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 27, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q50


As we said last time, the questions in this section of the catechism deal with how we are to worship the holy God who created all things. As human beings, we are easily confused about what constitutes proper worship. So remember, “When in doubt, read the instructions!”
Ps. 139:23-24 comes to mind: “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.” Scripture tells us much about our self, our God, what he commands of us. In addition to external obedience, God cares about our “heart,” or heart attitude. The heart represents our wants and desires, our inclinations and predispositions; it is the center of our being. Ps. 139 addresses the heart of the matter in our heart’s relationship with God and our attitude about worship.
What ought our attitude to be as we approach God in worship? The psalmist says, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord’” (Ps. 122:1). The catechism lesson before us now deals with our “receiving, observing, and keeping” the second commandment; that really is a heart issue above all else.
May the Lord grant us understanding and a right heart to serve him in ways that are honoring to our call in Christ and the eternal purposes of our God.
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WSC Q50. What is required in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word[a].
[a] Deut. 12:32; Matt. 28:20
Question 50 asks what the second commandment requires, and answers that the second commandment requires us to receive, respectfully perform, and preserve purely and completely all the regulations for religion and worship that God has established in his Word.
Comments ad considerations:
This is a concise statement of what is required in the second commandment, based on two straightforward Scripture passages. The first is Deut. 12:32—“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” In Deuteronomy we have a repetition of the law and history of Israel just before the conquest of Canaan; it consists of three great speeches and/or legal compendiums (or summaries) made by Moses as he instructs and challenges the people in these farewell addresses.
The law given in Exodus is repeated in Deut. 5, and followed by the familiar exhortation of Deut. 6:4-9, with its far-reaching implications:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
This exhortation to teach, remember, and obey is followed in the next several chapters by examples of God’s care, judgments, warnings, and promises. Throughout this section are reminders like these: “Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the LORD your God...” (Deut. 8:1-2); “therefore you shall love the LORD your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always” (Deut. 11:1); and “you shall be careful to observe all the statutes and judgments which I set before you today” (Deut. 11:32). In chapters 12-26, we observe regulations concerning worship, food, judges, and other applications of the law. In this section, we find Deut. 12:32 and the principle that regulates our approach to and worship of God.
Notice how the catechism parallels Deut. 12:32. The second commandment requires the…
Receiving – “Whatever I command you” – We are to receive what God has commanded and what he has revealed in his inspired Word. Deut. 29:29 is another reference.
Observing – “be careful to observe it” – We are to take great care with regard to obeying all that God has commanded.
Keeping pure – “you shall not add to it” – We are bound to obey only that which he has commanded; as our Lord said, we must not be distracted by the traditions of men (Matt. 15); in worship, whatever is not commanded is forbidden; thus the introduction of any impurity or distraction is denied.
Entire – “nor take away from it” – We shall keep all that he has commanded; here our fathers drew from Matt. 28:20, and the words of our Lord: “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The next two catechism questions deal also with the second commandment.
  • The second commandment forbids the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.
  • The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath to his own worship.
The statements are clear: 1) we are not our own; God has propriety over us because 2) he is sovereign; 3) He has a zeal – is jealous (WSC Q49) – for his own worship, and 4) he forbids us to come in any way not appointed in his Word. This truths along with the requirements of the current catechism question, form what we call the regulative principle of worship. True worship is what is commanded only; whatever is not commanded is therefore forbidden.
“The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, ... or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture” (WCF XXI.I).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        The law God is given in three parts. The civil law gave rules specifically for the Old Testament nation of Israel; the moral law tells God’s people how to behave; the ceremonial law contained long lists of rules about how Israel was to approach and offer sacrifices to God in worship. The ceremonial law was to be a picture of what Jesus would do when he came. Read Heb. 10, especially verses 1 and 10. What is said here concerning the ceremonial law and our relation to it now that Jesus has come? (1)
2.        When we approach God in worship, may we do it in ways we think best, or is there a defined approach that God desires? How does Jesus state this in John 4:23-24?
3.        What kind of attitude(s) ought to express our approach to and worship of God? See Ps. 122:1 and Ps. 5:7.
4.        What is the instruction regarding his ministry that the apostle Paul gives to Timothy in II Tim. 4:1-3?
5.        Read Lev. 10:1-3. According to events described in this incident, how seriously does God take the manner and method by which we approach him in worship and service?
