BOOK REVIEWS

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes – Mark Dever (2018)

sibesMark Dever, The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes. Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2018, 198 pp. $16.00

The Long Line of Godly Men Profiles is a series published by Reformation Trust that has been educating and inspiring Christians for over ten years. Steven Lawson serves as the series editor and oversees this important project. This excellent series introduces readers to pastors and theologians from different generations – men like Calvin, Edwards, Luther, Tyndale, and Spurgeon. Each book stands alone and each one offers a treasure chest of biblical resources – historical, biblical, theological, and pastoral. The latest offering is no exception as Dr. Mark Dever introduces the life, ministry, and theology of Richard Sibbes.

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes is a short biographical sketch of the influential pastor. In Dever’s words, Sibbes was “the quintessential Puritan.” The aim of the author is to present Sibbes in a clear light and provide historical and theological clues along the way that will portray him in a proper light. In a final sense, Dever’s goal in this work is to “recover Sibbes as a historical and theological whole.”

Dever traces the ministerial career of Richard Sibbes and alerts readers to some of the high points of his ministry and makes reference to some of the controversies that emerge, along the way. One of the dominant themes is the tension which existed in the 17th-century Elizabethan era between the conformists and the non-conformists.

Three specific pastoral matters that occupied the attention of Sibbes was the centrality of the heart, assurance of salvation, and the role of the conscience. Dever introduces each subject and highlights the various points, which were emphasized by Sibbes.

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes has a more academic feel than most of the other books in the Long Line of Godly Men Series. Students interested in the Puritan era and 17th century England will find Dever’s observations interesting and illuminating. Dever’s fine work should be welcomed and applauded.

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

BOOK REVIEWS · Preaching

PREACH [Theology Meets Practice] – Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert (2012)

Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert love the church of Jesus Christ.  Whenever one of their books is released, it becomes immediately clear that a love for Christ’s church and the gospel are at the1433673177_l very core of each man.  For example, I give a copy of Greg Gilbert’s excellent work, What is the Gospel? to each baptismal candidate at the church I pastor.  It’s that good!  So when Dever and Gilbert combine their collective experience and wisdom in order to write a book on preaching, my attention is automatically piqued.

Of course the authors don’t disappoint.  Preach [Theology Meets Practice] is extremely informative and encouraging.  Part One covers basic theological territory that lays the groundwork for the remainder of the book.  The authors explore the important themes of propositional revelation, the power of God’s Word, and the centrality of expositional preaching.  The kind of preaching they rightly promote is defined as “preaching in which the main point of the biblical text being considered becomes the main point of the sermon being preached.”  Finally, the section concludes with a discussion that discusses the purpose of preaching: “We preach with the goal of spurring believers on in their maturity in Christ and of awakening nonbelievers to their need for the Savior … we preach with two main aims, to edify and to evangelize.”

Part Two surveys the practice of preaching.  This highly practical section includes the nuts and bolts of the preaching task – preparation, structure, outlining, diagraming, and delivering the sermon.  Dever and Gilbert trade back and forth sharing their particular bent on a given matter which brings depth to the overall tone of the book.

Once again, Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert provide an invaluable service to the church.  Preach [Theology Meets Practice] is a terrific book for both beginning preachers and seasoned veterans.  Beginning preachers will be encouraged to focus on the fundamentals of preaching and gain a host of practical suggestions that will inform and enhance their ministries for years to come.  Experienced preachers will be refreshed and will receive new motivation for continuing a work that is of utmost value in God’s kingdom.

4 stars

BOOK REVIEWS · Ecclesiology · Ecclesiology

THE CHURCH: THE GOSPEL MADE VISIBLE – Mark Dever (2012)

Over the years, I’ve grown weary reading books that relate to ecclesiology.  Recent works that focus on the church are either driven by pragmatic presuppositions, man-centered principles, or church growth techniques that compromise the essence of the gospel, not to mention the mission of the church.  Mark Dever’s newest book, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible is a totally different kind of book.  He steers clear from the usual drivel that saturates many books devoted to ecclesiology.  Indeed, the church is should be thankful for such a work.

Part One: What Does the Bible Say?

The first section focuses on the nuts and bolts of the church.  Dever leaves no stone unturned.  The nature of the church is explored, membership is reviewed, polity is discussed, church discipline is covered, among other things.  Each section is rooted in the biblical text.  The writing is clear and compelling.  The reader walks away from the first part with a clear understanding on what Scripture says concerning the church.

Part Two: What Has the Church Believed?

Part two explains the classical distinctions between the visible and invisible church and the local and universal church.  The author includes a helpful discussion on the rise of denominations.

Also included is an illuminating discussion on the history of ordinances.  A wide variety of traditions are surveyed.  And the various positions are presented for the Lord’s Supper as well as baptism.

Part Three: How Does it All Fit Together?

The final section discusses the marks of the church, namely – the faithful preaching of God’s Word and the faithful administration of the two ordinances.  Dever includes a helpful section on church membership.  He writes, “Churches that submerge difference of age, race, status, background, or employment give witness to the power of the gospel.”

One of the most helpful chapters is devoted to developing a biblical leadership model.  Dever’s holds to an elder led/congregationally affirmed leadership structure.  He adds, “The most coherent way to understand the New Testament’s presentation of local church polity is to recognize the role of both individual leaders and the congregation as a whole.”  He does not minimize the role of the congregation.  Dever writes, “The congregation is not in competition with the elders.  The congregation’s authority is more like an emergency brake than a steering wheel.  The congregation more normally recognizes than creates, responds rather than initiates, confirms rather than proposes.”

In the final analysis, “a right ecclesiology matters for the church’s leadership, membership, structure, culture, and even character.  Ultimately, a right ecclesiology touches on God’s glory itself … Therefore, getting the doctrine of the church right becomes a benefit to the people, as the truth about God and his world is more correctly known, taught, and modeled.”

The Church: The Gospel Made Visible should receive a wide readership and will be a tremendous tool in the hands of faithful pastors and shepherds!

4.5 stars