The Light of the Gospel

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2 ESV)

All this week I have had my son who I get to see only a few times a year and my daughter and grandson who also live in another state visiting my wife and I in our home. During this time, I deliberately did not spend any time online with the purpose of keeping up with what is going on the ongoing battle for the truth and of what the real Gospel consists. After we took my son to the airport this afternoon one of the first things I did was open up the Christian Research Network website. It was as if that insulation that my rest had built around me during my “vacation” was immediately blown away. As I read those articles from the last few days, I kept asking God to show me what He wanted me to do; what should I address? Ken Silva and Chris Rosebrough both did a fine job of addressing the apostasy and outright heresy coming from Rob Bell’s church and Jay Bakker among many others. I knew that I could not add anything to what they said, but I could address the truth and how the genuine Gospel is known by those to whom it is given by God and how it is unknowable by those to whom it is not given. 

In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Paul speaks of a veil that that lies over the hearts of those who reject the genuine Gospel. Paul used the Jews as his example of those who, with hearts hardened against the Gospel, believe they are serving God in their rejection of it. In the 21st Century Church, we have a parallel of this in much of the visible Church. Before I took my time off I received several emails from many of you about an escalation of attacks on what we refer to as Reformation Theology from those who are convinced that Christians are saved by exercising their will with absolutely no help from God. In fact, they view this as sacred and if God were to interfere, He would be in violation somehow and this would nullify the veracity of their salvation. This is part of the struggle for the truth with which we must deal, but we also have outright heretics preaching in some pulpits teaching Eastern Mysticism as if it is part of the Gospel. We also have those who are seemingly desperate to be seen as separate from anything “Orthodox” so they reject what the Bible clearly teaches about Homosexuality being a sin. It is as if these who are consistently attacking God’s truth and rejecting His Sovereignty are doing the very same thing the Jews of Paul’s day did. They insist that the focus of Christianity must be all about people, while we teach that it is all about God and His glory.

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2 ESV)

The Greek word used in v1 translated as “ministry” is διακονιαν. This word describes a ministry that is a service. When used outside of this context it can refer to a table waiter for instance, but in this context it refers to the service of a Christian minister to the Body of Christ. Paul’s διακονιαν was what? It was to preach the Gospel and the Law to all would hear depending totally on God to open hearts and draw people from darkness to light. That is the ministry which is the very same for God’s ordained preachers and teachers today. Even though it can appear at times that the most popular “preachers” are those who never come within shouting distance of the real truth of the Gospel and the Law of God, these whom God has called by His mercy must not lose heart. The Word Paul used here, which is translated as “by the mercy,” is ηλεηθημεν. Paul is telling us that he was saved and was ordained as a minister of the Gospel both by the mercy and compassion of God. This verb is in aorist tense, passive voice, and indicative mood. He did not choose to be minister. He obtained it along with God’s mercy and according to His compassion totally by God working in Him and commanding Him to “suffer much” for the Gospel. Because of this, he “does not lose heart.” The KJV renders this phrase, “we faint not.”  In other words, he is a Christian and in the ministry according to the mercy of God and no matter how tough things get with rejecters of the truth preaching heresy and denigrating those who shine God’s light of truth into their ministries, he stays the course in the power of God. This is a message those who contend for God’s truth day in and day out need to take to heart.

Because of this, Paul says in v2 that he refuses to use “disgraceful and underhanded ways” in his ministry. He preaches and teaches by the power of God. He plants churches and shepherds many into the Kingdom, but he is not much to look at nor is he a great orator. He simply preaches the truth and nothing but the truth. He never waters it down. He never preaches topical sermons so he won’t run off the “seekers.” He never makes peace with false teachers and their false religions in order to build bigger churches. Instead, his conscience is clear in the sight of God because He has not practiced cunning nor has he tampered with God’s Word. Preacher, can you say the same about your ministry?

