Sanctification: The Law of the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

In this post we will look at Paul’s “therefore” he placed in the passage above. In other words, in Romans 8:1 Paul begins an important summary and conclusion which is related to his preceding arguments. We normally find that argument in the passages directly preceding the “therefore.” However, this “therefore” introduces the staggering results of all Paul’s teachings in the first seven chapters of Romans, which would include justification by faith alone on the basis of God’s overwhelming grace.  Continue reading

Sanctification: Though the Justified are Released From the Law The Sin Nature Remains


by Mike Ratliff

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23 ESV)

I’ve been listening to a several emergents’ sermon reviews over the past several weeks. It is so interesting to listen to their reasoning for how they arrived at their theology of unbelief. Most of them are confessed refugees from some form of pietistic or American Evangelicalism that leaned heavily towards semi-pelagianism and legalism. That mix in whatever proportions is intellectually veneer thin. When the leadership within those groups move at all away from being centered on God’s Word and His grace then all that is left is the legalism that only leads those in unbelief to despair for without the preaching of the Good News according to the Free Grace of God, all that is left is simply manmade religiosity. These emergents who fled from that now look at all who they view as dogmatic in any way about their theology as simply “fundamentalist” even though there is a vast difference between what we preach and teach from what they fled from. I have always resisted that label of “fundamentalist” for that very reason. No, I am most definitely not a Christian liberal like the emergents, but neither am I mired in spiritually dead legalism. No, I work very hard at being Biblically centered. That means that it is God’s Word, which He gave us that gives us the hard answers and God’s very doctrines, which we must learn and follow. However, as we have been learning, this is not in any way legalism, but is only possible for those who have been baptized into Christ by God. They have the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace they can obey Him and live for Him. They believe and obey God. I heard Jay Bakker today in one of the sermon reviews I listened to say that the only way to grow spiritually is to get rid of belief and move into doubt. So, the theology of the “emergent church” is actually founded on the sand of unbelief. These emergents are refugees from bad theological systems, which they fled from in despair, but have created something that is probably just as bad, if not worse. In the latter part of Romans 7 Paul gives a window of what this despair can look like. We will look at that and what the right solution is to it.  Continue reading

Sanctification: The Triumph of Grace Over the Power of Sin


by Mike Ratliff

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2 ESV)

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:15-16 ESV)

As I stated in yesterday’s post, if the Gospel is preached correctly, that is, with justification by faith alone being central with absolutely no merit or work by the believer having any bearing on it, then the two rhetorical questions Paul raised in the two passages above should be on the forefront of the minds of all hearing it. Justification by faith as a gift from God, not by our doing in any part (Ephesians 2:8,9) leaves us open bare before God. We have no religiosity to hide behind. We have no steps to perform. We have no decisional thing we can perform that we can point back to that is our lynchpin that is our point of “our decision for Christ.” No, Justification as Paul preached it is foreign to all of that. So where does all that come from? It comes in from people confusing their justification with their sanctification in many cases.  Continue reading

Justification: The Imputation of Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

Much of the apostasy we are witnessing in our time is rooted in a history of generations of ministries in which preachers, because they feared men more than God, preached in such a way that they talked about God or they talked about His Word rather than actually preaching what God’s Word says. In this, they have created their own “god” in their own image who is inoffensive, all love, all grace, and just wants everyone to have a great day. The only ones this “god” ever gets peeved at are those guys who are serious about their theology and preaching what God’s Word says as if it is to be obeyed and believed. Since I began this series on Romans I have had spam comments from a few atheists and one Roman Catholic apologist when I got into Justification. I have yet to get any from any “liberals,” which would include the emergents of all flavors I suppose, but in any case, what these people say and do means nothing. God’s truth is eternal. It is the truth regardless of whether these people believe it or not.  Continue reading

Justification: The Blessings of Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:22-25 ESV)

We have completed Paul’s case that God justifies sinners on the basis of faith alone. In the passage above (Romans 4:22-25) we have his concluding remarks to that part of his dissertation. He has made it clear that those truly in Christ did not get there according to merit or works, but on the basis of faith alone., but now we begin the section of Romans that if not taken in context can cause much confusion. I will not move quickly through it. I have found it amazing to study God’s Word in context as we are doing and come across a passage that has been used by “proof texters” to teach a pet theology, but when kept in its proper context, it does no such thing. Carefully read again the passage I placed at the top of this post the read the passage below because, as you will see, it begins with the word “therefore.”  Continue reading

Justification: Abraham’s Example


by Mike Ratliff

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:27-31 ESV)

