What does ARP mean?
Oconee ARP Church is a part of a larger denomination known as the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, or the ARP, for short. Its origin, as with all Presbyterian churches, comes from Scotland.
John Knox (1514-1572), known as the “Father of Presbyterianism,” was exiled from Scotland and made his way to Geneva to study under John Calvin. When allowed back into Scotland, Knox took what he had learned from Calvin and the continental reformers and adapted this system of church government and function for Scotland. Based upon the Bible, it included presbyters, or elders, and deacons, and thus became known as Presbyterianism.
In the mid-1740s two Presbyterian associations were formed, known as the Associate Presbytery and Synod and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland. When members of these two groups migrated to America, they maintained their affiliations until joining together in Philadelphia on November 1, 1782 as the Associate Reformed Church.
Today the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, or the ARP, is an international body of believers. Our only King and Head of the Church is the Lord Jesus Christ; our sole primary standard is the Word of God; and our secondary standard is the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. (1642-1650)
The ARP has a foreign missions agency, known as World Witness. whose primary focus is upon the Muslim world with growing emphasis in other lands. Our home missions agency is known as Outreach North America, which focuses upon planting and invigorating churches in America and Canada. Additionally, we have the Christian Education Ministries for the training and equipping of gospel leaders, disciples and students; the Women’s Ministries to equip and encourage the women of our denomination; Erskine College and Seminary, founded in 1837 for the preparation of pastors, missionaries and teachers; Bonclarken, our retreat and conference center, located in Flat Rock, North Carolina; and the ARP Magazine, a publication that informs readers regarding all aspects of the work of the ARP.
What is a “Reformed” Church?
You may have noticed the word “Reformed” in our church name. This word comes through our denomination, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which is discussed in the next section. But let’s begin with something more fundamental...what is the church?
There are several fruitful ways to approach this question. Biblically, the church is described and today lives as the people of God, the assembly and body of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Various denominations and groups of believers tend to focus more on one of these aspects than the others. The Reformed family of churches emphasizes the church as the people of God.
Another analysis of the true church was developed during the Protestant Reformation, an analysis that focused upon what were called the marks of a true church. This approach led to the presence of three distinguishing features of any true church of Jesus Christ: it must include the true preaching of the Word, the proper observance of the sacraments, and the faithful exercise of church discipline. These marks were derived from an emphasis on the apostles and the meaning of their doctrine as the foundation for the church.
One such apostle, named Peter, said this: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
(I Peter 2:9-10)
Clearly the concept of the church is rich and far beyond this small description. But what about a “Reformed” church? This added word simply means that the richness of the above descriptions carries the imprint of those who were instrumental in the Protestant Reformation, mentioned earlier. This important movement in history is usually said to have begun in 1517 with Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic monk at the time. Luther read his Bible, and concluded that there was a need to reform his established church, that is, a need to re-form the church upon the Scripture as its absolute authority.
The Protestant Reformation was a glorious era in church history, a time when learned pastor-theologians met to write catechisms, creeds, and confessions. The Bible reinvigorated all of the Protestant church, and the theology of these reformers is often distilled into what are called the five Solas, meaning, in this case, essential doctrines of Scripture that stand alone. These Solas are Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), Sola Gratia (Grace alone), Sola Fide (Faith alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (the Glory of God alone).
Others in different areas of Europe arrived at the same beliefs and took up the same cause. Among the many reformers, John Calvin (1509-1564), a Frenchman, became known as the great systematizer of what the Bible taught. His work was done primarily in Geneva, Switzerland, and his influence became so profound that today the word “Calvinism” is often understood as a synonym for “Reformed.” So a “Reformed” church is one that views itself through the eyes of Scripture, and thus exists to teach, preach, and live the truths of God’s inerrant and infallible Word. Such a church will have its center focused upon God the Father’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ his Son and his accomplished redemption on the cross, all applied by the Holy Spirit.