VIII. The Seventh Commandment: Q & A 70-72

VIII. The Seventh Commandment: Q & A 70-72

 Q. 70 Which is the seventh commandment?

A. 70 The seventh commandment is, “You shall not commit adultery.”

Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18.

Q. 71 What is required in the seventh commandment?

A. 71 The seventh commandment requires the preservation of our own, and our neighbour’s chastity, in heart, speech, and behavior.

Sometimes the preservation of our own chastity involves actual fleeing, as with Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:12). Some things are also more prone to youth, as Paul instructed Timothy (II Tim. 2:22). It is by God’s grace that the saints are able to think and walk in a way pleasing in his sight (II Pet. 1:4). God grants unto some the gift of continency, enabling them to live without having sexual relations. However, for most the path in life is one of marriage, for the Christian, within the covenant (I Cor. 7:7-9, 39). Following the Lord’s will in his word is the only way of blessing (I Pet. 1:5-11).

Q. 72 What is forbidden in the seventh commandment?

A. 72 The seventh commandment forbids all unchaste thoughts, words, and actions.

Chaste conversation coupled with fear (I Pet. 3:2; Eph. 5:3-4), fear of even looking upon a woman with lust in one’s heart (Mt. 5:28), are violations of this law. According to the law, those guilty of fornication were required to get married (Deut. 22:28-29). Adultery was far more severe, requiring the death of both parties (Dt. 22:22), as with those guilty of bestiality (Ex. 22:19). Worst of all is the sin of homosexuality – an abomination (Lev. 18:22). The law also prohibited marrying a close relative (Lev. 18 and 20; Mt. 14:4; Mk. 6:18; I Cor. 5:1).

VII. The Sixth Commandment: Q & A 67-69

VII. The Sixth Commandment: Q & A 67-69

 Q. 67 Which is the sixth commandment?

A. 67 The sixth commandment is, “You shall not murder.”

Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17 do not differ here.

Q. 68 What is required in the sixth commandment?

A. The sixth commandment requires all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others.

The catechism routinely looks at both sides of the commandments – what is forbidden, and what is required. The prohibition is clear – murder is forbidden. Note, this is murder and not killing. Many are opposed to capital punishment because they argue that they support life, and why they may also be against abortion. However, the punishment for premediated murder was captital, not because of some humanistic life principle, but because it is the only just punishment for taking the life of another image bearer of God (Gen. 9:6). Therefore, the ultimate goal is, as the catechism states it, the preservation of life. Having taken the life of another, the guilty are also prevented from doing so again, and a message is sent to all that the life of God’s image bearers must be preserved.

Q. 69 What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?

A. 69 The sixth commandment forbids the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tends thereunto.

This command also states that we are to preserve our own lives for the same reason, so suicide is also forbidden, but not in sacrificing one’s life in the defence of another (Acts 16:28). One will be judged for turning a blind eye to the murder of the innocent (Pr. 24:11-12). The example of Cain is a clear instance of where we also are to understand that there can be no place for vigilante justice, for even the actions of the kinsmen redeemer was governed by law (Gen. 4:15; Num. 35:9-34). Paul reiterated this point when he stated that the state, as God’s servant, is given the sword to enforce his law (Rom. 13:1-7). Not to punish murderers would be the breaking of this command by the state, and a failure to protect the innocent. The law was also clear that one could not be judged guilty on the basis of one witness only (Dt. 17:6; 19:15).

We do well to also remember that the LORD has given us an inerrant commentary on how this command is to be applied, which holds for all the commandments. Williamson makes this point with the following. “This can be clearly seen from the fact that when God gave Moses these ten commandments, He also gave him an inspired interpretation of these ten commandments in the books of the law (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). In this divinely inspired interpretation we clearly see that there are times when it may be necessary to kill a human being in order to keep this commandment.” (‘The Westminster Shorter Catechism For Study Classes’ (248).

This law also prohibits one being engaged in activities which would endanger oneself or others, simply for sport – like fighting, such as the MMA,  including bull fighting. It is also true that when we communicate and bear witness to the gospel we are also helping to preserve life (Js. 5:20).

VI. The Fifth Commandment: Q & A 63-66

VI. The Fifth Commandment: Q & A 63-66

 Q. 63 Which is the fifth commandment?

A. 63 The fifth commandment is, “Honour your father and your mother, that your days   may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” (Ex. 20:12)

Moses repeated this at Deuteronomy 5:16, but he also included a reminder that this is what their covenant LORD had commanded them already – “as the LORD your God has commanded you.”

