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Covenant, Community, and the Spirit

A Trinitarian Theology of Church

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This comprehensive textbook by a well-respected Reformed theologian brings together two perennial issues in Christian theology: the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and ecclesiology. It demonstrates the importance of the Holy Spirit in empowering the being and mission of the church and shows how the church's identity and calling are embedded in the larger covenantal purposes of the triune God. Accessibly written with pastors in training in mind, the book probes the classic rubrics of the church as the people of God, the body of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Spirit, igniting readers' ecclesiological imaginations and reclaiming a more biblical, theological, and pastoral vision of church.

A Trinitarian, Spirit-Focused Approach
Outline of the Book
A Future with the Church

1. The Story Begins
Communion: Human Being Is Social Being
The Fallenness of Human Community
Salvation Will Be Social and Individual: Establishing Covenant, Setting the Pattern
2. The Spirit's Covenantal Role in the Work of the Trinity
The "Two Hands of the Father"
The Covenant of Grace
Three Biblical Images for the Church: Why These Three?

3. The Body of Christ
The Spirit and God's Reconciling, Healing Purposes
The Community's Formation: Members of the Body
Priesthood of All Believers: Responsibilities of Office
4. The People of God
The Spirit and God's Sovereign Eschatological Purposes
The Community's Mission: A Holy Nation, a Royal Priesthood
Jesus and the "Kingdom of God"The First Adam and the Last Adam
Israel and the Church
5. The Temple of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit and God's Life-Giving, Life-Changing Presence
Fruit of the Spirit, Gifts of the Spirit
Pentecost as the New Sinai
The "Third Use of the Law"
"The Power of the Keys": Church Discipline
6. A Pilgrim Community of the New Heaven and the New Earth
The Communion We Long For and Travel Toward
The Church Is a Blessing and an Instrument of Blessing
Images of the Church That Form Us
A Perilous Pilgrimage


"Written with clarity and full of biblical and practical discernment, Covenant, Community, and the Spirit displays the riches that Christian teaching about the Trinity and the Holy Spirit brings to our experience and understanding of the church. This is generous Reformed theology at its best."

John Webster, professor of divinity, University of St. Andrews

"Uniting us to Christ through the faith-creating gospel, the Holy Spirit simultaneously unites us to Christ's body. Robert Sherman integrates topics that too often float apart, especially personal salvation, the work of the Spirit, and the nature and mission of the church. Deeply rooted in Scripture and the wisdom of Christian interpretation, this exploration is also wonderfully accessible. This is a welcome contribution to the ecumenical conversation, but it is more than that; it is a personally enriching and edifying meditation on what it means to belong to the people of the Triune God."

Michael Horton, J. G. Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

"More than solely an ecclesiology, this book offers a richly accessible introduction to the whole of Christian doctrine. Reformed Christians will find here an eloquent and enjoyable presentation of their faith, in a mode that is at once classical and contemporary. For Christians of other traditions, this book manifests the gracious interaction and friendly argumentation that represents the best of ecumenically minded, nonpolemical theology. Read this book to learn what Reformed Christianity is, and read this book to learn what true ecumenism is."

Matthew Levering, Perry Family Foundation Professor of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"A language of hope rarely occurs in talk of the church today. Crisis and cynicism too often mar conversation about the congregation. Robert Sherman's Covenant, Community, and the Spirit helps us recover an ecclesiology of hope by setting the church community in the context of the gospel of the Triune God and by retrieving not only the powerful imagery of Holy Scripture throughout but also the idioms of the Christian tradition, in both classical and Reformed variations. As Christ's body, God's people, and the Spirit's temple, we are reminded that the church has life-giving hope, and, as pilgrims on a journey, we see that the church is graced with a vital mission and a joyful calling."

Michael Allen, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

The Author

  1. Robert Sherman
    © Fine Prints/Michael Hallahan

    Robert Sherman

    Robert Sherman (PhD, University of Chicago Divinity School) previously served as the Richard P. Buck Professor of Christian Theology at Bangor Theological Seminary in Bangor, Maine. A leading theologian of the Reformed tradition, he is the author of King,...

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"In an era of 'hot takes' and blog-post theology, Robert Sherman's work on ecclesiology is a refreshing change. His approach is comprehensive and nuanced rather than an easy-to-summarize work that fits neatly into ecclesiological categories. It is a brief theology through the lens of ecclesiology. It is Reformed, Catholic, systematic, and contextual. . . . I am especially grateful for his use of Christ's body, God's people, and the Spirit's temple as dimensions of the Christian community. . . . Covenant, Community, and the Spirit is marked by frequent and extensive quotations of Scripture, far more than quotations of other theologians. . . . For this reason, this is an excellent introduction to ecclesiology, especially for those in the Reformed tradition. . . . This book can provide the kind of fundamental ecclesiology that will be beneficial to anyone in pastoral ministry."

Charles Wiley,


"Sherman's tone and aim are right on point. . . . My biggest takeaway and the highest compliment I can give this book is that it's written for all Christians, not just five people in a theology conference session. Sherman writes as if he's a pastor, pleading with his congregation to wake up and fall in love with being a member of the church. This pastoral tone is helpful. . . . Sherman's work is deeply scriptural. Its pages drip with God's Word. . . . Though the Holy Spirit is largely ignored in some corners of Christianity, Sherman repeatedly spotlights the way in which Scripture places the Spirit at the forefront of Christian mission. . . . If you're willing to sit down, take a pen and paper, and chew slowly on Sherman's work, you'll be reminded that you don't have to settle for an average Christian life. The Holy Spirit--God living inside you--has more for you."

Brandon D. Smith,

The Gospel Coalition

"[Sherman's] engagement with Scripture is consistently nuanced and mature, astutely picking up on inter-textual connections, while seeking to rightly orient individual dogmatic loci within their broader redemptive habitat. . . . This book is ecumenical in the best sense of the word. . . . Although confidently writing as a Reformed Protestant, I believe that Sherman's work here will be of benefit to orthodox Christian believers of all backgrounds. . . . [This book] is a satisfying exploration of and meditation on the essence and ends of the Church, approached through the lens of pneumatology, and positioned within the broader economy of God's redemptive grace. It will challenge students and laypeople, refresh pastors, and edify all."

Tim Harmon,

Transformed blog (Western Seminary)