Nate Downey

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Nate Downey is studying for his Master of Divinity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary while working for Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. While originally from California, he now lives in Lynchburg with his wife; they are members of Forest Baptist Church.

Word Centered Church Book Review

Word Centered Church Book Review

Word Centered Church

by Jonathan Leeman
Length: Approximately 2 hours. To read (179 pages)
TCB Rating:
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

9 Marks is a ministry devoted to helping churches become more biblical in their doctrine and practice, and this book by Jonathan Leeman is no exception. In this short book, Leeman explains the heart of the church is centered on the Word of God preached and lived. The Word of God calls his church together, sanctifies his church and sends his church to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Leeman’s book is a great primer arguing the foundation of a healthy church is on the Word of God.

Who should read this?

This book is written at the lay level and would be a great benefit to anyone. Every Christian can benefit from the encouragement and doctrine laid out here because every Christian is called to serve in the body of Christ. Pastors and church leaders can greatly benefit from this book, as it can act a “refocusing” on the principles that guide the church’s mission and purpose, that which is found in the word of God. Lay people can especially use this book to understand the why question of the church’s nature and purpose.

Word Centered Church Book Review 1


In his introduction, Leeman offers two problems he attempts to answer with this book. These are important for Christians to understand, because, chances are these apply to some degree to your church or is a real temptation for your church. Leeman first acknowledges how “bored” people are with the idea of a person getting up to speak for maybe an hour and that somehow is supposed to help them with their lives. Secondly, he makes the observation many church leaders are “losing confidence in the Word of God.”

Symptomatic of both of these things are the desire to turn to things other than the Word of God to either keep people interested or transform them to a desired spiritual level. He offers two answers for these problems as the purposes for this book. The first is that God’s word being proclaimed is the essential primary means by which God grows his church. Leeman wants his readers to understand the vital importance relying on the Word of God is for the health of the church.

Individuals are the new creation spoken into existence by the Word and the body is the community of those called to exist as the new creation together. Second, Leeman wants his readers to see that the Word grows “us as individuals and as local churches through our ears.” Individuals grow under the Word and whole churches, as communities living together, grow together and as a whole by the Word of God. Leeman divides his book into three sections, The Word, The Sermon, and The Church.


Leeman’s first section covers his theology of the Word. This covers four activities Leeman describes the Word doing: The Word Acts, Invites and Divides, Frees, and Gathers. Together, these activities describe the working of the Word of God in a way that highlights the nature and power of the Word. For example, the second sub point in chapter one, Leeman explains how God acts through his word. This may seem simple on the surface, but when you really think about it, the implications are profound.

God speaks, and things happen. When God speaks, his power in conveyed through his Word and nothing thwarts the Word of God from producing the result God intends. A second example comes from chapter two, Invites and Divides. Here, Leeman describes how the word separates people into two categories: those who accept the Word and those who reject it. The emphasis is on the power of the Word to call out those who are Christ’s while at the same time exposing those who are not. The Word acts as an amplification and wedge to divide.

There is such a sense of power and awe to think of the Word in this sense, separating the sheep from the goats with only the spoken voice. As Christians, this is a wonderful reminder how powerful God is and an encouragement to those who proclaim God’s Word. He will accomplish his purpose. Leeman succinctly reminds his readers of the power of God’s Word.

His second section focuses on the sermon. The sermon is the main act of proclaiming and meeting God that the covenant community partakes in. The three chapter titles of this section give a clear purpose to the point of what Leeman is getting at here. The sermon exposes, announces and confronts. I sense the burden of these chapters is to exhort people to understand what the purpose is behind the sermon.

Pastors especially should pay attention as this section lays out a very simply and yet powerful philosophy of preaching. Coupled with what we learned in the previous section, Leeman argues persuasively how vital a clearly communicated and exegetically sound sermon is for the congregation. In each of these three chapters, Leeman demonstrates the centrality of exegetical preaching. No one familiar with 9 Marks will be surprised with this.

The Word, when presented, is when God meets his people, the sermon and the preacher are only the vehicle for this to happen. The importance is on letting the Word do the work. Preachers of the gospel should rejoice in the news the production of the fruit is not up to them. Let the Word do the work.

The last section is one I think is tremendously important. Most resources I read or listen to about the Word of God are focused exclusively on preaching. Leeman reminds the reader that the gospel ministry belongs to all the saints. He offers four ways in which the church body act as ministers of the Word: Singing, Praying, Discipling, and Evangelizing.

Many churches hire a pastor like they hire a lawyer or doctor, leaving the professionals to complete their tasks. Leeman confronts this idea with these chapters. The Word grows the church as a whole because all the members of the church are ministering to one another through different means. This is a good reminder that songs, Sunday school, and other ministries need to be focused on the Word of God. Singing is a teaching time. People remember lyrics better than they do sermons. Let songs be saturated with the Bible and with good theology.