1) Now that Jesus has come, we no longer need the pictures. We know the true priest and the true sacrifice God has provided. However, the ceremonial law still gives us good pictures of what Jesus did, and we can still learn from our study of them. But we no longer have to keep that part of the law. The moral law, however, is still for us to obey in the pleasing and honoring of our Heavenly Father, though “we have been [saved and] sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10).
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q50 and WLC Q108
WSC Q50. What is required in the second commandment?
A.  The second commandment requireth the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath appointed in his Word[a].
      [a]  Deut. 12:32; Matt. 28:20
WLC Q108. What are the duties required in the second commandment?
A.  The duties required in the second commandment are, the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his Word[a]; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ[b]; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word[c]; the administration and receiving of the sacraments[d]; church government and discipline[e]; the ministry and maintenance thereof[f]; religious fasting[g]; swearing by the name of God[h]; and vowing unto him[i]; as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing all false worship[j]; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry[k].
      [a]  Deut. 32:46-47; Mat. 28:20; Acts 2:42; 1Tim. 6:13- 14
      [b]  Phil. 4:6; Eph. 5:20
      [c]  Deut. 17:18-19; Acts 15:21; 2Tim. 4:2; Jam. 1:21- 22; Acts 10:33
      [d]  Mat. 28:19; 1Cor. 11:23-30
      [e]  Mat. 18:15-17; 16:19; 1Cor. Chapter 5, also 1Cor. 12:28
      [f]  Eph. 4:11-12; 1Tim. 5:17-18; 1Cor. 9:7-15
      [g]  Joel 2:12, 18; 1Cor. 7:5
      [h] Deut. 6:13
      [I]  Isa. 19:21; Ps. 76:11
      [j]  Acts 17:16-17; Ps. 16:4
      [k] Deut. 7:5; Isa. 30:22
Question(s) for further study:

WLC Q108 expands upon WSC Q50 by listing out what is required in eleven particulars.  How might these eleven particulars be arranged under the three categories of receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire the duties required in second commandment?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q49


“When in doubt, read the instructions.” It seems that in this hurry-up society we live in, such suggestions, well…we just don’t have time for them. In this culture of ATM machines, fast food outlets, instant credit and gratification, Nikes’ motto “Just Do It” seems more realistic. Yet what we do and how we do it is critically important. Moms tell their children, “It’s not what you said that was the offence, but how you said it,” because how a thing is said demonstrates the heart attitude of the speaker; the meaning and impact of a simple phrase like “good morning” can vary depending on the speaker’s body language and intonation.
It turns out that God is interested not only in what we say, do, and think, but also in how we do them (Mark 7:6, 15-20). The questions in this section of the catechism deal with how we are to worship the holy God who created all things. As human beings, we are easily confused about what constitutes proper worship. So remember, “When in doubt, read the instructions!”
May the Lord grant us both understanding and humility to approach and serve him in ways most pleasing to him.
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WSC Q49. Which is the second commandment?
A.   The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.[a]
[a]  Ex. 20:4-6; Deut. 5:8-10
Question 49 asks what the second commandment is, and answers that the second commandment is: You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Comments and considerations:
The first and second commandments are similar; but the distinction is important. The first tells us that we are to know and acknowledge the only true God as our own, and worship and glorify him accordingly. The second tells us how we are to do that, especially as it relates to worship. (There are other confessions, such as the Roman Catholic and Lutheran, that combine these two commandments as one, requiring a division of the tenth into two parts to come up with a total of ten commandments. This difference proceeds from a misunderstanding of the second commandment as well as the tenth, which forbids coveting and gives examples of it.) To repeat, the first commandment sets forth who we are to love with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength; the second stipulates how we are to do so.
The second commandment basically requires us to worship God as he himself commands; we may not worship him any way we choose. In the next questions, we’ll discuss what is required and forbidden in this commandment, and the reasons annexed to it. But for now, let us look at the commandment itself.
First, God has a primary concern for his own image, that we neither make nor imagine an earthly likeness of him. As Matthew Henry puts it, our “worship must be governed by the power of faith, not by the power of imagination, we…must not make such images or pictures as the heathen worshipped, lest [we] also should be tempted to worship them.” Second, we must not bow down to images or serve them. Third, our God is a jealous God, jealous for all that is his due, and particularly for his worship. Fourth, there is a covenant stipulation, cursing and blessing to those who refuse or keep this commandment.
Let’s study more closely two key words, jealous and graven. The root of jealous is the word “zeal” or “zealous.” Webster’s dictionary defines it as: 1) Zealous; vigilant; anxiously watchful; 2) Apprehensive; anxious; suspiciously watchful; 3) Exacting, exclusive devotion; intolerance of rivalry; 4) Disposed to suspect rivalry in matters of interest and affection. We often see jealousy in a negative light, primarily due to the imperfect nature of our human condition. Our holy God possesses no imperfection in being jealous for the worship and glory which is due to him alone (WSC Q#47).
Graven, taken in context as describing image, is another important word. Before we get there, notice the prohibition against making any images of God, and notice the link to covenant children. Why? The first logical answer is God’s deep displeasure with the breakers of this commandment, and his rejoicing over the keepers of this commandment. Notice, too, that the blessing far outweighs the cursing. But there is a second answer. In God’s created order, where does his image reside? What was made in the image of God, fell from holiness, but is being redeemed to its original intent? (Hint: Gen. 1:26; cf. Rom 8:29). Now, consider the word graven; it is linked to the word character. The root word for character is “to engrave” which means to cut into furrows, to make sharp, or mark. Webster’s defines it as 1) A distinctive mark; a letter, figure, or symbol. From this base definition we derive our understanding of character to be the peculiar quality, or the sum of qualities, by which a person or a thing is distinguished from others; the stamp impressed [engraved] by nature, education, or habit which a person or thing really is; his nature and/or disposition.
Man was made in the image of God, singularly engraved with the imprint and character of God, to alone and above all creation (Ps. 8:6) give witness to, worship, and glorify God. How displeased must God be when man relinquishes his exalted position as the image bearer of God, turning over such a lofty calling to trifling deaf and dumb earthly imaginations! Is this not exactly what Paul is railing against is Rom. 1? Manmade images intended to represent God turn the created order on its head. The violation of the second commandment requires the greater to bow down to and worship the lesser rather then the lesser acknowledging and worshipping the greater, thus demeaning the very character God! Truly Paul was right when he wrote, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Rom. 1:22-23).
This is no trifling matter. The second commandment tells us to worship and serve God the Creator as he commands: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” To do so is to demean not only your very self, but your God in whose image you were made (see Matt 5:16). If we do not obey, nor instruct our children to understand and obey, there are covenant ramifications of immense proportions. Man was made in—engraved with—the image of God and commanded to worship him in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). Lord, sanctify us in the truth; thy word is truth (John 17:17).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     What is the difference between the first and second commandments? (1)
2.     Read Ex. 32:4-6. In verse 5, who did Aaron say the next day’s festival and worship would be for? How does this relate to the first and second commandments?
3.     Read 1Tim. 4:12-14, especially noting verse 13. Now read and compare verses 6 & 11. To what does Paul instruct this young minister of the Lord to give priority?
4.     Read 1Tim. 2:1. Here, what instruction is Paul providing? What further instruction does Paul give in Col. 3:16?
5.     What other elements of worship does the NT discuss? See Matt. 28:19 and I Cor. 11:23-26.
6.     How careful should we be of our attitude as we approach God in worship? See I Kings 21, 25, and 29 and Ps. 103, especially verses 17-18.
(1)  In the first commandment, God tells us what to worship, but in the second commandment he tells us how to worship. In the Bible, God tells us how he wants us to worship him; we may not worship him any way we choose.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q49, WLC Q107, and WCF XXI
WSC Q49. Which is the second commandment?
A.  The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thy self to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments[a].
 [a] Ex. 20:4-6; Deut. 5:8-10
WLC Q107. Which is the second commandment?
A.  The second commandment is, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments[a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:4-6
CHAPTER. XXI.
Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day.
