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, May 29, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q63


We turn now to the fifth commandment and the honoring of father and mother and—as we shall see—all the authorities God has placed over us in various spheres.
The catechism gives a great definition of sin: “any want of conformity or transgression of the law of God.” Probing deeper into the nature of sin, we find that at its first expression in Scripture (Gen. 3) and throughout God’s Word, sin is an attitude of independence and self-assertion. Sin says, “I will decide for myself what is right or wrong;” it rebels against any external authority. Some of us may remember a TV commercial about a pain-relieving medication, where a young woman under the stress of a headache shot back at a caring parent, “Mother, I’d rather do it myself!” The words were said with all the body language and facial expression of exasperation, scorn, and contempt.
Those of us who remember this little scene may chuckle at it, but that commercial did catch our attention as a piece of human truth we have all experienced. We have all known and expressed scorn for authority; at times, we have been the recipients of sinful defiance and rejection of authority. It is the nature of sin ingrained in each one of us to love self above others, with a special disregard for those authorities placed over us by God for our care and protection. Most of the Ten Commandments begin with “Thou shall” or “shall not”; the fifth commandment is one of the exceptions, as it gets right to the point.
May God give us the grace to learn this lesson, to believe and obey his every word, and to pray expectantly, “Thy will be done,” by each of God’s precious children, young and old alike.
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WSC Q63. Which is the fifth commandment?
A. The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16
Question 63 asks what the fifth commandment is and answers that the fifth commandment is this: Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Comments and considerations:
When being questioned (tested) regarding the law, Christ was asked which was the greatest commandment (Matt. 22:34ff). In answering, Jesus did not single out one as greater than another, but rather summarized the Ten Commandments in a two-part requirement to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself, both equally important. James tells us that if we do not keep the whole law but stumble in one point, we are guilty of all (James 2:10). All of the Law is binding and must be lived in two directions: vertically in direct relation to God, and horizontally in relation to one another. The first four commandments deal with our vertical relationship with our heavenly Father; in the last six commandments, God addresses the horizontal relationship, beginning with the principle of authority and the family.
As we will see in the next several lessons, this commandment goes beyond the basic authority of parents over their children, to other authority structures designed for an orderly society. But as the family is the first divinely established institution for protection, training, and disciplining of the individual, the fifth commandment lays the foundational first principle in our horizontal relationships. It is unique in that it carries with it a promise and grave implications: “Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land....”  When sin entered paradise and reared its serpent head, it was with an attitude of disrespect for the word and will of God. The serpent simply questioned God’s authority, asking, “Has God really said?” (Gen 3:1), and so opened a crack of doubt which became a floodgate of disobedience and death. How important is the honoring of your mother and father? It is the headwaters from which all true humility and obedience spring.
Jesus summarized the second table of the law by saying it is kept by loving your neighbor as yourself. In Luke it is recorded that one of Christ’s listeners, still looking for loopholes, asked, “Well then, who is my neighbor?” Jesus went on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. In the scale of things consider this; we are to love our neighbor, and our nearest neighbor is our parents; our first test is to our father and mother. Our parents are our first encounter with the call to covenant obedience, an opportunity for great blessing or great failure.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        What is the summary of God’s moral law? (See Mark 12:30-31.) A summary leaves out the details and gives only the main points, but the details still remain. So as we learn the Ten Commandments, we are not to think that we must do only and exactly what it says and nothing more. We must also keep all the laws that each commandment summarizes. Read Rom. 13:6-10. The fifth commandment is in essence a summary of how God wants us to behave toward all types of people and authorities, not just our parents.
2.        Rom. 13:1-2 and I Pet. 2:13-14, 17. What authority are God’s people to respect and honor?
3.        What relationships does Col. 3:18-21 describe? What are the authority structures listed in this passage and how do they relate back and forth?
4.        What authority structure is being described in Heb. 13:17?
5.        We are to respect and honor those who rule over us, but does the fifth commandment have implications for our relationship with those who are not in authority over us? See Rom 12:10 and Phil. 2:3-4.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q63, and WLC Q122 - 124
WSC Q63. Which is the fifth commandment?
A.  The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee [a]
      [a]  Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16
WLC Q123. Which is the fifth commandment?
A.  The fifth commandment is, Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee[a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:12
WLC Q124. Who are meant by father and mother in the fifth commandment?
A.  By father and mother, in the fifth commandment, are meant, not only natural parents[a], but all superiors in age[b] and gifts[c]; and especially such as, by God's ordinance, are over us in place of authority, whether in family[d], church[e], or commonwealth[f].
      [a]  Prov. 23:22, 25; Eph. 6:1-2
      [b]  1Tim. 5:1-2
      [c]  Gen. 4:20-22; 45:8
      [d]  2Kng. 5:13
      [e]  2Kng. 2:12; 13:14; Gal. 4:19
      [f]  Isa. 49:23
WLC Q125. Why are superiors styled father and mother?
A.  Superiors are styled father and mother, both to teach them in all duties toward their inferiors, like natural parents, to express love and tenderness to them, according to their several relations[a]; and to work inferiors to a greater willingness and cheerfulness in performing their duties to their superiors, as to their parents[b].
      [a]  Eph. 6:4; 2Cor. 12:14; 1Thes. 2:7-8, 11; Num. 11:11-12
      [b]  1Cor. 4:14-16; 2Kng. 5:13
Question(s) for further study:

