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, April 9, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q105

We continue with the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, where we are called to seek forgiveness as we forgive others. This is a singularly significant instruction, which our Lord reinforces immediately following this prayer in Matt. 6:14-15. At the center of our Christian understanding is the need for the forgiveness of sin and the wondrous means by which forgiveness is secured. After praying for God’s honor, the coming of the kingdom, his will to be done, and our daily bread, the Lord brings us to our greatest spiritual problem—our alienation from God and one another. Many banners of truth fly over the pavilion of our Christian faith; and forgiveness, with the empowerment to forgive others, is one banner utmost to be proclaimed and enjoyed. This theme is repeated often in the New Testament. Hear it again proclaimed from the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:
 “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against any: even as Christ forgave you, soyou also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. …… And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord you shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for you serve the Lord Christ. But he that does wrong shall be repaid for that which he has done: and there is no partiality.”
Let us pray that these truths would be raised high above us in all our worship, thoughts, and deeds. May the Lord so bless us as we bring honor to his name, seek his kingdom first, do his will above all things, and daily labor in love for one another; and in so doing, fulfill the commands of our Lord and Savior.
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WSC Q105. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A. In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors, we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins[a]; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others[b].
[a] Ps. 51:1-2, 7, 9; Dan. 9:17-19; I John 1:7
[b] Matt. 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13
Question 105 asks what we pray for in the fifth petition and answers that in the fifth request (Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors), encouraged by God’s grace, which makes it possible for us sincerely to forgive others, we pray that for Christ’s sake God would freely pardon all our sins.
Comments and considerations:
The fifth petitionisone that needs explanation. We know that because immediately following in this model prayer in Matt. 6, the Lord further explains, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”(Matt. 6:14-15). Of the six petitions, this one has probably garnered the most discussion. Let’s see what we can learn from our fathers’ perspective.
The answer states that it is for Christ’s sake that we seek to see our sins—or debts—freely pardoned. We owe our perfectly righteous God and Father a debt that we cannot pay; our many sins reveal our bankrupt condition. Christ alone paid that debt through his active and passive obedience, imputing to us the righteousness due him, as our sins were imputed to him, and he paid our debt on the cross. We have seen all this in prior lessons; and the Scriptures abound with promises of our pardon, for Christ’s sake, due to his atoning work—redemption accomplished and applied. Thus: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ...And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins” (I John 1:9; 2:1-2).
Yet more seems to be implied in the convicting words found in Matt. 6:15—“Butif you do not forgive men their trespasses...”Is God’s forgiveness of us conditional upon our forgiveness of others? Notice how our fathers interpret Christ’s words: we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others. Encouraged? How does that mesh with “do not, ...neither will” in Matt. 6:15? Our Lord was straightforward on this point, and later he tells the story of the unforgiving servant to drive the point home; that illustration is even included in the references to this catechism answer (Matt. 18:21-35).
Our first principle of interpretation must be to use the whole counsel of God. As we near the end of our catechetical study, we ought to know that we are neither saved nor forgiven by works. But our Lord does expect fruits of righteousness; he holds high expectations of those who carry his name. That great statement of the gospel—“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9)—is followed by this often overlooked but equally important truth: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). James is quite clear that our faith must be an active faith if its truth is not to be questioned (James 2:14ff). Thus the Lord’s point is that the recipients of salvation have been forgiven much and are expected to pass it forwardin forgiving others.
