Last week was no ordinary week for me, because I was simply one of 7,000 who gathered in Louisville, KY to attend Together for the Gospel 2010: The Unadjusted Gospel. It is difficult to describe the range of pleasant emotions that I experienced at this conference, but I would like to pass on to all my readers (??) a little of what I gleaned from the 9 talks which marked the event; the first of which was Mark Dever’s entitled, The Church is the Gospel Made Visible.
Dever began the talk with reading Ephesians 3:10-11 which says,
Through the church the manifold wisdom of God might no be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.
From this it seems clear that God’s purpose is for the church to be the vehicle through which the wisdom of God is made known, not only to the world but to the beings of heavenly origin. The catalyst for this display was in fact Christ, both his person and work.
What follows is a brief rendition of Dever’s thoughts and questions which flowed from meditating on these verses in relation to his own church context. Let me encourage you to allow the same to take place in your own meditation. Ask these questions of your own local congregation.
- Does our church make visible the holiness of God? Are we marked by holiness? Are we repenting sinners? Do we see holiness as freedom, or as bondage? Does our worship make God visible to us and to those who visit? When it comes to authority, does our church display the authority of God as a life-giving thing (2 Samuel 23:3-4)?
- Does our church make visible the depravity of man? We are all made in the image of God, each member is valuable, not just those who look like us, or who are rich and talented. Is our church a community of people who understand our own depravity? Do we realize that we are still affected by that depravity and need to acknowledge this in our dealings with others?
- Does our church make visible Jesus Christ? Do our lives and worship point people to Christ as the remedy for our depravity? Is our congregation a tangible display of the love, grace, mercy and truth of Jesus Christ? Here’s a test: how did Jesus say the world would know of our devotion to Christ? By how we love one another(John 13:35). Is this what marks our fellowship, a profound display of love for one another that is rooted in Christ?
- Does our Church make visible the right response to the gospel? In light of God’s holiness, our depravity and the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ for all who believe; do we display the appropriate response of repentance and faith? Have we obscured the appropriate response to the gospel, by not walking in it ourselves?
I would say that the point Dever was making is that when we fail to be a church who displays these things regularly, then we have adjusted the gospel in the most fundamental and visible way. If the church is to be God’s means of displaying the good news to the world, and it is according. to Ephesians 3:10-11; then this front line of manifestation will fail in it’s eternal purpose when these four things aren’t clearly seen.
Adjustments to the gospel are not simply questions that fill the halls of educational institutions, they are visible realities which distort the true intention of the church. Let us examine our churches to see whether or not we have adjusted the truth of the gospel by the way we gather and worship.