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, January 14, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q29



The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q29-31) is Redemption; Union with Christ; Effectual Calling. (see Harmony Index)
We continue our study in the catechism by seeing how the redemption purchased by our Savior is applied in our salvation. Let us begin by pondering Titus 3:5-6, one of the Scripture references assigned to this answer, and including verse 7 also: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
May God grant us a deep appreciation for this precious truth, and may our understanding continue to shape our thinking, doing, and speaking toward all that is well-pleasing in his sight.
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WSC Q29 How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit[a].
[a] John 1:12-13; John 3:5-6; Titus 3:5-6.
Question 29 asks how are we made to take part in the redemption Christ bought, and answers that we take part in the redemption Christ bought when the Holy Spirit effectively applies it to us.
Comments and Considerations:
The previous catechism study mentioned John Murray’s book Redemption Accomplished and Applied, with emphasis on the “accomplishment” side of the title. This catechism question looks at the other side, the “application.” As Murray explains in his wonderful and instructive book, that application includes us being partakers in:
Effectual Calling
Regeneration
Faith And Repentance
Justification
Adoption
Sanctification
Perseverance
Union With Christ
Glorification
These are the various “steps” in the application of redemption. Some of these steps occur virtually in the same moment; but in the process of redemption, there is an order and progression. As Paul wrote in Rom. 8:29-30, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” The other aspects listed above are assembled from the study of Scripture. Murray writes:
The provision which God has made for the salvation of men ... has in view the manifoldness of man’s need and exhibits the overflowing abundance of God’s goodness, wisdom, grace, and love. This superabundance appears in the eternal counsel of God respecting salvation; it appears in the historic accomplishment of redemption by the work of Christ once for all; and it appears in the application of redemption continuously and progressively till it reaches its consummation in the liberty of the glory of the children of God. (Part II, Chapter 1, p. 79)
Again, our fathers selected their words carefully, drawing from the explicit teaching of scripture saying, “we are made partakers.” According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, that is “one who has or takes a part, share or portion in common with others; a sharer; a participator.” Thus we share or participate in what Christ did on our behalf on the cross; the definition even adds “an accomplice or an associate” to show our close identity. Consider Paul’s words in Gal. 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live” (KJV).
And notice, “we are made…” It is not something we have initiated, done, or accomplished, but rather an application made “to us by his Holy Spirit.” The Scriptures are very clear: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-12). And again: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).
Finally, understand that the Holy Spirit’s work is “effectual.” Subsequent catechism questions will expound on this point; but it is a term too precious to pass by now, so let us mediate on that word in the context of our effectual calling—particularly as it relates to the order of salvation. Consider this precious gem found in Phil. 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” And also, “Faithful is he that called you, who also will do it” (1Thess. 5:24).
Indeed, to God alone be the glory!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Living freely as we do, enjoying much prosperity, it may be difficult to understand total misery and despair, and truly to appreciate what many of us have never experienced. Yet we have each felt fear and inner desperation, a sense of doom and pending judgment. When we read stories, see movies, or watch the daily news, we observe personal tragedies or destructive events that make us say, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.” If we know Christ, we know we have been redeemed from the power, condition, and condemnation of sin, though we may not fully appreciate the dire straights we were really in before faith. If we do not know Christ, we are blinded to our true situation. This may be one of the reasons that the poor and miserable of this world are more likely to be receptive to God’s Word, while the rich and self-sufficient fail to grasp the true plight of their earthly and eternal condition. Col. 1:13-14 describes four things that Christ does for those who come to him. What are those four things and how would you describe them in more detail?
2.     When did God decide to redeem a people to himself? See Eph. 1:11 and Question 20.
3.     Whose choice was it that determined who would be redeemed from their sins? See Rom. 9:15-18.
4.     All three persons of the Godhead (the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) have a part in the plan of redemption. What part did Jesus perform? See Gal. 1:3-5.
5.     Because of sin and its effects upon us, our hearts are hardened against God. Left to ourselves we do not desire nor have the ability to turn to God. But God’s plan leaves nothing to chance; he will see to it that all who he purposes to redeem will come to him (John 6:37-39). What member of the Trinity will cause the change of heart necessary for God’s redeemed to believe and come to Christ in faith, repentance, and obedience? See John 3:3-6.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 29 & WLC Q# 58
WSC Q29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A.        We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit[a].
[a] John 1:12, 13; John 3:5, 6; Titus 3:5,6.
WLC Q58. How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured?
A.        We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost[a].
[a] John 1:12, 13; John 3:5, 6; Titus 3:5, 6.
Questions for further study:

Though the Shorter and Larger Catechism Questions are asking in essence the same question, there is a difference here in what is being asked and answered. What is in view, or what may our fathers be doing in the asking and answering of the Larger Catechism Question?   

