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

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

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

Scripture References: John 1:1-4; John 15:15; John 20:31; II Pet. 1:21; John 14:26.

Questions:

1. Is Christ called a “prophet” in Scripture and if so, why?

He is called a prophet in Acts 3 :22. He is called a prophet because He has made a full revelation of the whole counsel of God.

2. How does Christ reveal to us the will of God?

He reveals God’s will to us in two ways: outwardly, by His Word and o inwardly, by His Spirit.

3. What is the word of Christ?

The word of Christ is the whole Bible, the Scripture, containing the Old and New Testaments.

4. How can it be that the whole Scripture is the word of Christ since His words constitute only a small portion of it?

The whole Bible is called the word of Christ because those who wrote it wrote the word they had from the Spirit of Christ (1 Pet. 1:10-11)

5. Is it possible to be saved simply by means of the Word of God without the Spirit?

No, it is not possible to be saved simply through the Word apart from the Spirit. The teaching concerning this is found in I Cor. 2: 14.

6. Is it possible to be saved by the Spirit apart from the Word?

There is a difference here from the previous question in that the Word can not save you apart from the Spirit and the Spirit will not save you apart from the Word. The Bible teaches that the whole will of God necessary to our salvation is revealed in His Word.

7. How does the Spirit of Christ make us wise unto salvation?

The Spirit of Christ makes us wise unto salvation by opening up our understandings, for the entrance of His word gives us light so that the soul is enabled to see the way of salvation and the way offered.

THE WORD AND OUR SALVATION

Every once in a while the Christian is called upon to present a defense of the position that the knowledge for man’s salvation comes only from the Word of God. This defense is necessary for many sects and heretical groups deny the teaching and insist upon their belief in the man-made doctrine that God has and does save and reveal His will apart from the Word of God.

The poet put the truth very well when he said:

“The starry firmament on high
And all the glories of the sky
Yet shine not to thy praise, a Lord,
So brightly as thy written word.

“Almighty Lord, the sun shall fail,
The moon forget her nightly tale,
And deepest silence hush on high,
The radiant chorus of the sky;

“But, fixed for everlasting years,
Unmoved amid the wreck of spheres,
Thy word shall shine in cloudless day,
When heaven and earth have passed away.”

There are many today who insist that salvation can be obtained apart from the Word of God. It is the modern, popular way to believe today to Lay aside the Scriptures and discover the way to God through self, with philosophical or mystical overtones. The Reformed faith stands in opposition to this. In one of the Reformed catechisms the question is asked: “Whence do you know your misery?” The answer is: “Out of the law of God.” (Heidelberg Catechism, Question No. 3). The mirror is ever present with us, the mirror of the Word of God, and because it is the revelation of God it shows us our sin.

The danger to the church today is from those who profess Christ but who do not take the Word of God seriously. There are too many Christians who do not read it, study it, or fill their very hearts and minds with it. Humanly speaking, if it were possible to receive all the answers to life by a human means that could be gathered together in a small book we would never be found without it. And yet that is exactly what we have in the Word of God. In it we have our salvation and all that is necessary for us to please God and therefore enjoy Him forever.

Published By:
THE SHIELD and SWORD, INC.
Vol. 2 No. 24 (December, 1962)
Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn

 

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

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

A. — 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 continueth to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.

Scripture References: I Tim. 2:5; John 1:1,14; John 10:30; Phil. 2:6; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-11.

Questions:

1.
Why is the Redeemer of God’s elect called the Lord Jesus Christ?

He is called the Lord because of His sovereignty and dominion (Acts 10:36). He is called Jesus because He is the Saviour of His people (Matt. 1:21). He is called Christ because He is anointed by the Father with the Holy Ghost which was given to Him without measure (Acts 10:38). He is fully qualified by God.

2. How does the Lord Jesus Christ redeem the elect of God?

He purchases them by His blood and rescues them by His conquest by spoiling principalities and powers. (I Peter 1:18,19. Col. 2:15)

3. What did the Lord Jesus Christ become in order to redeem God’s elect?

He became man but did not cease to be God. He became Immanuel, God with us.

