BOOK REVIEWS

The Rule Of Love – Jonathan Leeman (2018)

ruleJonathan Leeman, The Rule of Love (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2018), 174 pp.

Submission and authority is a hot topic these days. Tragically, however, most people are not flocking to read about it, let alone embrace this important reality. Jonathan Leeman explores this subject in his book, The Rule of Love. The subtitle nicely captures the essence of the book: How the Local Church Should Reflect God’s Love and Authority.

Leeman’s intent is to help readers understand what love and authority truly are. As such, the main goal of the book is to “refashion our views of God’s love and authority and their relationship together.” Also in play is the responsibility of the church to administer discipline in a biblically appropriate manner – and to maintain the crucial distinctive of love and authority.  “We need to remember something about love and rule that our ancestors in the garden forgot,” writes the author. “For God, love and rule aren’t two things but different aspects of one thing.”

So Leeman draws the attention of readers to the magnificence of God’s love. He demonstrates first, that God’s first priority is himself. That is, God’s love is first and foremost is a God-centered love. The author adds, “The Father gives his righteousness and glory to the Son and delights in that glory above all. The Son, in turn, gives his righteousness and glory to the Father and delights in that glory above all.” Evidently, Christ did not think of us “above all” as the popular song suggests. Leeman refers to the God-centered love as the “archetypal boomerang of love.” Brilliant!

This God-centered love has a series of massive implications for the church:

  1. God’s love motivates the church to evangelize and do good.
  2. God’s love motivates the church to identify church members and practice church discipline.
  3. God’s love motivates the church to teach and disciple the nations.
  4. God’s love motivates the church to worship.
  5. God’s love creates a distinct and holy culture.

Second, God’s love for sinners is described in glorious detail. At the heart of this discussion is how the Father sent the Son into the world to win his bride. Leeman includes a helpful discussion on what he calls contra-conditional love (as opposed to the unconditional love of God). My suspicion is that the author is building off the excellent work of David Powlison who has emphasized the same point in his book, God’s Love: Better Than Unconditional. ”Love” according to the author, is “affectionately affirming that which is from God in the beloved, and giving oneself to seeing God exalted in the beloved.”

The takeaways for the church are crucial:

  1. Making disciples must be uppermost in the church’s mission.
  2. Christians should be a people of compassion and justice.
  3. Christians should seek to display God’s glory in their lives together and apart.
  4. To belong to a church is to belong to a covenant.

Summary

The Rule of Love is a book that deserves to be read and studied by many. It is a book that should be read and re-read. The bottom line in a pluralistic and pragmatic culture: “To preach and teach is to exercise loving authority because it points people to God’s revelation. To disciple is to exercise loving authority because it seeks to see people conformed to the image of God. To evangelize is to participate in loving authority because it tells the nations that God is their Judge and King, and that he offers a way of pardon.”

The Rule of Love is a counter-cultural book that will challenge the unsuspecting to action and urge the unrepentant to be transformed. Walking away from this book unchanged is impossible. I recommend it highly!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

BOOK REVIEWS · Ecclesiology

CHURCH MEMBERSHIP – Jonathan Leeman (2012)

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Jonathan Leeman’s newest installment, Church Membership is his latest contribution to the 9Marks Healthy Church Series.  The author sets out to help readers understand what church membership is – since many appear to be confused or reject the very notion.

Leeman begins by arguing that the church is the highest kingdom authority on earth: “The local church is the authority on earth that Jesus has instituted to officially affirm and give shape to my Christian life and yours.”  So when God’s people gather together, they do so under the kingly authority of Jesus.

Additionally, the author maintains that the church is an embassy :  “A local church is a real-life embassy, set in the present that represents Christ’s future kingdom and his coming universal church.”  Leeman continues, “A church member is a person who has been officially and publicly recognized as a Christian before the nations, as well as someone who shares in the same authority of officially affirming and overseeing other Christians in his or her church.”

And the author presents a principle that really emerges as the theme of the book, namely – “Christians don’t join churches; they submit to them.”  This theme is developed later in the book as Leeman carefully develops the rationale for biblical submission.

Church Membership is a welcome addition to the 9Marks Series.  The arguments are clear and biblical.  The importance of church membership is emphasized in gracious tones that will captivate readers and spur them to action.

3.5 stars