Tolle Lege – Ordinary by Michael Horton

by | Jul 18, 2023

Tolle Lege is a Latin phrase that means “take up and read.” Augustine made this phrase famous when in his Confessions he says that God used a neighbor child incessantly chanting “tolle lege, tolle lege,” to cause him to pick up a Bible and read the first chapter he came upon. Not normally how we might think of someone reacting to a yelling child, but praise the Lord for his working in Augustine’s life through the Scriptures to bring him to salvation. 

This post is a series of posts all titled Tolle Lege plus whatever book I am quoting from. I read a lot, and in my reading I want a place to remember the great quotes that stood out to me from the book, and to share with others. This is that place, and I pray that you are encouraged and your affection for Christ is heightened by what you read here. And maybe, just maybe, reading the quotes will cause you to take up and read the whole book. (This is not a book review but quotes directly from the book.)


 “We want big results–sooner rather than later. And we’ve forgotten that God showers his extraordinary gifts through ordinary means of grace, loves us through ordinary fellow image bearers, and sends us out into the world to love and serve others in ordinary callings.” (14)

“The problem is, when people enter adulthood, they soon discover that a memorable experience will not compensate for a shallow understanding of what they believe and why they believe it–over years of everyday exposure to and participation in the communion of Christ with his people. Nevertheless, it is precisely the ordinary ministry week-in and week-out, that provides sustained growth and encourages the roots to grow deep. If the big moments in our Christian life are produced by big movements in the evangelical world, the ordinary local church will seem pretty irrelevant. Yet if God is the one who finishes what he starts, then the only reasonable conclusion is to be part of the garden that he is tending.” (23)

“Faithfulness over the long haul is undermined by perpetual innovation.” (30)

“By separating the generations into niche markets, the powers and principalities of this present evil age pick at the covenantal fabric of God’s new society. Satan works tirelessly to create gaps between generations in the church–gaps that the fathers and mothers cannot reach across to pass the baton. Someone wisely said, ‘The church is always one generation from apostasy.’ Continuity is the covenantal approach to generations; novelty is the decree of our age.” (53)

“Ambition–even in the older sense, as the desire to rise above all others — can be harnessed for the call to be a spiritual superhero. We see this tendency today in the way we hold up “celebrities who know the Lord” as icons. What would it say to our youth group if, instead of inviting the former NFL star, we had a couple visit who had been married for forty-five years to talk honestly about the ups and downs of growing together in Christ? What if we held up those ‘ordinary’ examples of humble and faithful service over the worldly success stories?” (102)

 “You don’t have to bind Satan and storm the gates of hell. Christ has already done this. We’re just sweeping in behind him to unlock the prison doors. You don’t have to live the gospel, be the gospel, do the gospel, and lead the troops to redeem culture and reconcile the world to God. We are not building a kingdom that cannot be convulsed with violence like other realms, but we are ‘receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken’ (Heb 12:28, italics added).” (120)

 “Today’s ‘radical’ is tomorrow’s ‘ordinary.'” (127)

“Whatever fills our Sundays fills our hearts throughout the week. The Lord’s Day is not a prison but a palace. It is a wonderful gift to turn off the devices that interrupt our daily schedules and to push our roots down into the fertile soil that produces trees in God’s garden.” (177)


Michael Horton, Ordinary: Sustainable faith in a radical, restless world (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014).