I Have Many In This City Who Are My People

by Mike Ratliff

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:14-16 ESV)

When those of us who came from an Arminian or Free Will background come to grips with the reality of God’s Sovereignty, it is amazing how we struggle with letting go of the responsibility to “earn” our salvation. Of course, part of that struggle is rooted in the misconception that “election” happens at salvation. Ephesians 1 makes it clear, however, that God chose His elect before the foundation of the world. An honest reading of that wonderful letter by the Apostle Paul shows us that God’s people are His in completion even though many of them have not yet believed and repented. They are our Lord’s sheep.

One of the accusations against Reformed Theology from Arminians, Pelagians, and Semi-Pelagians is that Calvinism kills evangelism. This is not true of course. Often when the proof of the veracity of Reformed Theology is presented biblically to them, some Free Will proponents will say something like, “then why preach the Gospel if the elect will be saved regardless?” The answer to that is quite simple as is the case with most of God’s truths. We are commanded to preach the Gospel to all. We do not know who the elect are. Only God knows that. We are commanded to make disciples from all nations. Therefore, we preach the Gospel leaving the work of regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption, and glorification in God’s capable hands. We pray for lost souls. We pray that God will draw them to Himself.

Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (John 10:14-16) paying close attention to v16, which I have highlighted. Notice that the sheep are not yet redeemed when our Lord spoke this. He had yet to go to the Cross. Also, they were His sheep, but they had not yet believed. Also, “other sheep” belong to Him as well. Of course, He was speaking of the Gentiles who would make up the bulk of the Church in the years ahead.

When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (Acts 18:5-11 ESV)

Carefully read the passage above (Acts 18:5-11), paying close attention to vv9-10, which I have highlighted. Just as our Lord still had to die to redeem His sheep that had not yet believed, Paul was to go on speaking, preaching, and teaching because God said, “for I have many in this city who are my people.” These people were God’s people already, but they had to hear the Gospel in order to believe and repent so God could justify them. The devotional below is from Charles Spurgeon pertaining to Acts 18:9-10.

This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ’s property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them He will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God.

Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. “Neither pray I for these alone,” saith the great Intercessor, “but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word.” Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. “The time of figs is not yet.” The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have His own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when He cometh forth with fulness of power-they must become the willing servants of the living God. “My people shall be willing in the day of my power.” “He shall justify many.” “He shall see of the travail of His soul.” “I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong.” – C.H. Spurgeon

The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:44-49 ESV)

Now, carefully read Acts 13:44-49 above. Who is sovereign? Is it man and his Free Will or is it God? God saves those whom He has given to the Son (John 6).  My brethren, the doctrine of election is humbling. No one has any deeds or merit that raises them up in God’s eyes as deserving of grace. No, God elected sinners who actually have nothing to offer God whatsoever. God elected and will save each one. They will bring Him glory as they learn to humbly submit to His will in all things. They will learn that they can only do good by the grace of God. They are nothing without their Lord and can do nothing without His joy.

On the other hand, the vast majority of the visible Church appears to believe just the opposite. They stubbornly hold on to the fallacious notion that they are Christians because of something they did. All genuine Christians believed and repented, but even that comes via God’s grace through faith as a gift from God. No one can do one thing to earn or deserve it.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

Carefully read the passage above (Ephesians 2:1-10). What was the condition of all Christians prior to their justification? They were ALL dead in their trespasses and sins. They were by nature children of wrath like everyone else. However, God mercifully MADE THEM ALIVE. This comes only by His grace through faith. This faith comes as the result of God making them alive. Then they believe by faith. God did it this way that no one may boast. If anyone claims to be a Christian, by his or her own efforts then they do not understand grace nor do they believe what is clearly taught here. Our salvation is a gift of God, not a result of works. Therefore, this faith is part of the gift, which is given to each believer according to God’s grace.

All of the Good Shepherd’s sheep will believe and repent and be saved by Grace through faith. Those of us who already in the sheep fold are responsible to preach the Gospel to everyone that those who belong to our Lord and are appointed to eternal life will receive the gift of salvation by His grace through the faith that comes only to the regenerate heart.

Soli Deo Gloria!

29 thoughts on “I Have Many In This City Who Are My People

  1. Pingback: I Have Many in This City Who Are My People - Reformata

  2. Amen Mike. Arminianism is the lie. I believe its the delusion that has been sent. There are very few who really believe that God does it all. No wonder we are concidered the residue of the remnant thats left here just before He comes back for us. We encourage you to keep up the good work for our Lord.

