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 16, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q106

The six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer provide a good summary of what the Christian life is all about: the honor of our God, the coming of the Kingdom, his will to be done, our daily needs, the effects of sin that call for forgiveness in our relationship with God and each other, and finally, the daily occurrence of temptation to sin (“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”). In Starr Meade’s commentary, she says, “To a Christian, it often feels like there is a war going on inside him. There is! The war is between new desires to please God and old desires to sin and please self. Read Gal. 5:17.” I would add, read Rom. 7:14-23.
We must never forget that the ungodly world and hostilities that surround us are the result of the Fall, when our first parents succumbed to the temptations they faced. Temptations, and how to deal with them as followers of Christ, are no small matter. So we must know and understand the foundational instructions of this lesson, and the entire Catechism.
We are studying the Lord’s Prayer, and it is in prayer that God answers our hearts’ request to serve and please him in knowledge and obedience to his will. As we begin this study, may he bless us once again to know and do what is well-pleasing in his sight.
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WSC Q106. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A. In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray, that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin[a], or support and deliver us when we are tempted[b].
[a] Ps. 19:13; Matt. 26:41; John 17:15
[b] Luke 22:31-32; I Cor. 10:13; II Cor. 12:7-9; Heb. 2:18
Question 106 asks what we pray for in the sixth request, and answers that in the sixth request (And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one), we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin or support and deliver us when we are tempted.
Comments and consideration:
It is wise to look at the associated scripture references, and prayerfully consider what each says, means, and commands as it contributes to this catechism’s answer. Let’s consider the first: “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (Ps. 19:13).
In this verse, we see a foundational principle which is also found in the sixth petition—a recognition of the sovereign power, rule, and necessary aid of our God in keeping us from sin. From previous studies we know that God is not the author of sin; from Scripture and sanctified reasoning, that is clear. Yet as our Savior from the condemnation, power, and defilement of sin (Rom. 8:1; 6: 9; Ps. 51:7), he can and will deliver us from the “fowlers snare” (Ps. 91:3) of sin’s entrapments. Our fathers rightly point out that our God will keep us from being tempted to sin, if we seek him faithfully. Herein lies the secret of the Christian life; we must live in deliberate dependenceupon God. Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13), which must be read along side the emphatic words of Christ who said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). There is really no middle ground.
In current speech, we often hear the phrase the tipping point. It means that point where the preponderance of evidence and/or information shifts the balance of reasoning in one direction or another. We see ourselves as reasonable individuals who can be persuaded and influenced by rational arguments. “Just the facts” is all I need, and I presuppose I’ll do the right thing. To be truthful, I’ve frequently found that not to be the casewith myself or with others.
When I became an elder in Christ’s church I thought, “Now I’ll get to handle weighty matters; I’ll sit on the councils and committees of the church, plumbing the depths of theological issues and discussing nuanced matters of faith and truth. What I found was something quite different. Instead of dealing with tipping-point theological matters, I dealt almost entirely with the cause and effect of tripping-pointsin. It isn’t so much that people don’t know whatto do (the facts, the truth, the theological matters at stake); it is more that they don’t know howto do it. The problem is not knowledge, but the ability to overcome the stumbling blocks within (Rom 7:14ff)—sin and unbelief. There is only one factor which causes the world’s physically and spiritually polluted condition, and that is sin. In spite of mankind’s advance in this supposed age of information and logic, sin continues to plunge us into the irrational… all sorts of foolish rationalities for evil doing—self-centered, self-serving, self-consuming sin is the problem. That is why Jesus looked his disciples in the eye and said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).
We have just spent nearly two years reviewing 105 catechism lessons that teach us what we are to believeconcerning God, and what dutyGod requires of man (WSC Q3). But knowing what we are to believe and do, as incredibly important as that may be, is really not the issue. It is not a head issue, but a heart issue, from hearts that remain affected by sin. We are prone to constantly run afoul of the snares, traps, and enticements of this sin-polluted world.
Let us look further at the verses our fathers supplied for our mediation:
I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. John 17:15
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” Luke 22:31-32
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. I Cor. 10:13
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Cor. 12:7-9
For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. Heb. 2:18