Q. 64 What is required in the fifth commandment?

A. 64 The fifth commandment requires the preserving the honour, and performing the duties, belonging to everyone in their several places and relations, as superiors, inferiors, or equals.

It is important to bear in mind that this command has reference to all positions of authority in society, but it is with reference to persons in their “places and relations.” This includes parents of course (Eph. 6:1-2), wives and husbands (Eph. 5:22), and political leaders (Rom. 13:1-7). There are times when we must honour the position that one occupies, even though we may have no respect for their person because of their character, words, or other deeds.

Q. 65 What is forbidden in the fifth commandment?

A. The fifth commandment forbids the neglecting of, or doing anything against, the honour and duty which belongs to everyone in their several places and relations.

As Christians, we are to honour all people, especially those in the faith. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. Bless those who curse you; bless and do not curse. Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Rom. 12:10, 14, 19 Cf. Js. 3:9-10).

We also know from other parts of scripture, that this is not a blind and blanket submission no matter what the behavior of others, or what may be asked of us. This commandment cannot be construed in such a way as to condone evil, nor to prevent us from doing what the LORD commands of us elsewhere. No one can say that they were simply obeying those in authority over them, when they knew that their leaders were guilty of breaking the very law one might appeal to, or asking them to do the same. No one is above the law, and no excuse will absolve one from condoning and supporting those who do.

It is a belief more common in the American scene, that civil and ecclesiastical government only came because of the fall, on other words, they are necessary evils. However, there is no biblical proof for this teaching. From the very beginning, before the fall, Adam was the head of Eve, and man as man was given authority over all creation. Sin has altered these positions, but there is no indication that this principle of headship would not have continued without the fall.

This position, of sin making these other institutions and positions necessary, is taken by G. I. Williamson (‘The Westminster Shorter Catechism For Study Classes’ pp. 242-3). However, he also raises a number of issues where, because of sin, each institution steps out of their sphere of authority, such as state control of education, when the bible gives this responsibility to parents (p. 243 Cf. Dt. 6:6-15; Eph. 6:4). However, he then suggests that the church oversteps its authority when it makes “pronouncements on political matters.” This is completely contrary to scripture, where the church is judged for not speaking truth to power! Williamson writes this even though he then quotes Acts 5:29 which states: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” It is not up to us to be selective about this principle.

Williamson writes more biblically consistent when he states the following. “When any person with authority (such as parent, minister, governor, etc) transgresses the limits placed upon his authority – and intrudes upon the proper authority of another – then the Christian may resist, and ought to resist. All divinely conferred authority is limited, in other words, and it is our duty to respect and obey it only so long as it operates within the sphere appointed by God.” (p. 244).

This may be viewed as the passive side of resistance, but the Christian is also obligated to actively oppose all authority which violates God’s law unto them. We ought to be opposed not only to our own sinning against God, but also those in authority, especially since their decisions will have an impact on those they lead. We are called to participate as citizens, and one reason why Jesus commanded us to pay our taxes (Mt. 22:21; Mk. 12;17; Lk. 20:25).

Q. 66 What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment?

A. 66 The reason annexed to the fifth commandment, is a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.

Paul makes the point that this is the first commandment with a promise (Eph. 6:2). This obviously also means that there are other commands with promises attached as well. This also highlights the covenantal context of the law – for the promises are contained in covenants (Eph. 2:12). Here we can agree with Williamson in the following. “We…understand this commandment to mean that preservation of God’s covenant people as a continuing community will depend upon their fidelity to this command. In other words, when we (as God’s covenant people) live under a strong sense of God-given authority (in family, Church, and nation) we will be preserved by the Lord.” (p. 245) What is curious with regard to this trinity, is the refusal among many in the church to turn to the word of God for the state, as they do with the family and the church. Individual Christians, and the church corporate, needs to ask themselves why this is the case.

