What is Faith?


(the following a repost of What is Faith? from February 9, 2009)

by Mike Ratliff

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)

Much of the false doctrine that we see in our time can be at least partially seen to emanate from a misunderstanding of what faith is. Paul tell us in Ephesians 2:8 that Christians are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. So, whatever faith is, saving faith has as its source something other than our fallen nature. Continue reading

Qualifications for Elders


by Mike Ratliff

holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:9 NASB) 

In one of our discernment group discussions today the topic came up about Mark Driscoll’s replacement at ACTS29 actually being a promotion as per this article. From that it naturally followed that basically the same thing was going on with John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist. In each case, these men were moving on to positions of more influence and more power. Also, the man who is replacing John Piper taught “Spiritual Formation” at the College level. Who is replacing Mark Driscoll? Isn’t it Matt Chandler? Isn’t he the one who claims to hear commands directly and audibly from God just like Driscoll?  Continue reading

John 15 the Vine and the Branches


1 Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος ἡ ἀληθινὴ καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ γεωργός ἐστιν. 2 πᾶν κλῆμα ἐν ἐμοὶ μὴ φέρον καρπὸν αἴρει αὐτό, καὶ πᾶν τὸ καρπὸν φέρον καθαίρει αὐτὸ ἵνα καρπὸν πλείονα φέρῃ. 3 ἤδη ὑμεῖς καθαροί ἐστε διὰ τὸν λόγον ὃν λελάληκα ὑμῖν· 4 μείνατε ἐν ἐμοί, κἀγὼ ἐν ὑμῖν. καθὼς τὸ κλῆμα οὐ δύναται καρπὸν φέρειν ἀφ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ ἐὰν μὴ μένῃ ἐν τῇ ἀμπέλῳ, οὕτως οὐδὲ ὑμεῖς ἐὰν μὴ ἐν ἐμοὶ μένητε. 5 ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἄμπελος, ὑμεῖς τὰ κλήματα. ὁ μένων ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ οὗτος φέρει καρπὸν πολύν, ὅτι χωρὶς ἐμοῦ οὐ δύνασθε ποιεῖν οὐδέν. 6 ἐὰν μή τις μένῃ ἐν ἐμοί, ἐβλήθη ἔξω ὡς τὸ κλῆμα καὶ ἐξηράνθη καὶ συνάγουσιν αὐτὰ καὶ εἰς τὸ πῦρ βάλλουσιν καὶ καίεται. 7 ἐὰν μείνητε ἐν ἐμοὶ καὶ τὰ ῥήματά μου ἐν ὑμῖν μείνῃ, ὃ ἐὰν θέλητε αἰτήσασθε, καὶ γενήσεται ὑμῖν. 8 ἐν τούτῳ ἐδοξάσθη ὁ πατήρ μου, ἵνα καρπὸν πολὺν φέρητε καὶ γένησθε ἐμοὶ μαθηταί.(John 15:1-8 NA27)

1 I am the True Vine and my Father is the Vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me not bearing fruit he take away and every branch bearing fruit he prunes it that it may bear much fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me and I in you as the branch is not able to bear fruit from itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the Vine you are the branches. The on abiding in me and I in him, this one bears much fruit because apart from me you are not able to do anything. 6 Unless one abides in me, he is cast as branch that dries up and they are gathered and thrown into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in me and my words abide in you, whatever you want, ask, and it will be done for you. 8 By this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit and you be my disciples. (John 15:1-8 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

This last Sunday my Pastor, Rick Holland, preached through these very verses. I find it interesting how often I have been pulled back into theological discussions or research that has taken me right back here many times since. With the “deeds not creeds” group ignoring the truth as their groups seemingly continue to swell each and every day, we must not become discouraged, but remain fixed never wavering as we abide in Christ as his words abide in us. These people who decry the need for sound doctrine are open to deception from every source and there are plenty of wolves out there ready to lead them right down the center of the broad way to hell. The following post by Dr. James White is lengthy and technical, but I pray that you take the time to work your way through it. – Enjoy and be blessed – Mike Ratliff Continue reading

More Hypocrisy


by Mike Ratliff

Philip, however, one of those who had been ordained with Stephen to the diaconate, was among those dispersed. He went to Samaria and, filled with divine power, was the first to preach the word there. So great was the divine grace at work with him that even Simon Magus and many others were captivated by his words. Simon had gained such fame by the wizardry with which he controlled his victims that he was believed to be the Great Power of God. But even he was so overwhelmed by the wonders Philip performed through divine power that he insinuated himself [into the faith], hypocritically feigning belief in Christ even to the point of baptism. (This is still done by those who continue his foul heresy to the present day: following the practice of their progenitor, they fasten onto the church like a noxious and scabby disease, destroying all whom they succeed in smearing with the dreadful, deadly poison hidden in them. – Eusebius – from The Church History “Book 2 The Apostles”

My friend Chris Rosebrough informed our discernment group this morning of a “tweet.” Here is the content of it:

Your n good company if it bothers u that some Christians are quick to argue theology. Jesus didn’t die for correct theology…

Chris then asked the following question, “I wonder if this statement is theologically correct?

