Only One Gospel Part 2


by Mike Ratliff

1 Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. 2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5 “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? 6 “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he got up and went home. 8 But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:1-8 NASB)

The conversion of Saul of Tarsus who was traveling from Jerusalem with authority to seek out and arrest Christians in Damascus on that very road was quite dramatic (Acts 9). The facts of that conversion were beyond anything any of today’s “Christian Superstars” dare to claim happened to them. Saul was on a horse and as he and his party were approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him, and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Everything changed for Saul and for the Church at that moment. Saul of Tarsus the persecutor and ravager of the Church became the Apostle Paul who took the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Paul’s conversion was quite dramatic not only in the events of it, but also in that the one who was seeking to destroy the Church and the Gospel became the writer of most of the New Testament and developed via inspiration from God, much of the Doctrines of the Church. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 1


by Mike Ratliff

4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. (2 Corinthians 11:4 NASB)

This age of spiritual darkness is so because truth is seen as relative. Without absolute truth being allowed, since it may cause the ultimate crime upon one or more persons, which is “offense,” then when those who know better insist on Doctrinal precision, preaching the Word, not editing the gospel, et cetera then everything gets turned upside down. The immoral who want minority protection for their sinful behavior claim that those who proclaim what God’s Law demands of all men, which is repentance, are causing them pain and anguish and so those proclaiming the truth become criminalized while society slides further and further into the darkness of being judged by God as he gives them over to whom they are really worshiping, themselves. In this relativistic culture the gospel has become another victim in what John MacArthur has called The Truth War. However, this battle is nothing new. Paul fought it continually in the churches he planted, especially in the region of Galatia. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 22


by Mike Ratliff

37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. 40 Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” 41 Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? 42 “Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. 44 Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him. 45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” 46 The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” (John 7:37-46 NASB)

We come to the last two verses of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:28, 29. I confess to all that this study has been extremely humbling for me. Not only did I exegete each passage so I could develop each post, I translated each word from the Greek to English. This involved not only the translation work, which really isn’t that difficult, but the more difficult part of getting the grammar correct. It is at that point that I did a great deal of study and cross-referencing and further exegeting. After all, the process of exegeting Sacred Scripture has as its primary goal the original message penned by the author of the text. It as we pursue that goal that the Holy Spirit moves through Word of God which bears the very form of our Lord to bring the truth to bear upon our hearts and through this we are transformed through the renewal of our minds. In this dark age in which professing Christians can confess to love the Lord Jesus and love his Word, but then deny the necessity of defending his doctrines for the sake of unity with others who deny those truths, we must determine whether we really love the Lord Jesus or not. If we really do then that means we really would love his truth completely and that means his doctrines as well even to the point of death. Yes, that also means that we must divide from fellowship with those who refuse to do so.  Continue reading

Glory Only in the Cross


by Mike Ratliff

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NASB)

Martin Luther is considered the “Lighting rod of the Protestant Reformation.” It was through his battle with the Roman Catholic Church that the doctrine of salvation through Justification by Grace through Faith alone was recovered and from that, many Christian martyrs went to their deaths refusing to compromise their faith by denying the truth of knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified based not upon the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. So much of the pressure being brought to bear upon Christians in our time is to not be so precise in our theology, but be more willing to “compromise” along doctrinal grounds for the sake of “unity.” The “mega-church” model is based precisely upon never offending anyone, but being non-threatening and willing to be all things to all people in order to attract everyone, but to what? Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 21


by Mike Ratliff

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. (James 1:22-24 NASB)

How important is obeying the words of Christ? This is, of course, the essence of Lordship. Jesus Christ is Lord. That is not just a title nor is it something we say to revere him. No, He is Lord over all. He is one in essence with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in the Hypostatic Union of the Holy Trinity. God is Sovereign and because of his role in the Hypostatic Union, his submission in humbling himself to become a man, the Messiah, his obedience to the Father’s will in all of this as well as keeping the Law perfectly, he also, at the perfect time ordained by the Father, laid down his life as the propititiation for those he came to save. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 20


by Mike Ratliff

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25 NASB)

