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, October 2, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q79


Our study of the catechism leads now to the tenth commandment and the issue of coveting. Coveting is not a word that frequents our everyday conversations. In fact, modern advertising and marketing depends on our culture of personal desire and wishful longing. The dictionary defines coveting as, among other things, “an immoderate desire for that which is another’s.” (Immoderate is another word worth looking up, since it also seems to have lost its meaning in our culture.)
Again, we need to approach our study in prayer, much as David did in Ps. 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
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WSC Q79. Which is the tenth commandment?
A.   The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour’s[a].
[a] Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21
Question 79 asks what the tenth commandment is and answers that the tenth commandment is: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or his maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Comments and considerations:
We come to the last of the Ten Commandments. Each of the preceding commandments deals primarily with external behaviors; but this one regulates the internal disposition of the heart. It is this commandment that convicted Paul of his true condition apart from Christ: “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire” (Rom. 7:7-8). The law demonstrated Paul’s state of alienation and spiritual death, the reality that there is “no good thing” in any of us (Rom. 7:13ff). When we are dead in trespasses and sin, the law, by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, shows us our need of a Savior. Thus Paul proclaims, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7: 24-25a)
In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord made it clear that no part of the law can be kept by mere externals when he said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you…” (Matt 5:21-48). In that lengthy discourse Christ makes clear the heart issue in keeping God’s law; we sin not only in deed but in thought as well. But there is no getting around the clarity and original intent of the tenth commandment: “For where your treasures [are], there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21); and iniquity is truly rooted in the sin-sick heart. If there is one thing that is true about each of us, it is our desire for more possessions, our spirit of discontentment, our restless wanting what our neighbor has - is a story as old as time itself. Wasn’t the first sin the sin of coveting? Having all they needed and more, our first parents were forbidden one thing; but seeing “that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable” (Gen. 3:6), the human race was plunged into sin, darkness, and despair by the desires of their heart.
I can’t help but think of a certain irony revealed in modern times. Coveting is an inordinate desire for things that are not ours to have; doesn’t that definition show the problem with our culture’s current fascination - an almost romantic fascination - with pirates, as in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean? Could it be that the black flag of the skull and crossbones secretly flies in the heart of each and every one of us? For all of our supposed civility and cultural advance, we cling to covetousness with all its deadly and sinful potential. Paul has it right:
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 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. 7:21-25).
Indeed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Rom. 7:7. What does Paul say he learned in studying the Law, especially the tenth commandment? When we look at the first nine commandments, we see activities that reside in our doing, our external behavior. But when we consider the tenth, where does the activity primarily reside?
2.        As has been pointed out, the tenth commandment does not directly deal with outward behavior, but with our heart attitude and thoughts patterns. How might we apply what James teaches concerning our relationship and obedience to the law in James 2:10 and James 1:22-25?
3.        When we realize that even our sinful thoughts can bring us under condemnation (see Gal. 3:10 as it relates to the tenth commandment), we might get discouraged with a sense of hopelessness. But what answer does our Savior provide us even in the midst of despair? See Matt. 11:28-30.
4.        Read and consider carefully Luke 7:36-37. The Law shows the non-Christian how much he or she needs a Savior. However, considering the lesson found in this passage, what is one of the things that the Law shows the Christian that he must do?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q79 and WLC 146
WSC Q79. Which is the tenth commandment?
A.  The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour's[a].
      [a]  Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21
WLC Q146. Which is the tenth commandment?
A.  The tenth commandment is, Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shall not covet they neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's[a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:17
Question(s) for further study:

The Larger Catechism is identical to the Shorter here, as we look forward to coming instruction in subsequent studies.

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