In the prayer And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we ask God to direct our ways “in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3), that he would keep us from evil and the evil one, and that our faith would not fail in the face of the temptations that are common to all until the great restoration and deliverance from the very presence of sin, in the final regeneration of all things (Matt. 19:28). Further we ask God to uphold us in our weakness, for he knows our frame, what we can endure when put to the test, and that he has supplied all we need for life and godliness (II Pet. 1:3), being “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool’” (Is. 1:18). But the psalmist says, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps. 51:7). Is that just literary hyperbole, or is there something more that the psalmist is pointing out?
The issue is sanctification, the ongoing process of being separated from sin, putting off the old and putting on the new in Christ. Our Lord teaches that if he makes us clean, we shall be clean indeed (Is. 1:18, etc.). But sin is ever present; while we are in the flesh, we face the moment-by-moment need to confront and deal with it (I John 1). The beauty and accuracy of the Ps. 51:7 metaphor is that each snow crystal has a false appearance of purity: Each crystal is actually formed around a single particle of dust in the atmosphere (which is also why raindrops cause water spots when they land and evaporate). To be made “whiter than snow” is to be cleansed within, in anticipation of the day when “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for [all] the former things have passed away. And there shall be no more curse” (Rev. 22:2-3).
Until then, we pray with deliberate dependenceupon our perfect Advocate, the Lord Jesus. We pray for the Holy Spirit’s enabling power and application of the cross upon the ever-present threat of sin, and our self-centered disposition: lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.And with Augustine, we add, “Lord, grant what you command and command what you will.”
To God alone be the glory!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.           Read Gal. 5:17. What does this verse describe? Read 1 Pet. 5:8. What does this verse describe, especially in relation to Gal 5:17? How does Jer. 17:9 fit into this consideration?
2.           We know from previous studies that God does not tempt us to sin, but that he does control the circumstances of our life. Often we find ourselves faced with situations that lead us into temptations. How does John 17:15 and Ps. 19:13 relate to this?
3.           We also know that we can be strengthened as we face and overcome difficult situations. How does 1Cor. 10:13 and 2Cor. 12:7-9 relate to this? What are we taught in these verses?
4.           While we can entrust ourselves to God’s care and the ordering of our circumstances, we also know that God holds us accountable for our own attitudes, the situations that we place ourselves in, and our use of time. What instructions and warnings are given to us in 2Tim. 2:22 and Eph. 4:26-27?
5.           As long as we live in this world, we will face challenges to our faith and obedience. We make decisions every day, and in our prayers we seek certain things from our God. How does Eph. 5:15-16 and Eph. 6:13-18 relate to this? What do these verses teach?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q106, WLC Q195
WSC Q106. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A.  In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,we pray, that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin[a], or support and deliver us when we are tempted[b].
[a]  Ps. 19:13; Matt. 26:41; John 17:15
[b]  Luke 22:31-32; ICor. 10:13; IICor. 12:7-9; Heb. 2:18
WLC Q195. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A.  In the sixth petition, (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil[a],) acknowledging, that the most wise, righteous, and gracious God, for divers holy and just ends, may so order things, that we may be assaulted, foiled, and for a time led captive by temptations[b]; that Satan[c], the world[d], and the flesh, are ready powerfully to draw us aside, and ensnare us[e]; and that we, even after the pardon of our sins, by reason of our corruption[f], weakness, and want of watchfulness[g], are not only subject to be tempted, and forward to expose ourselves unto temptations[h], but also of ourselves unable and unwilling to resist them, to recover out of them, and to improve them[i]; and worthy to be left under the power of them[j]: we pray, that God would so overrule the world and all in it[k], subdue the flesh[l], and restrain Satan[m], order all things[n], bestow and bless all means of grace[o], and quicken us to watchfulness in the use of them, that we and all his people may by his providence be kept from being tempted to sin[p]; or, if tempted, that by his Spirit we may be powerfully supported and enabled to stand in the hour of temptation[q]; or when fallen, raised again and recovered out of it[r], and have a sanctified use and improvement thereof[s]: that our sanctification and salvation may be perfected[t], Satan trodden under our feet[u], and we fully freed from sin, temptation, and all evil, forever[v].
[a]  Mat. 6:13
[b]  2Chro. 32:31
[c]  1Chro. 21:1
[d]  Luke 21:34; Mark 4:19
[e]  Jam. 1:14
[f]  Gal. 5:17
[g]  Mat. 26:41
[h]  Mat. 26:69-72; Gal. 2:11-14; 2Chro. 18:3; 19:2
[i]   Rom. 7:23-24; 1Chro. 21:1-4; 2Chro. 16:7-10
[j]   Ps. 81:11-12
[k]  John 17:15
[l]   Ps.51:10; 119:133
[m]2Cor. 12:7-8
[n]  1Cor. 10:12-13
[o]  Heb. 13:20-21
[p]  Mat.26:41; Ps. 19:13
[q]  Eph. 3:14-17; 1Thes. 3:13; Jude 24
[r]  Ps. 51;12
[s]  1Pet. 5:8-10
[t]  2Cor. 13:7, 9
[u]  Rom. 16:20; Zech. 3:2; Luke 22:31-32
[v]  John 17:15; 1Thes. 5:23
Question(s) for further study:

We see again how the Larger Catechism expands the scope of instruction found in the Shorter starting out with what assumption regarding the temptations we face; and demonstrating the magnitude and significance of our plight and condition with how many points for reference compared to the two of the Shorter?  In the end, what advance and blessings are offered in this important petition?

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