26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:26 NASB)

Back in the early days of my walk as a Christian after I became a Bible teacher and later a Deacon, I read my Bible through every year just as I do now, but there were large areas of it that I would consider as “something deeper that I would learn later.” Most of those passages were those we now deal with here that are specifically about doctrine. There was a concept that I had back then that those who took doctrine seriously were “legalistic” while the rest of us were actually walking closer to Jesus because we were “experiencing him” through our relationships with him. This included our religiosity. What is that? That is a form of piety that spurns doctrinal precision. Many of the leaders of those who believe and teach this sort of thing view “works” as something Christians do in order to be found worthy for salvation. I can remember walking through the parking lot one cold December morning with my snow shovel in hand to clear the sleet from the sidewalk from the entrance to our Church building so people could enter without slipping and falling. In my mind I wondered if God would consider this a “worthy work” and that perhaps my righteousness would indeed exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees in the end if I continued to read my Bible enough, to pray enough, to give enough, to serve enough, et cetera I would not hear Jesus say to me what he said in Matthew 7:23. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 19


by Mike Ratliff

4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:4-14 NASB)

When I encounter those whose theology and eschatology has been colored by presuppositions, philosophies, and the teachings of some theologians that the Church’s main function is to establish and prepare God’s Kingdom here on this Earth so the Lord will return and to claim it, I wonder how seriously these people take Scripture passages such as Matthew 24:4-14 (above). These same people are all about making all secular culture conform to Christianity. I find it very difficult to line that up with what our Lord said in Matthew 24 about what things would be like before he actually did return. What is the reality? Will the Church totally take over the world in this age? From what I have studied in the New Testament, the Church is a called out “congregation” of people that are despised, persecuted, and put to death for their faith as they live for the glory of their Lord in this life. The point of that is to attain a greater resurrection in the next age. Let’s see what our Lord said about the reality of what we have to deal with in this age as the Church. Continue reading

Christian Freedom


John Calvin

The Institutes of Christian Religion

Book 3

Part X  Justification by Faith

CHAPTER 19.

OF CHRISTIAN LIBERTY.

The three divisions of this chapter are,—I. Necessity of the doctrine of Christian Liberty, sec. 1. The principal parts of this liberty explained, sec. 2-8. II. The nature and efficacy of this liberty against the Epicureans and others who take no account whatever of the weak, sec. 9 and 10. III. Of offense given and received. A lengthened and not unnecessary discussion of this subject, sec. 11-16.

Sections.

1. Connection of this chapter with the previous one on Justification. A true knowledge of Christian liberty useful and necessary. 1. It purifies the conscience. 2. It checks licentiousness. 3. It maintains the merits of Christ, the truth of the Gospel, and the peace of the soul.

2. This liberty consists of three parts. First, Believers renouncing the righteousness of the law, look only to Christ. Objection. Answer, distinguishing between Legal and Evangelical righteousness.

3. This first part clearly established by the whole Epistle to the Galatians.

4. The second part of Christian liberty—viz. that the conscience, freed from the yoke of the law, voluntarily obeys the will of God. This cannot be done so long as we are under the law. Reason.

5. When freed from the rigorous exactions of the law, we can cheerfully and with much alacrity answer the call of God.

6. Proof of this second part from an Apostle. The end of this liberty.

7. Third part of liberty—viz. the free rise of things indifferent. The knowledge of this part necessary to remove despair and superstition. Superstition described.

8. Proof of this third part from the Epistle to the Romans. Those who observe it not only use evasion. 1. Despisers of God. 2. The desperate. 3. The ungrateful. The end and scope of this third part.

9. Second part of the chapter, showing the nature and efficacy of Christian liberty, in opposition to the Epicureans. Their character described. Pretext and allegation. Use of things indifferent. Abuse detected. Mode of correcting it.

10. This liberty maintained in opposition to those who pay no regard to the weak. Error of this class of men refuted. A most pernicious error. Objection. Reply.

