The First General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church

1.  Peter’s Report about Cornelius at the General Assembly of Jerusalem

Around 49 A.D., at the First General Assembly of some Presbyters of Christ’s Church delegated by their Congregations and/or their Presbyteries, Peter again reminded the Elders (and also other of the brethren in attendance) about what had been happening.   Declared Peter:

"You know how, a good while ago, God made choice among us that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the Word of the Gospel — and believe.   And God, Who knows the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as He did to us, and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith….   We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ [the Spirit-anointed One], we shall be saved even as they."

Calvin comments: "The elect are enlightened to faith, by the special grace of the Spirit…. Since God ordered the teaching of the Gospel to be brought to the Gentiles, He consecrated them to Himself — so that they might be no longer be profane….  

"The Gentiles were ingrafted into the people of God, without circumcision….   The Holy Spirit fell on them….   It is the Spirit of regeneration alone Who distinguishes the sons of God from outsiders….   God sealed His gracious adoption in Cornelius and his relatives, with the visible grace of the Spirit….

"The method of cleansing, is twofold.   (1) Christ, by daily destroying our sins for which He once [and for all] made atonement by His blood — offers and presents us, pure and righteous, in the sight of the Father….   {2) mortifying the desires of the flesh by His Spirit, He reforms us in sanctity….

"It would not be such a difficult thing to satisfy the Moral Law — if it were satisfied only with bodily obedience, and did not demand Spirit-ual righteousness….   But we must not listen to any human voice that is in opposition to the judgment of the Spirit of God!  

"We hear what the Spirit pronounces here through the lips of Peter…about their ability and power….   It must therefore be concluded that even believers, after they have been born again by the Spirit of God, and are eager for the righteousness of the Law — yet [only] fulfil the half of it, and even far less than half….  

"We are not dealing with what the grace of the Spirit is capable of doing, but with what the measure of grace which God distributes to each of His Own in this life is able to do….   He promises the grace and help of the Spirit to the faithful — so that they may fight against the desires of the flesh and subdue them….  

"There was no reason…to be hesitant about conceding, freely and clearly, that it was possible — with the Holy Spirit as the Performer."   At least to some considerable extent.   "For the grace of the Spirit must be put within limits [within fallen and therefore imperfect human beings during our present earthly life], in order to conform to the promises….

"A more difficult Question suggests itself here: ‘Has the Law not been given for the purpose of forcing men to obey God?   For there would have been no point in that happening — unless the Spirit of God were guiding the faithful in the keeping of it.’"  

Answer: "We have the present help not only of the grace of the Holy Spirit to direct us, but also of the free forgiveness of sins….   We are justified by the grace of Christ….   He regenerates us by His Spirit….   I certainly admit that we are regenerated unto newness of life by the grace of Christ."   Thus Calvin. 

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