WSC Q & A 100-107 The Lord’s Prayer.

Q & A 100-107 The Lord’s Prayer.

Q. 100 What does the preface of the Lord’s prayer teach us?

A. 100 The preface of the Lord’s prayer (which is, ‘Our Father in heaven’), teaches us to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others.

The catechism may call these words a ‘preface’, but the fact is that the Lord included this in his answer to the disciples, showing that there is more to prayer than just ‘petitions’ (Mt. 6:9a; Lk. 11:2a). In fact, what we have here is the immanence and transcendence of God, reflective of the first two commandments (Mt. 6:9). Our Father, places us in an exclusive covenant relationship with the biblical God alone. This is the very lead in and basis of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1), and thus we are praying, in effect, that we would keep the first commandment (Ex. 20:2-3; Dt. 5:6-7).

We then read ‘in heaven’, so that here we see our repudiation of idolatry, which is the making of elements of the created order a god (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Instead we pray to the God who is qualitatively, ontologically separate from that which he has created (Is. 40:18).

Prayer that the LORD receives is prayer from those who are in this personal covenant relationship with the Biblical God alone, through the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of sin, only those adopted by His grace are in such a position to refer to this God as ‘our Father’, through the work of the Spirit (Rom. 8:15; Eph. 6:18). Through the Spirit, and in Christ, we have this confidence, that as our Father he will hear us and grant unto us all good things (Ps. 145:19; Mt. 7:11; Eph. 3:12, 20).

Q. 101 What do we pray for in the first petition?

A. 101 In the first petition (which is ‘Hallowed be Your name’), we pray that God would enable us and others to glorify him in all that whereby he makes himself known; and that he would dispose all things to his own glory.

This clearly is a prayer that we do not take the name of the LORD our God in vain – the third commandment (Mt. 6:9b; Lk. 11:2b; Ex. 20:7; Dt. 5:11). The very same passages referred to concerning this commandment, can certainly be referred to here. God’s name refers to his entire character, ad is reflective of it. All nations, indeed as God’s creatures, have this obligation to honour the Creator (Ps. 67:1-3; Rom. 11:36).

“In the Bible, then, a name is more than a mere label. It is a true description. It reveals something to us concerning the person to whom it is given. Thus the Catechism speaks of “that whereby [God] maketh himself known” as equivalent to His name! When the Psalmist says, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1), he means that these things that God has made are a true revelation of Him. God makes himself known to us through them. Of Him, says the Bible, “the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:15). This is the reason why God has many names in the Bible.” (Williamson 328)

It was Jesus’ prayer that the Father would glorify His name, to which the Father replied, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again” (Jn. 12:28). Clearly, “God cannot deny himself (II Tim. 2:13). How much more ought we to pray and seek the same? This was ultimately Moses’ concern (Ex. 32:11-13), and Abraham (Gen. 18:23-32). As it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (I Cor. 1:31-31; Jer. 9:23-24).

Q. 102 What do we pray for in the second petition?

A. 102 In the second petition (which is ‘Your kingdom come’), we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed, and that the kingdom of grace may be advanced, ourselves and others brought into it, and kept in it, and that the kingdom of glory may be hastened.

First of all, it is again important to see this petition in relationship to the fourth commandment (Mt. 6:10a; Lk. 11:2c; Ex. 20:8-10; Dt. 5:12-14). When God created the heavens and the earth he was engaged in kingdom work, and when he created humanity, he created those who would bear the image of his reign. Likewise, when we rest on the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day, we rest from our kingdom work, which we do in his strength, and for his glory, in all of life. This kingdom work, which is now the kingdom given to the Messiah, we all shall ultimately rest from, when Jesus defeats the last enemy death, and transfers his kingdom back to the Father (I Cor. 15:20-28 Cf. Ps. 2).

Secondly, this kingdom was given to the Son when he ascended to sit on the heavenly throne, at the right hand of the Father, and he has ever since been bringing his enemies to subjection under his feet. Those that hate him will be forced to flee (Ps. 68:1). Instead kings and nations will be made to serve him (Ps. 72:11). As it states at Psalm 110, he reigns as the Priest-King, therefore this reign is extended through the Great Commission, the preaching of the gospel, and the doing of all he has commanded in all areas of life (Mt. 28:18-20).

The corollary to the building and expansion of his kingdom, is that Satan’s is more and more being destroyed. Jesus said that he saw Satan fall from heaven, at the very time he gave authority to the seventy to carry forward the message of the gospel, accompanied by signs and wonders of the Spirit’s power (Lk. 10:18-20). Likewise Paul, hearkening back to the first gospel promise of Genesis 3:15, told the readers of the letter to the Romans that “the God of peace will crush Satan under Your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:19). Even so, we must continue to pray that the word of the Lord would continue to be glorified to this end (II Th. 3:1).

This kingdom will ultimately come (Cf. Dan. 4:35), and so we pray accordingly. This kingdom certainly starts within each of us (Lk. 17:20-21), but it does not remain a private matter. If it is truly within us, it will show in how we pray and work. It is a kingdom in opposition to that of the evil one (Jn. 18:36), and “the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). It has its beginning with the seed of the gospel message – “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1;16).

“This means, as the Catechism says, that people have to be brought out of Satan’s kingdom, and brought into Christ’s. They must also be kept in Christ’s kingdom. There must be more and more complete separation from everything that is Satanic. But the greater danger is that Satan seeks to deceive us. And this he does when we forget that Christ’s kingdom is radically opposed to his at every point. We have an example of this deception in the sphere of education. For many years Christian people have imagined that there could be a neutral system of education. But Satan is not neutral, and neither are his servants. Thus we have seen one restriction after another placed upon Christians in what was supposed to be a neutral system of education. Christians should have realized that this would not work. They should have been the ones who pressed the antithesis, by demanding an education for their children that is only and entirely Christian. This is what we mean when we pray this petition: we are praying for war – conflict – and victory, a world in which everything will be wholly on God’s side.” (Williamson 334)

Furthermore, Christ’s kingdom is further advanced, not with the physical weapons of warfare, but in the battle of ideas. “The kingdom of Christ is also antithetical in method. For, as Paul once wrote, “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (II Cor. 10:4-5).

“Often it seems that this is not the case. Christ’s cause so often appears weak in the world. Yet how clearly the Bible speaks of the victory that Christ has already won (1 Jn. 5:4; 1 Cor. 15:54-55). God has promised Christ “the uttermost parts of the earth for [his] possession” (Ps. 2:8). “He shall not fail nor be discouraged,” says the prophet, “till he had set judgment in the earth” (Is. 42:4).” (Williamson 334-335) “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15)

Q. 103 What do we pray for in the third petition?

A. 103 In the third petition (which is ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven), we pray that God by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.

It is largely recognized that in the fifth commandment, to honour one’s parents, one is also honouring all those who occupy positions of leadership on the earth, whether civil or ecclesiastical (Mt. 6:10b; Lk. 11:2d; Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16). Keeping this commandment has attached to it a promise, that one will enjoy peace and prosperity in the earth. It is certainly important that we as individuals live according to God’s will on earth, but to do so as it is done in heaven, means that his will is done from top to bottom in every sphere of life, and this requires that leaders also do his will, and lead in this goal.

God’s will is done because those who he has regenerated he also continues to empower to do his will (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil. 2:13). He opens our eyes to see “wondrous things” out of his law (Ps. 119:18). Jesus set an example for us when he prayed to the Father “Your will be done” (Mt. 26:42). In this sense, it also means accepting the Lord’s acts of providence (Cf. Job 1:21; 2:9-10). However, in this regard we must be careful – we do not always understand providence, but we do know the clear commands of scripture (Acts 21:14). Joseph is a clear example of this (Gen. 39:10-12).

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children, that we may do all the words of this law” (Dt. 29:29 Cf. Is. 8:20). To do his will as it is done in heaven means that we, like the angels, ought to “do his word, heeding the voice of his word” (Ps. 103:20). This is what individuals and leaders of state and church will also be judged by. Doing the Father’s will is evidence that we are destined for heavenly rest (Mt. 7:21).

“Thus we have seen that the second petition is a means to the fulfillment of the first. Here we further note that (the most important part of God’s kingdom lies in His will being done” (Calvin). So the third petition is a means to the fulfillment of the second.” (Williamson 338).

Q. 104 What do we pray for in the fourth petition?

A. 104 In the fourth petition (which is ‘Give us this day our daily bread’), we pray that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.

Bread is regarded as the staple of life, often used, as here in this command, to signify life itself. Therefore, when we pray this, we are praying that the Lord would continue to sustain our lives that we might do his will and thus glorify him as his image bearers in the earth (Cf. Ps. 90:17). This is the positive side of the sixth commandment, that we not only refrain from murder, but that we do everything in our power to preserve our lives, and that of our neighbours (Mt. 6:11; Lk. 11:3; Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). We are to pray that we suffer neither from poverty nor riches, for it is a daily petition (Pr. 30:8). All people are directly dependent on God for the necessities of life, and all else besides.

“The idea that some departments of life are important to God, and directly related to God (and so, spiritual), while other departments are unimportant to God, and not directly related to Him (and so, unspiritual) is contrary to the Bible. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,” says Paul, “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). We are to live the whole of life as unto the Lord. And we are to understand that our daily bread (that is, even the food we eat each day) is a matter of deep religious importance.” (Williamson 345)

If we seek first the kingdom of God/heaven, as we are to pray in this model or pattern of prayer, we are promised the necessities of life (Mt. 6:33). In this petition, being a daily request, is highlighted how we ought to be content with our daily provisions (I Tim. 6:8). “When we learn to humble ourselves as we ought, and to ask God for even the lowliest and most common things that we need as undeserved gifts, we will begin to learn how to be thankful and content.” (Williamson 347)

“Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God gives him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has given riches and wealth, and given him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor – this is the gift of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.” (Eccl. 5:18-20)

Q. 105 What do we pray for in the fifth petition?

A. 105 In the fifth petition (which is ‘And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’), we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; which we are the rather encouraged to ask, because by his grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.

The words translated as ‘debts’ and ‘debtors’ here, is not a common one employed in scripture. Some translations use the word ‘sins’ and ‘sinned’, but there is something unique about these words. ‘Ophellema’ ‘debts’ refers explicitly to “something owed” (Strong’s). ‘Debtors’ ‘ophelleo’ are those who are under obligation for that which is owed. Paul stated that we are not debtors to the flesh (Rom. 8:12), but he did owe a debt to both Jews and Greeks, to preach the gospel, even as the Gentiles were debtors, in material things, to the Jewish saints in Jerusalem, since they had received so many spiritual benefits from them (Rom. 15:27). Matthew also reinforces this understanding of a debt owed at 18:30-32. This is more than sin or sins in general. These are debts owed.

Is this related to the seventh commandment (Mt. 6:12; Lk. 11:4; Ex. 20:14; Dt. 5:18)? Paul made the point that sexual sin is unique in that it is a sin against one’s own body. All other sins are external to the body. “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (I Cor. 6:18). The prohibition against adultery is unique among the commandments for this reason. All who commit sexual sins, represented here by adultery, sin in being debtors to these particular sins of the flesh. For this reason, we are to petition the Lord that we be forgiven this debt we have committed, and also forgive those who fail to honour this debt to us.

