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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources


Living in Light of Two Ages



"The Image of the Invisible God" -- Colossians 1:15-23

The Third in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Colossians

Whatever the Colossian Heresy was exactly, Paul’s answer to it is to show forth the supremacy of Jesus over all things.  To do that, Paul utilizes an early Christian hymn which speaks of Jesus as the very image of God and the creator of all things, who, in his work of new creation, delivers his people from the consequences of Adam’s fall–sin and death-reconciling them to God and calling them into his church, of which, He, Jesus, is the head.  The content of this hymn provides Christians with some of the most important teaching about Jesus found anywhere in the New Testament–a so called “high” Christology–and sets the stage for much of what follows in the balance of Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae.  Paul utilizes this hymn to set forth Jesus as the only one in whom true spiritual fullness is found (contrary to the false teachers promoting the Colossian heresy), as well as to make the point that because Jesus is creator of all things, he is that one who delivers his people from the realm of darkness (vain philosophy, human traditions, religious legalism).  

As we continue our series on Colossians, we will take up a passage loaded with doctrinal content about the person and work of Jesus.  In his incarnation, the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, takes to himself a true human nature in the womb of the virgin, conceived by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.  While the gospels focus upon the events surrounding the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus, the New Testament epistles often focus upon the meaning of Jesus’ person and work, including a discussion of Christ’s two natures–one human, one divine–yet which exist in one person, Jesus the Christ, along with detailed reflection upon his saving work on the cross and in his bodily resurrection from the dead.  All of this is found in the “Christ hymn” of Colossians 1:15-20.  
No sooner had the apostolic churches been founded, these churches soon encountered those who either misunderstood, or else intentionally distorted, what was revealed about Jesus in the gospels, and which was proclaimed and taught by the apostles.  The Colossian heresy is one of those instances in which false teaching arose in one of these newly-founded churches in the Lycus Valley in Asia Minor.  When this false teaching was brought to Paul’s attention by Epaphras, the founding pastor of the church in Colossae, the apostle responds with this letter, the Epistle to the Colossians.  As F. F. Bruce puts it, “the intelligent appreciation for the doctrine of Christ is the best safeguard against most forms of heretical teaching and certainly against that which was currently threatening the peace of the Colossian Christians.”  The same holds true today.  The more we know about the person and work of Jesus, the more successful we will be in our witness to others, the greater our personal devotion to him, and the better our response to those who challenge our faith, much as the Colossians were experiencing.

In Colossians 1:15-20, part of our text this morning (we will get as far as verse 23), we come to another of the so-called “Christ hymns” found throughout the writings of Paul.  We recently covered a similar Christ hymn, the so-called Carmen Christi of Philippians 2:6-11, which, you may recall has a similar literary structure as well as similar content which uses highly exalted language of Jesus drawn from the Old Testament.  We do not know if these hymns were used in Christian worship before Paul incorporated them into his letters.  It is certainly a possibility that Paul composed them when writing the letters in which they appear, but they do seem to predate Paul.  Both Christ hymns identify Jesus as one with YHWH (i.e., Jesus is God), both speak of his incarnation (Jesus taking to himself a true human nature), and in both Philippians 2 and here, Paul draws heavily upon Old Testament passages which foretell, or prefigure the coming of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah and the Son of God.  If we wish to be good students of Paul, we need to train ourselves to look for these echoes and allusions to the Old Testament (especially from the Psalms) which are found throughout his letters.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here


This Week at Christ Reformed Church (May 21-May 27)

Sunday Morning, May 27:  We move ahead into the Book of Habakkuk, as part of our series on the Minor Prophets.  We will take up Habakkuk's lament about unanswered prayer and YHWH's response (Habakkuk 1:1-17).  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  We are going through the Belgic Confession.  We will be addressing Article 15, and the doctrine of original sin.  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study (May 23 @ 7:30 p.m.):  We continue with our series, "Apologetics in a Post-Christian Age."  This week our lecture will address "The Innate Knowledge of God and Its Biblically Defined Content"

The Academy:  On Hiatus until the Fall   

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Church), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).


“The Lord Has Taken Away the Judgments Against You” -- Zephaniah 3:1-20

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon on Zephaniah, from our series on the Minor Prophets: Click Here


This Week's White Horse Inn

The Rhetoric of Love

Too often in our media-saturated culture, political opponents are invited to spar with each other on radio and television news segments, not in order to actually work through their differences, but instead as almost a kind of blood-sport. The fact that these exchanges frequently produce “more heat than light” is actually part of the entertainment value. But how are we being shaped in the process? Do we belittle our political and religious opponents, and talk over them as if their views don’t matter? What does the New Testament have to say about our rhetoric? On this program Michael Horton discusses this subject with Doug Jones, author of A Rhetoric of Love.

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Apologetics in a Post Christian Age (Audio) -- The Knowledge of God (Part One)

Here's the audio from our Wednesday night Bible Study: The Intuitional Knowledge of God -- First Principles and the Religious Apriori

Previous lectures in this series can be found here (scroll down): Apologetics in a Post Christian Age


"He Has Delivered Us" -- Colossians 1:3-14

The Second in a Series of Sermons on Paul's Letter to the Colossians

One of the unique (and often overlooked) things about Paul’s letter to the Colossians is the large number of echoes from the Old Testament as the Apostle makes his case for the supremacy of Jesus over all things.  Paul is responding to those in Colossae who were held captive to philosophy, human tradition, and a legalistic form of religion whose followers sought to disqualify the Colossians from their inheritance in Christ.  Paul had never visited the church in Colossae, but he has heard from their founding pastor how this congregation was doing well, despite struggling with false teachers who were, apparently, making inroads into the church.  Paul does not identify the specific nature of this false teaching–known as the Colossian heresy–but from his comments, we learn much about it.  Paul’s response to this heresy is to contend for the supremacy of Jesus over all things, and is drawn largely from the Old Testament.  Paul reminds us that Jesus is the creator of all things, but after Adam subjected God’s creation to the curse–sin and death–Jesus came as a second Adam who begins a work of new creation.  All of God’s people participate in this work which comes about through the message of the gospel–the proclamation of Jesus’ death for our sins, and his resurrection from the dead.  The second Adam will undo the curse and triumph over all those who seek to disrupt his church.  Whatever the doctrinal details of the Colossian Heresy, Paul’s answer is to proclaim the supremacy of Jesus over all things.

We are returning to our series on Colossians.  Last we time spent much of our time answering the three questions we need to ask and answer whenever we take up a new study of any book of the Bible.  “Who wrote this book?”  Paul.  “When did he write it?”  While imprisoned in Rome in the early 60's of the first century.  “Why was it written?”  To respond to the issues in the Colossian church associated with the Colossian Heresy which was brought to Paul’s attention by their pastor Epaphras.  The Letter to the Colossians is Paul’s response.

We spent much of our time last week on Paul’s introductory comments, noting that Paul is this epistle’s author–despite the claims to the contrary made by critical scholars–and that the co-sender was Paul’s close associate, the young pastor, Timothy.  We also took notice of the fact that while at first glance the epistle opens with Paul’s standard greeting, it should be noted that Paul makes an unusual reference to God as Father of Jesus, when his usual manner is to refer to God as the Father of believers.  This reflects Paul’s concern to highlight the Father’s relationship to Jesus in this epistle, which was written to demonstrate that Jesus is Lord over all things.

One of the surprising things about the Book of Colossians is the extensive number of echoes (allusions) from various Old Testament passages which prefigure, or otherwise can be brought to bear to help Paul make his case that Jesus, as creator of all things, possesses a superiority as well as an authority which no creature can.  Although Paul never does specifically identify the Colossian Heresy (i.e., who was teaching it, or its specific doctrines), we can assume from Paul’s rebuttal that this group was at least, in part, indebted to Jewish teaching.  Paul mentions a stress upon festivals, new moons, Sabbath observance, and dietary restrictions.  This may be one reason why Paul, like the author to the Book of Hebrews, turns to the Old Testament to set forth his case for the supremacy of Jesus.  But there are non-Jewish elements here as well–asceticism (rigorous self-denial of pleasurable things), the worship of angels, a stress on visions, and a form of sensuality.  Whatever the Colossian Heresy was–probably a local syncretistic religion taught by a local figure–it sounds much like the kind of religious stuff featured on PBS or Oprah (Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth, Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Wayne Dyer).

To read the rest of this sermon: Click Here


This Week at Christ Reformed Church (May 14-May 20)

Sunday Morning, May 20:  We will wrap up our time in Zephaniah, as part of our larger series on the Minor Prophets.  Our text this coming Lord's Day is Zephaniah 2:1-3:20, and our subject is YHWH's removal of the curse.  Our worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday Afternoon:  We are working our way through the Belgic Confession and we have come to article 14, which deals with the creation of Adam and the Fall.  Our catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study (May 9 @ 7:30 p.m.):  We continue with our series, "Apologetics in a Post-Christian Age."  We take up a discussion of the knowledge of God and will address the Sense of Divinity as a religious a priori.

The Academy:  On Hiatus until the Fall   

For more information on Christ Reformed Church you can always find us here (Christ Reformed Church), or on Facebook (Christ Reformed on Facebook).


"The Word of the Lord That Came to Zephaniah" -- Zephaniah 1:1-19

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon on the Minor Prophets from the Book of Zephaniah


This Week's White Horse Inn

The Way of the Lamb

Though a “Word and sacrament” ministry appears to be the main point of Jesus’ Great Commission, it does not appear to be the thing most churches are known for in our time. Why is it that contemporary churches often become so focused on growing their brand that they lose sight of their true mission and purpose? According to Kyle Strobel and Jamin Goggin, this is because many of today’s church leaders have succumbed to the temptations of worldly power. On this program, Michael Horton talks with the authors of The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church That Has Abandoned It.

Click Here


"A Vice Very Common With Books of This Class" -- B. B. Warfield's "Review" of Andrew Murray's "The Spirit of Christ"

B. B. Warfield (1851-1921) is widely hailed as one of America's greatest theologians.  His books have remained in near-continuous publication since his death in February, 1921.  Although dead for nearly 100 years, Warfield remains a theological force with which to be reckoned.

As professor of polemical and didactic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, Warfield published 781 book reviews over his long and exceedingly productive career. 

Some of Warfield's reviews are published in his collected works, while many are not.  I thought it might be of interest to bring some of these currently unpublished "Reviews" to light.

The first review discussed in this series was Children in the Hands of the Arminians.  The second was Warfield's review of C. F. W. Walther's book, Gesetz und Evangelium (Law and Gospel):  C. F. W. Walther on Law and Gospel.

For the next installment in this series, I have chosen Warfield's "Review" of Rev. Andrew Murray's book, "The Spirit of Christ," published in 1888, which Warfield reviewed the following year.  This book still remains in print (The Spirit of Christ) and is available from Whitaker House, a charismatic/Pentecostal publisher.

A brief word about Andrew Murray is in order.  Rev. Murray (1828-1917) was a Dutch Reformed minister who labored in South Africa.  Murray had a life-long passion for missions and was a champion of the South African Revival of 1860.  Murray was devoted to the so-called "Keswick" theology which stressed the "inner" or "higher life."  He also endorsed faith healing and believed in the continuation of the apostolic gifts.  He was a significant forerunner of the Pentecostal movement--a remarkable accomplishment for any Dutch Reformed minister (I am being facetious, of course). 

Murray was a prolific author, publishing more than fifty books and hundreds of pamphlets.  We sold cases of them in our bookstore (when I was growing up) and for which I have long since repented.  So when I first ran across BBW's "Review" of Murray's book, I was very interested in what Warfield would have to say.  Needless to say, the Lion of Princeton was not terribly impressed.


Warfield appreciates Murray's warn piety and obvious sincerity, but then raises one of his longstanding concerns--reducing biblical Christianity to mystical experience.

The Spirit of Christ: thoughts on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer and in the Church. By Rev. Andrew Murray. (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1888.) 394 pages. The author treats this greatest of all Christian subjects with adequate reverence and tender devoutness, but scarcely with sufficient judiciousness. The mystical spirit has been always of the greatest value to the Church, and sometimes the sole preservative of true Christianity in a materialistic or legalistic age. But no tendency requires a stricter watchfulness to preserve it from extravagance.

To paraphrase Warfield, Murray is obviously sincere, but has paid too little attention to biblical teaching.  Murray's heart-felt religion is expressed in terms of personal experience, not in biblical language or expression.  Warfield regarded mysticism and rationalism as polar opposites.  Elsewhere he had written if you cool down a mystic, you get a rationalist.  Conversely, if you heat up heat up a rationalist, you get mystic.  In either case, if you ground the Christian faith in either reason or experience, and not in Scripture, you will make a mess of things--as Rev. Murray has done.

Mr. Murray’s mystical tendency shows itself especially in laying too great stress on the duty of being conscious of the Spirit’s working within us, and in an odd insistence on the duty of exercising “faith in the indwelling Spirit” as the source of life—as if the Scriptures proclaimed the necessity of any other faith than that in Christ.

