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 24, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q48

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
Have you ever had someone jealous for your complete attention, affection, time, or presence? There are two sides to jealousy. Jealousy can be positive when its motive is pure and reasonable; but given the sinfulness of human nature, that’s not often the case. So jealousy usually has a negative connotation. Then our understanding comes up against Scripture passages like this one that describes the jealousy of God for his people—“For thou shall worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). Maybe someone could correct me on this point, but in theological catalogs of the attributes of God, I’ve never seen “jealous” listed as one of his traits. Yet in Ex. 34:14, even his name is “Jealous.”
Check out a thesaurus and you won’t be surprised by the synonyms found there; most are negative from a human viewpoint. But check a dictionary, and you’ll notice that the English root word for jealousy is zeal. Try some synonyms for zeal: passion, fervor, fire, ardor. What lessons come to mind if you substitute those words for “jealous” in the verse above?
Let me ask my opening question again. Have you ever had someone jealous for your complete attention, affection, time, or presence?  The answer is yes, and always. The Triune God of heaven and earth, “whose name is Jealous,” desires your full attention, affection, time, and presence. As a matter of fact, he is quite zealous about it.
May the Lord bless us to prayerfully appreciate the full meaning and implications of this catechism study.
WSC Q48. What are we specially taught by these words, “before me,” in the first commandment?
A. These words, before me, in the first commandment teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God[a].
[a] Deut. 30:17-18; Ps. 44:20-21; Ezek. 8:12
Question 48 asks what we are specifically taught in the first commandment by the words “before me;” it answers that the words “before me” teach us that God, who sees everything, notices and is very offended by the sin of having any other god.
Comments and considerations:
Are you teachable? The previous catechism questions instructed us as to what the first commandment requires and forbids; here our fathers point us to what is taught in the words before me. Are we teachable, open-minded, and ready to take to heart what is taught here? If not, we need to be honest with ourselves and with God concerning our true attitude as we study this question.
Many years ago, I heard a down-to-earth, faithful-to-the-Bible pastor discuss obedience like this: “You may not be willing, but are you willing to be made willing?” He pointed to Phil. 2:12-13—“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God will change your will, if you are willing—if you pray for him to do so (Matt. 7:8). He will “wiggle your willer,” in the words of that faithful pastor; he will realign your will to his desires, if you seek him out to do so. I’ll never forget that phrase “wiggle your willer;” it still makes me smile when I think of it, and its truth never fails to encourage me.
The fact is, God does [see] all things; he [does take] notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god. He cares about our hearts, not simply about the outward appearance of religious devotion (I Sam. 16:7; Is. 29:13; Mark 7:6). In my many years as a workplace trainer and supervisor, and as a teacher of children and adult Sunday school classes, I have learned to recognize both teachable and indifferent students. The teachable ones are mentally engaged, eager to learn and participate; the indifferent ones are passive, dull of hearing and dull of heart. Truly the Lord is correct: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). The book of Proverbs is filled with examples of both sides of this equation.
When people are disengaged from the things that please God, it is usually because their heart and mind are engaged elsewhere; they are distracted and would rather be somewhere else; they would rather be anywhere other than Coram Deo, before the face of God.  G.K. Chesterton was correct when he said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything,” and will take unto themselves other gods, idols of the heart.
The lesson is clear for the teachable and hungry heart, eager to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God. He alone is to be to be worshipped and glorified; nothing and no one may come before him.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.        Read Ps. 44:20-21. We may pretend a love for God and no other, and others might watch us and think our lives acceptable to God. But what does Ps. 44:20-21 say about God’s knowledge of our attitude and motives?
2.        How was God offended, and how did he demonstrate his displeasure in I Sam. 5?
3.        God is very serious about being acknowledged and worshipped as the only true God. How does Is. 42:8 demonstrate this fact (compare to Acts 12:21-24)?
4.        What does Eph. 5:5-6 say will be the outcome for those who hold other gods “before” the Lord? (Also see Heb. 10:3)
5.        What is the specific warning found in Deut. 6:10-15?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q48 and WLC Q106
WSC Q48. What are we specially taught by these words, "before me," in the first commandment?
A.  These words, before me, in the first commandment teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God[a].
[a]  Deut. 30:17-18; Ps. 44:20-21; Ezek. 8:12
WLC Q106. What are we specially taught by these words before me in the first commandment?
A.  These words before me or before my face, in the first commandment, teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh special notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God: that so it may be an argument to dissuade from it, and to aggravate it as a most impudent provocation[a] as also to persuade us to do as in his sight, whatever we do in his service[b].
      [a]  Ezek.8:5-6; Ps. 44:20-21
      [b]  1Chro. 28:9
Question(s) for further study:

What motivation(s) to service in our God does WLC Q106 add to the answer of WSC Q48 and why? 

