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What Does It Mean that the Church Are a Pilgrim People?

The church being known as a pilgrim people would obviously go back to the early church. Peter’s writings to the early church refers to them as strangers and aliens. How do you achieve that now? How do you try to follow that? If you become successful and prosperous, this seems a difficult thing to be. Does it mean that you and I always have to keep moving— leaving somewhere and setting up again so we are always in exile? That’s not what it means.

It does mean, of course, trying to serve God, to glorify God, to love God, and to love one’s neighbor. Let that be the guiding motive and not let success in the world be what you want to accomplish. So, consumerism and worldly advancement—seeking wealth and riches and fame—those are things that a pilgrim people doesn’t do. In some ways, I guess that seems obvious, but on the other hand, it becomes more difficult when you take on more responsibilities in life. You get older, you have a family, you have bills to pay, etc. You have a business that you want to see go well; you love employees that you want to see paid. So, how does that work for a pilgrim people?

This gets into all the questions about Christ and culture, and questions about vocation are bound up with that too. But for case of the OPC, I think it meant going back to Machen and the kind of stands that he took. It meant not trying to gain fame and influence at the expense of being firm in your convictions and resolute in your statements. It meant taking a stand when there’s a controversy, not avoiding it or evading it for the sake of maintaining your position.

If you need to be a pilgrim people in that case, then so be it. In fact, it may be much more often the case that you need to be a pilgrim people than to gain the praise of the world. So, knowing this is a way of preparing people that you’re not necessarily going to be rich and famous if you become a Christian, especially if you become an orthodox Presbyterian.

Adapted from a transcript of the video.


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