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, December 31, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q27

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q27-28)is The Humiliation and Exaltation of Jesus Christ.(see Harmony Index)

“The Cross and the Crown” – “No Crown without the Cross”
These two statements have been bannered over the pavilion of the Christian faith from its very inception. That all men, in some way, seek victory, glory, and exaltation is certainly evident. That all men are willing to bear a cross to achieve a crown is, however, another thing.
Can it be otherwise? Can we find true blessing without first denying ourselves? The answer is clear to every one of us, if we denyour natural impulse to suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Adam’s first sin involved choosing himself first, grasping for the crown of “knowledge” apart from the path of obedience. His fall plunged all mankind into the depths of sin, resulting in death and the need for an atoning sacrifice. The way back to the life that Adam lost is the way of death and self-sacrifice. But who is able to walk that path?
Praise God, it is Christ Jesus who is both able and willing to save to the uttermost those who are under the pavilion banner of his love, where holy justice is satisfied. That banner displays the Cross on which he died and the Crown which he wears; ruling heaven and earth in the hearts of his people in his kingdom of righteousness and glory.
In this catechism lesson we observe the travail that preceded the victory of our Lord and Savior.
WSC Q27. Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?
A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition[a], made under the law[b], undergoing the miseries of this life[c], the wrath of God[d], and the cursed death of the cross[e], in being buried and continuing under the power of death for a time[f].
[a] Luke 2:7; II Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-8
[b] Gal. 4:4
[c] Is. 53:3; Luke 9:58; John 4:6; 11:35; Heb. 2:18
[d] Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46; Luke 22:41-44; Is. 53:10; I John 2:2
[e] Gal. 3:13; Phil. 2:8
[f] Matt. 12:40; I Cor. 15:3, 4
Question 27 asks about Christ’s humiliation and answers that Christ was humiliated by being born as a man and born into a poor family; by being made subject to the law and suffering the miseries of this life, the anger of God, and the curse of death on the cross; and by being buried and remaining under the power of death for a time.
Comments and considerations:
Within a short reach from where I sit here at my desk are several commentaries and lesson books on our Confession and Catechisms. Often as I begin one of these weekly reviews, I wonder, “What can be said that has not already been said?” Yet our Savior is infinite, and his Word so wondrous, that there can be no end to our discovery of the grace and truth of our Lord. As we consider his incarnation, his submission and suffering for our redemption, which was his joy (Heb. 12:2), there is no end to the things we can learn. So, where to begin?
The Larger Catechism covers the topic of Christ’s humiliation in five questions (WLC Q46-50 - see below), beginning with “that low condition, wherein he for our sakes, emptying himself of his glory, took him the form of a servant.” It then examines the aspects of his humiliation—“his conception and birth, life, death, [estate] after his death, until his resurrection.” Thus the Larger Catechism gives an excellent summary of what our Lord traversed. He is the King of Glory who “took him the form of a servant” to become our Redeemer King.
The word “humiliation” aptly describes the Lord’s path downward from glory. In fact, a dictionary might say “see Jesus” as the single best example of what humiliation really means and does; no one else has faced humiliation to the degree that our Lord faced it in humbling himself to rescue his own from “the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death.” The Psalmist put it this way: “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised by the people” (Ps. 22:6). The reference here to “a worm” is to no ordinary worm, but to one known as the crimson-grub, used for its scarlet color as a clothing dye. On this point we go to Matthew Henry:
Our fathers were honoured, the patriarchs in their day, first or last, appeared great in the eye of the world, Abraham, Moses, David; but Christ is a worm, and no man.It was great condescension that he became man, a step downwards, which is, and will be, the wonder of angels; yet, as if it were too much, too great, to be a man, he becomes a worm, and no man. He was Adam—a mean man,and Enosh—a man of sorrows,but lo Ish—not a considerable man:for he took upon him the form of a servant, and his visage was marred more than any man’s,Is. 52:14. Man, at the best, is a worm; but he became a worm, and no man.If he had not made himself a worm, he could not have been trampled upon as he was. The word signifies such a worm as was used in dyeing scarlet or purple, whence some make it an allusion to his bloody sufferings. See what abuses were put upon him.
1. He was reproached as a bad man, as a blasphemer, a sabbath-breaker, a wine-bibber, a false prophet, an enemy to Caesar, a confederate with the prince of the devils.
2. He was despised of the people as a mean contemptible man, not worth taking notice of, his country in no repute, his relations poor mechanics, his followers none of the rulers, or the Pharisees, but the mob.
3. He was ridiculed as a foolish man, and one that not only deceived others, but himself too. Those that saw him hanging on the cross laughed him to scorn. So far were they from pitying him, or concerning themselves for him, that they added to his afflictions, with all the gestures and expressions of insolence upbraiding him with his fall. They make mouths at him, make merry over him, and make a jest of his sufferings: They shoot out the lip, they shake their head,saying, This was he that said he trusted God would deliver him; now let him deliver him.David was sometimes taunted for his confidence in God; but in the sufferings of Christ this was literally and exactly fulfilled. Those very gestures were used by those that reviled him (Matt. 27. 39); they wagged their heads, nay, and so far did their malice make them forget themselves that they used the very words (v.43), He trusted in God; let him deliver him.Our Lord Jesus, having undertaken to satisfy for the dishonour we had done to God by our sins, did it by submitting to the lowest possible instance of ignominy and disgrace.
Such humiliation and shame! Our fathers truly understood the Scriptures. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary got it right, too: humiliation is “The act of humbling; the state of being humbled. 1. Descent from an elevated state or rank to one that is low or humble; i,e, The former was a humiliation of deity; the latter, a humiliation of manhood.” Read that carefully. How did Matthew Henry put it? “Man, at the best, is a worm; but he became a worm, and no man.If he had not made himself a worm, he could not have been trampled upon as he was.”
He was no mere man, this Savior of ours, “....the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    Read Phil. 2:5-11. Consider it carefully and state it in your own words.
2.    How does Is. 40:14-17 describe God and compare him against the things of this world? Also see Ps. 95.
3.    Considering the above Scriptures, what was Christ’s position and relationship to the creation prior to his incarnation? Now look at John 7:1; 7:5; 8:48; 8:59; 12:27. After becoming a man, what was his relationship to these same created things?
4.    Jesus took to himself many difficult things in becoming a man. What might we to consider the most difficult thing he endured? See Is. 53:4-6, 10a.
5.    In becoming a man, what did Jesus do and provide for his own, that they could not do or obtain for themselves? See Gal. 3:13; II Cor. 8:9.
Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 27, WLC Q# 46 – 50 and WCF VIII.IV
WSC Q27. Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist?
A.  Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition[a], made under the law[b], undergoing the miseries of this life[c], the wrath of God[d], and the cursed death of the cross[e], in being buried and continuing under the power of death for a time[f].
[a] Luke 2:7; II Cor. 8:9; Phil 2:6-8.
[b] Gal. 4:4.
[c] Isa. 53:3; Luke 9:58; John 4:6; 11:35; Heb. 2:18.
[d] Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46; Luke 22:41-44; Isa. 53:10; I John 2:2.
[e] Gal. 3:13; Phil. 2:8.
[f] Matt. 12:40; I Cor. 15:3,4.
WLC Q46. What was the estate of Christ's humiliation?
A.  The estate of Christ's humiliation was that low condition, wherein he, for our sakes, emptying himself of his glory, took upon him the form of a servant, in his conception and birth, life, death, and after his death, until his resurrection[a].
[a] Phil. 2:6, 7, 8; Luke 1:31; II Cor. 8:9; Acts 2:24, Gal. 4:4.
WLC Q47. How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?
A.  Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fullness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement[a] .
[a] John 1:14, 18; Gal. 4:4; Luke 2:7.  See citations under Q.46.
WLC Q48. How did Christ humble himself in his life?
A.  Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law[a], which he perfectly fulfilled[b], and by conflicting with the indignities of the world[c], temptations of Satan[d], and infirmities in his flesh; whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition[e].
[a] Gal. 4:4.
[b] Matt. 3:15; John 19:30; Rom. 5:19.
[c] Ps. 22:6; Heb. 12:2, 3;  Isa. 53:2.
[d] Matt. 4:1.  See verses 2-12; Luke 4:1-14.
[e] Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:15; Isa. 52:13, 14.
WLC Q49. How did Christ humble himself in his death?
A.  Christ humbled himself in his death, in that having been betrayed by Judas[a], forsaken by his disciples[b], scorned and rejected by the world[c], condemned by Pilate, and tormented by his persecutors[d]; having also conflicted with the terrors of death and the powers of darkness, felt and borne the weight of God's wrath[e], he laid down his life an offering for sin[f], enduring the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross[g].
[a] Matt. 27:4.
[b] Matt. 26:56.
[c] Luke 18:32, 33; Isa. 53:2-3
[d] Mat. 27:26; John 19:34; Luke 22:63, 64.
[e] Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46; Rom. 8:32.
[f] Rom. 4:25; I Cor. 15:3; Isa. 53:10.
[g] Phil. 2:8; Heb. 12:2; Gal. 3:13.
WLC Q50. Wherein consisted Christ's humiliation after his death?
A.  Christ's humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried[a], and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day[b], which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.
[a] I Cor. 15:3, 4.
[b] Matt. 12:40;  Luke 18:33.
Of Christ the Mediator.
IV.This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake[a], which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law[b], and did perfectly fulfill it[c]; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul[d], and most painful sufferings in his body [e]; was crucified, and died[f]; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption[g].  On the third day he arose from the dead[h], with the same body in which he suffered[i]; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father[j], making intercession[k]; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world[l].
[a] Ps. 40:7, 8; Phil. 2:5, 6, 7, 8.
[b] Gal. 4:4
[c] Matt. 3:15; John 17:4.
[d] Matt. 26:37, 38; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46.
[e] Matthew, chapters 26 and 27.
[f] Phil. 2:8.
[g] Acts. 2:24, 27; Acts 13:37.
[h] I Cor. 15:4.
[i] John 20:25, 27.
[j] Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:9; Acts 2:33, 34, 35, 36.
[k] Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25.
[l] Acts 10:42; Matt. 13:40-42; Matt. 16:27; Matt. 25:31, 32, 33; II Tim. 4:1.
Questions for further study:
There is so much here to ponder.  But consider this, when we think upon the humiliation of our Lord Jesus Christ, what is our immediate focal point?  The Shorter Catechism answer paints a very broad picture, yet quite often we think in terms centering upon the Cross.  But observe how each Larger Catechism question describes the breathe of Christ’s journey, saying even by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh; whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition(WLC Q48).

When you consider that statement in the light of all that our fathers have captured here for our instruction, what ought to be, or how might we describe, the focal point for our humiliation as his disciples? How does Christ’s humiliation described in WSC Q27 give us pause to think more carefully about His command - the depth and breathe of it - when He tells us to take up our cross in our love for Him and one another?  

Monday, December 24, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q26

The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q25-26)is The Offices of the Mediator: The Priestly and the Kingly.(see Harmony Index)
We have been learning about how Christ fulfills the work of redemption for his people. Our study has looked at Christ’s offices of Prophet and Priest; we now come to the third aspect, Christ’s office of a King.
Throughout Scripture—in fact, throughout human history and our daily experience—human beings tend to refuse to have “this man (or any) to rule over us.” We are by nature rebels in our hearts; we hate the mere thought of kings or authorities with the power to command. It is now the natural thing in Western culture to think in terms of democracy, and of individual choice and freedom. Yet we also see the opposite extreme in places where dictators and tribal “strong men” retain their authority over others through intimidation. We must approach this particular study with caution, that we may hear and receive a Biblical view of kingly authority and humble submission.
When I was a young boy, many people enjoyed a newspaper cartoon called “Pogo.” It was known for silly, but sometimes profound, statements and parodies; these were often quite to the point regarding culture and politics. Pogo is famous for this line: “We have seen the enemy, and he is us!” Of course the ironic humor of that statement needs a context; but the truth of Pogo’s profound words are not lost on those who understand that we are by nature our own worst enemy. Left to ourselves, our own choices will ultimately lead to our destruction. That is why we need a Shepherd King to rule and guide us in every way.
In her catechism devotional used in this study, Starr Meade discusses King David, a shepherd king who led God’s people but also demonstrated a heart that sometimes rebelled against the King of Kings. “At times he sinned miserably. At times he put what he wanted for himself before the will of God. He did some foolish and even sinful things that put his people in danger to get what he wanted for himself. In this, he showed the need for a sinless King who would always seek the will of God and the good of God’s people without ever failing.”
As you consider what follows, you ought to ask, “How goes it with me?” Will I embrace this “sinless King” as my own, or will rebellion and self-centeredness rule my thinking, attitude, and actions? Your answer has both temporal and eternal implications. May God bless this study for his glory in your life.
WSC Q26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself[a], in ruling and defending us[b], and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies[c].
[a] Ps. 110:3.
[b] Is. 33:22; Matt. 28:18-20; John 17:2; Col. 1:13.
[c] I Cor. 15:24-26; Acts 12:17; 18:9, 10; Ps. 2:6-9; 110:1-2; Matt. 12:28; Col. 2:15.
Question #26 asks how Christ performs the office of a king, and answers that as a king, Christ brings us under his power, rules and defends us, and restrains and conquers all his and all our enemies.
Comments and considerations:
It might seem to us in these modern times that kings are outdated, out of sync with current thoughts on individual liberty and democratic forms of governing. Yet many nations still retain monarchies in fact or as a figurehead of state. Why is it that?
The word kingmeans “a male sovereign or monarch; a man who holds by life tenure, and usually by hereditary right, the chief authority over a country and people.” More could be added, but please notice the phrase “usually by hereditary right.”Webster’s 1828 Dictionary includes this statement: “Kings are hereditary sovereigns, when they hold the powers of government by right of birth or inheritance, and elective, when raised to the throne by choice.”Although there are two ways to become a king, the primary way is “by right of birth or inheritance.”Why is that? Well, the definition goes on to say that the king is a “male,” which gives a hint. If we study the etymology of the word, we find that it comes from the word kin, which means  “a person’s relatives; kinfolk; a group of persons descended from a common ancestor or constituting a family, clan, tribe, or race.” Thus the concept of kingship grew from the concept of family headship, or “preeminence in a particular group, category, or sphere.” And so we see that the kingly office grew out of a group’s need for identity, cohesion, leadership, and protection.
