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 16, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q81

We are drawing near to the end of our consideration of the Ten Commandments as they are presented in the Shorter Catechism. In the law, we see God’s righteous commands and purposes. Through the convicting ministry of the Word and Spirit, we also see our own sinful shortcomings (Rom. 3:23). The tenth commandment drives home the heart of the matter. The Apostle Paul said that had it not been for the tenth commandment, he would most likely have remained convinced of his own personal righteousness. Like him, we may think we are keeping God’s law in our outward performance of the first nine commandments, but when we come to the tenth, we see our heart as it really is, deceitful and self-serving: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).
We must not be like the man in James 1:22-24, who after observing truth, walks away and forgets what he should have learned and applied. This warning is repeated throughout Scripture. As an opening to this study, give serious thought to Ps. 5, especially verses 4-6, 11-12. Are we covenant-keepers or covenant-breakers? The tenth commandment shows that this is a matter of the heart.
Knowing that it is God alone, through the work of Christ and ministry of the Holy Spirit, who can change the heart, let us once again pray for clear understanding, especially as we examine our heart attitude - our mind, will, and emotion - before the exposing mirror of God’s Word.
WSC Q81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A.   The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate[a], envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his[b].
[a] I Cor. 10:10; Jas. 3:14
[b] Gal. 5:26; Col. 3:5
Question 81 asks what the tenth commandment forbids, and answers that the tenth commandment forbids any dissatisfaction with what belongs to us, envy or grief at the success of others, and all improper desires for anything that belongs to someone else.
Comments and considerations:
Did you ever see the book titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (by Robert Fulghum)? Its premise is that wisdom is not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but in the sand pile at elementary school. The author lists many lessons to make his point—things like “share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, don’t take things that aren’t yours, say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody,” and so on—“the Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.” It is a clever book with a keen observation about human nature, commonsense rules, and appropriate behaviors that might well improve society if we all just did, well... all that we learned in kindergarten! But the problem is not with the learning, is it? The problem is in the doing, consistently and without being told. And actually, the real problem is not inappropriate behaviors, but the root of sin and our own sin-sick hearts.
Our catechism lesson ends with the phrase “all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.” Motions is an interesting choice because our common understanding involves movement, something mechanical or physical in nature. But older dictionaries show definitions that the writers of the catechism might have meant. In addition to “mechanical motion [that] is effected by the force or power of one body acting on another,” motion could refer to “the effect of impulse; action proceeding from any cause, external or internal.” Webster’s 1913 dictionary provides several definitions, two of which are helpful here: “1) the act, process, or state of changing place or position; movement; 2) movement of the mind, desires, or passions; mental act, or impulse to any action.”
So how do those definitions improve our understanding of the tenth commandment? One of the Scripture references for this catechism answer is Col. 3:5—“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” The KJV translates “evil desire” as “concupiscence,” which means “an irregular appetite for worldly goods.” The Greek word means “sensual delight; that which excites the mind and fires the passion,” thus having far-reaching implications as to inordinate impulse. This is the same word Paul uses in Rom. 7:8 when he says, “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.” Inordinate motions lead to inordinate affections of the heart, to envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour and discontentment with our own estate.
From what we’ve observed, we might substitute the word “motion” with “impulse,” reading instead all inordinate impulses and affections to anything that is our neighbor’s. It is interesting that the first lesson we were supposed to have learned in kindergarten is to share everything. Is that not the hardest thing for our little ones to grasp? Adults have also become used to the marketing techniques which push for “impulse buying.” Those marketing techniques are so successful because today’s adults did not learn their kindergarten lessons and are truly subject and enslaved to self-centered and deceitful hearts with a deep need to be changed by the grace of God.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        God requires us to be content with what we have. He is angry when we covet what he has not given us. When God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, he led them through the wilderness, performing many mighty acts of deliverance and feeding them in a miraculous manner. They were thankful at first, but in time they became dissatisfied. Read Num. 11:4-6, 33-34. What happened when God responded by giving them all they wanted?
2.        The Bible, through many narratives, exposes our hearts and the sinfulness found there. In the book of Esther, Haman was a man of wealth and great influence. Yet bitterness, jealousy, and discontentment moved him to do a great evil in plotting the death of the Israelites. What one person caused Haman such bitterness of soul? See Esther 5:10-13.
3.        Ps. 112 describes the righteous man and the blessings that come to him. Yet what statement is made in Ps. 112:10? Why is “unhappiness” found there?
4.        Wanting, or the desire for things, is not in itself sinful; but it can become sinful and lead to grievous sin. Read I Kings 21:1-16. How does Ahab’s simple desire lead to great evil? How does James 4:1-3 describe that sort of chain of events?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q80 and WLC 148
Q.  81. What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A.  The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate[a], envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his[b].
[a]  ICor. 10:10; Jas. 3:14-16
[b]  Gal. 5:26; Col. 3:5
Q.  148. What are the sins forbidden in the tenth commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the tenth commandment are, discontentment with our own estate[a]; envying[b] and grieving at the good of our neighbour[c], together with all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his[d].
[a]   1Kng. 21:4; Esth. 5:13; 1Cor. 10:10
[b]   Gal. 5:26; Jam. 3:14, 16
[c]   Ps. 112:9-10; Neh. 2:10
[d]   Rom. 7:7-8; Rom. 13:9; Col. 3:5; Deut. 5:21
Question(s) for further study:

What is the difference between the Larger and the Shorter Catechism in what is asked and in the answers?  What might you notice in this particular harmony and what implications would you draw from how these two questions are presented and answered? 

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