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:3-6 ESV)

Now we come to the reason so many today have edited the Gospel to make it more palatable to those who don’t want to repent. Not everyone who hears the Gospel is saved. Many reject it. Why? To them the gospel is veiled. It is veiled to all who are perishing. Satan has blinded their minds to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel. So, how can any believe if this is true? First, the veil must be removed and this is done when God draws those whom He saves to the Son.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37 ESV)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me– not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. (John 6:44-48 ESV)

All those whom God gives to the Son are saved. These come to Him and will never be cast out. Only those who are drawn by God to the Son come to Him. These believe and have eternal life. What about those who are not drawn by God to the Son? In the following passage from John 3 we have the wonderful promise that all who believe in the Son will not perish, but have eternal life, but those who do not believe are condemned already.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:16-21 ESV)

We cannot simply preach John 3:16 and ignore the rest of scripture which clearly teaches that God is Sovereign in election and salvation. This is the Gospel taught in Sacred Scripture and if you look at the “gospel” preached by those who are quickly moving away from the truth into apostasy you will find that they all reject these truths. Why? Their focus is on pleasing men and building their ministries by using techniques and the ways of the world to appeal to man’s reason to become part of  churches and ministries. However, this is exactly what Paul was teaching against in 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. My brethren, we must examine how we are treating the Gospel and how diligent we are in relying on the mercies of God to minister rather than in our own wit and abilities.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10 thoughts on “The Light of the Gospel

  1. Good to have you posting again Mike, and excellent article. I have found the sovereignty of God to be the predominate dividing line when confronting ‘religion’ (the visible church); especially when it comes to predestination and election. Many ‘so called’ believers will fight for their ‘free-will’ because it is the same lie whispered in the garden. They fight for their ‘right to choose’ because in essence, they want to be their own god. They want to believe they have enough good in themselves to come to God. This is the battle. We were told to ‘beware the leaven of the pharisees”, the religious right. And this is where the battle is, the persecution will come from the ‘religious’ lost.
    Though it may not be seen by the majority, it is obvious to those whom the Spirit has made alive. The way is broad that leads to destruction… yet the emergent, purpose driven, and other apostate movements want to make this way even broader with the ‘all inclusive’ false gospel. Awesome how the more God reveals Himself to us, the clearer it becomes just how narrow that ‘gate’ and the ‘way’ really are. Only by grace that He might be glorified!

  2. You and Lazaro have both said it well, Mike.

    Yes, I am glad that you had a good time with your family, but am very happy to click on here and have you back.
    God bless you.

  3. “They fight for their ‘right to choose’ because in essence, they want to be their own god. They want to believe they have enough good in themselves to come to God.”

    I realize I could never have enough good in myself, and that’s why I come to God. The very verses Mike quotes in John 3 are about the importance of belief; those who believe are saved, those who do not believe are condemned already. Jesus offeres salvation to all who are willing to believe. Jesus is either mental ill, making outrageous claims of diety; or he is who he says he is, namely the Son of God, and will do all that claims he will do. Most people will never believe that, many refuse to listen to it. The Bible is clear on these points. But it is offered to them. And that’s good news.

    Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins; the offer to us is to receive his righteousness rather than the wages for our sins. ASKING GOD FOR SALVATION IS NOT CLAIMING WE CAN BE SAVED WITHOUT GOD. That’s the most ridiculous claim I’ve ever heard, but I’m forced to respond to it over and over again. How can falling on your face before God and asking him to save you be the same as denying God alone has the power to save?!?

    God deciding who he will save and watching everyone else go to hell is not the gospel. I will never be convinced it is; it’s not taught in the Bible. T.U.L.I.P: There is nothing limited about the power of Jesus blood. That cannot even be a valid discussion.

  4. Clark,

    TULIP does not teach anything about limiting the power of Jesus blood. Also, yes, those who believe are saved and those who do not believe are not. What determines that Clark? John 6 tells us clearly that only those drawn to the Son believe. We must never exclude scripture from our doctrine just because it may appear to cast doubt on it. I learned my doctrine from Scripture Clark, not from TULIP. God is sovereign and he elects those who are saved (Ephesians 1). What God’s word teaches us is what determines what we believe about the Gospel and God, not what we want.

    What the Gospel is and isn’t is not according to “what you believe or don’t believe,” but what God says it is and we learn that only from His Word.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  5. Clark, the scriptures Mike has already put forth clearly teach the doctrine of election. Yes, the bible does teach this. And I don’t believe you can get any clearer than Romans 9. Read it. Or maybe you might explain how God “loved Jacob, but hated Esau” before they were even born. This is the truth as set forth in the bible. If we are wrong, then you should be able to give us the scriptures (in context,) to confirm your belief. I am sure you don’t care about my opinion and I don’t want your opinion. I want the truth.

  6. Amen, Mike, to all of the above and especially the last sentence of your article. If my ministering is truly God’s work being done in submission and humility toward the Lord, and not my own, then He will care for it. If it is my own work and it doesn’t go as planned, I will lose heart.
    Not so if God is the owner!
    Bless you.

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