OPC stands for Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Perhaps you may have heard each of the pieces before: Church, Presbyterian – even Orthodox. But what do we mean by putting them together? What is an “Orthodox Presbyterian”?
Though there is a detailed history behind the name, the meaning is simple: honesty and consistency. An ‘orthodox’ person is someone who tries to live a life that honestly reflects the principles he or she believes. The Orthodox Presbyterian Church tries to live consistently with the principles of Presbyterian Christianity. What does this mean?
A CHRISTIAN CHURCH
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a Christian Church. At the most basic level, this means that we believe what the Bible says and try to put it into practice.
Though the Bible is a long book, we believe that the heart of its message is fairly simple: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3.16). There is one God. He exists eternally. He is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son entered human history. Why? Because the entire human race had rebelled. This rebellion is what the Bible means when it speaks of ‘sin.’
Most of us don’t think of ourselves as ‘sinners.’ When we compare ourselves to others, we tend to think that we are “pretty good people.” But haven’t we all acted selfishly? Have you ever met even a single person who didn’t act selfishly? But Jesus, the one who never acted selfishly, lived and died so that selfish people like you and me would be delivered from our sin and selfishness, given a new heart, and transformed into new people.
Of course, there are many other religions in the world that share some common concerns with Christianity: a quest for God, answers to the problem with humanity, the desire for salvation, and a hunger to know the meaning of life. Different religions give different answers to these questions, but they all agree that salvation is something we must do. Success depends on our effort. Every other religion teaches its followers to live in a certain way in the hope of earning acceptance. But how can selfish people ever be devoted to something other than themselves? And who would reward us for it? Is there no better way?
Christianity proclaims a better way.
All our efforts to save ourselves are doomed. But there is good news! In the person and work of his Son, God has already done everything necessary to save us. Jesus secured forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who desire it. He did this by his life, death, and resurrection. And he offers new life – his own resurrection life – to all people. All we have to do is trust him as our true King and only Savior.
In trusting him, we are transformed and begin to live new lives. Though our practices may at points resemble those of world religions, our motive is completely different. World religions command us to earn acceptance. Christianity teaches that we live new lives because we have been accepted already through Jesus! This is why Christians call the message of the Bible “good news” (gospel). As a Christian Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is committed to proclaiming this gospel of Jesus Christ to all people.
A PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is also a Presbyterian Church. In its essence, this means three things. We are confessional. We are connectional. We are international.
We are confessional. We publish an official confession. Every church has some understanding of what the Bible teaches. The only question is whether they make it official by putting it in print. In the Orthodox Presbyterian Church we insist on being transparent about what we believe the Bible teaches. That is why we publish our confession. The confession of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. While these documents summarize Bible teaching, they never take the place of the Bible itself, which is always our primary standard. How does a confession help? First, it links us to the church of history. Through our confession, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is connected to believers from earlier centuries of the Christian Church. Second, our confession links us to each other. Just as every state in the USA must follow the historic constitution of the nation, so every congregation in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church must follow the historic confession of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
We are connectional. We express our connectional character not only through our confession, but also through our intentional structure. Congregations of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church are led by their group of elders (what we call the session), their presbytery (all the pastors and elders in a given geographical location), and the General Assembly (all the pastors and elders in the denomination). At every level, Orthodox Presbyterian church government provides accountability and unity, and each congregation is connected to the worldwide mission of the church.
We are international. We cultivate a global Christian identity. Recognizing that all human societies are temporary, we seek to avoid being controlled by any one national culture or political agenda. Rather, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church seeks to build relationships with other churches around the world. We also seek to establish the worship of God and take the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people in all the world.
A GROWING CHURCH
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a growing church. In North America, we plant new churches in small towns and large cities (Home Missions and Church Extension). Overseas, we sponsor missionaries who work to raise up churches led by local people (Foreign Missions). At home and abroad, we publish books, pamphlets, and magazines aimed to help Christians follow Jesus better (Christian Education).
Perhaps this last point is the most important thing to remember about the Orthodox Presbyterian Church: we are committed to following Jesus better. We recognize that there are many ways in which we fall short. We are not a perfect church, nor are we the only Christian church. Yet it is our sincere desire to be honest and consistent in our life, worship, and witness – an Orthodox Presbyterian Church.