V. The Fourth Commandment: Q & A 57-62

V. The Fourth Commandment: Q & A 57-62

Q. 57 Which is the fourth commandment?

A. 57 The fourth commandment is, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no your work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8-11)

Moses repeated this in Deuteronomy, but with some changes. Instead of the word ‘Remember’, he uses the word ‘Observe’, and adds “as the LORD your God commanded you.” (5:12). He also adds the following: “nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of (your cattle)… “that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” (vv. 14-15). So, whereas the initial revelation of this command hearkened back to the rest from the Lord’s work in creation, here Moses hearkens back to the covenant LORD’s work in redemption. The Sabbath passes from being simply a resting in God’s work as creator, and man’s resting also from his work, now it is kept to also rest in The LORD’s work of redemption, a rest from our own efforts to live in covenant with the LORD. It was this redemptive event which they were to ‘Remember’. The Sabbath rest here took on redemptive significance.

Q. 58 What is required in the fourth commandment?

A. 58 The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as He has appointed in His word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to Himself.

By stating one day in seven the authors allow for the biblical reality of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the centre and focal point of history, and the true rest of the LORD’s people.

Q. 59 Which day of the seven has God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?

A. 59 From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath.

In the Genesis account the point is made that the seventh day was to be one of rest, established upon the fact of God ending his own work of making everything that was made (Gen. 2:2-3). There is a clear point to be made that this day of rest did not come until everything had been made. Having made man, the LORD had made that creature who would now fulfill the dominion mandate he had given to his image bearers (1:26-28; 2:5, 15). However, they were called to be stewards, they were not called to complete an unfinished creation. In the same way, once Christ rose from the grave it was a declaration that his work of redemption was also complete, therefore his people rest in his finished work (Jn. 19:30).

In restoring the rest intended at the dawn of creation, the church moved to the first day from the seventh, truly fulfilling one day in seven, a day centred on word and sacrament, the breaking of bread (Acts 20:7), and tithing for the life of the church (I Cor. 16:2). Since the dawn of creation this has always been part of the moral law, with application found throughout the entirety of the law, the prophets, and wisdom. As with the entire work of creation, Christ’s finished work of redemption ultimately involves the complete restoration of creation, including the dominion mandate and one day of rest in seven (Cf. Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:2; Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:1, 19; Heb. 4:9). Therefore, the Christian Sabbath is also called the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10-11).

Q. 60 How is the Sabbath to be sanctified?

A. 60 The Sabbath is to be sanctified by a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and reactions as are lawful on other days; and spending the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.

Q. 61 What is forbidden in the fourth commandment?

A. 61 The fourth commandment forbids the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the profaning the day by idleness, or doing that which is in itself sinful, or by unnecessary thoughts, words, or works, about our worldly employments or recreations.

Q. 62 What are the reasons annexed to the fourth commandment?

A. 62 The reasons annexed to the fourth commandment are, – God’s allowing us six days of the week for our own employments, – His challenging a special propriety in the seventh, – His own example, – and His blessing the Sabbath-day.

To sanctify was to set apart for a specific purpose. To this end the LORD’s day is also a time to remember the LORD in a unique way, and thus it is also his day (Lev. 23:3). The LORD will provide enough for his people so that they need not work continuously (Ex. 16:22-30; Neh. 13:15-22). However, Jesus made clear that there are times when one must engage in works of mercy or necessity, including health and eating. Proving that he was the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus the Christ had the prerogative to add exceptions (Mt. 12:1-13 Cf. Jn. 7:23; 9:14). When the focus is on humanity only, the self, it then becomes profaned (Cf. Is. 58:13; Ezek. 23:38).

The LORD also warned his people through Jeremiah, what the judgment that would come upon them if they profaned the Sabbath day (17:27). It is curious that those who argue that the fourth commandment is still part of the moral law, applicable to all humanity, do not also argue for what is also a moral application of this law, in the civil case law application to the whole of society with the death penalty for not keeping it (Ex. 31:15-16; Nu. 15:32-35). It is also important to remember that the Sabbath is also a sign of the covenant which exist between the LORD and his people (Ex. 31:17).

The importance of this point is seen with the word added here to that of rest, namely ‘refreshed’. Literally this means catching one’s breath, taking a breather. The purpose of this day of rest was that His people might be refreshed in their covenant relationship with the LORD. There is no clearer testimony that humanity was created into a covenantal context from the very beginning! Furthermore, it is only within the covenant that one will find true rest (Heb. 4:4). The Sabbath ought to be a time for the people of the LORD to delight in him (Is. 58:14). As is stated in the first answer, man’s chief end is also to enjoy him forever.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

IV. The Third Commandment: Q & A 53-56

Q. 53 Which is the third commandment?

A. 53 The third commandment is “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Ex. 20:7).

Q. 54 What is required in the third commandment?

A. 54 The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works.

The name herein used is the covenant name LORD. One thing this commandment teaches is that one should not claim to be a Christian lightly. To do so without it being a whole life commitment is to take His name in vain. This commandment involves our covenant relationship in its entirety. As the catechism states, it involves the “reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works,” for these all reflect on God’s character, which is represented in His name. This reverent use glorifies Him (Ps. 29:2; Rev. 15:3).

