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, December 30, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q72

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q63-81) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The Second Table. (see Harmony Index)
The answer to this question uses the word chaste. In her paraphrase of Q72, Starr Meade uses the phrase “sexually pure.” Chaste is not a word we hear much in our times; the dictionary shows that it’s meaning is directly connected to sexual purity in thought and conduct. Further definitions include “decent and modest,” and even the idea of being “pure or simple in design or style; austere.” For the moment, consider the word modest. The idea and concept of modesty has almost totally escaped modern attitudes and behaviors, to the point of being nearly non-existent.
Well, rather than comment further at that point, let us commence our study of these things, and in prayer ask our Lord to sanctify our thoughts, words, and actions by his word of truth (John 17:17).
WSC Q 72. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A.   The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions[a].
[a] Matt. 5:28; Eph. 5:3-4
Question #72 asks what the seventh commandment forbids, and answers that the seventh commandment forbids thinking, saying, or doing anything sexually impure.
Comments and considerations:
We come now to the other side of our discussion of the seventh commandment, turning from what is required to what is forbidden. In a sense, the answers are essentially the same; we are required to preserve our own and our neighbour’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior (WSC Q71), and are therefore forbidden all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions (Q72).
There is a difference in the three words used in each answer to express the implications of this commandment. Q71 mentions “heart, speech, and behavior,” while Q72 mentions “thoughts, words, and actions.” Is the difference significant? Why did our fathers choose these words? Is there something to be learned in the subtle nuance we see here?
Upon closer consideration, there is a difference between mere thoughts and the heart. Heb. 4:12 speaks of a razor-sharp distinction between the “soul and the spirit” and the “thoughts and intents of the heart.” This distinction is often made in Scripture. The heart is described as the root of one’s soul and character; “for as [man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). In Heb. 4:12 we see that the heart of man is the seat of both motives (intents) and thoughts, which are derived from one’s innate values, conscience, or sense of right and wrong.
WSC Q71 begins with the heart of the issue—the heart, whereas Q72 mentions the out-workings of the heart—thoughts, words, and actions. Q72 places the emphasis on individual accountability for chaste (or unchaste) thoughts, words, and actions, rather than on heart orientation and motive. Our motivations are the crux of the matter in God’s eyes: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’” (Mark 7:6). Yet the Bible is very clear that humans are unable to rightly assess our own or our neighbor’s motivation; we must therefore examine ourselves and others on the basis of actions, not motivations. We cannot see into the heart (I Sam. 16:7). Even though Jesus speaks to the heart issue in the matter of the heart, he still is firm in his declaration that people “will [be known] by their fruit” (Matt. 7:16). Our hearts are deceitful (Jer. 17:9) to the point that we will even lie to ourselves and suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) in the battle that rages within (Rom. 7:13ff).
So why am I making a point of this? Does it not seem that in these postmodern times, our society is more concerned with a person’s motive for committing a crime than with the action itself? Blame is fixed upon anything and anyone—environment, society, parents, teachers—except the actual law-breaker himself! I heard a prominent voice say the other day, commenting on a recent heinous, senseless, violent crime, that (and I paraphrase) in our unwillingness to fix blame solely upon the perpetrator, we are refusing to admit the presence of evil that resides in each and every one of us. In trying to shift the blame, we are denying that we are capable of the same senseless violence. That, he said, is a moral evil in its own standing. To that I added under my breath, “Amen.” When we see such things, we ought to say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
Each individual is responsible for his or her own actions - thoughts, words, and deeds. In the seventh commandment, the Lord of lords and King of kings rightly forbad all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions. If we find ourselves struggling in this area, as Paul told us we would, we have an answer:
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.  Rom. 7:24-25
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Rom. 8:1-5
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Phil. 4:8. How would practicing the Apostle Paul’s admonition in this verse affect our lives and daily activities? How would this affect the use of entertainment, literature, and other things that influence our thinking and doing? What does Starr Meade say about the supposed “suddenness” of sin in our lives? Also see James 1:14-15.
2.        Scripture tells us we need to take care of what we think, say, and do, that we might not sin against our God. The places we go and the things we look at can tempt us to drift away from the right activities and thoughts. In the OT, Job made a commitment to guard himself from sinful desires. What did he do? See Job 31:1.
3.        When we think about the seventh commandment, we must think about how our actions affect others and their purity of thought. What does I Tim. 2:9-10 tell us about this? Does this apply only to women?
4.        Compare Eph. 5:3-4 and Eph. 4:29 in regard to this issue.
5.        What example does Joseph give us to follow when tempted to sin in this manner (Gen. 39:6-9)?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q72, WLC 139, and WCF XXIV.IV-VI
WSC Q72. What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A.  The seventh commandment forbiddeth all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions[a].
      [a]  Matt. 5:28; Eph. 5:3-4
WLC Q139. What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required[a], are, adultery, fornication[b], rape, incest[c], sodomy, and all unnatural lusts[d]; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections[e]; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto[f]; wanton looks[g], impudent or light behaviour, immodest apparel[h]; prohibiting of lawful[i], and dispensing with unlawful marriages[j]; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them[k]; entangling vows of single life[l], undue delay of marriage[m], having more wives or husbands than one at the same time[n]; unjust divorce[o], or desertion[p]; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness[q], unchaste company[r]; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays[s]; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others[t].
[a]   Prov. 5:7
[b]   Heb. 23:4; Gal. 5:19
[c]   2Sam. 13:14; 1Cor. 5:1
[d]   Rom. 1:24, 26-27; Lev. 20:15-16
[e]   Mat. 5:28; 15:19; Col. 3:5
[f]    Eph. 5:3-4; Prov. 7:5, 21-22
[g]   Isa. 3:16; 2Pet. 2:14
[h]   Prov. 7:10, 13
[i]    1Tim. 4:3
[j]    Lev. 18:1-21; Mark 6:18; Mal. 2:11-12
[k]   1Kng. 15:12; 2Kng. 23:7; Deut. 23:17-18; Lev. 19:29; Jer. 5:7; Prov. 7:24-27
[l]    Mat. 19:10-11
[m] 1Cor. 7:7-9; Gen. 38:26
[n]   Mal. 2:14-15; Mat. 19:5
[o]   Mal. 2:16; Mat. 5:32
[p]   1Cor. 7:12-13
[q]   Ezek. 16:49; Prov. 23:30-33
[r]    Gen. 39:10; Prov. 5:8
[s]   Eph. 5:4; Ezek. 23:14-16; Isa. 23:15-17; 3:16; Mark 6:22; Rom. 13:13; 1Pet. 4:3
[t]    2Kng. 9:30; Jer. 4:30; Ezek. 23:40
Of Marriage and Divorce
IV. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden by the Word.[h]  Nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.[i]
[h]  Lev. 18:6-17; 24-30; Lev. 20:19; I Cor. 5:1; Amos 2:7
[i]   Mark 6:18; Lev. 18:24-28
V.  Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract.[k]  In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce.[l] and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.[m]
[k]  Matt. 1:18-20; see Deut. 22:23-24
[l]   Matt. 5:31-32
[m] Matt. 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3
VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage:[n] wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case.[o]
[n]  Matt. 19:8-9; I Cor. 7:15; Matt. 19:6
[o]  Deut. 24:1-4
Question(s) for further study:

The Short Catechism provides a principal answer to the question,  “What is forbidden in the seventh commandment” while the Large Catechism gives specifics by changing the phrasing to “what are the sins” forbidden.  In addition to “the neglect of the duties required,” how many separate points do our father’s make regarding the sins forbidden? How serious ought we to consider marriage and sexual purity in the priorities of our Lord?

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