  3. Yes, amen! So-called “free will” is an idol that even genuine believers can unknowingly cling to. Praise God that He has smashed this idol in my life and in the lives of others. May He continue to do this in the sanctification of His elected church.

  4. Brian, yes, that is exactly what God did in my life as well. The “free will” idol was smashed in my heart. I am more grateful that I can express and I have not met one Christian who has been rescued by God like this who is not humbled and grateful beyond expression. I rejoice that God has drawn you into the light brother.

  5. I also have come from the “Free Will” / Arminian back ground. It was upon my finally taking my Bible Study seriously and not relying what I was being taught by man, that the Lord removed the scales from my eyes to see that it was not by my “free-will” that I chose Him but that He had called me to the Son.

    It was of Him and Him alone. It was by His great mercy and grace that He called me.

    May God be glorified in all things.

    Ptr. Bryan

  6. The best advice I ever received from a very angry Armenian pastor was, “You better find another church!” When I challenged him with “No one seeks God. Salvation is the total work of the Lord.”, he responded, “What do you think we are – robots!!?”

    That was a year ago and since then my family has moved to a church where the God’s Word is preached and not some purpose driven drivel.

    Mike, I thank you again for your prayers on this matter. Your encouragement a year ago was such a blessing for Val and I. What an awesome Lord we strive to serve.

  7. Paul (TOG), yes, I remember that. I rejoice that God moved you into the right local church. Yes, what an awesome Lord we strive to serve.

    I confess that I am becoming weary in this battle and deeply desire to see our Lord return in glory soon. However, it is comments like yours that God uses to encourage me and keep me focused on the prize, our blessed hope.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  8. Be encouraged Mike. I think I already told you this but it was this website where I was introduced to and became a believer in reformed theology shortly after God saved me. I am not saved because I am a Calvinist but there is no doubt that it has transformed my life and how I view God.

  9. Thank you for the encouragement Paul. God’s Word is magnificent isn’t it? I have dedicated this ministry to being firmly grounded in God’s Word. He promises us that if we will do that in our lives as well then He will bless us beyond our imaginations. God is good and I rejoice that He saved you and is growing you up in Christ. I am deeply humbled by your comment for I know that I am merely the tool; it is God who does these things.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  10. Hello, I just stumbled on this blog from another source and have found lots of great stuff here.

    Now, I just have a few questions about the Ephesians 2 quote. When Paul wrote: we are by nature children of wrath, do you think he had a different concept of what “by nature” meant than Jonathan Edwards did when he wrote that sin itself is a moral issue, and since sin is the cause of our inability, it is a moral inability, not a natural one — that the defect in man is his own fault, not God’s. Therefore man’s own inability is something he is guilty for, and that inability cannot therefore be seen as something that relieves the sinner of responsibility.

    I guess I’m just a bit confused about the “nature” of “nature” in both of these uses you might say. Any ideas?

    Does Paul’s statement somehow imply that we are created as children of wrath? If that is true, then is God the one who is “responsible” for those who go to hell, thus removing all human responsibility? Or are people still responsible and if so why?

    What do you think? Is there any validity to the moral inability vs. natural inability idea? Any resources that I might check out for more clarity? Thank you!

  11. Mike,

    Can you recommmend a link to summarize the work of salvation? Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. And one that would explain monergism, synergism, etc.?

  12. Deb,

    Welcome to Possessing the Treasure. All descendants of Adam are his children and are children of wrath because they have inherited his sin nature. We are born fallen and separate from God. God did not create us this way. Adam is the Federal head of the human race. This is why our salvation is such a miracle. There is not one thing we can do to save ourselves. God must make us alive before we can believe and repent and thereby be justified by God. Does this make sense?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  13. Yes, Mike. That does make sense. And I subscribe to the specific belief.
    Therefore, I suppose that when Paul says we are by nature children of wrath, he is specifically referring to is the sin nature and he is not saying that sin is natural.

    Here’s the reason why I asked about the distinction: I have a friend who likes to tell me that he believes he was born with a propensity to commit a specific type of sin,. But I try to tell him that even though we are born in sin, our sin nature is not “natural.” He believes that this is “just the way he is” but I try to encourage him to believe that God did not create him that way and that as a Christian he is not longer a slave to his sin nature. That is the main reason why I asked.
    I just wanted to ask if the distinction I’m making is 100% Biblical – that his sin propensity is not “natural,” even though we are born in sin. Does that make a little more sense why I asked? Anyway, thanks!