We also see in this petition the importance of unity among God’s people. I never weary of pointing out that after three chapters of doctrinal discourse in Ephesians, whereby Paul shows all the wondrous treasures we own in Christ, he opens the last three chapters’ application with this: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthyof the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unityof the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). In other words, you have been forgiven much, so you are to be living witnesses to that fact—teaching, advocating, encouraging, modeling and mentoring others in “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” When our great Adversary tempted the first Adam, and sin came into this world, it resulted in disunity and a discord that our Lord hates (Prov. 6:19). The second Adam reverses that destruction; he calls and empowers his own to rise above their petty self-centered sinfulness; we are called to something far greater in the “life out of death” principle (Mark 10:21), dying to self that we might live Christ.
One of the greatest gifts of grace is the abilityto forgive!See how our fathers put it: because by his grace we are enabledfrom the heart to forgive others. That word enabledmeans provided with the ability, released, freed; supplied with sufficient power, physical, moral or legal. We are given the enabling power of Christ! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). When Christ makes us free, we are free indeed (John 8:36)—free to do what we ought and now have the ability to do! Whereas before I had no concept or power of forgiveness, nowin Christ, I have many opportunities to demonstrate forgiveness in forgiving others as I have been forgiven. In my flesh, such opportunities (offenses calling for my forgiveness) may appear problematic, but in the spiritthey are just the opposite, or should be. Which brings us to this supposed “problematic” word our fathers used to instruct us saying, rather encouraged to ask. As we have seen so often before, our fathers selected their words carefully, and a moment of musing will prove so once again.
Our Lord knows our frame; he knows we need grace and knowledge, faith and courage. To encourageis to instill courage, call for courage, inspire, raise hope and confidence, embolden, comfort, cheer, strengthen, en-hearten. We are taught here the two directions of forgiveness, and both directions take courage and faith—sometimes great faith for great courage: We must seek forgiveness for our own sins from our God and Father; and we must forgive others from the heart (see Matt. 18:21-35). It is a matter of courage rather than mere compliance; only the Lord can accurately measure the heart as we struggle to obey and forgive (Jer. 17:9) as we have been forgiven.
So it is, the apostle of grace repeats this instruction saying, “and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32; cf. Col. 3:13).
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” To God alone be the glory! (Eph. 2:10).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.           Read II Cor. 5:21. Ponder this verse for a moment as you consider this particular catechism question. What debt do we owe God? In ourselves, what hope do we have of paying that debt? In light of our bankrupt spiritual condition, how significant is it to know that the death of Christ has paid the debt his people owned?
2.           We do not deserve to be forgiven of our sins, yet God in his mercy has provided a way out. Read Psa. 51:1 and Isa. 53:4-6. According to these two passages, what moved God, and how did he affect a means to forgive us?
3.           Psa. 51: 8-12 describes the attitude and desire of one who honestly prays the fifth petition. List the things that are prayed for here.
4.           Immediately following our Lord’s instruction regarding the Lord’s Prayer, what lesson does he reinforce? (See Matt. 6:14-15.)
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q105, WLC Q194
WSC Q105. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A.  In the fifth petition, which is, And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,we pray that God, for Christ's sake, would freely pardon all our sins[a]; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others[b].
[a]  Ps. 51:1-2, 7, 9; Dan. 9:17-19; IJohn 1:7
[b]  Matt. 18:21-35; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13
WLC Q194. What do we pray for in the fifth petition?
A.  In the fifth petition, (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors[a],) acknowledging, that we and all others are guilty both of original and actual sin, and thereby become debtors to the justice of God; and that neither we, nor any other creature, can make the least satisfaction for that debt[b]: we pray for ourselves and others, that God of his free grace would, through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, apprehended and applied by faith, acquit us both from the guilt and punishment of sin[c], accept us in his Beloved[d]; continue his favour and grace to us[e], pardon our daily failings[f], and fill us with peace and joy, in giving us daily more and more assurance of forgiveness[g]; which we are the rather emboldened to ask, and encouraged to expect, when we have this testimony in ourselves, that we from the heart forgive others their offenses[h].
[a]  Mat. 6:12
[b]  [Rom. 3:9-12, 19; Mat. 18:24-25; Ps. 130:3-4
[c]  Rom. 3:24-26; Heb. 9:22
[d]  Eph. 1:6-7
[e]  2Pet. 1:2
[f]  Hos. 14:2; Jer. 14:7
[g]  Rom. 15:13; Ps. 51:7-10, 12
[h]  Luke 11:4; Mat. 11:14-15; 18:35
Question(s) for further study:

We see here how the Larger Catechism expands the scope of instruction found in the Shorter by first showing what aspect of the human condition before a just God? Expanding at length on the degree of favor and grace extended, what does the answer focus upon at the end?

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