Secular, religious, and biblical history is full of stories of the making and breaking of kings—the rise and fall of competent and incompetent, willing and unwilling, humble and tyrant alike; some worthy of respect, others only disdained and hated. Modern societies have abandoned the concept for more “enlightened” self-rule concepts that are fraught with their own dangers and which can enslave the unwary and naïve just as much as an incompetent or evil monarch. It is said that an enlightened monarchy is the best form of government, even better than a democracy that could lose its moral direction. But where to find and how to keep a wise, enlightened king, has always been the problem!
Christians, however, have such a King. And we are of his family, bought and born of his blood; his is the kinsman redeemer who in his wisdom has subdued our rebellious hearts to himself, and is willing to rule and defend us in righteousness. Furthermore, our kinsman redeemer also restrains and conquers all our enemies, as they are his—enemies of the family, the clan of the triune God to which we belong.
In I Samuel 8, Israel complained, wanting a king like the other nations. It’s interesting that the Lord did not make a bigger issue over this apparent rebellion; he gave in to their request to be like the nations that surrounded them. But there was a bigger point to be made, and it would take decades, centuries, even ages to learn it. Yes, we do need a king, an authority, a big brother, a kinsman, a father, a just head of state, a king of the kingdom to lead, subdue, rule, and defend us against all enemies within and without. Like Israel of old, whose heart was cold and indifferent to their true King (I Sam 8:7), having lost sight of the omnipotent Monarch, we too need to learn that lesson. We need to confess, as doubting Thomas finally did, “My Lord and My God”... “My Kurios*, My LORD, My Master, My King.” Even so, rule, Lord Jesus, both now and forevermore!
*Greek: Lord
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    Read Is. 9:6-7. How does the existence of OT kings and ruling authorities help us understand the sovereign rule of God over his creation? What prophecy and promise is made in Is. 9:6-7, and to whom does this refer?
2.    In the answer to this catechism question, what is the first thing listed that Christ does in performing his office of King? How did Christ make a rebellious enemy a faithful servant in Acts 9:1-7?
3.    Read the rest of the story in Acts 9:10-17. Who was the other person who needed to recognize the rule and Lordship Jesus Christ? What did Jesus direct him to do?
4.    A king rules his people and can command them to do whatever he wishes. Sometimes in their warfare and life the servant may face difficulties or even death. But even in this, what promise is found in Rom. 8:31-39 concerning our righteous Savior King?
5.     What does Eph. 1:20-23 say will be the outcome of all of history? Also see Rev. 19: 11-16 and 17:14.
Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 26 and WLC Q# 45
WSC Q26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A.  Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself[a], in ruling and defending us[b], and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies[c].
[a] Ps. 110:3
[b] Isa. 33:22; Matt. 28:18-20; John 17:2; Col. 1:13
[c] I Cor. 15:24-26; Acts 12:17; 18:9, 10; Ps. 2:6-9; 110:1-2; Matt. 12:28; Col. 2:15
WLC Q45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A.  Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself[a]; and giving them officers[b], laws[c], and censures, by which he visibly governs them[d]; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect[e], rewarding their obedience[f], and correcting them for their sins[g], preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings[h]; restraining and overcoming all their enemies[i], and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory[j], and their good[k]; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel[l].
[a] Isa. 55:4-5; John 10:16; Acts 15:14-16; Gen. 49:10; Ps. 110:3.
[b] Eph. 4:11, 12; I Cor. 12:28.
[c] Matt. 28:19, 20;  Isa. 33:22
[d] Matt. 18:17, 18; I Cor. 5:4, 5; I Tim. 5:20; Tit. 3:10.
[e] Acts 5:31.
[f] Rev. 22:12; 2:10; Matt. 25:34-36; Rom. 2:7.
[g] Rev. 3:19; Heb. 12:6, 7.
[h] II Cor. 12:9, 10; Rom. 8:35-39; Isa. 63:9.
[i] I Cor. 15:25; Acts 12:17, Acts 18:9, 10; Ps. 110:1-2.
[j] Rom. 14:10-11; Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:19, 20.
[k] Rom. 8:28.
Questions for further study:

We note again how the Larger Catechism asks the same question as the Shorter as did the previous two questions, yet see here how extensively longer is the answer to the Larger.  What observations might we make from this longer answer?  What benefits and blessings are derived from Christ’s Kingship?