Larger Catechism

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 55. — What is forbidden in the third commandment?

A. — The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

Scripture References: Mal. 2:2; Isa. 5:12; Ps. 139.20; James 1:13; Matt. 26:74.

Questions:

1. In what ways does God make Himself known?

As we learned in the prior commandment, He makes Himself known by His names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.

2. How are these ways profaned or abused by man?

They are abused “by blasphemy, perjury, sinful cursings, oaths, vows and lots” (Larger Catechism, Question 113)

3. How can man profane God’s names, titles and attributes?

Man can profane these when he thinks hatred toward God; when he speaks irreverently toward God; when he swears by the name of God in a wicked way; when he blasphemes the name of God; when he curses himself or others in the name of God; when he uses the the name of the Lord in superstitious ways.

4. How can man profane His ordinances?

Man can profane the ordinances of God by being irreverent or irreverent or irregular in His attendance upon them; by attending to them not in the spirit but being in the flesh by allowing His mind to wander; by having a false and insincere profession of their faith in Christ and still partaking of them.

5. How can man profane His word?

Man can profane the word of God by denying parts of the Word or by perverting it; by teaching false doctrine as it pertains to the Word; by misapplying the Word of God.

6. How can man profane His works?

Man can profane His works by using His body in the wrong way; by being forgetful of God’s mercy and wonderful works to the children of men; by murmering against the Lord in the midst of adversity.

TAKING HEED TO THE WORD

One of the greatest responsibilities-and privileges-of the born again believer is that of taking heed to the Word. James tells us, “Let every man be swift to hear …. ” (James 1:19). This particular commandment, the third, is pertinent to us as each Lord’s Day and each Wednesday evening we go to hear the Word of God preached. Jeremy Taylor once said, “When the word of God is read or preached to you, be sure you be of a ready heart and mind, free from worldly cares and thoughts, diligent to hear, careful to mark, studious to remember, and desirous to practice all that is commanded, and to live according to it; do not hear from any other end but to become better in your life, and to be instructed in every good work, and to increase in the love and service of God.” (The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living, p. 181).

Many times the Christian misses what the Lord has for him In the worship service because he comes unprepared. In the same first chapter of James there is a suggested outline regarding the duties of the Christian in his attendance at the house of God. Verse 21 tells hlm of his duties before the sermon: that Gf laying apart anything of filth, of sin. Verse 21 also tells him of his duties during the sermon: that of receiving with meekness the engrafted (implanted) word. Verse 22 tells him of his duties after the sermon: that of being a doer of the Word and not a hearer only. God’s people will receive far more benefit from the preaching of the word of God, and will be able to apply it more effectively, if they have prepared their hearts beforehand for the hearing of the word.

How do we prepare ourselves for the hearing of the Word? So many times on the Lord’s Day our preparation consists of reading the Sunday paper, of sleeping late, of neglecting prayer and study of the Word. It is to be wondered what the result would be if the church on the Lord’s Day were filled with Christians who had actively prepared themselves for the preaching of the Word. Christians who had come with willing and obedient heart; with a deep-seated desire to hear the Word; with hearts in tune with the Almighty, Sovereign God. Indeed, the result would be a doing of the duties set forth in the Word, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God.

Published By: The SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 4 No. 51 (March, 1965)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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STUDIES IN THE WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
by Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

Q. 41. — Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?

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

Scripture References: Matt. 19:17-19; Deut. 10:4; Rom. 3:8.;Deut. 4:8.

Questions:

1. What do we mean by “summarily comprehended?”

We mean that the sum and the chief heads of the law are therein contained. The moral law is more fully set forth in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

2. When was the moral law first published?

The moral law was first published when God wrote it on the heart of Adam.

3. Where are the ten commandments found in Scripture?

The ten commandments are found in the twentieth chapter of Exodus and in slightly a different form in the fifth chapter of Deuteronomy. However, the differences are very minor and include nothing essential.

4. How are the commandments divided?

We divide them today as “ten commandments” as was done by the Greek Church in early days. There is also the division of the duties towards God and those duties towards our fellow-man.

5. Could we say that the ten commandments includes all of the moral law?

We could say that the ten commandments are an amazingly comprehensive summary of the moral law. They include both things required of the inward man and of the outward behavior. Within them there is an amazing teaching in that if a sin is forbidden, in the words of God there is a duty commanded.

6. How can we have a better understanding of the ten commandments?

Our Larger Catechism, in answer to Question 95 gives us certain :’;,,’::0 for a right understanding of the commandments. It would be good for all of us to memorize all eight of the rules given and the proof texts too. Too many of us are woefully ignorant of these eight rules, rules that, rightly applied, will indeed lead us to a closer walk with our God, all to His glory.

OBEDIENCE-AND LOVE

“Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto Him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy

heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” Thus our Lord Jesus Christ gives the first part of the summary of the law, agreeing perfectly with Deut. 6:5. And thus he ties up the matter of obedience to Him for the obeying of his commandments is the essence of obedience to Him—with the matter of our love for Him. The two are woven together throughout the Bible.

An excellent question is: How do we know we love God? Seven wonderful signs were given by Thomas Watson many years ago. He lists:
(1) Our desire will be after Him.
(2) We cannot find contentment in any thing without Him.
(3) We hate that which would separate us from God, namely sin.
(4) We have sympathy for one another.
(5) We labor to render Him lovely to others.
(6) We weep bitterly for His absence.
(7) We are willing to do and to suffer for Him.
All of these have to do with the matter of our obeying Him for unless these characteristics are part of us we will not obey Him.

The question was once asked by a student: “Why do we not obey Him as we should?” The answer that came to mind was simply. “We are not burning in holy love.” Paul’s prayer for the Christians at Ephesus was “That Christ may dwell.in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Eph. 3:17), It would be well for us, if we are really serious about obeying Him, to engage in some real prayer regarding our love for Him—praying that the Holy Spirit will give us a love such as we have never had before, praying that we might show forth some real labors of love in the days ahead; heart-felt prayer that we might have a love for Him that will always be glowing; heart-felt prayer that it may never be said of us, “Thou hast left thy first love.”

A wise preacher once said that love is involved with delighting in an object. It is possible that our difficulty is in not delighting in Him enough, not delighting in his Word, in prayer, in telling others about Him! When was the last time we prayed, “Lord, I love Thee!” When was the last time we felt this? When was the last time we told Him that we love Him more than anyone or anything on this earth. If it has been some time this may well be the reason for our lack of obedience.

Published By: THE SHIELD and SWORD. {NC.
Vol. 3 No. 41 (May 1964)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn, Editor

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Similarities and Differences in the Two Sacraments

The month of November must have been the month when all Presbyterians went on Sabbatical!  We have never had so many dates when this writer has been forced to say that little or no significant dates of Presbyterian history have been found.  But December will be better for Presbyterian dates.  For now, on November 30, we go to two questions and answers from the Larger Catechism, and together these will end our extended study on the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Question and answer 176 reads: “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree?  A.  The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper agree, in that the author of both is God; the spiritual part of both is Christ and his benefits; both are seals of the same covenant, are to be dispensed by ministers of the gospel, and by none other; and to be continued in the church of Christ until his second coming.”

Question and answer 177 reads: “Wherein do the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ?  A.  The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper differ, in that baptism is to be administered but once, with water, to be a sign and seal of our regeneration and ingrafting into Christ, and that even to infants; whereas the Lord’s supper is to be administered often, in the elements of bread and wine, to represent and exhibit Christ as spiritual nourishment to the soul, and to confirm our continuance and growth in  him, and that only to such as are of years and ability to examine themselves.”

Both of these questions would be great questions to ask potential officers of our churches, including those who would seek to be pastors in our presbyteries, for they require an overall understanding of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Indeed, they are an excellent teaching tool for the Christian parent to prepare the children for church membership.

There are five areas of agreement between the two sacraments. For both, the author is God.  Christ and His benefits are represented as being instituted. Both are seals of the covenant of grace. Both are church sacraments.  And both are to be practiced until we see Christ in the flesh at His second coming.

The differences are simple and understandable.  The outward elements are water, in the one, contrasted with bread and wine in the other sacrament. Then too, the timing of Christ’s benefits to the believer differ, in that baptism speaks of the beginning of the Christian life, while Communion speaks of its continuance. Baptism is to be done once and not repeated. The Communion is to be done often. Baptism includes infants while the Lord’s Supper implies the ability to discern the elements.

