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, November 27, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q87


We come to the second point drawn from the answer to WSC Q85, “What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse, due to us for sin?” Repentance, like the faith we studied last time, is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It is not what we do, but what he does; it is not about us, but about him.  Even his commands should cause us to say, “God, command what you will, and give what you command!”
How does the hymn go? “Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that greater than is all my sin.” What great reason we have to rejoice in every way. Let us both sing and pray our way through this lesson in the Shorter Catechism.
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WSC Q87. What is repentance unto life?
A.   Repentance unto life is a saving grace[a], whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ[b], doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God[c], with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience[d].
[a]  Acts 11:18; II Tim. 2:25
[b]  Ps. 51:1-4; Joel 2:13; Luke 15:7, 10; Acts 2:37
[c]  Jer. 31:18-19; Luke 1:16-17; I Thess. 1:9
[d]  II Chron. 7:14; Ps. 119:57-64; Matt. 3:8; II Cor. 7:10
Question 86 asks what repentance unto life is, and answers that repentance unto life is a saving grace, by which a sinner, being truly aware of his sinfulness, understands the mercy of God in Christ, grieves for and hates his sins, and turns from them to God, fully intending and striving for a new obedience.
Comments and considerations:
Did the hymn mentioned above strike you as out of place? What does grace have to do with this particular catechism question? Where is the cause for rejoicing? To begin, Repentance unto life is a saving grace: Just as the faith necessary for salvation is supplied by a loving and gracious God to the lost, dying, and bankrupt sinner, so repentance is also supplied by grace. I doubt the hymn writer intended the double mention of grace to point to the double gifts of faith and repentance, but these graces are certainly a reason to sing that hymn with joy! Our God supplies all our need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
Repentance is in fact necessary in order for us to escape the wrath and curse of God, due to us for sin (WSC #85). Some might say that salvation is simply a matter of “believe and be saved,” but what is belief if it does not produce appropriate actions? Years ago, one of my sons, with me on a road trip through the Colorado Rockies, took a long look at the steel and wooden bridge that spans the very deep chasm at Pikes Peak; he wondered whether to trust his father to drive over the bridge to the main highway, or to insist upon a much longer route back down the mountain. You see, he had a fear of heights. When I challenged his faith to drive with his dad (who would let no harm come to him) over the bridge, he replied that he believed me, but… As the saying goes, his head said one thing, but his heart, the seat of the will and emotions, thoughts and intents (Heb. 4:12), said something else. Our actions will give evidence to our true heart attitude. As James says, we are not saved by works, but neither are we saved without them; they are the evidence (James 2:14). Our faith may be as small as a grain of mustard (Mk. 4:31), yet it will sprout with proof that life truly has been born; in time, it will grow as it is nurtured in the Lord.
So the Scriptures are quite clear that repentance is required, noting two of our supporting scriptures:
“When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life’” (Acts 11:18).
“...in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…” (II Tim. 2:25).
God commands repentance, but he also gives it. Again, “God, command what you will, and give what you command!” (Augustine) ...But now let us see what he gives, what it is that true repentance means.
First of all, repentance is a twofold act, a turning away from the wrong path and a turning towards the right.
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (II Chron. 7:14).
Next, it is also godly recognition or sorrow for sin.
“For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (II Cor. 7:10).
All of us know—from our own experience and from our children—that there is a far cry (pun intended) between being simply caught in a sin and actually owning the wrong and guilt of the transgression; godly sorrow isn’t easy for a sinful human heart.
But see how our catechism describes this true repentance: A sinner out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience. In the Bible verses our fathers used to build this catechism teaching, there is much instruction; but there is also a verse of tender mercies:
“‘Now, therefore,’ says the LORD, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:12-13).
