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, July 29, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q53


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
What’s in a name? A great deal, actually. Just think about the millions of dollars spent each year on product name recognition in advertising. It staggers the imaginations. Untold energy is applied to develop just the right phrase, logo, or design. We live in a time and culture where it’s difficult to define the meaning of the simple word “is;”  yet, ironically, no effort is spared in finding just the right name to sell a product or represent a corporate interest. And when that name is defamed, consider the immense damage that occurs to all who are connected to it—just think of the high profile reputations ruined in the Enron scandal that occurred years ago. Even the way we name our children has taken on a new importance. I recall a National Football League TV commercial where a man looks at the names of newborns in a hospital maternity ward and asks, “What ever happened to the name Hank?” Today, it seems names have taken on new meaning, and we spend a great deal of energy and expense to choose and protect our name identifications.
With that in mind, consider the topic of the current catechism question. Shouldn’t we spend far more time lifting up and protecting the name of our Lord than we do our own names and corporate logos? As we prayerfully reflect upon the third commandment and its implications, may our Lord grant us appreciation and sober understanding of the name we bear as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; so may we honor our God and Savior.
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WSC Q53. Which is the third commandment?
A.   The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.[a]
[a] Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11
Question 53 asks what the third commandment is, and answers that the third commandment is that you shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Comments and consideration:
Excuse me, but what is your name? Hello, my name is ________! And what is the name of the person who sent you? 
We place great importance upon a person’s name. Do you remember the scene in Dances with Wolves where characters at the Indian camp try to communicate their names before any further conversation is attempted? Likewise, at a recent seminar, my first step was to find my nametag at the registration table: Was I in the right place, and would my nametag confirm my right to be present? As another example, parents often begin thinking of names for a baby even before that child is conceived. What is it about our names?
In a way, our name is the starting point in describing who we are or what we are about. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary has a lengthy entry which begins like this: 1) That by which a thing is called; the sound or combination of sounds used to express an idea, or any material substance, quality or act; an appellation attached to a thing by customary use, by which it may be vocally distinguished from other things. 2) The letters or characters written or engraved, expressing the sounds by which a person or thing is known and distinguished. (There are 15 more noun and verb definitions!) The word “appellation,” found in definition 1, is helpful; it means, the word by which a particular person or thing is called and known; name; title; designation. Related to our question at hand we find this tenth Webster’s definition listed: 10) In Scripture, the name of God signifies his titles, his attributes, his will or purpose, his honor and glory, his word, his grace, his wisdom, power and goodness, his worship or service, or God himself.
WSC Q54-56 will repeat the cycle of instruction as to what is required, forbidden, and annexed to the third commandment. For the moment, we will consider the word “vain.” It’s commonly understood that to take the Lord’s name in vain is to use profanity and abusive language, which is true. But as always, there is more to be learned upon closer examination. Even before we turn to the dictionary, consider the “vanity of vanities” described in the insightful book of Ecclesiastes. The array of definitions in the dictionary includes empty; worthless; having no substance, value or importance; proud of petty things, or of trifling attainments. The word really means empty of meaning, worthless, fruitless; ineffectual, showy; ostentatious, or deceitful. Thus we can see how taking the name of God in vain came to mean using his name with levity or profaneness. But it really means much more than that.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Ex. 3:14-15. Consider what is occurring in this text. If I want to know someone, or want someone to know me, what is the first step? (1) If we want to pursue more than just a passing knowledge of each other, what else do we do? (2) What is God saying about himself in this text?
2.     In the OT, names were often used as a way to describe a person. Read Ex. 34:5-7 where God says in verse 5 that he will “proclaim” his name to Moses. How does God proclaim his name?
3.     Read Ps. 8:1 and 115:1. How does God bring praise and honor to his name? (See the text that follows these verses.)
4.     The third commandment instructs us that we are not to misuse God’s name, or better, we ought to make right use of it. How does Ps. 113:1-4 and Luke 11:1-4 describe how this should be done?
5.     Our heavenly Father desires that we exalt his name, but his desire does not stop there. In the unfolding of his plan of redemption there is another name he purposes to lift high, and that name is _________. (See Phil. 2:8-11.)
Answers:           
1) We find out their name, or introduce ourselves to them by telling them our name.
2) Provide some historical information that helps us relate to who the person is and what they are about.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q53, WLC Q111, and WCF XXII.I
WSC Q53. Which is the third commandment?
A.  The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain[a].
      [a]  Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11
WLC Q111. Which is the third commandment?
A.  The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain [a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:7
CHAPTER. XXII.
Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
I.    A lawful oath is part of religious worship[a], wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth[b].
      [a]  Deut. 10:20; Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11
      [b]  Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Rom. 1:9; II Cor. 1:23; II Cor. 11:31; Gal. 1:20; II Chron. 6:22-23
Question(s) for further study:

