The New Testament places the church at the centre of its practical vision of the Christian life and at the heart of the Great Commission. A church-less Christianity is no real Christianity at all.
As we head into a world very similar to Paul’s own context, in which pluralism dominates and Christianity is regarded with intellectual and moral suspicion, it is vital that Christians have a clear understanding of what the church actually is.
James Bannerman’s The Church of Christ is one of the key historic texts of the doctrine of the church. Few will agree with everything the author has to say, but as Carl Trueman states in his foreword, ‘the great thing about the book is that it will stimulate the reader to reflect on the nature of the church in a profoundly biblical and historically sensitive way’.
After dealing with basic principles and distinctions, such as the contrast between the visible and invisible church, and between the local and universal church, Bannerman takes up the important and far-reaching question of the relation between church and state. But the body of the work is really a treatise on church power—the nature, limits and exercise of Christ’s power in the church in its connexional and local aspects. In what does the ordained ministry consist? Should the church micro-manage the lives of her members? To what extent should the church campaign for wider political or social causes? Is the church to be an agent for the transformation of society as a whole? What tools does the church have for making disciples and, if necessary, disciplining them? Answers to these questions can only come from a correct understanding of the nature of the church’s power.
Although Presbyterian in conviction, the author has undertaken a ‘comparative’ study of the various classic positions on each issue under consideration as these are expressed in the confessional symbols and standard authors. It is this method which makes the book so useful for all serious-minded readers. The appendix also contains valuable bibliographical material.
This is classic Scottish theology at its best, and those who take the time to digest it will be richly rewarded.
Table of Contents:
PART I—NATURE OF THE CHURCH
1. The Church as Defined in Scripture
2. The Church a Divine and Spiritual Institution
3. The Church as Visible and Invisible
4. The Church as Catholic and Local
5. The Notes of the Church
6. The Members of the Church
7. The Church in Its Relation to the World
8. The Church in Its Relation to the State
PART II—POWER OF THE CHURCH
1. The Source of Church Power
2. The Rule or Law of Church Power
3. The Nature and Character of Church Power
4. The Extent and Limits of Church Power
5. The End and Design of Church Power
6. The Primary Subject of Church Power
PART III—MATTERS IN REGARD TO WHICH CHURCH POWER IS EXERCISED
Div I Church Power Exercised in regard to Doctrine
Div II Church Power Exercised in regard to Ordinances
Div III Church Power Exercised in regard to Discipline
PART IV—PARTIES IN WHOM THE RIGHT TO EXERCISE CHURCH POWER IS VESTED
1. Divine Appointment of a Form of Church Government
2. The Extraordinary Office-Bearers of the Christian Church
3. The Popish System of Church Polity
4. The Prelatic System of Church Polity as opposed to the Presbyterian
5. The Independent System of Church Polity as opposed to the Presbyterian
"I am thrilled to see this classic work on Presbyterian polity being reissued. And if you think “thrilled” and “Presbyterian polity” don’t belong in the same sentence, that’s just one more reason we need Bannerman’s book. In a day where the doctrine of the church is often thought obscure, irrelevant, and even divisive, Bannerman reminds us just how much our forefathers thought about this topic and just how much the Bible has to say on these issues. This big book on the nature and order of the church is more helpful, more contemporary, and more important than you might think." — KEVIN DEYOUNG
"The great thing about Bannerman’s The Church of Christ is that it will stimulate the reader to reflect on the nature of the church in a profoundly biblical and historically sensitive way. At a point in history when the church in the West is finding herself for the first time in 1,500 years to be marginal and often unwelcome, clear thinking on the nature and purpose of the church is vital. I do not think there is a better way to sharpen one’s thinking on these matters than thoughtful and deep refection upon this work of James Bannerman." — CARL R. TRUEMAN