Reading Mark Dever’s section on the church in A Theology for the Church, I came across a couple stimulating quotations. One about the already-but-not yet marks of a true church by Donald Bloesch, another from Robert Reymond about the mark of true church being found in its connection with the apostle message, and finally one from Mark Dever himself that displays the power of the Word to form and reform the church. Consider them with me:
One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic: Already and Not Yet
“The church is already one, but it must become more visibly one…in faith and practice. The church is alread holy in its sources and foundation, but it must stirve to produce fruits of holiness in its sojourn in the world. The church is already catholic [i.e. universal], but it must seek a fuller measure of catholicity by assimilating the valid protests against church abuse…into its own life. The church is already apostolic, but it must become more consciously apostolic by allowing the gospel to reform and sometime even overturn its time-honored rites and interpretations” (Donald Bloesch, The Church [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2002], 103; quoted by Mark Dever, “The Church” in Theology for the Church, edited by D. Akin [Nashville: B & H Academic, 2007], 778).
The Continuity of the Church: Dependent on the Ink of the Word and not on the Trail of Blood
“Just as the true seed of Abraham are those who walk in the faith of Abraham, irrespective of lineal descent, so also the apostolic church is one which walks in the faith of the apostles, irrespective of ‘unbroken succession'” (Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 844; quoted by Mark Dever, “The Church,” 778).
This has implications for Catholic theology and for those Baptists who depend upon the trail of blood for the legitimacy of their church. Mark Dever continues the thought, focusing on the presence of the Word as the demarcation of a true church.
The physical continuity of a line of pastor-elders back to Christ’s apostles is insignificant compared to the continuity between the teaching in churches today and the teaching of the apostles…God’s people in Scripture are created by God’s revelation of himself (cf. Gen. 1:30; 3:7; 3:15; 12:1-3; Ex. 3:4; Ex. 20; Ezek. 37)…The right preaching of the Word of God that creates the church is not only the Word from God; it is the Word about God [i.e. the Gospel of Jesus Christ]… When God’s people hear about God and what he requires, they will respond (Dever, “The Church,” 778, 780).
May our churches be built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ and the steady foundation of the apostles and prophets teaching (cf. Eph. 2:20).