I.    The light of nature sheweth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.[a]  But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.[b]
[a]   Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1-4a; Ps. 50:6; Ps. 97:6; Ps. 145:9- 12; Acts 14:17; Ps. 104:1-35; Ps. 86:8-10; Pa. 95:1-6; Ps. 89:5-7; Deut. 6:4-5
[b]   Deut. 12:32; Matt. 15:9; Acts 17:23-25; Matt. 4:9-10; Deut. 4:15-20; Exod. 20:4-6; John 4:23-24; Col. 2:18-23
II.  Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to him alone;[c] not to angels, saints, or any other creature:[d] and, since the fall, not without a Mediator; nor in the mediation of any other but of Christ alone.[e]
[c]  John 5:23; Matt. 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 3:14; Rev. 5:11-14; Acts 10:25-26
[d].Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10; Rom. 1:25
[e]  John 14:6; I Tim. 2:5; Eph. 2:18; Col 3:17
III. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship,[f] is by God required of all men:[g] and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son,[h] by the help of his Spirit,[i] according to his will,[k] with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance;[l] and, if vocal, in a known tongue.[m]
[f]  Phil. 4:6; I Tim. 2:1; Col. 4:2
[g] Ps. 65:2; Ps. 67:3; Ps. 96:7-8; Ps. 148:11-13; Isa. 55:6-7
[h]             John 14:13-14; I Pet. 2:5
[i] Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18
[k]             I John 5:14
[l] Ps. 47:7; Ecc. 5:1-2; Heb. 12:28; Gen. 18:27; James 5:16; James 1:6-7; Mark 11:24; Matt. 6:12, 14-15; Col. 4:2; Eph. 6:18
[m]            I Cor. 14:14
IV. Prayer is to be made for things lawful;[n] and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter:[o] but not for the dead,[p] nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death.[q]
[n] I John 5:14, 16; John 15:7
[o]             I Tim. 2:1-2; John 17:20; II Sam. 7:29; II Chron. 6:14-42
[p]             Luke 16:25-26; Isa. 57:1-2; Ps. 73:24; II Cor. 5:8, 10; Phil. 1:21-24; Rev. 14:13
[q] I John 5:16
V.  The reading of the Scriptures with godly fear,[r] the sound preaching[s] and conscionable hearing of the Word, in obedience unto God, with understanding, faith and  reverence,[t] singing of psalms with grace in the heart;[u] as also, the due administration and worthy receiving of the sacraments instituted by Christ, are all parts of the ordinary religious worship of God:[w] beside religious oaths,[x] vows,[y] solemn fastings,[z] and thanksgivings upon special occasions,[a] which are, in their several times and seasons, to be used in an holy and religious manner.[b]
[r] Luke 4:16-17; Acts 15:21; Col. 4:16; I Thess. 5:27; Rev. 1:3
[s]. II Tim. 4:2; Acts 5:42
[t]. James 1:22; Acts 10:33; Matt. 13:19; Heb. 4:2; Isa. 66:2
[u]  Col. 3:16: Eph. 5:19; James 5:13; I Cor. 14:15
[w] Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:23-29; Acts 2:42
[x] Deut. 6:13; Neh. 10:29; II Cor. 1:23
[y] Ps. 116:14; Isa. 19:21; Ecc. 5:4-5
[z]  Joel 2:12; Esth. 4:16; Matt. 9:15; Acts 14:23
[a]  Exod. 15:1-21; Ps. 107:1-43; Neh. 12:27-43; Est. 9:20- 22
[b]  Heb. 12:28
VI. Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed:[c] but God is to be worshipped everywhere,[d] in spirit and truth;[e] as, in private families[f] daily,[g] and in secret, each one by himself;[h] so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto.[i]
[c]  John 4:21
[d]  Mal. 1:11; I Tim. 2:8
[e]  John 4:23-24
[f]  Jer. 10:25; Deut. 6:6-7; Job 1:5; II Sam. 6:18, 20
[g]  Matt. 6:11; see Job 1:5
[h] Matt. 6:6, 16-18; Neh. 1:4-11; Dan. 9:3-4a
[i]  Isa. 56:6-7; Heb. 10:25; Ps. 100:4; Ps. 122:1; Ps. 84:1-12; Luke 4:16; Acts 13:42, 44; Acts 2:42
VII.      As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him:[k] which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week,[l] which, in Scripture, is called the Lord's day,[m] and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.[n]
[k] Exod. 20:8-11; Isa. 56:2-7
[l]  Gen. 2:2-3; I Cor. 16:1-2; Acts 20:7
[m]            Rev. 1:10
[n] Matt. 5:17-18; Mark 2:27-28; Rom. 13:8-10; James 2:8-12
VIII.    This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations,[o] but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.[p]
[o] Exod. 20:8; Exod. 16:23-30; Exod. 31:15-17; Isa. 58:13-14; Neh. 13:15-22
[p] Isa. 58:13-14; Luke 4:16; Matt. 12:1-13; Mark 3:1-5
Question(s) for further study:
WSC Q49 and WLC Q107 are identical in Q&A. WCF XXI - Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day is brought into this harmony for what significant reason? (See the opening paragraph above under “comments and considerations”).