Teaching God's Truth
The third element in the Great Commission is the systematic inculcation of the truth revealed in the Scriptures.
"teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you"
This command is of course not to be limited to the teachings of Christ during the days of His earthly ministry; arbitrarily to limit it to such a narrow compass would be to disregard the organic character of the Bible as divine revelation. The whole Bible is rightly regarded as the Word of Jesus Christ: the Old Testament is His Word given through Moses, the Prophets and the Psalmists; the New Testament is His Word given through the Apostles and Evangelists. The Great Commission, therefore, requires that the Churches established by missionary effort be further instructed in the entire system and fabric of truth revealed in the Scriptures.
In order that this may be done without confusion arising from human proneness to error, it is necessary that the Church have a definite standard of truth. subordinate to the Scriptures, as the norm of its faith and life, including its missionary activity. There must be mutual agreement in interpretation of the Scriptures, at least as concerns the main doctrines, principles and applications of the Christian Faith (absolute agreement as to every detail of truth is of course impossible on earth). Lacking such a mutually accepted standard, the Church's missionary work must inevitably lack Scriptural unity and be adversely affected by individualistic and divisive tendencies.
This Board, therefore, in common with the Church to which it is responsible, accepts that interpretation of the Scriptures commonly called Calvinism, or the Reformed Faith, as the purest and most consistent form of the Christian Religion; and the principle of worship and church government, according to which every element of worship and government must have definite Scripture warrant, as of divine authority and to be adhered to in all our missionary work.
Subordinate to the Bible, which is the Word of God, our doctrinal standards are the Westminster Confession of Faith. the Larger and Shorter Catechisms and the Reformed Presbyterian Testimony: and our practical and administrative standards are the Form of Government, the Book of Discipline and the Directory for the Worship of God, together with the Covenant of 1871. All missionaries appointed by this Board are required to signify their approval of these standards by a personal acceptance of the Terms of Communion of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.
Churches which are established on foreign mission fields should eventually become wholly self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing, being responsible directly to Christ, the Head of the Church. We do not regard it as proper that Churches established by missionaries on foreign fields be permanently under the jurisdiction of an ecclesiastical court in America, though such a status may be inevitable and even desirable in the early or formative stages of the work.
Eventually the Churches on the mission fields should cease to be daughters and should become sisters of the Church in the home field. When this point is reached, it will be the duty of the Church on each foreign field to determine its own standards of doctrine, worship, government and discipline, according to its own interpretation of the Scriptures, being responsible directly to Christ. Prior to the attainment of such ecclesiastical autonomy, the missionaries should instruct and counsel the Churches along lines in harmony with the accepted standards of the Church which has appointed and sent them out as missionaries.
Until ecclesiastical autonomy is attained, all ordained officers of mission Churches (and members also, as far as their understanding makes possible) are to be required to signify their acceptance of the Terms of Communion, and are to be examined as to their knowledge of the documents to which the Terms refer. In order that the officers and members of mission Churches may profess their faith conscientiously and intelligently, the missionaries in each field should endeavor that the complete Standards of the Church, subordinate to the Scriptures, be translated and published, as soon as possible, in the language of the people of that field.