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, February 5, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q97

I recently saw a page of cartoonists’ drawings made of many simple eye and eyebrow sketches. Little changes in shape, spacing, and angle communicated an almost endless array of expressions, all without any other body feature or verbal expression. The slightest difference in the relationship of these pen and ink markings showed a wide variety of emotions and attitudes. The point of this is that we are walking billboards in the way we express ourselves, whether we desire to be or not. We express ourselves not only in the things we do, but in the way we do them. What we give ourselves to, the things that occupy our time and energies, reveal much about our values. Correct actions are not themselves enough; we know from Scripture that the heart of the matter is simply—the heart. We can fake many things; but Jesus, to whom nothing is hidden, spoke often about what’s really going on inside that sin-stained and fouled-up heart and soul mechanism within each one of us. It is not necessarily the sum of the things that we do that brings meaning to our daily activities; rather, it is the manner in which we do them that brings either honor or dishonor to our moments. In our present study, we see the necessity of self-examination in the expression of our worship and fellowship with others around the Lord’s Table.
The Father seeks those who would worship him in spirit and in truth. Notice how this catechism question addresses both issues. It speaks of knowledge, faith, repentance, love, and—oh yes—obedience. And in that obedience, it does matters how we do the thing commanded. A glad heart or grumbling reveals the true inner importance and worth of the thing being done. Let us pray for truth to be the on-going reality for every one of us who calls upon the name of Christ, as we walk with and worship him in spirit and in truth.
WSC Q97. What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord’s Supper?
A. It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves[a].
[a] I Cor. 11:27-32
Question #97 asks what is the right way to receive the Lord’s Supper, and answers that the right way to receive the Lord’s Supper is to examine whether we discern the Lord’s body, whether our faith feeds on him, and whether we have repentance, love and a new obedience—so that we may not come in the wrong way and eat and drink judgment on ourselves.
Comments and considerations:
Question 96 asked, “What is the Lord’s Supper?” There, we saw the indicative teaching. Now we see the imperative—what we are to do. Worthy participants are required to do a discerning self-examination in light of the biblical truth concerning the Lord’s body; their faith as they feed upon their Lord; their sin and repentance; and their love and renewed obedience, the consistent call of the maturing Christian. It is a weighty matter, not to be taken lightly; for the warning is clearly stated that “he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (I Cor. 11:29). In context, the biblical teaching is as follows:
Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world (I Cor. 11:27-32).
It is impossible to unpack everything that should be considered here, but there are a few key words that can help our understanding of and participation in the Lord’s Table.
First, note the word discerning. It means “discriminating, making judgment;” it is translated in some versions using the word judge, indicating that poor or incorrect judgment comes from a lack of understanding or clarity. From this we learn that those who participate in the sacrament must do so with sound understanding. If they cannot understand, they ought not to participate until they can be properly instructed and rightly understand the body and blood, the meaning and implications of such in self-examination.
Second, consider what it means to examine ourselves. The Greek word used here means “to test thoroughly, to interrogate, question, ascertain by inquiry, ask, and search.” But more than that, it really holds the meaning “to root out, find the cause and origin.” These days, people often talk about finding the root cause of a problem. In fact there is a whole process in the commercial manufacturing field called “Root Cause Analysis” - one can even earn a certificate in learning that process. But the process is not new, nor foreign to Scripture. The Bible teaches that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) The roots of sin run deep and are hard to extract (Heb. 12:15), so David teaches every heart yearning after God to cry out, “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). That prayer calls on God to examine—and help us examine—the condition of our own heart and walk with the Lord, in spirit and in truth. Knowing we are not perfect, nor able to achieve perfection, God in his grace has provided the means of cleansing unto repentance with confession (I John 1:9), so we can approach the holy sacrament in a worthy manner upon self-examination.
Third, the term unworthy provides significant food for thought. It is a simple word that simply means “unfit,” but there’s more. It is hard to translate some Greek words to get the full meaning. The Greek word leans toward “negative to deserving”—the idea that some kind of blessing or reward is due, but there is no ability to receive it. The word in I Cor. 11: 27, 29 could be translated “incapable manner,” rather than “unworthy manner.” Either way, both are indicators of a missed blessing and guilty violation of this wondrous sacrament of our Lord. Notice the warning attached has to do with those who are weak and sick, an indicator of the Lord’s chastening (Heb. 12:5-6); it is individual discipline with corporate implications.
Finally, what is meant by the Lord’s body? On the night of Jesus’ birth, Mary pondered on the wonder of it all (Luke 2:19), as all of us must. Christ’s Incarnation, his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension; his sacrifice, atonement, and all the doctrinal implications that surround redemption accomplished and applied—all these provide rich food for satisfying, though endless, consideration. But when we think of the Body of Christ, we must not forget that it is a Glorious Body that at once is seated at the right hand of the Father and walks on earth, witnessing amongst men as the Ecclesia, the Church. It is a covenant community that celebrates the Lord’s Table in common, in communion; in doing so, it participates every time in faith and unison in the sharing of Christ, in the Apostle’s imperative “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2-3).
To God alone be the glory!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read I Cor. 11:27-28. What is said in this passage? What is meant? How should the command and implications be applied as we approach the Lord’s Supper?
2.        I Cor. 11:29 tells us to be careful to participate in the Lord’s Table in a worthy manner, with discernment. What does this mean? See II Cor. 13:5.
3.        The catechism answer speaks of participating in the Lord’s Table with “repentance, love, and new obedience.” What does repentance mean? See Lam. 3:40. Love and new obedience? See I John 2:3-6, 4:19-21.
4.        The sacrament of the Lord’s Table ought to be practiced in a serious and solemn manner. Summarize what Paul says about this in I Cor. 11:17-18, 20-21, 30.

Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q97, WLC Q171-177
WSC Q97. What is required for the worthy receiving of the Lord's Supper?
A.  It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord's Supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord's body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience; lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves[a].
[a]  ICor. 11:27-32
WLC Q171. How are they that receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to prepare themselves before they come unto it?
A.  They that receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves[a] of their being in Christ[b], of their sins and wants[c]; of the truth and measure of their knowledge[d], faith[e], repentance[f]; love to God and the brethren[g], charity to all men[h], forgiving those that have done them wrong[i]; of their desires after Christ[j], and of their new obedience[k]; and by renewing the exercise of these graces[l], by serious meditation[m], and fervent prayer[n].
[a]   1Cor. 11:28
[b]   2Cor. 13:5
[c]   1Cor. 5:7; Exod. 12:15
[d]   1Cor. 11:29
[e]   1Cor. 13:5 (See number [b]); Mat. 26:28
[f]   Zech. 12:10; 1Cor. 11:31
[g]   1Cor. 10:16-17; Acts 2:46-47
[h]  1Cor. 5:8; 11:18, 20
[i]    Mat. 5:23-24
[j]    Isa.55:1; John 7:37
[k]  1Cor. 5:7-8
[l]    1Cor. 11:25-26, 28; Heb. 10:21-22, 24; Ps. 26:6
[m] 1Cor. 11:24-25
[n]  2Chro. 30:18-19; Mat. 26:26
WLC Q172. May one who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation, come to the Lord's Supper?
A.  One who doubteth of his being in Christ, or of his due preparation to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, may have true interest in Christ, though he be not yet assured thereof[a]; and in God's account hath it, if he be duly affected with the apprehension of the want of it[b], and unfeignedly desires to be found in Christ[c], and to depart from iniquity[d]: in which case (because promises are made, and this sacrament is appointed, for the relief even of weak and doubting Christians[e]) he is to bewail his unbelief[f], and labor to have his doubts resolved[g]; and, so doing, he may and ought to come to the Lord's Supper, that he may be further strengthened[h].
[a]   Isa. 50:10; 1John 5:13; Ps. 88 throughout; 77:1-12; Jonah 2:4, 7
[b]   Isa. 54:7-10; Mat. 5:3-4; Ps. 31:22; 73:13, 22-23
[c]   Phil. 3:8-9; Ps. 10:17; 42:1-2, 5, 11
[d]   2Tim. 2:19; Isa. 50:10; 66:18-20
[e]   Isa. 40:11, 29, 31; Mat. 11:28; 12:20; 26:28
[f]   Mark 9:24
[g]   Acts 2:37; 16:30
[h]  Rom. 4:11; 1Cor. 11:28
WLC Q173. May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's Supper, be kept from it?
A.  Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord's Supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ hath left in his church[a], until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation[b].
[a]  1Cor. 11:27-31; Mat. 7:6; 1Cor. 5 to the end; Jude 23; 1Tim. 5:22
[b]  2Cor. 2:7
WLC Q174. What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper in the time of the administration of it?
A.  It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait upon God in that ordinance[a], diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions[b], heedfully discern the Lord's body[c], and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings[d], and thereby stir up themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces[e]; in judging themselves[f], and sorrowing for sin[g]; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ[h], feeding on him by faith[i], receiving of his fullness[j], trusting in his merits[k], rejoicing in his love[l], giving thanks for his grace[m]; in renewing of their covenant with God[n], and love to all the saints[o].
[a]   Lev. 10:3; Heb. 12:28; Ps. 5:7; 1Cor. 11:17, 26-27
[b]   Exod. 24:8; Mat. 26:28
[c]   1Cor. 11:29
[d]   Luke 22:19
[e]   1Cor. 11:26; 10:3-5, 11, 14
[f]   1Cor. 11:31
[g]   Zech. 12:10
[h]  Rev. 22:17
[i]    John 6:35
[j]    John 1:16
[k]  Phil. 1:16
[l]    Ps. 63:4-5; 2Chro. 30:21
[m] Ps. 22:26
[n]  Jer. 50:5; Ps. 50:5
[o]  Acts 2:42