Here is the link to my response. Here is the content of it:

Jesus commanded us to teach them to observe all that I have commanded you – Correct Theology – Matt 28:20

Continue reading

But God


by Mike Ratliff

ὁ δὲ θεὸς πλούσιος ὢν ἐν ἐλέει, διὰ τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην αὐτοῦ ἣν ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, καὶ ὄντας ἡμᾶς νεκροὺς τοῖς παραπτώμασιν συνεζωοποίησεν τῷ Χριστῷ, – χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι – καὶ συνήγειρεν καὶ συνεκάθισεν ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα ἐνδείξηται ἐν τοῖς αἰῶσιν τοῖς ἐπερχομένοις τὸ ὑπερβάλλον πλοῦτος τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ ἐν χρηστότητι ἐφ᾽ ἡμᾶς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. (Ephesians 2:4-7 NA27)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in the trespasses, he made us alive with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and he raised us with him and seated us with him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus that he might display in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in his kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

This being the Lord’s Day, let us focus on our wonderful God with worshipful, grateful hearts. Back several years ago when I was confronted with Reformation Theology I was amazed that the passages that the Holy Spirit used to “nail it” firmly in my heart that it was what best lined up with the Bible in all areas of doctrine were many if not all of the same passages that I had taught from, memorized in Evangelism Explosion training, and read every day during my devotions. They were all very dear to me because they spoke of the saving work of God on my behalf. Of course, I must confess, I was never a “theological Arminian,” just a default one since that is what most SBC churches teach. It was as this confrontation took place over each point of doctrine I was amazed that the in every case it really came down to whether our salvation is work of cooperation between us and God (Synergism) or if it is all of God (Monergism). It was as I did some serious study on the Sovereignty of God throughout the Bible that the last thread of synergism I held on to finally broke away.  Continue reading

The Nature of God’s Word is to Fight Against Hypocrites


by Mike Ratliff

         When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God. Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

         Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him. (Exodus 34:29-35 ESV)

What is hypocrisy? Most dictionaries define it this way, The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.” In the New Testament, one of best known examples of the Greek word translated as “hypocrites” is found in our Lord Jesus’ quotation of Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15:7-9, “ὑποκριταί, καλῶς ἐπροφήτευσεν περὶ ὑμῶν Ἠσαΐας λέγων· ὁ λαὸς οὗτος τοῖς χείλεσίν με τιμᾷ, ἡ δὲ καρδία αὐτῶν πόρρω ἀπέχει ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ· μάτην δὲ σέβονταί με διδάσκοντες διδασκαλίας ἐντάλματα ἀνθρώπων.” Or, “Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you saying, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts is far from me and in vain do they worship me teaching as commandments the teachings of men.” Remember, this was our Lord talking here.  Continue reading

Lying


by Mike Ratliff

With the ongoing circus that has devolved with the release of an ongoing program within Saddleback Valley Baptist Church in Orange County, California, fully under the control of its pastor Rick Warren, of an attempt at multi-faith interaction with the Muslim community, those of us who care deeply about the Church, the glory of God, and Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, this is disturbing on many levels. However, what should really concern us about the actions of Rick Warren and his people both at Saddleback Valley and his public relations folks is their attempt at obfuscation in order to confuse and cover up the truth. In other words, this is simply another form of lying and that is sin.  Continue reading

Keeping The Unity Of The Spirit


A good friend sent me a link to an article about an analysis of true Christian Unity that used Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones 1962 speech on that topic given to British Christian leaders and how it was received to show first how Dr. Jones got it right and second, how the emergent, purpose driven, ER 2 folks of our day are no different than the man-centered liberals of Dr. Jones day in their rejection of the clear teaching from God’s Word that genuine Christian Unity is found not in organizations or groups or people just getting along, but in the work of God himself. The link my friend sent me is here. The sermon below is by Geoff Thomas, a Welsh Reformed Baptist who is in full agreement with Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones on this issue. Enjoy and be blessed – Mike Ratliff Continue reading

The Christian’s Victory in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 

         “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;

                  we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 

         No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 ESV) 

We are preparing to work our way through Romans 8:18-39. I listened to John MacArthur preach through these verses at the Shepherd’s Conference last week and from that I learned two things. It is vital for each Christian to grasp the truths therein in order to stand firm in the midst of every conceivable attack our enemy can use against them. The second thing I learned is how these truths in this passage are like a dividing line. Those who come down on the side of God’s Sovereignty and the security of the believer within it have it right, while there are many who call themselves Christians who ignore these truths and teach the opposite leaving those who follow them in the bondage of fear and doubt and even believing in the sovereignty of Satan and his demons. There is another group of course, that would be all in the liberal camp who take the name of Christian for whatever reason, but believe in no historical Christian doctrines. No, they only believe in their own man-made “god” and “jesus” made in their own image. These magnificent truths are meant only for genuine believers not those who have never bowed the knee to the Lordship of Christ and are now walking in repentance having been saved by grace through faith as a gift from God himself.  Continue reading

Believers are Heirs with Christ


by Mike Ratliff

16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. (Romans 8:16, 17 NASB) 

Even through as Christians we are justified and are under no condemnation (Romans 8:1) it is also clearly taught in God’s Word that Christians are to live lives of repentance from the works of the flesh. There are some, such as those who call themselves “New Calvinists” who take the Doctrines of Grace and separate them from the great teachings of the Puritans such as John Owen, John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, et cetera that made it clear that in this life Christians are required to “work out their salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). No, these “New Calvinists” such as Mark Driscoll and those who emulate him are antinomians in that they teach those who follow them that if they are in Christ, what they do in the flesh is merely for their enjoyment and has no eternal consequences. Really? Is that what God’s Word says?  Continue reading

Christian Assurance


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 NASB) 

On February 29th I posted The Conflict of Two Natures, which was based on Romans 7. In this post, after looking at some of the major points of the Doctrines of Grace and who we really are in Christ over the last few weeks, we now return to Romans 8 and pick up Paul’s reasoning. Romans 8:1 from the Greek text reads, “Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.” Or, “Therefore there is no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus.” The “therefore” translates ἄρα (ara), “as a result, then, so, therefore, possible.” Normally a “therefore” marks the conclusion of the verses immediately preceding it, but here it introduces the staggering results of the Apostle’s teaching in the first seven chapters, which states that justification is by faith alone on the basis of God’s overwhelming grace. For those in Christ, there is “no condemnation.” What does that mean?  Continue reading

Original Sin and Total Depravity


by Mike Ratliff

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10 NASB) 

Sacred Scripture’s diagnosis of sin is as a universal deformity of human nature found at every point in every person (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:9-23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8-10 see above). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament describe sin as rebellion against God’s rule, missing the mark God set for us to aim at, transgressing God’s law, offending God’s purity by defiling oneself, and incurring guilt before God the Judge. The moral deformity is dynamic: sin is an energy of irrational, negative, and rebellious reaction to God. It is a spirit of fighting God in order to play God. The root of sin is pride and enmity against God, the spirit seen in Adam’s first transgression, and sinful acts always have behind them thoughts and desires that one way or another express the willful opposition of the fallen heart to God’s claims on our lives.  Continue reading

Election and Reprobation


by Mike Ratliff

13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13. 14 NASB)

We have come to the Doctrine of Unconditional Election in our exposition of the Doctrines of Grace. A few years ago before I began working from home fulltime and was still working from an office outside of our data center, a fellow from another department who I was working with on an issue made a comment about some of my devotional stuff and my small ESV Bible that I carried in my computer bag, which were laying on my desk. I knew that he had at one time been a Methodist pastor, but had left the ministry. I have no idea what the history of that was. The comment he made was an incredulous statement in which he questioned how I would ever find the time to spend “doing that” as busy as I was. I told him that I did that when I first got to work in the morning before anyone else was there after I had done all my server checkups. At that time I was working my way through R. C. Sproul’s book Chosen By God and it was lying there as well. He asked when I read that. I told him I did that as I ate lunch. He picked it up and read the back cover and then put it down quickly like it burned his hand then made another incredulous statement, “You’re a Calvinist!”  Continue reading

Effectual Calling and Conversion


by Mike Ratliff

3 “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 “When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:3,4 NASB) 

Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter X 

Of Effectual Calling

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

As many of you know, I was born in 1951 and grew up as a Southern Baptist in Oklahoma. I never heard of the Westminster Confession of Faith until 2006 or so. That article above is entirely biblical and I had read those passages from where they were drawn, but I had never heard Christian Conversion described that way. No, what I heard continually in church services, Sunday School, Youth Groups, and Revival Services was all about us making a decision. It was all about what we did, not what God did. Continue reading