Monday, June 17, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q47

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
Sin takes one of two forms—doing that which we ought not to do, and not doing that which we are required to do (WSC Q14 and Rom. 7:15ff). We are most often mindful of “crossing the line” in outward transgressions and sin. But failure to perform a required duty is a more subtle sin. One reason for this is that the consequences are not always apparent; so, in fact, the deaf ear or blind eye approach may prove to be more deadly in the end. It has been said in story and rhyme that it is not the things done but the things left undone that we most often regret. Missed opportunities and time wasted (Eph. 5:16) are no less harmful then outright transgressions and sinful rebellion. Thus this particular catechism question presents what is forbidden in the first commandment.
As we prayerfully enter into this study we need to be reminded of the words of James 4:17—“Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.” May the Lord bless us according to his good pleasure, and may he cause us to be faithful in true worship, honor, and praise of his holy name.
WSC Q47. What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A.   The first commandment forbiddeth the denying[a], or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God[b], and our God[c]; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone[d].
[a]   Ps. 14:1
[b]  Rom. 1:20-21
[c]   Ps. 81:10-11
[d]  Ezek. 8:16-18; Rom. 1:25
Question 47 asks what the first commandment forbids, and answers that it forbids denying God or not worshiping and glorifying him as the true God and our God. It also forbids giving worship and glory, which he alone deserves, to anyone or anything else.
Comments and considerations:
This catechism statement is like the photographic negative of that found in Q46; it is the reverse of what is required. With the advent of digital photography, we’ve almost forgotten how photographs were produced on film (just as a record player makes no sense to a teenager plugged in to an smartphone or mp3 player). The way photography used to work was that images were exposed to a strip of cellulose film coated with silver halide; a negative image was produced on the film and then exposed to photographic paper; it was processed by the use of chemical solutions to form a positive image in an opposing contrast to the original negative. It was a complicated procedure, and a useful metaphor.
We, made in the image of God, are required to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly (WSC Q46). Until the fall, that was not a problem; it became a problem when Adam became exposed and responded to Satan’s temptation. At that point, the image of God went dark in sin and unbelief (negative, to fit the metaphor). Now we need to be told what is forbidden, since our sin-darkened and deceit-ridden hearts suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Our dull hearts need to hear spelled out what consists of “want of conformity” (WSC Q14) to the first commandment: denying, or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone.
There is no middle ground here, no third option; you either do or you don’t worship and glorify the true God as God, and make him your God; you either do or you don’t give him that worship and glory which is due to him alone. There is no opt-out feature or not-applicable box for the first (or any other) of God’s commandments.
We are required to give the Lord his due: “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name” (I Chron. 16:23-29). Yet “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1). “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they [we] are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). As such, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), having “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). This is a negative situation to say the least.
Returning to our metaphor, how is this condition reversed? That old film process had a nickname; it was called “wet photography,” as opposed to today’s “dry,” digital method. Wet photography was just that; the film and processing, re-exposure and final printing, went through a wet chemical bathing process to turn the negative image into a positive, the image the camera focused upon and originally captured. Though imperfect, the metaphor continues: We, by the precious blood of the Lamb have been transferred and transformed “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Pet. 2:9). We “were washed, ...were sanctified, ... were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (I Cor. 6:11). “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” (Tit. 3:5). Thus we are being renewed or restored to the very image of Christ, the beloved of the Father (Rom 8:29).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Each of the Ten Commandments requires certain things (saying, they must be done) and forbids other things (says those things are not allowed). The commandment to have no other gods before God forbids several things, the first of which is to deny him, to say that he does not exist. What does Ps. 14:1 say about this? People who do not believe in God because no one can prove his existence often make this position sound scientific and intelligent. According to Ps. 14:1, how does God see this approach to understanding the reality of his existence?