Words to live by:  Our two catechisms considered today are definitely doctrinal in scope.  Yet at the same time, they presuppose a basic understanding of the two sacraments which will enable God’s people to participate in them with a greater  understanding.  Let us make sure that their spiritual experience describe us, not just their outward and external experience.  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?. . . .” (ESV – 2 Corinthians 13:5c)

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 20:2 ; Romans 1 – 4

Through the Standards:  Rules for keeping some from partaking

WLC 173 — “May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, be kept from it?
A.  Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding their profession of the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ has left in his church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Waiting Upon  God When You Take Communion

It was back on November 14 that the duties prior to the serving of Communion were laid down for our readers in Larger Catechism 171. Now we arrive at the duties of Communion while the Supper is being served, taken from Larger Catechism 174.

This catechism asks and answers “What is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper in the time of the administration of it?  Answer: “It is required of them that receive the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, that, during the time of the administration of it, with all holy reverence and attention they wait unto God in that ordinance, diligently observe the sacramental elements and actions, heedfully discern the Lord’s body, and affectionately meditate on his death and sufferings, and thereby stir themselves to a vigorous exercise of their graces; in judging themselves, and sorrowing for sin; in earnest hungering and thirsting after Christ, feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fulness, trusting in his merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace; in renewing of their covenant with God, and love to all the saints.”

We are, as our title puts it, “to wait unto God with all holy reverence and attention.”  In one sense, this is to be our attitude and action with respect to the worship service itself. This writer could speak and write volumes about some people who do anything and everything but worship the Lord during the church. Generally speaking, American Christians have lost the sacredness of worshiping the holy God. But this reverent and attentive waiting upon God should especially be true of us during this ordinance which particularly takes us back to our Savior’s atonement on our behalf. An undivided focus is absolutely necessary, especially if we follow the requirements enunciated in this catechetical answer.

First, we are to “diligently to observe the sacramental elements and actions.”  Outwardly, those elements are “bread and wine,” but spiritually, they are our Lord’s body and blood.  Do we “discern the Lord’s body?” in this sense, or do we just see them as bread and juice? Obviously, there is required some doctrinal knowledge of this sacrament, and a historical understanding of what took place at the first observance of the sacrament. An earnest listening to the reading of 1 Corinthians 11:23 – 34 is called for by the participant.

The sacramental “actions” are also to be observed closely. There is so much ignorance of this in our congregations. First, the Savior took the elements from the table. This signifies Christ taking a human nature (body and soul) unto Himself when He was born in Bethlehem. Then, Jesus put His blessing on the elements, giving thanks for them, and setting them apart from their ordinary usage to a special religion usage. Our Savior Himself was set apart for His special  work as the Redeemer of God’s elect. Next, He broke the bread, an action signifying His body broken on the cross for us. Fourth, He gave the elements to the apostles, signifying the gift of Christ to sinners by God’s infinite grace. The next action was by the communicants, as they received the elements, as sinners receive Christ as Savior by grace alone through faith alone. And last, communicants eat the bread and juice, signifying our dependence on Christ for spiritual life and growth.  All these are the needed observation of the sacramental actions, which you and I must observe.

The rest of the answer speaks of our spiritual attitudes and actions at the communion table.  We are to judge ourselves, sorrowing for our sins.  There must be an intense desire for fellowship with our Savior.  What about an attitude of dependence upon Him, not just in our salvation, but also in our sanctification?  All this is found in “feeding on him by faith, receiving of his fulness, trusting in her merits, rejoicing in his love, giving thanks for his grace.”  And last, but not least, the true nature of the sacrament, which is a military term speaking of loyalty and obedience and faithfulness to our commander, is necessary. To the captain of our salvation, we renew our covenant to belong to Him, and mutual love to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Words to live by: The next time you observe the Lord’s Supper in your congregation, take this catechism either with you, or remember its attitudes and actions. It is your duty during the administration the occasion of the Lord’s Supper. Let it be then a revival of your soul in your renewed love for the Lord Jesus Christ, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

Through the Scriptures:  2 Corinthians 4 – 6

Through the Standards: Manner of partaking the Lord’s Supper.

