The questions of the role and organization of the church is one mostly ignored in Evangelicalism today. Topics such as church membership and church discipline are largely left by the wayside as planters from various denominations map out their plan of attack when it comes to the church. There are many arguments for why this is but along with the arguments one would find any number of supporting texts from the Bible to support their argument. Some do so knowing the biblical mandates for the church and others interpret the text to fit their desires of what they think the church should be like. Mark Dever has written The Church: The Gospel Made Visible, in part, to combat the errors of those who think they can define apart from biblical precepts who and what the church is.
Dever breaks the material down into manageable bite-sized chunks yet do not leave the reader feeling unsatisfied. Part 1 begins by digging into the biblical text to find out exactly what the Bible says of the church. Here Dever broadly dusts off the shelves of history and biblical texts to give the readers a clearer and broader picture of the topics expounded in the latter portion of the book. Part 2 takes a historic look at what the church has believed in the past. Dever does not leave the reader with a one-sided view of Baptist-specific history but points out other denominational history as well. Part 3 concludes the book taking the pieces of the puzzle and fitting them together in coherent and exegetically accurate portrait of Christ’ Bride.
Dever does not shy away from pointing out topics that would cause his readers to shift uncomfortably in their seats. He is biblically faithful when exploring the topics of discipline in the church, ordinances and/or sacraments, and briefly touches upon the topic of tithing, which was largely absent from the text as a whole. Dever also does an excellent job of shining light on extra-Baptistic practices which can be held to, but Dever is hesitant to leave them there. He passionately shines the light on the biblical text in such a way as to snuff out error where it is due. He is faithful to speak on the topics which the Bible propounds clearly but is very careful to not speak where the Bible does not, which is one thing I admired about this writing. There was a small section which I would have enjoyed reading more in-depth, regarding Dever’s positions (i.e. multi-site churches) but I was content to leave it where Dever had.
Overall I would say this text is a brief synopsis of the church and what that means for anyone who would call themselves a Christian. Dever points out from the outset that this text was primarily written for Baptist members but it surely goes beyond that. At some points I had to grab my Bible to make sure what Dever was saying was accurate and at other points I was grabbing for my pen so that I could take notes. This text is exegetically rigorous but because of the clarity which Dever writes with, you won’t need a seminary degree to understand it. Some may want to throttle Dever and some may want to congratulate him but what I found was this; Dever isn’t trying to be an all-star in the church with this text, he is simply being faithful to the biblical records of what the church is and should be. I appreciate what this book has taught me and highly recommend it to any who would profess Christ. Even if you’re not Baptist this volume will be extremely helpful in the describing what the Bible has to say about the church.
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The Church: The Gospel Made Visible By Mark Dever / B&H Academic
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