Matthew 6:14-15, on the other hand, uses the word which the NKJV and KJV translate as ‘trespasses’. ‘Paraptoma’ can refer to an unintentional side-slip or error, but can also mean a willful transgression or offence. The petition of Matthew 6:12 is a deliberate act in thought and deed. We all have a debt to protect that which we owe to ourselves and our own, and also that of our neighbours. To this end we also have an obligation to seek forgiveness for a failure in this regard, and to be ready also to forgive others of this failure.

Paul also made the argument in Galatians that, “to every man who becomes circumcised that he is debtor to keep the whole law” (5:3). He stated the same principle at Romans 4:4. A point which James also made (2:10). Therefore, this petition also speaks to our need to be forgiven of the failure to keep our debt to the whole of the law, and to extend this to others who fail to fulfill the whole of the law toward us. Luke reinforces this idea with his use of the more common word for sin, hamartia (11:4) as offences (Strong’s). “For we know only too well that we can only learn to forgive because we ourselves are forgiven (1 John 4:19; Luke 7:47). And we know that nothing that we ever do is perfect enough to be an adequate standard for what God does (1 John 1:8). In our Lord’s parable of the unforgiving servant we learn the correct interpretation of this second part of this petition (Matt. 18:23-35).” (Williamson 353-354)

Q. 106 What do we pray for in the sixth petition?

A. 106 In the sixth petition (which is ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil), we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

In this sixth petition (Mt. 6:13a; Lk. 11:4b), we see a desire to fulfill the eighth commandment – “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19). This petition is for contentment. We find an expansion of this petition in the prayer we find in Proverbs. “Two things I request of You (deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (30:7-9).

It is also important to understand that God cannot be tempted, nor does he tempt anyone to sin (Js. 1:13). Rather, “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed (v. 14). Therefore, we must continuously watch and pray that we not enter into temptation (Mt. 26:41), that we also be kept from presumptuous sins (Ps. 19:3). Also, when we do fall, we need to pray afresh for our hearts to be cleansed and renewed (Ps. 51:10), and that the joy of his salvation might be restored to us (Ps. 51:12).

However, there are also temptations that are in fact testings, which do not necessarily denote sin on our part, depending on how we respond to the them. So there is a sense in which what we pray for here is that when we are tested, we would have the discipline to do what is right (Mt. 26:41; Mk. 14:38; Lk. 8:13). This was the experience of the generation of wilderness wanderers – they sinned in their response to the testings or trials which they had experienced (Dt. 4:34; 7:19; 29:3; Ps. 95:8 Cf. vv. 7c-11; Heb. 3:7-11). In their trials, which were part and parcel of their deliverance, they tried God.

There may also be a sense in which we pray that we would not enter into trials which we are not able to bear, such as being delivered from the evil one. We should not think that we can take him on in the same fashion that Jesus did (Lk. 4:13). We can pray this prayer because we know that he will not try us beyond we are able to bear, but will in every circumstance provide us with a way of escape. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (I Cor. 10:12-13)

Q. 107 What does the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer teach us?

A. 107 The conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer (which is ‘For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”), teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power, and glory to him; and in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, ‘Amen’.

In what the catechism calls the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer, we find, as part of prayer, this testimony or confession, that we first of all, pray that we would bear true witness concerning the worthiness of the Lord, and the worthiness of serving him. Unlike the petition (Your kingdom come), we have here a testimony, a bearing witness to the worthiness of the Lord for his worship, in both his person and his power or rule. This expression also is the foundation for bearing true witness concerning our neighbour, for where there was two or three witnesses to a capital crime God’s law, there the punishment is death (Dt. 17:6; 19:15-20). God bears witness when people bear witness – true or false, and his kingdom is ruled accordingly (Mt. 6:13b; Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20).

‘Amen’ speaks to the contentment we ought to have with God and his kingdom rule, here expressed as a model prayer. This is the sum of the tenth commandment also – not coveting that which the Lord has given unto our neighbour, and what he rightfully owns under God (Mt. 6:13c; Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). Paul pointed out the pivotal nature of the tenth commandment, referring to that internal discontent that all are guilty of (Rom. 7:7-12). The guard against covetousness is persistence in prayer (Cf. Js. 4:2). This is why Luke places particular emphasis on this point following upon his record of this model prayer (11:5-13), and also that this kingdom cannot be divided, but all his children must pray ‘Amen’ to his kingdom (vv. 14-23). The other kingdom is that of the evil one (Mt. 6:13a; Lk. 11:4d; 24-26).

WSC Q And A 98-99 Prayer

Q & A 98-99 Prayer

Q. 98 What is prayer?

A. 98 Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sin, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.

Prayer is an exercise of faith. Why would one pray if one did not believe that God exists and answers prayer (Heb. 11:6)? Prayer means we trust God also, that he will do that which is according to his will, that which is for our good. He invites us to pour out our hearts to him (Ps. 62:8). If we pray for what the scriptures indicate are matters acceptable to prayer, we know that the Spirit will also help us, “because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:27 Cf. v. 26). It is also clear that we are instructed to ask of the Father in Jesus name (Jn. 16:23). We also know that confession is a central part of prayer (Dan. 9:4 Cf. Ps. 51:1; Mt. 6:12; Lk. 11:4; 18:13-14). It is also important that we pray with thankful hearts (Phil. 4:6).

Q. 99 What rule has God given for our direction in prayer?

A. 99 The whole word of God is of use to direct us in prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord’s prayer.

It was noted in the answer to the previous Q & A 98, that prayer is to be in harmony with the will of God, especially as we have it in the word. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (I Jn. 5:14). Ultimately, we do have the Lord’s prayer to guide us as a pattern. There is something which is significant about the relationship of the ten commandments, dealt with extensively in the earlier part of the catechism (Q & A 45-81), and the Lord’s prayer. As one looks at both, there seems to be a clear connection between the two, as will hopefully be demonstrated in what follows.

The Lord’s prayer (Mt. 6:9ff.), as it is called, was actually given in response to the disciples request that the Lord teach them how to pray (Lk. 11:1). These two items begin with their focus on God and then on ourselves and our relations with our fellow human beings. “Just as the chief end of man in all of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, so in prayer it is God who comes first, and only then our own interests. Just as the Ten Commandments first instruct us in the worship of God, and then go on to teach us the life of service for God, so the Lord’s Prayer begins with God. It concerns God himself, then his kingdom, and will, before there is mention of our own needs.” (Williamson 317)

“Much more true to life is the New Testament account of the disciples of our Lord, who were unable to remain awake to pray with Jesus for even one hour! (Matt. 26:36-46). If we study the Bible we find that even the Lord’s faithful servants were often driven to pray by the circumstances, rather than by mere inner impulse. Think of Abraham praying for Lot in Sodom (Gen. 18:16-33). Or think of Moses praying that God would not destroy Israel (Ex. 32:31-35).” (Ibid. 318)

“Just as we can work out our whole duty to God from the Ten Commandments, so we can work out our whole prayer life from these petitions.” (Ibid 319) Again, we also know that the Spirit helps us in prayer (Rom. 8:26-27). “Just as a loving Father will not despise or reject a request of his son when it is expressed in lisping speech, so the Father will not despise a sincere prayer because of its humble form. The deepest lesson of this pattern of prayer, then, is the fact that true religion-and therefore true prayer-is a thing of the heart. This is why our Lord stripped away everything that could possibly obscure this fact.” (Ibid. 320)

WSC Q & A 91-97 The Sacraments Of Baptism And The Lord’s Supper.

Q & A 91-97 The Sacraments Of Baptism And The Lord’s Supper.

Q. 91 How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?

A. 91 The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Although it is essential that those who administer the sacraments be genuine believers, the sacrament in no way demands on the spiritual condition of those who administer them. “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (I Cor. 3:7).

Q. 92 What is a sacrament?

A. 92 A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein, by sensible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed, and applied to believers.

The outward symbols signify the benefits of salvation. Like circumcision under the old covenant, baptism under the new is a sign and seal of the righteousness of faith (Rom. 4:11).

Q. 93 Which are the sacraments of the New Testament?

A. The sacraments of the New Testament are, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

Baptism signifies the dying to sin and living to God, “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 3:21). The Lord’s supper, which is the Christian Passover, shows forth the Lord’s death also (I Cor. 11:26).

Q. 94 What is baptism?

A. 94 Baptism is a sacrament, wherein the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, does signify and seal our ingrafting into Christ, and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our engagement to be the Lord’s.

Since there is but one covenant of grace, there is no indication in the New Testament that the infants, who were included in the sacraments of the Old Testament, were in any way excluded in the New (Gen. 17:10; Col. 2:11-12; Heb. 13:20).

Q. 95 To whom is baptism to be administered?

A. 95 Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him, but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.

Baptism was reiterated by the Lord as an ongoing practice among his disciples, when he issued the great commission (Mt. 28:18-20). Being taught and practiced by the apostles, including Paul (Acts 2:39; 8:36-37; Gal. 3:27), being “buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). It also included all the members of one’s house, including infants (I Cor. 7:14).

There is also no indication that the mode was of necessity by immersion. This is just tradition being put forth as scriptural mandate by those of the immersionist persuasion. Physical baptism is likened unto the baptism of the Spirit, which is described as a pouring (Mt. 3:11; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:17ff.). We are also said to be sprinkled by the blood of Christ (Heb. 12:24). The only ones we know who were immersed were the Egyptians in the Red Sea (Ex. 14:22, 28).

“In conclusion we stress two points. First, the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration. The inward work of God’s grace in a particular person may come before, or during, or after the time of administration of baptism. Second, we must not think that baptism is of importance to us only once. No, the Larger Catechism rightly says that we ought to “improve our baptism” all through life. Thus, whenever we see this ordinance administered in the Church, we are to apply its meaning again to our own hearts. Thus are we to deepen our understanding and thankfulness to God on account thereof.” (Williamson 302-303)

Q. 96 What is the Lord’s supper?

A. 96 The Lord’s supper is a sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment, and growth in grace.

It was during the celebration of the Passover that the Lord gave instructions that with his coming, this Passover meal now be kept in remembrance of him. It is his sprinkled blood (Heb. 12:24), “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (I Pet. 1:19), who now delivers the true members of the new covenant from death (Lk. 22:19-20). Just as baptism replaces circumcision as a sign and seal of entrance into the covenant, even so the Lord’s supper replaces the Passover to express the continuing life within the covenant. “For indeed Christ, our Passover lamb, was sacrificed for us” (I Cor. 5:7 Cf. Ex. 12:5).

Unlike the previous section on baptism, on the subject of the Lord’s supper, they should have also asked the question which is there asked concerning who may partake of the supper. Q & A 97 assumes that one must be an adult, for all the things required in what follows. However, the very same requirements of repentance and faith are required of adults receiving baptism, but still there was a provision, based on scripture, for the infants of believing parents, and one ought also to add the mentally incapable, for being included in the covenant administrations.

The Passover, from a biblical perspective, clearly mandated that all the members of the household(s) were to be included (Ex. 12:3-4). All were to take refuge in one’s house, and all were to partake of the meal together (vv. 7-8). Therefore, it is inconsistent for those who administer the sign of covenantal inclusion, to withhold the sign and seal of covenantal continuation, because the “demands” for adults are identical, and infants certainly are “persons”.

