Written by Melvin Tinker and Nathan Buttery Reviewed By Graham Beynon

This book is a series of expositions of NT passages linked by the common theme of the church. They are easy to read with plenty of illustrations along the way and questions at the end to help one think through each chapter—the material is presumably drawn from a preaching series. The authors write from a conservative evangelical standpoint, and occasionally address what they see as Roman Catholic and more extreme charismatic errors. The book is by no means polemical in tone: the main aim is take the Biblical picture of the church seriously and recapture what that should look like today.

Overall the aim succeeds well. The chapters are engaging, the biblical text is handled well and many helpful applications are made to church life. Given the lack of attention given to ecclesiology in popular evangelicalism, this is a very helpful addition. It would benefit ministers and congregations alike in thinking through their conception of ‘church’ and what their own church’s life might look like. In particular there is helpful material on the gospel as basis for the church, the heavenly and earthly manifestations of the church, the church’s common life, and its unity in diversity.

In some passages I felt the writers hadn’t quite got the main thrust of the text under consideration, and occasionally their points didn’t really flow out of the passage; but these are the odd exceptions. The topic in a couple of chapters is not particularly tied to the theme of church but they are still helpful expositions on aspects of the Christian life.

One weakness of the book is in trying to give expositions, but also covering the bases on a basic doctrine of the church. As a result they sometimes stray from the passage in question into other passages or into a more systematic discussion. This is occasional though and purely a function of the methodology.

Another weakness is in the lack of explicit biblical theology: it would have been helpful to have had more material on the development of the theme of the people of God through Scripture. This is of such importance in salvation history, that its omission results in a rather negative view of the people of God in the OT.

Given the sermonic style, perhaps the greatest disappointment is the paucity of application. This is not to say that applications to every day life are not made, as they are; but there is so much more to say on maintaining our unity, using our different gifts, living a life of care and love and so on. The right directions are set on these matters but I would have loved the authors to have filled in the sketch a little more fully. These are minor issues though; if you or your church wants to think through what it is to be Christ’s Body today, read this book.

Graham Beynon

Graham Beynon is pastor of Grace Church in Cambridge, UK and director of independent ministry training at Oak Hill Theological College in London.