4. Why was it necessary that He become man?

It was necessary in order that He might be capable of suffering death for man and that He might become their High Priest that could reconcile them to God (Heb. 8:16,17).

5. How could Christ be both God and man?

Christ is God and man by a personal union. Both His natures are distinct, the divine nature is not subject to change and the human o nature is not omnipotent.

6. Could some compact statements be given regarding the constitution of the Redeemer’s person?

J. B. Green has probably put it in the most concise way:
“1. The reality of the two natures.
2. The integrity of the new natures.
3. The distinctness of the two natures after the union.
4. The oneness of the personality.”

BE VERY SURE

The fact that Jesus Christ is the only Redeemer of God’s elect is one for which we should ever thank God. Though it is difficult for us to understand the intricacies of how He could be both God and man; of how the two natures are distinct and yet He is one; we can certainly thank and praise God He that did purchase us by His own blood and thus become the only Redeemer of God’s elect.

The fact is a wondrous fact and yet the question must be asked and answered by all: Are we certain that we are among those He purchased and saved? The hymn writer puts it very well when he says, “Be very sure, Be very sure, Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock! This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One, This Rock is Jesus, The only One.” (Mrs. Ruth Caye Jones). For indeed, as the title of the hymn so aptly puts it, “In Times Like These” we need a Saviour.

To be able to discuss, and have an understanding of, theology is a good and healthy thing. The church needs this discipline, the church needs to have a better understanding of what the Standards teach. It is a sad fact that many Presbyterians could not even name what makes up the Standards. We repeat, it is good to have theological knowledge. But as we approach in this Catechism Question another theological fact, that of the Redeemer of God’s elect, it is even more important to have a personal knowledge of the Redeemer Himself, Jesus Christ.

As you read this short article, two questions are in order. First, Do you know Christ as your Saviour and Lord? Joseph Alleine puts it very plain when he says, “Though of yourselves you can do nothing, yet you may do all through His Spirit enabling you, and He offers assistance to you. God bids you ‘wash and make you clean.’ God invites you to be made clean and entreats you to yield to Him. O accept His offers, and let Him do for you, and in you, what you cannot do for yourselves.” (Prov. 1:24, Rev. 3:20). Second, If you believe Christ has saved you, are you acting as if He has saved you? Has your life changed, are old things passing away, are all things becoming new?
To have the theological knowledge that He is the Redeemer of God’s elect is good. Do you have the Heart knowledge? Isa.47:4.

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

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

A. — 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 the estate of salvation, by a Redeemer.

Scripture References: Eph. 1:4-7; Titus 3:4-7; Titus 1:2; Gal. 3:21; Rom. 3:20-22.

Questions:

1. Whom does God bring into a state of salvation?

God brings all his elect people into an estate of salvation to which he has chosen them.

2. Who are the elect people of God?

The elect people of God are those whom He has chosen to eternal life, chosen from all eternity out of His good pleasure.

3. What do we mean when we use the term “out of His good pleasure?”

We mean that even though man is lost and fallen, deserving nothing from God, it was God’s good pleasure to make provision for some men in what is called the covenant of grace.

4. How does God bring His elect into an estate of salvation?

God brings His elect to salvation by a Redeemer, (Act. 4:12)

5. What is the covenant of grace?

It is a covenant of eternal life and salvation to sinners, to be given them in a way of free grace and mercy. It is an arrangement between God and his elect.

6. Are there conditions to the covenant of grace?

Yes, there is a condition. The condition is faith, by which the elect have an active interest in Jesus Christ, (John 3:16. Act. 16:31)

7. What is the promise inferred in the covenant of Grace?

The promise is that God will cause His Holy Spirit to dwell in the elect and to work in them, creating the faith and virtue that He desires. In other words, what God requires, He gives. (J. B. Green)

A COVENANT WITH A CONDITION

The covenant of grace is that which heals and comforts a wounded soul, it is a covenant that shows an open door of escape to the sinner. The promises of this covenant are absolutely free as they concern us. And yet the covenant of grace is a covenant with a condition.