2.     There are many ways we can deny God. Atheism is an obvious one. Other ways are more subtle, like saying one does believe but living as if one does not. What does Is. 29:13 say about this?
3.     We can sin in doing something that God forbids, and/or by not doing what God requires (see Q14). What does Heb. 10:25 say about the worship of God?
4.     Read I Chron. 16:23-29. Verse 29 says, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.” What does it mean to give something that “is due”? What earthly examples can you list to illustrate what it means to give something that is due?
5.     How does Rom. 1:21-25 differ from what is commanded in I Chron. 16:23-29? What is the result?
6.     Read Josh. 24:14-18. Do we face the same situations and temptations today as described in this text? What does Joshua confess in verse 15 and warn the people that they should do?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q47 and WLC Q105
WSC Q47.  What is forbidden in the first commandment?
A.  The first commandment forbiddeth the denying[a], or not worshipping and glorifying, the true God as God[b], and our God[c]; and the giving of that worship and glory to any other, which is due to him alone[d].
[a]     Ps. 14:1.
[b]     Rom. 1:20-21.
[c]     Ps. 81:10-11.
[d]     Ezek. 8:16-18; Rom. 1:25.
WLC Q105. What are the sins forbidden in the first commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the first commandment are:  atheism, in denying or not having a God[a]; idolatry, in having or worshipping more gods than one, or any with, or instead of the true God[b]; the not having and vouching him for God, and our God[c]; the omission or neglect of anything due to him, required in this commandment[d]; ignorance[e], forgetfulness[f], misapprehensions, false opinions[g], unworthy and wicked thoughts of him[h]; bold and curious searching into his secrets[i]; all profaneness[j], hatred of God[k]; self-love[l], self-seeking[m], and all other inordinate and immoderate setting of our mind, will, or affections upon other things, and taking them off from him in whole or in part[n]; vain credulity[o], unbelief[p], heresy[q], misbelief[r], distrust[s], despair[t], incorrigibleness, and insensibleness under judgments[u], hardness of heart[v], pride[w], presumption[x], carnal security[y], tempting of God[z]; using unlawful means[aa], and trusting in lawful means[bb], carnal delights and joys[cc], corrupt, blind, and indiscreet zeal[dd], lukewarmness[ee], and deadness in the things of God[ff]; estranging ourselves, and apostatizing from God[gg]; praying or giving any religious worship to saints, angels, or any other creatures[hh]; all compacts and consulting with the devil[ii], and hearkening to his suggestions[jj]; making men the lords of our faith and conscience[kk]; slighting and despising God, and his commands[ll]; resisting and grieving of his Spirit[mm], discontent and impatience at his dispensations, charging him foolishly for the evils he inflicts on us[nn]; and ascribing the praise of any good, we either are, have, or can do, to fortune, idols[oo], ourselves[pp], or any other creature[qq].
[a]     Ps. 14:1; Eph. 2:12.
[b]     Jer. 2:27-28; Compared to I Thes. 1:9.
[c]     Psa. 81:11.
[d]     Isa. 43:22, 23.
[e]     Jer. 4:22; Hos. 4:1, 6.
[f]     Jer. 2:32; Psa. 50:22.
[g]     Acts 17:23, 29.
[h]    Ps. 50:21.
[i]     Deut. 29:29.
[j]     Tit. 1:16; Heb. 12:16.
[k]    Rom. 1:30.
[l]     II Tim. 3:2.
[m]   Phil. 2:21.
[n]    I John 2:15-16; I Sam. 2:29; Col. 2:2,5.
[o]    I John 4:1.
[p]    Heb. 3:12.
[q]     Gal. 5:20; Tit. 3:10.
[r]     Acts 26:9.
[s]     Ps. 78:22.
[t]     Ezek. 37:11.
[u]     Jer. 5:3.
[v]    Rom. 2:5.
[w]    Jer. 13:15.
[x]    Ps. 19:13.
[y]    Zeph. 1:12.
[z]     Matt. 4:7.
[aa]   Rom. 3:8.
[bb]   Jer. 17:5.
[cc]   II Tim. 3:4.
[dd]   Gal. 4:17; John 16:2; Rom. 10:2; Luke 9:54-55.
[ee]   Rev. 3:16.
[ff]    Rev. 3:1.
[gg]   Ezek. 14:5; Isa. 1:4-5.
[hh]  Hos. 4:12; Rev. 19:10; Col. 2:18; Rom. 1:25.
[ii]    Lev. 20:6; I Sam. 28:7-11; Compared with I Chron. 10:13, 14.
[jj]    Acts 5:3.
[kk]  Matt. 23:9.
[ll]    Deut. 32:15; II Sam. 12:9; Prov. 13:13.
[mm]         Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30.
[nn]  Psa 73:2, 3. See verses 13-15, 22.
[oo]  Dan. 5:23.
[pp]  Deut. 8:17; Dan. 4:30.
[qq]   Hab. 1:16.
Question(s) for further study:

WLC Q105 is more specific than WSC Q47 in asking what?  The answer to WLC Q105 is quite expansive in listing what Scripture defines as sins forbidden in the first commandment.  Again, how many are actually listed and is it possible to place them into categories?