WLC 170 — “How do they that worthily communicate in the Lord’s Supper feed upon the body and blood of Christ therein?
A. As the body and blood of Christ are not corporally or carnally present in, with, and under the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper, and yet are spiritually present to the faith of the receiver, no less truly and really than the elements are to their outward senses; so they that worthily communicate in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, do therein feed upon the body and blood of Christ, not after a corporal and carnal, but in a spiritual manner; yet truly and really, while by faith they receive and apply themselves Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

Excluding Some from Partaking of the Lord’s Supper

It was back on November 20th that this historical devotional began to look at what the Larger Catechism states about  partaking of the Lord’s Supper.   We continue with that theme on this day, November 25, finding no specific Presbyterian topic for our consideration.   What is involved in excluding some people from the Lord’s Supper.

Larger Catechism question 173 asks “May any who profess the faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, be kept from it?  And the answer, “Such as are found to be ignorant or scandalous, notwithstanding  their profession of faith, and desire to come to the Lord’s Supper, may and ought to be kept from that sacrament, by the power which Christ has left in the church, until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.”

It is clear that this catechism answer speaks of some “who are found to be ignorant or scandalous” being excluded from the participation in the Lord’s Supper. On their part, they have a profession of faith and an equal desire to partake of the elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.  And so many might think that the issue is settled.  They believe and they have the desire to participate. Isn’t that enough? Our Confessional fathers answer that it is not enough of a reason to participate in this Sacrament.

First, there may be by these ready participants an “ignorance” about their profession of faith.  This ignorance may be the result of simply an absence of what biblical Christianity is, or on the other end, they might believe and accept some theological errors regarding biblical Christianity. Both of these constitute a reason to exclude them from the Sacrament when it is offered by the church.

Then there is another exclusion, and it is with respect to a “scandalous” manner of life.  The profession might be present, but the possession of faith is doubtful due to a carnal or fleshly lifestyle. The individual is openly carrying on a conduct which violates the Ten Commandments, for example. Such an individual shows that he or she does not understand the work of sanctification in the Christian life.

Now, in both of these cases of ignorance and scandalous living, the Catechetical fathers do not specifically state what they mean. They wisely leave it up to the spiritual courts of session, presbytery, and general assembly to determine this.  Sometimes, a local church will designate conduct which it believes is contrary to Christian doctrine and living.The “power which Christ has left in his church”refers to biblical church discipline which must be carried on by each church for its overall purity. And with most of our Presbyterian and Reformed churches, that is the purpose of the Book of Discipline in our Book of Church Order. There are found specific guidelines with respect to the use of “that power which Christ has left in his church.”

This catechism holds out the remedy to any who might be precluded, namely, “until they receive instruction, and manifest their reformation.” There is a place, and it usually is found in the membership class held to any who wish to join the church, for “instruction” with respect to both faith and life as seen in the Bible. When reformation is manifested after instruction is given with respect to their manner of lives, (and it may have to  happen for a definition or indefinite period of time,) then the door will be opened to participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Words to live by:  In the early part of our country’s history, in Presbyterian circles, this was the task of the pastor, and Session of Elders, if there were any, to examine the participants as to their faith and life.  Finding an understanding of the things which were of God, and hearing about their conduct, they then gave each potential participant a metal token, which was then turned in on the day of Communion. That practice has gone away and it  is then dependent upon the discernment of the Session of Elders that they have a spiritual understanding of the members under their shepherding care in determining their qualifications to partake of the break and wine. Pray for your elders—teaching and ruling elders—in this important ministry.

Through the Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 13 – 16

Through the Standards:  Elements of the Lord’s Supper remain unchanged

WCF 29:5, 6
“The outward elements in this sacrament, duly set apart to the uses ordained by Christ, have such relation to Him crucified, as that, truly, yet sacramentally only, they are sometimes called by the name of the things they represent, to wit, the body and blood of Christ; albeit, in substance and nature, they still remain truly and only bread and wine, as they were before.  That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ’s body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense, and reason; overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and has been, and is, the cause of manifold superstitions; yes, of gross idolatries.”

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