By Way of Introduction
There seems to be more than a little confusion in our day over the role of the church in the life of the Christian, and possibly even more confusion over the role of the Christian in the life of the church. What are we called to as Christians? Are we to simply show up as Hebrews 10:24-25 exhorts us? Surely this is part of our responsibility as members of a congregation, “not neglecting to meet with one another;” though, of course, it can’t be reduced to this in light of many other New Testament passages. In fact, it can’t be reduced to any list. The commonly used, contemporary phrase, “doing life together” gets at the point a little better, and it certainly seems to imply more than attending the gatherings of the church–however important that may be. So, what more we are to do? If you have asked these questions and you, like our culture, are becoming more confused about the corresponding roles between the individual (the Christian) and the corporate body (the church) Thabiti Anyabwile’s newest book will be a wonderful guide for you to pick up.
It should come as no surprise that this book bears the 9Marks imprint. It is a book written by a pastor for the church out of a concern for healthy churches. Though, it is also more than that. I learned just how much more from the introduction.
This book is a follow–up, a companion of sorts, to Henry Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man which was originally written in 1868. This present volume takes up Scougal’s premise and applies it to the soul of the church. A worthy, but no small task.
It began as series of sermons Anyabwile preached to his congregation at First Baptist Grand Cayman in 2008. The impact of the sermons had a life of their own and positive response from them was such that Anyabwile was eventually encouraged to send them to print in the hopes the church would be edified through its content.
This format follows a long history of books that began as sermons (e.g. Calvin’s Ten Commandments, Lloyd-Jones’ Spiritual Depression and Ryle’s Holiness) for which I am grateful remain in print. Anyabwile continues this tradition in the most fitting way. Throughout the book he stays very close to his original sermon manuscripts. Reading the chapters (sermons) consecutively could possibly become repetitive as the same basic elements emerge from his sermons. However, on the contrary, I found this to be quite refreshing. For example, it’s not often you find a book that deliberately and lucidly explains the gospel in every chapter. This is but one aspect of Anaybwile’s preaching that is a real service the church as a reproducible model.
Generally each chapter begins with a passage of Scripture, followed by the exposition of that passage, and concludes with applications for the life of the church. It’s a wonderfully pastoral model that is very edifying, and is one that helps the reader connect the point of the passage to their modern day context. Anyabwile introduces many current events, illustrations, and metaphors along the way to further aid the reader in understanding how the foundations of spiritual fellowship are expressed in the life of the church.
Here is how the book is organized:
Part I: Foundations: Union With Christ
Anyabwile’s opening chapter focuses on 1 John and concludes from this passage that true spiritual fellowship “is the life of God in the soul of man experienced personally by believing the truth and shared relationally in the church” (18). He then proceeds to expound the Scripture passage to show how it speaks to our joy and holiness, and how each has a corporate aspect and responsibility.
In the second chapter Anyabwile continues laying the foundation with the corporate theme from 1 Corinthians 12 and really emphasizes the centrality of the church in God’s plans as the body of Christ.
Part II: Expressions: Applying Our Union
Part II of the book is the outworking of the life of God in the soul of the church. It’s the application of our union with Christ. Real life happens in the expressions of our fellowship with other believers. These are the real relationships in the church, and how they play out.
From this point on Anyabwile takes us on a systematic study of spiritual fellowship. He covers the following topics in chapters 3-12:
- Love One Another
- Fellowship and Spiritual Gifts
- Partnership in the Gospel
- Restoration and Encouragement
- Suffering and Comfort
- Forgive One Another
- Sing to One Another
- Fellowship of Giving
- Accept One another
- Again … Love One Another
This is one of the most Scripture driven books I’ve read in a while. It will be difficult to disagree with his conclusions to the passages he uses to define the different aspects of life in the community.
As mentioned earlier, this book is a wonderful example of how pastoral a book can be. Anyabwile guides his flock with wisdom in the richness of the Word and simply allows Scripture to speak. I’m thankful for pastors like Thabiti Anyabwile who are careful thinkers about the life of the church, and who take serious their call to shepherd. This is a good example of what the Lord can do when Scripture is faithfully exposited.
Pastors, pick up this book to learn and to be driven to Scripture, and to see from his example how application is driven by the Scriptures.
This is also a must read for church members. It will challenge them to evaluate their own soul within the church. It will enrich their understanding of the church, what their role is within the church, and just how they are called to live in relationship with other members.
Henry Scougal would be pleased and honored for this book to accompany and be a companion to his The Life of God in the Soul of Man.
Pick up your copy here: