The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

IX. 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.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

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).

VIII. Christ’s Work In Salvation-Christ As Prophet, Priest, And King: Q & 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).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Q & A 22 The Incarnation.

Q. 22 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).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

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.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

VII. The Shorter Catechism-Salvation: Q & A 20-22

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).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

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

Q16 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 or she 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).

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

V. The Shorter Catechism-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.

IV. The Shorter Catechism-Q & A 11-12 Providence

Q and A #11.

Q. 11 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 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.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism.

III. The Shorter Catechism-Q & A 9-10 Creation.

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).