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 1, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q92

Have you noticed that we have become walking billboards? Take a casual stroll through the mall, and you can’t help but notice all the product names and logos people carry about on their clothing. We have become advertisements for just about every brand, celebrity, and cause under the sun. This hasn’t been always the case. When I was young, my older brother-in-law came to dinner. In the middle of a conversation, my mother took a pair of scissors from her sewing basket, asked him to draw near and began to remove the little red tag on the back of his pants. She couldn’t believe he would want that Levi tag left attached to his pants, but he did! Years later, this practice has become a part of our culture, and we take pride in wearing brands and logos. Maybe it’s our need to belong, our search for significance, or our desire to identify with something beyond ourselves that causes us to buy and wear a particular brand.
Perhaps it is even part of the pattern and longing that God has imprinted upon our hearts, part of what Augustine expressed in his famous statement that “our hearts are made for God, and they are restless until we rest in him.” When we do rest in him, he gives us signs and symbols - logos, if you will - indicating our association with him in the covenant of grace. These signs teach and remind us; they make real what they represent. This is part of the “do this and live” blessing which God has imparted to his people out of his infinite love and wise purpose. Perhaps earthly logos are nothing more than cheap and temporal substitutes that divert us from longing for the one thing that can satisfy our hunger for meaning and place. Had C.S. Lewis lived longer, he might have added another chapter to The Screwtape Letters, describing this phenomenon as yet another device used by Wormwood to divert us from true worship, allegiance, and affection towards our God.
Well, enough of my ramblings. Let’s get on with our study, and pray for understanding of the significance of the sacraments of our Lord - real things that symbolize eternal things that fade not away - treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt (Matt. 6:20).
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WSC Q92. What is a sacrament?
A.   A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ[a]; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers[b].
[a] Matt. 28:19; 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19- 20; I Cor. 1:22-26
[b] Gal. 3:27; I Cor. 10:16-17
Question 92 asks what is a sacrament and answers that a sacrament is a holy regulation established by Christ, in which Christ and the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers by physical signs.
Comments and considerations:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:34-36)
In this lesson, our thoughts are drawn to the wonders of our God and the riches of his praise. To him belongs all the glory. Here we behold Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, which are immense and truly beyond our comprehension (Eph. 1:3-6). We see the simple, sensible signs that point us to our so great salvation - guideposts that lead us between time and eternity, as we press forward into the manifold covenant blessings of our Lord. In its doctrines and doxologies, the Reformed Faith provides a silver-threaded reminder of the covenant continuity that runs from the Old Testament to the New; it begins in the mind of God from eternity past, runs into the present, and heads toward the sure and certain future of his elect. But the sacraments are not always appreciated or given their due place of importance for growth in Christian joy and quiet confidence.
Each of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ. They are established by our Lord as holy - separate and sanctified unto a specific purpose. We may partake of bread and wine for physical nourishment and refreshment, but those very same mundane elements hold a unique significance when acknowledged and received as sign and seal of our union and communion with Christ. In that context, they are intended by our Lord to represent, seal, and find application in the believing heart and mind.
The word sacrament is an ancient term, rooted in the act of a sacred oath or pledge to denote obligation or vow, a token of solemn covenant. Scripture provides many signs of promise. We are introduced to the solemnity of the covenant oath in Gen. 15 when Abram (before he was Abraham) first hears the promises of the One who called and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans. Here is the cutting of the covenant, the splitting in two of animals being sacrificed. This ceremony was an ancient custom; two sovereigns would walk between the divided sacrifice, saying in essence, “Let it be to the me, as it is to these, if I be found guilty of breaking this pledge.” What is unique in Abram’s encounter is that it was the God of heaven and earth who walked the covenant: “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’” (Heb. 6:13-14). So a solemn oath and covenant runs through Scripture, leading to Christ who says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20ff). As children of Abraham, in union with Christ, we share an eternal resting place in the blessings of our covenant-keeping God. This is the sign and seal of the sacraments, tokens of entrance into and participation in the blessings of the covenant community. The sacraments are sacred ceremonies of promise and obligation, a sign of God’s promise: “I will be your God, and you will be my people.”
So the benefits of the new covenant are represented, sealed, and applied to believers, who in faith and obedience enjoy those sacraments as a means grace alongside the Word.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.            The word sacrament comes from a word that Roman soldiers used long ago. It meant a very serious promise that a soldier would always remain faithful and obedient to his general. It also referred to the promise the general made to remain faithful to the soldiers under his command. How does this analogy fit with covenant promises that the Lord Jesus made to his disciples and subsequent followers? Read Gen. 17:1-2, 9. Describe this event and how it aligns with the covenant concept.
2.            In this context, the term ordinance means an authoritative command or regulation. We see in Scripture that Jesus established two ordinances, commanding the Church concerning two regulations. What are they? See I Cor. 11:23-25 and Matt. 28:18-19.
3.            There are two aspects of each sacrament - the physical part that can be seen, touched, or tasted, and the spiritual part that the physical elements represent. What is one thing that the Lord’s Table represents according to I Cor. 11:26?
4.            There are many aspects described as “benefits” to be enjoyed in the sacraments. They are described as a means of grace, ways God uses to instruct and communicate to his children the blessings of Christ. In one way these symbols are like the reading and preaching of the Word of God. How does God use his Word to benefit believers? See Rom. 10:17. By implication, how does Rom. 10:17 apply to the sacrament of communion?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q92, WLC Q162, Q163 and WCF XXVII.I and II
WSC Q92. What is a sacrament?
A.  A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ[a]; wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers[b].
[a]  Matt. 28:19; 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19- 20; ICor. 1:22-26
[b]  Gal. 3:27; ICor. 10:16-17
WLC Q162. What is a sacrament?
A.  A sacrament is an holy ordinance instituted by Christ in his church[a], to signify, seal, and exhibit[b] unto those that are within the covenant of grace[c], the benefits of his mediation[d]; to strengthen and increase their faith, and all other graces[e]; to oblige them to obedience[f]; to testify and cherish their love and communion one with another[g]; and to distinguish them from those that are without[h].
[a]   Gen. 17:7, 10; Exod. 12; Mat. 28:19; 26:26-28
[b]   Rom. 4:11; 1Cor. 11:24-25
[c]   Rom. 15:8; Exod. 12:48
[d]   Acts 2:38; 1Cor. 10:16
[e]   Rom. 4:11 (See in number 2); Gal. 3:27
[f]   Rom.6:3-4; 1Cor. 10:21
[g]   Eph. 4:2-5; 1Cor. 12:13
[h]  Eph. 2:11-12; Gen. 34:14
WLC Q163. What are the parts of a sacrament?
A.  The parts of a sacrament are two; the one an outward and sensible sign, used according to Christ's own appointment; the other an inward and spiritual grace thereby signified[a].
[a]  Mat. 3:11; 1Pet. 3:21; Rom. 2:28-29
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. XXVII.
Of the Sacraments.
I.    Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace[a] immediately instituted by God[b], to represent Christ and his benefits; and to confirm our interest in him[c]: as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the church and the rest of the world[d]; and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to his Word[e].
[a]  Rom. 4:11; Gen. 17:7, 10-11
[b] Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:23
[c]  Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12; I Cor. 10:16; I Cor. 11:25-26; Gal. 3:27
[d] Exod. 12:48; Gen. 34:14; I Cor. 10:21
[e]  Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; I Pet. 3:21; I Cor. 10:16; see I Cor. 5:7-8
II.  There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other[f].
[f]  Gen. 17:10; Matt. 26:27-28; I Cor. 10:16-18
Question(s) for further study:

Though asking the same question, the Large Catechism answer – along with the Confessional Statements - is extensively longer than the Shorter adding what institution aspect and meaning to Christ’s sacraments?

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