The Holy Spirit works through means (word and sacrament), something a Reformed minister ought to understand.  Murray's stress upon "feeling the Spirit" at work within us, causes us to focus upon the inner life, not the external written word.  This grounds the Christian life in subjective experience (emotions and feelings), and bypasses the hard work of sanctification in daily life--a work accomplished within us by the Holy Spirit even when we are not aware of his work (experientially).  If pressed, Murray would be forced to base his argument for this in terms of his personal experience, because he could not do so from Scripture.

Warfield points out that Murray's phrase "faith in the indwelling Spirit" (focusing upon our experience of the Spirit's work) simply is not an expression found in Scripture.  Nowhere does the Bible speak of faith "in the Spirit."  Rather, the Bible repeatedly speaks of faith "in Christ" (and occasionally of faith "in God").

Another concern raised by Warfield is Murray's attempt to bifurcate the Christian life into an "entrance level" experience (coming to faith--regeneration) and a second level experience (the deeper level--sanctification), such as now commonly associated with the charismatic/Pentecostal notion of the Baptism of the Spirit as a second work of grace after initial regeneration. 

Warfield identifies Murray's error in separating the Christian life into two parts (stages).

Here [Murray] introduces an undesirable dualism into the Christian life, finding two moments of development in it corresponding to the two objects of this twofold exercise of faith. He rightly modifies Mr. Boys’s statement as to the nature of prayer for the Spirit, and modifies it in the right direction; but it is a great pity that he adopts the confusion of the charismatic and gracious work of the Spirit upon which Mr. Mahan bases his separation of regeneration and sanctification.  We must not separate these two works of the Spirit: it is no more true that whom God foreknew, them also he predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son, and whom he predestinated, them also he called, and whom he called, them also he justified, than it is that whom he justified, them also he glorified, which surely includes more than external acceptance into the heavenly glory.

Warfield's concern is that the Bible knows nothing of a Christian stuck at the first level, and then missing out on the second level experience of a "higher life."  God gives all his people all of his blessings through faith in Christ at the time of our conversion.  There is no "second" level of experience, or a second work of grace which comes later.

The essence of this passage is to teach that God selects his children, chooses the goal to which he shall bring them, and brings them safely to that goal; and it justifies us in saying that without exception “whom he regenerates, them also he sanctifies.” The separation of these two begets the very evil which Mr. Murray deprecates, of failure to live up to our privileges.

Warfield cautions folk like Murray not to write before they read and process the work of others, a sin not limited to Rev. Murray, but one often committed in the current age.

Enthusiastic minds like Mr. Murray’s need to exercise special care in adopting forms of statement from other writers. We meet every now and then in the book with a phrase or a doctrine the implications of which have scarcely been thought through by him. For example, the crude trichotomistic anthropology of p. 34 is an excrescence [i.e., a disease or abnormality] on his thinking, and is adopted only to be laid aside.  On p. 54 he speaks for a moment like a fully developed Schleiermacherite.

Two theological errors which result are here identified.  The first is trichotomy--a widely held view then and now, which holds that humans are a tri-parite composite of body, soul, and spirit, and are not as Scripture teaches, a psychosomatic union of body and soul-spirit.  The other error is that Murray unwittingly ends up with the same epistemology as the father of Protestant liberalism, Schleiermacher.  Murray's careless expression implies that God cannot be known (i.e., there is no such thing as propositional revelation--Scripture), but can only be experienced through the feelings--the consequence of Murray's stress upon being conscious of the Spirit's present work within us.

Murray's lack of care in saying things in a biblically faithful, theologically sound, and logically coherent way frustrates the uber-careful Warfield.  Murray's pen is far ahead of his mind when he writes.

And every now and then we strike against a sentence delivered as if it contained the very kernel of the Gospel, which quite puzzles us. For example, what idea of “holiness” underlies the assertion that “It is as the Indwelling One that God is Holy,” offered in defence of the statement that the Spirit is “the Holy Spirit” only as sent forth by the incarnate Christ? And what shall we do with the statement made in the same connection, “It is not the Spirit of God as such, but the Spirit of Jesus that could be sent to dwell in us,” in the face of the biblical usus loquendi?

Murray does not intend any heresy and does not openly teach it.  But his strange and confusing formulations certainly open the door to such.

At the end of the day, Dr. Warfield is not very impressed with Rev. Murray's book, nor his proto-Pentecostalism.

The book is marred everywhere by such straining after novel and striking forms of statement, a vice, we may add, very common with books of this class.

The Presbyterian Review X, no. 37–40 (1889).

Sadly, books of this class and their common vices are still Christian bestsellers.  We can only but wonder what the Lion of Princeton would have done with Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer.  Or with the Word-Faith folk who still love and read Andrew Murray?