Q. 97 What is required to the worthy receiving of the Lord’s supper?

A. 97 It is required of them that would worthily partake of the Lord’s supper, that they examine themselves of their knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, of their faith to feed upon him, of their repentance, love, and new obedience, lest, coming unworthily, they eat and drink judgment to themselves.

There is also another misconception of Paul’s stipulations. Paul made clear that when he wrote about the body of Christ, he was referring to the church. It is therefore very strange that the focus gets solely directed to somehow examining Christ’s actual body when people look at what it means to examine oneself. Paul’s injunction here is that each would examine themselves in terms of their relationship with the body as the church (I Cor. 11:28-31). This is why he also says at 14:1 that we follow love in the body – this is in fact his primary focus in this entire section (Chs. 11-14). In fact it started even earlier in his letter, where when after he referred to Christ as our Passover lamb (I Cor. 5:7), he then stated that we (plural –the body), ought to “keep the feast,” (the Christian Passover), “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (v. 8).

Jesus said that if one is offering a gift at the altar, which is in effect what we do in the supper, and remember that a brother has something against us, we are to rectify that situation before we come to offer our gift (Mt. 5:23). This is Paul’s focus here, which is not something which would be applicable to infants, or the mentally challenged. Certainly, it is important for adults, that we examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith (II Cor. 13:5). However, this is something that must be included in baptism as well, and indeed throughout our Christian lives. The most important sacrifice or gift that the individual can offer to God is, “a broken and contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17), but also thanksgiving that the gift that we offer to God is the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ for us. “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God-and righteousness and sanctification and redemption-that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord’” (I Cor. 1:30-31; Jer. 9:23-24).

WSC Q & A 89-90 The Word Is Made Effectual.

Q & A 89-90 The Word Is Made Effectual.

Q. 89 How is the word made effectual to salvation?

A. 89 The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.

There are things which are unique to the word of God, given that it has been given by divine inspiration. “For the word the word of God is living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12a). Quite apart from the application of the word by the Spirit, the word itself carries with it a living and powerful dynamic that is not present in any other book. “The gospel…is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes” (Rom. 1:16). However, on behalf of the elect, there is also the effectual application of the word in faith and repentance by the Spirit, and all else involved in the Christian faith. It converts the soul (Ps. 19:7), and builds the saints up in the inheritance that is given to the elect, for their sanctification (Acts 20:32).

The Ethiopian is an example of a person who both read the word and had it explained to him (Acts 8:27-28). The Bereans also were those who searched the scriptures themselves, and then had the truth explained to them (Acts 17:11-12). Paul stated the following with respect to those in Thessalonica. “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (II Th. 2:13). They knew this was the case because, they became imitators of those who brought the message. How important it is then that Christians, and preachers especially, live the word (Cf. Js. 1:23-24)!

Q. 90 How is the word to be read and heard, that it may become effectual to salvation?

A. 90 That the word may become effectual to salvation, we must attend thereunto with diligence, preparation, and prayer, receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practice in our lives.

There is the outward means appointed for the salvation of God’s elect, and the inward gifts granted. It is important to regard these as separate, for many are exposed to the outward means who have not been granted the inward gifts. There is the sound of words, but for some there is not the listening of faith (Pr. 8:34). Those of faith pray that their eyes might be opened to see “wondrous things” out of God’s law (Ps. 119:18). Those who are of faith “desire the pure milk of the word” (I Pet. 2:2). For many, even the word preached does not profit them, because it is not mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2). If one is going to be saved, and grow in grace, one must love the truth (II Th. 2:10). We must say with the psalmist: “Your word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11), “being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work” (Js. 1:25). “Therefore take heed how you hear” (Lk. 8:18a). Moreover, we must not be content with the milk of the word, we must also progress forward to the meat, in doctrine and life (Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:14).

WSC Q & A 85-88 Faith And Repentance-True Conversion.

Q & A 85-88 Faith And Repentance-True Conversion.

Q. 85 What does God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us for sin?

A. 85 To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.

John Murray, particularly in his ‘Redemption Accomplished And Applied’, regarded faith and repentance as twin sisters, things which cannot be separated from each other. No one can claim to have faith who does bot also have repentance. Furthermore, the catechism makes clear that scripture teaches that these are gifts of God’s grace. When Paul wrote that we are saved by grace through faith, the entirety of this process is a gift. It also involves turning to works “which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10).

The message was the same to all, Jew and Greek, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). These twin gifts show themselves both in what we profess, and in how we live. When they are evident in our lives, we make our call and election sure (II Pet. 1:10). This was also part of the great commission of Matthew 28:18-20, new disciples being taught to observe everything Jesus the Christ has commanded. This is not a one-time event, but an ongoing way of life.

“Faith and repentance are not just sudden and momentary things. What we call conversion is really just the beginning of the activity of faith and repentance. The only proof of conversion is…the continuance of it, and the fruit that comes from it.” (Williamson 145)

Q. 86 What is faith in Jesus Christ?

A. 86 Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.

The primary aspect of faith is belief. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (Jn. 1:12). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ” (Gal. 2:16). This is the message that we receive, but in receiving this message we are also receiving Christ himself, and resting in him for our salvation.

Q. 87 What is repentance unto life?

A. 87 Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.

Repentance is a 180 degree turn around, being not simply a turning away from sin, but at the same time a turning to God in faith. Repentance is also a gift which God grants to his own (Acts 11:18). Those who heard the gospel in a saving way, were those who were “cut to the heart,” that is their core, and when asked as to what they must do, Peter said that they must repent (Acts 2:37-38). Being “cut to the heart” was one side of the coin, abhorring their past sins and sinful condition, but repentance also involved a turning to God in newness of life (Cf. Ezek. 36:31). Sorrowing in a godly manner involves both a turning from, and a turning to (II Cor. 7:11).

Q. 88 What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption?

A. 88 The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption, are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer, all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.

By directing attention to “outward means,” the catechism does not mean to suggest that there is no outward expression to faith and repentance, as has been shown. Rather, the point to be made here is that faith and repentance are the dispositional means of conversion, but God also provides the instrumental means outside of us for this conversion. One can obviously be the recipient of the so-called “outward means” without the inward gifts of faith and repentance. However, the ordinary outward means of conversion are also necessary, being first and foremost the preaching of the word, but the sacraments and prayer also. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). The disciples also “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42 Cf. Heb. 10:25), and the great commission includes being baptized.

XII. WSC Law And Gospel Q & A 82-90 – Q & A 82-84 The Law Convicts Of Sin.

XII. WSC Law And Gospel Q & A 82-90

Q & A 82-84 The Law Convicts Of Sin.

Q. 82 Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?

A. 82 No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but does daily break them in thought, word and deed.

One of the uses of the law is to convict people of their sinful condition, that they might seek after a remedy (Eccl. 7:20). Our sinful condition goes to the very core of who we are (Gen. 8:21). We all offend in many ways, including in our speech (Js. 3:2, 8).

Q. 83 Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?

A. 83 Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.

He that delivered the Lord up to be crucified had the greater sin (Jn. 19:11). It has always been the case that covetousness was every bit as important as the other nine, and it shows the internal nature of the corruption of sin. However, it is also true that people were never given a law or mandate to punish people based on what they thought, which of course only God, and perhaps the offender, alone would be able to know. Certain sins impact the social fabric of society, and the church corporate, that are clearly more heinous in their scope and impact. Also, we know that murder is on a different level than stealing, for example. Some sins could be addressed with repentance and restitution to injured parties. Furthermore, the biblical record overflows with constant examples of God’s grace, where judgment comes only after great patience on God’s part.

Q. 84 What does every sin deserve?

A. 84 Every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.

All have sinned in Adam, to which we all add our own personal iniquities, so that all deserve the sentence of death, physical and spiritual. The real wonder is grace, that the LORD would redeem any.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism: Q & A 1-44 Introduction And Commentary.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

An Introduction To Confessions And Catechisms.

Confessions catechisms are simply the systematic expression of the faith of the church and her members. Many theological wars have been fought to preserve the true faith. Several things should be kept in mind however, when looking at confessions and catechisms.

  1. Confessions and catechisms are not infallible. Scripture alone is inerrant, inspired by God, and the final arbiter and standard of truth.
  2. Following upon the first point, confessions are often incomplete-this is why more confessions are written. If our forefathers were completely satisfied with the 39 Articles, or for that matter the Nicene or Chalcedon creeds etc., they would not have written the Westminster or Three Forms.
  3. Confessions sometimes require clarity and updating in the light of church history and historical theology. As an example, many in the liberal, neo-orthodox, and neo-evangelical communities who were called upon to subscribe to the Westminster Standards appealed to the Westminster Shorter Catechism Q and A #2, for instance, in support of their idea that the scriptures merely “contained” the word of God, and were not the word of God inerrant-word for word, jot and tittle. Personally, I believe we should simply eliminate the words ‘contained in’ in this case.
  4. Sometimes confessions and catechisms owe their existence along side others simply as a matter of culture and history. In my opinion, there is very little to separate the content of the Westminster Standards from that of the Three Forms, even though they may express the same truths slightly differently or with differing emphasis.
  5. Finally, and this is the most difficult for some to admit, there may be cases where the confessions in fact fall short of the biblical witness, or in fact are in error. The fact is, some later confessions were written to correct those of the former. Certainly, this would be the thought of those who hold to the Baptist Confession of 1689. I happen to disagree with the former, but I do think that the Westminster made some valuable correctives to the 39 Articles, for example-so the principle is the same.

In the end, the confessions and catechisms have a treasured place in the church and should have among all true believers. Disagree if you must, but those who have come before us laboured and risked much to preserve the faith. We need to continue to carry the torch.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism

Division I: The Basis Of Belief, And Man’s Chief End: Q & A 1-3.

Q and A #1. Man’s Chief End.

Q. 1 What is the chief end of man?

A. 1 Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (I Cor. 6:20). Paul brings to the fore in a succinct fashion two important truths here. We are to glorify God because we are “bought at a price.” We are God’s, we are not our own. This acknowledges our need for ransom and the consequent grounds for our chief end. Further, it is not in our spirit only. There is no dualism here. Body and soul, the whole person, is to glorify Him. Note well, we are body and soul-this is an important biblical truth. Not only does it involve the whole person, body and soul, but it involves the whole of life. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor. 10: 31) “Whatever you do,” covers it all! Confining this service to “spiritual” matters is not to understand what is spiritual. In the bible all things are spiritual when done in the power of God’s Spirit. One does not give God more glory in Sunday morning worship than they do in their calling otherwise. All things are to be done to His glory.

Williamson stated it well. “The true view is that when a person seeks to glorify God, he seeks at all times and in all activities alike to do that which is well pleasing in God’s sight. Faithful work, and wholesome recreation, are just as much a part of glorifying God as is worship of God on the Sabbath, or witnessing to an unbeliever.” (‘The Shorter Catechism,’ p. 3) There is also two parts to this Q and A, and sadly many forget or omit the second. See, for example Williamson above. The first part receives a great deal of attention, as well it should. However, there is an important second part-“to enjoy Him forever.” Many passages combine the two-see for example Psalm 21. Enjoying God’s presence should be every bit a mark of the people of God as giving Him glory. In fact, enjoying His presence forever, is one way of giving Him glory! In fact, even the vessels of wrath will give God glory, but they certainly do not and will not enjoy His presence-quite the opposite (cf. Rom. 9:21-23).

The sin of our first parents led them to flee from God’s presence (Gen. 3:8), and the ultimate consequence of Cain’s sin was to depart from God’s presence (Gen. 4:16). But the goal of the covenant of grace is to live in God’s presence. “And He said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” (Ex. 33:14). There can be no doubt that the Westminster divines had such a salvation presence and rest in view. The Psalmist, in reflecting on Messiah’s victory to come, in Psalm 16, understood this well. “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). This is a passage which Peter and the apostles saw as fulfilled in the greater Son of David, the Christ (Acts 2:25-28). “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (I Jn. 1:3) “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence” (Ps. 140:13). He is our portion forever (Ps. 73:26).

Q and A #2. The Canonical Word As Our Rule.

Q. 2 What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him?

A. 2 The word of God,-which is (contained in) the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,-is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.

Note: The English of the catechism has been updated, much like the NKJV, in order to modernize but still retain the force of the original. Also, there are occasions where I have chosen to add what I believe are necessary correctives, for which I will provide an explanation. I have in this Q and A omitted the words “contained in” in the answer, for the reason I explain in the introduction on ‘Confessions’. One can imagine that by “contained in” the authors meant to emphasize what they say further when they add-“the only rule.” The emphasis certainly is that only in the scriptures do we find God’s rule. However, for the reason given in the intro, I think it best to omit the words “contained in.”

At first blush, it may come as a surprise that the catechism does not begin where the Confession begins-namely, with the Holy Scriptures. However, although this comes as our second Q and A here in the Catechism, it nevertheless comes as the logical first order of the divines, for we would have no knowledge of our chief end or that we should in fact have one, apart from holy scripture. “The word of God,-which is the scriptures of the old and New Testaments,-is the only rule.’ Note well, not God’s word contained in the scriptures, but the scriptures themselves are the word of God, and not just the New but both Old and New. Many affirm both but in practice drive a wedge between the two and make the consequent misuse and disuse of both a serious departure from the biblical witness concerning itself.

Paul, in speaking of both, and certainly of the scriptures from which he preached, stated the following. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16-17). Thankfully the Westminster divines did not fall into the trap of confining the purpose of scripture or special revelation, simply to the knowledge of salvation. Just as we are to glorify and enjoy God in body and soul and in all of life, even so do the holy scriptures speak authoritatively to all this. Besides the fact that they never viewed “salvation” in the often narrow terms envisioned in later ages. They had piety, but it was biblical piety, not pietism.

Furthermore, the holy scriptures are “the only rule.” Tradition, whether of Rome, or indeed of their own, had no rule over the only rule-the holy scriptures. By the same token, the idea of a charismatic tradition of a continuing revelation of tongues or prophecy, is also ruled out of court. The historic protestant interpretation that these gifts were revelatory and therefore ceased with the close of the canon, has never had an adequate refutation. (For more upon this, see my future posts on I Corinthians etc). The apostles and prophets built upon the scriptures of the Old Testament. “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). This canon is our only rule. “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” Mt. 4:4 (Dt. 8:3).

Q and A 3. What The Scriptures Principally Teach.

Q. 3 What do the scriptures principally teach?

A. 3 The scriptures principally teach-what man is to believe concerning God-and what duty God requires of man.

This third and final Q and A of the catechism establishes a fundamental biblical principle-orthodoxy cannot be separated from orthopraxis. Two things are required-belief and duty. However, it is also important to note that sincerity in one’s faith is not enough. It matters what one believes, and for this reason God has given us His word. There are right beliefs and there are wrong beliefs, and it is only fidelity to the scriptures as our rule that we are guarded against error. Jesus said, “we know what we worship…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:22-24). There is a principle which stands on its own. “We know what we worship.” “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39 cf. Lk. 24:44-45).

Division I concerns what we are to believe-questions 1-38. Division II concerns what we are to do-questions 39-107. It is equally important that we practice what we believe. “Faith without works is dead” (Js. 2:26, cf 2:14,17). Jesus made the point that a tree is known by the fruit it bears (Mt. 7:28). The scriptures concern more than what we believe, and they concern more in that belief than simply what is needed for the salvation of the soul. Body and soul and all of life is to be lived to God’s glory. It is concerning this duty to which the scriptures also speak. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Eccl. 12:13). From the scriptures we know whom to fear and what is our duty.

The Shorter Catechism-Division II-What We Are To Believe.

I. What God Is: Q & A 4-6.

Q and A 4.

Q. 4 What is God?

A. 4 God is a Spirit,-infinite, eternal, and unchangeable,-in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

I once was at the examination of a candidate for the ministry in the Reformed Presbyterian tradition of the Westminster Standards, but the candidate was from the tradition which used the Three Forms Of Unity. He was asked, “What is God?” I remember the puzzled look on his face and his response. “Don’t you mean, “Who is God?” The fact is, the Westminster divines were every bit as much concerned with Who God is, as much as those who follow the Three Forms are with What God is. They are both valid questions. In the case of Q and A #4, it is important to know what the scriptures want us to know about the One with whom we have to do. We need to know something about the God with whom we are called to have this personal relationship.

As noted in the last Q and A, Jesus said, “we know what we worship…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:22-24). Jesus said this in the context of those who thought that they could have their own understanding of God-sincerity and devotion itself was enough. In the study of religion from the secular perspective, such study is simply a matter or subdivision of anthropology and sociology-an activity of man. It is only as such that it receives any legitimacy. Jesus and the scriptures speak otherwise. “We know what we worship.”

Rev. Roderick Lawson has the following comment in ‘The Shorter Catechism,’ The Knox Press (Free Church Of Scotland). “The first thing we are here told concerning God is, that He has no body as we have. The second thing is, that He is not limited like us by want of power, affected by time, or subject to change. And the third thing is, that in character He is wise, and holy, and just, and good, and true. This is our God-the greatest of all beings, and the best.” P.9 (This particular publication of the Catechism also contains many helpful proof texts. The Banner Of Truth also published the Catechism with many helpful scripture proofs).

There is a fundamental Creator-creature distinction here. As Spirit God is infinite. “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty” (Job 11:7)? God is also eternal. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Ps. 90:2). “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

God is also unchangeable. “The Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Js. 1:17). “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands, they will perish but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old as a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and Your years will have no end” (Ps. 102:25-27). Note well that the writer to the Hebrews also applies this to Christ-1:10-12!

“In His being,”- “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I Am has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14). “Wisdom,”-“To God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Rom. 16:27). “Power,”- “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite” (Ps. 147:5 cf. Rev.4:8).  “Holiness,”-“Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy” (Rev. 15:4, cf. Rev. 4:8).

“Justice, goodness, and truth,”-“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty” (Ex. 34:6-7). “Justice,”-“He is just and having salvation” (Zech. 9:9). “The Holy One and the Just.” (Acts 3:14) “He is faithful and just to forgive.” (I Jn. 1:9) “That He might be just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

“Goodness,”-“Oh, how great is Your goodness.” (Ps. 31:19) “The goodness of God endures continually.” (Ps. 52:1) “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God.” (Rom. 11:22, cf 2:4) “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One” (John 19:17). “Truth,”-“He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Dt. 32:4). “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) “He, the Spirit of truth, has come.” (John 16:13) “The Spirit is truth” (I Jn. 5:6).

Q and A 5.

Q. 5 Are there more Gods than one?

A. 5 There is but One Only, the living and true God.

The tendency of many seems to be to rush through this question or even see it simply as a subdivision of one’s treatment of the trinity. That would be a huge mistake. Short though it is, and vitally related to the doctrine of the trinity, this Q and A establishes some very important truths. There is a simple answer to the question-“are there more gods than one?” The answer is ‘No!” This they answer by way of assumption in the answer. At once we have established at least two things. 1. We are against any kind of polytheism. 2. We reject the notion that there can be multiple expressions of true religion. If our God is the only one, then all other claims are false. “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Dt. 6:4).

Furthermore there are two very significant theological truths also stated here about this one only God-He is living and true. Again, if He is true and the only one, then all other claims of existence or truth are false. And He is living. This one and only God is not a mere figment or fabrication of the mind of man-this God is living. Note well, in Moses’ words above he refers to the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. This is the God who moved in history to redeem a people for His own, and He is also God the Creator and sustainer of all that is, the sovereign Lord of history! “To you it was shown, that you might know, that the LORD Himself is God; there is none other besides Him” (Dt. 4:35). “I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me” (Is. 45:5).

This is also a repudiation of idolatry. “A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine. But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King” (Jer. 10:8-10). Idols are more than dead, they never had life to begin with. Our God is living. Furthermore, as the living God He is the source of life itself. “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.” (Rom. 4: 17) “God who gives life to all things” (I Tim. 6:13). Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). “The Son gives life to whom He wills. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself (John 5: 21, 26). He who has the Son has life” (I Jn. 5:12).

Q and A 6.

 Q. 6 How many persons are in the Godhead?

A. 6 There are three persons in the Godhead,-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

From the very beginning words of the bible we find the plural form of God-Elohim, as the Creator of all things, and yet the Spirit of Elohim hovered over the face of the waters, and it was the Word of Elohim which brought things into being (Genesis 1).“In the beginning God” (v. 1), finds some differentiation when we read that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (v. 2). Just as God could have performed all this work in an instant, we could also read that this was done without the mention of the Spirit. Furthermore we also read, “then God said” (v. 3), when one assumes that creation could have also happened without the word being spoken. However, by this very revelation we understand that it was in fact through His Word that the whole of creation came into existence, a point which John in his gospel account echoes (1:1-3 Cf. Ps. 33:6, 9). As we proceed in the Genesis account we also find a reiteration of what we have already learned about God when He said, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26).

God, His Spirit, and the Word, counseled together to create man in their image. From the very beginning words of scripture, we see that God is One in essence, but three in persons, equally engaged in the work of creation, but taking on their respective roles, nevertheless they together as “Us” and “Our” making humanity, male and female, in their image and likeness. Words like Deuteronomy 6:4; also from Moses, must therefore be understood as speaking to the shared substance of God, with all three persons having equal authority for us. For this reason the disciples did not question the baptismal formula of Jesus when He gave the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19). The apostle John brought these two key points together. “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one” (I Jn. 5:7). At Jesus baptism we read that “the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased’” (Lk. 3:22).

II. The Shorter Catechism-What God Has Decreed: Q & A 7-8.

Q and A 7.

 Q. 7 What are the decrees of God?

A. 7 The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He has fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.

The answer to this question begins first with a reiteration of the purpose of all things-the glory of God. God’s decrees are “His eternal purpose.” That is, He is not bound by time or history, since He created these. Before time and history ever came into being He ‘fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.” There is no room for any other contingencies. He did not decree His eternal purpose by what man might or might not do. Time and history existed before man came into being (Cf. Gen. 1). In fact, the actions of men are included in “whatsoever comes to pass.” His decrees are simply what He has determined to do from all eternity according to His sovereign will. Nothing happens by chance, or by humanity’s direct determination.

This is also foundational to the biblical philosophy of history. Nothing is random. God has a purpose and plan for all that comes to pass (Cf. Is. 11:13; Mt. 10:29). Moreover, with God all points of knowledge and all events are before Him equally. For this reason Paul could say that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). This is all to His glory. “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:11-12).

