C.I. Scofield’s “true church” doctrine


The Bible teaches, for the present time, the local autonomous spiritual body (church), not the universal visible or invisible church. There will be a universal visible church after the marriage supper of the Lamb; then there will be no more local autonomous churches. For Bible teaching on this, see The Biblical Doctrine of the Church. Great sermons by Pastor Jason Cooley on the local church are:

Pastor Cooley has preached many sermons on the doctrine of the church. Links to those sermons are at Sermons by Pastor Jason Cooley at “3. Sermons dealing with the doctrine of the church.” Pastor Cooley will be preaching more on this doctrine and those sermons will be added to the  page.

C.I. Scofield’s “true church” doctrine

Jerald C. Finney © February, 2014

C.I. Scofield
C.I. Scofield

The notes in the C.I. Scofield Study Bible comment on a multitude of matters. Some churches use the Scofield Bible exclusively to the extent that the pastor, when preaching, will reference the page numbers he wishes the other church members to turn to. Scofield’s notes are not inspired by God. His commentaries are not the word of God. The word of God itself is totally true; and one must be careful to compare everything a Bible teacher says to the word of God. Some of Scofield’s teachings are true; some are false. He gave a lot of good and accurate insights to the Bible. However, his study Bible is flawed; and many of his margin notes, headnotes, and footnotes are inaccurate. Some of the fallacies that he taught (along with other deceived “Bible believers”) have had serious negative effects in the spiritual warfare that the Bible tells the believer, as a soldier of the Lord, to fight.

This brief article will address one of the serious fallacies promoted by the Scofield Study Notes, give some examples of both his incorrect (Headnote to Ephesians) and correct (Headnote to Titus and Note 1 to Acts 15.13, page 1169) teachings, and conclude with his complete line of verses linked by his margin notes on what he calls the “true church.”

Scofield’s headnotes to each book of the Bible, footnotes, and margin notes reference many subjects. The margin notes are listed in alphabetical order in the middle of each two column page; and, according to Scofield, lead the reader from the first clear mention of a great truth to the last. The subject is the first word(s) in the margin note. Following that is the verse (or verses) where the subject is at that particular place. The next verse(s) is/are the next reference in the chain, and the references in parenthesis are the first and last.

The author, when beginning his studies of the biblical doctrine of the church, followed, among other things, Scofield’s footnotes and margin notes which dealt with the doctrine of the church to include his so-called “true church” doctrine. After years of intense Bible study, the author concluded that the “true church” or universal church doctrine is totally unsound, according to the word of God. It seems that some Bible students simply did not understand what God was saying when He referred to “the church” or “my church” in the His Word; so they invented a doctrine that makes absolutely no sense when considered in light of Bible teaching. Of course, when a religious organization such as the Catholic church decides that that institution is the authority, it can propose that it is the universal church. Other churches have also incorporated the idea of a true or universal church (visible or invisible) into their theology. Now, the idea of the “universal church” has been picked up by many who are not in a local, autonomous New Testament church. Many of these heretics as to the doctrine of the church have their own “ministries” operating outside the authority of a local spiritual assembly. Some of them are right about many matters, but they are all wrong about many other matters. When one gets his doctrine of the church wrong, other doctrines which are intertwined with the doctrine of the church must be perverted.

Many Bible believers teach a universal church doctrine. Many are acting outside local church authority over the internet and on radio and television; there they operate outside God’s church, teaching and leading the unwary who usually contribute to their “ministry.” Some also correctly organize into local churches with no earthly authority over them (except the federal government if they choose to violate the Bible principle and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution by becoming a legal entity such as an incorporated and/or Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) religious organization).

The spiritual and temporal implications are enormous. For example, in soul-winning, lost people are told by some, “We are not concerned about which church you attend. We just want to explain to you what the Bible teaches about how to be saved. We want you to know that you will go to heaven when you die.” They follow that with their sales pitch to try to lead the person to saying a prayer. In the author’s experience, almost all the people who say the prayer never show any change in lifestyle. If they go to a “church” such as the Roman Catholic religious organization or cult, they stay there. Whether or not they become a member of a church, many die and go to hell because their so-called “fire insurance” was worthless. Other universal church adherents get the doctrine of salvation right even though their “after salvation” theology is wrong, according to the Bible.

Click the following to access teaching of the correct doctrine of the church: “The Biblical Doctrine Of The Church.” One can also reference “Biblical principles concerning the institution of the church and local autonomous churches” (From Jerald Finney’s Bible Study Notes”) which have been organized and also revised by correcting Scofield’s errors in most of his notes on “true church” doctrine. Understanding the doctrine of the church is very important for a believer since “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ep. 5:25-27. The believer who does not correctly understand this doctrine cannot understand other important principles and doctrines in the Bible. Of course, the believer should examine, with the Bible as his standard, what anyone says, including what this author writes, concerning any biblical doctrine.