  14. Deb,

    Yes, that does make sense why you asked that. Your friend is actually stating the same error that homosexuals use to justify their sin. They say God made them that way, et cetera. However, all sins of the flesh can be forgiven and God does grant repentance. The “natural propensity” for a certain sin comes from our flesh. When we feed our flesh then it gains power in over us in those areas in which we have weakened. However, as God grants us repentance we actually learn to put those sinful desires to death, to mortify them, and this actually purchases our own bodies back from bondage to the flesh. The flesh uses our bodies to get what it wants. They are its vehicle or means to attempt to be fulfilled. What we must do is deny our flesh and kill our pride. The key to doing this starts with humility and that is powered by prayer and repentance. We cannot repent without prayer nor can we pray effectively if we are full of pride. Does this make sense?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  15. Pingback: I Shall Lose None of All That He Has Given Me « Possessing the Treasure

  16. Let’s define “Wills”:
    1. To decide on; choose.
    2. To yearn for; desire
    3. To decree, dictate, or order.
    4. To resolve with a forceful will; determine.
    5. To induce or try to induce by sheer force of will: We willed the sun to come out.
    6. To grant in a legal will; bequeath.

    Mike! Keep preaching the attributes of God: Sovereign!

    I thank the Lord God and His sovereign authority that NO MAN “wills” to overthrow God’s sovereign authority, like somehow God is some sort of bendable being that ‘has to’ obey man if man so desires or orders or decrees or induces or forces or dictates or determines or resolves for God to obey him and his sinful desires of mans own so-called free will.
    “Free will” is by default- rebellion!
    Keep speaking and writing the Truth because it comes from “The Spirit of Truth”- Him.

  17. What a great article! My daughter directed me to this site and I must say I needed it at this time. To TOG, I went throught the same thing with my church. Anything I read from the Bible that had to do with “election” was not read from the pulpit and I was told would NEVER be read from the pulpit. Although I was raised in this denomination, I realized that all I had accepted as truth was in error.

    I realize that the blame was with me, also. Read the Word for yourself and test everything!

    Mike, keep speaking the truth!

  18. Mike, you’ve explained His sovereign plan in an exceptional way. It’s so easy to forget we are the ones caught in time. :)
    I too came from the Arminian background and learned this truth only by the Holy Spirit drawing me to the Word and teaching me directly. He is sooo faithful to HIS OWN. Now sharing this truth was something I was unprepared for. I assumed everyone in my “church” would be overjoyed at this revelation and was greatly disappointed. I never imagined so many would literally slam their bibles shut. Either way, I am grateful and give thanks to God that I may be even slightly persecuted over the truth in His Word. Likewise, I am thanking God on your behalf as well, brother. You’re fighting the good fight and I’m sure there are many who would shut down your articles as quickly as they could.
    The narrow gate is Christ and Christ alone. The wide gate being Christ + (MY choices, MY actions, MY motives, or basically, ME). Galatians summerized. :) It brings me great hope knowing that “salvation is of the Lord”! And I appreciate the constant reminders that you bring.

    Keep walking that narrow path!

  19. Thanks for this website, it is an encouragement for me, so don’t give up!

    I never really “got” the concept of election even though I read the Bible through until I began to read books by my favorite Johns-Bunyan and Owen. I’ve been richly blessed in studying their works. I guess I had a lesson about election when I was about 10 years old when one of our ewes got out and ran off with a neighbors flock. My dad sent me out to fetch her back and she came when I called her name but the other sheep ran away. I am reminded of this whenever I read the passage from John. That ewe would have been happy to stay in the pasture and graze all day if I had never gone to ‘evangelize’ her.

  20. Jennifer,

    I know exactly what you are talking about. It think the reactions you are describing are actually forms of being ashamed of the Gospel. God’s truth is divisive and when we are obedient in sharing it then we will be hated by those still in the rebellion.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  21. Les,

    Thanks for the encouragement. Great real world analogy too! Yes, we are just sheep and unless God acts to save us we will never come to Grace.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  22. Amen Mike! Thanks for the sermon. It is so encouraging to know that the Lord is sovereign in our salvation, that´s something that I really rejoiced the day that I, by His grace, started to believe, though with struggles in time to time and even up to this day, in the doctrines of grace.

    What would be of us if our salvation depended in our strenght or works, it would be horrible, we would all go to hell, and His sacrifice would have been in vain, but thanks to the Lord that it was not in vain!

    Thanks Mike!

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