Q and A 8.

Q8 How does God execute His decrees?

A. 8 God executes His decrees in the works of creation and providence.

God’s decrees are executed in His both creating and sustaining all things. History is both His creation, and the story of His sovereign will and purpose. He decrees everything that comes to be, according to a purpose-His own glory and pleasure. This is but one reason among many why He is worthy of praise. This is the subject of the very songs of heaven itself. “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11). Thus, from all eternity this was and is the case. Even the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar had to acknowledge who was the Lord over all. “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His willin the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done’” (Dan. 4:34b-35)?

III. Creation: Q & A 9-10.

Q and A 9.

 Q. 9 What is the work of creation?

A. 9 The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.

First in order is the declaration that God created from nothing. God did not create from anything which existed apart from His creative activity. There was nothing outside of God that He was subject to when He created all things. He created man from the dust and woman from man, but He also created the dust before He created man, and that from nothing else. Secondly, the catechism affirms the testimony of scripture that creation was a work of the Holy Trinity. “In the beginning God” (v. 1), finds some differentiation when we read that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (v. 2). Just as God could have performed all this work in an instant, we could also read that this was done without the mention of the Spirit. Furthermore we also read, “then God said” (v. 3), when one assumes that creation could have also happened without the word being spoken. However, by this very revelation we understand that it was in fact through His Word that the whole of creation came into existence, a point which John in his gospel account echoes (1:1-3 Cf. Ps. 33:6, 9).

Thirdly, all things were created in the space or span of six days. These were not days of indefinite duration, for they were marked out by day and night (Gen. 1). There is no indication that this day and night are anything different than our own day and night in time. Furthermore, in creating day and night He created time and history. History no more stands over and above God as any other part of His created order. Finally, He looked upon all He had made and declared it to be very good. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Gen. 1:31 Cf. 1:1). One might ask two things here, in these beginning words. Why would God take six days, and why create from nothing that which was without form and covered in darkness? Whatever else may be said this much seems evident-God had more than the end in view. God could have went straight to the finished form without delay. However, like an artist with a blank canvas or sculpturer with a lump of clay, God seems to have enjoyed the process as much as the finished product.

Q and A 10.

 Q. 10 How did God create man?

A. 10 God created man,-male and female,-after His own image,-in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness,-with dominion over the creatures.

There is a lot of truth packed into this short answer. First of all, the catechism affirms that God created both male and female (Gen. 1:27). This was necessary for several reasons. Firstly, like the rest of creation, man was to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  Secondly, Adam needed a helper comparable to him to fulfill the dominion mandate which was also a reason for the first point. Thirdly, it was not good for man to be alone (2:18). The companionship that humans share is reflective of the fellowship of the Trinity and part of our image bearing. The second main point which the catechism affirms is that humanity, male and female, are made in God’s image. As noted, this is the image bearing of the only God who is one in substance but three in persons, for we read that God said, “let Us make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26). The dominion mandate is directly related to and reflective of our uniqueness as the creature who has been created in God’s image. Our understanding of all that is meant by this image, can be seen in the mandate given.

The catechism, to this end, seeks to delineate three things which connect this image to the mandate given. Firstly, there is knowledge. This is absolutely crucial. The catechism, like the scriptures themselves, begin with epistemology-the study of knowledge (Q & A 1-3). Both our ability to know and what we know are equally dependent on our Creator. Our epistemological activity is part of our image bearing. Furthermore, the catechism rightly places this as the first in order of priority. It is part and parcel of the work of redemption to renew this most fundamental aspect of our image. The new man is “renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him  who created him” (Col. 3:10). Secondly, the catechism affirms that man is also a moral agent. Ethics cannot be separated from epistemology, for we were created in “righteousness, and holiness.” This also is what is involved in redemption of the image of God in us, for the new man was “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).

IV. Providence: Q & A 11-12.

 Q and A 11.

Q11 What are God’s works of providence?

A. 11 God’s works of providence are, His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions.

God’s person is inseparable from His actions. There are some things which God cannot do. God can only act consistent with His own character. Q & A 4 seeks to answer the question as to God’s being and character. Here we are simply to understand that God acts in harmony with that character. The first thing we should note is that providence consists of both preserving and governing all that He has made.  Firstly, without His preserving all things they would not continue to exist. All that exists is every bit as much dependent on His preservation, as much as on His creating. All philosophies like Deism, which suggest that God somehow created the whole universe like a clock and then left it to its own internal devices are false. Secondly, He not only preserves all things, but He also governs all things. Nothing is static. All things were created with a place and purpose in His sovereign plan and decree. There is nothing in all creation that escapes our heavenly Father’s preservation and governance (Mt. 6:25-34; 10:29-31).

The second major point which the catechism emphasizes is that God does this preserving and governing based on three things. Firstly, as was noted above, it is inseparable from His holy, that is separate and pure, character (Ps. 145:17). Secondly, His preserving and governing of all things is based on His wisdom. Nothing that happens is generic. Everything happens because God’s wisdom determined it to happen (Is. 28:29). Finally, this preserving and governing is made possible because God is all-powerful. God is one, with nothing in Himself which is hidden from any other attribute of His character. When He exercises His power, which is always, He does so as He who is holy and wise. Furthermore, He alone is the standard of what is holy and wise. Man may devise something in his core or heart, but this does not always find fruition in his actions. This is not the case with God. In fact, man does indeed devise things in his heart, but it is God who ultimately determines his course (Pr. 16:9). “His kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19b).

Q and A 12.

 Q. 12 What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the estate wherein he was created?

A. 12 When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.

 Many have objected to the designation ‘covenant of works’ for a number of reasons. Firstly, the most obvious objection is the fact that the word for ‘covenant’ does not occur does not occur in the Genesis account of creation. In fact, the first occurrence of the word is with Noah (6:18). However, the word ‘Trinity’ nowhere occurs in the scriptures, but no orthodox believer would suggest that the proof is not present for the doctrine. Secondly, the covenant with David, as we find it in II Samuel 7 and I chronicles 17, also does not include the word, but other scriptures do speak of it as being a covenant relationship (Cf. II Sam. 23:5; Ps. 89:3). In the same way, other scriptures, either directly or indirectly, refer to God’s relationship with Adam as a covenantal one (Hos. 6:7). Jeremiah draws a connection somewhat indirectly by referring to the “covenant for the day, and My covenant for the night” (33:20-21, 25-26). This might refer to Noah (8:22), but just a few verses earlier, Jeremiah also refers to sun and moon as light-bearers with another word used for covenant, namely ‘statute’, and this further aspect of light-bearing does not occur with Noah (Cf. I Kgs. 11:11; II Kgs. 17:15; Ps. 50:16; 105:10).

Thirdly, and directly related to the first point, if all the elements of a covenant are present then this is all that is required to make the point. Of chief importance is the second point above-that all the elements of a covenant relationship are indeed present in this relationship between God and Adam. O. Palmer Robertson did a seminal job of demonstrating a truly biblical definition of God’s covenants with humanity, both before and after the fall, as “a bond in blood sovereignly administered” (‘The Christ Of The Covenants’, pp. 3-15). The relationship with Adam was clearly a bond of life and death (2:15-17), and one which was also clearly sovereignly administered. It was not a contractual relationship which they negotiated as equals. God initiated the relationship from the moment man was created as his vice regent, and the promises and conditions were given by Him. The commands given to humanity were to exercise dominion as His stewards, and to that end to be fruitful and multiply (vv. 26-27; 2:5, 15, 18). God blessed this relationship. He also gave the promise that that earth would also be fruitful and multiply to fulfill this covenant (vv. 29-30).

Humanity was also given a specific probationary test, a prohibition to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. To this end Robertson also makes a very important point, that this covenant relationship wasn’t just about the probation test, but it was also a relationship which included the promise of life, which spelled out humanity’s  place in the universe. Whereas the Westminster Confession calls this relationship “a covenant of works” (Ch. VII.), this has the danger of only focusing on the probation test. The catechisms speak of a covenant of life, which does also speak to the positive outcome of this covenant of works, but also to the other aspect of the life present from the beginning of this covenant relationship. Robertson prefers the designation of ‘Covenant of Creation’ (Ibid. pp. 67ff.). However, such a designation might very well serve the opposite problem of not capturing the idea of the probation test as clearly being a matter of works. There is also a danger in the contrast with the subsequent covenants being called various administrations of the covenant of grace, that this first covenant did not stem from grace, something which Dr. Murray pointed out, and Robertson also reiterated (Cf. Murray, ‘The Covenant Of Grace,’ Robertson, pp. 56-57).

The first covenant was also an expression of God’s unmerited favour. God did not need to create the world or humanity, and He didn’t need to establish a relationship. Furthermore the promises which this covenant contains were promises which He in no way was required to give. By the same token, Robertson refers to the subsequent covenants as administrations of the one covenant of redemption, for in these covenants God expressed His grace in redemption of a portion of fallen humanity. Whatever the designation, it is certainly the case that there were these two aspects to this covenant relationship. As Robertson points out, the Larger Catechism, even more so than the Shorter, elaborates on what constituted this covenant of life, namely, dominion, marriage, and the Sabbath (Cf. Robertson, pp. 56-57, 67ff.; WLC. Q & A 20; WSC. Q & A 12). Furthermore, the Westminster Shorter Catechism makes the important point that this covenant of life is a “special act of providence” which God exercised “toward man in the estate wherein he was created” (Q. 12). In other words, this was part of His governance of all His creatures (Q. 11). In making this statement, we declare that God’s providence is inseparable from His covenant.

V. How Man Sinned: Q & A 13-15.

 Q. 13 Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?

A. 13 Our first parents,-being left to the freedom of their own will,-fell from the estate wherein they were created,-by sinning against God.

Q. 14 What is sin?

A. 14 Sin is any wont of conformity unto,-or transgression of,-the law of God.

Q. 15 What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?

A. 15 The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.

In Q & A 13 the catechism highlights three key points. One, our first parents had the freedom of will to choose life or death with the probation test in the garden. Adam and Eve were created in an estate of innocence, knowing no shame (Gen. 2:25). Two, death was the promised penalty for choosing to disobey God, and the tree of life could have equally been chosen (Gen. 3:6 Cf. Gen. 2:9; Eccl. 7:29). Part of this fallen condition is that humanity was no longer in a position to freely choose life (Gen. 3:22-23). Third, the cause of this fall is due completely to the will of humanity to choose death over life, to disobey the clear command of God (Gen. 2:17). Adam and Eve were given a law of prohibition, the penalty for disobeying which was death (Gen. 2:17).

John gave a perfect commentary on what took place by our first parents in the garden. “Sin is lawlessness” (I Jn. 3:4). This is what sin is. It is not simply the transgression of a law, as though somehow it is a failure just to live by one’s own code of conduct. It is the transgression of God the Creator’s law. Furthermore, it is not just the transgression of a law of His, but the failure also to conform to it in its entirety. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (Js. 2:10 Cf. Rom. 7:7-12). Ignorance is also no excuse, because law by its very nature is a revelation from God, so that even those who do not have the law of Moses are nevertheless “a law to themselves” (Rom. 2:14). It is also not simply what one does, but also what one fails to do, as the law requires.

