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, October 31, 2016

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q33


Westminster Shorter Catechism Q33
The preceding catechism study dealt with the several benefits flowing from our effectual call in Christ. Those benefits are justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several other benefits which accompany our life in Christ. This study begins an examination of each of these blessings, beginning with justification.
Again, we pray that the Lord would strengthen our understanding and faith in the things of Christ. May the grace of our God guide all our thoughts, words, and actions.
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WSC Q33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace[a], wherein he pardoneth all our sins[b], and accepteth us as righteous in his sight[c], only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us[d], and received by faith alone[e].
[a] Rom. 3:24
[b] Rom. 4:6-8; II Cor. 5:19
[c] II Cor. 5:21
[d] Rom. 4:6, 11; 5:19
[e] Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9
Question 33 asks what justification is and answers that justification is the act of God’s free grace by which he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight, doing so only because he counts the righteousness of Christ as ours, received by faith alone.
Comments and considerations:
The doctrine of justification is central to the gospel message. 
The great question that this doctrine answers is this: How can a guilty sinner be righteous before God? How can one who has sinned against God’s perfect law, thus becoming guilty, and subject to condemnation, be freed from this guilt and condemnation? What we need to think of, if we are to understand justification, is a guilty person standing before a just judge. “If there be controversy between men,” says Moses, “and they come into judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked” (Deut. 25:1). It can easily be seen, from this text, that when a judge justifies a man, he simply declares that man to be righteous. Likewise, when a judge condemns a man, he simply declares that he is wicked. This is very important. Justification is a declaration. It is God’s judgment pronounced. It is His testimony that a particular person is not guilty in His sight, and therefore under no condemnation. But since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), the great difficulty is this: How can God declare a sinner to be righteous?
The answer to this is that God himself makes sinners righteous. 
G.I Williamson, The Shorter Catechism for Study Classes Vol. 1, p. 130-131
He makes sinners righteous by pardoning all their sins, and accepting them as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, an act of free grace received by faith alone. It is essential that we understand what G.I. Williamson so clearly states: “Justification is a declaration.”
Justification means to absolve, to vindicate, or to set right. It is a judicial act of God based upon Christ’s completed work. It is his divine declaration of “not guilty” expressed toward sinners. It is the very opposite of condemnation. While justification does not ignore God’s righteous requirements, it nevertheless declares that these requirements are fully met in Christ and his work of redemption. A sinner is declared righteous, based upon the righteousness of Christ imputed or applied to him. (The business of making people righteous takes place in a second great work of redemption, that of sanctification. This second work speaks of the drastic change in character accompanying those who have been justified.) In justification, Christ’s righteousness is reckoned to that sinner’s account, and he is now “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6), clothed in righteousness not his own. As Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
I recall a trick question used by a beloved pastor when discussing this topic. He would ask, “How many imputations are there?” The response would invariably be two—our sins to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness to us. The pastor would respond, “No, there are three, beginning with Adam’s sin imputed to his posterity (I Cor. 15:22). Next come the imputation of our sin and guilt to the Lord Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5:21a), and the imputation of his righteousness to his people (II Cor. 5:21b).” The double imputation of justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ. What an excellent definition of justification the catechism provides for us!
“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2Cor. 5:20-21).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     God is holy and just, righteous in his attributes and being. No one can appear before God without perfect righteousness. What does Rom. 3:22-24 say about how God’s righteousness may be acquired? Can we earn it for ourselves? On what basis is it received?
2.     Justification has two important parts. Looking at Ps. 32:1-2 and Rom. 4:3-5, what are they? (1)
3.     How can a sinful person be made righteous in God’s sight? See I Cor. 5:21.
4.     Is there anything that we need to do, or can do, to be justified before God? See Rom. 3:27-28.
5.     Read Zech. 3:1-5. What does this vision describe? How does it illustrate the topic of justification?
(1) Pardoning of sin (forgiveness), and being made (or accounted) righteous.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 33, WLC #70 - 71, & WCF XI.I-VI.
WSC Q33. What is justification?
A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace[a], wherein he pardoneth all our sins[b], and accepteth us as righteous in his sight[c], only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us[d], and received by faith alone[e].
[a] Rom. 3:24
[b] Rom. 4:6-8; II Cor. 5:19
[c] II Cor. 5:21
[d] Rom. 4:6, 11; 5:19
[e] Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9
WLC Q70. What is justification?
A.  Justification is an act of God's free grace unto sinners[a], in which he pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in his sight[b]; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them[c], but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them[d], and received by faith alone[e].
[a]   Rom. 3:22, 24-25; 4:5
[b]   2Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 3:22, 24-25, 27-28
[c]   Titus. 3:5, 7; Eph. 1:7
[d]   Rom. 5:17-19; 4:6-8
[e]   Acts 10:43; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9
WLC Q71 How is justification an act of God's free grace?
A.  Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified[a]; yet in as much as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son[b], imputing his righteousness to them[c], and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith[d], which also is his gift[e], their justification is to them of free grace[f].
             [a]   Rom. 5:8-10, 19
             [b]   1Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 10:10; Mat. 20:28; Dan. 9:24, 26; Isa. 53:4-6, 10-12; Heb. 7:22 Rom. 8:32; 1Pet. 1:18-19
            [c]   2Cor. 5:21
            [d]   Rom. 3:24-25
            [e]   Eph. 2:8
            [f]   Eph. 1:17
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. XI.
Of Justification.
I.    Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth;[a] not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,[b] they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[c]
[a]. Rom. 8:30; Rom. 3:24; Rom. 5:15-16
[b]. Rom. 4:5-8; II Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 3:22-28; Titus 3:5, 7; Eph. 1:7; Jer. 23:6; I Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 5:17-19
[c]. John 1:12; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38-39; Phil. 3:9; Eph. 2:7-8; John 6:44-45, 65; Phil. 1:29
II.  Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[d] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.[e]
[d]. John 3:18, 36; Rom. 3:28; Rom. 5:1
[e]. James 2:17, 22, 26; Gal. 5:6
III. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father's justice in their behalf.[f]  Yet, in as much as he was given by the Father for them;[g] and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead;[h] and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace;[i] that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.[k]
[f]. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8-10, 18-19; Gal. 3:13; I Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 10:10, 14; Dan. 9:24, 26; see Isa. 52:13-53:12
[g]. Rom. 8:32; John 3:16
[h]. II Cor. 5:21; Eph. 5:2; Phil. 2:6-9; Isa. 53:10-11
[i]. Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7
[k].Rom. 3:26; Eph. 2:7; Zech. 9:9; Isa. 45:21
IV. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect,[l] and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification:[m] nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.[n]
[l]. Rom. 8:29-30; Gal. 3:8; I Pet. 1:2, 19-20
[m]. Gal. 4:4; I Tim. 2:6; Rom. 4:25
[n].  Eph. 2:3; Titus 3:3-7; Gal. 2:16; cf. Col 1:21-22
V.  God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified;[o] and, although they can never fall from the state of justification,[p] yet they may, by their sins, fall under God's fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance.[q]
[o]. Matt. 6:12; I John 1:7, 9; I John 2:1-2
[p]. Rom. 5:1-5; Rom. 8:30-39; Heb. 10:14; cf. Luke 22:32; John 10:28
[q]. Ps. 89:30-33; Ps. 51; Ps. 32:5; Matt. 26:75; Luke 1:20; I Cor. 11:30, 32
VI. The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament.[r]
[r]. Gal. 3:9, 13-14; Rom. 4:6-8, 22-24; Rom. 10:6-13; Heb. 13:8
Questions for further study:
Note how the Short Catechism’s answer is in the first person and the Larger is in the third person in the answering what is justification.  Is it possible to read our father’s thoughts in might they might have wanted to convey in this arrangement?  Consider XI.II - Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.  What is another way to state that?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q32


In this question, we review the benefits that flow from our effectual calling in Christ. From the harmony that includes six Larger Catechism questions and two complete confessional statements, the benefits summerized here are indeed quite extensive.
The dictionary defines the term “benefit” as “something that promotes or enhances well-being; an advantage; a help; an aid.”  That doesn’t encompass all that we share in Christ, but it is a good place to start thinking about it.
Again, we pray that the Lord would strengthen our understanding and faith in the things of Christ, to his praise, honor, and glory.
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WSC Q32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them[a].
[a]Rom. 8:30; I Cor. 1:30; 6:11; Eph. 1:5
Question 32 asks what benefits those who are effectively called share in this life, and answers that in this life those who are effectively called share justification, adoption, sanctification, and the other benefits that either go with or come from them.
