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, September 30, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q61


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
Do you know of parents who drop their children off at Sunday school but then head home or out on errands? Perhaps they return for the worship service, or perhaps they don’t. It has been rightly said that we teach our children whether me mean to or not. They learn by watching their parents; what is (or is not) important to the parents has a similar importance to the children. In his book Rediscovering Catechism, Donald Van Dyke makes a case for “the importance of bringing our children into an intimate relationship with God through catechizing.”  We adults are faced with the same need. A true and “intimate relationship with [our] God” must be a high priority especially for adults, for how can we impart something to others we do not possess for ourselves?
How can we achieve this relationship? The answer lies in the familiar theme of committing ourselves to God’s ordained means of grace—the Word, sacraments, and prayer. WSC Q61 asks what the fourth commandment forbids. This is important, because it forbids those very things that are a hindrance to our drawing near in an intimate relationship with our God. He bids us come, that we might know him, and he has provided both the means and the warnings that we might come forward freely to truly glorify and enjoy our God and precious Savior. We need to prayerfully give heed to the call of our God, and draw near in individual and corporate fellowship as his people.
*************************************************************
WSC Q61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A. The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations[a].
[a] Neh. 13:15-22; Is. 58:13-14; Amos 8:4-6
Question 61 asks what the fourth commandment forbids, and answers that the fourth commandment forbids failing to do, or carelessly doing, what we are supposed to do. It also forbids treating the day as unholy by loafing, by doing anything in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thinking, talking about, or working on our worldly affairs or recreations.
Comments and considerations:
The catechism defines sin as any want of conformity or transgression of the law of God (WSC Q14). So for each commandment, the catechism describes both what is required and what is forbidden; we can be guilty of sins of commission and sins of omission. The fourth commandment forbids the omission or careless performance of the duties required in keeping the Sabbath holy. We might be prone to think that the sin of omission is passive, simply something left undone. But neglecting the duties required does not result in a vacuum; the moment there is an absence of material, that hole is filled with something else, regardless of our attention or lack thereof.
“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” according to the old saying; if we are not actively doing the right thing, our laziness will attract temptation, and sinful thoughts will lead to sinful actions. Many Bible verses prove that point. Though the sin of omission may be partly passive, we are also active and intentional in our efforts to avoid our duties to God! The vacuum of omission will pull in all kinds of distractions to fill the void left by disobedience. Have you ever wondered why our society seems so noisy these days? Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” In suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18) we turn up the noise and fill the void with many and varied entertainments, those unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations which our catechism describes. We profane the day by activities ranging from lazy idleness to the doing that which is in itself sinful.
The catechism refers to the careless approach we often have toward the Lord’s Day. It is not a difficult word to understand; it simply means, having no care, free from anxiety, unconcerned; as in “I could care less.” The opposite, of course, is to be careful, cautious in one’s actions, taking pains; exact, thorough, circumspect. To be careless about the Lord’s Day is a dangerous thing—dangerous because it incurs God displeasure and keeps us from experiencing God’s blessing as it is described for us in Is. 58:13-14:
“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
Nor speaking your own words,
Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Amos 8:1-6, paying particular note to verse 5. God was not pleased with Israel over many issues. How would you describe their attitude toward the Sabbath, and how did this witness to their attitude toward God?
2.     Sometimes we can do a right thing in a wrong way. If we do something in an incorrect or sinful manner, what is the effect upon the right thing we are trying to do? Read Mal. 1:6-8. How does it relate?
3.     Our hearts need to be prepared for coming into the presence of God in worship. What does Isa. 66:1-2 say should be our mental attitude in our approach to God?
4.     In our busyness, time is a precious commodity. Many activities take up our time and occupy our thoughts. How we use the time God has given, and our attitude and desires about the time we give to him, is no small thing. Read and think about the lessons found in II Cor. 5:14-15, Ps. 119:147-148, 164, and Eph. 5:15-20.
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q61, and WLC Q119
WSC Q61. What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A.  The fourth commandment forbiddeth the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations[a].
      [a] Neh. 13:15-22; Isa. 58:13-14; Amos 8:4-6
WLC Q119. What are the sins forbidden in the fourth commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the fourth commandment are, all omissions of the duties required[a], all careless, negligent, and unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them[b]; all profaning the day by idleness, and doing that which is in itself sinful[c]; and by all needless works, words, and thoughts, about our worldly employments and recreations[d].
      [a]  Ezek. 22:26
      [b]  Acts 20:7, 9; Ezek. 33:30-32; Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13
      [c]  Ezek. 23:38
      [d]  Jer. 17:24, 27; Isa. 58:13
Question(s) for further study:

How does the Larger catechism ask the same question differently, and what might be one point our fathers may desire to make in approaching the same question in this manner? 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q60


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q43-62) is The Means of Grace: The Commandments: The First Table. (see Harmony Index)
Psalm 92 is an inspired confessional statement and a fitting backdrop to the present catechism question. May the Lord grant understanding, obedience, and a glad heart as we approach this topic.
Psalm 92, A psalm. A Song for the Sabbath day.
It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts! The senseless man does not know, fools do not understand, that though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed. But you, O LORD, are exalted forever. For surely your enemies, O LORD, surely your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered. You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes. The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
*************************************************************
WSC Q60. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A.   The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days[a]; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship[b], except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy[c].
[a] Ex. 20:10; Neh. 13:15-22; Isa. 58:13-14
[b] Ex. 20:8; Lev. 23:3; Luke 4:16; Acts 20:7
[c] Matt. 12:1-13
Question 60 asks how we keep the Sabbath holy, and answers that we keep the Sabbath holy by resting the whole day from worldly affairs or recreations, even ones that are lawful on other days. Except for necessary works or acts of mercy, we should spend all our time publicly and privately worshipping God.
Comments and considerations:
We have seen before that sanctify means to set apart, to take a thing and remove it from one sphere and place it in another for a particular use or purpose. In religious worship, objects or persons were by ceremony or mere acknowledgement sanctified or made holy, set apart from the ordinary or mundane. As Christians, we are set apart from the world, sin, and darkness, unto light, righteousness, and Christ. Similarly, the Sabbath day (and since Christ’s resurrection, the Lord’s Day) has been set apart; worldly employments and recreations that are lawful and necessary on other days cease to be so on this day, which is to be spent in the public and private exercises of God’s worship. The Sabbath is our call to focus on the God who provides all our needs, and we are to rest all that day in that fact! The command to rest is almost an oxymoron, particularly as it is found in Heb. 4:9-11—“labour therefore to enter into that rest” (KJV)—but that highlights our contrary and rebellious sinful nature. The parent of a young child knows how difficult it to convince that child to go to bed, and then to get up after their slumber. We are born resistant and dislike being told what to do, even when the command is as kind as this: “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Yet God persists in lovingly commanding us to cease our lawful work and recreations, and to rest in the Lord on a day set apart for worship, prayer, and praise.
But there is an exception to our rest. We serve a God of wisdom and tender compassion, who desires mercy and not mere sacrifice (Matt. 12:7; Hos. 6:6). We do not live in a perfect world. The effects of sin require that those in certain fields (law enforcement, military, healthcare, and public systems) must work to maintain security and public welfare. These labors are thus considered works of necessity and mercy. Our Lord pointed out the need to care for distressed livestock and continued, “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” (Matt 12:12). This is one of many Scriptural examples of works of necessity that maintain public and private welfare.
It is important that the Sabbath principle remain intact for those taken up in the works of necessity and mercy. They need their one-day in seven to rest and reflect, to glorify and enjoy their God. We rest that we might work, using our gifts and talents to serve our families, employers, customers, and communities—coram Deo*.
* Before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. http://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-does-coram-deo-mean/
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     Read Matt. 12:1-8. What are some lessons you can draw from this text? How does this passage support the statement “…so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy”?
2.     Works of mercy include the work of doctors, nurses, fire fighters, and police officers who help people who need help right away. What was the mercy performed on the Sabbath in Luke 13:10-16?
3.     How does Is. 58:13-14 describe Sabbath activity and the promised results for God’s people?
4.     What Sabbath activities are described for the church in Acts 20:7 and I Cor. 16:1-2?
5.     Psalm 92 is called a Psalm or Song for the Sabbath. How would reading and considering this Psalm prepare you for Sabbath day activities?
Harmony of the Standards: WSC Q60, WLC Q117 & 118, and WCF XXI.VIII
WSC Q60. How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?
A.  The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days[a]; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God's worship[b], except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy[c].
      [a]  Ex. 20:10; Neh. 13:15-22; Isa. 58:13-14
[b]  Ex. 20:8; Lev. 23:3; Luke 4:16; Acts 20:7
[c]  Matt. 12:1-13
WLC Q117. How is the Sabbath or the Lord's day to be sanctified?
A.  The Sabbath or Lord's day is to be sanctified by an holy resting all the day[a], not only from such works as are at all times sinful, but even from such worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful[b]; and making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as is to be taken up in works of necessity and mercy[c]) in the public and private exercises of God's worship[d]: and, to that end, we are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day[e].
      [a]  Exod. 20:8, 10
      [b]  Exod. 16:25-28; Neh. 13:15-22; Jer. 17:21-22
      [c]  Mat. 11:1-13
      [d]  Isa. 58:18; Luke 4:16; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:1-2; Ps. 92 (title, A psalm or song for the Sabbath-day); Isa. 66:23; Lev. 23:3
      [e]  Exod. 20:8; 16:22, 25-26, 29; Luke 23:54, 56; Neh. 13:19; (See number 2)
WLC Q118. Why is the charge of keeping the Sabbath more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors?
A.  The charge of keeping the Sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone ofttimes to hinder them by employments of their own[a].
      [a]  Exod. 20:10; 23:12; Josh. 24:15; Neh. 13:15, 17; (See above in 117.); Jer. 17:20-22
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER XXI.
Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath Day.
VIII.    This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations[a]; but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of His worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy[b].
      [a]  Exod. 20:8; Exod. 16:23-30; Exod. 31:15-17; Isa. 58:13-14; Neh. 13:15-22
      [b]  Isa. 58:13-14; Luke 4:16; Matt. 12:1-13; Mark 3:1-5
Question(s) for further study:

On expanding upon WSC Q60 and how the Sabbath is to be sanctified, the Larger Catechism questions provide light on the use of our other days activities in what way?  How are those in authority accountable for Lord’s Day observation; and how ought we to prepare for the Sabbath and why?