The first review I read of Joe Thorn’s new book, The Heart of the Church was decisively negative. This specific reviewer awarded the book with a dreaded “two stars,” which in the land of book reviews is something akin to wandering through a barren wasteland without water. But nothing could be further from the truth. My aim, therefore, is to set the record straight and give Thorn’s work the credit it deserves.
The Heart of the Church is the first in a series of three, which were all recently released. The first book guides readers on a fascinating journey – the history of the gospel, the doctrine of the gospel, and the God of the gospel.
Part 1: The History of the Gospel
The author anchors some of the key themes of Scripture by pointing to creation, covenant, sin, and salvation. The covenants point to the great arrival of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the One who, “came to take away sin, fulfill all righteousness, establish a kingdom, and conquer the devil.”
Thorn presents the gospel simply and biblically alerting readers to the great reality of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not only set forth as our example. Indeed, He is our substitute and righteousness as well. Thorn’s insistence on the substitutionary atonement is refreshing in the face of recent denials of this crucial doctrine. “All of this is the gospel,” argues Thorn. “It is history, and it is foundation for our doctrine.”
Part 2: The Doctrine of the Gospel
Part two is the “meat and potatoes” of this excellent book. Here, the author unfolds the crucial gospel doctrines of justification, forgiveness, faith and repentance, reconciliation, sanctification, and good works. These short chapters are basic enough for new believers but also contains substantial spiritual food for more experienced believers.
Each doctrine is explained and defended with basic biblical rationale. Readers will appreciate Thorn’s ability to articulate these weighty doctrines with great precision and profundity. While each treatment is short, there is a theological fuel here that will help feed the “spiritual fire” of growing Christians.
Part 3: The God of the Gospel
The final section builds upon the previous section and explores the important subjects of God’s justice, sovereignty, the atonement, irresistible grace, and particular redemption. Again, the author provides short explanations with strong biblical support.
The Heart of the Church is written for new believers but should be devoured by all believers. Joe Thorn has a unique gift of teaching which is warm, relational, and theologically rigorous. Pastor Thorn has a passion for the doctrines of grace that is apparent throughout the book. Readers will be deeply encouraged by Thorn’s labor – for the gospel is at the very center of this outstanding work. May this gospel continue to transform lives as people pour over this excellent work. Highly recommended!