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New Horizons

The Task of Christian Education

John P. Galbraith

It is a joyous time for me at this seventy-fifth anniversary. The church that was founded by some one hundred and thirty members on the eleventh of June 1936 has held fast to the commitment it made on that memorable day until this memorable day. Have we maintained the faith? Have we been building the church? Jesus said, "I will build my church." Whatever we have done to land here seventy-five years later, holding to the same faith, has been by the grace of the Spirit of the living God.

It gives me joy, then, to be here among such an assemblage—joy because I look out and see people who are holding to that faith. And I trust that you have similar joy that you can be here on this day. So many have given their lives for that. Men and women, even children, have committed themselves wholly to the Lord Jesus Christ in this church and to the church to carry on its ministry.

When J. Gresham Machen was trying to reform the Presbyterian Church in the USA, there were two things that he dealt with primarily. First, that church was no longer holding to the Bible, but the Bible is the Word of God and the church of Jesus Christ must be built upon it. Second, the Presbyterian Church in the USA was sending out missionaries who were not preaching that Word anymore. To Machen there were two important things: the Bible is the Word of God, and it must be obeyed. I call them the two pillars on which he based his argumentation.

Our church stood on those two pillars in 1936. It adopted the Bible as the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice, our guide. And then the Assembly committed itself to proclaiming that Word with a ministry abroad and at home, without and within. This church is founded on those two pillars, and it is my intention this day to say a few words on how the Committee on Christian Education fits into that whole picture of proclaiming the Word of God.

One thing that was very important to that first Assembly was the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. And to do it, they immediately set up three committees to help the congregations as then existed and would be formed. Those committees were the Committees on Home and Foreign Missions and Christian Education. The Committees on Home and Foreign Missions had one message. They were obeying Jesus Christ, who said specifically what we were to do. He said in Acts 1, "Ye shall be my witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." In Matthew 28, he said, "All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach." That was not just a missionary goal. That teaching included the Bible, the entire content of the Word of God. We came to think of that then, and to call it the Reformed Faith, after the Reformation.

Now, there is a difference between the two missions committees and the Committee on Christian Education that should be noted. Those two missions committees do their work and carry on their ministries outside the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. They preach to those who are without. The Committee on Christian Education, however, teaches and preaches to those of us who are within. That is a monumental task because it means that the Committee on Christian Education teaches those who are to teach. It is a committee to teach teachers.

But, a lot more than that, it is a committee that goes from the cradle to the grave. It picks up through the ministry of Great Commission Publications. It picks up through children who haven't yet gone to school and it leads congregations to teach the Scripture to those little, tiny tots. It teaches the Scripture itself, and what we believe the Scriptures teach, in the Catechisms. We have the magazine New Horizons. As those children begin to grow up and begin to read, they read the words of that magazine that is delivered free to every home in the church. We are thankful that ministry has been fully funded and we are able to do that.

We go on from New Horizons magazine to the Subcommittee on Ministerial Training, which is so very important. When I was in seminary, there were really only two seminaries that you could consider. There was Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, and there was Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We regarded the Christian Reformed Church highly and its seminary highly. But today there is a galaxy of seminaries. What they teach, who knows? They are taught at those seminaries, and then they come to our presbyteries for examinations. We touch on a lot of the things that we think are important, but many of them have accumulated what I call "hidden heresies." They don't know they are heresies. They don't mention them to us because they don't think it important. What do we do about that? Well, the Subcommittee on Ministerial Training is certainly doing a yeoman's job in trying to straighten men out.

There is another serious error that confronts us with students who come from many seminaries, and that is they have been subjected to what is thought to be a legitimate inclusivism. This is one of the most serious dangers that the Orthodox Presbyterian Church faces. We don't believe in inclusivism, but many of the students who have come into our church have been taught it. They are taught, "You don't have to hold to everything, do you?" But, we believe, you do. That is one of the reasons that we put so much weight on the Westminster Standards.

I trust that we realize the danger. Inclusivism is what destroyed the Presbyterian Church in the USA. You go back to the middle of the nineteenth century, and you see the joining of several different groups. People who held to the Bible, yes, maybe not so firmly, but yes, they were allowed to exist together. And that grew and grew and grew until, when 1936 came, you could believe and teach whatever you jolly well pleased. That began among evangelicals, that is dangerous, and we have to be on our guard against it.

I say to you that the work of the Committee on Christian Education is the basic agency of the General Assembly. It is not more important than missions, not at all. How could you beat the importance of those words of Jesus, "Go and teach"? Those are not just important; those are essential, and we must not give them up. But what I am saying is that the Committee on Christian Education has helped our churches to teach those people who go out as missionaries and teach the Word.

We should be thankful on this occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of our church. God has been good. We have missed many times in our aims. We have sinned. Let's not forget that. We cannot boast that we are the perfect church. We are so far from it. But there is one thing for which we can give God thanks: for moving us to desire, seek, and be faithful, as far as we are able, to God's Word.

God has given us a promise in Isaiah and in Habakkuk that the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the water covers the sea. The hymn writer picks up that thought. He changes the venue a bit. He says, "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun does his successive journeys run." We believe that. We sing that. God has called upon us to maintain a faithful and energetic Committee on Christian Education.

The General Assembly resembles in one way the United States Congress. They are great at passing bills, but they are not so hot at paying for them. You think of all the big things that have been given to the Committee on Christian Education to perform—GCP, New Horizons, Ministerial Training, the Internet, and now more recently the psalter-hymnal. You expect this team of members to accomplish well all those things? I will certainly say that they do them as well as they can. And I think that we owe a great deal of thanks. You have been giving out ovations during this Assembly, rightly so, but there are some others that deserve the same thing. One is the general secretary and the fifteen men of that Committee. They have multiple assignments on subcommittees trying to deal with all of these big subjects for the betterment of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. And I hope you will recognize what these men are doing for you. They are doing it because they love God.

And I hope that all of you will be able to sing that great hymn—and when sung to a great tune it is great for the church—and I wish that I could sing it to you. I won't try today, but you know what I am talking about: "All hail the power of Jesus' name! Let angels prostrate fall, let angels prostrate fall; bring forth the royal diadem, and crown him, crown him, crown him, crown him, and crown him Lord of all!" I hope you have sung that. If you haven't sung it yet, get to it before the Assembly adjourns.

I say to you, "Keep standing fast." That doesn't need any exegesis. You know exactly what it means. Stand fast in the faith once delivered to the saints. Stand fast on the Word of God, and then get going on the things that God has given us to do. Teach our people well. Teach them to do their job, and to do it well. And to that I think I can say only my own amen and say also, to God be the glory.

I thank you for letting me say these few words to you. I want the praise to be to God alone—God, wonderful counselor, mighty God, prince of peace, King of kings and Lord of lords, to him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

The author, the oldest minister in the OPC at 98, has served the OPC in many capacities. He delivered this address to the General Assembly. New Horizons, September 2011.

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