Tuesday Evening: Mark Dever -- "The Church Displays God's Character"

The following is not a transcript of the message.  Rather, I have included the simple outline preached along with highlights from the sermon.  I would encourage you to download the mp3 when available and listen to the message in its entirety.


  • Slogans capture in a few words the dominant ideas of the day, such as legitimized self-indulgence. Individual consciences are revered, even in Christianity.
  • Such Ideas are the grids through which we interpret everything we experience.
  • One idea that was prominent in the New Testament and in the history of Christianity but almost invisible today is the idea of the local church.
  • In one sense, churches are doing well, if we consider stable attendance and membership. 
  • However, what is missing is the corporate identity of the church. Everything is based on individual preferences.
  • What’s the use of the church? What is it there for? That should be an easy question for those of us who are pastors.
  • We’ve answered the question for what it does for us individually.  But most of us are missing something.  Its use is not in what it does for us but what it does for God.
  • When we understand that, we begin to understand the church as a manifestation of the living God in the world.
  • In order to explore to explore that, turn to the 2nd of Paul’s letters, 1 Corinthians.

Mark then gave a brief background of Corinth at the time of the New Testament.  He noted that it was a key place for the Gospel to go out from. Paul has been gone for a while and is now writing back to them. Mark found a way to understand this book from chapter 9, relating to Paul’s apostleship. He noticed that this was one example of laying aside one’s rights for the good of others.  Mark began to see this principle throughout the book.


1. What the church is to be like:

  • Holy (1:2, 8; 3:15-17; 10:5-6)
    • Part of what holiness is is strangeness.
    • At the heart of holiness, Christians are special to God (ch. 5—discipline; ch.6—temple of god).
      • God is not saying that the church consigns people to Hell.
      • Rather to help wake people up to their condition (6:9-11)
      • God cares what is done in the body in this life.
      • In our conduct we hold out hope to the world of a better way.
      • That’s why membership, discipline, etc., are so important—because of holiness .
  • United (1:10ff; 3:3; 6:7)
    • The separation they were supposed to know was separation from the world; instead the separation they knew was separation from each other.
    • The fact that there were lawsuits against each other proves this problem in Corinth. (ch. 6)
    • Even in the Lord’s Supper, they were divided (ch. 11:18ff)
    • Our world doesn’t understand Jew and Gentile meeting together: the church must not find its unity in carnal means. Any lost person can understand that kind of unity.
  • Loving (8:1; 10:24, 12:21-13:1ff, 14:1, 6-12; 15:9; 16:14)
    • This is why Paul prioritizes prophecy over tongues, because prophecy edifies the church while tongues edifies one's self, which Paul is condemning.
    • Paul sets out this argument in 14:6-12, that they should consider whether the other person is built up instead of ourselves
    • This has direct application to the modern church.  Have you taught your members this truth?
    • Ch. 14 is just as much the love chapter as ch. 13.
    • Paul was quite sensitive to the church’s health. Paul had a reason to be tender on this point.  He himself had acted in selfish sin against the church prior to his conversion. No wonder that God took one who had been an enemy of the church and made him into its greatest cherisher and builder!
    • This conference is an example of love, a gift that one church gives to other churches to keep on enduring and being faithful.

2. Why the church is to be that way:

  • Simply put, it is that the character of the church is to reflect the character of God.
  • I’m a pastor of a church.  When I have someone in my church who is repeatedly acting in a non-Christian way, I must act because that person is lying about God.
  • 11:1, God is to be reflected in a church.
  • Ch. 1-2, the gospel is the wisdom of God
  • 1:25, we Christians are led by His wisdom.
  • 3:16-17, He has made us holy by pouring out His spirit and indwelling us.
  • That’s why ch. 5 makes sense.  It’s the essence of the church.  (5:6-8)
  • We don’t deserve this privilege. It’s given to us in grace.
  • 6:19-20, we are called to show God’s holiness to the world because He is holy.
  • 3:4-7, We are to be united because God is one.
  • It’s not the color of the envelope that determines the outcome; it’s the message.
  • So, we curb our pride; we go to Him in prayer.
  • Mark 4:26-27, if that farmer were like some pastors he would write books and take credit for the crops.
  • Think of your church this Sunday. Don’t see your friend’s kindness or hard work in serving in the church. See God’s kindness and work in them. He is the One at work.  He makes us one.
  • 3:11, the church’s one foundation is Jesus.
  • 4:4, our consciences can be wrong, misinformed, we have one judge.
  • 6:17, 10:17, we are one body because we partake of one loaf (Latin: we bread with each other).
  • 11:4, same spirit, same lord, one and the same spirit. God has made us one.
  • 12:12-13, the body is a unit. You would think Paul would say “so it is with the church” but he says “so it is with Christ.”
  • 12:20, many parts, one body.
  • 1:13, Paul responds to hints of division with a profound theological question. Paul learned this theology on the Damascus road, “Saul why are you persecuting…[not the church]…me.” He knew the church was the body of Christ.
  • Side Trail: Mark 9, the recognition of Christian unity beyond the local church.
    • vv. 38-41, is it Christ you desire to see people follow or yourself? Would you be happy for God to answer your long-prayed request for revival only to answer it in another man’s church across town?
    • If you are not self-deceived, it doesn’t matter if you are not recognized.  God recognizes you. 
    • The Lord Jesus will never fail to recognize one of His own. 
    • Make friends with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Strategize for Gospel witness.
    • Thank God for the gift of true faith and encourage it.
  • We must labor for humility.
  • We should be happy to fellowship with other Christians. "Keep clear of fences, but keep them low and shake hands across them often."
  • 12:27, we are to be loving because God is loving.
  • True love inconveniences us.
  • Talking with Muslims is interesting, because they don't like the "relationship with God" language. But it's even in the 10 commandments.
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JimD's picture

I was wondering about the attendance of the conference so far?
Heard Mark Dever last Spring in Louisville,