11. Application of the doctrine of Christian liberty to the subject of offenses. These of two kinds. Offense given. Offense received. Of offense given, a subject comprehended by few. Of Pharisaical offense, or offense received.

12. Who are to be regarded as weak and Pharisaical. Proved by examples and the doctrine of Paul. The just moderation of Christian liberty. necessity of vindicating it. No regard to be paid to hypocrites. Duty of edifying our weak neighbors.

13. Application of the doctrine to things indifferent. Things necessary not to be omitted from any fear of offense.

14. Refutation of errors in regard to Christian liberty. The consciences of the godly not to be fettered by human traditions in matters of indifference.

15. Distinction to be made between Spiritual and Civil government. These must not be confounded. How far conscience can be bound by human constitutions. Definition of conscience. Definition explained by passages from the Apostolic writings.

16. The relation which conscience bears to external obedience; first, in things good and evil; secondly, in things indifferent.

1. We are now to treat of Christian Liberty, the explanation of which certainly ought not to be omitted by any one proposing to give 2131a compendious summary of Gospel doctrine. For it is a matter of primary necessity, one without the knowledge of which the conscience can scarcely attempt any thing without hesitation, in many must demur and fluctuate, and in all proceed with fickleness and trepidation. In particular, it forms a proper appendix to Justification, and is of no little service in understanding its force. Nay, those who seriously fear God will hence perceive the incomparable advantages of a doctrine which wicked scoffers are constantly assailing with their jibes; the intoxication of mind under which they labour leaving their petulance without restraint. This, therefore, seems the proper place for considering the subject. Moreover, though it has already been occasionally adverted to, there was an advantage in deferring the fuller consideration of it till now, for the moment any mention is made of Christian liberty lust begins to boil, or insane commotions arise, if a speedy restraint is not laid on those licentious spirits by whom the best things are perverted into the worst. For they either, under pretext of this liberty, shake off all obedience to God, and break out into unbridled licentiousness, or they feel indignant, thinking that all choice, order, and restraint, are abolished. What can we do when thus encompassed with straits? Are we to bid adieu to Christian liberty, in order that we may cut off all opportunity for such perilous consequences? But, as we have said, if the subject be not understood, neither Christ, nor the truth of the Gospel, nor the inward peace of the soul, is properly known. Our endeavor must rather be, while not suppressing this very necessary part of doctrine, to obviate the absurd objections to which it usually gives rise. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 18


by Mike Ratliff

1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 NASB)

In the passage above (2 Timothy 4:1-4) the word “myths” translates the Greek noun μύθους (mythous), the Accusative, Plural of μῦθος (mythos). It is where we get the English words myth and mythology. In Classical Greek, this is a tale or fable that is “fabricated by the mind in contrast to reality.” In the New Testament, μύθους is always used to denote a cunning fable full of falsehoods and pretenses for the purpose of deceiving others. Those who willingly turn from God’s truth will unwillingly be deceived. Is this happening in our day? Yes it is. Why? It is because most of the visible church won’t tolerate true preaching, which proclaims truth and confronts sin, and so doctrinal error is everywhere: God’s sovereignty has been redefined in the “Open Theism” movement; Christians seek extra-biblical revelation through mysticism and so-called prophecies; hell is denied as a reality; the roles of men and women are blurred or destroyed altogether; homosexuality, fornication, abortion, and other immorality is condoned and even defended; et cetera. This deception has resulted in most of what we call the “visible church” as having zero discernment. Error is rampant because they have willingly turned from God’s truth. In this they have proved that they have not entered by the narrow gate. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 17


by Mike Ratliff

14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. (Galatians 5:14-16 NASB)

Even as we exercise discernment, withstand wolves in sheep’s clothing, false professors, false teachers, apostates, and even those who would slander us for standing firm in our obedience in these things we are not to respond to them the way the world does. I listened to a sound clip from Chris Matthews’ show the other day in which he used his usual ambush tactics in having a Christian leader there who had gone on record saying that his children were not going to be homosexuals because of the way he and his wife were raising them. Matthews had Barney Frank on the show who is a homosexual and “gay rights” advocate as well as a legislator from Massachusetts. Both he and Matthews jumped all over this man for daring to state that children are not born with a certain sexual orientation, but instead, it is something that is a learned behavior that is exacerbated as the sin nature takes over. Of course, this really set them off. They even kept replaying his words trying to get him confused and, of course, to court outrage in the listening audience. What was this man’s response? He remained calm in demeanor. He never lashed out. He never went on the offensive. He simply remained Christlike in telling the truth and never backing down, but also, never allowed these men to cause him to lose his cool. I’m not so sure I could have handled it that well. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 16


by Mike Ratliff

14 And having come to the crowd, a man came to him kneeling down before him 15 saying, “Lord have mercy on my son for he is an epileptic and suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples and they were not able to heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered saying, “O faithless and depraved generation, how long with you will I be? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out from him and the child was healed that hour. 19 Then the disciples approaching Jesus privately asked, “Why were we not able to cast it out?” 20 And he said to them, “On account of your little faith. Amen I say to you, ‘If you have faith like a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain move from there and it will be moved and nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:14-20 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

We have reached that part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7-11) that has been used by the Word of Faith preachers and the Health, Wealth and Prosperity hucksters as a “proof-text” of sorts for their agenda. In fact, in some Study Bibles with outline headers, this section is often labeled with something like “Ask and it will be given…” All through this sermon we have seen how our Lord has drawn the distinction between those truly in his Kingdom from those who are not. Some of those who are not may very well believe they are and may even look like it to most of us, but these distinctives do indeed mark the genuine one who is of the Kingdom of heaven from those who are not. Continue reading

The Traditional Southern Baptist View of Salvation?


I had to work late last night so I had no chance to post the next in the Sermon on the Mount series. However, it is so odd how God works things out isn’t it? In my last post, The Sermon on the Mount Part 15, I wrote it after church on Sunday in which my pastor, Rick Holland, preached on persecution based on John 16:1-4. This was after his return from a trip to visit churches in England, Germany and Russia. In Russia he met a man who, when he was 13, his father, who was a pastor, was arrested and executed on the spot by the Soviet Union secret police for refusing to recant. I reflected on this and agreed with Rick that the worst persecution I have ever experienced in my walk has amounted to figurative arrows in the back from professing Christians who have a problem with my theology and my insistence on being very precise in teaching it and upholding God’s truth in its entirety. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 15


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. 7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; 8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. 10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.” 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. 22 The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. 23 But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14 1-23 NASB)

When God caused all things to work out so that I became Reformed in my theology and so the precision of my teaching in my Bible classes at my old Church caused me to not only discard the SBC material I was given from which to teach my class, but also when I was asked to explain certain passages such as John 6:22-59 or Romans 1 & 2 and there would arise such acrimony that it became nearly impossible for me to continue there. However, along with that commitment to never compromise came with a deepening discernment for which I prayed along with wisdom every day. When the leadership began the process of going Purpose Driven I detected it very early and began asking very direct questions and received deceptive answers and was actually lied to many times about what was going on. So when I was finally asked to come on board I had been working with Ken Silva quite some time on the old Slice of Laodicea web site in dealing with apostasy that is the “Seeker Sensitive” movement. My stance against it made it impossible for my wife and I to remain there so we left. Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 14


by Mike Ratliff

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NASB) 

As part of our annual insurance sign up each year where I work, I undergo various physical examinations and some of those results lead to further testing, but most of the time, I just get counseled to get such and such level more in line with what they consider to “be healthy.” They attempt to force us to do this by elevating the cost of our insurance if we don’t meet certain goals, et cetera. While I was I at my doctor’s office a few months ago undergoing my annual tests to see if certain prescription medications I take need to be changed or whatever, he asked me to take a blood test as well, which included a test for a PSA level. My tests came back .2 higher than what is normal for my age which is 60. I just shrugged. There are medications to shrink the prostrate gland after all, right? Well, my insurance company insisted that I go to a Urologist and undergo a combination ultrasound/Biopsy test, which took place last Friday. Continue reading