WCF 4.2 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on Jun 5, 2018 by admin

4.2  After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female,1 with reasonable and immortal souls,2 endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image;3 having the law of God written in their hearts,4 and power to fulfill it:5 and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.6 Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil;7 which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.8

1 Gen 1:27; 2 Gen 2:7; Eccl 12:7; Lk. 23:43; Mt 10:28;  3 Gen 1:26; Col. 3:10; Eph 4:24;  4 Rom 2:14–15;  5 Eccl 7:29;  6 Gen 3:6; Eccl 7:29;  7 Gen 2:17; 3:8–11, 23;  8 Gen 1:26, 28.

The second paragraph of this chapter on Creation focuses in on how God made man and what he was like at the beginning. It begins with noting that man was made after everything else, which shows God’s special care and favour upon him in that everything else was made so that he could have a perfect home to live in. That man was created last also shows that man is the apex of God’s creation. But it is not the male alone who constituted this high point of God’s creative work. In fact, Genesis 2:18 tells us that it was “not good” that man was alone by himself. Instead, the very first thing which the Bible (and this paragraph of our Confession) mentions about the nature of man is that God made us male and female (Gen 1:27).

The next thing which we must confess about man is the dual (or dichotomous) nature of each individual in himself, having both body and soul. The body was created out of the dust and will return to it, the soul was breathed into man by God and will return to him (Ecc 12:7). The body is material and mortal, the soul is immaterial and immortal. The soul can be destroyed in the sense that it can be tormented in hell, but it cannot be annihilated (cf. Mt 10:28; Mk 9:43-48). We must make this sobering confession regarding our own selves with the understanding that what we do in the body has eternal consequences on our souls.

While not discounting the importance of the body, it is nevertheless in the “reasonable soul” in which the image of God is primarily located. For the believer, it is where we have also been recreated and are daily renewed in the likeness of Christ in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness (Col 3:10; Eph 4:24).

This image of who Christ is and who we are to be is reflected to us in mirror of God’s law, which Adam had written in his heart, and which man continued to retain in some measure in his conscience even after the fall, though it is very much defaced by sin (Rom 2:14-15). Here, we confess again what we learnt in Chapter 1 about the importance of written revelation to preserve what deceitful and forgetful hearts cannot. But here we are also reminded that we mustn’t be content merely to know the letter of the law, but we must pray that God’s Spirit would again engrave it onto our hearts and give us the “power to fulfill it,” that is, to obey it “from the heart” out of love to God and neighbour.

Furthermore, we are led by this paragraph to anticipate an even greater hope than simply being restored to Adam’s first condition, when we will no longer be “under a possibility of transgressing” and “subject to change.” We do not seek resemblance to the Adam who was able to sin, but to the impeccable Christ, with whom we will be forever and unchangeably confirmed in the righteousness and blessedness of heaven.

The last paragraph speaks of God’s prohibition from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as a positive law-that which is added on top of natural law (i.e., the law inherent in the nature of things as we are made). Listening closely to God’s spoken revelation and not simply depending on our own reason was necessary for mankind to be “happy in their communion with God,” even when their rational faculties were perfect. How much more now that our minds have been corrupted by sin? And so, having made this Confession, let us then give close attention to the Word of God.


Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
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