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, January 27, 2020

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q76

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q63-81) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The Second Table. (see Harmony Index)
We now come to the ninth commandment as we continue through the catechism using Starr Meade’s Training Hearts, Teaching Minds. Consider the significance of this lesson as it relates to our speech, which in fact gives witness to the nature and state of our hearts and minds. Jesus said that, “those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man” (Matt. 15:18). The training of our heart and mind will impact what comes out of our mouths. As James says, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” It might be wise at this point to read carefully James 3:1-11, and add this to our study of the ninth commandment.
May we once again approach our study in prayer that the Lord would add to our thoughts and actions the things that most please and honor him.
WSC Q76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A.   The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
[a] Ex. 20:16; Deut. 5:20
Question #76 asks what is the ninth commandment, and answers that the ninth commandment is: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
Comments and considerations:
As has been previously pointed out (see discussion of WSC Q74), there appears to be a progression within the Ten Commandments; they build upon one another to form a cohesive whole. I believe this is one of the reasons James says that if you break one, you are in fact breaking all— “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas. 2:10). They are like a chain stitch; when one stitch is broken, the whole project comes apart. This is because obedience is a heart issue; if you cannot keep one commandment faithfully, you cannot keep any (Rom. 7:7).
In the second table of the law, after dealing with the issue of basic authority, the sanctity of human life, marriage, and the protection and promotion of private property, we come now to truth-telling. As Jesus said, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matt. 5:37). This commandment deals with keeping our word within human contracts and covenants, and speaking the truth when giving witness. Words have meaning, regardless of what today’s celebrities might think to the contrary.
I’ve always found the wording of the ninth commandment interesting. It could have been put so many different ways, and lying is very simply prohibited elsewhere. But here, the prohibition is very specific: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Older translations say instead, Thou shalt not bear false witness. The word bear means to carry or transport, to convey, to possess and bring. The dictionary gives a long list of definitions and applications; among them you’ll find a sense of ownership and accountability. Again, words have meaning, and the misuse of the tongue has dire consequences (see Jas. 3:1-12). This command appears to be dealing with the weight of evidence one might carry against a neighbor, forbidding the bearing of false evidence. We serve a God who is truth, and calls us to truth:
Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth (Ps. 31:5).
I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth (I John 2:21).
The word truth comes from troth; to pledge a troth, as in a vow in the marriage covenant. There is a binding of the participants to the very words they speak, and this is not something we can hold in an abstract. When a man speaks a lie, he is a liar himself; his words bear witness against him! His words are not trustworthy, and neither is he! He bears the burden that he is a false witness, not to be trusted.
Our God is the God of truth. He is the covenant-keeping God, bearing forth what he has bound to himself, his very word of promise, an immutable oath to save his own to the uttermost—all those who put their trust and confidence in him who cannot lie.
For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:13-19).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Zech. 8:16-17. How important is the truth, and the telling of truth? What are examples of places or daily experiences where telling truth is not only important, but required? Why does it matter so much? What does Zech. 8:16-17 say on this matter?
2.        In the Old Testament, when a person was found guilty, those who had testified against him were often directly involved in his execution. Their words had severe consequences. God warns us about the severity of our talking about others in Prov. 14:5 and Lev. 19:16a.
3.        The truth and the telling of truth are important, especially in relation to our Lord who is “the way, the truth, and the life.” The Bible speaks much on this in several places. Read Psa. 15, and count and consider the references to speech and conversation.
4.        What is hateful to God? See Prov. 6:16-19.
5.        What is the ill that comes from lying and bearing false witness? What is another result of untruthfulness? See Prov. 19:5.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q76 and WLC 143
WSC Q76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A.  The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour[a].
      [a]  Ex. 20:16; Deut. 5:20
WLC Q143. Which is the ninth commandment?
A.  The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor[a].

      [a]  Exod. 20:16

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