The harmony of the two catechism questions are the same; the confession bringing in the making of oaths in calling upon God as our witness in truth telling.  How is a lawful oath part of religious worship?  How would you define worship in this context? 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q52


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
We come to a fourth consideration of the second commandment. As we will see in coming studies, a similar question is asked concerning several of the commandments, showing why each is commanded. In this particular list of reasons, we are given a sort of “divine because.” We are to obey the second commandment "because" God is who he says he is, we are who he made us to be, and this is what he desires. Of course, this answer will meet with one of two reactions. We will either receive and embrace the reasons, or rebel and reject them. That is what determines whether we will experience the blessings or the curses attached to the covenant commandments of our God.
As we prayerfully reflect upon both the second commandment and the implications of this study, may our Lord help us to rejoice in and embrace the true worship of our God. And may we then know the abundant blessings of Christ offered freely to the obedient heart of faith.
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WSC Q52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A.   The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us[a], his propriety in us[b], and the zeal he hath to his own worship[c].
[a]  Ps. 95:2-3. 6-7; 96:9-10
[b]  Ex. 19:5; Ps. 45:11; Is. 54:5
[c]   Ex. 34:14; I Cor. 10:22
Question 52 asks what the reasons are for the second commandment and answers that the reasons for the second commandment are that God totally rules over us, that we belong to him, and that he is eager to be worshiped correctly.
Comments and considerations:
We said in an earlier study that we would soon need to look at the word annexed so that we can understand this question and similar questions that follow. The word means to tie or bind, to join or be united; it is used for a thing that is joined to something larger as an attachment; connected, affixed, or joined in a subordinate capacity. It has been used in terms of nation-states acquiring territory, or in documents with appended conditions or clauses. So the catechism question asks what are the reasons attached or joined to the second commandment, and adds to what has already been stated; it emphasizes God’s sovereign rule and ownership of his own, and his passionate desire for his own worship.
As we consider these three elements, it is good to look at some of the associated references:
Sovereign rule
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns; the world also is firmly established, it shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously” (Ps. 96:9-10). 
Propriety - ownership of His own
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine (Ex. 19:5).
So the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him (Ps. 45:11).
Zeal - passionate desire for his own worship
...for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Ex. 34:14). 
John Piper wrote an extensive treatise on this in his book titled Desiring God. The opening preface speaks about Ps. 37:4—“Delight yourself in the Lord”—and adds Jeremy Taylor’s comment on this verse: “God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy,” to which we might add “in him.” But Piper goes on to state his premise that God is most glorified in his people when we are most satisfied in him; that he is most passionate for his glory and worship. These are the fundamental reasons annexed to the second commandment, and they follow the reasoning established in the first catechism question: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” To this we would say, Amen!
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Ps. 145:1-3, 10-13a. What are some of the reasons given in this passage for praising God? What words are used to describe the worship and praise of God, and how would you expand on the meaning of those phrases?
2.     Read Ps. 95:1-7a. According to verse 7, why should we perform what proceeds from verses 1-6?
3.     What do Ex. 19: 5 and 34:14 tell us about God’s thoughts and desires toward his own, those who worship him in spirit and in truth?
4.     What do John 14:21 and Deut. 5:29 tell us will result from our obedience and love for keeping God’s commandments?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q52 and WLC Q110
WSC Q52. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?
A.  The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God's sovereignty over us[a], his propriety in us[b], and the zeal he hath to his own worship[c].
[a]  Ps. 95:2-3, 6-7; 96:9-10
[b]  Ex. 19:5; Ps. 45:11; Isa. 54:5
[c]  Ex. 34:14; I Cor. 10:22
WLC Q110. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?
A.  The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments[a]; are, besides God's sovereignty over us, and propriety in us[b], his fervent zeal for his own worship[c], and his revengeful indignation against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom[d]; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations[e]; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations[f].
[a]  Exod. 20:5-6
[b]  Ps. 45:11; Rev. 15:3-4
[c]  Exod. 34:13-14
[d]  1Cor. 10:20-22; Jer. 7:18-20; Ezek. 16:26-27; Deut. 32:16-20
[e]  Hos. 2:2-4
[f]  Deut. 5:29
Question(s) for further study:

As is to be expected WLC Q110 expanded on WSC Q52 in the words the more to enforce it, referencing the cursing and blessing inscribed in Exod. 20:5-6.  How are the mercies of God manifest in proportion to his hostiles, a manifestation and measure of his love for his own and fervent zeal for his own worship.