VI. The Consequences Of Man’s sin: Q & A 16-19.

 Q. 16 Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?

A. 16 The covenant made with Adam, not only for himself, but for all his posterity; all mankind,-descending from him by ordinary generation,-sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.

By the phrase “by ordinary generation” the catechism seeks to differentiate Christ from the rest of humanity, since His was no ordinary generation. However, this does not mean that the sinful condition of all humankind is as a result of “ordinary generation”. It is clear God chose to have all humanity represented in Adam by way of a covenant. All humanity fell at the very moment that Adam fell. His decision was our decision. Even though Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, He was still born of her flesh, and she most certainly was a sinner in need of the Savior the same as the rest of us. Furthermore, Paul’s argument for federal headship also finds its counterpart in Christ, and it is certainly the case that one is not born a Christian, but one is a Christian if He is in covenantal union with Christ. “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:18-18). Condemnation and justification are declarative acts via covenantal representation. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22).

Q. 17 Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?

A. 17 The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.

All humanity begins life in a sinful state. We die, and experience all the miseries associated with this dying, because in Adam we all sinned. “Just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

Q. 18 Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?

A. 18 The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it.

The catechism makes four key points here. The first was made in the previous two questions. We fell because in Adam we actually sinned. Secondly, whereas in Adam humanity had an original righteousness, this is no longer the case. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10; Ps. 51:5). In Adam, original righteousness was lost. Thirdly, this sinful state has affected every area (Cf. Eph. 2:1). There is no part of a person that has not been affected, including the human will. Finally, from this sinful nature or estate, we all commit our own individual “actual” sins (Cf. Mt. 15:19-20). “Original sin springs directly from our connexion (sic) with Adam. Actual sin springs directly from our own evil hearts; but then these hearts were made evil first through our connexion (sic) with Adam, so that all sin is really to be traced to the first one” (Lawson, p. 16).

Q. 19 What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?

A. 19 All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under His wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.

The catechism also makes four key points here. Firstly, humanity has lost communion with God (Cf. Gen. 3:8, 24; Is. 59:2). Secondly, we are under His wrath and curse. Wrath speaks to God’s judgment on our sinful condition, and curse to the reality that it is as a result on our covenantal connection to Adam (Cf. Gal. 3:10). Thirdly, through our federal relationship with Adam, we all are “made liable to all the miseries in this life, to death itself.” “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:10a Cf. Ezek. 18:4). Finally, apart from the covenant of grace which is to follow, in this state all men are rightly destined for hell for ever (Cf. Ps. 9:17; Mt. 25:41).

VII. Election, Grace, The Redeemer, And The Incarnation: Q & A 20-23

Q & A 20 Election And The covenant Of Grace.

Q. 20 Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. 20 God having, out of His mere good pleasure,-from all eternity,-elected some to everlasting life,-did enter into a covenant of grace,-to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

This question introduces us to two important truths-election and the covenant of grace. It is important to bear some key points in mind. Firstly, election and the covenant of grace are not synonymous terms. Secondly, and directly related to the first point, there is an external as well as an internal element to the covenant, that which is visible and that which is invisible. Thirdly, all the elect are in both the invisible and visible aspects of the covenant, but those who are only in the outward administration of the covenant are not necessarily elect. All the covenants after the fall were administrations of the one covenant of grace, but not all those who were members in its outward administration were elect. Paul made this point quite succinctly when he wrote that, “there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom. 11:5). “Out of His mere good pleasure,-from all eternity,” God “elected some to everlasting life.”

Election is an expression of grace. Election springs forth from nothing in man, for it took place before any human being ever came into existence-“from all eternity.” As the catechism states it, election flows from God’s “mere good pleasure.” “Just as He hath chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). However, because of the fall, it is an election which is effected through our covenant with Christ. This purpose and grace “was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (II Tim. 1:9). As our fall happened via our covenant representation in Adam, even so our election finds fulfillment through our covenantal union with Christ. It was a condescension on God’s part to create man and then to enter into that first covenant with humanity, but this covenant of redemption is even more a covenant of grace in that it is entered into on behalf of those who were His enemies, whom He, out of His mercy alone, makes His friends.

However, having noted the above distinction, it is nevertheless the case that this election finds expression in this covenant of grace. The fact that some persons partake in the outward benefits of the administrations of the covenant of grace, does not nullify that for the elect these outward elements express a true inward reality. The heart of the covenant of grace is that the LORD would be our God and we His people. This ‘Immanuel principle’, as Robertson calls it, finds its ultimate expression in the new covenant in Christ, but it was always there as the core of the covenant relationship-God with us.  “By his being clothed in human flesh, the Immanuel principle of the covenant achieved its fullest realization” (‘The Christ Of The Covenants’ p. 30 Cf. pp. 45-52). The saints under the old covenant administrations of this one covenant, looked ahead to what we look back to. Christ is the centre of the covenants-both old and new.

The covenant of grace is all about redemption and deliverance. Through this covenant we are delivered from the condemnation deserved under the covenant of works, and transferred to “an estate of salvation” through our Redeemer. It is also true that God did not elect all, only some. There have always been some persons who participate in the outward aspects of the various administrations of the one covenant of grace, but like the rest of humanity they stand under the condemnation of the covenant of works if they do not know the Redeemer. God’s grace finds expression through the Redeemer. By stating that this election finds fulfillment in the covenant of grace to everlasting life, is to say that for the elect this is an everlasting covenant (Jer. 32:40). It is a covenant of peace (Is. 54), “an everlasting covenant” (Is. 55:3; 61:8). “‘With everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ says the LORD, your Redeemer” (Is. 54:8b).

Q & A 21: The Redeemer.

 Q. 21 Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?

A. 21 The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever.

As answer 20 previously noted, the covenant of grace involves salvation through the Redeemer-it required a mediator. As a mediator must mediate between two parties, it was important that the Redeemer be both God and man in one person. “Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one” (Gal. 3:20). “Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” (Heb. 2:14a Cf. Rom. 9:5). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14a). “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all” (I Tim. 2:5-6a Cf. Heb. 7:24). A Redeemer was necessary because there was a ransom that had to be paid for humanity’s violation of the first covenant, which we broke. This clearly was and is a position which only Jesus Christ, “the eternal Son of God,” could fulfill. No one else qualifies as being such a mediator. “Nor is there salvation in any other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These two natures-human and Divine, are not two persons. Both natures are distinct, and this makes up the person of our Redeemer, which personhood He possesses for ever. By this truth we are to also learn that there never is any admixture of the human and Divine, even in the person of the Son. Human and Divine have been brought together only in the unique personage of the eternal son of God. Furthermore, the only way that fellowship can be restored between God and humanity is through this Mediator, who is the Mediator on behalf of the elect only.

Q & A 22 The Incarnation

Q22 How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

A. 22 Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to Himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy spirit, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.

As the last answer affirmed, the Son is from everlasting. Therefore, He took on the human nature-body and soul, through the miracle of the virgin birth. Indirectly this answer also affirms a biblical anthropology-humans are body and soul. Soul is more than just life in the body, as some assume. Our souls are reasonable. Jesus said that His soul was “exceedingly sorrowful, even to death” (Mt. 26:38). He, and we, are also not tripartite, for there is no mention of a separate spirit. Another thing we learn is that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. This was in fulfillment of the prophetic witness (Cf. Is. 6:14; Lk. 1:31-35). However, Jesus still was born of Mary’s flesh (Cf. Gal. 4:4). Therefore, as was seen earlier in regard to the fall and human depravity, this condition did not pass to all humanity through being born flesh and blood, but via our covenantal representation in Adam, for Jesus was without sin (Cf. II Cor. 5:21).

IX. Christ As Prophet, Priest, And KingQ & A 23-28.

Q. 23 What offices does Christ execute as our Redeemer?

A. 23 Christ, as our Redeemer, executes the offices of a Prophet, of a Priest, and of a King, both in His estate of humiliation and exaltation.

Up to this point we learned that God willed to save some from a just condemnation, through a mediator, a Redeemer. We further learned that this Redeemer is none other than the second person of the Trinity incarnate-two natures but one person, both body and soul, born of the virgin Mary, and yet without sin. We now are to learn how the Redeemer of God’s elect effected this redemption. Throughout the old testament we read of three offices which served a mediatorial function between God and the people-prophets, priests, and kings. We also know that no man ever occupied all three of these offices in their one person, except the Son-this would be a sure sign of the Messiah’s authenticity, that He would occupy all three in His one person. His is a kingly reign which flows first from the prophetic word, and also through a priestly ministry.

Lawson writes, “by discharging the duties of a prophet, a priest, and a king,” He delivers us “from our threefold misery of ignorance, guilt, and bondage” (p. 20). He not only performed the duties of these offices while on earth, but He continues to perform these duties in heaven. Moses predicted the coming of this Prophet (Dt. 18:15, 18-19; Acts 3:22). The prophet, King David, predicted His priesthood (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6; 6:20; 7:17, 21). David also predicted Messiah’s kingship (Ps. 2:6). It is also not coincidental that just prior to Jesus public earthly ministry, that the Devil would tempt Jesus with regard to all three of these offices. First he tested Him in regard to the prophetic word (Mt. 4:1-4), then the priestly ministry (vv. 5-7), then His kingly rule (vv. 8-11). It is important to note, as when Satan tempted Eve in the garden, he first challenges God’s word.

We should also learn that even as the prophetic office took precedence for our Lord, even so this must be our first axiom of all thought and existence. This is yet another reason why they began the catechism with the introductory axiom of the word. We can readily see therefore, that the Westminster divines did not come up with their questions in some arbitrary fashion. These questions and answers focus directly on the truths of scripture as they have been revealed to us. In fact, the addition in this answer, along with the threefold office of our Mediator, of His estates of humiliation and exaltation, come together wonderfully in the first two chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews. The Son as Prophet (Heb. 1:1-3a), Priest (v. 3b), and King (vv. 3c-4), was anointed to these offices which He exercised in both His estates of exaltation and humiliation (1:5-2:18).

Q. 24 How does Christ execute the office of a prophet?

A. 24 Christ executes the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by His word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

The catechism acknowledges that there are two things we need if we are to know “the will of God for our salvation.” The first is we need the word. There is no true knowledge apart from God’s revelation, and this revelation has been perfected or made complete, in Christ (Cf. Heb. 1:1-4; Jn. 1:18; 20:21). The second thing we need, and which all true believers possess, is the work of the Holy Spirit to make the word effectual for us. The Roman church-state continues to teach that we need a papal mediator to understand the word, but the word itself teaches us that if we have the Spirit, that He will guide us into all truth (Cf. Jn. 14:26; 16:13).

Q. 25 How does Christ execute the office of a priest?

A. 25 Christ executes the office of a priest, in His once offering up Himself a sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice, and reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.

Christ only had to offer Himself up once (Heb. 9:28). Again, this is a direct repudiation of the Roman doctrine of the mass, whereby Christ is said to be offered up continually. We are further taught as to why He thus offered up Himself, that He might satisfy Divine justice. God set forth Christ as a propitiation (Cf. Rom. 3:25), that is, a sacrifice to satisfy His just wrath and condemnation of sin. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17* Cf. I Jn. 2:2). He did this even while we had no love for Him (Cf. I Jn. 4:10; Rom. 5:10).

