- Series: 9Marks
- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: B&H Academic (April 1, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1433677768
- ISBN-13: 978-1433677762
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,028 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (9Marks) Paperback – April 1, 2012
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“Mark Dever has rendered an invaluable service to the Body of Christ in this book. Its biblical grounding is sure, and its theological insights are spot on! Few address the issues of ecclesiology better than this pastor/theologian. This work will help us better understand what the church is and what the church does when it is faithful to Scripture.”
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It's densely packed with insight from a pastor-theologian who has built his preaching ministry around the Word of God. Dever's passion is for healthy churches. He believes that God's Word is sufficient for every aspect of the church. This is the first part of the book. I. What Does the Bible Say? Here he gives us the biblical foundations of the church. Then he looks at historical issues related to the life of the church in II. What Has the Church Believed? Finally Dever answers in the final part III. How Does It All Fit Together? This is the modern application for church life.
While I did initially expect the book to be longer, Dever packs it with footnotes and points the reader to many reference sources. It's a great primer on Ecclesiology. I would recommend it if you're familiar with Dever's previous works on healthy churches because this treatment of the church seems to be more of a complete thought, more well-rounded. And, if you're not familiar with Dever this would be the best place to start.
Let me answer an objection I could foresee, "Read a Baptist book?" Yes, even if you're not persuaded by credobaptism, this book will truly help you biblically define what a church is. Dever's solid foundations and formulations will challenge you to think Scripturally about many of our accepted practices within the church today. Many of the blurbs in the front will attest to this as well.
Dever accomplishes this goal by asking four fundamental questions regarding what Christians are to do together. He asks, 1) what are we supposed to do, 2) what are we supposed to believe, 3) what are we supposed to do together in church, and 4) How are we supposed to make decisions.
One of the strengths of this book is its explanation of the kingdom and the church. Dever writes, “the relationship between the kingdom and the church can therefore be defined: the kingdom of God creates the church.” Dever relies upon the work of George Ladd who explains that the kingdom is not a place or a political entity but rather a rule of God. The church then is a society of people who are ruled by God. This explanation is helpful in explaining that the kingdom of God is separate from the people of God. This is probably where Dever shows his non-dispensational Amill hand. He stresses, along with other amillennials, the rule of God’s kingdom where dispensationalists stress the place of God’s kingdom.
Unfortunately, Dever’s biblical claims to this distinction falls flat. He cites Matt 16:19 specifically where Jesus promised to give “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Dever says, “whatever he precisely means by promising the keys of the kingdom, the power of the kingdom is certainly entrusted to the church. ‘The kingdom is God’s deed. It has come into the world in Christ.’” The biblical defense from Matthew 16:19 is lacking.
Dever also says, “Jesus fulfilled explicit promises of God in the Old Testament and even patterns found there. He is the fulfillment of the temple and its priesthood, of the land and its rulers, even of the nation of Israel as a son of God.” No specific explanation is given by Dever as to how Christ is the fulfillment of the land promises given.
Dever’s chapter on the marks of the church were very clear and straightforward. Dever lists two main marks of the church. Preaching and the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s table. Another strength would be the chapter on membership which is both clear and persuasive to be members of a local church.
Dever’s chapter on the polity of the church was very helpful. I found myself wishing he would go further in explanation I realized that this book is not an exhaustive work but a primer on the doctrine of the church. His explanation of the different offices of the church and responsibility of the members of the church was very well laid out. I found his distinction between elder-rule and elder-led to be a clarifying statement on why churches differ on their leadership. Dever’s own combination position I found intriguing. He says, “on matters that are important and clear, the elders and congregation should normally agree; and when they do not, the authority of the congregation is final. On matters that are less clear, the congregation should trust the elders and go along with them, trusting God’s providential work through them.” He later expands his view calling it Elder-led, Congregationally Governed. He explains that “the congregation’s authority is more like an emergency-break than a steering wheel. The congregation more normally recognizes than creates, responds rather than initiates, confirms rather than proposes.” This position maintains the plural elder leadership while involving the congregation in weighty matters. I can see how this can be helpful in situations where the elders may not be united in an issue like direction for a church building or possibly the unfortunate division in a church discipline matter. I would like to see how this is effectively implemented.
Dever’s chapter on the hope of the church thoughtfully encourages the church to serve its local community in good deeds. He says, “Churches should teach and pray for and expect their members to be involved in a wide variety of good works… this can be done without leading the congregation as a whole to own or support those particular ministries (by congregationally funding or staffing them).” We practice this model in our church and found it to be liberating since church members are free and not bound to a church committee or support. They can serve locally with the joy of the Lord and in a variety of ways the Lord has gifted them.
The most helpful would probably be the historical chapters in the book. The section on the rise of denominations was enlightening. Dever comments on Calvin’s stance on truth over unity saying, “the Reformers recognized that the cost of unity at the price of truth was a bad bargain. Correct division should be preferred over corrupt unity.”
Overall I would recommend this book as a easy to read primer on the topic of the Church.
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Don't get me wrong. I'm a 5 point Calvinist & I believe in the 5 Solas.Read more
A very good book.