Sola Fide


by Mike Ratliff

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

With a gloriously monotonous regularity Paul pits faith off over against all law-keeping as its diametrical opposite as to referent. Whereas the latter relies on the human effort of the law-keeper looking to himself to render satisfaction before God, the former repudiates and looks entirely away from all human effort to the cross work of Jesus Christ, who alone by his sacrificial death rendered satisfaction before God for men.

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: (Romans 3:20-22 ESV)

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28 ESV)

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (Romans 4:5 ESV)

For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. (Romans 4:14 ESV)

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16 ESV)

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11 ESV)

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– (Philippians 3:9 ESV)

From such verses it is plain that Paul taught that justification is by ‘faith alone’ (sole fide). The Roman Catholic Church has always objected to the use of this sola (”alone”) attached to fide, contending that nowhere does Paul say “alone: when speaking of the faith that justifies, and that where the Bible does attach sola to fide when speaking of justification it declares: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone: (James 2:24). All this is true enough, but I would insist, as the above citations indicate, that when Paul declares (1) that a man is justified “by faith apart from works of the law,” (2) that the man “who works not but believes in him who justifies the ungodly” is the man whom God regards and righteous, (3) that a man is “not justified by works of the law but through faith,” and (4) that “by the Law no man is justified before God…because the righteous by faith shall live,” he is asserting the “aloneness” of faith as the “alone” instrument of justification as surely as if he had used the word “alone,” and he is asserting it even more vigorously than if he had simply employed alone each time.

The “Material Principle” of the Reformation was justification by faith alone. As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.” The Genevan Confession likewise pointed out the necessity of those justified living by faith saying, “We confess that the entrance which we have to the great treasures and riches of the goodness of God that is vouchsafed us is by faith; inasmuch as, in certain confidence and assurance of heart, we believe in the promises of the gospel, and receive Jesus Christ as he is offered to us by the Father and described to us by the Word of God (Genevan 11).

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith– just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:5-11 ESV)

My brethren, saving faith comes through the saving power of that faith. This power resides not in faith itself, but in our Lord Jesus Christ on whom it rests. What actually occurs when one is saved is that Christ saves that person through faith. This faith receives what God freely gives. Continue reading

Sola Gratia


by Mike Ratliff

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

“Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions…. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put into your heart?”

“Yes,” says [Wesley], “I do indeed.”

“And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?”

“Yes, solely through Christ.”

“But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?”

“No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.”

“Allowing, then that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?”

“No.”

“What, then are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?”

“Yes, altogether.”

“And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

“Yes, I have no hope but in Him.”

“Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite things wherein we agree.” – From the writings of Charles Simeon, a recorded conversation between him and John Wesley on December 20, 1784.

I personally have little use for Calvinists who treat the Gospel as if it is something unpalatable or off limits or to be shared only with a small group of people. No matter if we are Calvinists or Arminians who differ on some doctrinal points, I will consider all my brother or sister in Christ those who profess sola gratia, by grace alone. On the other hand, those who trash the Gospel by making it totally subordinate to men with God a helpless bystander will witness me raising my Monergistic flag. Monergism states that salvation is by grace alone and any addition at all to God’s grace is to destroy its graciousness, its very nature as a gift. Continue reading

Count it All Joy


 by Mike Ratliff

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8 ESV)

Though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:6-10 ESV)

When I was about 10 or 12 years old we went to the Santa Fe Depot in the town I grew up in to meet the train my cousin was on. He and his mother and sisters were traveling from Dallas to see us in Purcell, Oklahoma. In any case, I was excited to see my cousin. As we waited for the train, I did the typical boy thing at a railroad depot. I explored. I found a box on a pole that looked like it had a thermometer in it. I tried to read the temperature, but something had fallen down in front of it. I hit the side of the box to loosen it. It turned out to be a Yellowjacket nest full of Yellowjackets.  The station manager yelled for me to run but it was too late. The next thing I knew I had Yellowjacket wasps all over me. They followed me wherever I went. I could not get away from them. They stung me through my shirt and continued to attack even as I fell to the ground and rolled, trying to get away from them.  Continue reading

Sola Scriptura


by Mike Ratliff

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. We deny the legitimacy and any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship. – Article XVIII of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy October 1978

The authority of the Bible is based on its being the written Word of God, and because the Bible is the Word of God and the God of the Bible is truth and speaks truthfully, authority is linked to inerrancy. If the Bible is the Word of God, and if God is a God of truth, then the Bible must be inerrant–not merely in some of its parts, as some modern theologians are saying, but totally, as the church for the most part has said down through the ages of its history.➀

One of the many ‘attacks’ this ministry has received since its inception has been on our treatment of scripture as inerrant and that it has authority over the Christian Church. With that said, I would like to address one of the latest attempts by a certain self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ to distract me from the ‘mission’ God has given us to proclaim the truth to the Church that God’s people might forsake their fleshly ways as they turn their hearts back to Him, to live for His glory, enjoy Him, and be separate from the spiritual pollution of this world. Continue reading

Remembering and Forgetting


by Mike Ratliff

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-25 ESV)

“Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?” (Jeremiah 23:23-27 ESV)

Man is a fallen creature. He is flawed. He is forgetful. He is self-focused. He is incapable of knowing God without His divine intervention.