In our last post we ended with the passage above in which Paul makes it very clear that genuine salvation is by the law of faith not by a law of works. In v28 he says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Justification is by faith alone and does not depend at all on doing any works of the law. In vv29,30 he tells us that since God is the Lord of all, whether Jews or Gentiles, there can only be one way of justification, which is by faith alone. What does it mean that believers uphold the law rather than overthrow it by our faith? Justification by faith alone does not denigrate the law, but, instead, underscores its true importance by providing a payment for the penalty of death, which the law required for failing to keep it; by fulfilling the law’s original purpose, which is to serve as a tutor to show mankind’s utter inability to obey God’s righteous demands and to drive people to Christ (Galatians 3:24); and by giving believers the capacity to obey it (Romans 8:3,4). Then Paul moves into the obvious objection to these arguments by using the Old Testament Patriarch Abraham whom God declared righteous in Genesis 15:6.  Continue reading

Justification: The Source of Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20 ESV)

The real Gospel is not entertaining. It is not “fun.” It is not hip. It is not cool. No, it is blunt and abrupt and not politically correct. It calls everyone a sinner with no exceptions and those who are justified by God are so on the basis of the righteousness of another while they remain completely undeserving. Not one of them can take credit for their own salvation. After they have been baptized into Christ, they remain “sinners saved by grace.” They are not perfect or perfected. They have not somehow become “better than” anyone else. They have the mark of the Saviour upon them. They belong to Him. They are His bondservants or slaves and He is their Lord, but in the interim until they go home to be with Him forever, they remain in this life both declared Holy and Righteous by God in their justification, but also still sinful and imperfect as they go through the fires of sanctification. What is the source of this righteousness since it is not by any works of the law that it comes as we read in the passage above? In fact, it is the through the law that comes the knowledge of sin.  Continue reading

Condemnation: That Which Awaits All in Need of God’s Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:9-18 ESV)

In yesterday’s post, The Righteous Shall Live by Faith, we looked at Romans 1:15-17, which gives us Paul’s theme for this Epistle. which is The Gospel of the Righteousness of God. My intent for this post is to cover a lot of ground, Romans 1:18-3:20. Why? Remember my brethren, Paul didn’t write Romans with chapters and verses. In any case, that section of Romans is what Paul uses to build his case against all mankind in that they are born dead in trespasses and sin without exception. God is Holy, Righteous, and Just and there is not anything any person can do to become justified or declared righteous on their own merit. No, there must be another solution that does not compromise God’s perfect Righteousness. In any case, in this post we will look at the airtight case Paul builds against all mankind that shows the utter wretchedness of the natural man. Continue reading

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith


by Mike Ratliff

I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint. And the LORD answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:1-4 ESV)

As I shared in yesterday’s post and have been alluding to for the past several posts, it has become painfully apparent to me that so much of the Christian teaching I sat under as a child and as an adult up until God caused us to to depart our old church because it was going Purpose Driven back in 2006, was mostly Law with just a little flavoring of the Gospel thrown in every now and then. Not every teacher I had did that of course, but the majority did and so did those who wrote those books I bought and read and taught those seminars I attended, et cetera. So much of the “discipleship” teaching I went through then when examined closely now is mostly “law.” From that, I have done a radical reevaluation of my own understanding of Law and Grace and the Gospel and have decided to do a study on the book of Romans. I don’t know how I will break it down yet. I will start in chapter 1 in this post in vv15-17. The book of Romans was the Apostle Paul’s apologetic to the Roman Church of the Gospel, the Law, and Grace. Let’s listen to the Holy Spirit as we examine closely in proper context what He shows us.  Continue reading

Rest Offered to the Weary


by Mike Ratliff

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”(Matthew 5:3 ESV)

Part of being discerning is having to listen to or read certain preachers and teachers in order to compare what they are saying to what God’s Word clearly says. Some of my friends and fellow team members at CRN are exceptional at this. I, on the other hand, become weary of it very quickly. I know that we must do it, but it just wears me out especially since much of what I am hearing from these people is exactly what I was immersed in from the time I was a new Christian until God shoved me out of our old church when it went Purpose Driven back in 2006. Since then, it is as if shields have been removed from my eyes. I listened to Chris Rosebrough break down a sermon titled “How to hear the voice of God” over the last couple of days (it was a long show) of Jamey Stuart of Believers Church in Chesapeake, Va. Chris did a fine job, but Jamey wore me out. His sermon amounted to “make yourself uncomfortable, get busy, and then you can hear from God” as he misapplied his teaching from the book of Jonah. This is exactly the message I used to hear continually from a couple of the churches we used to belong to. It brought back a lot of bad memories. I even remembered the guilt trips the pastors used to try to get us “busy.” Chris is right when he called this pure Law, not Gospel. Our Lord has some good news for refuges from this sort of bondage.  Continue reading

Saving Faith is a Gift From God by His Grace


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)

Back in the late 1980’s I enlisted in our church’s Evangelism Explosion program. It required a great deal of scripture memorization, a lot more than I was actually prepared for. Those of us who were trainees were teamed up with a trainer and after learning to share the Gospel in class the day came when we were taken out to make visits to people who had checked a box on some form somewhere that they would be interested in “a visit” from someone from our church. In any case, one of the first passages I memorized in this training was the one I placed at the top of this post. In chapter 1 of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesian Church he gives us one, long elegant sentence in Greek showing that the triune God initiated and accomplished cosmic reconciliation and redemption for the praise of his glory. He also speaks of the Church’s divine election prior to the foundation of the world in v4. In vv15-23 we Have Paul’s Prayer of thanksgiving, also one long sentence in Greek. This is a prayer that the Ephesian church will gain deep insight into the Lord’s powerful working and rich gifts in Christ. Then we come to chapter 2. We will look at Ephesians 2:1-10 in this post to keep things in context, but our focus will be vv8-9 for I want to look at three key words and what they mean to our faith. They are translated in our English Bibles as “faith,” “grace,” and “gift.”  Continue reading

Speaking the Word of God


by Mike Ratliff

For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34 ESV)

ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Θεὸς, τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ λαλεῖ· οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου δίδωσιν ὁ Θεὸς τὸ Πνεῦμα. (John 3:34 GNT)

In John 3:1-21 our Lord spoke the words of God to “ a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” In this passage our Lord clears the table and tells it like it is. He tells Nicodemus in v3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, Nicodemus doesn’t “get it at first and asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” in v4 and, “How can these things be?” in v9. In between those two perplexed questions, our Lord, the Λόγος or logos or Word, the living Christian proclamation as a whole of the New Testament proclaimed τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ or “the words of God” to Nicodemus in a way that he had never heard before. He said,”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” As we read in John 3:34 (above), He spoke or uttered the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ to this man and all who read John 3. What did he say? Only those born again are part of the Kingdom of God and to be born again is to born of the Spirit. Notice carefully that this rebirth is not something controlled by or contained by or comprehended by people of the flesh. Everyone truly born of the Spirit are so by the work of the Holy Spirit not by the works of men. These are the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ.  Continue reading

God’s Purpose in Divisions and Factions in the Church


by Mike Ratliff

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19 ESV)

I was listening this morning to Chris Rosebrough’s “Fighting For the Faith” on the Pirate Christian Radio podcast for 9/2/2010. The show seemed pretty long. I checked and it ran for over 2 hours and 38 minutes. In it Chris addressed the 25th Anniversary of the Jesus Seminar and some other things. At the 1:02:50 point in the broadcast he began what he calls The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly segment. It is where he reviews sermons. This one was a very long sorta’ sermon from Rob Bell’s Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan in which he had guest Peter Rollins speak. Chris did a fine job of breaking it up with his own input. If you aren’t familiar with Peter Rollins, he is a Post-Modern “thinker” from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He is very much at home in the Emergent camp. I know that there has been a campaign to try to make Rob Bell not appear Emergent, but he speaks in this “sermon” as well and his comments at the end seal it. All through Rollins rambling “sermon” he speaks quite a bit about religion and life, but, to him, real Christians are those who are proven to be so by their doubts, not their solid faith. Never once does he talk about Christ’s atoning work in the Cross as the propitiation for sinners. No, to him, real Christians are those who work to make the world a better place. Jesus was like a coach to him, no more. In any case, at the end of the broadcast, Rob Bell said that hearing all of that was like drinking from a cold stream of water. On the other hand, I felt exactly the opposite. I was in desperate need of Biblical truth to wash myself clean from the filth of heresy.  Continue reading

Salvation


by Mike Ratliff

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16 ESV)

The very first time I raised concerns about the Kansas City Prophets and the International House of Prayer over 10 years ago over their extra-biblical activities, I was rebuked by another Christian with this statement, “You just don’t understand what is going on. If people’s lives are being changed then God is working so you should just shut up.” Back in 2006 when God opened my eyes to what the leadership at our church was doing with the Purpose Driven stuff and I raised the alarm I was rebuked again with pretty much the same argument. I was told that I should just kick back and cooperate so that the church could peacefully go Purpose Driven so that God could work there and people’s lives could be changed. When I began commenting on the old Slice of Laodicea blog about that same time, those PDC apologists who hated our firm stance against it said very much the same thing. If you listen to Rick Warren speak when talking about what a great ministry Saddleback Valley Baptist Church is, he will always try to emphasize the thousands of people whose lives have been transformed or changed. I noticed the very same theme in the advertisements for The World Revival Church in Kansas City. Their ads on our local TV channels seem to always talk about the hundreds of lives transformed or changed through that ministry.  Continue reading