Unity and Stewardship from God That is by Faith

by Mike Ratliff

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:3-5 ESV)

Over the last several months I have been studying many aspects of Christian Apologetics. I have looked at the writings of Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and John Owen in defense of God’s truth as well as listening to the debates done by our brother Dr. James White. It is amazing how no matter how “new” the attacks on God’s truth are, the more they consist of the very same rebellion that is exposed throughout both the Old and New Testaments of Sacred Scripture. The arguments of those who propose “different doctrines” rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith expose hearts that are spiritually blind. They may indeed have very different religions or doctrines from each other, but their opposition to the truth of God will all be according the very same rebellion found in the temptation from the serpent in Genesis 3:1, “Yea, hath God said,…?” Those who dwell and minister in this area of rebellion do so with a sense of self-confidence that they are “right” and “cutting-edge” and “not mired in the past” are actually guilty of casting doubt on God’s good doctrines given to the Church while constructing man-made theologies whose foundations are no better than wet sand and, even worse, they attempt to gain as many followers as possible to reject the truth and enter with them into the ‘New Kind of Christianity’ that is their version of the church founded on their different doctrines.

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Romans 16:17 ESV)

17παρακαλω δε υμας αδελφοι σκοπειν τους τας διχοστασιας και τα σκανδαλα παρα την διδαχην ην υμεις εμαθετε ποιουντας και εκκλινετε απ αυτων (Romans 16:17 WHNU)

I encourage (παρακαλω) but (δε) you, (υμας) brothers, (αδελφοι) to watch (σκοπειν) the ones (τους) the (τας) divisions (διχοστασιας) and (και) the (τα) offenses (σκανδαλα) by (παρα) the (την) teaching (διδαχην) which (ην) you (υμεις) learned (εμαθετε) doing, (ποιουντας) and (και) turn aside(εκκλινετε) from (απ) them; (αυτων) (Romans 16:17 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

What are the διχοστασιας και τα σκανδαλα about which Paul is warning the Romans? These are doctrinal falsehoods and unrighteous practices of those are attempting take over or divide the church. They are after religious followers and they are using these διχοστασιας και τα σκανδαλα to attract the naïve. Notice also that Paul makes it clear that these in the Roman Church have been taught correct doctrine according to righteousness and so they have and know the truth παρα την διδαχην they εμαθετε ποιουντας, by the teaching which they learned doing. These people have been discipled and so have the truth and are being exhorted by Paul to discern false ministers and turn from them or avoid them. Why?

For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:18 ESV)

18οι γαρ τοιουτοι τω κυριω ημων χριστω ου δουλευουσιν αλλα τη εαυτων κοιλια και δια της χρηστολογιας και ευλογιας εξαπατωσιν τας καρδιας των ακακων (Romans 16:18 WHNU)

the (οι) for (γαρ) such ones (τοιουτοι) in the (τω) Lord (κυριω) of us (ημων) Christ (χριστω) not (ου) are slaves (δουλευουσιν) but (αλλα) in the (τη) themselves (εαυτων) stomach (κοιλια), and (και) through (δια) the (της) kind word (χρηστολογιας) and (και) good word (ευλογιας) they deceive thoroughly (εξαπατωσιν) the (τας) hearts (καρδιας) of the (των) naïve (ακακων). (Romans 16:18 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)

These false teachers, ministers, preachers, or whatever they may be who attempt to infiltrate and change the Church via their διχοστασιας και τα σκανδαλα are τοιουτοι τω κυριω ημων χριστω ου δουλευουσιν; they are not slaves or bondservants of our Lord Jesus Christ. These are apostates, false prophets, false teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Their motivation is what? τη εαυτων κοιλια, it is their own appetites. No matter how much they claim to be concerned for the target of their false teachings, their motivation is totally selfish. This is proved to us by their methods for if they were truly from God, there would be no lies or deceit or eisegesis in attempts to validate their false doctrines. Instead, their deception is δια της χρηστολογιας και ευλογιας, through smooth talk and flattery. This is why the naïve fall for what they say. They cannot conceive of such a nice, considerate person being a wolf. This naivety is exploited by these wolves to εξαπατωσιν τας καρδιας of their victims, to deceive throughly the hearts των ακακων. The word εξαπατωσιν means to seduce or beguile or cheat wholly. In other words, this is the description of those who exploit the lack of spiritual acumen of either the unregenerate or the lack of spiritual maturity of some to lead them into their “new type of Christianity,” which is, of course, only another form of old heresies that our enemy continues to repackage in attempts to divide and thwart the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church is commanded to withstand these evil people by exposing and turning from them. The visible church is in a deceived state right now. Of course, God has preserved His remnant as He always has and our call is to continue to minister and serve within the stewardship from God that is by faith.In other words, we are to walk by faith, not by sight and that means we do not forsake God’s good doctrines which He has graciously given His Church in order that those in it should be nurtured and live for His glory in their daily prayer, meditation and dealing with trials of suffering and persecution.

I mentioned at the top of this post that I had been studying Christian Apologetics. The truth of God is very precise. It is understood and followed by the few who have found the narrow gate that opens to the narrow, broken path that is the only way to God. The evil spirits in league with Satan are specialists in religion and they control the ungodly in their attempts to infiltrate and divide the Church. We must always be on guard against this and that means we must become educated in the truth of God so we will recognize the lies. My mother who is in her 80′s has been a Christian for over 60 years. I gave her Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, back in 2003 before God woke me up to His truth. In 2004 God took me to spiritual bootcamp and by the middle of 2006 I had become centered in Sola Scriptura and through that, I began shedding all mystical and extra-biblical stuff from my walk and ministry. I asked my mother what she had done with that book. She gave me that look that has always made me want to get out of her sight. She went to where she had put it and gave it back to me. She told me that she did not get past the introduction nor had she done any of the 40 days. I asked her why. She said that she could see the deception into self-focus and pride right off the bat and how the whole thing was not about the glory of God, but the elevation of man. It was not about grace, but about works. It was not Christian. She summed it up by saying, “The Holy Spirit warned me not to read it or do it so I didn’t.”

There is no “new type of Christianity.” There will always be liars and false prophets proposing something “new,” but it will only be a rehash of some very old heresies. It is such a paradox to see those who think that church must be culturally contextualized and become missional, but if you point out the unbiblical aspects of what they are doing, we are accused of being divisive as if what they are doing is the default for Christianity. No, the default is for God’s people to believe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, turn in repentance in surrender to His Lordship and trust as their Saviour because His substitutionary death on the Cross that paid the price for their sins. This is the atonement and this belongs to all who were bought by our Lord’s shedding of His blood on the Cross. These are saved and they remain in this life to walk the broken, narrow path of sanctification until God takes them home. These obey God and walk and serve within the stewardship from God that is by faith.

Soli Deo Gloria!

18 thoughts on “Unity and Stewardship from God That is by Faith

  1. Mike, you have a wise and discerning mother. It would seem that her faithfulness has been passed on to you.

    Thank you.

  2. The current – day Christian must struggle against the peer- pressure of friends and family who are deceived.
    It is indeed hard to be labled a heretic for believing in what the Lord has commanded, and being driven out of fellowship by friends who believe that you are now the one dividing the Body!
    But trusting in The Lord as your defender will allow Him to heal your life, and show you the way He wants you to serve Him now.

  3. Hi Mike,
    It is so helpful to have these articles because I need to understand that this (Christianity) is the way it is and we are indeed swimming upstream. It helps me to see that people’s responses are not the main thing but we need to keep going on speaking about Christ and repentance and how to receive forgiveness for sin and if it is not received then go on to the next person. It is discouraging to see things the way we are and we are in a battle but I am comforted by God’s Sovereignty and know that I am to take it one person at a time.
    Bless you, Mike.

  4. Diane:
    ” He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Pss. 126
    Please know that any effort to help people come to the Savior is NEVER wasted!

  5. I came from a family in which no one was saved. My father died 20 years ago and I am convinced he died in his sins. My mother, in her 80s now, has her own made up religion. But God saved me 13 years ago. I was the only one of six children whom God had saved. I felt all alone. I presented the Gospel to my family, several times, to no avail. Then, a few years ago, one of my brothers told me that he was now a Christian. I rejoiced to hear those words.

    Several years ago, God showed me the truth of His grace. I began to see all the heresy in the visible church. I left two churches over the course of a few years as God showed me their gross errors. I have felt utterly alone.

    But now I had my brother, right? Well, not so much. First, his church did the Purpose Driven 40 Days thing. Now, he’s in a different church, but it seems that they are just as messed up. I began to share with him the doctrines of grace, but he became very upset. He said he had had a discussion with the people in his Bible study and they either had never heard of limited atonement, or, if they did, totally disagreed with it. After everyone in the group had convinced each other that such a thing as particular redemption is an evil lie of the devil, my brother now thinks I am the heretic. He must be right because everyone in his church believes as he does.

    It is a lonely road. It is very disconcerting to ponder the label of heretic when all you are doing is believing and obeying God’s word. It doesn’t matter how much Scripture you present, you’re still wrong because they just don’t think God would be that way or do those things. We think it’s bad now. It’s only going to get worse. We must stay anchored in Christ, never despair, keep the faith. Pray for each other that God would continue to strengthen each one of us.

  6. Carol,

    My dear sister in Christ, I know all about this lonely road and so do many of us who fellowship here. It may be somewhat encouraging to realize the logical fallacies that those in spiritual darkness use to justify their unbelief, but it is like a dagger in the heart at times, especially when it is are “friends” and “relatives” who do that. A mark of one who has been made alive by God, the regenerate, those quickened by His grace, is that they walk by faith and they understand His truth by that faith and not by sight. These understand that truth is truth because it is God’s truth while those in darkness believe and act as if truth is truth only if they accept it as such. Well, I know that does not alleviate the pain, but be encouraged my sister because our Lord’s grace is sufficient, more than sufficient.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  7. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power…”

    It seems to get harder and harder to not feel like we are living in these “last days”… (though I realize lots of people have thought this in previous centuries…) But there are many, many out there today who perfectly fit the bill of “having a form of godliness, but denying it’s power”…

    A friend shared this quote with us a few months ago, and we connected with it instantly:

    Discernment is not telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.
    – Charles Spurgeon

    And then today, I came across this one:

    “Teachability is often confused with subservience. A person is wrongly thought to be teachable if he is passive and pliable. On the contrary, teachability is an extremely active virtue. No one is really teachable who does not freely exercise his power of independent judgment. He can be trained, perhaps, but not taught. The most teachable reader is, therefore, the most critical. He is the reader who finally responds to a book by the greatest effort to make up his own mind on the matters the author has discussed.”
    (~ Mortimer Adler, How To Read a Book, p. 140)

    It just seemed that these two quotes really related to the last few posts you’ve had here. My wife and I have found that the more we have sought to learn discernment, the more opposition and persecution we have faced as well. People are often quick to label you as “judgemental” simply because you are pointing to what the Bible very clearly says. It’s amazing how eagerly people seem to choose subverience over true teachability, they are willing to be passive swallowers of falsehood, if only it coincides with with their own fleshly appetites. To me, that seems to be what is at the heart of the false teaching of someone like McLaren (which is basically a social gospel). On the surface, people think this teaching must be harmless, because it’s all about “helping” people here on earth. But in reality, it is about adopting the world’s definition of “help”, in that it is really only interested in dealing with temporal, physical concerns. It really embodies the words of Phillipians 3, “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things“, but somehow this “idolatry of the stomach” is flipped around and presented as this noble, compassionate, humanitarian thing, so to speak out against it is to be painted as calloused and uncompassionate. What a lie from the pit of hell… It certainly can be a lonely road to walk in such times, but thankfully His Spirit is with us, and there are other brothers and sisters out there like you all who have not abadoned Christ and the hope that He offers…

  8. Daniel,

    This is true and is what God has been showing me in greater and greater detail lately. Let us never forget that truth is what God says it is not what people are comfortable with.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  9. To Kathy:

    Thank you for the encouragement! What a beautiful scripture to share.

    If anyone has not yet read A.W. Tozer’s article–The Saint Must Walk Alone–please do as it will hopefully be an encouragement to you as it was to me.

    Thanks again, Mike.

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