Book Notice: “The Church: The Gospel Made Visible” by Mark Dever

“For too many Christians today, the doctrine of the church is like a decoration on the front of the building. Maybe it’s pretty, maybe it’s not, but finally it’s unimportant because it bears no weight. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The doctrine of the church is of utmost importance. It is the most visible part of Christian theology, and it is vitally connected with every other part” (p. ix). Thus begins the new book by Mark Dever, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible (B&H Academic).

The Church, the most recent publication to bear the imprint of Dever’s 9Marks ministry, is intended as a popular introduction to the doctrine of the church for evangelicals in general, and for Baptists in particular. This book began as a chapter in A Theology for the Church (B&H, 2007), edited by Danny Akin. Dever utilizes the same structure as he did in that chapter (biblical, historical, systematic, practical), while refining and expanding the content.

For each section, Dever uses a question-and-answer format. The questions include: “What should churches do?” “What should churches believe?” “How should churches worship?” “How should churches live together?” and “Should churches have multiple leaders?” These answers to these questions take on a unique and powerful significance when one realizes that “. . . Christian proclamation might make the gospel audible, but Christians living together in local congregations make the gospel visible (see John 13:34–35). The church is the gospel made visible” (xi). In other words, the local church is “Christ and the gospel on display.”

I recommend this book as a biblically sound, clearly articulated, and compelling treatise on the church. It is written in lucid prose and is accessible for any thoughtful Christian, as well as undergraduate and seminary students.

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  1. Steve Martin   •  

    For us, the gospel is made visable. We even call it, The Visable Word.

    That pure gospel comes to us I(via Christ’s command)in bread and wine. He wants us to have Himself so much that He crams Himself down our throats in His Supper. In this ‘external Word’, we can have real assurance and freedom, totally apart from all tha stuff that is focused on what ‘we do’. Because our motives are tainted by self, we can never really have any confidence in that internal stuff, anyway.


  2. Bruce Ashford   •     Author

    Steve, I wouldn’t separate the Lord’s supper from church. The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance is one of the ways that the church makes the gospel visible. Other ways are church membership, discipleship, and discipline. And yes, the church’s witness is impure and broken and not what it should be, and yet nonetheless it is the people of God, the body of Christ, the temple of the Spirit. In the church, the Triune God is made known to the world.

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