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, November 26, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q22


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q21-22)is The Person of Jesus Christ the Mediator.(see Harmony Index)
The previous study dealt with our Redeemer in the context of who. Now we consider how. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man? You’ve heard the phrase “walk the talk.”  It’s a reminder that there is little merit to simply saying you will do something if you never follow it up with action. A person may talk the talk, but can he walk the talk, actually doing what he says? This matches James’s admonition that “to him that knows to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jam. 4:17).
Our Savior not only talked the talk; he walked it perfectly. Even more, consider the fact that not only was the Word spokenin ages past (Heb 1:1), but it walkedon earth as well, the Word incarnate (Heb 1:2). When it comes to “walking the talk” at best we are only playing a feeble catch-up to him who has gone before us. As such we are called to grow in grace and in knowledge as disciples of Christ, who we behold in perfect truth and grace.
As we study this question, may the Lord grant us understanding of this precious confession concerning the “very God of very God” who “became man” forever.
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WSC Q 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul[a], being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her[b] yet without sin[c].
[a] Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:14, 17
[b] Luke 1:27, 31, 35
[c] II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; I John 3:5

Question 22 asks how Christ, the Son of God, became man, and answers that he became man by assuming a real body and a reasoning soul. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to him; yet he was sinless.

Comments and considerations:
Luke tells us that “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). But what exactly was she thinking? For her, the miracle of the incarnation was no abstract theological dictum; it was a flesh and blood reality, her flesh and blood, born out of an amazing promise into the most improbable of circumstances. Parents want great things for their children, but this child was something different. Did she ponder Simeon’s prophecies, that “this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against… [and] yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:33-35)? Surely she did.
In time we have come to understand the truth and eternal implications of that moment, in what it means to “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He is:
The Christ, the Savior Messiah, promised from the beginning. What Eve hoped to see, Mary held in her arms. How long, oh Lord, how long?
The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the one who joined in the chorus, “Let Us make man in our image,” and who condescended to take on the form of human flesh.
The Son of Man, prophesied by Daniel, having a true body, small and frail, and a reasonable soul to grow with mind and body as he learned obedience, even unto death. What can this be, but the wondrous coming of a kinsman redeemer?
Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and conceived in the mind of God in eternity past, with such love as to overpower a resisting flesh to bring forth history-changing life – not in opposition to the true nature of “being”, but in harmony with this flesh subject to death. Why would he do this? How does the Psalmist put it? “But I am a worm, and no man. But You are He who took Me out of the womb: You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts. I was cast upon You from birth” (Ps 22:6, 9, 10).
“The One who is and who was and who is to be,” born of Mary yet without sin, to save his people from their sins. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
Mary pondered all these things. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines ponderas, “To weigh in the mind; to consider and compare the circumstances or consequences of an event, or the importance of the reasons for or against a decision.” Webster includes the verse from Luke 2 as an example. This definition is very close to the definition of the Greek word: “To confer, to put one thing with another in considering circumstances.”
There is much to ponder here. Theologies and confessions, sermons and songs, metaphorical narratives and accountings of Christ’s incarnation have been written and proclaimed in endless number. And so it will be without end, for indeed it is an infinite wonder.
“My soul [does]magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever” (Luke 1:46-47, 54-55).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    Human beings are made up of two parts. First, there is the part we cannot see, the soul, our immaterial being that never dies. Second, there is the part we can see, the body, the physical dwelling of our soul. What do the Scriptures teach regarding Jesus Christ’s physical nature? See Heb. 10:5-7 (see note 1).
2.    Even though Jesus was truly human, like us in every way, he became this way very differently. What was different in how Jesus became man? See Luke 1:26-35.
3.    Every human is born after Adam, in his image. What does Rom. 5:19 say is the result of this fact?
4.    Jesus, being born differently, without sin or the effects of Adam’s sin, lived a life of perfect obedience. What did he tell his disciples just before going to the cross for their sins? See John 14:30-31.
5.    Jesus spoke clearly about himself, and others who lived with him observed and gave witness about his life. Read John 8:29 and I Pet. 2:22 and answer this question: Could anyone else say the same things without being a liar?
6.    As all humans have their beginning in Adam (the source of all human existence), Jesus offers a new start as the new (or last) Adam for mankind (I Cor. 15:45), a new representative without sin (Heb. 4:14-15). Why is this important for us? See II Cor. 5:21.
(1) This is a central doctrine of the Christian faith. When Jesus became a man, he was not just God in a human body. He assumed or took to himself a human body and a human soul, while he continued to be God in every way. He was also completely man just like every other human being, living a life of perfect obedience to God in the place of those who would believe in him. To do that, he had to be fully human just as we are.

Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 22 and WLC Q# 37
WSC Q22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A.  Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul[a], being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her[b] yet without sin[c].
[a]  Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:14, 17
[b]  Luke 1:27, 31, 35
[c]  II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; IJohn 3:5
WLC Q37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A.  Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul[a], being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her[b], yet without sin[c].
[a]  John 1:14; Mat. 26:38
[b]  Luke 1:27, 31, 35, 42; Gal. 4:4
[c]  Heb. 4:15; 7:26
Questions for further study:

The larger catechism provides the same question and answer as the parallel shorter, except for one phrase.  What might our fathers want to convey in this additional wording and differing set of support scriptures?

Monday, November 19, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q21


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q21-22) is The Person of Jesus Christ the Mediator.(see Harmony Index)

Please notice how this question is asked. It does not say “what,” but “who” is the redeemer of God’s elect. Words have meaning, and the significance of this precise word usage in Question 21 has unavoidable implications repeated often in Scripture. Ponder the proof texts provided, but also consider Tit. 3:4-5 and Rom. 7:24-25. God’s elect are not saved by a “what” in anything that they might do, but by a “who”—a one who did it all, a “who” that lived, died, and lives again to redeem his own from their sins.
The Apostle of our faith said it rightly, “... he that glories, let him glory in the Lord” (II Cor. 10:17). Pray that this would be the case in each and every one of God’s people to the fullest possible extent.
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WSC Q21. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ[a], who, being the eternal Son of God[b], became man[c] and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever[d].
[a] John 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Tim. 2:5-6
[b] Ps. 2:7; Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 1:18
[c] Is. 9:6; Matt. 1:23; John 1:14; Gal. 4:4
[d] Acts 1:11; Heb. 7:24-25
Question 21 asks who is the redeemer of God’s chosen ones, and answers that the only redeemer of God’s chosen is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who became man. He was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever.
Comments and considerations:
We ended last week’s study with these words: It pleased him to do so; for no other reason than his meregood pleasure, he freed his elect from their sin and misery by a covenant of grace, and brought them to salvation by a Redeemer—and oh, what a Redeemer!
Now we find out who this Redeemer is. The answer provided is so precise that I am hesitant to add further comment. It states clearly and concisely 1) that there is only one Redeemer of God’s elect; 2) who he is in person both from eternity past and in time; 3) how he became and is uniquely qualified; 4) and that he is and always will be that Redeemer of God’s elect. Though it is my practice to pick at least one word for close consideration, I feel that would do a disservice to the significance of every one of the words in this doctrinal statement. Each word warrants an equally close examination; even the word “the” has important implications within this context.   
Years ago, during a study in John 1:1—“In the beginning was the word…”—I learned a deep appreciation for the use and etymology of words. Etymology is not the definition of words, but the study of their history and development over time. The word “etymology” comes from two Greek words, étumon, meaning “true sense,” and logía, or “study.” In studying etymologies, one finds the “true sense” of a word as it was used in times past. Since God is the author of languages (Gen. 11), the etymology of words can be an instructive trek back to original thoughts, understandings, and word meanings. Consider the: in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, we find this definition: “This adjective is used as a definitive, that is, before nouns which are specific or understood; or it is used to limit their signification to a specific thing or things.” As far back as the 1300’s, “the” has functioned as the standard definite article in English to indicate that what followed is unique or in particular. (Just try notusing the word “the” and see what happens to your daily discourse and conversation.) And so Jesus is “theonly Redeemer of God’s elect.” He is most definitely, uniquely, in particular, and immediately, the only Redeemer; there is no other. But more than this, He is “the” only of everything else stated in this catechism answer.
Take the hypostatic union for instance: “God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.” This, our Redeemer definitely, uniquely, and in particular, is, as our Westminster Larger Catechism so wonderfully states:
“The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substanceand equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever; ... Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin” (WLC 36 & 37).
You would be hard-pressed to find a definition or an adequate etymological study of the word “hypostatic” in secular dictionaries because it is a uniquely theological term. Union we understand, but hypostatic? See the word “substance” found twice in the two statements above relating to the Divine nature of Christ and His human nature. The word “substance” is where we get the word hypostasis, and thus hypostatic: “pertaining to substance, fundamental; complete, unchanged, united in one,” or as the catechism says, “two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.”
The study of this Catechism topic could fill, and rightfully has filled, volumes. Each word and idea, every implication, provides infinite possibilities and opportunities to delve into the boundless riches of Christ and the work of redemption.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 
How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
‘For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?’
‘Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?’
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:33-36).

Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    It is hard for us, living in a free society, to understand fully the need for a redeemer. There have been times and places where people have experienced slavery, and in the Old Testament period, because of severe poverty, some people sold their land to survive. But land at that time was very important to future well-being, so often a family member called a redeemer would buy back the poor person’s land, and then return it to him. A redeemer paid a price to buy someone out of slavery, or to return their land to them. Jesus is the redeemer of God’s people. He paid the price to redeem his people from the power and effects of sin. Read Rev. 5:9. What is being said here in describing the Lord Jesus?
2.    Jesus Christ is said to be the eternal Son of God. What do we learn concerning this in the prophecy of Mic. 5:2 and the words of the Apostle John in John 1:1-2?
3.    Jesus is described as “God with us” in Matt. 1:23. In what other ways is he declared to be the Son of God? See Rom 1:3-4.
4.    Jesus always existed as God. On one particular day in history, he also became human. Why is that important? See Heb. 4:14-15.
5.    It may be impossible to fully understand how one person could be both God and man at the same time, but it is a must that we believe what the Bible clearly teaches. Why? See Phil. 2: 5-11.
6.    As both God and man, Jesus was uniquely qualified to be the one and only redeemer of lost sinners. What is another role that Jesus performs through his unique nature and work of redemption? See I Tim. 2: 5-6.
Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 21, WLC Q# 36, 38-40 & WCF VIII.II-III &VII
Please Note: As previously mentioned, harmonizing the Catechisms and Confession from the direction of the Shorter Catechism is a little difficult.  Like going from the lesser to the greater, concepts don’t always line up in the same thought sequence.  It would seem more prudent to go in the opposition direction, from the Confession to the Shorter. Maybe in another cycle of study I’ll take that approach.
However, I’m injecting this comment here because what follows with the Larger Catechism is somewhat out of sequence as it relates to the Shorter. It is common to find other Harmonies arranging the following in a little different manner and alignment. jlg
WSC Q21. Who is the Redeemer of God's elect?
A.  The only Redeemer of God's elect is the Lord Jesus Christ[a], who, being the eternal Son of God[b], became man[c] and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever[d].
[a]  John 14:6; Acts 4:12;  I Tim. 2:5-6
[b]  Ps. 2:7; Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 1:18
[c]  Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:23; John 1:14; Gal. 4:4
[d]  Acts 1:11; Heb. 7:24-25
WLC Q36. Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace?
A.  The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ[a], who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father[b], in the fulness of time became man[c], and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever[d].
[a]  I Tim. 2:5
[b]  John 1:1, 14; 10:30; Phil. 2:6
[c]  Gal. 4:4
[d]  Luke 1:35; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Heb. 7:24-25
WLC Q38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A.  It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death[a], give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession[b]; and to satisfy God's justice[c], procure his favour[d], purchase a peculiar people[e], give his Spirit to them[f], conquer all their enemies[g], and bring them to everlasting salvation[h].
[a]  Acts 2:24-25; Rom. 1:4; 4:25; Heb. 9:14
[b]  Acts 20:28; Heb. 9:14; 7:25-28
[c]  Rom. 3:24-26
[d]  Eph. 1:6; Mat. 3:17
[e]  Tit. 2:13-14
[f]  Gal. 4:6
[g]  Luke 1:68-69, 71, 74
[h]Heb. 5:8-9; 9:11-15
WLC Q39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A.  It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature[a], perform obedience to the law[b], suffer and make intercession for us in our nature[c], have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities[d]; that we might receive the adoption of sons[e], and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace[f].
[a]  Heb. 2:16
[b]  Gal. 4:4
[c]  Heb. 2:14, 7:24-25
[d]  Heb. 4:15
[e]  Gal. 4:5
[f]  Heb. 4:16
WLC Q40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A.  It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us[a], and relied on by us as the works of the whole person[b].
[a]  Mat. 1:21, 23; 3:17; Heb. 9:14
[b]  1 Pet. 2:6
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. VIII.
Of Christ the Mediator.
II.  The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man's nature[k], with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin[l]: being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance[m].  So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion[n].  Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man[o].
[k]John 1:1, 14; I John 5:20; Phil. 2:6; Gal. 4:4
[l]  Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:14, 16-17; Heb. 4:15
[m]            Luke 1:27, 31, 35; Gal. 4:4; see Matt. 1:18, 20-21
[n]Matt. 16:16; Col. 2:9; Rom. 9:5; I Tim. 3:16
[o]Rom. 1:3-4; I Tim. 2:5
III.The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure[a], having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge[b], in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell[c]: to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a mediator and surety[d].  Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father[e]; who put all power and judgment into his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same[f].
[a]  Acts 10:38; Ps. 45:7; John 3:34; Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:18, 19, 21; Heb. 1:8-9
[b]  Col. 2:3
[c]  Col. 1:19
[d]  Heb. 7:26; John 1:14; Luke 4:18-21
[e]  Heb. 5:4,5
[f]  John 5:22, 27; Matt. 28:18
VII.      Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures; by each nature doing that which is proper to itself[a]; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes, in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature[b].
[a]  John 10:17-18; I Pet. 3:18; Heb. 1:3; Heb. 9:14.
[b]  Acts 20:28; John 3:13; I John 3:16; Luke 1:43; Rom. 9:5.
Questions for further study:

There is so much here to ponder; sage and theologian, little child and angel alike can find endless wonder for consideration. Pick one question if you would, maybe LC #40 and think deeply and prayerfully: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?