Mark Dever – W.H. Griffith-Thomas Lectureship on Puritan Ecclesiology

From Dallas Theological Seminary

Dever delivered four lectures on the Puritan view of the Church’s two primary tasks: “the preaching of God’s Word and the right administration of the sacraments.” He began with the importance of preaching, drawing on the work of Richard Sibbes. In the second lecture, Dever addressed John Bunyan’s view of the proper place of baptism within the “spiritual church.” On the third day, Dever discussed Jonathan Edward’s understanding of the second sacrament, the Lord’s Supper. For his fourth and final lecture, Dever offered six reasons a right ecclesiology is important for the church day.

Dever received his Doctor of Philosophy in Ecclesiastical History from Cambridge University. He also holds a Master of Theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts from Duke University.

Lecture 1: “Richard Sibbes and the Right Preaching of the Word”

  • Emphasis on the right preaching of the Word is a reaction to pre-Reformation practice.
  • Sibbes and the magesterial Reformers saw the commitment to understand the Word as the heart of the church.
  • The centrality of preaching should be a force for unity across denominations, not for dissent, if it is rooted in the Bible.

Lecture 2: “John Bunyan’s View of Baptism within the Spiritual Church”

  • The right administration of the sacraments is an act of obedience to Christ.
  • Bunyan: infant baptism is unbiblical but baptism isn’t necessary for participation in the Lord’s Supper.
  • For Bunyan, baptism is not a doctrinal point that should split the church as long as the motives behind the doctrine are good.
  • Dever suggests that Bunyan offered an overly subjective, individualistic view of baptism that allows churches to stray from Scripture.

Lecture 3: “Jonathan Edwards on the Lord’s Supper – For Believers Only”

  • Edwards: being a professing Christian is a prerequisite for participation in the Lord’s Table.
  • This was a distinction from the prevailing doctrine of the Lord’s Supper as a “converting ordinance.”
  • Dever argues that a church member should be someone who can “appropriately take communion without bringing disgrace to the church or condemnation on themselves or dishonor to God.”

Lecture 4: “Six Reasons a Right Ecclesiology is Important for the Church Today”

  • Pastors: the pastor’s primary purpose is the right preaching and teaching of the Word of God
  • Membership: commitment to a local church provides accountability and helps a congregation’s evangelism
  • Structure: authority in the church is a gift from God, and the church should follow biblical principles on leadership and formal structure
  • Culture: a culture of discipleship, evangelism, and missions creates a congregation where spiritual growth is the norm
  • Character: the recovery of the practice of church discipline, while difficult, will ultimately make the congregation healthier
  • Glory of God: believers bound together in community are the clearest representation of the gospel to an unbelieving world

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