscretion and violated the seventh commandment, only to confess afterwards, “I feel like I’ve been used?” We do not have the right, and on the contrary, we are forbidden, to use another or to be used by another for selfish purposes or gain; to do so is a form (within the context of the total Law) of theft, “unlawful commerce.”  Such "unlawful commerce" is the commerce of unbridled passions and lusts, profiting from selfish desires and personal self-centeredness. Covenant intimacy is always to be focused on fulfilling the needs of the other above our own (I Cor. 7:4). This is a heart issue that must be taught and lived out in the preservation of our own chastity and that of our neighbors, young and old alike. If we do not protect the innocence of another, if we do not keep them from harm’s way, we ourselves do moral harm and are not free from guilt.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Heb.13:4. Again, the excellent comments related to this catechism question from Starr Meade’s devotional book Training Hearts, Teaching Minds are quoted in part for our consideration: “God intended for husbands and wives to use their bodies to show love to one another. The relationship between a husband and wife is the closest human relationship there is. It is much closer than the relationship of parents with children or of friends with each other. Husbands and wives use their bodies to show love to each other in ways that other people may not do. When the answer to this catechism question says that we are required to be sexually pure, this is what it means.”
2.        The thinking of the world often goes against the commands, plans, and purposes of our God. His Word gives wise guidance to help us avoid wrong thoughts and actions. We must be careful in how we listen to others, and how we might lead others to do wrong. See Prov. 2:16-17, and I Cor. 7:4.
3.        How has God made us, and to what purpose? See I Cor. 6:19-20?
4.        This catechism question instructs us about being sexually pure in both our heart and behavior, as God purposed in creation. What is meant by the “heart,” and what does Prov. 4:23 teach about this?
5.        What further instruction do we receive in II Cor. 7:1?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q71, WLC 138, and WCF XXIV.II-III
WSC Q 71. What is required in the seventh commandment?
A.  The seventh commandment requireth the preservation of our own and our neighbor’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior[a].
[a]  ICor. 7:2-3, 5; IThess. 4:3-5
WLC Q 138. What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
A.  The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections[a], words[b], and behavior[c]; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others[d]; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses[e]; temperance[f], keeping of chaste company[g], modesty in apparel[h]; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency[i], conjugal love[j], and cohabitation[k]; diligent labor in our callings[l]; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto[m].
[a]   1Thes. 4:4; Job 31:1; 1Cor. 7:34
[b]   Col. 4:6
[c]   1Pet. 2:3
[d]   1Cor. 7:2, 35-36
[e]   Job. 31:1
[f]   Acts 24:24-25
[g]   Prov. 2:16-20
[h]  1Tim. 2:9
[i]    1Cor. 7:2, 9
[j]    Prov. 5:19-20
[k]  1Pet. 3:7
[l]    Prov. 3:11, 27-28
[m] Prov. 5:8; Gen. 39:8-10
CHAPTER. XXIV.
Of Marriage and Divorce
II.  Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife,[b] for the increase of mankind with legitimate issue, and of the church with an holy seed;[c] and for preventing of uncleanness.[d]
[b]  Gen. 2:18; Eph. 5:28; I Pet. 3:7
[c]  Gen. 1:28; Gen. 9:1; Mal. 2:15
[d]  I Cor. 7:2, 9
III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent.[e] Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord.[f] And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.[g]
[e] Heb. 13:4; I Tim. 4:3; I Cor. 7:36-38; Gen. 24:57- 58
[f] I Cor. 7:39
[g] Gen. 34:14; Exod. 34:16 see II Cor. 6:14; Deut. 7:3-4; I Kings 11:4; Neh. 13:25-27; Mal. 2:11-12
Question(s) for further study:

The Short Catechism provides a principal answer to the question,  “What is required in the seventh commandment” while the Large Catechism gives specifics by adding “what” word(s) or phrase to the question?  How is marriage deemed a “help” to individuals, society, and the church?

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