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, March 27, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q54

Our study continues with the consideration of the third commandment. As we approach this study, it might be helpful to look at the word use. What does it mean to use something? One dictionary meaning is “to put into service or apply for a purpose, to employ; the act of using; the application or employment of something for a purpose.” Examples include the use of a tool to make or repair something; the use of a word in writing or speech; or the use of an ingredient in a recipe. In each of these examples, using the right tool, word, or ingredient is very important if we’re going to achieve the intended results. Even when we apply the right object to a situation, there is always the hazard to misuse, using it in the wrong way.
Here’s another thought concerning the word use, particularly as it may apply to this catechism lesson. Have you ever been “used” by another person? This could be either positive or negative. We might invite a person to use our name or position to gain a special privilege. But sometimes a person abuses our name or reputation, using it in an unauthorized, self-serving way.
This simple word use has significant implications in our study of the third commandment, especially as we consider how we represent the name of our God in our daily activities. This particular commandment goes beyond the mere use of foul or abusive language. May the Lord grant us proper appreciation for his name, so that we use it in a holy and reverent way, as we prayerfully consider this week’s meditation.
WSC Q54. What is required in the third commandment?
A.   The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles[a], attributes[b], ordinances[c], Word[d], and works[e].
[a] Deut. 10:20; Ps. 29:2; Matt. 6:9
[b]  I Chron. 29:10-13; Rev. 15:3-4
[c]  Acts 2:42; I Cor. 11:27-28
[d]  Ps. 138:2; Rev. 22:18-19
[e]  Ps. 107:21-22; Rev. 4:11
Question 54 asks what the third commandment requires and answers that the third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, qualities, regulations, word, and works.
Comments and considerations:
The first of the Ten Commandments tells us who to worship—God, and God alone. The second commandment tells us how we are to approach God in worship. The third commandment focuses our attention on the attitude we are to have, not only when we worship God, but in all areas of our life, as we bear the name of our God.
A closer examination of two words in the answer might help us to understand the commandment more deeply. They are rather remote, if not foreign, to our everyday, modern usage: holy and reverent.
We ought to be familiar with the word holy. The older dictionaries define it as set apart to the service or worship of God; hallowed.” The root to our English word also carries with it the idea of health, wholeness, and wellness. As such, our dictionary provides a second definition: “spiritually whole or sound; free from sinful affections; pure in heart; godly; pious; irreproachable; guiltless; acceptable to God.” The word affections as we just read it is interesting; it means “fond attachments; sentiment or disposition.” So the definition of holy may be given like this: whole or perfect in a moral sense; pure in heart, temper, or dispositions; free from sin and sinful attachments; that which is hallowed; consecrated or set apart to a sacred use, or to the service or worship of God.
The word reverent has its source in reverence, defined as “fear mingled with respect and esteem; veneration.” It is interesting however to see that the definition of reverent differs a little from reverence; it means “worthy of reverence; entitled to respect mingled with fear and affection.” There’s that word affection again, only this time our affections are targeted in the proper direction. And notice the word veneration:
