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, June 17, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q47


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
Sin takes one of two forms—doing that which we ought not to do, and not doing that which we are required to do (WSC Q14 and Rom. 7:15ff). We are most often mindful of “crossing the line” in outward transgressions and sin. But failure to perform a required duty is a more subtle sin. One reason for this is that the consequences are not always apparent; so, in fact, the deaf ear or blind eye approach may prove to be more deadly in the end. It has been said in story and rhyme that it is not the things done but the things left undone that we most often regret. Missed opportunities and time wasted (Eph. 5:16) are no less harmful then outright transgressions and sinful rebellion. Thus this particular catechism question presents what is forbidden in the first commandment.
As we prayerfully enter into this study we need to be reminded of the words of James 4:17—“Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.” May the Lord bless us according to his good pleasure, and may he cause us to be faithful in true worship, honor, and praise of his holy name.
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WSC Q47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A.   The first commandment forbiddeth the denying[a], or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God[b], and our God[c]; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone[d].
[a]   Ps. 14:1
[b]  Rom. 1:20-21
[c]   Ps. 81:10-11
[d]  Ezek. 8:16-18; Rom. 1:25
Question 47 asks what the first commandment forbids, and answers that it forbids denying God or not worshiping and glorifying him as the true God and our God. It also forbids giving worship and glory, which he alone deserves, to anyone or anything else.
Comments and considerations:
This catechism statement is like the photographic negative of that found in Q46; it is the reverse of what is required. With the advent of digital photography, we’ve almost forgotten how photographs were produced on film (just as a record player makes no sense to a teenager plugged in to an smartphone or mp3 player). The way photography used to work was that images were exposed to a strip of cellulose film coated with silver halide; a negative image was produced on the film and then exposed to photographic paper; it was processed by the use of chemical solutions to form a positive image in an opposing contrast to the original negative. It was a complicated procedure, and a useful metaphor.
We, made in the image of God, are required to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly (WSC Q46). Until the fall, that was not a problem; it became a problem when Adam became exposed and responded to Satan’s temptation. At that point, the image of God went dark in sin and unbelief (negative, to fit the metaphor). Now we need to be told what is forbidden, since our sin-darkened and deceit-ridden hearts suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Our dull hearts need to hear spelled out what consists of “want of conformity” (WSC Q14) to the first commandment: denying, or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.
There is no middle ground here, no third option; you either do or you don’t worship and glorify the true God as God, and make him your God; you either do or you don’t give him that worship and glory which is due to him alone. There is no opt-out feature or not-applicable box for the first (or any other) of God’s commandments.
We are required to give the Lord his due: “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name” (I Chron. 16:23-29). Yet “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they [we] are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). As such, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), having “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). This is a negative situation to say the least.
Returning to our metaphor, how is this condition reversed? That old film process had a nickname; it was called “wet photography,” as opposed to today’s “dry,” digital method. Wet photography was just that; the film and processing, re-exposure and final printing, went through a wet chemical bathing process to turn the negative image into a positive, the image the camera focused upon and originally captured. Though imperfect, the metaphor continues: We, by the precious blood of the Lamb have been transferred and transformed “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9). We “were washed, ...were sanctified, ... were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). Thus we are being renewed or restored to the very image of Christ, the beloved of the Father (Rom 8:29).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Each of the Ten Commandments requires certain things (saying, they must be done) and forbids other things (says those things are not allowed). The commandment to have no other gods before God forbids several things, the first of which is to deny him, to say that he does not exist. What does Ps. 14:1 say about this? People who do not believe in God because no one can prove his existence often make this position sound scientific and intelligent. According to Ps. 14:1, how does God see this approach to understanding the reality of his existence?
2.     There are many ways we can deny God. Atheism is an obvious one. Other ways are more subtle, like saying one does believe but living as if one does not. What does Is. 29:13 say about this?
3.     We can sin in doing something that God forbids, and/or by not doing what God requires (see Q14). What does Heb. 10:25 say about the worship of God?
4.     Read I Chron. 16:23-29. Verse 29 says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.” What does it mean to give something that “is due”? What earthly examples can you list to illustrate what it means to give something that is due?
5.     How does Rom. 1:21-25 differ from what is commanded in I Chron. 16:23-29? What is the result?
6.     Read Josh. 24:14-18. Do we face the same situations and temptations today as described in this text? What does Joshua confess in verse 15 and warn the people that they should do?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q47 and WLC Q105
WSC Q47.  What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A.  The first commandment forbiddeth the denying[a], or not worshipping and glorifying, the true God as God[b], and our God[c]; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone[d].
[a]     Ps. 14:1.
[b]     Rom. 1:20-21.
[c]     Ps. 81:10-11.
[d]     Ezek. 8:16-18; Rom. 1:25.
WLC Q105. What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the first commandment are:  atheism, in denying or not having a God[a]; idolatry, in having or worshipping more gods than one, or any with, or instead of the true God[b]; the not having and vouching him for God, and our God[c]; the omission or neglect of anything due to him, required in this commandment[d]; ignorance[e], forgetfulness[f], misapprehensions, false opinions[g], unworthy and wicked thoughts of him[h]; bold and curious searching into his secrets[i]; all profaneness[j], hatred of God[k]; self-love[l], self-seeking[m], and all other inordinate and immoderate setting of our mind, will, or affections upon other things, and taking them off from him in whole or in part[n]; vain credulity[o], unbelief[p], heresy[q], misbelief[r], distrust[s], despair[t], incorrigibleness, and insensibleness under judgments[u], hardness of heart[v], pride[w], presumption[x], carnal security[y], tempting of God[z]; using unlawful means[aa], and trusting in lawful means[bb], carnal delights and joys[cc], corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal[dd], lukewarmness[ee], and deadness in the things of God[ff]; estranging ourselves, and apostatizing from God[gg]; praying or giving any religious worship to saints, angels, or any other creatures[hh]; all compacts and consulting with the devil[ii], and hearkening to his suggestions[jj]; making men the lords of our faith and conscience[kk]; slighting and despising God, and his commands[ll]; resisting and grieving of his Spirit[mm], discontent and impatience at his dispensations, charging him foolishly for the evils he inflicts on us[nn]; and ascribing the praise of any good, we either are, have, or can do, to fortune, idols[oo], ourselves[pp], or any other creature[qq].
[a]     Ps. 14:1; Eph. 2:12.
[b]     Jer. 2:27-28; Compared to I Thes. 1:9.
[c]     Psa. 81:11.
[d]     Isa. 43:22, 23.
[e]     Jer. 4:22; Hos. 4:1, 6.
[f]     Jer. 2:32; Psa. 50:22.
[g]     Acts 17:23, 29.
[h]    Ps. 50:21.
[i]     Deut. 29:29.
[j]     Tit. 1:16; Heb. 12:16.
[k]    Rom. 1:30.
[l]     II Tim. 3:2.
[m]   Phil. 2:21.
[n]    I John 2:15-16; I Sam. 2:29; Col. 2:2,5.
[o]    I John 4:1.
[p]    Heb. 3:12.
[q]     Gal. 5:20; Tit. 3:10.
[r]     Acts 26:9.
[s]     Ps. 78:22.
[t]     Ezek. 37:11.
[u]     Jer. 5:3.
[v]    Rom. 2:5.
[w]    Jer. 13:15.
[x]    Ps. 19:13.
[y]    Zeph. 1:12.
[z]     Matt. 4:7.
[aa]   Rom. 3:8.
[bb]   Jer. 17:5.
[cc]   II Tim. 3:4.
[dd]   Gal. 4:17; John 16:2; Rom. 10:2; Luke 9:54-55.
[ee]   Rev. 3:16.
[ff]    Rev. 3:1.
[gg]   Ezek. 14:5; Isa. 1:4-5.
[hh]  Hos. 4:12; Rev. 19:10; Col. 2:18; Rom. 1:25.
[ii]    Lev. 20:6; I Sam. 28:7-11; Compared with I Chron. 10:13, 14.
[jj]    Acts 5:3.
[kk]  Matt. 23:9.
[ll]    Deut. 32:15; II Sam. 12:9; Prov. 13:13.
[mm]         Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30.
[nn]  Psa 73:2, 3. See verses 13-15, 22.
[oo]  Dan. 5:23.
[pp]  Deut. 8:17; Dan. 4:30.
[qq]   Hab. 1:16.
Question(s) for further study:

WLC Q105 is more specific than WSC Q47 in asking what?  The answer to WLC Q105 is quite expansive in listing what Scripture defines as sins forbidden in the first commandment.  Again, how many are actually listed and is it possible to place them into categories? 

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