Dear Church Family,
Continuing in our Sunday school lessons in the Westminster Larger Catechism, this past Sunday, we covered questions 4-7. Here is a brief overview.
WLC 4 How doth it appear that the Scriptures are the word of God?
A. The Scriptures manifest themselves to be the word of God, by their majesty and purity; by the consent of all the parts, and the scope of the whole, which is to give all glory to God; by their light and power to convince and convert sinners, to comfort and build up believers unto salvation. But the Spirit of God, bearing witness by and with the Scriptures in the heart of man, is alone able fully to persuade it that they are the very word of God.
This question asks how the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament show themselves – or are proven to be – the word of God. The answer to this questions lists four basic ways in which the Scriptures appear to be the word of God: (1) the majesty and purity of the Scriptures; (2) the fact that all the parts of the Bible, despite having been written by over forty different authors over the course of about 1,500 years, form a unity and agree with one another; (3) the ability of the Scriptures to convince and convert sinners and to comfort and built up believers; (4) the Spirit of God speaking in the Scriptures to the heart of man.
While all of these are important, this last way in which the Scriptures appear to be the word of God is the only way by which men are fully persuaded (John 16:13-14). This is an important distinction because it helps us to see that though evidence from other disciplines (archeology, history, astrology, biology, etc.) may be helpful in confirming that the Scriptures are the Word of God, they are not sufficient. In evangelism and apologetics, in the end, Scripture and the Holy Spirit are what will be effective.
WLC 5 What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
This question and answer summarizes the teaching of the Scriptures under two broad categories. In the Bible, we learn: (1) what we are to believe concerning God (doctrine); and (2) what duty requires of us (life or obedience). Unfortunately, some people try to turn faith and obedience into an either/or issue. For instance, some have said, “Christianity is not a doctrine but a life.” However, we must always remember that orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxy (obedient living) go together, for “by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). And, as Romans 12:1-2 teaches us, coming to know right doctrine (through the renewing of our minds) is the basis for right living (our spiritual service of worship).
WLC 6 What do the scriptures make known of God?
A. The scriptures make known what God is, the persons of the Godhead, his decrees, and the execution of his decrees.
Question and answer #6 of the Westminster Larger Catechism provides an outline for the next large set of questions:
The Character of God WLC 7
The Persons of the Godhead WLC 8-11
The Decrees of God WLC 12-13
The Execution of God’s Decrees WLC 14-90
WLC 7 What is God?A. God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
The first statement in this answer can sometimes trip people up. In John 4:24, Jesus declares that “God is spirit.” Yet, this statement begins, “God is *a* Spirit.” The reason for that difference is due to the context. In John 4, Jesus is emphasizing to the woman at the well that the worship of God is not confined to a particular geographical location because God is spirit and everywhere present. In the catechism, the God is spoken of as “a Spirit” to emphasize that the Personhood of God and that He is not just an ambiguous force.
Another word in this catechism answer that can also be a bit confusing is “incomprehensible.” This doesn’t mean that God is unknowable. After all, the Bible speaks of how believers have come to know God (Galatians 5:9; 1 John 2:3-4; 4:16). Actually, the term is used here according to its archaic definition, meaning “having or subject to no limits.” That is, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27).
One final thing to note about these aspects of God’s character as they are listed in this question and answer. Sometimes, people will want to choose one aspect as the core element of God’s character, and make the others ancillary to it; however, we ought not to think this way. Each of these aspects of God’s character are equally true, equally important, and equally essential to His being.
In the coming lessons, we will discuss the important doctrine of the Trinity, and then God’s decrees and how He executes them. I hope you will join in Sunday school as we delve deeper into the Westminster Larger Catechism and these important truths as they are revealed to us in Scripture.
The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch