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Gospel Church Government

By John Owen
February 2013 | Review by Peter Culver

Synopsis

John Owen (1616-1683) is widely recognised as one of the greatest of all theologians. In a time when Britain was experiencing religious and political upheaval, he wrote carefully, biblically and extensively on a large number of subjects, including some that were being hotly debated. The True Nature of a Gospel Church and Its Government was published 6 years after his death and shows how the Scriptures should govern every aspect of church life. This simplified and modernized version shows that these issues are just as important today.

  • Publisher: Grace Publications Trust
  • ISBN: 978-0-94646-285-8
  • Pages: 112
  • Price: 4.99
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Book Review

This book is a little gem and will be particularly helpful to pastors, elders and church leaders. In ten clear chapters, with great biblical insight, it deals with so many key questions regarding the nature of a real church.
    The chapter headings include: ‘Who belongs to the church?’, ‘How is a church formed?’, ‘The officers of the church’, ‘Church discipline’ and ‘Fellowship among churches’.
    The book is Reformed in its emphasis. Owen makes it clear that ‘the central message of this book is that church membership should be biblical’ and states ‘Christ exercises authority in the church by his Word and his Spirit.’
    There is helpful teaching on calling a pastor. Under the heading of ‘The duty of preaching’, we have these telling comments: ‘A man that refuses to eat the food he has prepared for others will scarcely make it appear appetising to them’; ‘some men show that they are not called to preach as much by their preaching as by their failure to preach’ and ‘all churches need to consider the weight and burden on their pastors and teachers as they discharge their office’.
    The book makes a clear distinction between ruling elders and pastors and recognises the need in most situations for a plurality of elders. These are not merely ‘yes’ men to the pastor, but help play a vital role in leading the church. The book also helpfully deals with the office of deacon.
    Perhaps the most helpful part is that which deals with the thorny issue of church discipline; there are some most helpful and useful comments here. You may not agree with all his conclusions, but there is so much in this book that is tellingly helpful.
Peter Culver
Bath

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