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A Standard of Truth

March 16, 2017

The churches in the New Testament all held to a common body of doctrine. Though false teaching began to appear almost simultaneously with the spread of the gospel, the apostles all preached the same basic truths. These truths are called “the faith.” The New Testament refers to “the faith” in a way that indicates a recognized set of teachings that was the standard to which Christians were expected to adhere. The New Testament faith was larger than the doctrines of the gospel. Unfortunately, in the years since the writing of the New Testament the clarity of the apostles teaching has become confused.

The local church’s doctrinal statement summarizes the Biblical doctrines providing a “faith” to which all who are part of the church should adhere. No church should imagine that its doctrinal statement perfectly or completely captures all crucial New Testament doctrines. The local church should recognize that it is not a perfect receptacle of truth. The local church should be fully convinced of the truth of the doctrines it holds while humbly recognizing other orthodox Christians can, and do, reach different conclusions on important doctrines. The doctrinal statement is the local church’s attempt to give a summary statement of the New Testament faith.

The doctrinal statement is a boundary for church membership because it summarizes those beliefs which one must hold to be recognized as an obedient brother in Christ. Other Christians are still recognized as brethren in Christ, but fellowship is limited because of disagreement over significant doctrines. The boundary set by the statement of faith does not assume willful sin, nor does it presuppose antagonism with those who disagree. A wise use of the doctrinal statement strives to be as charitable as possible by viewing many doctrinal differences as well-intentioned errors. The doctrinal statement should be applied as honestly as possible by recognizing well intentioned error as genuine error that cannot be overlooked.

The New Testament teaches the body of doctrine necessary for unity, growth and protection in the church. Ephesians 4:13 says that God gave leadership gifts to the church to equip believers to do the work of the ministry. The aim of the work of the ministry within the local church is to bring believers into the “unity of the faith”, the “knowledge of the Son of God” and “unto a perfect man”. Maturity in Jesus is evidenced by doctrinal stability and the ability to speak truth in love. A well written doctrinal statement provides the church with a clear guide to promote spiritual maturity within its members.

God has entrusted the church with the responsibility to uphold truth in this world. The statement of faith offers a concise recitation of those truths which the church upholds. The doctrinal statement establishes a written baseline to which the doctrine of all members, teachers and preachers will be held accountable. The confession of faith answers ahead of time difficult questions of the faith, presents a definite stance on doctrinal controversies and helps protect against well-meaning compromises that would ultimately prove destructive to the unity of the church. The statement of faith protects the doctrinal integrity of the local church.

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