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 18, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q36



The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q34-36) is The Benefits of Redemption: Adoption and Sanctification. (see Harmony Index)
We now deal with the last of the several benefits flowing from our effectual call in Christ. We have already looked at justification, adoption, and sanctification; now we consider the following benefits: assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance.
Our prayer remains that the Lord would grant us understanding and faith as we study these things, that in due time we might know in abundance the peaceable fruit of righteousness, unto the praise and honor of our God.
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WSC Q36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love[a], peace of conscience[b], joy in the Holy Ghost[c], increase of grace[d], and perseverance therein to the end[e].
[a] Rom. 5:5
[b] Rom. 5:1
[c] Rom. 14:17
[d] II Pet. 3:18
[e] Phil. 1:6; I Pet. 1:5
Question #36 asks what benefits in this life go with or come from justification, adoption, and sanctification; it answers that the benefits are the assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, and growing and persevering in grace to the end of our lives.
Comments and considerations:
Whereas the acts of justification and adoption occur once-for-all at conversion, and the work of sanctification begins at that point, whether the believer is aware of it or not, the benefits we look at now can either accompany or flow from those first three benefits. “Assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance” may take time to develop in depth and degree, and are based in a large part upon the second aspect of sanctification—the progressive aspect—a saint’s growing in grace and in knowledge of his Lord and Savior (II Pet. 3:18).
The Apostle Paul frequently uses the word “saint” to refer to all those who are in Christ, in every time and every place, all those that are members of the visible Body of Christ, the Church. (See nearly every NT epistle’s introduction and greeting—Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2; II Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; etc.—where Paul address the saints in the Lord.) There are no super saints, no first or second-class citizen either more or less special than other believers in Christ. All those who are in Christ are set apart, sanctified, saints in Christ.  At the same time they are being sanctified in him who has called them out of the darkness into his marvelous light (I Pet. 2:9). Our place and position in Christ is complete; but our understanding and the outworking of our assurance and the various realities of peace and joy do vary in time and degree from person to person.
So, what are we to make of these “several benefits?”  Well, note the phrase “increase of grace,” and the additional “perseverance therein to the end.” The words of II Pet. 1:2-10 form a good commentary: 
To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble.
Note how Peter says we have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness, …precious promises.” Paul writes in Eph. 1:3 that the Lord “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” What can be drawn from these statements, and others, is the fact that in Christ we already possess all that is needed for our Christian walk. The problem lies with our knowing and cashing in on the wealth already owned, remaining to be discovered and utilized, “our inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18). This is why Peter tells us to give “all diligence.” We must apply ourselves to the means of grace—the Word, prayer, and discipline (discipleship)—persevering in the confidence “that He who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6), being “diligent to make [our] call and election sure” (II Pet. 1:12). As we persevere with diligence and faith, we will grow in the assurance of God’s love (Rom. 5:5), finding the peace that surpasses understanding (Phil. 4:7), and true joy in the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22ff) a greater reality.
These are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification.
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. (II Pet. 1:10-12)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. (Matt. 5:6)
Therefore:
...Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. (II Pet. 3:18)
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Jer. 31:3. What are some observations that can be drawn from this text about God’s love for his own? What emphatic statement of fact(s) is God making? What is the duration applied to God’s love for his own? What does it mean, “with lovingkindness I have drawn you?”
2.     Assurance means having confidence, being persuaded, firmly believing, and being free from doubt. Read Rom. 8:35-39 and make a list of things that cannot separate us from the love of God.
3.     What does it mean to have peace of conscience? Consider Heb. 10:22.
4.     What does it mean to have joy in the Holy Spirit? Consider I Pet. 1:8.
5.     What does it mean to obtain an increase in grace? Consider II Cor. 4:16.
6.     What does it mean to persevere therein to the end? Consider John 10:27-29.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q36, WLC Q79-81, WCF XVII & XVIII
WSC Q36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?
A. The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love[a], peace of conscience[b], joy in the Holy Ghost[c], increase of grace[d], and perseverance therein to the end[e].
[a] Rom. 5:5
[b] Rom. 5:1
[c] Rom. 14:17
[d] II Pet. 3:18
WLC Q79. May not true believers, by reason of their imperfections, and the many temptations and sins they are overtaken with, fall away from the state of grace?
A.  True believers, by reason of the unchangeable love of God[a], and his decree and covenant to give them perseverance[b], their inseparable union with Christ[c], his continual intercession for them[d], and the Spirit and seed of God abiding in them[e], can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace[f], but are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation[g].
[a]   Jer. 31:3
[b]   2Tim. 2:19; Heb. 13:20-21; 2Sam. 23:5
[c]   1Cor. 1:8-9
[d]   Heb. 7:25; Luke 22:32
[e]   1John 3:9; 2:27
[f]   Jer. 32:40; John 10:28
[g]   1Pet. 1:5
WLC Q80. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
A.  Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him[a], may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God's promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made[b], and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God[c], be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation[d].
[a]   1John 2:3
[b]   1Cor. 2:12; 1John 3:14, 18-19, 21, 24; 4:13, 16; Heb. 6:11-12
[c]   Heb. 8:16
[d]   1John 5:13
WLC Q81. Are all true believers at all times assured of their present being in the estate of grace, and that they shall be saved?
A.  Assurance of grace and salvation not being of the essence of faith[a], true believers may wait long before they obtain it[b]; and, after the enjoyment thereof, may have it weakened and intermitted, through manifold distempers, sins, temptations, and desertions[c]; yet they are never left without such a presence and support of the Spirit of God as keeps them from sinking into utter despair[d].
[a]   Eph. 1:13
[b]  Isa. 50:10; Ps. 88:1-3, 6-7, 9-10, 13-15
[c]   Ps. 77:1-12; Song 5:2-3, 6; Ps. 51:8, 12; 31:22; 22:1
[d]  1John 3:9; Job 13:15; Ps. 73:15, 23; Isa. 54:7-10
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. XVII.
Of the Perseverance of the Saints.
I.    They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved[a].
[a]   Phil 1:6; II Pet. 1:10; Rom. 8:28-30; John 10:28-29; I John 3:9; I John 5:18; I Pet. 1:5, 9
II.  This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father;[b] upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ,[c] the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them,[d] and the nature of the covenant of grace:[e] from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.[f]
[b]   Ps. 89:3-4, 28-33; II Tim. 2:18-19; Jer. 31:3
[c]   Heb. 10:10, 14; Heb. 13:20-21; Heb. 9:12-15; Rom. 8:33-39; John 17:11, 24; Luke 22:32; Heb. 7:25
[d]   John 14:16-17; I John 2:27; I John 3:9
[e]   Jer. 32:40; Ps. 89:34-37; see Jer. 31:31-34
[f]   John 6:38-40; John 10:28; II Thess. 3:3; I John 2:19
III. Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins;[g] and, for a time, continue therein:[h] whereby they incur God's displeasure,[i] and grieve his Holy Spirit,[j] come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts,[k] have their hearts hardened,[l] and their consciences wounded;[m] hurt and scandalize others,[n] and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.[o]
[g]   Exod. 32:21; Jonah 1:3, 10; Ps. 51:14; Matt. 26:70, 72, 74
[h]  II Sam. 12:9, 13; Gal. 2:11-14
[i]    Num. 20:12; II Sam. 11:27; Isa. 64:7, 9
[j]    Eph. 4:40
[k]  Ps. 51:8, 10, 12; Rev. 2:4; Matt. 26:75
[l]    Isa. 63:17
[m]  Ps. 32:3-4; Ps. 51:8
[n]  Gen. 12:10-20; II Sam. 12:14; Gal. 2:13
[o]  Ps. 89:31-32; I Cor. 11:32
CHAPTER. XVIII.
Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation.
I.    Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation[a] (which hope of theirs shall perish):[b] yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace,[c] and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed[d].
[a]   Mic. 3:11; Deut. 29:19; John 8:41
[b]   Amos 9:10; Matt. 7:22-23
[c]   I John 5:13; I John 2:3; I John 3:14, 18-19, 21, 24
[d]  Rom. 5:2, 5
II.  This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope;[e] but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,[f] the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,[g] the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,[h] which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption[i].
[e]   Heb. 6:11, 19
[f]   Heb. 6:17-18
[g]   II Pet. 1:4-11; I John 2:3; I John 3:14; II Cor. 1:12
[h]  Rom. 8:15-16
[i]    Eph. 1:13-14; Eph. 4:30; II Cor. 1:21-22
III. This infallible assurance doth not so be long to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it:[k] yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.[l]  And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,[m] that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance;[n] so far is it from inclining men to looseness[o].
[j]    I John 5:13
[k]  I Cor. 2:12; I John 4:13; Heb. 6:11-12; Eph. 3:17- 18
[l]    II Pet. 1:10
[m]  Rom. 5:1-2, 5; Rom. 14:17; Rom. 15:13; Eph. 1:3-4; Ps. 4:6-7; Ps. 119:32
[n]  I John 2:1-2; Rom. 6:1-2; Titus 2:11-12, 14; II Cor. 7:1; Rom. 8:1, 12; I John 3:2-3; Ps. 130:4; I John 1:6-7
IV. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God's withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light:[p] yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived;[q] and be the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.[r]
[o]  Ps. 51:8, 12, 14; Eph. 4:30-31; Ps. 77:1-10; Ps. 31:22; cf. Matt. 26:69-72 and Luke 22:31-34
[p]  I John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Ps. 51:8, 12; see Ps. 73:15
[q]   Mic. 7:7-9; Jer. 32:40; Isa. 54:7-14; II Cor. 4:8-10
Questions for further study:
The WSC Q36 provides an answer to the question regarding the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification in positive terms and instruction.  But what side of the Christian’s experience is explored in the instruction found in the harmony?   Why is assurance important, in what ways may it be shaken, and what has our God done to preserve and support his own?  There is much vital instruction here.