Saturday, June 11, is the 75th anniversary of the OPC. Why celebrate? Perhaps because of the faithful commitment of Machen and others to the authority of the Word of God? Ned B. Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen is entitled, Valiant for Truth, an apt title as you review Machen’s commitment to the faithful proclamation of the Word of God. Another reason is the sacrificial commitment of pastors and members of churches who refused to submit to directives from the church that required them to sin. On June 7, 1936, 300 members of the First Presbyterian Church of Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, rose and followed their pastor, John DeWaard out when he was ejected from his pulpit by the presbytery. They organized into Calvary Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Like many who had to leave, they lost the property and building. The Historian’s pages on opc.org detail some of those stories. Those are good reasons, but you have a better reason. Give thanks because the church is, as Paul describes her in 1 Timothy 3:14-16, the church of the living God.
Relevant to reflecting on our history are these words from Fighting the Good Fight:
As insignificant as the OPC may appear and as uninspiring as its history may seem to some, the church’s past turns out to convey an important Christian truth. The Bible makes clear that God has not often used the mighty and powerful to achieve his ends. Israel was always a minor player in the annals of ancient near eastern history, and the apostles were by no means powerful or famous. In fact, God’s people have often been poor, common, and humble. As the apostle Paul wrote, God uses “jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (II Cor 4:7).
This is not to say that the OPC should celebrate its inferiority or take its cultural marginality for granted. But this is a reminder that suffering, humility, and adversity characterize God’s people. So if the OPC has not produced celebrities or if its methods have not been followed by the rest of the Protestant world, it does not mean that God has not blessed the church in less visible or celebrated ways. God’s people have a different measure for success and influence than the world’s standards.
D. G. Hart and John Muether, Fighting the Good Fight, Pub. by The Committee for the Historian of the OPC.
(In preparation for a message on June 5, 2011)