The highest degree of respect and reverence; respect mingled with some degree of awe; a feeling or sentiment excited by the dignity and superiority of a person, or by the sacredness of his character, and with regard to place, by its consecration to sacred services. As in: “We find a secret awe and veneration for one who moves above us in a regular and illustrious course of virtue.” –Addison (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).
We could go on with these definitions. But we see, at least in part, how we are to set apart and revere the names, titles, attributes (WSC Q4), ordinances, Word, and works of our God in all that we think, say, and do.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Ps. 99:1-5. How are we to represent our God in worship in all our life? (1)
2.     The answer to the above question speaks not only to the use of God’s name, but to other aspects of his being and works. How should we respond to these various expressions of who God is and what he does? See Ps. 138:1-2 and Ps. 145:1-5.
3.     Reverence is treating something with the highest respect and value. To keep something holy is to treat it in a special way, setting it apart as a respected treasure. How does God desire we show, and how did the early church demonstrate and add to, the value and respect for the things of God? See Acts 2:42-47.
4.     As humans, we are prone to sin, indifference, and to giving less and less of ourselves, our thoughts, and our energies to active reverence and respect for our God, his Word and his ways. When we find that this has occurred, what ought to be our reaction? See II Chron. 34:19-21, 31.
5.     As we experience providential care and blessings in our daily encounters with God’s grace and tender mercies (Ps. 69:16), how ought we to respond individually and as the family of God? See Rev. 15:3b-4.
1)    With holy reverence.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q54, WLC Q112, and WCF XXII.II
WSC Q 54. What is required in the third commandment?
A.  The third commandment requireth the holy and reverend use of God's names, titles[a], attributes[b], ordinances[c], Word[d], and works[e].
[a]  Deut. 10:20; Ps. 29:2; Matt. 6:9
[b]  IChron. 29:10-13; Rev. 15:3-4
[c]  Acts 2:42; ICor. 11:27-28
[d]  Ps. 138:2; Rev. 22:18-19
[e]  Ps. 107:21-22; Rev. 4:11
WLC Q112. What is required in the third commandment?
A.  The third commandment requires, that the name of God, his titles, attributes[a], ordinances[b], the Word[c], sacraments[d], prayer[e], oaths[f], vows[g], lots[h], his works [i], and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holy and reverently used in thought[j], meditation[k], word[l], and writing[m]; by an holy profession[n], and answerable conversation[o], to the glory of God[p], and the good of ourselves[q], and others[r].
      [a]  Mat. 6:9; Deut. 28:58; Ps. 29:2; 68:4; Rev. 15:3-4 (See in number 110.)
      [b]  Mal. 1:14; Ecc. 5:1
      [c]  Ps. 138:2
      [d]  1Cor. 11:24-25, 28-29
      [e]  1Tim. 2:8
      [f]  Jer. 4:2
      [g]  Ecc. 5:2, 4-6
      [h] Acts 1:24, 26
      [i]  Job 36:24
      [j]  Mal. 3:16
      [k] Ps. 8:1, 3-4, 9
      [l]  Col. 3:17; Ps. 105:2, 5
      [m] Ps. 102:18
      [n] 1Pet. 3:15; Mic. 4:5
      [o] Phil. 1:27
      [p] 1Cor. 10:31
      [q]  Jer. 32:39
      [r]  1Pet. 2:12
Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
II.  The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence[c].  Therefore, to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred[d].  Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the new testament as well as under the old[e]; so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken[f].
      [c]  Deut. 6:13; Josh. 23:7
      [d]  Exod. 20:7; Jer. 5:7; Matt. 5:33-37; James 5:12
      [e]  Heb. 6:16; II Cor. 1:23; Isa. 65:16
      [f]  I Kings 8:31; Neh. 13:25; Ezra 10:5
Question(s) for further study:

Here our fathers expanded considerably upon the Shorter Catechism question with the parallel Larger and Confessional statements. What lesson(s) ought we to draw from this?  How does the world generally view or limit the application of the Third Commandment?  Just how expansive is this commandment to our life, conversations, communinion, and dealings with one another?   

Monday, March 20, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q53

What’s in a name? A great deal, actually. Just think about the millions of dollars spent each year on product name recognition in advertising. It staggers the imaginations. Untold energy is applied to develop just the right phrase, logo, or design. We live in a time and culture where it’s difficult to define the meaning of the simple word “is;”  yet, ironically, no effort is spared in finding just the right name to sell a product or represent a corporate interest. And when that name is defamed, consider the immense damage that occurs to all who are connected to it—just think of the high profile reputations ruined in the Enron scandal that occurred years ago. Even the way we name our children has taken on a new importance. I recall a National Football League TV commercial where a man looks at the names of newborns in a hospital maternity ward and asks, “What ever happened to the name Hank?” Today, it seems names have taken on new meaning, and we spend a great deal of energy and expense to choose and protect our name identifications.
With that in mind, consider the topic of the current catechism question. Shouldn’t we spend far more time lifting up and protecting the name of our Lord than we do our own names and corporate logos? As we prayerfully reflect upon the third commandment and its implications, may our Lord grant us appreciation and sober understanding of the name we bear as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; so may we honor our God and Savior.
WSC Q53. Which is the third commandment?
A.   The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11
Question 53 asks what the third commandment is, and answers that the third commandment is that you shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Comments and consideration:
Excuse me, but what is your name? Hello, my name is ________! And what is the name of the person who sent you? 
We place great importance upon a person’s name. Do you remember the scene in Dances with Wolves where characters at the Indian camp try to communicate their names before any further conversation is attempted? Likewise, at a recent seminar, my first step was to find my nametag at the registration table: Was I in the right place, and would my nametag confirm my right to be present? As another example, parents often begin thinking of names for a baby even before that child is conceived. What is it about our names?
In a way, our name is the starting point in describing who we are or what we are about. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary has a lengthy entry which begins like this: 1) That by which a thing is called; the sound or combination of sounds used to express an idea, or any material substance, quality or act; an appellation attached to a thing by customary use, by which it may be vocally distinguished from other things. 2) The letters or characters written or engraved, expressing the sounds by which a person or thing is known and distinguished. (There are 15 more noun and verb definitions!) The word “appellation,” found in definition 1, is helpful; it means, the word by which a particular person or thing is called and known; name; title; designation. Related to our question at hand we find this tenth Webster’s definition listed: 10) In Scripture, the name of God signifies his titles, his attributes, his will or purpose, his honor and glory, his word, his grace, his wisdom, power and goodness, his worship or service, or God himself.
WSC Q54-56 will repeat the cycle of instruction as to what is required, forbidden, and annexed to the third commandment. For the moment, we will consider the word “vain.” It’s commonly understood that to take the Lord’s name in vain is to use profanity and abusive language, which is true. But as always, there is more to be learned upon closer examination. Even before we turn to the dictionary, consider the “vanity of vanities” described in the insightful book of Ecclesiastes. The array of definitions in the dictionary includes empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance; proud of petty things, or of trifling attainments. The word really means empty of meaning, worthless, fruitless; ineffectual, showy; ostentatious, or deceitful. Thus we can see how taking the name of God in vain came to mean using his name with levity or profaneness. But it really means much more than that.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Ex. 3:14-15. Consider what is occurring in this text. If I want to know someone, or want someone to know me, what is the first step? (1) If we want to pursue more than just a passing knowledge of each other, what else do we do? (2) What is God saying about himself in this text?
2.     In the OT, names were often used as a way to describe a person. Read Ex. 34:5-7 where God says in verse 5 that he will “proclaim” his name to Moses. How does God proclaim his name?
3.     Read Ps. 8:1 and 115:1. How does God bring praise and honor to his name? (See the text that follows these verses.)
4.     The third commandment instructs us that we are not to misuse God’s name, or better, we ought to make right use of it. How does Ps. 113:1-4 and Luke 11:1-4 describe how this should be done?
5.     Our heavenly Father desires that we exalt his name, but his desire does not stop there. In the unfolding of his plan of redemption there is another name he purposes to lift high, and that name is _________. (See Phil. 2:8-11.)
1) We find out their name, or introduce ourselves to them by telling them our name.
2) Provide some historical information that helps us relate to who the person is and what they are about.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q53, WLC Q111, and WCF XXII.I
WSC Q53. Which is the third commandment?
A.  The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain[a].
      [a]  Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11
WLC Q111. Which is the third commandment?
A.  The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain [a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:7
Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
I.    A lawful oath is part of religious worship[a], wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth[b].
      [a]  Deut. 10:20; Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11
      [b]  Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Rom. 1:9; II Cor. 1:23; II Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:20; II Chron. 6:22-23
Question(s) for further study:

The harmony of the two catechism questions are the same; the confession bringing in the making of oaths in calling upon God as our witness in truth telling.  How is a lawful oath part of religious worship?  How would you define worship in this context?