Some would see repentance as a hard demand, and at best, a possible hindrance to faith. But it is the true imprint of a two-sided coin: believe and obey! And, it is a saving grace (II Tim. 2:25) whereby God commands what he wills, and gives what he commands!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        What is repentance? Read II Cor. 7:9-10. What does verse 10 say that “godly sorrow” for sin produces? How do repentance for sin and faith in Christ as a Savior from sin fit together? Is there a distinction between mere repentance and “repentance unto life”?
2.        As we have seen, it is God who grants us faith. In what way is repentance unto life similar to faith? See Acts 11:18 (also Ezek. 36:26-27).
3.        One measure of true repentance is our attitude toward our sins. We might feel embarrassed or even guilty about our sin, but how do Is. 64: 5-7 and Ps. 51:1-2 describe a godly perspective on sin?
4.        We must understand the definition of repentance in order to follow through with our actions. How does Is. 55: 6-7 describe repentance? What two things are central in this text? (1)
5.        Read I John 2:3-6. What phrase in WSC Q87 does this describe?
1) Turning away from sin, and turning to God for mercy.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q87, WLC 76, and WFC XV
Q.  87. What is repentance unto life?
A.  Repentance unto life is a saving grace[a], whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ[b], doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God[c], with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience[d].
[a]  Acts 11:18; IITim. 2:25
[b]  Ps. 51:1-4; Joel 2:13; Luke 15:7, 10; Acts 2:37
[c]  Jer. 31:18-19; Luke 1:16-17; IThess. 1:9
[d]  IIChron. 7:14; Ps. 119:57-64; Matt. 3:8; IICor. 7:10
WLC Q76. What is repentance unto life?
A.  Repentance unto life is a saving grace[a], wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit[b] and Word of God[c], whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger[d], but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins[e], and upon the apprehension of God's mercy in Christ to such as are penitent[f], he so grieves for[g] and hates his sins[h], as that he turns from them all to God[i], purposing and endeavouring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience[j].
[a]   2Tim. 2:25
[b]   Zech. 12:10
[c]   Acts 11:18, 20-21
[d]   Ezek. 18:28, 30, 32; Luke 15:17-18; Hos. 2:6-7
[e]   Ezek. 36:31; Isa. 30:22
[f]   Joel 2:12-13
[g]   Jer. 31:18-19
[h]  2Cor. 7:11
[i]    Acts 26:18; Ezek. 14:6; 1Kng. 8:47-48
[j]    Ps. 119:6, 59, 128; Luke 1:6; 2Kng. 23:25
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. XV.
Of Repentance unto Life.
I.    Repentance unto life is an evangelical grace[a], the doctrine whereof is to be preached by every minister of the gospel, as well as that of faith in Christ[b].
      [a]  Acts 11:18; II Cor. 7:10; Zech. 12:10
      [b]  Luke 24:47; Mark 1:15; Acts 20:21
II.  By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God[c], purposing and endeavouring to walk with him in all the ways of His commandments[d].
[c]  Ezek. 18:30-31; Ezek. 36:31; Isa. 30:22; Ps. 51:4; Jer. 31:18-19; Joel 2:12-13; Amos 5:15; Ps. 119:128; II Cor. 7:11; I Thess. 1:9
[d]  Ps. 119:6, 59, 106; II Kings 23:25; see Luke 1:6
III. Although repentance be not to be rested in, as any satisfaction for sin, or any cause of the pardon thereof[e], which is the act of God's free grace in Christ[f]; yet it is of such necessity to all sinners, that none may expect pardon without it[g].
[e]  Ezek. 36:31-32; Ezek. 16:61-63; Isa. 43:25
[f]  Hos. 14:2, 4; Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7
[g]  Luke 13:3, 5; Mark 1:4; Acts 17:30-31
IV. As there is no sin so small, but it deserves damnation[h]; so there is no sin so great, that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent[i].
[h] Rom. 6:23; Gal. 3:10; Matt. 12:36
[i]  Isa. 55:7; Rom. 8:1; Isa. 1:16-18
V.  Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man's duty to endeavour to repent of his particular sins, particularly[k].
      [k] Ps. 19:13; Matt. 26:75; Luke 19:8; I Tim. 1:13, 15
VI. As every man is bound to make private confession of his sins to God, praying for the pardon thereof [l]; upon which, and the forsaking of them, he shall find mercy[m]; so, he that scandalizeth his brother, or the church of Christ, ought to be willing, by a private or public confession, and sorrow for his sin, to declare his repentance to those that are offended[n], who are thereupon to be reconciled to him, and in love to receive him[o].
[l]  Ps. 32:5-6; Ps. 51:1-14
[m] Prov. 28:13; Isa. 55:7; I John 1:9
[n] James 5:16; Luke 17:3-4; Josh. 7:19; see Matt. 18:15- 18
[o] II Cor. 2:7-8; see Gal. 6:1-2
Question(s) for further study:

The Larger Catechism and Confession of Faith expand greatly upon our instruction and understanding of the question at hand. But here is a simple question to consider and ponder, how is repentance unto life is an evangelical grace, and how far does it extend; is it private only?  What implications may be drawn from this for the Christian’s life?

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