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New Horizons

June, 2005: The Lord's Supper

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Proclaiming the Lord's Death: The Evangelistic Value of the Lord's Supper

Recently I was in a discussion with a few local pastors, one of whom volunteered that his church had intentionally cut back on its frequency of observing the Lord's Supper because it alienated people who were not yet Christians and who were seeking to learn more about the faith.

He told a story about a visitor who came up to him and asked if she could bring a salad to the evening service. Puzzled by the question, he asked her why she wanted to do that. She responded that she saw in the bulletin that the Lord's Supper would be served in the evening, and she would like to bring a salad. Of course, when he explained this supper to her, both were a bit embarrassed. For him, that was a turning point. If the Lord's Supper made visitors feel awkward (especially when those who have not made a profession of faith are instructed to abstain), then perhaps it was defeating the purpose of drawing unbelievers into the life of the church. Read more

Signed, Sealed, and Delivered

Like baptism, the Lord's Supper is a sacrament. A sacrament is not primarily something that we do to express our testimony. Regrettably, that's what many believers think. But the Bible teaches that a sacrament is primarily a visible, tangible affirmation to us from God himself. God appends the sacrament to his Word in order to reinforce his gospel message. It's a sign that symbolizes the gospel, that makes the Word "visible." It's a seal that assures believers that God himself stands behind his promises. It's a means of grace through which God actually delivers Jesus Christ and his benefits to his elect by his Holy Spirit and through faith. What does God call to our attention by the Lord's Supper?

Christ's Death Is Pivotal

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The Lord's Supper vs. the Corinthians' Supper

In 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for setting up a distinction that God had removed among the people of God. That is why Paul cannot commend the Corinthians in their observance of the Lord's Supper (vss. 17, 22), as he can in general (11:2). In his reprimand, Paul tells this congregation that it would be better if they did not meet at all. When they gather together, "it is not for the better but for the worse" (vs. 17).

Paul says this because their observance of the sacrament bore little or no semblance to the Lord's Supper. What fed this mockery of the Lord's Supper were the distinctions ("divisions") that they were making in their midst. In chapter 1, Paul addressed the Corinthians' party spirit, their false allegiance to particular preachers. But here he directs his rebuke toward their dividing along economic lines, their allegiance to economic status and social class. Paul says that such divisions serve a purpose (vs. 19): they have a way of distinguishing the false from the genuine believer. Such divisions reveal who in the church is "approved" by God, because they show who authentically and truly believe. Read more

Turning Points in American Presbyterian History
Part 6: Old School Presbyterianism, 1838

At the General Assembly in 1837, the Old School party of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. pushed through a motion that abrogated the 1801 Plan of Union (see part 5 of this series) and declared the Western Reserve region of the Presbyterian Church to be "no longer a part" of the denomination. This area included presbyteries and synods in New York State and the upper Midwest (primarily Ohio). Twenty-eight presbyteries, 509 ministers, and 60,000 church members were removed from the church.

But the Old School believed that the crisis in their communion required such drastic measures. In 1834, during preparations for that year's General Assembly, the leaders of the Old School party circulated a petition, the "Western Memorial," that set forth the Old School's concerns and gained the signatures of eighteen ministers and ninety-nine elders. The Memorial listed eight items that addressed the abnormalities and errors that were present in the church, thanks to the cooperative venture with the New England Congregationalists. In sum, Old School Presbyterians believed that the Plan of Union had compromised the polity and theology of their church. After several years of failing to receive an adequate response from the General Assembly, Old Schoolers found themselves to be in the majority at the 1837 Assembly. They took matters into their own hands and terminated their awkward cooperation with the Congregationalists. Read more

Mission to the Military

I am the battalion chaplain for 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. This is a battalion of the 1st Armor Training Brigade. For a while, each of our four companies was running about 220 privates through a nine-week basic training course. Now, I am the chaplain for over 1,000 soldiers. Aside from the privates (recruits) who are in training, my battalion also has about 120 permanent-party soldiers, composed of our command staff, supply sergeants, drill sergeants, etc.

Our battalion recently had a change of mission. You may have heard about this in the news. We are the first unit to be doing the Warrior Transition Course or Operation Blue to Green. This is a four-week training course that transitions soldiers from the Air Force, Navy, or Marines to the Army. Read more

Seventy Years in the Making: The OPC's Confession of Faith and Catechisms with Proof Texts

After nearly seventy years of work (on and off), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church finally has a printed edition of its Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with all its General Assembly-approved proof texts written out at the bottom of the page (actually, filling most of the page!). Here is an account of the history behind these documents.

When the First General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (initially called the Presbyterian Church of America) met in June 1936 to constitute a new denomination, it elected a Committee on the Constitution. One of its tasks was to "present for adoption to the General Assembly meeting in the autumn of 1936 the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as the confession of the faith of this church." Read more

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