Doctrinal standards are of great importance to the faithful and fruitful labor of church leaders. Such standards set forth some of the most important teachings of Scripture in a summary and systematic form, a form that typically has been tested over time and has proven faithful to its source. When voluntarily adopted by church leaders, they provide a bond of union for those joined together to care for the church as “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).
Generally, confessional churches have distinguished between the function of a doctrinal standard with respect to church members and with respect to church leaders. Church members, having confessed the essentials of the gospel, may well be widely varied in their understanding of, and adherence to, the church’s doctrinal standards. A mature embrace of this fuller statement of the truth is a goal, not the prerequisite, for a life of discipleship. On the other hand, church leaders are required to embrace the church’s standards as their own, as an accurate statement of some of the great truths that they themselves find in the Word of God, and that will guide them in their labors. In this way, the truth is entrusted “to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
Thus, doctrinal standards are important in that they facilitate the doctrinal training of candidates for church leadership. They provide a uniform curriculum for such training, and the goal of this preparation should be a cordial embrace of their teaching. Also essential is the ability to explain that teaching to members and to show its foundation in the Bible.