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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Our Sorry State in Light of the Law

Finding no historical record of Presbyterianism on this date, the Shorter Catechism which immediately follows the exposition of the Ten Commandments, number 82, occupies our attention on this day, September 4, 2012.  Our Confessional Fathers ask and answer, “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?  Answer: 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, words, and deed.”

We could sum up the commandments of God from Exodus 20 here so that we could know exactly what we are talking about in this answer.  The children’s version, found in Alexander Whyte’s book of several centuries ago on “The Shorter Catechism with a Commentary,” helps us with their remembrance:

1. You shall not have more gods but Me.

2. Before no idol bow the knee.

3. Take not the name of God in vain.

4. Nor dare the Sabbath day profane.

5. Give both your parents honor due.

6. Take heed that you no murder do.

7. Abstain from words and deeds unclean.

8. Nor steal, though you are poor and mean (e.g. low).

9. Nor make a willful lie, nor love it.

10. What is your neighbor’s do not covet.

No ordinary person since the fall can keep God’s commandments.  That is the sense of those beginning words in this catechism.  Certainly Jesus kept perfectly His Father’s laws in His active obedience, but He was both God and man, not an ordinary man.  Adam and Eve kept God’s moral law perfectly before the fall, but this answer defines itself with the phrase “after the fall.”  No ordinary people, either of themselves, or by any grace received in their lives, can be perfectly obedient to the commandments of God.

Indeed, we, as the Confessional Fathers all too sadly acknowledge, “daily break them in thought, word, and deed.”  All of our sins which we commit are thus reduced to three areas of our lives.  Our thoughts no one but God sees, and so no one knows the sinfulness of ourselves better than us.  Jesus enumerated the list of sinful thoughts in Matthew 15:19 when he spoke of “murder, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (NASB)  James in chapter 3 of his letter spoke of the futility of controlling our tongues, in that we sometimes bless God and curse men, who have been made in God’s image.  And John, in his letter in chapter 3, mentions the practice of sin, which is lawlessness. (v. 4)

And yet, here the good news.  All of these sins are under the blood of Christ, and therefore forgiven by His grace with genuine biblical repentance on our parts.  Every sin does deserve God’s wrath and curse, but praise God, Jesus become a curse for us, taking the wrath of God upon Himself on that cursed tree.  To escape this holy wrath, God required faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, using the appointed outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of redemption.

Words to live by:  Every time this contributor thinks he has been successful in  pleasing God more and more, he goes back to the Ten Commandments, and their treatment of them in the Westminster Standards.  He then finds that even in his best efforts, there has been plenty of weakness exhibited in thought, word, and deed.  Where would we be without the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ?  Praise God for His work of sanctification, which enables us to more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Chronicles 14 – 16

Through the Standards:  Direction of prayer   

WLC 186 — “What rule has God given for our direction in the duty of prayer?
A.  The whole word of God is of use to direct us in the duty of prayer; but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which our Savior Christ taught his disciples, commonly called The Lord’s Prayer.

WSC 99  “What rule has God given for our direction in prayer?
A.  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.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

Where Would We Be Without Christ being a Prophet

With an absence of Presbyterian historical dates for April 16, we return to the marvelous answers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and specifically the doctrinal and experiential statement of Christ executing the office of a prophet to His people.  Answer 24 states, “Christ executes the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.”

In defining the term “prophet,” we see someone who is qualified and authorized to speak for another.”  Immediately, we see  Jesus is  a “spokesman” or “mouthpiece” for the Father.  The writer to the Hebrews hits us right at the first in chapter 1, verse 1 and 2 of this office.  He writes, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son . . .” (ESV)  God the Father has spoken to us by His Son, the Lord Jesus.

The instrument and agent of Jesus as the prophet of His Father are specified as “his Word and Spirit.”  Notice the conjunction “and.”  Both God’s  written Word, the Bible, first spoken, and then written,  and God’s Spirit are necessary for the effectiveness of the  prophetic message.  Both were promised, and both were given to the church of the ages for their salvation and sanctification.

Revealed to the church as the subject of His prophetic words, our Confessional fathers tell us that it was “the will of God for our salvation.”  Jesus did not come to earth to answer every question upon the mind of man.  He didn’t come to speak of art and science and history and math, etc.   On one occasion, many of his professed followers left Him, because they had a false idea of His coming, believing it to be a political redemption from the empire of Rome.  So great was the exodus, that perhaps not many more than that original twelve apostles now reminded with Jesus.  Asking whether they would also leave, Peter sums up the convictions of those remaining when he replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (ESV – John 6:66 – 68).  Jesus did then, and does now, and ever will possess those words of the good news of eternal life.    We are all under a death sentence, for the wages of sin is death.  But God’s Son fulfilled that sentence of death on our behalf, giving those who repent of their sins and  trust in Him, eternal life instead.

Words to Live By: Summing up Christ’s prophetic office, as Prophet, his mediatorship is downward from God to us.  As a prophet, as the Prophet, He meets the problems of man’s spiritual ignorance, supplying us with spiritual knowledge of the most important kind, that which affects eternity, and where we will spend it.  Are you still ignorant, or have you been brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

Through the Scriptures: Psalm 16 – 18

Through the Standards:  The subjects of the effective call

WCF 10:2, 3
“This effective call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from any thing at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.  Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who works when, and where, and how He pleases: so also are all other elect persons who are uncapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word.”;

WLC 68 — “Are the elect only effectually called?
A.  All the elect, and they only, are effectually called . . . .”

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