WLC Q175. What is the duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper?
A.  The duty of Christians, after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, is seriously to consider how they have behaved themselves therein, and with what success[a]; if they find quickening and comfort, to bless God for it[b], beg the continuance of it[c], watch against relapses[d], fulfill their vows[e], and encourage themselves to a frequent attendance on that ordinance[f]: but if they find no present benefit, more exactly to review their preparation to, and carriage at, the sacrament[g]; in both which, if they can approve themselves to God and their own consciences, they are to wait for the fruit of it in due time[h]: but, if they see they have failed in either, they are to be humbled[i], and to attend upon it afterwards with more care and diligence[j].
[a]   Ps. 28:7; 85:8; 1Cor. 11:7, 30-31
[b]   2Chro. 30:21-23, 25-26; Acts 2:42, 46-47
[c]   Ps. 36:10; Song 3:4; 1Chro. 29:18
[d]   1Cor. 10:3-5, 12
[e]   Ps. 50:14
[f]   1Cor. 11:25-26; Acts 2:42, 46
[g]   Song 5:1-6; Ecc. 5:1-6
[h]  Ps. 123:1-2; 42:5, 8; 43:3-5
[i]    2Chro. 30:18-19; Is. 1:16, 18
[j]    2Cor. 7:11; 1Chro. 15:12-14
WLC Q176. Wherein do the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper agree?
A.  The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper agree, in that the author of both is God[a]; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits[b]; both are seals of the same covenant[c], are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other[d]; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming[e].
[a]   Mat. 28:19; 1Cor. 11:23
[b]   Rom. 6:3-4; 1Cor. 10:16
[c]   Rom. 4:11; Col. 2:12; Mat. 26:27-28
[d]   John 1:33; Mat. 28:19; 1Cor. 11:23; 4:1; Heb. 5:4
[e]   Mat. 28:19-20; 1Cor. 11:26
WLC Q177. Wherein do the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper differ?
A.  The sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper differ, in that Baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ[a], and that even to infants[b]; whereas the Lord's Supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul[c], and to confirm our continuance and growth in him[d], and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves[e].
[a]   Mat. 3:11; Tit. 3:5; Gal. 3:27
[b]   Gen. 17:7, 9; Acts 2:38-39; 1Cor. 7:14
[c]   1Cor. 11:23-26
[d]   1Cor. 10:16
[e]   1Cor. 11:28-29
Question(s) for further study:

How many Larger Catechism questions are attached to the one Shorter Question?  How May one who doubts of his being in Christ come to the Lord’s Table, and what cause(s) might one take from being be kept from it who professes the faith?  What duties are found for Christians after they have received the sacrament of the Lord's Table and why might this be significant?

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