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 26, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q67

The Shorter Catechism turns now to the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The next two questions ask what is required and forbidden by this commandment. The Larger Catechism parallel (WLC Q135), takes asks what “duties” are required, and answers, in part, that “the duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit…” WLC Q135 has more to say, and is worth considering as we commence our WSC study of the sixth commandment.
Again, let us pray that the truth of God’s Word and commandments will continue to guide our thoughts, words, and deeds as we live before others in the presence of our God – coram Deo.
WSC Q67. Which is the sixth commandment?
A.   The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17
Question #67 asks what the sixth commandment is, and answers that the sixth commandment is, You shall not murder.
Comments and considerations:
As has been noted before, these studies always open with a paraphrase of the catechism question at hand, a more modern rendition, as the original catechism was written with reference to the King James Version of Scripture. You should have noticed the word kill (KJV) in the original, but murder in the paraphrase. Although the Hebrew word can be translated either way, murder is a better choice; several more recent translations use the word murder as it is understood in the broader context of God’s teaching regarding the taking and protecting of human life.
First, let it be understood that we are dealing here with the issue of human life. It is mankind that is created in the image of God, and in this commandment, He commands us to preserve human life. Second, God here prohibits the unwarranted and unauthorized taking of human life. There is a difference between “killing” and “murder.”
By definition murder is the act of unlawfully killing a human being with premeditated malice, by a person of sound mind (Webster’s 1828 Edition). The key phrase is “unlawfully killing.” Scripture does teach the lawful means for taking human life by ordained authorities in the case of capital punishment (Gen. 9:6); it recognizes the necessity of taking human life to maintain the peace and security of a society, both in the internal and external defense of life and property. The means for such action is within the due process law of established authorities. Courts render judgments for crimes, and nations render national defense of their citizens. To murder is to take an individual’s life without just cause; to keep this commandment is to protect and promote the life of the innocent.
Still, the commandment is more than a prohibition against killing; it shows God’s hatred of the sinful, murderous heart. See how the definition above mentions unlawful killing “with premeditated malice.” The word malice, in tone alone, aside from the definition, says so much. Jesus taught that murder begins in the heart:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. ‘But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matt. 5:21).
Our Lord didn’t mince his words, and neither did James when he said,
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain… Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:1-3, 7-8).
The opposition to capital punishment and just war theory so often appeal to “Thou shalt not kill” without regard to the larger context of biblical reasoning. And yet, from all these debates have come more rancor, name calling, and defamation of character; and the world is no closer to peace and harmony. God knows our hearts better than we know ourselves; we ought to keep that in mind as we cast down our vain imaginations before his inspired wisdom (II Cor. 10:5). He has ordained and established structures of justice for an orderly and just society. If we don’t heed his commandments, we do so to our own detriment and the harm of those around us.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Gen. 9:6. After the flood, when Noah and his family began life on earth all over again, God gave Noah a command for all mankind. What was that command, and what is the reason given for not taking a person’s life?