Scofield’s Headnote to Ephesians says in relevant part:

1“DATE. … Ephesians is the most impersonal of Paul’s letters. Indeed the words, ‘to the Ephesians,’ are not in the best manuscripts. Col 4:16 mentions an epistle to the Laodiceans. It has been conjectured that the letter known to us as Ephesians is really the Laodicean letter. Probably it was sent to Ephesus and Laodicea without being addressed to any church. The letter would then be ‘to the saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus’ anywhere.

“THEME. The doctrine of the Epistle confirms this view. It contains the highest church truth, but has nothing about church order. The church here is the true church, ‘His body,’ not the local church, as in Philippians, Corinthians, etc. Essentially, three lines of truth make up this Epistle: the believer’s exalted position through grace; the truth concerning the body of Christ; and a walk in accordance with that position.”

This short article cannot explain the error in the false conclusions he makes concerning the “true church, ‘His body’.” The teachings linked to above will explain what the Bible really teaches on the subject. Scofield’s conclusions on the “true church” do not withstand biblical scrutiny. Of course, any book of the Bible is written to “to the saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus” anywhere. However, when taken in the immediate and overall context, Ephesians certainly does not teach a “true church” as conceived by Scofield.

Notice that Scofield not only makes a false statement concerning the “true church,” but also discredits the King James Bible in a few of his notes. Sadly, many Christians have blindly followed Scofield or other teachers without checking out what they say against the authority – the word of God. I strongly disagree with Scofield’s assertion that the King James Bible was not based upon the best manuscripts. Although that is not the subject of this article, the subject is so important that it cannot go unmentioned. See King James Bible.

When the Lord, in the Bible, speaks of “the church” or “my church” He is speaking of the institution of the church, not a “true church” or “universal church.” The only verse that can rationally refer to a “true or universal church” is the last in Scofield’s line of verses on the “true church,” Hebrews 12.23 (see below). Again, for a more thorough explanation of the doctrine of the church see “The Biblical Doctrine Of The Church” and “Biblical principles concerning the institution of the church and local autonomous churches” (From Jerald Finney’s Bible Study Notes”).

Scofield gets it right in some of his notes concerning some aspects of the doctrine of the church:

Headnote to Titus: “Titus has much in common with First Timothy. Both Epistles are concerned with the due order of the churches. The distinction is that in First Timothy sound doctrine is more prominent (1Tim. 1:3-10), in Titus the divine order for the local churches (Tit. 1:5). The permanent use of these Epistles lies in this twofold application, on the one hand to churches grown careless as to the truth of God, on the other, to churches careless as to the order of God’s house. The importance of this order is made solemnly emphatic in that the tests by which true elders and deacons may be known are repeated (1Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:6-9). There are two divisions: I. The qualifications and functions of elders, 1.1-16. II. The pastoral work of the true elder, 2.1-3, 15.”

Note 1 to Acts 15.13, page 1169: “Dispensationally, [Acts 15.13 et. seq.] is the most important passage in the NT. It gives the divine purpose for this age, and for the beginning of the next.  (1) The taking out from among the Gentiles of a people for His name, the distinctive work of the present, or church-age. The church is the ecclesia—the “called-out assembly.” [Here correctly explained what the church is for this age – a called out assembly. Such a thing cannot be universal, but must be local. As explained in Hebrews 12.22-24 (see below)]

Onc can study theses matters further by analyzing Biblical principles concerning the institution of the church and local autonomous churches” (From Jerald Finney’s Bible Study Notes”).

Below are Scofield’s complete line of verses linked by his margin notes on what he calls the “true church.”
To put these in context with other Bible verses dealing with the doctrine of the church, click the following link:
“Biblical principles concerning the institution of the church and local autonomous churches” (From Jerald Finney’s Bible Study Notes”)

Mt. 16.18: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Acts 2:47: “Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

1. Co. 12:12-28 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.   For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

2 Co. 11:2-3: “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

Ep. 1.22-23: “22 And hat put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.”

Ep. 2.:19-22: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Ep. 3.1-10: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,  Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,”

Ep. 5:23, 25-27, 29-32: “(23) For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. (24) Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. (25) Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (26) That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. (27) That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (29) For no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: (30) For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (31) For this cause  shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. (32) This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”

Col. 1:18, 24: “(18) And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence…. (24) Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.”

He. 2:12: “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”

1 Thes. 4.16-17: 1 “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

He. 12:23 which is the end of the line for Scofield’s sloppy “true church” doctrine: “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,” [He. 12:22-24 says: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,  And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” [Conclusion: The universal visible church spoken of here will come into existence in the heavenly Jerusalem.]


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