A. A. Hodge puts it very well when he states, “Here is a covenant with a condition—whosoever believes shall be saved, whosoever believeth not shall be damned. The Lord Jesus Christ comes to view and is represented as the Mediator of the covenant, because it all depends upon his mediatorial work, and, above all, he is represented as the Surety. You promise faith upon your knees, and the Lord Jesus Christ endorses for you.”

It is true that the covenant of grace, taken by itself, is pure grace and excludes all works. The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is Good Tidings and it is simply a gift from God. But this Gospel comes to us within the framework of a condition, the condition being none other than that of our willingly accepting in faith what God wants to give us. The will of God in this regard realizes itself in no other way than through our reason and our will.

This all puts upon us as Christians a great responsibility to preach the Gospel to everyone with whom we come in contact. For indeed whosoever believes shall be saved and whosoever believeth not shall be damned, such is the condition involved with the covenant of grace. It can be rightly said, theologically speaking, “that a person, by the grace he receives, himself believes and him s elf turns from sin to God.” (Bavinck). This means that evangelism according to the Westminster Standards is something that should be carried out by every born again believer. There is no place in the Reformed Faith for the mistaken notion held by many that there is no place for personal work within the framework of the Westminster Standards.

It behooves all of us who hold to the Standards to remember our responsibility as so aptly stated by Paul, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (I Cor. 9:22). The Covenant of Grace, with its condition, should motivate us to personal evangelism.

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

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

A. — 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 forever.

Scripture References: Gen. 3:8,24; Eph. 2:3; Rom. 5:14; Rom. 6:23.

Questions:

1. Of what does man’s misery in the fall consist?

It consists of three things: (a) What man has lost. (b) What man is brought under. (c) What man is liable to.

2. What was the communion with God lost by man because of the fall?

This communion was the presence and favor of God, together with the sweet fellowship and enjoyment of God in the garden of Eden.

3. Does this loss of communion with God extend to this day as far as man is concerned?

Yes, it extends to today. Mankind comes into the world today alienated from God. Mankind lives today alienated from God unless he comes to know God through faith in Jesus Christ.

4. What is man brought under by the fall?

Man is brought under God’s wrath and curse by the fall and this is a great misery. The favor of God is better for man than life itself. Man is wretched and miserable without fellowship with God.

5. Are the miseries in this life external or internal as a result of the fall?

The miseries are both external and internal. Such things as calamities, sicknesses, losses of homes, jobs, families are all external miseries that could result from the fall. The internal miseries that result from the fall are such things as living under the domination of Satan, the spiritual blindness of mind and hardness of heart, vile affections, perplexities and distresses of the mind.

6. What is the punishment which man is liable to by the fall?

The punishment is death itself at the end of his life. This punishment could be simply physical if a man was born again by the Spirit of God. This punishment could be eternal-an eternity in hell—if man is not born again.

DO CHRISTIANS BELIEVE IN HELL?

A certain portion of this Catechism Question deals with the place known as “Hell”. The question is asked, “Do Christians Believe in Hell?” In spite of the fact that hell is mentioned in our Standards and is therefore a part of our belief, it seems that some of our people do not believe in everlasting torment.

A man once said that there could be no Christian geography unless Heaven and hell were included on the map, for the real meaning of life is not here, but there. And it is so true that so many Christians want to keep Heaven on the map, but they prefer to ignore the existence of hell. But Jesus Christ, in Matt. 25:46, put both Heaven and hell in the Christian geography and Bible-believing people cannot push it aside.

A fair question would be, “How do Bible-believing people push this doctrine aside?” The doctrine is pushed aside not so much by a lack of belief in the doctrine—for all Bible-believing people will affirm the doctrine—but in the setting aside of the doctrine in their relationships with the unbelievers. Somehow or other we have forgotten that a person outside of Jesus Christ is on his way to hell and everlasting punishment.

Last year a Christian friend told me of his experience. He was in a restaurant and sitting at the next booth were four people who were having a time of mirth and merriment. He told me they asked him a question and thereby drew him into their conversation. He said there was nothing wrong with the conversation, it had a high moral note, it was simply foolishness. After some time they left and went on their way. He finally left and started down the highway in his car. A wreck had taken place and four people were in it. Three of them were killed. The question burned into his mind and heart: Are they now in hell?

Our Standards teach the doctrine. Do we believe it? If so, are we bending every effort to tell others of Jesus Christ who died on the Cross of Calvary to save sinners from the everlasting torment of hell?

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

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

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

Scripture References: Rom. 5:12; Gal. 3:10; Ps. 40:2; Rom. 6:23.

Questions:

1. What do we call the estate of mankind before the fall?

The estate of mankind before the fall is called the estate of innocency, the estate of original righteousness.

2. Why is man’s state, by the fall, called an estate of sin?

Because man is now under the guilt of sin, which has dominion over him.

3. Why is man’s state, by the fall, called an estate of misery?

Because, according to the penalty of the law, death and the curse involve him in all manner of misery.

4. Why is sin mentioned before misery in describing the estate into which mankind fell?

Because sin came first, and misery followed afterwards as the result of sin. Sin is the cause of misery; misery is the effect of sin.

5. How did man come into this state of sin and misery?

Man came into this by the abuse of his free will, by disobedience. The scripture tells us that mankind destroyed himself. (Hosea 13:9).

6. What happened to man in the Garden because of his sin?

Man’s heart changed and man’s abode changed. The heart became evil and man was forced to leave the place of perfection (the Garden) and was cast into the world where evil was.

7. How does the Scripture describe man’s state of sin and misery?

Scripture describes it by “darkness,” “condemnation and wrath,” and by “death”.

8. What popular false religion of this day denies the teaching of sin and misery?

The religion of Christian Science denies the reality of sin and misery.

9. Can man help himself out of this state of sin and misery?

No, man is totally unable to help himself out of this state. His very nature is “enmity against God” and he can not save himself from this state.

SIN AND EVASION

Our thesis in this discussion is: The sin in the Garden of Eden was entirely the fault of man, God was in no way the author of the sin of man. This is taught in the Word of God and could be summarized in the following manner: (1) God created man perfectly holy, with no defect or tendency to sin. (2) The trial placed before man was one he could keep, it was perfectly easy and could hardly be considered any restraint at all. (3) God did not withdraw from man during the moment of temptation. God was present with him and all man had to do was call upon God. The fall of man was the consequence of a curiosity on the part of man, not of want of ability to keep the simple test God had placed upon him. And yet Adam sinned. Not only did he sin but there was on his part the attempt to evade responsibility for what he had done. So it is with man today. Whenever man sins there is usually an attempt on the part of man to evade. (Proverbs 28:13-14)

A former teacher in college, a very wise man, said many times: “One of the greatest difficulties on the part of a Christian is his refusal to be honest with himself in regard to sin.” This teacher’s word to us time and time again was to face ourselves and never try to evade responsibility for sin. It is supposed that mankind came by this ability to evade responsibility honestly since it all started with Adam. However true that may be, this has ever been one of the prevalent ways on the part of man to disregard his relationship and accountability to God.

The prayer the Christian needs to make is “Search me, O God and try my thoughts and see if there be any wicked way in me.” This prayer needs to be consistently on the lips of the Christian. And when the Spirit convicts of sin the Christian must be honest about it before God and never seek to evade the responsibility involved. “My fault!” is the confession cry of the Christian. Then, and only then, will the Christian be in right relationship with God and able to be used by God in a mighty way, all to His glory. (I John. 1:1-10)

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