May 23: Robert Marsden & the 20th Anniversary of the OPC

Appointed in Defense of the Gospel

Go to any battlefield commemorating the fighting of the War Between the States, or Civil War, and you will find monuments highlighting what took place on  that spot 150 years ago. In like fashion, any denomination which has any history at all, will have various spiritual monuments which remember the constant and never-ending battle for the gospel which took place by its ministers and members on behalf of the everlasting truth.

MarsdenRIt was on May 23, 1956 that one of the founders of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Robert S. Marsden, spoke at the twentieth anniversary of that church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Taking as his text Philippians 1:7, he addressed the assembled members of the Orthodox Presbyterian churches in Philadelphia what is involved in being appointed for the defense of the gospel.

His first point spoke of the past monuments in defense of the gospel as they are found in church history.  Beginning at Pentecost, the minister traced the period of time from the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. which saved the day for the gospel against the early attacks upon it.  Then the Reformation period of the sixteenth century was raised up by God to preserve the church from Roman Catholic traditions which usurped the gospel.  A jump further to the beginnings of the Presbytery of Philadelphia in 1706, where seven ministers saw the need to organize a new church in the colonies.  Then June 11, 1936, a small band of one  hundred and fifty teaching and ruling elders constituted the First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America, closed out the milestones of the gospel to be memorialized by Biblical Christianity.

After enunciating the summary of the gospel to be that Christ died for our sins, Rev. Marsden outlined the three battles which present themselves before the modern Reformed church.  There are, succinctly, the battle against religionists, the battle against externalism, and the battle against formalism.  How easy it is to be drawn away from the gospel into one of these false viewpoint and actions.

Our assured success, this Orthodox Presbyterian leader stated, falls into keeping our minds in the perpetual character of the war.  As long as we are in the church militant, there will be plenty of fighting on-going.  He reminded the listeners on that June evening in 1956 that battles must constantly be fought at the very point of contact.  All of these conflicts will often result in suffering for Christ, but success is assured if the message and ministry is kept relevant.

The entire message is found in the Presbyterian Guardian on-line archives, Vol 25, number 6 for June 15, 1956.  Readers are urged to read it in its entirety.

Words to Live By: If we as believers do not recognize our appointment by the Holy Spirit to defend the gospel, there is simple no one else who will do it.  Pray for a divine opportunity this week to say a word in defense of that blessed good news.

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