Q. 55 What is forbidden in the third commandment?

A. 55 The third commandment forbids all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God makes Himself known.

This commandment forbids the trivial use of God’s name, including taking the name of ‘Christian’ without a whole life commitment. There is no area of life where Jesus does not say “Mine”. To privatize or confine one’s commitment to things strictly “religious” is to take the name of the LORD in vain. This commandment also forbids swearing by anything at all-for everything in heaven and earth is His (Mt. 5:34-35). It would be better to remain silent (Eccl. 5:1). However, this commandment does not forbid taking oaths in  the LORD’s name (Dt. 6:13).

Q. 56 What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?

A. 56 The reason annexed to the third commandment is, that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the LORD our God will not suffer them to escape His righteous judgment.

The reason annexed to this commandment speaks to the special way that the LORD is jealous for His holy name. It is the name of the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. Cursing comes to those who do not glorify His name and take this commandment to heart (Mal. 2:2).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

III. The Second Commandment: Q & A 49-52

Q. 49 Which is the second commandment?

A. 49 The second commandment is, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image-any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Ex. 20:4-6).

Q. 50 What is required in the second commandment?

A. 50 The second commandment requires the receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in His word.

This Q & A emphasizes what has come to be called ‘the regulative principle’ as it applies to worship-doing only what God, in the scriptures, commands. There are differences of opinion as to what is commanded, but the basic principle is one thing which this command emphasizes. Adding to or taking away from what the scriptures teach is what is called “will-worship”. It is important to remember however, that the regulative principle is something that applies to the whole of life (Cf. Dt. 12:32; 32:46; Mt. 28:20). The scriptures themselves teach that God gave Moses and the people a pattern for the tabernacle and temple, their place of worship (Cf. Ex. 25-31; 35:4-39:43) The writer to the Hebrews reiterated this point (8:5; 9:23). Those who follow the tradition of psalms only without musical accompaniment appeal to the synagogue, and thereby they violate the very principle they claim to adhere to.

Q. 51 What is forbidden in the second commandment?

A. 51 The second commandment forbids the worship of God by images,-or any other way not appointed in His word. The LORD reminded the people of God that they saw no image of Him when He spoke to them at Horeb in the midst of the fire (Dt. 4:15-16). Worship which follows the commandments of men is vain (Mt. 15:9). False worship is idolatry which is vanity (Col. 2:18). Since the Father and the Son are one, this commandment also forbids making images of Jesus (Jn. 5:23). Since we have no image of Jesus, any such attempts are necessarily false (Cf. Is. 40:18; Jer. 10:14-15; 51:17-18). Paul said, “we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29).

Q. 52 What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment?

A. 52 The reasons annexed to the second commandment are, God’s sovereignty over us, His propriety in us, and the zeal He has to His own worship.

“The special reasons added why we should observe this commandment are-1. God is our sovereign (I, the LORD); 2. God is our owner (your God); 3. God is jealous for His own worship (am a jealous God)” (Lawson, p. 36). When it says that God is our LORD, it also means that He is our covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. True worship is covenantal worship. The LORD, according to His sovereign will, claims us as His own via covenant. He is both a great King above all gods, and specifically our God, jealous of the covenant relationship (Pss. 95:2-3; 45:11; Ex. 34:14).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

II. The First Commandment: Q & A 45-48

Q. 45 Which is the first commandment?

A. 45 The first commandment is, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

“This first commandment teaches us the only proper object of worship. It is God,-and beside Him there is no other. This is the simple meaning of the commandment, but in the Shorter Catechism each commandment is explained and expanded, by showing first what it bids us do, then what it forbids us to do, and lastly, what special reasons or motives there may be for its observance.” (Lawson, p. 33 Cf. Ex. 20:3)

Q 46 What is required in the first commandment?