Personal Reflection

This book reminded me why good preaching and teaching is important. I want to meet God when I hear his word preached. Sometimes when I am convicted by a sermon I will say to my pastor, “it hurts so good.” I mean this to say when the Word confronts and exposes my sins, and yet comforts me in the gospel, which is one of the best ways to know and love God. Leeman gave me a greater appreciation for how the Word of God functions within the people of God.

I also find this book to be a valuable resource when talking to people. Its size length and depth allow it to be a tremendous help in any situation.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. Leeman’s writing style is easy to read and conversational. There are no slow parts and reading through the book is enjoyable.
  2. Leeman’s applications are reflective and useful for anyone to implement. I thought any church wanting to move towards being more Word-centered can benefit from his insights.
  3. At the end of every chapter Leeman gives you a list of recommended reading. The resources are great for people who want to dig deeper.


  1. The greatest weakness is the book is too short! I wanted more of what Leeman had to say in every chapter. Maybe one day he can write a comprehensive theology of the Word.
  2. Adding a general and Scripture index would be fantastic. This isn’t a reference book, but in a world where not everything I comment on is a research paper, having a quick guide to how people use Scripture is always a bonus.



  • “True spiritual life is produced in the heart only when the Father speaks with creation power through the Son and by the Spirit…I’m talking about the power of God for giving light to the mind, affections to the heart, and freedom to the will, which then move hands and feet into holy action.” (19) 
  • “Either way, the pronouncement of God’s word effectively draws a line in the sand between two groups of people—those who accept God’s word and those who reject it.” (44)
By | 2018-03-12T19:18:05+00:00 March 12th, 2018|0 Comments

The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology Book Review

The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology Book Review

The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology

by Pascal Denault
Length: Approximately 6 hours. To read (155 pages)
TCB Rating:
Buy on Amazon

Book Overview

Denault demonstrates from original sources how the earliest Particular Baptists developed their own covenant theology in contrast to the contemporary Presbyterian theology of their day. This book highlights the specific differences in covenant theology and how they lead to the necessary conclusions found in Baptist ecclesiology.

Who Should Read This?

This book is for any Christian interested in learning how the Baptists began in England, growing out of the English Reformation and puritanism of the day. Of particular interest, Baptists can especially be interested in knowing how their theological heritage started.

Secondly, this book is for anyone wanting to know about how Baptists have historically understood the Structure of the Bible in their own expression of covenant theology. Those leaning towards or those who already are peadobaptist should consider the best arguments for credobaptism introduced in this book.

The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology Book Review


The book follows a basic structure familiar to other introductions of covenant theology. Being an adaptation of his Th.M. thesis, Denault includes a brief rational of methodology to introduction the material. The book is divided into four main parts: the Covenant of Works(CoW), the Covenant of Grace(CoG), the Old Covenant(OC) and the New Covenant(NC).

The author uses mostly primary sources from the seventeenth century to development his argument that the foundational differences which arose between the ecclesiology of the Presbyterian Puritans and the Particular Baptists developed from significant and substantial differences in covenant theology. Today, most Baptist arguments for the baptism of confessing believers alone focus on the New Testament witness concerning baptism; referring to the Old Testament is usually a secondary matter.

However, those familiar with Presbyterian covenant theology and peadobaptism know their arguments are rooted in the Old Testament covenants. The early Particular Baptists started in the same place, but their conclusions led them to their distinctive beliefs. The particular Baptists understood the New Testament witness of the baptism of believers alone to be the natural conclusion of a proper understanding of covenant theology.

Deanult emphasizes the differences between the two camps’ majority opinion on each side. The CoW is only given a couple of pages because according to Denault and his sources listed, there was no significant variation between the two groups on this point. The main difference is highlighted in how the Baptists understood the CoG in relation to the covenants in the Old Testament, particularly the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. Whereas the Presbyterian position understood all the covenants after the fall as administrations of the CoG, the Baptists did not. They understood the CoG to be revealed, but the substance of the covenant was not formally ratified, or established, as Denault says, until the NC in Christ’s blood.

This is a significant difference, as the Presbyterian position is defined on the continuity of the covenant. The Baptists believed in more discontinuity between the historical covenants. The Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants were all subservient covenants; they all served to lead to the eventual establishment of the CoG in the NC. Special attention is given to the Abrahamic covenant. The Baptists, following Galatians 3, emphasized the difference between the physical seed of Abraham and the spiritual seed of Abraham, of the children of the flesh and the children of the promise.