The satisfaction of divine wrath was also necessary to achieve the second goal of His sacrifice, that we should be thus reconciled to God through Him. God’s wrath must first be satisfied before we could draw near to him. Peace had to be established first. “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of the cross” (Col. 1:20). This is akin to the enmity which has been removed between Jew and Gentile by Christ, that reconciliation would also take place within the body of His church (Cf. Eph. 2:14-16).

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14). Having provided the satisfaction for Divine wrath, and reconciling us to God, Jesus remains in a position of making continual intercession for His people. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). To this end, He also opens up the way for us to come to the throne of grace to make intercession in our time of need (Cf. Heb. 4:15-16). It is good to remember that Jesus continually makes intercession for us.

* One should note the mistranslation of the KJV on Hebrews 2:17, where it uses ‘reconciliation’. It is the same Greek word which it translates as ‘propitiation’ in the other places where it occurs (Rom. 3:25; I Jn. 2:2; 4:10). Reconciliation and propitiation are not synonymous terms-the latter is necessary for the former to occur.

Q. 26 How does Christ execute the office of a king?

A. 26 Christ executes the office of a king, in subduing us to Himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all His and our enemies.

The catechism notes three things which fall under the office of Christ as King. First in order is that we as His enemies are subdued to Himself. This is in fulfillment of prophetic promise (Cf. Ps. 110:3). He also rules us. Our part is to bring every thought captive to Christ (II Cor. 10:5). His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mt. 11:29). Finally, He defends us and defeats our enemies. “For the LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King; He will save us” (Is. 33:22 Cf. II Tim. 4:18). “For He must reign, till He has put all enemies under His feet” (I Cor. 15:25).

X. Q & A 27-28: Christ’s Humiliation And Exaltation.

Q. 27 Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?

A. 27 Christ’s humiliation consisted in 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.

It was a form of humiliation for the Son, the second person of the Trinity, to be born a man. Added to this was the lowly condition of His birth and life (Lk. 2:7), and being made under the law (Gal. 4:4). Williamson put it this way: “Even though our Lord Jesus Christ as God was the giver of the law, or, in other words, the one who stood above that law which He had given, yet when He became man He Himself was subject to that law. When He became man it was His duty to keep the commandments of God perfectly” (p. 106). This was followed by the miseries associated with being despised and rejected (Is. 53:3).

Ultimately, He took upon Himself this human nature, that He might act as the only Redeemer and Mediator for the elect, enduring in the process God’s just wrath for sin (Mt. 27:46). He suffered covenantal cursing for our breaking of the first covenant in Adam, through the accursed death of the cross (Dt. 21:23; Gal. 3:13; Phil. 2:6-8). This He suffered even though He Himself kept the law perfectly (Heb. 4:15). In fact, it was His perfect keeping of the law that qualified Him to be our substitute (II Cor. 5:21). Finally, He was buried and continued “under the power of death for a time” (Mt. 12:40). We must remember that He did all this voluntarily (Ps. 40:7).

 Q. 27 Wherein consists Christ’s exaltation?

A. 27 Christ’s exaltation consists in His rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and coming to judge the world at the last day.

Christ’s exaltation is fourfold-resurrection, ascension, session, and second coming. His resurrection, and all that follows, was as Paul indicated “according to the scriptures” (I Cor. 15:4 Cf. Pss. 16:9-11; 68:18; 110:1; Mt. 28:6). His resurrection was proof of His victory over death and acceptance by the Father of His work of redemption. His disciples witnessed His ascension up through the Glory-cloud (Acts 1:9), to sit at the Father’s right hand, to reign until the last enemy, death, was finally brought to His feet (Mk. 16:19; I Cor. 15:25-26). On that day He will come a second time in judgment. His resurrection was the assurance of the end in view (Acts 17:31 Cf. Mt. 25:31-32). However, prior to the second coming He continues His work, reigning from heaven as the Prophet-Priest-King. It is with this resurrection authority that He gave the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). We therefore pray and labour that His kingdom would come, and His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10; Lk. 11:2).

XI. The Spirit’s Work In Salvation: Q & A 29-31

Q.  29 How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. 29 We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by His Holy Spirit.

Here we learn that the redemption which Christ purchased for us is effectually applied by His Holy Spirit. That is, one of the activities of the Holy Spirit is to effectually apply our redemption. Only those thus led by the Spirit are true sons of God (Jn. 1:12-13; Rom. 8:14). It is important to note that this work of the Spirit only occurred in its fullness when Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in the reign of His Messianic kingdom. The coming and activity of the Spirit in this fashion, was a sign of Christ’s heavenly reign, and it also speaks to the nature and power of that reign. Furthermore, the Spirit accomplishes this work through guiding us into all truth (Jn. 16:13). It is a work which is inseparable from the word Cf. I Pet. 1:22-23).

This inseparable activity of the Spirit and the word stems from Christ’s office as Prophet, as was seen in Q & A 24. Through regeneration and renewal this work is made effectual (Titus 3:5). We should also note that with this question and answer, we are reminded that just as the work of the original creation involved all three persons of the Trinity (Gen. 1-2), even so the work of redemption, the new creation, involves all three persons. “We must understand that the doctrine of the Trinity is basic to an understanding of the doctrine of salvation. God the Father has given His Son to be the redeemer of His elect. Christ the Son has purchased redemption by His active and passive obedience. The Holy Spirit applies redemption in the experience of the elect” (G. I. Williamson, ‘The Shorter Catechism’ p. 115).

Q. 30 How does the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

A. 30 The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased in Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

Q. 31 What is effectual calling?

A. 31 Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby,-convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills,-He doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.

It is no coincidence that the catechism places regeneration as the first in order of priority in the ordo salutis or order of salvation. Fallen humanity can do absolutely nothing with regard to being saved unless the Spirit first works in us the new birth (I Cor. 2:14). “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12:3b). We must be born again to enter the kingdom (Jn. 3:4-7; Eph. 2:5-6, 10). Our stony hearts must be replaced with hearts of flesh (Ez. 11:19; 36:26). Faith must be worked in us, for as Paul made clear, it is by grace we “have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 Cf. 3:17). Faith is a gift, it is not work. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (Jn. 6:63).

It is because of this necessity of regeneration that our calling is called “effectual” (Cf. I Th. 2:13). A general call, freely offered, goes out to all, but it is effectual only for those who are regenerated by the Spirit (I Cor. 1:9). It is thus a “holy calling” (II Tim. 1:8-9). Necessary to this calling is , first of all, a conscious awareness and convincing of our sinful condition (Acts 2:37). Secondly, our minds must also be enlightened “in the knowledge of Christ” (Cf. Acts 26:18; Eph. 1:17). Thirdly, our wills are not exempt from our dead sinful condition. Our wills must be renewed (Jn. 6:44-45). Only then are we able to “embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered us in the gospel” (Cf. Rom. 10:13). All of this may be summarized in the two acts of repentance and faith.

XII. The Benefits Of Salvation In This Life: Q & A 32-36.

Q. 32 What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?

A. 32 They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them.

Q. 33 What is justification?

A. 33 Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Through the regeneration that is involved in being “effectually” called, one is brought into union with the Mediator, the Redeemer of God’s elect, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Spirit who works faith in us. Faith is every bit as much a gift from God as all other aspects of our salvation (Cf. Eph. 2:8-9). It is now taught that there are further benefits which flow to those who are effectually called, and that these are experienced in the here and now of this present life. These forever are established in the heavenly courtroom, but we also experience them now. Q & A 33 also reminds us that there are many other benefits that flow to us, but these either accompany or flow from these three (Cf. Rom. 8:30; I Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:5-7).

The first of these to consider is justification. It “is an act of God’s free grace” (Cf. Rom. 3:23-24). “Justification means pronouncing a person righteous; it is the opposite of condemnation. It is said to be an act because it is done at once, and an act of God’s free grace, because we can do nothing of ourselves to deserve it. It consists of two parts-pardon and acceptance; and we are taught also that the cause of it is not our own goodness, but Christ’s and that Christ’s righteousness becomes ours through faith” (Lawson, p. 26). Justification is based on nothing more nor less than the free grace of God. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Ga. 2:14).

Justification is a declarative act on God’s part, whereby He regards us as righteous because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us via covenantal federal representation, and our sin, which would have justified a declaration of condemnation, is imputed to Christ (Rom. 5:19; II Cor. 5:21). Imputation is something which flows from the covenant relation. The guilt and condemnation of Adam’s sin was imputed to us. “However, in the case of Jesus Christ and His elect people, there is a double imputation. (1) There is, first, the imputation of our guilt and condemnation to the Lord Jesus Christ. (2) Then there is, secondly, the imputation of His righteousness to us (II Cor. 5:21)” (Williamson, p. 132).

Q. 34 What is adoption?

A. 34 Adoption is an act of God’s free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.

Due to our sinful condition, because of our covenant relation with Adam, no one is born a child of God. God is indeed the creator of all humanity, but only by adoption is one made a child, and no longer a stranger to God’s family. Like justification, this is also an act of God’s free grace-no one can earn it, and it is a declarative act. From this position there flows all that which we thus inherit in our union with Christ, our elder brother (Jn. 1:12; Rom. 8:17; I Jn. 3:1). However, even though adoption is a declarative act, it is also something we are made conscious of. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16 Cf. Gal. 4:6). This is what the elect have been predestined to (Eph. 1:5). Adoption is also permanent (Jn. 10:29).

“Even now we are completely delivered from the bondage to fear, because we are accepted in Christ (Rom. 8:15). We are led by the Holy Spirit in pathways of truth and righteousness (8:14). We are enabled to come boldly to the throne of grace in prayer (Heb. 4:16) to find help in the time of need. We have God’s unfailing care in all that befalls us (Ps. 103:13; 125; Rom. 8:29-35). And even though we are subject to His corrective discipline, it is only in love that the Father chastens us (Heb. 12:6-11). And best of all, our Father promises that He will never leave or forsake us (Lam. 3:31-32), because He has sealed us unto the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit of Christ (Eph. 4:30). So it is not possible that those who have been adopted shall fail of the grace of God (I Pet. 1:3-4).” (Williamson, ‘The Shorter Catechism’ p. 138)

Q. 35 What is sanctification?

A. 35 Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die to sin, and live unto righteousness.

There are two aspects to sanctification which must be noted. First of all, there is that aspect of sanctification which is past tense. This is called ‘definitive’ sanctification. John Murray stated this clearly. “We properly think of calling, regeneration, justification, and adoption as acts of God effected once for all and not requiring or admitting of repetition. It is of their nature to be definitive. But a considerable part of New Testament teaching places sanctification in this category. When Paul, for example, addresses the believers at Corinth as the church of God “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (I Cor. 1:2) and later in the same epistle reminds them that they were washed, sanctified, and justified (I Cor. 6:11), it is apparent that he coordinated their sanctification with effectual calling, with their identity as saints, with regeneration, and with justification. Again, when in II Timothy 2:21 we read, “If a man purge himself from these, he will be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, meet for the master’s use, prepared unto every good work,” there need be no question but the term “sanctified” is used in the same sense.” (‘Definitive Sanctification’ Calvin theological Journal, 1967)

The second, more commonly understood aspect of sanctification is ongoing, or what may be called ‘progressive’ sanctification. It is often stated that progressive sanctification flows from justification, when in fact progressive sanctification flows from definitive sanctification. In Hebrews 10 we see the intersection of the death of Christ, the law, and both definitive and progressive sanctification. Previously there were sacrifices made for sin, for failure to keep God’s will. When Christ came, because He kept God’s will perfectly, he brought the sacrificial system to an end, because in His once and for all sacrifice for sin He makes it possible for the people of God to do God’s will. In Christ we have been sanctified (v. 10), and are being sanctified (v. 14). It is this being set apart in Christ, once for all, which is the basis for the gradual conformity into His image (Rom. 6:4-6; Eph. 4:23-24; Phil. 3:13; II Th. 2:13). “The path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day” (Pr. 4:18).