o   In Training Hearts and Teaching Minds, Starr Meade comments on this saying, “To attack people is to attack God who made them in His image. Killing an animal or a bird or a fish is different. These creatures belong to God and we should treat them with compassion and glorify Him in how we use them. But it is not wrong to catch and kill a fish to eat or to put a sick dog to sleep. It is wrong to kill a human being because human beings bear the image of God. To hurt or kill a human being is not only cruel, it is insulting to God.”
2.        God instructs His people in the Bible as to how they may or may not keep his commandments. There are times when killing a human being does not break God’s command not to murder. Read Ex. 22:2. Here we see that it is permissible to take another life in self-defense. What is defended in this verse? How might we apply this in other forms of self-defense?
3.        Num. 35:30 gives another example of a time when it is permissible to take another life. The apostle Paul wrote in Rom. 13:1-4 on the same topic. What is described in these instructions? (Also see Gen. 9:5-6.)
4.        This command applies not only to taking the life of another, but also to taking our own life. Sometimes people are tempted to “end the pain” of difficult circumstances by ending their own life. However, the Bible teaches us that we need to see our circumstances rightly. What does I Pet. 4:19 say about this?
5.        We need to guard our hearts and thinking, for if we think sinfully, we will act sinfully. What types of attitudes can lead us to murder, and what does I John 3:11-15 say on this issue?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q67, WLC 134, and WCF XXIII
WSC Q67. Which is the sixth commandment?
A.  The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill [a].
[a]  Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17
WLC Q134. Which is the sixth commandment?
A.  The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill[a] .
[a]  Exod. 20:13
Of the Civil Magistrate.
I.    God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him, over the people, for his own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers[a].
[a]  Rom. 13:1-4; I Pet. 2:13-14
II.  It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto[b]:  in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth[c]; so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion[d].
[b]  Gen. 41:39-43; Neh. 12:26; Neh. 13:15-31; Dan. 2:48- 49; Prov. 8:15-16; Rom. 13:1-4
[c]  Ps. 2:10-12; I Tim. 2:2; Ps. 82:3-4; II Sam. 23:3; I Pet. 2:13
[d]  Luke 3:14; Rom. 13:4; Matt. 8:9-10; Acts 10:1-2
III. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven[e]; or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith[f]. Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger[g].  And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief[h].  It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance[i].
[e]  II Chron. 26:18; Matt. 18:17; Matt. 16:19; I Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11-12; I Cor. 4:1, 12; Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4
[f]  John 18:36; Acts 5:29; Eph. 4:11-12
[g]  Isa. 49:23; Rom. 13:1-6
[h] Ps. 105:15
[i]  Rom. 13:4; I Tim. 2:2
IV. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates[k], to honour their persons[l], to pay them tribute or other dues[m], to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience sake[n].  Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates' just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them[o]: from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted[p], much less hath the pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever[q].
[k] I Tim. 2:1-3
[l]  I Pet. 2:17
[m] Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:6-7
[n] Rom. 13:5; Titus 3:1
[o] I Pet. 2:13-16
[p] Rom. 13:1; Acts 25:9-11; II Pet. 2:1, 10-11; Jude 8-11
[q]  Mark 10:42-44; Matt. 23:8-12; II Tim. 2:24; I Pet. 5:3
Question(s) for further study:
The two catechism questions are identical; but here we bring in the matter of the civil magistrate and the maintenance of a just and orderly society.  Our fathers’ do much in helping us understand the two spheres of ordained authority that make for and maintain a justice and peaceful society.  What are they, and what two aspects of human action do they address? (1)