Comments and considerations:
Question 31 provided us with a definition and description of effectual calling; Question 32 lists the benefits received as a result of our coming to Christ and embracing him. The next several questions proceed to define the terms in Question 32 and to expand upon the many, if not innumerable, benefits received by those who are effectually called.
The word “benefit” is not unfamiliar to us. In line with the introductory statement, the dictionary definition gives us the idea of a “bonus good, a bestowed bounty.” The older Webster’s 1828 Dictionary says this: “An act of kindness; a favor conferred.” It includes this Scripture reference: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps. 103). The second definition is an  “advantage; profit; a word of extensive use, and expressing whatever contributes to promote prosperity and personal happiness, or add value to property.”
When you consider the major change that occurs in us who are effectually called—being convinced that we are sinful and miserable, when we are by nature so opposed to that idea; being enlightened in our minds in the knowledge of Christ, who renews our wills; being persuaded and made able to receive Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel—surely the new birth would be enough! What more is needed? But there is more, much more; that is precisely Paul’s point in his “much more” declarations (Rom. 5); we are the recipients of superabundance in Christ. Truly the cup of this so great salvation “runneth over” (Ps. 23:5)!
So what are these benefits? To begin, in this life we received justification, adoption, and sanctification. But there are still more, “the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.” Do you know and understand these benefits? Are you filled with wonder and appreciation that you possess them? The next several catechism questions are going to expand on each. As a teaser, let’s jump ahead and look quickly at Question 36 and the benefits that “do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification” in this life. There we learn that those benefits are the “assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.”
Notice that all these benefits are enjoyed in “this life.” This is not a sweet-by-and-by promise, but a present reality for God’s people, that they would know the hope of their calling, their rich inheritance in the saints, and the infinite power of God—now, in their daily lives (Eph. 1:15-21). Enjoy the knowledge of these benefits as the effectually called, beloved people of God: “justification, adoption, and sanctification,” along with “assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.”
Let me ask again: Do you know and understand these benefits? Are you filled with wonder and appreciation that you possess them? If not, let me suggest that this is why these catechisms were written by our fathers in the faith. They sought not only to instruct us, but also to encourage us to further study, in order that all in Christ might know the joy and truth of the Lord to be our strength. Therefore, “be diligent [i.e., study] to present [i.e., show] yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing [understanding] the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Eph. 1:3-8. In verse 3, how does the apostle Paul describe the extent of the blessings that the believer holds in Christ? How many specific blessings are identified in this passage, and how would you describe them?
2.     This catechism answer lists three specific benefits. Can you match these definitions to the proper term?
Justification ____ Adoption _____ Sanctification _____
a)         Redeemed and made a child of God
b)         Made new and growing in Christ-likeness
c)         Forgiven and declared right with God
3.     Now match these Scripture references to the proper term:
Justification ____ Adoption _____ Sanctification _____
a)         II Cor. 3:18
b)         Gal. 3:21-22, 24
c)         I Jn. 3:1
4.     Ephesians 1:4-7 restates each one of the three benefits listed above. Which verse describes which benefit?
5.     Ephesians 1:3 might be said to describes “the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.” What phrase does the Apostle Paul use to define these benefits?
6.     The benefits that we enjoy are for this life and the life to come. Where do these benefits come from, and how are they acquired? See Ps. 16:5-6, 11.

Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 32, WLC Q61-65, 69 & WCF XXV & XXVI.
Q.  32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A.  They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them[a].
      [a]  Rom. 8:30; ICor. 1:30; 6:11; Eph. 1:5
Q.  61. Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church?
A.  All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible[a].
      [a]  John 12:38-40; Rom. 9:6; Mat. 22:14; 7:21; Rom. 11:7
Q.  62. What is the visible church?
A.  The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion[a], and of their children[b].
      [a]  1Cor. 1:2; 12:13; Rom. 15:9-12; Rev. 7:9; Ps. 2:8; 22:27-31; 45:17; Mat. 28:19-20; Isa. 59:21
      [b]  1Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:39; Rom. 11:16; Gen. 17:7
Q.  63. What are the special privileges of the visible church?
A.  The visible church hath the privilege of being under God's special care and government[a]; of being protected and preserved in all ages, notwithstanding the opposition of all enemies[b]; and of enjoying the communion of saints, the ordinary means of salvation[c], and offers of grace by Christ to all the members of it in the ministry of the gospel, testifying, that whosoever believes in him shall be saved[d], and excluding none that will come unto him[e].
             [a]   Isa. 4:5-6; 1Tim. 4:10
             [b]   Ps. 115:1-2, 9; Isa. 31:4-5; Zech. 12:2-4, 8, 9
             [c]   Acts 2:39, 42
             [d]   Ps. 147:19-20; Rom. 9:4; Eph. 4:11-12; Mark 16:15- 16
             [e]   John 6:37
Q.  64. What is the invisible church?
A.  The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head[a].
      [a]. Eph. 1:10, 22-23; John 10:6; 11:52
Q.  65. What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
A.  The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory[a].
      [a]  John 17:21; Eph.2:5-6
Q.  69. What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A.  The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification[a], adoption[b], sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him[c].
             [a]   Rom. 8:30
             [b]   Eph. 1:5
             [c]   1Cor. 1:30
CHAPTER. XXV.
Of the Church.
I.    The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.[a]
      [a]  Eph. 1:10, 22-23; Eph. 5:23, 27, 32; Col. 1:18
II.  The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion;[b] and of their children:[c] and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ,[d] the house and family of God,[e] out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.[f]
[b]  I Cor. 1:2; I Cor. 12:12-13; Ps. 2:8; Rev. 7:9; Rom. 15:9-12
[c]  I Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:39; Gen. 17:7-12; Ezek. 16:20-21; Rom. 11:16; see Gal. 3:7, 9, 14; Rom. 4:12, 16, 24
[d]  Matt. 13:47; Isa. 9:7; Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30-36; Col. 1:13
[e]  Eph. 2:19; Eph. 3:15
[f]  Acts 2:47
III. Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world: and doth, by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.[g]
      [g]  I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11-13; Matt. 28:19-20; Isa. 59:12
IV. This catholic church hath been sometimes more, sometimes less visible.[h] And particular churches, which are members thereof, are more or less pure, according as the doctrine of the gospel is taught and embraced, ordinances administered, and public worship performed more or less purely in them.[i]
      [h] Rom. 11:3-5; Acts 9:31; Acts 2:41, 47; Acts 18:8-10
      [i]  Acts 2:41-42; I Cor. 5:6-7; Rev. chaps. 2 and 3
V.  The purest churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error;[k] and some have so degenerated as to become no churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.[l] Nevertheless, there shall be always a church on earth to worship God according to his will.[m]
[k] I Cor. 13:12; Rev. chaps. 2 and 3; Matt. 13:24-30, 47
[l]  Matt. 23:37-39; Rom. 11:18-22
[m]            Matt. 16:18; Ps. 45:16-17; Ps. 72:17; Matt. 28:19-20; I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess. 4:17
VI. There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ.[n] Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof.[o]
      [n] Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22
      [o] Matt. 23:8-10; I Pet. 5:2-4
CHAPTER. XXVI.
Of the Communion of Saints.
I.    All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory:[a] and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other's gifts and graces,[b] and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outward man.[c]
[a]  I John 1:3; Eph. 3:16-18; John 1:16; Eph. 2:5-6; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:5-6; Rom. 8:17; II Tim. 2:12
[b]  Eph. 4:15-16; I Cor. 12:7, 12; I Cor. 3:21-23; Col. 2:19
[c]  I Thess. 5:11, 14; Rom. 1:11-12, 14; I John 3:16-18; Gal. 6:10
II.  Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification;[d] as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.[e]
      [d]  Heb. 10:24-25; Acts 2:42, 46; Isa. 2:3; I Cor. 11:20
      [e]  I John 3:17; I Cor. chaps. 8 and 9; Acts 11:29-30; see Acts 2:44-45
III. This communion which the saints have with Christ, doth not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of his Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm is impious and blasphemous.[f] Nor doth their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man hath in his goods and possessions.[g]
      [f]  Col. 1:18-19; I Cor. 8:6; Ps. 45:6-7; Heb. 1:6-9; John 1:14; John 20:17
      [g]  Exod. 20:15; Eph. 4:28; Acts 5:4
Questions for further study:
The benefits that flow from effectual calling in this life are tangible, both spiritual and material.  The Larger Catechism questions and Confessions associated in the harmony with WSC Q#32 among other things, point to what significant element of our new found identity in Christ?  

How does Paul’s second petition in his three-part prayer of Eph. 1:18 & 19 help our understanding our calling into the Body of Christ - the Church - and Communion of Saints?