Q. 36 What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

A. 36 The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

Firstly, there is assurance of our salvation. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16 Cf. Gal. 4:6). “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us” (I Jn. 4:16 Cf. I Jn. 5:13). Secondly, we receive “peace of conscience.” “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Thirdly, there is “joy in the Holy Spirit.” “I am exceedingly joyful” (II Cor. 7:4 Cf. Ps. 35:9; Is. 56:7). This is through the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13). Fourthly, there is “an increase of grace.” “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (Jn. 1:16). “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Pet. 3:18). Finally, we receive the benefit of “perseverance therein to the end.” “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6 Cf. Pr. 4:18; II Pet. 1:10).

XIII. The Benefits Of Salvation After This Life: Q & A 37-38.

Q. 37 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?

A. 37 The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.

The Q & A assumes what has come before-human beings are body and soul. Here we learn that at death the soul and the body are temporarily separated. Obviously this is not our normal condition, but at death there are things which take place with respect to both. Firstly, our souls are perfected in holiness. The progressive sanctification of the previous Q & A finally meets the definitive. The writer to the Hebrews wrote about those who had already died as being part of the church in heaven, “the spirits of just men made perfect” (12:23). Secondly, at death our souls “do immediately pass into glory.” Jesus said to the thief on the cross that that day he would be with Him in paradise (Lk. 23:43). It was also Paul’s desire to depart and be with Christ (Phil. 1:23).

Finally, our bodies are not discarded. Even in the grave our bodies remain united with Christ, awaiting the resurrection. Paul indicated that those whose bodies rested in their graves were asleep in Jesus-sleep here being a synonym for death (I Th. 4:14). Secondly, as Paul also indicated above, our bodies are at rest until the resurrection (Cf. Is. 57:2). Finally, our bodies will one day be resurrected anew, along with the unregenerate (Jn. 5:28-29). This Paul also alludes to above. It was also something which the saints of the Old Testament also hoped for (Job 19:26). Paul did not ultimately hope for this intermediate state, even if being absent from the body meant being present with the Lord (I Cor. 5:1-8). The resurrection of the body is something which flows from our adoption (Rom. 8:23).

Q. 38 What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

A. 38 At the resurrection, believers being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

The catechism highlights three benefits which we receive in the resurrection. Firstly, our bodies will be raised in glory (I Cor. 15:43). There is no room in the Christian faith for a depreciation of the body. We, along with the Lord, will forever exist with body and soul. Secondly, He will openly acknowledge and acquit us on the day of judgment. This will be part of our inheritance (Mt. 25:34 Cf. Mt. 10:32). Finally, we will be “made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.” This brings the first part of the catechism back full circle to the beginning. It is our chief end to both glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever (Cf. Ps. 16:11; I Th. 4:17). “We shall be like Him,” and in this way we shall be made perfectly blessed” (I Jn. 3:2).

The Shorter Catechism-Division III-What We Are To Do.

I. The Moral Law: Q & A 39-44

Q. 39 What is the duty which God requires of man?

A. 39 The duty which God requires of man is obedience to His revealed will.

This section, and this question in particular, takes us back to the start of the Catechism, where we are to understand that the first axiom of all thought and existence is the word of God. What we do is based upon and is made possible, only because of what God has done for us. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Eccl. 12:13 Cf. Mic. 6:8).

Q. 40 What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?

A. 40 The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.

Q. 41 Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?

A. 41 The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.

Q. 42 What is the sum of the ten commandments?

A. 42 The sum of the ten commandments is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves.

Q. 43 What is the preface to the ten commandments?

A. 43 The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

Q. 44 What does the preface to the ten commandments teach us?

A. 44 The preface to the ten commandments teaches us, that God is the LORD, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all His commandments.

This moral law is a law which is revealed to all humanity (Rom. 2:14-15). However, it finds its fullest and clearest expression in the ten commandments (Dt. 10:4 Cf. Mt. 19:17). Jesus reiterated the Old Testament emphasis first on God then on one’s neighbour, summarizing not only the ten commandments, but the whole of the scriptures as “the law and the prophets” (Mt. 22:37-40). This is also what it means to love (Rom. 13:10). The preface to the ten commandments shows us that this duty is in response to the redemption which God has procured for us (Ex. 20:2). As God’s people, we have been delivered from the bondage of sin to walk in newness of life, and the law and the prophets are our standard toward both God and our fellow humanity. The preface also teaches us that God is due this duty because He is the only sovereign covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, our redeemer (Cf. Dt. 24:18; II Cor. 5:15).

XI. The Tenth Commandment: Q & A 79-81

XI. The Tenth Commandment: Q & A 79-81

Q. 79 Which is the tenth commandment?

A. 79 The tenth commandment is, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, or his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Ex. 20:17. Moses put a slight difference on this command in Deuteronomy, placing the wife first then the desiring of a neighbour’s house, or his field – Dt. 5:21.

Q. 80 What is required in the tenth commandment?

A. 80 The tenth commandment requires full contentment with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour, and all that is his.

Biblically speaking, not only does the husband own his wife, but the wife also owns her husband (I Cor. 7:4 Cf. Heb. 13:4). The language here is simply the same as elsewhere, in that the masculine is understood to refer to both sexes. The scope of this commandment is everything which belongs to one’s neighbour. There is no part of personal or business life that is exempt. Positively speaking, this command involves seeking our neighbours good, ensuring that all that is his remains his, that we seek their good (I Cor. 10:24). Rejoicing with those who rejoice, even as we weep with those who weep a loss (Rom. 12:15).

Q. 81 What is forbidden in the tenth commandment?

A. 81 The tenth commandment forbids all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.

This commandment also includes one’s speech concerning one’s neighbour. It is a prohibition against murmuring (I Cor. 10:10). We must lay aside all envy and evil speaking (I Pet. 2:1; Js. 3:16). It includes all of our thoughts and our conduct. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5). The opposite of covetousness is contentment in the providence of God, in God himself.

X. The Ninth Commandment: Q & A 76-78

X. The Ninth Commandment: Q & A 76-78

 Q. 76 Which is the ninth commandment?

A. 76 The ninth commandment is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”

Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20.

Q. 77 What is required in the ninth commandment?

A. 77 The ninth commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.

It is important to understand that this is not a commandment against lying. Sometimes, in order to in fact bear true witness, one must lie. This was the case with Rahab, where if she had not lied concerning the spies, they would surely have been pursued and murdered. One might also look at this instance, and others like them, as the deception that is the normal part of war, and by the LORD’s command, they were at war with the inhabitants of his land.

However, the main import is that we are to otherwise be truthful to others, of which the prophets and apostles also affirm (Zech. 8:16; I Pet. 3:16). More specifically this has reference to the two or three witness required for a capital charge, for which one must not lie (Dt. 17:6; 19:15; Pr. 14:5; Mt. 5:33-37).

A. 78 What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?

A. 78 The ninth commandment forbids whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbour’s good name.

This commandment also means that one must not be a tale bearer (Lev. 19:16; Ps. 15:3). Also, we should not let our silence be interpreted as consent, when we have an obligation to speak the truth (Lev. 5:1). This command also means we should not accept an evil witness against the LORD, or someone misrepresenting another person, that is bearing witness without proof (Cf. Job 27:5; Ps. 15:3; Rom. 3:13; III Jn. 12; I Tim. 5:19). Some cannot but help lie, it is such a part of their very nature, including Satan, the father of this (Jn. 8:44). Flattery is also a form of lying, because it is not sincere, but compliments spoken for ulterior motives (Ps. 12:3).

IX. The Eighth Commandment: Q & A 73-75

IX. The Eighth Commandment: Q & A 73-75

Q. 73 Which is the eighth commandment?

A. The eighth commandment is, “You shall not steal.”

Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19.

Q. 74 What is required in the eighth commandment?

A. 74 The eighth commandment requires the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

At Leviticus 19:11a, this command is also repeated, and there it is made clear that, among other things, the command prohibits one from dealing falsely with one’s neighbour. As with the breaking of any command, it inevitably leads to the breaking of others. Specifically, it is impossible to steal from someone without dealing falsely with them or lying about it (v. 11bc). Furthermore, one is also guilty of stealing when a worker’s wages are held back from them (v. 13). The flip side, as it were, of this commandment is that everyone should be lawfully employed in work to sustain themselves and those who depend on them, and to ensuring this freedom to one’s fellow citizens (Lev. 25:35; Pr. 27:23, 27; Rom. 12:17; Phil. 2:4; I Tim. 5:8).

Q. 75. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?

A. 75 The eighth commandment forbids whatsoever does or may justly hinder our own or our neighbour’s wealth or outward estate.

We must not excuse the state in this regard. The state is also forbidden from withholding wages from every citizen who must work for the state through taxation. To tax beyond what the Scriptures allow, indeed to seek beyond the tithe apportioned to the church, is also the breaking of this commandment. The fact that the state might be democratically elected no more gives them the right to confiscatory taxation, then it does to condone the murder of the innocent, or the violation of any of the law, for all states are called to be God’s servants to govern according to his word (Rom. 13). True repentance with regard to this commandment is to stop stealing, working that which is good, not only to provide for one’s self, but also for the needs of others. Paul even stated that if one refuses to work, they should not eat (II Th. 3:10).

When the state repents, it will leave more for the worker to care for himself and others, in areas where the state has no mandate. Laziness is also a form of stealing (Pr. 18:9). Ultimately the Lord owns everything, and gives people the resources to fulfill the original covenant mandate at creation (Gen. 1:26-29; Ps. 89:11), including as nations (Acts 17:26). Therefore, to not be productive in some manner in this dominion mandate, is to rob from God his due (Pr. 6:6-8; Mt. 25:19-46). One further point needs to be made with respect to this commandment, since stealing is prohibited it is clear that there is a right to personal property. Again, for the state to claim the right of ownership to all things, is to stake a claim that belongs to God alone, and it is theft of both God and man. Giving must be done in a free and altruistic way (Acts 2:44-45; 5:1-11, esp. v. 4).

“The Bible says there are two legitimate ways in which we may obtain property. (1) One is by inheritance (see Num. 36:7-9; 2 Cor. 12:14; Eph. 4:28; Phil. 4:18). We all receive our first possessions in this way. Our parents or guardians give us whatever property we possess. (2) The other way is by our own labor. “Let him that stole steal no more,” says Paul, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:18). Wealth obtained in either of these two ways is not evil. People often say that money is the root of all evil. But the Bible says it is the love of money which is the root of all evil.” (Williamson ‘The WSC For Study Classes’ [261]). Finally, when we work as unto the LORD, from him we will receive our ultimate reward (Eph. 6:5-9).