1- Civil Authority – “the hand”, and the Church – the thoughts and intents of “the heart.”

Monday, June 19, 2017

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q66

Many of us have noticed the natural curiosity found of children; they ask why repeatedly, often to the point of irritation. Interestingly, the commandment dealing with the parent-child relationship (and as we have seen in a more broad context, “everyone in their several places and relations”) carries with it an answer to the question “why” we should do this “obeying.” The reason is found, among other things, in a promise that demonstrates the importance God places on this particular commandment. The Apostle Paul notes this fact in his letter to the Ephesian church, pointing out that it is the first commandment with a promise.
Considering this and noting that the promise attached is for personal benefit and blessing, let us once again pray that as we look at this study, that the Lord would open our understanding and appreciation of these things. May he create in us a heart of loving obedience in response to his great grace and tender mercies as we follow Christ.
WSC Q66. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is, a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment[a].
[a] Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Eph. 6:2-3
Question #66 asks what is the reason for the fifth commandment and answers that the reason for the fifth commandment is the promise of long life and prosperity, if these glorify God and are for the good of those who obey this commandment.
Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; and he said: “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day.
Therefore, LORD God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, “You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.’ And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father. (I Kings 8:22-26)
In writing this question and answer, our fathers repeat what we have already seen regarding the promise of long life and prosperity, but they add a parenthetical clause: as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good. There is no mention of this caveat in the verses listed with this answer; so where did they find it? Well, our fathers did not simply “proof-text” their work with individual verses; they sought to understand the Scripture as a whole, and the implications of each text within a covenantal understanding. If there is the promise of long life and prosperity to all such as keep this commandment, then there must also be the opposite to those who disobey it. As we saw in the last lesson, that curse is stated in the follow-up to Ex. 20:12, in Ex. 21:17. But we still have this caveat that goes to the heart of obedience, and the greater context of what the Lord seeks from his people. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8 and Is. 29:13). We can appear to keep the commandment, and yet be disobeying all the while. That really is the point to our Lord’s address in the Sermon on the Mount; it’s a matter of the heart truthfulness.
I recall an incident many years ago when I worked at So. Cal. Edison, in one of the generating stations. There was a large piece of equipment that kept malfunctioning so that it required manual override at a certain point during its range of operation. It literally took two men to physically push a large operating lever while the control room operated the hydraulic controller. It was a hot, frustrating, and difficult task, and the Operating Crew became more and more impatient with the company’s apparent unwillingness to fix the problem. To fix it would require shutting down the 220-megawatt steam generator during a very high system power demand; it would be fixed eventually, but not yet. Well, one day, the device stuck again. A supervisor took a young, not-so-happy operator with him to “unstick” it, but as hard as they pushed, the lever wouldn’t move. As a result, the unit had to be shut down and finally repaired. I’ll never forget the grin on that young operator’s face as the Energy Control Center was called by the supervisor and informed that the generating unit was coming off line. What resulted was an unnecessary expenditure of time, money, and manpower to start another generator to replace the downed unit! You see, what the other operators knew (but the supervisor didn’t) was that his helper, the young operator, had faked his effort to move that lever, knowing one man couldn’t do it by himself. He made an “appearance of an effort” that was no effort at all; neither his heart nor muscles were in it!
How does Jeremiah put it? “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9) But our Lord is not like that supervisor; Jeremiah also points out, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10).
Our fathers understood the greater context of the covenant, the blessing and cursing that result from our response to God’s call to heart-level faithfulness. The Larger Catechism speaks in a similar manner and adds I Kings 8:25 as a reference. There we see God’s covenant promise and the stipulation only if your sons take heed to their way. It was a heart issue then, and it will always be a heart issue when it comes to true obedience (Matt. 15:8 and Is. 29:13).
One last thought: The phrase “as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good” harkens back the first catechism question: What is the chief end of man? All these matters, these commandments, can be reduced ultimately to this single most fundamental truth: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever! If this were the central habit of our hearts, how different things might be in all and everything that we do?
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Deut. 5:16. This is a repeat of the commandment found in Ex. 20:12. However, the historical context of Deuteronomy differs from the context of Exodus. What is that difference? In Deut. 5:16, what three reasons does God give for keeping this commandment? By way of implication, what would occur if this commandment were not obeyed?
2.        When this commandment was given, it was to a particular people, in a particular place and time. However, we know that God’s commandments are for all people, places, and times. What commandment is being repeated in the NT, in Eph. 6:1-3?
3.        Inspired by the Holy Spirit, King Solomon wrote much of what we find in the Book of Proverbs. He often speaks of the blessings that follow faith and obedience. How would you summarize what Solomon wants God’s people to know and experience in Prov. 1:1-9? In Prov. 3:1-2? In Prov. 4:20-22? In Prov. 6:20-23?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q66 and WLC 133
WSC Q66. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?
A.  The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is, a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God's glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment[a].
      [a]  Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Eph. 6:2-3
WLC Q133. What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment, the more to enforce it?
A.  The reason annexed to the fifth commandment, in these words, That thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee[a], is an express promise of long life and prosperity, as far as it shall serve for God's glory and their own good, to all such as keep this commandment[b].
      [a]  Exod. 20:12
      [b]  Deut. 5:16; 1Kng. 8:25; Eph.6:2-3
Question(s) for further study:

The harmony of these two questions and answer differ little except in nuance, the Larger adding one scripture reference to the mix.  What might our father’s be pointing to in emphasis in the Larger with the additional verse and removing of the grammatical parenthesis?