The Larger Catechism’s instruction here instructs us on the relationship of all superior authorities that flow out of the natural connection of father and mother.  How is that to be viewed, expressed and function from the greater to the lesser and lesser to the greater?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q62


What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment? This is our next question of study. To begin, let’s pause to consider the word annex. In essence, it means to add or attach something, to join, unite, or incorporate another element to a larger object; for example, territory might be added to an already established state or country. That which is annexed might be physical material, or it might be a quality, consequence, or condition. So we see in this and other questions about the Ten Commandments that apart from the obvious meaning of the fourth commandment, there are additional reasons attached to the commandment.
May the Lord open our understanding and appreciation for the reasons listed, for our instruction and faithful obedience.
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WSC Q62. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
A.   The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments[a], his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the Sabbath day[b].
[a] Ex. 20:9; 31:15; Lev. 23:3
[b] Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11; 31:17
Question 62 asks what are the reasons attached to the fourth commandment, and answers that the reasons for the fourth commandment are these: God allows us six days of the week to take care of our own affairs; he claims the seventh day as his own; he set the example; and he blesses the Sabbath.
Comments and considerations:
Our fathers chose to use the word challenging in the phrase his challenging a special propriety in the seventh. It is an interesting selection because it means to “contest or claim a right; to demand as something due or rightful.” We understand the word as it is used to issue a legal challenge or a challenge to battle or a contest of skill or strength. But here we see God’s special propriety in the seventh day ordinance, established on day seven of the creation week, and his own example of rest and blessing. To see that day in any other way is to challenge his wisdom, purpose, and authority in calling that day his own—his propriety.
The Westminster Larger Catechism Q120 parallels this Shorter Catechism Question, and gives a more extensive statement. It reads:
“The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it, are taken from the equity of it, God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs, and reserving but one for himself in these words, Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: from God's challenging a special propriety in that day, The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: from the example of God, who in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: and from that blessing which God put upon that day, not only in sanctifying it to be a day for his service, but in ordaining it to be a means of blessing to us in our sanctifying it; Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
Thus, these are reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, a day intended to be a blessing for God’s people in ceasing from their worldly employment. Let us honor him and be glad for his propriety over it. “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Gen. 2:8-10, 15. What is described in this passage, and what is the purpose defined in verse 15? What are the implications of the circumstance, when someone entrusts the care of property into the hands of another person?
2.     When we think of the fourth commandment, our thoughts naturally gravitate to Sunday Sabbath keeping. But the Sabbath is only one part of the commandment. What is the other significant element of the fourth commandment?
3.     Read Ps. 139:15-16 and I Pet. 1:17-19. Who gives us our days, both as human beings and as believers? What should our attitude be toward those days?
4.     Read Luke 4:16 and Is. 56: 6-7. What are some of the reasons for honoring the Lord’s Day?
5.     Read Is. 58:13-14. What is this passage about, and what blessing is proclaimed?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q62, WLC Q120 and 121
WSC Q62. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?
A.  The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, God's allowing us six days of the week for our own employments[a], his challenging a special propriety in the seventh, his own example, and his blessing the Sabbath day[b].
      [a]  Ex. 20:9; 31:15, 16; Lev. 23:3
[b]  Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:11; 31:17
WLC Q120. What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it?
A.  The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment, the more to enforce it, are taken from the equity of it, God allowing us six days of seven for our own affairs, and reserving but one for himself in these words, Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work[a]: from God's challenging a special propriety in that day, The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God[b]: from the example of God, who in six days made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: and from that blessing which God put upon that day, not only in sanctifying it to be a day for his service, but in ordaining it to be a means of blessing to us in our sanctifying it; Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it[c].
      [a]  Exod. 20:9
      [b]  Exod. 20:10
      [c]  Exod. 20:11
WLC Q121. Why is the Word Remember set in the beginning of the fourth commandment?
A.  The word Remember is set in the beginning of the fourth commandment[a], partly, because of the great benefit of remembering it, we being thereby helped in our preparation to keep it[b], and, in keeping it, better to keep all the rest of the commandments[c], and to continue a thankful remembrance of the two great benefits of creation and redemption, which contain a short abridgment of religion[d]; and partly, because we are very ready to forget it[e], for that there is less light of nature for it[f], and yet it restraineth our natural liberty in things at other times lawful[g]; that it cometh but once in seven days, and many worldly businesses come between, and too often take off our minds from thinking of it, either to prepare for it, or to sanctify it[h]; and that Satan with his instruments labours much to blot out the glory, and even the memory of it, to bring in all irreligion and impiety[i].
      [a]  Exod. 20:8
      [b]  Exod. 16:23; Luke 23:54, 56; Mark 15:42; Neh. 13:19
      [c]  Ps. 92:13-14 (title, A psalm for the Sabbath-day.); Ezek. 20:12, 19-20
      [d]  Gen. 2:2-3; Ps. 118:22, 24; Acts 4:10-11; Rev. 1:10
      [e]  Ezek. 22:26
      [f]  Neh. 9:14
      [g]  Exod. 34:21
      [h] Deut. 5:14-15; Amos 8:5
      [i]  Lam. 1:7; Jer. 17:21-23; Neh. 13:15-23 (See in Question 117.)
Question(s) for further study:

How does the Larger catechism’s teaching here expand our understanding; what might we learn from our fathers use of the word “equity” in Q120; and how does “remembering” as described in Q121 set the tone in our approach in observing the Lord’s commandments and personal piety?