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New Horizons

May, 2004: Obey Your Leaders and Submit to Them

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Submission to the Government of the Church: Is It Biblical?

It may be that the commitment least understood and hardest to keep when people profess their faith as they join the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is the fourth membership vow:

Do you agree to submit in the Lord to the government of this church and, in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life, to heed its discipline?
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Who Runs This Church?

People join Orthodox Presbyterian congregations from all sorts of backgrounds. Accordingly, we often find ourselves both having to learn new things from God's Word and having to unlearn unbiblical things we were previously taught. Many come to our churches from Roman Catholic or independent backgrounds. They show clear evidence of faith in Christ. They can eagerly affirm the first three membership vows.[1]

The Fourth Membership Vow

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Books on Presbyterian Polity

The lead articles by Stephen Doe and Larry Wilson in this issue deal with submission to leadership, or office, in the church. If you are interested in reading more about church government, here is a brief annotated survey of some books by Presbyterian authors. This listing is not definitive or exhaustive, nor is it intended to favor one stream of thought within the Presbyterian tradition.

Order in the Offices, edited by Mark Brown (Classic Presbyterian Government Resources, 1993). The push of two-office Plymouth Brethren (elders and deacons, but no preaching office or ministers of the Word) motivated OP pastor Mark Brown to edit classic articles and to organize new articles articulating the three-office view of the nineteenth-century Presbyterians Charles Hodge and Thomas Smyth. This symposium, now a text at several Reformed seminaries, has essays by these current and past OPC and PCA ministers: Steven Miller, Robert W. Eckardt, Charles Dennison, Jack Kinneer, Leonard Coppes, Greg Reynolds, Jeffrey Boer, Robert Rayburn, and Edmund Clowney. Particularly valuable is Clowney's biblical-theological study distinguishing the gift of rule from the gift of preaching. Included also is Smyth's Ecclesiastical Catechism, which clearly defines and distinguishes the offices of the church in a practical question-and-answer format. Read more

Warren's Purpose Driven Life

What is the purpose driven life? In his popular book The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? Rick Warren claims simply to have taken the Westminster Shorter Catechism's first question and answer, and extended it into a devotional book. There are positive aspects to his book, such as his emphasis on the need to glorify God in all that we do. Yet there are considerable problems with it.

First, the book focuses on the reader. Notice its thesis statement: Read more

Machen Memoir: Fifty Years Later

This summer the Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church plans to reprint J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir, by Ned B. Stonehouse. The following is the preface to the new edition.

In 1954, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church was not quite twenty years old. By then many had left the denomination, some in fundamentalist directions, others for broader evangelicalism, and still others renouncing the OPC's separatism and rejoining the Presbyterian mainline. Among those who remained, there was dissatisfaction with the slow growth in the church and a temptation to grow weary. Some charged that the church was not broad enough in its outlook and that the distinctly Reformed and Presbyterian approach of the church's leadership, especially from the Westminster Seminary faculty, was hampering its progress. It did not help morale that other sectors of American Protestantism seemed to flourish. In 1954, American Lutherans were merging. Congregationalists were uniting with the Evangelical and Reformed Church. Billy Graham conducted a very successful London crusade. And the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. welcomed into its membership President Eisenhower. The OPC seemed to be on the sidelines watching.
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