John 5:39-40 ESV You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (40) yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
I used to think I could find sound, genuine churches by reading their doctrinal statements. As far as the reformed confessions go, our church adheres to the London Confession of Faith. And years back we joined a fellowship of churches (ARBCA) that all held to that same confession.
Now, the London Confession is sound. It is a systematic statement of what the Bible teaches. It is a summary of what I believe. But…
What happened, what was our experience in that fellowship of churches (which is virtually non-existent anymore)? Well, it turned out that the head honchos were arrogant, bullying, power-craving people who covered up for one another when any got busted for some evil. Ask them and they would energetically insist that “Oh yes, the London Confession. We absolutely believe and teach those doctrines.” And yet they were evil.
Consider the Scripture above where Jesus is confronting the Jewish leaders. See what He tells them? He says “you all search the scriptures.” They knew their Bible verses. And they insisted that they were approved of by God because of it. They said that the Old Testament confirmed them as God’s chosen. No doubt at all, they said, that eternal life was theirs.
Jesus told them they were going to hell.
Why? Because for all of their “confession of faith,” they rejected the very heart of those Scriptures – the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not delight in lovingkindness or justice or righteousness. They were not converted. And in fact it would be those very Scriptures that will condemn them on the day of judgment.
And so it is today. If you check out a local church or seminary or some other professing Christian entity, if you read their statement of doctrine and see that every T is crossed and every I dotted, you still have not found out if these people are truly the Lord’s people or not. Do they understand that the Lord requires mercy and not sacrifice? Do they love the Lord and love His people? Do they have a hunger and thirst for His truth? Do they care for the oppressed and do they bring justice for them? Do they confront the wicked and put them out from the house of the Lord?
These you see are just as crucial questions to be answered and in fact if these latter questions are not answered with “absolutely yes!” then the first part is failed as well. Understand? To truly adhere to “sound doctrine,” we not only need to get the letter and facts of doctrine right, we must also get the application and spirit of the Scripture right. Otherwise we are just Pharisees.
The Lord does not “grade” on a curve. His standard is – either truth or falsehood. Either righteous or unrighteous. Either converted and born again or still dead in sin. Either children of God or children of the devil. Light or darkness. And I can tell you without hesitation, the majority of people today who profess to be Christians, and the majority of local churches are getting a great big “F” from Him. Because for all their “sound talk,” they do not know the Lord and they do not love His people.