The Rule of Love: How the Local Church Should Reflect God's Love and Authority

By Jonathan Leeman

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God Is Love vs. Love Is God

Our culture’s view of love—with no boundaries or judgments or conditions— justifies whatever our hearts want and whatever our hearts feel, rejecting any authority that gets in the way. Falsely heralded as the only path to true selfexpression and self-realization, this kind of love diminishes—if not completely redefines—the holy love of God revealed in the Bible.

In this book, Jonathan Leeman directs us toward a biblical definition of love by answering critical questions: How is love commonly misunderstood? What is God’s love like and why is it offensive? And how does all of this relate to the church? In an age of consumerism, individualism, and tribalism, Leeman demonstrates how God showcases his holy love and authority to a watching world through the lives of his people living in true community with one another as the church.

Read Chapter 1


Jonathan Leeman

Jonathan Leeman (PhD, University of Wales) is the editorial director for 9Marks and cohost of the Pastors’ Talk podcast. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books and teaches at several seminaries. Jonathan lives with his wife and four daughters in a suburb of Washington, DC, and is an elder at Cheverly Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter at @jonathanleeman.

Product Details

Category: Church Ministry
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 176
Size: 6.0 in x 9.0 in
Weight: 8.78 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-5963-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-5963-1
ISBN-UPC: 9781433559631
Case Quantity: 80
Published: October 31, 2018

Table of Contents

Series Preface
Introduction: When Love Is God

  1. Love in the Culture
  2. Love among the Theologians 
  3. God’s Love for God—Part 1
  4. God’s Love for God—Part 2 
  5. God’s Love for Sinners
  6. Love and Judgment
  7. Love and Authority

General Index
Scripture Index


“Love is one of the most popular themes and most commonly invoked ideals in the world. It is also one of the most misunderstood. The Rule of Love is a brave and bracing critique of the picture of a watered-down, self-centered, and all-inclusive (i.e., unholy) love that prevails in contemporary culture—and in too many churches. It is also a recovery of a God-centered picture of love in which God’s love for the world is tied to God’s holy love for his own glory. Only the latter makes sense of the gospel, and of church discipline. Any book that explains how God’s authority and judgment are not the opposites of God’s love, but rather its display, is radical—in the dual sense of recovering the root and offering prophetic critique—and this book is deserving of a serious hearing and a radical reception.”
Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

“I don’t know many people who have thought as long, as hard, and as well about the church as Jonathan Leeman. He helps us to reconstruct our idea of the local church, not by rearranging the walls, but by refitting the two floorboards that undergird the church—love and authority. It seems our culture has been drawn to the former and rejected the latter because it has understood neither. In a world that is quick to react, Leeman challenges us to step back and reconsider love, authority, and the way they were designed to relate to each other. He opens our eyes to our hidden assumptions and fears about love and authority. With theological precision and pastoral sensitivity, he does much more than highlight our problems and fears—he also shows us a grand vision for the gospel working in the world through a church that rightly understands love, authority, and their inseparable connection. This is an excellent work for pastors, church members, and even people on the outside trying to make sense of what Christians believe. I am grateful that Jonathan has condensed his years of study about the church and pastoring in the church into a such a potent book, and I’m excited for others to get their hands on this.”
John Onwuchekwa, Director of Resources, Christianity Today; author, Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church

“In an age when authority is often undermined in the name of love, Leeman helpfully reminds us that love and authority are not opposites. Instead, he refreshes us with the biblical reality that love isn’t defined by itself at all, but is defined by God. That also means that we cannot love our families, our churches, our neighbors, or our friends and leave God out of the picture. We love truly when we love for Christ’s sake as we are brought into the orbit of God’s love for himself.”
Abigail Dodds, author, Bread of Life(A)Typical Woman; and A Student’s Guide to Womanhood

“While multiple words can be used to describe the many strengths of Jonathan Leeman’s new book, the word that most comes to mind is timely. On the one hand, he clearly and cogently articulates how our culture has undermined the nature of God’s love, especially in relation to the ideas of authority and judgment. On the other hand, he persuasively and passionately presents how the church of Jesus Christ, armed with a biblical view of God’s love, can present to a needy world the goodness and beauty of God in multiple ways. Every church, with its pastors and people, needs to read this timely book.”
Julius J. Kim, Visiting Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Seminary California

“The world does not understand divine love. Amazingly this is far too often also true of many Christians. Jonathan Leeman does a superb job in providing a biblically faithful and theologically rich study of this important teaching. I was personally helped to better appreciate this doctrine, and I am delighted in commending this book to others. You will be blessed.”
Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“In The Rule of Love, Jonathan Leeman skillfully demonstrates how a God-centered approach to love is far more satisfying and sustainable than our culture’s fluid, anemic, me-centered approach. As it unpacks how God-centered love involves things like holiness, discipline, and authority, this concise book brings clarity to our cultural confusion and poses a timely challenge to the church: Will you display this love to the world?”
Brett McCracken, Senior Editor, The Gospel Coalition; author, The Wisdom Pyramid: Feeding Your Soul in a Post-Truth World

“It is not only our society that is confused about what true love is and its proper relationship to authority, but also, sadly, the church. After perceptively diagnosing the condition of our culture, Jonathan Leeman offers a biblically and theologically faithful antidote to the distorted views of love and authority that we too often have embraced. Rightly grounded first in our triune God’s holy love before moving to how love and authority function in the church, this book is a must-read if God’s people are to recapture the beauty and glory of how our local churches ought to reflect God’s love and authority before a watching world. My prayer and hope is that this book will be not only carefully read but also put into practice in our daily lives for the health of the church and the glory of our triune God.”
Stephen J. Wellum, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary