Out of the Horse's Mouth

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WHI-1256 | The Ministry & Marks of the Church

Finding a church is often compared these days to shopping. That should not surprise us. Many churches, today, market themselves to a particular niche demographic. It’s all about branding. People who shop at Restoration Hardware aren’t the same folks who shop regularly at Walmart.

Some churches say, at least implicitly, we’re all about teaching doctrine, while others brand themselves as the home-base for evangelism, or a place for warm fellowship. Others are known for service and political engagement, whether conservative or liberal. If you are into liturgy, there are plenty of options out there for you too. But according to Acts 2, the first Christians gathered regularly for the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. As a result, the Lord was adding daily to the church, those being saved.

The Spirit creates the church through the Word, so the apostles’ teaching, particularly the good news of Christ’s saving work, was central. But it was the apostles’ teaching AND fellowship, submitting to each other in both doctrine and life. Believers shared their temporal goods with each other as well. Yet, the regular service also included the breaking of bread. The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were central alongside the preached Word as means of grace. In fact, in response to Peter’s proclamation of Christ, those who believed were baptized and the Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians that they partake of communion whenever they come together as the church. The Lord’s Supper wasn’t an optional extra, but a regular means of grace. They gathered also for “the prayers.” Like a trellis, scripturally rooted liturgies train hearts to grow in the right direction together. These public prayers of the whole church in praise, confession, and petition aren’t just for people who go for high church stuff but shape the community’s response to the Lord’s work. And finally, we see the effect of this ministry was to attract unbelievers. The Lord was adding to the church daily, those who were being saved. As Peter said in his sermon, the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are a far off, as many the Lord our God calls to himself. Knowing what they believed and why, believers were able to witness to their neighbors.

In short, the first Christians didn’t have branding consultants. They didn’t do market research to identify their market niche demographic. You didn’t have churches dividing up these ministry emphases. They were all supposed to be places where the sheep were regularly bathed and fed, bound together by the ministry of Word and sacrament, and the prayer and praise of public worship.

Joining us on the program to talk about the importance of this ministry and the marks of the church, first of all is Jeff Mallinson, and second by Sam Allberry. Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the marks and ministry of Christ’s church.

“As we gather as God’s people, we gather to hear the Word of God. We need to hear God telling us who we are, so we don’t just hear who the world thinks we are and define ourselves that way. We are called by God, defined by God. We are named by Him. And part of our gathering is to remember afresh who he has called us to be and who he says we are. For some of us, that is a part of our liturgical heritage. It’s part of our weekly service. We are remembering on a weekly basis who God says we are.”
– Sam Allberry
"Means of Grace"
The term "means of grace" is sometimes used in a very general sense to denote whatsoever may minister to the spiritual welfare of believers, such as the Church, the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, the Sabbath, prayer, etc. It is generally employed in a more restricted sense, however, as a designation of the Word of God and the sacraments. Strictly speaking, only these two can be regarded as means of grace. When we speak of the Word, we think very specifically of the Word of God as it is contained in Scripture and as it is preached to the Church. It is the Word of God's grace, and as such the most important means of grace.
The sacraments cannot exist as a means of grace and are not complete without the Word. The Word and the sacraments agree in that both have God for their author and Christ as their central content, and in their appropriation by faith.
(Adapted from Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine, pp. 306-10)
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WHI-1255 | Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, Part 2

This week on the White Horse Inn we finish our two-part series on how to find Christ in the Old Testament. We are joined once more by Nancy Guthrie, who has written a five-volume book series addressing this topic, entitled Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament.

The focus of this discussion centers on three of Nancy’s books, The Son of David: Seeing Jesus in the Historical Books, The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books, and The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets. Join us as we learn to see Christ from these Old Testament books on the White Horse In.

“The story of the Kingdom of God throughout the Bible has always been about God’s people, in God’s place, under God’s rule. So, there in Genesis we see God’s people, Adam and Eve, and they’re in God’s place, the Garden of Eden, and are under God’s rule: ‘You can eat of every tree in the Garden; but of this one, you cannot eat.’
And, surely, when God has been talking about this land of Canaan, he describes it as a land of milk and honey. This is intended to be another Eden. This is going to be an Eden-like experience, and they are in a sense getting a second chance. Whereas Adam was disobedient, and in a sense got vomited out, exiled out of the Garden, now, here’s God’s people and they have another chance. And if they will obey him there, they will live with him there forever and this will be another Garden of Eden; but if they disobey him, they will be spit out. They will go into exile. And of course, that is exactly what happened, they go in and they take the land, but they never get rid of all of the Canaanites, and they are eventually corrupted and contaminated by them, and they end up going into exile.”
– Nancy Guthrie
"Type and Shadow (Redemptive-Historical Typology)"
The Old Testament events, offices, and institutions (hereafter OTEOI) are invested by God with spiritual significance as integral steps in his history-long project to reverse sin and its effects.... These OTEOI point beyond themselves, symbolizing the comprehensive, eschatological salvation that is God's purpose for history and that has been inaugurated by Christ in his first coming and that will be consummated by Christ in his second coming.
To understand how any OTEOI preaches Christ and finds its fulfilment in him, we first must grasp its symbolic depth in its own place in redemptive history. Then we need to consider how the OTEOI's original symbolic depth (the aspect of redemption to which it pointed in shadow-form) finds final and complete fulfilment in Christ. Finally, we must identify and articulate how its message applies to ourselves and our listeners.
The apostles' proclamation of Christ as the fulfilment of all God's promises provides abundant direction for the grateful outworking of this good news in personal discipline, family life, church life, and public life in the marketplace—and, if necessary, in a prison, like Paul.
(Adapted from Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim, pp.234–37)
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WHI-1254 | Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, Part 1

This week on the White Horse Inn we begin a two-part series on how the Old Testament pointed to the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth. We are joined once more by Nancy Guthrie, who has written a five-volume book series addressing this topic, entitled Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. Nancy has been a regular contributor to the White Horse Inn and is a teacher and author of several other books including Holding On to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God, and Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering.

For most Christians today, the Old Testament remains a closed book. If it is read at all, it is understood and interpreted like Aesop’s Fables. Many Christians were raised to believe that the Old Testament was little more than a collection of morality tales written to inspire us to have “faith like Abraham” or the “courage of Daniel.” And yet, Jesus taught his followers that the Old Testament actually pointed to himself (Jn. 5:39). What does this mean as we individually and corporately study God’s Word? How should we look at each Old Testament passage? Join us as we discuss this important topic of seeing Jesus in all of Scripture on the White Horse Inn.

“What the Bible does is it answers the questions that you and I aren’t smart enough to know, to even ask those questions. So, studying the Bible, I think, honors [God] by allowing him to set the agenda. And then, what we discover is that what he says does meet our deepest needs, the ones we hadn’t even identified. But as we go to his Word, and we trust him to speak to us, he does!”
– Nancy Guthrie
"The Scope of Scripture"
The Reformation insisted on the centrality of Christ to the entire Scripture. This centrality does not result merely from the fact that Christ is the goal and center of the messianic and covenantal history between the call of Abraham and the eschaton, but also from the ultimate focus of meaning of every text in Scripture on the work of God in Christ. Luther could insist that the genuine books of Scripture were known by their witness to Christ. Ursinus likewise declared that Christ is taught throughout the whole of Scripture as the foundation of doctrine and as the summation and focal point of the biblical message. On the one hand, this view could lead to a highly Christological reading of the Old Testament, particularly of the Psalms and the prophets. On the other, granting the relationship between Christ as the Word incarnate and Scripture as the accommodated form of the eternal word and wisdom of God, it served to reinforce the doctrine of Scriptural authority and to maintain a more dynamic view of the text in relation to doctrine.
(Adapted from The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, s.v. "Scripture")
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WHI-1253 | The Clarity of Scripture

This week on the White Horse Inn we are looking at the clarity and perspicuity of Scripture. Michael Horton is joined by Mark Thompson. Mark is the Principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, where he teaches theology, philosophy, and ethics. He is an author and contributor of many works including, Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture.

In our day it seems that there are as many interpretations as there are interpreters. Does the incredible variety of Christian denominations and interpretive traditions imply that the Scriptures themselves are unclear? How can we know what the Bible really says if there are so many different interpretations of it? What is the central concern of God’s Word and how does this affect our interpretation of it as a whole? Join us as we discuss the clarity of Scripture and the difficulties of interpretation on the White Horse Inn.

“[God] calls us to faith in Christ! But if we can’t know who Christ is, or what Christ taught, how can we possibly put our faith in him? How can we trust him? How can we know that it’s not some illusion or creation of the church that we’re trusting, rather than the revelation of God?
“So, fundamentally we have to say that God is able to communicate and because he is loving and merciful, and because he is determined to rescue people, he is determined to effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus is not just a veiled truth or an obscure way or a potential life. He is really the Way, the Truth, and the Life and you can know the Father through him.”
– Mark Thompson
"Perspicuity of Scripture"
Over against the position of the Roman Catholic Church, the reformers stressed the perspicuity of Scripture. They did not intend to deny that there are mysteries in the Bible which transcend human reason, but freely admitted this. Neither did they claim such clarity for Scripture that the interpreter can well dispense with scientific exegesis...Moreover, they did not even assert that the way of salvation is so clearly revealed in Scripture that every man, whether he be enlightened by the Holy Spirit or not, and whether or not he be deeply interested in the way of salvation, can easily understand it. Their contention was simply that the knowledge necessary unto salvation, though not equally clear on every page of Scripture, is yet conveyed to man throughout the Bible in such a simple and comprehensible form that one who is earnestly seeking salvation can, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by reading and studying the Bible, easily obtain for himself the necessary knowledge, and does not need the aid and guidance of the Church and of a separate priesthood.
Naturally, they did not mean to minimize the importance of the interpretations of the Church in the preaching of the Word. They pointed out that Scripture itself testifies to its perspicuity, where it is declared to be a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path. The prophets and the apostles, and even Jesus Himself, address their messages to all the people and never treat them as minors who are not able to understand the truth…Because of its perspicuity, the Bible can even be said to be self-interpretive.
(Adapted from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p.167)
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WHI-1252 | Objections to the Resurrection

This week on the White Horse Inn we are looking at the historical claims of the resurrection. Our panel of hosts is joined by Craig Parton as we specifically look at the objections raised against the resurrection of Christ. Craig is the United States Director of the International Academy of Apologetics, Evangelism and Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. He is an apologist, attorney, and author of several works including, The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer's Quest for the Gospel as well as Religion on Trial.

Do other religions make historical claims? How does Christianity relate itself to the resurrection of Christ? When telling others about the resurrection of Christ, objections inevitably arise. How are we to answer someone who claims that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross? Or if they argue that the gospel accounts contain myths and legends that were added over time? Join us as we discuss the nature of the resurrection on the White Horse Inn (Originally Aired June 5, 2011).

“In the Jewish Talmud [a hostile source], Yeshua [Jesus] was said to be a false prophet, hanged on Passover eve, for sorcery and blasphemy. So, he claimed to be God. You can’t turn him into some pale Galilean who was just telling people to be nicer to each other. He was charged with sorcery and blasphemy…
“These references exist in the Talmud: Jesus was a rabbi whose mother, Mary, was married to a carpenter, who was nevertheless not the natural father of Jesus. Jesus went with his family to Egypt as a child, returned to Judea, and made disciples, performed miraculous signs by sorcery, led Israel astray, and was deserted at his trial without any defenders. On Passover Eve he was crucified.”
– Michael Horton
"The Biblical Account of Resurrection"
Resurrection is the claim that on the third day after He was crucified and buried, Jesus was resurrected from the dead by the power of God for the purposes of testifying to Jesus’ authority to say and do the things He did as the Son of God who would save his people from their sins. There are many points of support for this claim, including the empty tomb being attested by very early and hostile sources, the discovery of the empty tomb by witnesses whose testimony would not be allowed in court, the testimony of the Gospels (which are eyewitness accounts), and the radical change in the disciples after that Sunday.
The earliest Christians believed that Jesus was buried, rose on the third day in fulfillment of messianic prophecy in the Tanakh, and then appeared to numerous people, most of whom, according to Paul, were still alive at the time of his writing. The information about Jesus’ appearances in His resurrected state infers that these people could be questioned. There is no doubt that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus died and was resurrected in bodily form. And this belief remains the best explanation for the events surrounding Jesus’ death, in spite of the various contrary theories.
(Adapted from Doug Powell, “The Biblical Account of Resurrection,” Holman Quick Source Guide to Christian Apologetics, 294-300)
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1 Corinthians 15:14 – And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Our prayer, now and always, is that our resources may help you communicate the claims of Christ with grace to family and friends.
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WHI-1251 | American Spirituality

The New World was a place of all kinds of new experiments, experiments in liberty, and experiments in religion. It was a place where people felt like they could go and not only have the political freedom to practice their religion, but they were also liberated from external forms and church structures. And so, it’s not surprising that the search for the sacred in America has often taken on a very radical kind of form.

Americans are very religious, very spiritual, very interested in spirituality. Of all American adults 92% say they believe in God. 63% say that the Bible is the Word of God. God, apple pie, and mom just go together when you say the word, “America.” But is that the way it really is once you scratch the surface of this phenomenon?

It gets a little murkier. Take belief in God for example. According to a Pew Study, 92% of American adults give a nod to belief in God, but only 60% say they believe in a personal God. I don’t know what the statistic would be if you narrowed it down to the Holy Trinity, and then a Holy Trinity identified by the attributes we find in the Scriptures. In fact, only 79% of those who’ve identified themselves as Evangelical, Born-Again Christians said that they believe in a personal God. So, despite the public nod to the Bible, most Americans rely on their own ‘Inner Light’ to determine what they believe, and why they believe it. They have their own spiritual playlist, according to the same Pew Study I referred to. Most Americans, including most American Evangelicals, say that there are many paths to salvation.

What does it even mean to say we believe in God? What does it even mean to say that we believe the Bible is the Word of God? What do these slogans, these phrases that roll off our lips, so easily even mean in our contemporary context? Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the spirituality of America.

“What does it mean to be Evangelical? What does it mean to be Born-Again if Jesus isn’t bodily raised at the right hand of the Father? The findings are pretty clear: spirituality is booming and Christianity is on the decline. Religion is seen an entirely subjective affair between you and God… It’s a personal affair between you and God, no external authorities, don’t fence me in. As John Wayne says, ‘I like God until he gets under a roof.’ That’s the rugged individual, American spirit.”
– Michael Horton
"Therapeutic Spirituality"
Today’s spirituality is novel in the sense that it is based upon a person’s felt needs, as opposed to an authoritative person or text. Self-expression has become the new form of worship in both traditional and innovative religious practices, rather than a practice of self-denial. This spirituality adopts preference as a means of self-actualization (i.e. a way of becoming the fullest expression of yourself as a human being). The commitments to these preferences are deeply personal and subjective, which results in the expression, “Your own personal Jesus” who neither confronts with his transcendent ‘Otherness’ nor deals in categories of sin, hell, or judgment. Therapy as a model of spirituality has replaced traditional norms due to the secularization of culture (i.e., the cultural shift that has resulted in religious beliefs becoming wholly individualized and disassociated from the social sphere). Divine Providence over mankind has been replaced by the invisible hand of economic forces. Whereas the Almighty beneficent being was previously seen as integral to daily life and well-being, today, he is seen as a cosmic bell-hop who comes at our beck and call.
With the loss of life’s ‘center’ by these competing visions of reality, faith has been left only with an interior and subjective expression which allows ‘believers’ to cope with the ‘real-world’ science and technology have given them. In the face of this modern nihilism (i.e., the belief that there is no true reality beyond that which is apprehended through the senses), religion has often attempted to fill the vacuum through such therapeutic modes of expression. Even in traditional, conservative contexts orthodox worship and practice may succumb to this mode of spirituality, ultimately leaving little effect upon the practice of the worshipper or in the public square at large. Concrete, external liturgical practices (such as the reading of the law, corporate confession, a declaration of pardon, and corporate supplication) are often displaced by personalized small groups which help believers in their life journey. This is deemed as more ‘relevant’ to the therapeutic man, and an improvement upon the ‘dead rituals’ that don’t speak to the hearts of worshippers. Worship thus becomes a therapy ‘session’ something akin to Alcoholics Anonymous, a place where kindred spirits can hear one another’s stories and help one another cope with their weaknesses and failures, rather than a place of divine judgment and salvation where sinful people meet with a holy God, and through faith in their Savior, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are forgiven for their rebellion, and comforted by the assurance of their salvation.
(Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Spirituality”)
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WHI-1250 | Gifts of the Spirit

Well, in this program we want to focus in on the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. What I’d like to do is start with Ephesians 4, because we’ve talked a little bit about the “Farewell Discourse,” John 14-16. [Jesus] will be gone, but it’s good because he’s going to send the Holy Spirit. And so, the ascension and Pentecost are very closely related.

The passage I want to begin with is Ephesians 4, where the Apostle Paul says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

“Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.’ (In saying, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.”

Join us this week on the White Horse Inn as we look at the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit in the church and in believers.

“As we’re talking about the gifts and the fruit of the Spirit, in this program, the reason I wanted to start with this passage is because of the close connection between the ascension and Pentecost. Christ ascends to the right hand of the Father, just as he promised in the ‘Farewell Discourse’ in John, and now the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to distribute the spoils of victory. Christ, the heir of the Father’s whole estate, has now included us in his last will and testament, and all of that estate we share with him as coheirs.
“The first thing that he mentions out of the gifting of this Holy Spirit, is that everybody shares equally in the gift – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit – baptized by one Spirit. There is one gift of grace. But then he moves to the gifts, plural, that he gave. And this is the one passage that focuses specifically and exclusively on those ministers who are given to preaching. Their calling, their office, is to preach the Word of God. The reason I want to bring this up at the beginning is because I want to start with the most specific gifts where the Word of God creates church, and then move to the other gifts that make the church healthy, and then talk about the fruit of the Spirit… This ordering is crucial”
– Michael Horton
"The Gifts of the Holy Spirit"
The manifold gifts that the ascended King has poured out on his church by his Spirit include offices pertaining to the sound instruction in the one faith and spiritual government. And yet, it also includes the ministry to the temporal needs of the saints. In order that the apostles might give due diligence to the task of the prayers and the Word, the diaconate was created. The particular offices of minister and elder have been given by the Spirit of Christ to equip all of the saints in their general office as prophets, priests, and kings. The Spirit mediates Christ’s threefold office as prophet, priest, and king in this age through these three offices of pastor-teacher, deacon, and elder. Just as no believer is an island, no local church or denomination is the one catholic church; they are only one and catholic as they exist together in Christ through faithful preaching and sacrament. In this communion the gifts of the Spirit are used by Christ to care for the temporal and eternal welfare of his commonwealth and colony of heaven.
Through the extraordinary ministry of the prophets and apostles, the Spirit delivered Christ’s canon by inspiration, constituting the new covenant community; through the ordinary ministry of pastors, the Spirit guides the church by illumination as it is being shaped and normed by that constitution. Just as the event to which the apostles bore witness is unique, unrepeatable, and completed, their office is extraordinary and unique in the church’s history, yet with continual effects on the life of the church.
(Adapted from Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, pp. 858-82)
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WHI-1249 | The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

This week on the White Horse Inn we are continuing our series on the Work of Holy Spirit. Our panel of hosts is joined once more by Justin Holcomb as we look at the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

On this episode we consider the nature of the Spirit’s baptism at work in all believers. What does it mean to be baptized by the Holy Spirit? Can we distinguish this baptism from traditional water baptism? Should baptized Christians look for a second blessing? The hosts will discuss this issue as it appears in various New Testament texts, as well as its implications for the ministry of the church in our own day. Join us as we discuss the significance of this baptism within the context of the Holy Spirit’s work of the new creation on the White Horse Inn.

“When Jesus says to the disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’ This is Matthew 19:28. The ESV translation ‘new world’ is more accurately translated in the NIV as the ‘renewal of all things.’ Although I think a more precise translation would be ‘the regeneration of all things.’ Also, in 2 Cor 5:17, ‘Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.’ But here’s the NIV translation… ‘Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.’ Literally, the Greek reads ‘Behold, has emerged the new.’ It seems that the better rendering is the NIV, that ‘if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old has passed away, behold the new has come.’
“A lot of us growing up with the older translation think of the new creation as me. ‘I am the new creation.’ But here again, isn’t that our tendency? To individualize and personalize the work of the Holy Spirit before we see how the Holy Spirit actually is making a new world, not just a new ‘Mike’ but a new world, speaking a new world into existence. ”
– Michael Horton
"Baptism of the Holy Spirit"
For Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 it is unthinkable that anyone could be a member of the Body of Christ, united to Christ by faith and a member of the church whom he redeemed by his death, and yet for that person not to have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. "Baptism in Spirit" brought about our incorporation into the Body. We were "baptized into one Body" by the one Spirit. It is unthinkable that someone might be a member of the Body, yet not have been baptized by the Spirit, for all who are in the Body have entered into the Body through the door of Spirit-baptism.
(Dennis E. Johnson, "The Gift and Gifts of the Holy Spirit”)
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WHI-1248 | Acts 2 & The Day of Pentecost

This week on the White Horse Inn we continue our series on the Work of the Holy Spirit. Justin Holcomb joins us once more as we look at the Spirit’s work in Acts 2. Justin is an Episcopal minister and adjunct professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He has written and edited a number of books, including On the Grace of God, Rid of My Disgrace, Know the Creeds and Councils, and Know the Heretics. Most recently Justin has published Acts: A 12-Week Study in the Knowing the Bible Series.

On this episode we consider the nature of the Holy Spirit’s work, specifically as it relates to the day of Pentecost. Was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost a one-time event? Is this event a paradigm for our own churches today? What does it means to speak in “other tongues”? The main focus of Acts 2 is on the disciples who were empowered by the Spirit to proclaim Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy with boldness and supernatural insight. Join us on this program as we discuss the significance of Pentecost within the scope of redemptive history on the White Horse Inn.

“Before Pentecost, the [apostles] are clueless… and after Pentecost they are proclaiming, not only Christ’s death and resurrection for our salvation, but they are proclaiming, as Peter does in his sermon, the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy of the Spirit being poured out on all flesh. Suddenly, they not only get what Jesus has done, they get how the Prophets prophesied it. The Holy Spirit made them more intimate fellows of Jesus, then they had been before his ascension.”
– Michael Horton
"Pentecost and the On-going Work of the Spirit"
Acts 2 presents Pentecost as the giving of the Spirit to the church after the ascension of Christ to the Father. Just as the Spirit’s presence in Christ’s ministry was identified with his proclamation of the gospel (Isa 61:1 – 2; Lk 4:18 – 21), the consequence of the Spirit’s descent at Pentecost was the public proclamation of the gospel by Peter with the other apostles standing at his side (Ac 2: 14 – 36). And yet, it is vital to understand that the Spirit is the mediator of, not the surrogate for, Christ’s person and work. The redeeming work of Christ lies behind us, but the effect of that Word is at work in ‘these last days’ by the Spirit’s empowerment. With the Father, the Spirit gave the Son to sinners in the incarnation, and in the Upper Room Discourse (Jn 14 – 16) Jesus promised that when he ascended he would give the Spirit. We are the beneficiaries of this intratrinitarian exchange of gifts.
The Spirit’s ongoing ministry is judicial, convicting the world of sin and persuading us of our guilt and continual need for Christ’s righteousness. The Spirit guides us into all truth, which the Son embodies. The Spirit does not replace Jesus but unites us to our heavenly king and head, disrupting ordinary history by placing us into the new creation. The Spirit glorifies Jesus making him known through indwelling our hearts, as a gift (arrabon) of our final redemption, making all of Christ’s work our own. The Spirit thus mediates the threefold office of Christ to every believer. The Spirit gives and orchestrates the many gifts bestowed on the whole body through the ministry of the ordained office-bearers in Word and sacrament. These officers differ only in the graces of vocation with other believers, and not in the gracious status they all have in the Spirit of Christ. Through this ministry of the Spirit which began at Pentecost, we are remade into Christ’s likeness as prophets, priests, and kings: true and faithful witnesses in the cosmic courtroom, a choir answering antiphonally in praise to our Redeemer.
(Adapted from Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, p. 555-560)
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At the end of Lukes gospel theres a wonderful scene in which Jesus opens the minds of his disciples to understand the Scriptures, the central message of which was that “the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” “You are witnesses of these things,” he told them. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24: 44–49).

In Acts chapter 1 Luke summarizes many of the things that he already covered at the end of his gospel account and highlights the fact that after his resurrection Jesus presented himself alive to his disciples over a period of forty days, teaching them about the kingdom of God. Then in verse 4 we read, “And while staying with them [Jesus] ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”

The promise of the Father to which Jesus referred was that which the Apostle John had mentioned in chapters 15 and 16 of his gospel concerning the coming of the paraclatos, which is a word meaning advocate or intercessor. In the English Standard Version this is simply translated as “helper.” This “Spirit of truth,” Jesus says, “will bear witness about me.” There are a lot of mistaken assumptions about what the Holy Spirit does for us today. Many associate his work with ecstatic experiences, emotional comfort, or even supernatural healing, but how often do we associate the role of the Holy Spirit with leading and guiding us into all truth? (John 16:13). How many of us connect the work of the Spirit to Christ-centered preaching? Yet, Jesus actually said this was what the Spirit would come to do, that he would “bear witness about me” (John 15:26). J.I. Packer once compared the work of the Holy Spirit to that of a great floodlight at the foot of a magnificent cathedral. No one goes up to such a light in order to stare directly into it; rather, they focus on the magnificent structure that the floodlight illumines. The point is that you know the Spirit is at work, not in places where the Spirit himself is the focus, but rather where Christ and his finished work are proclaimed and magnified. This, I believe, is the central point being made in Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost.

In Acts 1:8 we find what many refer to as the thesis statement of the entire book. Jesus says to his disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” As you read through various sections of the book of Acts, you begin to realize that this particular verse has essentially outlined the course of the apostolic witness as it progresses through Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, with Paul ending up in house arrest in the capital city of the empire, Rome itself. Now, with all this in the background, lets make our way through the events described in Acts 2.

2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.

In verses 12–15 of chapter 1 we read that the apostles, with a large number of core followers (120 in all) returned to the upper room in Jerusalem, likely the same room in which they celebrated the Last Supper. Now, many in our day assume that the events of Acts 2 occur in this same location, but we discover in the first verse of chapter 2 that there is both a change in time and place, for “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.” Since this particular day was a high holy Jewish festival, the place at which they gathered would likely have been on the temple grounds, which, according to Luke 24:53, is where they frequently met.

For most of us, when we hear the word Pentecost, the first thing that comes to mind is Pentecostalism, a group which takes its very name from what I will be arguing is a serious misinterpretation of this text. But in reality, the word Pentecost is simply the Greek translation of what the Jews referred to as the Feast of Weeks, or the Feast of First Fruits. In Hebrew this was called Shavuot, and this particular festival was to be celebrated on the day after the seventh Sabbath following Passover. Seven weeks amounts to forty-nine days, so the following day would be the fiftieth, which is how we get the name “Pentecost,” since it means “fiftieth,” in the Greek tongue.

This festival was to be a day of rest and rejoicing for the Jewish people as they celebrated the first fruits of the years grain harvest, and during this time of rejoicing, the Lord instructed his people to “recall that you were slaves in Egypt” (Deut. 16:12). In Second Temple Judaism, this festival also became a time during which the Jewish people commemorated Gods giving of the law to Moses upon Mount Sinai. This was to be a holy convocation, and according to Exod. 23, during this feast “all males were to appear before YHWH in his sanctuary,” which explains why so many thousands of devoted Jews from around the world made a special pilgrimage to be present during this festival. In fact, the first-century Jewish historian Josephus describes one particular Pentecost celebration, saying “many tens of thousands of the people were gathered together about the temple,” and that “the whole city was full of a multitude of people that were from outside the country,” mirroring almost identically what we find here in Acts 2.

2:2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

The location of this house has confused many readers, but there are a number of clues that give us a general idea of the discipleslocation. Upon hearing some commotion, we read that a large number of Jews end up coming to investigate. Peter then preaches to this large crowd, and three thousand end up believing the message. The problem with all this is that first-century houses in Jerusalem were situated in the midst of narrow alleyways, which would not allow a crowd of this magnitude to form in the first place. In fact, the only place in Jerusalem that would allow for a crowd of this size would be the temple complex itself. As weve already observed, this fits with where wed expect these Jewish disciples to be at this time, for not only was it a high holy day, but Peter indicates in v. 15 that it was the third hour, or nine oclock in the morning, which was the starting time of the official morning prayer service at the temple.

Now Lukes report says that the sound they heard filled the entire “house.” Though some commentators have tried to argue that this word “house” refers to the entire temple, since it is often referred to as the house of the Lord, I think Luke makes it clear that the sound is limited to the particular place “where the disciples were sitting.” In his book The Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus describes the courtyard of the temple grounds, saying that built around the temple were thirty meeting rooms, and these rooms had passages going through them so that people might enter one through the other (Ant. 8.3.2). The word that Josephus uses to describe one of these meeting rooms is oikos (house), the very same word that we find here in Acts 2. In short, I believe we should picture the disciples in one of these meeting rooms just outside of the temple courtyard, which explains why such a large crowd can quickly gather to investigate the strange events that follow.

2:3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.

In verse 2 we were told of a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and similarly, here we read of divided tongues as of fire. This was not literal wind or fire, but these words are mere similes for the supernatural signs produced by the Holy Spirit. Wind, of course, is an analogy that Jesus himself used of the Spirits work. In John 3 he tells Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wills. You hear its sound but do not know where it comes from. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” Similarly, the imagery of fire is often associated with Gods presence, or his holy word, throughout Scripture. In Exodus 3, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. In Exodus 19, Mount Sinai is “wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire.” Similarly, we read in Jeremiah 23, “‘Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?’”

We also have received an important clue about the meaning of the phrase “tongues of fire” in various fragments found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (1Q29, 4Q376). These fragments present an interesting account of the Urim and Thumin, which were particular stones mentioned in the OT that were to give the acting high priest direction concerning Gods will. In one of the legible sections of these fragments we read that, “The Urim...shall give you light, and it shall come forth with tongues of fire...and you shall observe...all that the prophet shall say to you...” Thus, before the time of Christ the phrase “tongues of fire” appears to have been seen as a symbol of prophetic inspiration. And this, we will see, is precisely whats happening in Acts 2.

2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

What is the meaning of the phrase, “other tongues”? If youre anything like me, the first thought that comes to mind relates to the strange utterances that we typically associate with modern Pentecostalism. This is one of the most important mistakes that modern readers of any ancient text can make. R. Clyde McCone helpfully points out that “A common problem that plagues modern man in his attempt to understand any past event is that he projects into that past event his own present situation.” So this writer then asks a very basic question, “Should the Bible be understood in light of personal religious experience or should personal religious experience be understood in light of the Bible?” [1]

So, whats really going on here in Acts 2:4? Are the apostles having strange ecstatic experiences? Are they speaking languages unknown to themselves or others? Actually, an examination of the overall context shows that the words of the apostles were clearly intelligible and appeared to be understood by all those around them. What is this text really claiming? A good place to start is by asking what the phrase “other tongues” meant in the time and place in which it was being used.

This exact phrase is found Isaiah 28:11, as it appears in the Greek Translation of the OT known as the Septuagint. “By a people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people.” In 1 Corinthians 14 the Apostle Paul also uses a compound form of this same phrase to refer to "foreign languages.” In fact, this phrase is found in numerous Jewish texts in which Hebrew, the “holy tongue,” is contrasted with the “foreign tongues” of the Gentile nations. For example, in the apocryphal book Sirach we read, "For the things translated into “other tongues,” have not the same force in them uttered in Hebrew.” Similarly, in the Mishna, which is a late second-century compilation of the oral law of Judaism, we read:

The following ritual texts may be recited in other tongues...the tithing declaration, chanting the Shema...grace after meals, the oath of testimony... The following ritual texts must be recited in the Holy Tongue: the declaration of first fruits...the original blessings and curses, the priestly benediction, the blessing of the high priest... (m.Sot.7:12)

Not only does this section of the Mishna help us to see that the Jews of the period contrasted Hebrew, “the holy tongue,” with “other tongues,” but Hebrew was to be exclusively used during “the declaration of first fruits,” which was the sacred liturgy associated with the festival of Shavuot, or Pentecost. In other words, during this particular festival, the crowds would have expected religious services presented in the holy tongue of Hebrew. But what they ended up hearing were powerful messages in “other tongues.” This is what accounts for at least some of the surprise and astonishment that we encounter in this passage.

In verse 4 we read, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.The Greek word underlying what is translated here as “utterance” is actually quite rare, having only a handful of occurrences in both the NT and Greek versions of the OT combined. The actual word is apophthegomai. Drop it into the conversation at your next office party and its sure to be a smashing success. One of the most frequently used Greek lexicons defines this rare word as follows: “To express oneself orally, to speak out, declare boldly, loudly, or with urgency.” In particular, it has reference to the “speech of a wise man, oracle-giver, diviner, prophet, exorcist, and other inspired persons.” We get this same idea as we evaluate the way this word was used by those who translated the OT into Greek, as this word appears in Deuteronomy 32:2 in which God says “Let my speech be looked for as the rain.” This wasnt just any kind of utterance but specifically referred to the Word of the Lord. The same word for “utterance” also appears in 1 Chronicles 25:1, in which David sets apart specific men “who had prophesied.The word was used by the Septuagint translators as well to describe the divinations of the false prophets referred to by Ezekiel and Micah, and it appears only once in the voluminous writings of Josephus, who spoke of those who were “conversant in the discourses of the prophets.”

When we put all this information together, we see that in Acts 2, the actual gift being emphasized is the fact that the Holy Spirit has empowered the disciples to prophesy and to boldly proclaim the Word of the Lord, and this is exactly what we find in verse 14, which is the only other instance of this word in all Lukes writings. According to the ESV translation, Peter lifted up his voice and addressed them, but perhaps a better translation would be that he lifted up his voice and prophesied. Too often we think of prophecy as a kind of foretelling of future events, but in the Hebrew use, it was more often associated with speaking forth the Word of the Lord. And as we see throughout Acts 2, Peter, by divine inspiration, delivers a message completely centered on Christ, showing how his death, burial and resurrection sums up all of redemptive history. This is what the Holy Spirit had inspired them to do. This is how the Spirit would lead them into all truth and bear witness concerning Christ. If you think about it, this is why we as Christians believe that the writings of the apostles (collected in the form of the NT) are just as inspired as the writings of the OT prophets before them.

2:5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.

We should stop here to ask the question as to what sound Luke refers to here in verse 6. Some have tried to argue that the noise of the “mighty rushing wind” is actually what attracts the crowds, but I believe the sound mentioned here refers to the noise of the disciples who began to preach in common languages. Verse 6 makes this clear, for the multitude came together as each one heard them speak. As we observed above, the kinds of speeches that were delivered were most likely bold prophetic proclamations, which means that Lukes account, as in other parts of his narrative, has likely been compressed. After the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they likely stepped out of the meeting room and began to boldly proclaim the wonders of God to the immense crowd gathered in the temple courtyard on the day of Pentecost. This is the sound that attracts the multitudes, the sound of bold proclamation in common ordinary languages familiar to the hearers.

Here members of the crowd make two observations. First, they notice that there are many speakers. Now, if these disciples were all speaking in normal voices inside one particular meeting room, it would not have attracted any outside attention. And, if they were all speaking loudly and boldly, yet while still in this same meeting room, it may have attracted some attention, but it would hardly have been intelligible due to the chaos. Yet, as our text goes on to indicate, Jews from all over the world begin to hear and respond to the disciplesmessages, and after Peter addresses them, three thousand end up being converted. Now, at no point are we told that the disciples left this particular meeting room on the temple grounds, but this is the most obvious explanation. The apostles simply step outside into the temple courtyard and begin preaching about Christ in common ordinary languages, fulfilling the mission which they had been empowered to perform as Christs witnesses. Through their proclamation, God was “assembling the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” as we read in Isaiah 11:12. The second observation that the crowd makes is that the disciples are from Galilee.

2:7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?

Question: How were these temple visitors able to tell that these men were from Galilee? Some have suggested that it could be due to the disciplesnorthern accent, and Ill deal with that claim in a moment. The most credible theory in my opinion relates to the fact that it was widely known by all those familiar with the recent events in Judea that Jesus and his followers were Galilean (Mark 14:70, John 7:52). Thus, when travelers from other parts of the world would inquire as to what was going on and who these men were, they were likely informed by many in the crowd that this group was composed of disciples of the Galilean Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, who had been recently crucified. Now again, this most likely took a bit of time to unfold, which is further indication of compression in Lukes narrative.

Verse 8 presents an interesting challenge since it appears that members of the crowd are surprised that Galileans would be able to speak their own native languages. According to Michael Wise, professor of Hebrew and Ancient Languages at Northwestern University, “Palestine in the time of Jesus was strongly trilingual. Not everyone knew Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. But many knew two of these languages. Essentially, everyone but foreigners knew Aramaic, somewhere between 60–80% spoke a version of Hebrew, and a significant percentage knew Greek.”[2] Now in the region of Galilee where Greek-speaking Gentiles outnumbered Jews by a ratio of over 3 to 1, Greek would have been much more essential since it would have been the language of commerce and the marketplace. So in all likelihood, these Galilean disciples knew both Greek and Aramaic. The problem, however, is that these are the very languages that characterize the regions listed in Acts 2:9–11.

2:9 “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.

This text is confusing for us modern readers, since we dont know what languages these particular regions represent. In fact, most of us read this list as if it were a list of languages. But as McCone observes, “Medes, Mesopotamia, Pontus, and Asia are no more language designations than Cuba, Canada, or Switzerland would be today.”[3] The fact of the matter is that the areas mentioned here by Luke only represent two or three different languages. In the first century, Jews from Parthia, Media, Elam, Arabia, and Mesopotamia spoke Aramaic. Jews visiting from Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pamphylia, and the area around Asia Minor, as the NT Epistles demonstrate, spoke Greek. The native language of Jews from Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Crete, and Rome was also Greek. You might expect Jews from Egypt to speak Egyptian, but from the time of Alexander the Great this area had essentially become a Greek colony, and it was from here that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) was produced by the seventy Jewish scholars. Its possible that Jewish residents of Rome were fluent in Latin, but they would also certainly be fluent in Greek, for in the early part of the first century, this was the common language of the Roman marketplace and most forms of writing, including graffiti. Recall that Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans in Koine Greek.

The only other locality from Lukes list that I have not yet mentioned is the region of Judea. The great majority of the temple visitors on the Day of Pentecost were actually from this region, as Peter admits when he addresses the crowd in verse 14 saying, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem.” In verse 22 he says “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know...Peter is appealing to the great majority of those in the crowd who are not visitors from other countries. Yet, we already know that these residents from Judea were Aramaic speakers and that many of them also spoke Greek.

So back to our original question: Why would members of this crowd be surprised that these Galileans could speak their own native languages? Galileans were fluent in both Aramaic and Greek, and by use of those two languages they would have been able to communicate with all the visitors at the temple that day, at least in a rudimentary form. In reality, both Greek and Aramaic of the first century could be broken up into a number of varying dialects. Greek alone was divided up into Koine, Attic, Doric, Aeolic, Ionic, and possibly others. In fact, the difference between these dialects is so great that each one has its own set of grammatical and structural rules. Now, another interesting fact is that the two words that Luke uses in this account, as he refers to “tongues” and “languages,” (glossa and dialectos) can be used interchangeably to refer either to languages or dialects.

So though there may not have been a need for a language miracle, there would have been significant differences between the various dialects that would have made the disciplesspeech difficult to follow for many of the out-of-town visitors that day from different parts of the empire. Therefore, I think the best explanation for what we find here in Acts 2 is that part of the Spirits empowerment that day may have included a kind of miracle of hearing, so that the prophetic words of these Galilean fishermen were heard so crisply and clearly, it was as if they were uttered by men from their own native country. This is basically what we read at the end of verse 6: “each one (of the temple visitors) was hearing them (the disciples) speak in his own language (dialectos). This is why I dont think that the listeners would have perceived a northern Galilean accent, as some have argued. It has also become very clear that speaking in tongues, as it is outlined here in Acts 2, is not some kind of ecstatic prayer language. In verse 11, visiting Jews say, “we hear them telling in our own tongues (or dialects) the mighty works of God.”

2:12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.

Though some were amazed, others ridiculed. “New wine” is a first century way of saying strong wine, so the claim being made is that these men are doing something inappropriate because they have lost all inhibition due to intoxication. That actually sounds like the kind of objection one would have heard if the crowd was expecting high holy prayer services recited in a ceremonial “holy tongue” half-forgotten from their school days. Instead, these visitors witnessed things that they did not expect; they heard men speaking boldly about the finished work of Christ in clear common, everyday languages and dialects.

I have been arguing that the disciples first met in one of the meeting rooms just outside of the temple courtyard on the morning of Pentecost. If this view is correct, another dimension we could throw in at this point is the fact that Gentiles were not allowed in this particular meeting area, which was situated just outside of these meeting houses. In other words, in order to gain access to this area, one had to be either of Jewish decent or a proselyte (which for males meant becoming a circumcised adult convert). So if all this is taking place beyond the court of the Gentiles on a high holy day, at the time of the temple prayer service, perhaps this provides the larger context for us to understand the ridicule that the disciples received. Visitors to this section of the temple were expecting something formal, and what they saw and heard was informal. They were expecting a holy convocation in the holy tongue, and what they heard were bold proclamations in the common tongues of the unholy Gentile nations.

At this point Id like to draw your attention to a number of fascinating structural similarities between the events described here in Acts 2 and what Luke outlines later in Acts 10. In that chapter, the focus is on a devout Gentile named Cornelius. In Acts 2 the focus is on devout men of the Jewish dispersion. Cornelius receives a sign by way of an angelic vision (10:3); in Acts 2 the Jewish disciples see and hear signs (2:2–3). After being invited to the home of Cornelius, Peter struggles with the fact that its unlawful for him to enter the house of a Gentile (10:28). In the temple courtyard, Gentiles were not allowed to enter the house of God, since there was a “dividing wall of separation” (Eph. 2:14). In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Jewish believers (2:33); in Acts 10 the same thing occurs among this group of Gentile believers (10:44–45). In both chapters there is perplexity and amazement (2:7, 12; 10:45). In both chapters Peter preaches a lengthy Christ-centered sermon, which concludes with the baptism of believers (2:14–36; 10:34–43). All these structural similarities are no doubt intentional. Luke is showing that there is no longer any difference between Jew and Gentile and that God shows no partiality. But there is still one further structural similarity yet to explore. In Acts 2 there is a great deal of focus on the issue of “other tongues.” And as I have argued, this otherness relates to the Jewish understanding of Hebrew as a “holy tongue.” In Acts 10 we find something similar. In this text Peter has a vision about a sheet descending from heaven with what appears to be common or unclean food. Though it isnt kosher, he is told to kill and eat, for that which God “has made clean do not call common.”

By comparing these two texts the similarities become apparent. In one, the focus is on the distinction between common and holy tongues, while in the other it is between common and holy foods. Our take- away point applied to Acts 2 is as follows: If the Holy Spirit has empowered men to speak prophetically on the temple grounds during this high holy day in common ordinary languages, then we should no longer consider these common tongues as “unclean.” Another brick in the dividing wall of hostility has been removed.

2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’”

Here Peter gets right to the point. All that you are seeing here today is a fulfillment of Jewish prophecy and expectation. As the prophet Joel looked forward to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he pointed to a time in the last days in which both “sons and daughters would prophesy.” Peter is saying that this is being fulfilled right before your very eyes. The view that prophecy and miracles had disappeared was actually quite widespread among Jews of this period. Yet, many continued to believe that miracles would return, along with new revelation at the dawning of the messianic age, and this is precisely what Peter is claiming here. The most important thing that occurred that morning was not the visible sign of the tongues of fire, though it was probably fascinating to behold. The most important thing was not the noise that sounded like a mighty rushing wind. The most important thing was not the fact that the disciples were able to communicate with people who spoke various dialects of Greek and Aramaic. The most important thing was not the individual signs, but the thing to which all these various signs pointed. According to Peter, the most important thing was the fact that prophetic utterance had returned to the sons of Israel by the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit and the focus of this prophetic word—rather than looking forward—was now looking back at the finished work of redemption, accomplished by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and applicable to both Jew and Gentile alike.

Alfred Edersheims reflections on the meaning of the day of Pentecost from his book The Temple, provides a fitting conclusion:

If Jewish tradition connected the Feast of Firstfruitswith the Mount that might be touched,and the voice of words which they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them anymore,we have in this respect come unto Mount Zion,and to the better things of the New Covenant. To us the Day of Pentecost is, indeed, the feast of firstfruits,and that of the giving of the better law, written not in tables of stone, but on the fleshy tables of the heart,” “with the Spirit of the living God.For, as the worshippers were in the Temple, probably just as they were offering the wave-lambs and the wave-bread, the multitude heard that sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind,which drew them to the house where the apostles were gathered, there to hear every man in his own language” “the wonderful works of God.And on that Pentecost day, from the harvest of firstfruits, not less than three thousand souls added to the Church were presented as a wave-offering to the Lord. The cloven tongues of fire and the apostolic gifts of that day of firstfruits have, indeed, long since disappeared. But the mighty rushing sound of the Presence and Power of the Holy Ghost has gone forth into all the world.[4]


1. R. Clyde McCone, Culture & Controversy, A New Investigation of the Tongues of Pentecost (Self- published, 1978), 2. McCone was a cultural anthropologist at California State University, Long Beach who applied his knowledge of the linguistic situation of the ancient world to the context of Acts 2. The book is hard to find, but Robert Zerhusen interacts with McCones approach in various published articles that can be found online.
2. Michael Wise, email message to author, June 2, 2014.
3. McCone, Culture & Controversy, 10.
4. Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services as They Were at the Time of Christ (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), 266–67.



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WHI-1247 | The Work of the Spirit

This week on the White Horse Inn we begin a new series on the Work of the Holy Spirit. Justin Holcomb joins us once more as we look at the Spirit’s ordinary and extraordinary work in creation, providence, and redemption. Justin is an Episcopal minister and adjunct professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He has written and edited a number of books, including On the Grace of God and Rid of My Disgrace. His most recent works include Know the Creeds and Councils and Know the Heretics (both Zondervan, 2014).

On this episode we consider the nature of the Holy Spirit’s work, discussing the purpose of signs and wonders throughout redemptive history. Why is it difficult for Christians to agree on what the Holy Spirit does? How should we begin to understand his work in the world and in our lives? How does the Spirit relate to the other members of the Godhead? Should we expect to see spectacular miracles or does the Spirit work primarily through providence in our own time? Why does Jesus say that a wicked generation seeks after signs and wonders? Join us as we explore the work of this vital member of the Holy Trinity on the White Horse Inn.

“When you start looking at Scripture, you realize the Holy Spirit is involved in resurrection, creation, the Incarnation – all of these earthy, on the ground, real life things that matter. It slams that false dichotomy, that false separation – this dualism [between the Spirit and matter]. It undermines it completely, and the spirituality that follows that dualistic world...
Many of the people who focus so much on this wrongheaded view of the Spirit, they decry sacraments, they decry the real life relationships and community in the church. They’re off searching for another worldly, spiritual experience when the Spirit seems to be so involved in breaking in the not-yet into the now, breaking in of the kingdom here, not off there somewhere, but here.”
– Justin Holcomb
"Apostolic Inspiration"
The operation of the Holy Spirit after the day of Pentecost differed from that which from that which the prophets in their official capacity enjoyed. The Holy Spirit came upon the prophets as a supernatural power and worked upon them from without. His action on them was frequently repeated but was not continuous. The distinction between His activity and the mental activity of the prophets themselves was made to stand out rather clearly. On the day of Pentecost, however, He took up His abode in the hearts of the apostles and began to work upon them from within. Since He made their hearts His permanent abode, His action on them was no more intermittent but continuous, but even in their case the supernatural work of inspiration was limited to those occasions on which they served as organs of revelation. But because of the more inward character of all the Spirit's work, the distinction between His ordinary and His extraordinary work was not so perceptible. The supernatural does not stand out as clearly in the case of the apostles as it did in the case of the prophets. Notwithstanding this fact, however, the New Testament contains several significant indications of the fact that the apostles were inspired in their positive oral teachings. Christ solemnly promised them the Holy Spirit in their teaching and preaching (Matt. 10:19, 20; Mk. 13:11; Lk. 12:11, 12; 21:14, 15; Jn. 14:26; 15:26; 16:13). In the Acts of the Apostles we are told repeatedly that they taught "being full of," or "filled with" the Holy Spirit. Moreover, it appears from the Epistles that in teaching the churches they conceived of their word as being in very deed the word of God, and therefore as authoritative (1 Cor. 2:4, 13; 1 Thess. 2:13).
(Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 148)
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WHI-1246 | Persevering Faith

This week on the White Horse Inn we are concluding our series on the Book of Hebrews, focusing on chapters eleven through thirteen. Nancy Guthrie joins us once more as we look at the perseverance of the saints at the end of Hebrews.