But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” (Joshua 24:19-20 ESV)

There are only two groups of people. There are those who are known by God, are regenerate, have their sins covered by the blood of the Lamb, and are Holy unto the Lord. The other group are those not known by God. They are unregenerate and are in their sins. They are of the World. These two groups are totally separate from one another on the Spiritual plane, but intermingled with one another on the Temporal plane. The first group has received that divine intervention and are now able to serve the LORD. The best the second group can do is be religious and their works unto the Lord are as filthy rags. Continue reading

The Deception of Universalism – Part 2


by Mike Ratliff

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

As has been pointed out by some, the heresy of Universalism, no matter how wonderfully it is packaged, is easily refuted from Sacred Scripture if we practice solid exegetical techniques. If we keep everything in context then the passages used so support Universalism prove to not support this false doctrine at all, but are about other things. My focus on writing these few posts on universalism was to address what we are seeing today as more and more former solid Bible teachers join the ranks of those who teach ‘The Restoration of All Things in Ages to Come.’ This teaching is very subtle and seductive as well as appealing to those who have loved ones who do not walk with the Lord. However, it is unsupported in the Bible. Continue reading

The Deception of Universalism – Part 1


 

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore it says, “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 regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) (Ephesians 4:8-10 ESV)

We have been discussing Hell and how the Bible very clearly refutes universalism, which denies the existence or permanence of the Lake of Fire or Hell. What prompted this study was two separate encounters with professing Christians who disagreed with our understanding of the Gospel, God, Man, and Eternity claiming that they had a better more correct ‘vision’ that was given to them by God Himself.  These visions stated that our teaching of the Gospel was wrong and contaminated by churchianity and was , therefore, not the genuine Gospel as taught by Christ and the Apostles. Continue reading

The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell, Part 2


Hell is not a subject that we like to discuss or think about. We should not want anyone to end up there. This is motivation for us to share the Gospel with everyone. We must give them the Good News that an eternity in Hell is not for those who love God, believe God, and obey God. Here is part 2 of John Piper’s exposition on the insufficiency of Hell. Continue reading

The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell, Part 1


In light of our encounter with a cult that teaches that there is no literal Hell as it is taught in scripture, I have decided to spend a few days on the doctrine of Hell. I, like Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort would dearly love that there would be no such place as Hell, but we cannot be persuaded that way because the Bible overwhelming teaches the opposite. Do we place our trust in what men say or what the Word of God says? Like Luther, we must proclaim that unless we can be persuaded from scripture… In any case, I will be posting some articles from John Piper over the next few days about this. Why? Who is the enemy of truth? Would not the enemy of our Souls find the greatest leverage in teaching that no one has to fear Hell? What motivation could one possibly have to come to Christ if everyone is going to be saved anyway? This is the lie of Universalism and we must denounce it with all of our fervor. Continue reading

How to Detect a False Prophet


by Mike Ratliff

If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. (John 7:17-18 ESV)

While I was on vacation a week ago I was contacted by a friend who is a fellow Christian blogger. She was asking for prayer and help. Someone was attacking her because of her stance that her physical problems are of God and for His glory in her sanctification. These people were saying to her that if she was really in the will of God then she would not be suffering. I did visit her site while on my trip, but I didn’t have a lot of time to read very many of the comments, but I could tell that a battle had taken place there. I prayed for her and left an encouraging comment on one of her posts.

A few days later I started receiving emails from a person I had never heard of wanting to involve me in a discussion about my friend where he was continually attacking her character and salvation. He used intimidation tactics and used absolutely no biblical references to support his attacks. After about five of these emails, I replied with a question. I asked him why he was sending me this ‘garbage.’ The answer I got back was, “why do you think it’s garbage?” Continue reading

Fundamental Tests of Genuine Christianity Part 6


Part 3 of the Moral Test

by Mike Ratliff

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:7-21 ESV)

The New Nature of the regenerate Christian (2 Corinthians 5:17) does not only include the believer’s ability to not sin when tempted, it also is characterized by God’s very nature becoming more and more manifest both within and without those who are Born Again. This comes as a result of the washing of regeneration. Continue reading

Believers Must Receive the Love of the Father


 

by Mike Ratliff

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  (1 John 4:8 ESV)

As most of you reading this know, I took about 8 days off from both work, writing, and blogging. My wife and I traveled to the Oklahoma City area to visit our daughter and son-in-law. We celebrated her birthday on Saturday then on Tuesday we went with them to observe her Ultra Sound. They estimate that our first grand child will be born in the middle of September. I am not sure what I expected while watching the Ultra Sound, but I came away from it with much joy. Continue reading

Conversion vs Regeneration


The following was first posted on January 13 2006.

by Mike Ratliff

At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles–to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:13-18 ESV)

Today I read an interesting parody of Jeff Foxworthy’s ‘You may be a redneck if…” comedy routine. In the article, the word redneck had been replaced with the word “hypocrite.” After a few of the quips, it became obvious the humor was becoming strained. It was no longer funny because each “You may be a hypocrite if” statement stressed the ugly half-heartedness which plagues the majority of church members. For example, one of them said something like, “You may be a hypocrite if you read “Left Behind” at work and “Fanny Hill” at home. Continue reading