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 15, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q94

What does it mean to be engaged? Our recent studies in the catechism have dealt with the sacraments, those signs and seals of the covenant of grace in the life of the believer. At times we are tempted to see our religious activities as rituals devoid of personal reality; we go through the motions of service or worship, but we sense an emptiness. Our Lord warns several times in Scripture that even when we are most fervent in our doing, our heart may not really be in it (Matt. 15:8). Compare a child who cleans up his messy bedroom when asked and a wife who delights to put things in order in her newly purchased home. Even though their outward actions may be similar, their reasons and methods are different; the child is neither mentally nor emotionally involved, while the wife is very much engaged in the activity. This brings us back to the question: What does it mean to be engaged, as this catechism question describes our relationship to Christ, noting how the answer ends with the statement “our engagement to be the Lord's?”
As it turns out, there are several definitions of engaged in my particular dictionary, each one providing interesting food for thought. As we think further, we might add a few more definitions from our own experience of the things that occupy our time and energy.
Baptism is one sign and seal that represents a great and wondrous truth of the Christian life—a truth that ought to engage the focus of our life in significant ways, since we enjoy an “engagement to be the Lord’s.” Let us pray that the benefits of our union with Christ would fully occupy in each of us a heart and mind thoroughly engaged unto the glory of our great God.
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WSC Q94. What is Baptism?
A.  Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost[a], doth signify and seal our engrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s[b].
[a] Matt. 28:19
[b] Acts 2:38-42; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; I Pet. 3:21
Question 94 asks what baptism is and answers that the sacrament of baptism is a washing with water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which is a sign and seal that we are joined to Christ, that we receive the benefits of the covenant of grace, and that we are engaged to be the Lord’s.
Comments and considerations:
We come now to the question of Baptism and its clear biblical definition. We observe in this statement that it is a sacred ordinance; a washing in the name and authority of the Triune God; and a sealing and signifying of three things—union with Christ; the benefits of the covenant of grace; and participation in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. We have looked at nearly all of these things in previous lessons, for baptism provides a sensible sign of the wondrous aspects of the covenant of redemption accomplished and applied.
In this answer, we see that all three members of the Godhead are involved salvation:
o   the Father authoring,
o   the Son executing, and
o   the Holy Spirit applying the work of redemption to the one coming in grace through faith.
We also see the three-part blessing of engrafting, covenant benefits, and engagement. As we have seen before, this three-part theme is present throughout Scripture, a repeated pattern and experience of the believer in Christ who lives at once in three dimensions, having a past and future linked with the present reality of the Christian walk. The unbeliever, in Adam, is lost without hope, knowing no past except that which is linked to his fall in Adam that leads to a dark and empty future. But to the one in Christ, all things have become new (II Cor. 5:17) unto a washed and renewed living hope (Titus 3:5). The believer possesses a past linked to the eternal love and foreknowledge of the Father, a future and glorious resurrection unto eternal life, and a present existence with meaning and purpose! “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13).
I never tire of pointing to this great “13:13” of First Corinthians. It is no greeting card sentiment. It is the wondrous rock-solid truth that when all else fails, as it definitely will, this three-fold truth abides forever—the faith of Scripture, the salvation begun in the eternal mind of God, written into time, and running like a cord of three strands that cannot be broken, connecting our past to and through the present and into our future hope. We have a sure and confident expectation, based on the promises of our covenant-keeping God who cannot lie, a resurrection hope of eternal glory. And with this past rooted in a rich heritage of truth linked to a sure hope of glory, we live out the present in love—the manifest blessings, virtues, and endowments of the Christian’s life: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23). We who once had no meaning or purpose are now disciples of Christ with a past, present, and future—a faith, hope, and love inscribed on heart, mind, and will by the God of all grace and tender mercies.
Now, all this is by virtue of the believer being engrafted into Christ, partaking of the covenant blessings, and being engaged by and for Christ! We could pursue so many other lines of study: What does engrafted mean? How many are the benefits? How are they discovered and used? How did our fathers intend us to understand engagement? Good questions all, on which much has been taught. But let me close with one illustration which I may have used before, but which is worth repeating.
As a young man, I watched my stepfather plant an avocado tree in his backyard. Initially he was quite pleased, but its fruit let something to be desired. He asked a neighbor for permission to see his tree and its fruit. I watched in amazement as he studied the technique of grafting, and proceeded to remove a limb and cut a gash in his own tree. Next, he took a small green branch (with permission, of course) from the neighbor’s tree and carefully engrafted that foreign branch into his own. I observed his patient protection and tender nurture and the almost mystical process as the two became one. Eventually, I saw the smile on my stepfather’s face as he enjoyed the abundant fruit of his labors.
Baptism doth signify and seal our engrafting into Christ, and I cannot help but remember the engrafting process I watched so many years ago. Imagine how this one aspect of our engrafting into Christ must bring a smile of joy to our heavenly Father, when a child of faith comes under the waters of Baptism, giving witness to the fruit of the triune God’s perfect labor of redemption. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).
“Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. For the LORD takes delight in His people” (Ps. 149:2, 4).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.            Read Rev. 1:5-6. Here are some basic questions, good to reconsider: Why did the Lord Jesus Christ come in the flesh? Why did Christ die on the cross? What did the shedding of his blood effect for his people?
2.            What washing does Heb. 10:22 speak of? Why was it necessary?
3.            This catechism question teaches us that all three members of the Godhead are involved in baptism. How does I Pet. 1:1-2 speak in like manner?
4.            This catechism question speaks of our being engrafted or joined to Christ. How does Rom. 6:3-4 describe this benefit?
5.            This catechism question speaks of our being engaged to be the Lord’s. How does Rom. 6:4, 11 describe our belonging to the Lord?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q94, WLC Q165, Q163 and WCF XXVIII.I-III
WSC Q94. What is Baptism?
A.  Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost[a], doth signify and seal our engrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord's[b].
[a]  Matt. 28:19
[b]  Acts 2:38-42; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; IPet. 3:21
WLC Q165. What is Baptism?
A.  Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost[a], to be a sign and seal of engrafting into himself[b], of remission of sins by his blood[c], and regeneration by his Spirit[d]; of adoption[e], and resurrection unto everlasting life[f]; and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible church[g], and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord's[h].
[a]   Mat. 28:19
[b]   Gal. 3:27
[c]   Mark 1:4; Rev. 1:5
[d]   Tit. 3:5; Eph. 5:26
[e]   Gal. 3:26-27
[f]   1Cor. 15:29; Rom. 6:5
[g]   1Cor. 12:13
[h]  Rom. 6:4
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. XXVIII.
Of Baptism.
I.    Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ[a], not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church[b]; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace[c], of his engrafting into Christ[d], of regeneration[e], of remission of sins[f], and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life[g].  Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world[h].
[a]  Matt. 28:19
[b]  I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27-28
[c]  Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:11-12
[d]  Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:5
[e]  John 3:5; Titus 3:5
[f]  Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16
[g]  Rom. 6:3-4
[h] Matt. 28:19-20
II.  The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the gospel, lawfully called thereunto[i].
[i]  Acts 10:47; Acts 8:36, 38; Matt. 28:19
III. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person[k].
[k] Heb. 9:10, 13, 19, 21; Mark 7:2-4; Luke 11:38
Question(s) for further study:
The Larger Catechism and Confessional statement aligned here with the Shorter Catechism expand considerably upon the shorter answer and provide what for our instruction? How does the Larger Catechism define the meaning of “our engagement to be the Lord's?”


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