On this episode we consider the nature of true saving faith. Can a Christian have utter confidence that their faith will persevere till the end? Is it not arrogant to think our faith is strong enough for life’s trials and temptations? What is true faith and how does it relate to the atoning sacrifice and active obedience of Christ? Can a believer truly lose his or her salvation? Is faith merely a blind leap? Why is Jesus referred to as “the author and perfecter” of our faith? Join us as we conclude our series traversing the wonders of the Book of Hebrews on the White Horse Inn.

“The writer to the Hebrews interprets the Psalmist’s words for us. ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me.’ Well, he commanded sacrifice and offerings, that’s why he says, ‘which are required by the law.’ But that’s not what [God] really delights in... What God has never had from humanity, since the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise, what he’s never had is a faithful Son. Now, finally, ‘this is my Son in whom, I am well pleased.’
And much more than sacrifices, God delights in an obedient Son. This is about loving to do what your father wants you to do and he just does! Every day [Jesus] got up and said, ‘My meat is to do my Father’s will.’ So much better, ‘A body you’ve prepared for me to get this done, to be not only the Lord who commands, but the servant who obeys. The Son who fulfills… The old covenant has to get out of the way. The bulls and the goats have to be pushed into the Mediterranean, so I can appear as the faithful Son. I’m the one who will bring pleasure to the Father.’”
– Michael Horton
"True Saving Faith"
True saving faith is a faith that has its seat in the heart and is roots in the regenerate life. The seed of the faith is implanted by God in the heart in regeneration, and it is only after God has implanted this seed in the heart that man can actively exercise faith. The conscious exercise of it gradually forms a habit, and this becomes a powerful aid in the further exercise of faith. When the Bible speaks of this faith it generally, though not always, refers to it as an activity of man. It may be defined as a certain conviction, wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, as to the truth of the gospel, and a hearty reliance on the promises of God in Christ.
(Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine)
Q21. What is true faith? A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word,[1] but also a hearty trust,[2] which the Holy Spirit[3] works in me by the Gospel,[4] that not only to others, but to me also,[5] forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God,[6] merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.[7]
Proof Texts: [1] Jn 17:3, 17; Heb 11:1-3; Jas 1:6, 2:19; [2] Rom 4:16-21, 5:1, 10:10; Heb 4:16; [3] 2 Cor 4:13; Php 1:19, 29; [4] Acts 16:4; Rom 1:16, 10:17; 1 Cor 1:21; [5] Gal 2:20; [6] Rom. 1:17; Heb 10:10, 11:1-2; [7] Acts 10:43; Rom 3:20-26; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:7-10
(The Heidelberg Catechism)
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Posted by on in 2015 Show Archive
WHI-1245 | The Eternal Sacrifice

This week on the White Horse Inn we begin part six of our series on the Book of Hebrews, focusing on chapters nine and ten. Special guest Nancy Guthrie joins us once more as we delve into this critical section of the text. Nancy is a teacher and the author of several books including Holding On to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God, Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering, and a five book series entitled Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament.

On this episode we will look at the nature of Christ’s eternal sacrifice. On what basis could Christ enter into the true Holy of Holies? What is the relationship between redemption and Christ’s sacrifice? How did the old covenant sacrifices ultimately relate to Christ? Was there any benefit to the sacrificial system of the temple? Why was it necessary for an eternal high priest to win our salvation? Join us as we meditate on the essence of the gospel of our redemption, the eternal sacrifice of Christ’s blood, on the White Horse Inn.

“The new covenant is better than the old. It’s not that the old was evil. In comparison the new covenant is founded on better promises, a better mediator. It’s enacted by God, not by man. It’s a gift, not something that Israel needs to fulfill and complete, but a gift that is given. And then, sins are finally dealt with. They’re not swept under the rug, as it were, covered over, but actually atoned for. So why would you hold on to the thing that is getting old and fading away just as the reality to which it pointed arrived on the scene?”
– Michael Horton
"Substitutionary Atonement"
The process of propitiation envisaged in the Bible is one, which involves an element of substitution. In both the Old and New Testaments the means of propitiation is the offering up of a gift, the gift of a life yielded up to death by God's own appointment. The Scripture is clear that the wrath of God is visited upon sinners or else that the Son of God dies for them.... Either we die or He dies. But 'God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us' (Rom 5:8). By the blood of Christ a propitiation is effected so that those who are of faith no longer need fear the wrath. Thus we see that, whereas originally sinners were liable to suffer from the outpouring of the wrath of God, Christ has suffered instead of them, and now they may go free. But to say this is to say substitution.
(Adapted from Leon Morris, Apostolic Preaching of the Cross.)
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Posted by on in 2015 Show Archive
WHI-1244 | A Superior Covenant

This week on the White Horse Inn we begin part five of our series on the Book of Hebrews, focusing on chapter eight. We are joined by special guest Nancy Guthrie. Nancy is a teacher and the author of several books including Holding On to Hope: A Pathway through Suffering to the Heart of God, Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering, and a five-volume series entitled Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament.

On this episode we will look at the superiority of the new covenant. Why did the Lord find fault in the old covenant? What were its deficiencies? How did Christ’s work usher in the new covenant? What benefit is there in having Christ ascended on high and seated at the right hand of God? How was the new covenant hinted at in the writings of the Old Testament prophets? How is Christ’s work for the church connected to the new covenant? Join us as we continue to look at the superiority of the new covenant in Christ’s blood from the Book of Hebrews on the White Horse Inn.

“I think this writer of Hebrews, he’s inviting them to say in a sense, and I know this means so much to you, but you’ve got to see that in Christ you’re being offered something so much superior to this [old priesthood]. So, you can surrender these lesser things, and realize, all the things you thought the priest did for you in representing you, there is a superior priest. When he goes into the Holy of Holies, not just into a little room, he is actually entering into the Holy of Holies and he represents you in a way these other priests never could... You’re no longer barred from that throne room, but actually you get invited in… So come in with confidence!”
– Nancy Guthrie
"Agreement of the Old and New Testaments"
We believe that the ceremonies and symbols of the law ceased at the coming of Christ, and that all the shadows are accomplished; so that the use of them must be abolished among Christians; yet the truth and substance of them remain with us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have their completion. In the meantime we still use the testimonies taken out of the law and the prophets to confirm us in the doctrine of the gospel, and to regulate our life in all honorableness to the glory of God, according to His will.
(The Belgic Confession, Article 25)
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This week on the White Horse Inn Michael Horton talks with New Testament scholar, Craig Evans. Craig is the Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of Acadia University in Nova Scotia. He is the author of numerous books including Jesus & His World and the Holman Quicksource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

On this episode we explore the messianic expectations of first century Judaism. What were the Jews expecting the Messiah would come to do? Was he merely to be human? Or was he to be angelic or divine? How have the Dead Sea Scrolls altered our conception of the first century context or even the New Testament? What parallels exist that would seem to point to the fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth? Join us as we look at the messianic parallels between the Melchizedek Scroll and the Book of Hebrews on the White Horse Inn.

"In the time of Jesus, in the time of Philo of Alexandria, in the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was the idea that God the Father… would extend himself, present himself, manifest himself as either Word or Wisdom or Spirit and even incarnate himself. There seemed to be an openness to that possibility. And we hear that in the Gospel of John, in the prologue, ‘the Word became flesh.’ The Word, according to Philo, was the second God.
It’s an amazing statement. He’s saying this prior to Christianity becoming controversial in Jewish circles. And then we have these scrolls we just talked about, where God will beget or father the Messiah or where the messianic figure is Melchizedek who in some sense is God himself on the earth forgiving and restoring his people, defeating Satan, and so on. So you might say there are ingredients, not a template… relating to messianic expectation that very easily become part of the Christology that follows the resurrection of Jesus."
– Craig Evans
"Dead Sea Scrolls"
These documents date from c. 250 B.C. – A.D. 70. They were found in Judean caves between 1947 and 1956. Thousands of fragments of biblical and early Jewish documents were discovered in eleven caves near the site of Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea. These important texts have revolutionized our understanding of the way the Bible was transmitted, and have illuminated the general cultural and religious background of ancient Palestine, out of which both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity arose. A number of Old Testament texts were found in addition to the scrolls which defined the Qumran community. These series of documents include the oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible, along with deuterocanonical and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism at the time of Christ and the early church.
(Adapted from the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, s.v. “Dead Sea Scrolls”)
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WHI-1242 | Christ Our Eternal High Priest

This week on the White Horse Inn we begin part four of our series on the Book of Hebrews, focusing on chapters four through seven. We are joined once more by Dennis Johnson and Zach Keele. Dennis Johnson is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and Zach Keele is the pastor of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Join us this week as we discuss the nature of Christ’s priestly office. If the Old Testament has passed away, why do we need high priest? What does it mean for Christ to be the great high priest over the house of God? How is Christ’s work far greater than that of the Levitical priesthood? What benefit is there to understanding this final priesthood? How is Christ’s work for the church connected to the new covenant? Join us as we continue to look at the superiority of Christ’s priestly work from the Book of Hebrews on the White Horse Inn.

“Ultimately in the Old Testament, it becomes clear that you need two things to bring you into the fullness of God’s covenant rest: kingship and priesthood. One takes you forward into heaven and the other brings you in closer to God. One frees you from your enemies and the other makes you holy and puts wrath away.”
– Zach Keele
"Humanity of the God-Man"
Q. 37 How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man? A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.
Q. 38 Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God? A. It was requisite that the mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.
Q. 39 Why was it requisite that the mediator should be man? A. It was requisite that the mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.
Q. 40 Why was it requisite that the mediator should be God and man in one person? A. It was requisite that the mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.
(The Westminster Larger Catechism)
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Posted by on in 2015 Show Archive
WHI-1241 | Greater Than Moses

This week on the White Horse Inn we are continuing our study of the Book of Hebrews, focusing on chapters three and four. We are joined once more by Dennis Johnson and Zach Keele. Dennis Johnson is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and Zach Keele is the pastor of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Join us this week as we discuss the nature of new covenant religion and the status of those in Christ. Why does the author of Hebrews react so strongly to the idea of going back to old covenant practices? Why is the Mosaic covenant superseded now that Christ has come? On what basis should we reject old covenant worship as obsolete? While Moses was, in fact, the spokesperson for God, God himself has become the mediator of a new and better covenant that takes away the sin of the people. Join us as we continue to look at the superiority of Christ from the Book of Hebrews on the White Horse Inn.

“What strikes me by this adjective, ‘holy,’ is that under the Old Testament you weren’t always necessarily holy. There was a kind of covenantal holiness which referred to membership, but in terms of Leviticus and Numbers only the priests were holy. The people were not. And he just has told us that Jesus is our high priest who’s the one who sanctifies and we are the ones being sanctified in chapter two and now [Christ] has made this propitiation. To say ‘holy brothers’ is granting them a new covenant status that you could not attain in the Old Testament, unless you were a priest. And so, he really honors them with this and really builds upon this idea that Christ is this high priest who’s made this propitiation, and now…. ‘holy brothers’.”
– Zach Keele
"Israel in the Mosaic Period"
After the exodus the people of Israel were not only organized into a nation, but were also constituted the Church of God. They were enriched with institutions in which not only family devotion or tribal faith but the religion of the nation could find expression. The Church did not yet obtain an independent organization, but had its institutional existence in the national life of Israel. The particular form which it assumed was that of a Church-State. We cannot say that the two coalesced altogether. There were separate civil and religious functionaries and institutions within the bounds of the nation. But at the same time the whole nation constituted the Church; and the Church was limited to the one nation of Israel, though foreigners could enter it by being incorporated into the nation. In this period there was a marked and greater clearness in the apprehension of the truth. The worship of God was regulated down to the minutest details, was largely ritual and ceremonial, and was centered in one central sanctuary.
(Adapted from Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology)
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Posted by on in 2015 Show Archive
WHI-1240 | Greater Than Angels

This week on the White Horse Inn we are continuing our study through the Book of Hebrews, looking at the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice. We are joined once more by Dennis Johnson and Zach Keele. Dennis Johnson is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, as well as a minister at New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, CA. He is the author of several books including Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All of Scripture, Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation, and The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption. Zach Keele is a frequent contributor to Modern Reformation and the pastor of Escondido Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He is the co-author of Sacred Bond: Covenant Theology Explored.

Join us this week as we discuss the nature of Christ’s priestly sacrifice. Why do we need a human mediator? How is Jesus’ priestly work superior to the old covenant? On what basis should we reject old covenant worship as obsolete? What hope can we draw from this Epistle? Let’s listen in as we delve into the Book of Hebrews on the White Horse Inn.

“In this citation and use of Psalm 8, the writer and preacher of Hebrews so much assumes what we know from Paul – the two Adams. If you look at Psalm 8, it is clear it is ‘of David’ and if you look at verse 2 it talks about ‘foes’ and the Lord having victory over his foes. And then, it goes into this recalling of Genesis 1, ‘You created man, and everything is under him.’
I think that some of the language here, particularly ‘Crowned him with glory and honor’ is royal terminology that in other places gets used of David’s kingship. I think you can see in the Psalm hints that David is writing, hoping his kingship will fulfill what Adam failed to do, that the Lord will use him in this way. You see a hair of prophecy in David that then, Hebrews knows who it’s ultimately speaking of, Christ and also us in Christ! This can be seen in the flow of Psalm 7 and Psalm 8. David has this hope that this kingship of the first [Adam] will somehow be fulfilled in him, and obviously Hebrews picks this up and applies it to Christ.”
– Zach Keele
"Christ’s Threefold Office"
Christ’s person and work are often spoken of as fulfilling three distinct offices: prophet, priest, and king, in both his humiliation and exaltation. Prophets are teachers, and covenant lawyers, carrying out the heavenly policy of which they speak. In the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus is attended by Moses and Elijah, confirming his work as a prophet. The command to “listen to him” directly connects Jesus to God’s promise in Deut. 18:15 to raise up a prophet like Moses. And yet, Jesus is also greater than Moses, acting as a mediator who can offer the forgiveness of sins in his person. Christ continues to be a prophet over his church by his Word and Spirit, inaugurating the new kingdom through his very words and actions, as the message about him and from him goes to the four corners of the earth.
Christ is also the great high priest whose sacrifice embodied the entire old covenant sacrificial system, and yet procured the redemption only foreshadowed by these rituals. Christ was the Melchizedek over the house of God, greater than the Levitical priesthood, purchasing the salvation for the elect by an indestructible sacrifice, by which he continually make intercession for his people, forever purifying our consciences. Christ is also the king. He is not only the Son of God according to eternal generation, but the Son of David’s line who fulfilled all the first Adam failed, providing true righteousness and holiness and triumphing over sin, death, and hell by his very death. His death purchased the right for the Son of Man to be raised in power to the right hand of the majesty on high, where he governs and rules in the midst of his enemies and brings all his people to glory. The offices of prophet, priest, and king find their completion in him alone. Through the fulfillment of these offices as the God-man, Christ offered the atonement needed to propitiate the wrath of God, reconcile men to himself, and purchase the heavenly kingdom. This was done, not from need or necessity, but according to the great love with which he has loved his people.
(Adapted from Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, pp. 483-547)
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