I have been in several different OPC church services over the years and have wondered why the Doxology and the Gloria Patri as well as the historic creeds are sung/recited in corporate worship. My understanding is that the OPC subscribes to the Regulative Principle of Worship. How do these practices fit into this principle, as they seem to be more of church tradition rather than commanded in the Scriptures?
Like many Reformed denominations, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is committed to the regulative principle of worship, which insists that God requires worship only according to what is expressly commanded in the Bible (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1ff, Deut. 12:32).
But, as you may know, what the regulative principle allows and disallows is a matter of controversy within the Reformed community. We pretty much all agree that God has commanded that the church sing his praise and offer thanksgiving and that it concern itself with the whole counsel of God.
Insofar as the OPC views itself as the continuation of the Presbyterian Church in the USA as it existed in the 19th century, its “traditions” (as you call them) reflect the view that hymns that conform to Scripture, though not specifically being Bible passages themselves, are consistent with the regulative principle, that is, with what God has commanded. The body of acceptable hymnody would include the Doxology and the Gloria Patri. You might be interested in reading the OPC General Assembly report dealing with exclusive psalmody and related matters, which can be found on the OPC website (http://opc.org/GA/song.html).
Likewise, our church finds no inconsistency in the use of confessional statements in worship insofar as they accurately present the teaching of God’s Word. The OPC Directory for the Public Worship of God (II.B.3.b) states, “It is … fitting that the congregation as one body confess its common faith, using creeds that are true to the word of God, such as the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed.” These creeds are the historic faith of the church and as such are instruments for teaching in public worship comparable to a sermon and are also means of addressing God. Just as prayer in general in worship can be either spontaneous or pre-prepared, so historical declarations of faith directed to the Lord are often prayerful, worshipful acts of commitment and renewal. 1 Timothy 3:16 leaves the impression that creeds were uttered in the worship of the early Church.
It should be noted that even within the OPC there is liberty for the local church not to use the creeds or any particular hymn. Many congregations regularly sing the Psalms, but not exclusively. Some congregations choose to sing only the Psalms without instrumental accompaniment.
I hope this brief answer provides a clearer understanding of the OPC’s use of certain hymns and creeds.
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