A. 46 The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify Him accordingly.

Several points are made in this answer, and first among them is that we must know God. Knowledge, which comes by revelation, is the first in importance. The bible does not speak of some kind of generic God. The very beginning words of Genesis presuppose the God of scripture, not just some generic supreme being. It is our duty to know God. Everyone is called to be a theologian. Secondly, it is not then enough simply to have some information about who God is, we must also acknowledge Him “to be the only true God.” There must be a public testimony on our part of God and who He is-it can never remain a strictly private matter. Silence is not an option (I Kgs. 18:21). Thirdly, God must be our God. There must be this personal relationship with God. This is the heart of the covenant relationship-He is our God and we are His people (Cf. Josh. 24:18; I Cor. 6:20). Finally, all these points come together in the act of worship whereby we glorify Him not only as God, but as our God. This commandment involves the whole person (Dt. 26:17; I Chr. 28:9; Pr. 3:6; Mt. 4:10).

Q. 47 What is forbidden in the first commandment?

A. 47 The first commandment forbids the denying, or not worshipping and glorifying the true God as God, and our God; and the giving of that worship to any other, which is due to Him alone.

The scriptures teach us that all men know the true God, but many do not acknowledge Him as the true God, or their God in a personal way (Rom. 1:20). This knowledge that all possess makes this commandment applicable to all humanity. There is no neutrality here. Either one acknowledges God or one repudiates this knowledge. Even those who are in the visible church and have experienced the outward administration of the covenant, must be careful to heed the word of the LORD (Ps. 81:11). It is foolish to deny this truth (Ps. 14:1). This denial is both spiritual and moral (Rom. 1:24-25). The only alternative to the worship of the true God is idolatry-worshipping the creature, rather than the Creator.

Q. 48 What are we specially taught by these words ‘before me’ in the first commandment?

A. 48 These words ‘before me’ in the first commandment teach us that God, who sees all things, takes notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God.

“The special reason here given why we should observe this commandment is, that God who sees all things, keeps an eye more especially on the breaking of this commandment, and punishes the offence with His sorest displeasure” (Lawson, p. 34). Forgetting God always involves idolatry. People will always turn to a substitute. This occurs before Him-God sees and God knows (Ps. 44:20-21).

Something needs to be noted here about the scope of the commandments and the law as a whole, and this first commandment in particular. G. I Williamson rightly notes that this command rules out all neutrality and religious syncretism, not only in public worship specifically, but in every area of life. “The first commandment requires us to acknowledge the true God and to glorify Him, in the whole of life. Those who have come to see what this first commandment means will no longer think of life as a two-compartment affair-with religion in one compartment and the rest of life in the other” (WSC, 2003, pp. 196-197) However, Williamson shows a common inconsistency when he denies the continuing validity of the so-called ‘civil law’ which was intended as nothing more nor less than an application of the ten commandments to all of life. He writes, “the civil laws…have been cancelled by the passing away of the state of affairs in which they could be applied” (Ibid. p. 185). The irony is that in the very same paragraph he appeals to Mt. 5:17 wherein Jesus made abundantly clear that He did not abrogate any of the law or the prophets.

Williamson not only contradicts Jesus, he says not only that the law is abrogated but that it can’t be fulfilled today, for we no longer have a state of affairs where the whole law “could be applied.” The catechism itself repudiates this common position of Reformed Evangelicals, such as is expressed by Williamson. Many have taken the commendable step of realizing that the faith is more than a strictly private religious matter. In the last 40 years there have been many who have seen the need to develop and Christian world and life view. Discipleship involves the whole of life. Every sphere is to be brought under the domain of the scriptures. However, the catechism does not say that only the ten commandments are what teaches us what we are “to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man” (A. 3). It is rather the whole of the scriptures which are “the only rule to direct us” (A. 2). One God means one law. “One absolute, unchanging God means one absolute, unchanging law. To abandon the Biblical law for another law system is to change gods” (Rushdoony, ‘The Institutes’ p. 20).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

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).

In Deuteronomy Moses furthered this focus on the Covenant LORD as the redeemer of his people, by hearkening back to the covenant made at Horeb, and how Moses acted as a Mediator for them in the giving of the law, because they were afraid of the LORD’s voice. The preface teaches us that God is due this duty because He is our only sovereign covenant making and covenant keeping LORD, our redeemer (Cf. Dt. 24:18; II Cor. 5:15).  As God’s people, we have been delivered from the bondage of sin to walk in newness of life, and the law is our standard of love toward both God and our fellow man.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

XI. 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 Westminster Shorter Catechism.

X. 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).