First PCA General Assembly

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

New Church Sends Communication to All Christian Churches

It was at the close of the First General Assembly of what was originally named the National Presbyterian Church (a year later, renamed the Presbyterian Church in America) that a message was sent to all churches of Jesus Christ throughout the world from this new denomination.  Adopted and then sent on December 7, 1973, the elders of this new Presbyterian Church wished everyone to know of their principles and convictions which occasioned this new Church.

Chief among them was the sole basis of the Bible being the Word of God written by inspired authors and carrying the authority of the divine Author.  They desired that all branches of the visible church would recognize their conviction that “the Bible is the very Word of God, so inspired in the whole and in all its parts, as in the original autographs, the inerrant Word of God.”  Further, it is the only infallible and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice.”  (Message to all Churches, p. 1)

They also declared that they believed the system of doctrine found in God’s Word to be the system known as the Reformed Faith, as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. They wanted everyone to know that this Reformed Faith is an authentic and valid expression of Biblical Christianity.

A third conviction was expressed to renew and reaffirm their understanding of the nature and mission of the Church. To them, Christ is King and the only Law-giver, having established the Church as a spiritual reality.  It is composed of all the elect from all ages, manifested visibly upon the earth.

The chief end of man’s existence—our very reason for living—is to glorify God. That truth, reflected in the first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism aim, also implies that we give top priority to the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ which speaks to going into all the world, preaching the gospel, and disciplining all nations, bringing them into the church.

Last, they sought a return to the historic Presbyterian view of Church government from the Session of the local church to the Assembly of all the local church representatives.

With a closing invitation to ecclesiastical fellowship with all who maintain their principles of faith and order, the address came to a close.

Words to live by:  Even though the name was changed from National Presbyterian Church to Presbyterian Church in America in the next year after the publication of this Address, the principles and convictions have remained the same in this now forty year old church.  If you are not in a Bible-believing, Gospel-preaching Presbyterian and Reformed church, prayerfully consider the testimony and witness of the Presbyterian Church in America.

To read the entire “Message to All Churches of Jesus Christ throughout the World,” click here.

Through the Scriptures:  Ephesians 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  The necessity of church officers

WCF 30:2
“To these officers the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed; by virtue thereof, they have power, respectively, to retain, and remit sins; to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the Word, and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the Gospel; and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The First General Assembly of the National Presbyterian Church (i.e., the PCA

As the newly formed denomination met that December in 1973, there was much to do and little time in which to accomplish it. The opening of the General Assembly had begun on the previous day, December 4th, at 7:30 PM with a time of worship and an opening address delivered by ruling elder W. Jack Williamson. That address was titled “To God Be the Glory”.

The first full day of work for the Assembly began the next day, on December 5th. Committees for the various church agencies began meeting at 8:30 AM and following lunch, another time of worship was set aside. The Rev. C. Darby Fulton preached from Philippians 3:7-14, on “The Excellency of the Knowledge of Christ”.

The rest of that afternoon was spent in discussion and adoption of constitutional documents [the Westminster Standards and the Book of Church Order]. After dinner, the Assembly met yet again for worship, with the service under the direction of the Rev. Kennedy Smartt, then pastor of the Presbyterian church in Hopewell, Virginia. The Rev. Tim Fortner, of Hazelhurst, Missouri, led in prayer. The Rev. Sidney Anderson of Swannanoa, North Carolina, read the Scripture, and Dr. O. Palmer Robertson, professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, preached a sermon entitled “The National Presbyterian Church and the Faith Once Delivered,” taking Jude 3 as his text.

After the time of worship and before recessing for the evening, the Assembly continued its work on constitutional documents by adopting the first ten chapters of the Book of Church Order. The Assembly then recessed with prayer by the Rev. Todd Allen, pastor of the Eastern Heights Presbyterian church of Savannah, Georgia.

Words to live by: That second day of business was full and busy for the Assembly, but note how not just once but twice they met for times of worship during the day. I am reminded of Martin Luther’s statement, “I have so much to do today that I must spend the first three hours in prayer.” There is more truth in that statement than most of us are willing to admit, and certainly more than most of us are willing to live up to. But that first General Assembly of the PCA recognized their priorities and their need to completely and utterly rely upon the Lord in all their deliberations.

If you haven’t been living according to this pattern, then I urge you, test the Lord—try Him and see—put Him first each morning with a time of prayer and devotional Scripture reading. It doesn’t have to be long, perhaps just five or ten minutes if you can’t spare a half-hour. But I have every confidence that you will begin to see a marked improvement, first in your relationship with the Lord, and then in your relationships with family, friends, and  work.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 23 – 25

Through the Standards:  Proof Texts of the Lord’s Supper

1 Corinthians 11:23 – 30
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took break, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said ‘This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.’  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

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