Monday, January 7, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q28


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q27-28) is The Humiliation and Exaltation of Jesus Christ. (see Harmony Index)
In Question 27, we looked at Christ’s physical coming and The Cross of his suffering—his humiliation. Question 28 now deals with the other side of this holy equation—Christ’s exaltation. As we sit beneath this banner of truth, may we be mindful that its claim on each of us is no less true. We follow the same path, from a Cross to a Crown. Dying to self in service to our Lord and to his people, we will, if we endure to the end, reign with him forever; we will be free from sin, dressed in the robe of his righteousness, and empowered by his great grace. May our hearts truly rejoice in the benefits of his love and “so great salvation.”
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WSC Q 28. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?
A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day[a], in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father[b], and in coming to judge the world at the last day[c].
[a] 1Cor. 15:3, 4
[b] Acts 1:9; Eph. 1:19, 20
[c] Acts 1:11; Acts 17:31
Question 28 asks how Christ is exalted, and answers that Christ is exalted by his rising from the dead on the third day, his going up into heaven, his sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and his coming to judge the world at the last day.
Comments and considerations:
Question 27 dealt with Christ’s humiliation—“his being born, and that in a low condition made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross, in being buried and continuing under the power of death for a time.” Those last three words remind us that his humiliation was a temporary excursion into the depths of sin’s curse so that Christ might take upon himself that curse in the work of redemption. The angels at Christ’s tomb declared on Resurrection Sunday, “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said” (Matt. 28:6). The phrases “for a time” and “he is not here” are significant because they show the completion of the first major segment of the Lord’s work of redemption, his earthly sojourn. With his resurrection, his humiliation was behind him. Having come down from glory, now unto glory the Son of God was exalted once again. If you seek him now, you must not look in the garden, nor on the cross, nor in the tomb, nor anywhere else on earth; rather, you must “seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
This question and answer has been pivotal for all of Christendom. Think of the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds, which confess the fact of Christ’s resurrection; as Paul makes clear, “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty [and vain]” (I Cor. 15:14).
Note that our Lord’s exaltation is a progression, a sequence of events: risen, ascended, seated, and returning again. There is a wonderful book by John Murray titled Redemption Accomplished and Applied. That title says everything: we worship the One who “is risen, as he said.” He will continue to keep his word, to accomplish all that the Father has commanded him; we wait for his triumphal return as we worship our exalted Savior, for it is written,
“And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:10).
“He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
“God now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Acts 2:22-24. What verse describes Christ’s humiliation, and what verse describes his exaltation? Summarize what is taught here as it relates to the different aspects of this catechism answer.
2.     In John 2:19-22, what did Jesus proclaim would occur?
3.     Many things would result from Christ’s death and resurrection. What do John 17:5 and Heb. 2:9 say are two outcomes?
4.     Where is Jesus now, and what is one thing that he is doing? See Acts 2:32-33 and Heb. 7:24-25.
5.     What is Christ appointed to upon his second coming? See Acts 17:31 and John 5: 22-23.
6.     Read I Cor. 15:24-28. What is left for Christ to do (i.e., what is he doing now)? What will he accomplish when he returns? What will he do after all is done? Also see Rev. 11:15.

Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q# 28, WLC Q# 51-57 & WCF VIII.VI & VIII
WSC Q28. Wherein consisteth Christ's exaltation?
A.  Christ's exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day [a], in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father [b], and in coming to judge the world at the last day[c].
[a] I Cor. 15:3, 4.
[b] Acts 1:9; Eph. 1:19, 20.
[c] Acts 1:11; Acts 17:31.
WLC Q51.  What was the estate of Christ's exaltation?
A.  The estate of Christ's exaltation comprehendeth his resurrection[a], ascension [b], sitting at the right hand of the Father[c], and his coming again to judge the world[d].
[a] I Cor. 15:4.
[b] Luke 24:51;. Acts 1:9-11.
[c] Eph. 1:20.
[d] Acts 1:11; 17:31.
WLC Q52. How was Christ exalted in his resurrection?
A.  Christ was exalted in his resurrection, in that, not having seen corruption in death (of which it was not possible for him to be held)[a], and having the very same body in which he suffered, with the essential properties thereof[b], (but without mortality, and other common infirmities belonging to this life), really united to his soul[c], he rose again from the dead the third day by his own power[d]; whereby he declared himself to be the Son of God[e], to have satisfied divine justice[f], to have vanquished death, and him that had the power of it[g], and to be Lord of quick and dead[h].  All which he did as a public person[i], the head of his church[j], for their justification[k], quickening in grace[l], support against enemies[m], and to assure them of their resurrection from the dead at the last day[n].
[a] Acts 2:24; Psa. 16:10.
[b] Luke 24:39.
[c] Rev. 1:18.
[d] John 10:18.
[e] Rom. 1:4.
[f] Rom. 4:25; I Cor. 15:17.
[g] Heb. 2:14; Rev. 1:18.
[h] Rom. 14:9.
[i] I Cor. 15:21, 22.
[j] Eph. 1:22, 23; Col. 1:18.
[k] Rom. 4:25.
[l] Eph. 2:5, 6; Col. 2:12.
[m] I Cor. 15:25, 26; Acts 12:17; Acts 18:9, 10.
[n] I Cor. 15:20; I Thes. 4:13-18.
WLC Q53. How was Christ exalted in his ascension?
A.  Christ was exalted in his ascension, in that having, after his resurrection, often appeared unto, and conversed with his apostles, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God[a], and giving them commission to preach the gospel to all nations[b]; forty days after his resurrection, he, in our nature, and as our head, triumphing over enemies, visibly went up into the highest heavens[c], there to receive gifts for men[d], to raise up our affections thither[e], and to prepare a place for us[f], where he himself is, and shall continue till his second coming at the end of the world[g].
[a] Acts 1:2, 3.
[b] Mat. 28:19, 20; Acts 1:8.
[c] Heb. 6:20; Eph. 4:8; Acts 1:9.
[d] Psa. 68:18.
[e] Col. 3:1, 2.
[f] John 14:2.
[g] Acts 3:21.
WLC Q54. How is Christ exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God?
A.  Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father[a], with all fullness of joy[b], glory[c], and power over all things in heaven and earth[d]; and doth gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnisheth his ministers and people with gifts and graces[e], and maketh intercession for them[f].
[a] Phil. 2:9.
[b] Acts 2:28.  Compared with Ps. 16:11.
[c] John 17:5.
[d] Eph. 1:22;  I Pet. 3:22.
[e] Eph. 4:11, 12.
[f] Rom. 8:34.
WLC Q55. How doeth Christ make intercession?
A.  Christ maketh intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven[a], in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth[b], declaring his will to have it applied to all believers[c]; answering all accusations against them[d], and procuring for them quiet of conscience, notwithstanding daily failings[e], access with boldness to the throne of grace[f], and acceptance of their persons[g] and services[h].
[a] Heb. 9:24.
[b] Heb. 1:3.
[c] John 17:9, 20, 24.
[d] Rom. 8:33,34.
[e] Rom. 5:1, 2.
[f] Heb. 4:16.
[g] Eph. 1:6.
[h] I Pet. 2:5; Rev. 8:3, 4.
WLC Q56. How is Christ to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world?
A.  Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world, in that he, who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men, shall come again at the last day in great power, and in the full manifestation of his own glory, and of his Father's, with all his holy angels, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, to judge the world in righteousness[a].
[a] Matt. 24:30; Luke 9:26; I Thess. 4:16; Acts 17:31; Matt. 25:31.
WLC Q57. What benefits hath Christ procured by his mediation?
A.  Christ, by his mediation, hath procured redemption, with all other benefits of the covenant of grace[a].
[a] Heb. 9:12; I Cor. 1:30; Rom. 8:32; II Cor. 1:20.
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. VIII.
Of Christ the Mediator.
VI. Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof were communicated unto the elect, in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpent's head; and the lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and today the same, and forever[a].
[a] Gen. 3:15; Rev. 13:8; Heb. 13:8.
Also, see Heb. 11:13; John 8:25; Gal. 3:6, 7, 8; Acts 15:11; Rom. 3:30; Gal. 3:8, 9, 14.
VIII. To all those for whom Christ hath purchased redemption, he doth certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same[a]; making intercession for them, and revealing unto them[b], in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation[c]; effectually persuading them by his Spirit to believe and obey; and governing their hearts by his Word and Spirit[d]; overcoming all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom, in such manner and ways as are most consonant to his wonderful and unsearchable dispensation[e].
[a] John 6:37, 39; John 10:16.
[b] I John 2:1; Rom. 8:34.
[c] John 15:15; Eph. 1:7-9; John 17:6; Gal. 1:11.
[d] Rom. 8:9, 14; titus 3:4, 5; Rom. 15:18, 19; John 17:17.
[e] Ps. 110:1; I Cor. 15:25-26; Col. 2:15; Luke 10:19
Questions for further study:
Once again, there is so much here to consider.  But consider this one thing.  The Shorter Catechism question and first question in the string of Larger Catechism questions in this harmony, Q#51, are very similar but differ a little in words.  WLC Q51 reads: What was the estate of Christ's exaltation.  Note that word “estate.”  What thought does it conjure up?  Note that there are seven Larger Catechism questions attached to WSC Q28, along with two lengthy Confessional statements.  What other phrases or terms might be used to describe the estate of Christ's exaltation, and what might our fathers have meant to communicate in using that word?