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New Horizons

April, 2011: The Gospel of the Resurrection

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The Gospel of the Resurrection

On April 24, Christians will gather, as we do each Lord's Day, to celebrate the victory of Jesus Christ, a victory that is ours as well. Our living hope is based on the fact of Christ's resurrection. It's the foundation and pillar of Christian faith. This is commonplace among Christians. We regularly confess, in the words of the Apostles' Creed, that on "the third day he rose again from the dead." We also confess our belief in "the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting."

It may surprise you that this wasn't always the case in Christian congregations. In ancient Corinth, there were some church members who denied the resurrection—if not of Jesus, then certainly of believers. The apostle Paul realized that this was a totally inconsistent view: "Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Cor. 15:12). Why they denied the resurrection remains something of a mystery. Perhaps they were influenced by Greek philosophy and the idea that the human body is a prison holding man's immortal soul. Or maybe they thought they had already experienced the resurrection: The Holy Spirit has come! Believers now possess a new life in Christ, and they enjoy victory over sin, sickness, suffering, and Satan. The resurrection has already occurred! Read more

The Reformed View of Evangelism

The English verb "to evangelize" comes from the Greek word euangelizo, which means "to proclaim good news." It is employed in the New Testament to describe the proclamation of the Christian message to the world.

This New Testament verb has an interesting linguistic background in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), particularly in the second part of Isaiah's prophecy. This verb is represented by the italicized words in the following three passages translated from the Septuagint: Read more

Evangelism and the OPC: Part 1, Machen's Evangelistic Identity

In the archives at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia is preserved a handwritten sermon by J. Gresham Machen dated March 30, 1925. It deals with 1 Timothy 3:15 and is entitled "The Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth." In this sermon, Machen argues that the church is not an end in itself, but an agency for the propagation of the gospel. In the margin, in different colored ink, are the words, "Dr. Vos says this is wrong." (Machen and Vos were colleagues at Princeton Seminary.) Perhaps Vos would have argued that the church's priority is not evangelism but worship, as worship is the eternal activity of heaven, and evangelism is the temporary activity of gathering worshipers on this side of eternity. It is undeniable that the right worship of God was and is a central concern for Orthodox Presbyterians. Still, the question remains: how important is evangelism for the OPC's identity? It could be argued that the OPC was established because of a concern for the propagation of the gospel. Evangelism is foundational to our church's identity.

At the heart of Machen's 1923 book, Christianity and Liberalism, is an evangelistic concern. He argued that a religious movement that is willing to deny the supernatural character of the Bible and the authoritative claims of Christianity could not be called truly Christian. Such preaching, whether by pastors or missionaries, would betray Christianity, not propagate it. In 1924, moderates within the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. fired back through the subtle but poisonous Auburn Affirmation. This document, signed by many church leaders, declared that fundamental doctrines of the faith were negotiable. In a 1925 sermon on Matthew 5:13, "The Separateness of the Church," Machen warned that the real attack on the gospel came not from fire and swords, nor from threats of bonds or death, but from friendly words. The deadliest poison, according to Machen, was that of merging the church gradually and peacefully with the world. Read more

Life in "the Dakotas" in the Early 1970s: Fellowship, Camps, and Showers

With a presbytery ranging as far north as Carson, Lark, and Leith, North Dakota (Jack Peterson, pastor), as far south as Abilene, Texas (Jonathan Male, pastor), as far east as Volga, South Dakota (pastored by Lionel Brown, and later Arthur Olsen), and as far west as Grand Junction, Colorado (pastored by John Verhage and later Donald Duff), one might wonder if there could be any viable fellowship among the ministers and the churches. And yet, according to Duff, the great distance seemed to bring the men closer: "In some ways, I believe the distances helped. In Grand Junction, I was 250 miles from the nearest OP church, and I had to go over the Continental Divide to get to it. In other presbyteries, I went to meetings on Saturday, talked to men at lunchtime, and then went home. I had not ridden with some men for 800 miles."

Having served in several presbyteries, I've had great fellowship in each, but some of the closest fellowship I've known in the presbytery setting has been in the Presbytery of the Dakotas (POD) in the 1970s. Here are some reasons why: Read more

Life in "the Dakotas" in the Early 1970s: My Old Presbytery

The Presbytery of the Dakotas was not my chosen destination when I graduated from Westminster Seminary in 1970. I took a position as summer supply at Grace OPC in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the congregation extended a call before the end of the summer. In those days, the Presbytery of the Dakotas extended from the Canadian to the Mexican border, and from the eastern borders of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, to the western borders of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.

The Presbytery gave rigorous theological examinations to candidates, but was willing to evaluate their views in the light of Scripture, not simply tradition. They even approved the examination of a young licentiate who came out of seminary with the notion that union with Christ was a central concept in understanding the order of salvation! Theology was taken seriously, but was not an abstract exercise. It came to life in the regional church, particularly in the weeklong youth camps (at which every pastor was expected to be present) and the family camps. Read more

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