The historical covenants are made with the physical seed, whereas the CoG is with the children of promise, the spiritual seed, the elect. (The Mosaic Covenant is conditional upon obedience and is for the physical seed to reside in the land of Canaan.) Therefore, when the subservient Old Covenant (Abrahamic + Mosaic covenants) is abolished in the inauguration of the NC, only those who are professed to be the legitimate seed of Abraham, aka professed believers, are recognized in the New Covenant Community. The result is the Baptist doctrine of regenerate church membership and all its implications.

Being a historical theology book, Denault relies mostly on the quotations of the primary and secondary sources in the seventeenth century and from later Baptist theologians. Scripture is used throughout, but usually in discussing how the Baptists themselves understood what the specific passages to be saying. This should not be understood as being negative however, as his stated purpose was to highlight the distinctiveness of how the Baptists understood their theology.


Personal Perspective:

I read the first edition of this book as a sophomore in college after almost plunging headway into peadobaptism. Introduced to some works on Covenant theology from exclusively Presbyterian perspectives, I had no way of arguing against the ideas of peadobaptist covenant theology; I didn’t even know Baptists had their own. Then I stumbled upon this work and breathed a massive sigh of relief. Instead of falling over the precipice into sprinkling babies for the rest of my life, I took Denault’s book and began my journey further back into my Baptist history for answers, possibly more confused then ever. What I discovered was a rich and extensive heritage of theology.

Denault, through this introduction, accomplished his task of explaining the difference of Baptist covenant theology. He had a clear goal of presenting the authors as they were and bringing a key argument back into the discussion on ecclesiology. For over a century, due in large part to Baptists moving away from covenant theology as an expression of the continuity of the testaments, Presbyterians have ignored or downplayed Baptist arguments against peadobaptism, usually from a bastion of historic covenant theology. Their monopoly is once again presented with the resurgence of historic Baptist covenant theology. Most Baptists today do not have a sense of church history further back than Billy Graham or maybe Charles Spurgeon.

Unfortunately, this ignorance has had a detrimental effect on Christian circles for over a century. Personally, I am glad to see a book addressing the roots of the theology I hold to very dearly, no longer out of unthoughtful tradition, but from studied conviction.


  1. The book’s length allows the reader to identify and understand the key arguments detailed in this book. The extended outline and subheadings organize the material into a great reference work for the person looking for a quick guide on the differences in covenant theology. 
  2. Denaults use of primary source material is a plus. It is easy for some smaller books to generalize too much by not adding direct quotes and sources; Denault gives the reader a generous bibliography and his writing style (even though English is his second language) makes the material easy to follow. 
  3. In my opinion, the greatest strength of this book is the fact that there is nothing like this out there for this subject. As far as I know, there is not a single other book devoted to the theology behind the ecclesiology of the early Baptists.


  1. This book assumes a knowledge of covenant theology that the average pastor and especially lay person would probably not have. Remember, the book is not espousing an explanation of covenant theology per se, it is about the differences. A person could not necessarily grab this book and walk away with a detailed, positive explanation of covenant theology. 
  2. While the purpose of this book is not to give a exegetical defense of Baptist covenant theology, there could have been more detailed analysis of the key texts from a contemporary standpoint. While not entirely absent, connecting the past theology to contemporary thought would have been a huge plus. Perhaps this is a publisher’s doing, but more Scripture quotations, not merely references would have been a plus.


Recently I was asked why covenant theology matters. What difference does all this theology make in the life of the believer or the life of the church? Covenant theology directly effects the church’s understanding of the nature and practice of the church, answering the question: who are the people of God?

The Baptists understood baptism and the Lord’s Supper to be only for confessing believers. They thought the New Testament witness and assumption of a regenerate church membership was obvious. They believed these things because they held to a covenant theology that presented these things as its necessary conclusion. I am grateful Pascal Denault has written this work.

In the last fifteen or so years there has been a small but growing number of Particular Baptists rediscovering their theological heritage and introducing the doctrine of Baptist Covenant theology into mainstream evangelicalism. This book was written to fill the gap that existed between the present day readers and students of God’s word to the generations of the past who have come before us.


  • “If Westminster Federalism can be summarized as ‘one covenant under two administrations,’ that of the 1689 [The Second London Baptist Confession] would be, ‘one covenant revealed progressively and concluded formally under the New Covenant.’” (70)
  • “The Baptists, by applying the distinction between the revelation and the conclusion of the covenant of grace, perceived that all the members of the Abrahamic covenant did not benefit from the grace of God, because the covenant of grace was not concluded with the members of this covenant. The covenant of grace was revealed, and those who, like Abraham, believed, participated in the covenant of grace manifested in the Abrahamic covenant” (118)
By | 2018-02-16T01:09:58+00:00 February 16th, 2018|0 Comments


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