God’s Purpose for the Church Part 4

by Mike Ratliff

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints and believers in Christ Jesus who are in Ephesus.  2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and  our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1:1-2 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

What I am about to say is indicative of the doctrinally confused times in which we now live. I have written posts that teach nothing more than the doctrine of Justification by faith and have received criticism from more commenters than I care to count and several confused questions concerning not our Justification, but our Sanctification. Here are two examples. One was from a Roman Catholic priest who wanted me to stop teaching people about the sufficiency of God’s Grace at our Justification because, according to the traditions and teachings of the RCC, that grace is not sufficient and with each sin, Christians must attend Mass and confession, et cetera and even then that did not entirely pay the entire penalty for that sin in the eyes of God and so Purgatory awaits all true believers. Sigh… The other example was a very short angry comment that contained a link. The comment stated, “Calvin, John MacArthur, James White, John Piper are wrong” then there was link to a post on another site that was a very confused teaching about the fact that no one can enter into the presence of God carrying any sin so even though each believer is “saved” when they believe, it is conditional on their walking in repentance and keeping the law, et cetera. Those who are not able to reach this level of perfection lose their salvation. Sigh… My brethren, We are sinners and our salvation is a miracle because not one of us do one thing to deserve or earn. 

God elects us and it is his work through which we are declared righteous as he enables us to believe the gospel by faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). The second part of the confusion and large contributor to what those who teach these heresies is Biblical ignorance that leads people to confuse our Justification with our Sanctification. The following is a quote from Chapter 1 of John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin speaking of the principle efficient cause of the performance of the duty of our mortifying our sin:

All other ways of mortification are vain; all helps leave us helpless; it must be done by the Spirit. Men, as the apostle intimates (Rom. 9:30-32), may attempt this work on other principles, by means and advantages administered on other accounts, as they always have done and do: but (saith he) this is the work of the Spirit; by him alone it is to be wrought, and by no other power is it to be brought about. Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world… 

God has provided to the Church all the Spiritual resources it needs to fulfill his will. We have the Holy Spirit and we saw part of what he does from our brother John Owen. However, we also have superabundant Spiritual resources in our Lord Jesus Christ. This fourth post in this series on God’s purpose for the Church is “Resources in Christ” and is based in Ephesians 1:15-23.

15 Therefore, I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus among you and your love for all the saints,  16 do not cease giving thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you  a spirit of wisdom and revelation in a fuller knowledge of him, 18 and that the eyes of your hearts may be enlightened for you to know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of the glory of the his inheritance in the saints,  19 and what is the surpassing greatness of his power to us, the ones believing according to the working of the might of his strength,  20 which he exerted in Christ having raised him from the dead and having seated him on his right in the heavenly places,  21 far above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name being named not only in this age but also in the coming one. 22 And he subordinated all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,  23 which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all in all.  (Ephesians 1:15-23 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

What is the evidence that our Lord said would show the world that we were his authentic disciples? The love that genuine believers have for one another being manifested in every circumstance is what shows the world that we are authentic (John 13:34, 35; 1 John 4:16-18; 4:20; 5:1). When there is discord and ugliness within then we should be very concerned. However, this does not mean that we should seek harmony at all costs such as affirming those who are apostate or are teaching heresy. We must do what is right for the health of the Body. This love was evident at Ephesus and Paul rejoiced because of it.

In vv17,18 we have both God the Father and God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ mentioned together in essential nature as deity. Paul was praying that believers will have the disposition of godly knowledge and insight of which the sanctified mind is capable so as to grasp the greatness of the hope and the inheritance that is theirs in Christ. I am convinced that the shallowness and prevalence of the confusion about our justification and sanctification would be much less if the leadership of Church would cease with the empire building and their continual “busy works” and simply enjoin their people in prayer to grasp this. Of course, many of these local “pastors” don’t want this because they want to be the center of attention… However, the Apostle Paul did not have that problem. He pointed all in Christ to the Lord to see their true inheritance in him. A spiritually enlightened mind is the only means of truly understanding and appreciating the hope and inheritance in Christ and living obediently for him. We cannot live obediently for him in our own strength or ability or power. No, we must do so within the power of the Holy Spirit.

In vv19,20 Paul shows us that the very power, God’s great power, that raised Jesus from the dead and lifted him by ascension back to glory to the right of the Father, is given to every believer at their salvation and is always available afterwards (Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:29) in the midst of our sanctification. Did Paul ask for God to give believers this great power? No! Why not? All believers already possess this great power in Christ and use it (Ephesians 3:20).

In v21 Paul makes sure that we understand that God is above all the heavenly host (Revelation 20:10-15). I know that most of you have no issues with that, but I have been listening to debates online between Christian apologists like Dr. James White and Muslims. These touch points are crucial. Also, I get awfully tired of people who portray Jesus as their buddy or pal or whatever instead of God. Why? Look at vv22-23.  V22 quotes Psalm 8:6 indicating that God has exalted Christ over everything (Hebrews 2:8) including his church (Colossians 1:18). Christ is clearly the authoritative Head because all things have been placed under his feet. In v23 we see that the Body of Christ is a metaphor for God’s redeemed people.

Are you still confused about your Justification thinking that what happens after your salvation has any bearing whatsoever on it? If so then you are confusing the terms Justification and Sanctification. Justification is a declaration by God in which he imputes the righteousness of Christ to his elect when they believe the gospel. We will look at this in Ephesians 2. Sanctification is not the same thing at all. This is the process of making us holy or Christlike, but it has no bearing whatsoever on the state of our Justification. However, the Word tells us that we are New Creations and that those who are truly Born Again will not practice the unrighteousness that the world does while they grow, in time, more and more capable of walking in repentance through what John Owen called the Mortification of Sin. All of this is coming up as we work through Ephesians.

Soli Deo Gloria!

12 thoughts on “God’s Purpose for the Church Part 4

  1. Dear Mike,

    Amen!

    It seems the postmodern leaning teachers are bemoaning Sanctification as some sort of out dated dogma. Why? They contend that they are frustrated because the longer they are a “Christian” the more they realize how steeped in sin they actually are and are not making real progress in Sanctification. In fact why try when they are just as miserable or more so then when they were originally saved from their sins.

    Well, then the Law has done it’s job. The more we grow the more we should be able to see our sin and the more grievous it should be to us. This assault against our inability to achieve perfectionism should drive us into the open arms of Savior and cry Lord Help Me a Sinner! We can’t ever do this on our own and how horrible if the closer we grew toward Christ the more we elevate our own holiness. John Owen did a good job articulating this inward struggle.

    May God bless you richly with all the heavenly blessings that we have in Christ.

    In Christ alone, charisse

  2. The emergents who call themselves “Christ followers” think their lives will be pleasing to God the Father because they – as best they can – lived as they see how the Lord Jesus lived. They ignore the fact that all mortals are contaminated with sin from the moment we are conceived until the moment we die (except for those not saved, who continue to sin eternally) and cannot please God unless He works in us to make it so. Hence the bondage the cult of Rome keeps people in – no assurance of salvation, much less sanctification, because their false Christ was unable to pay for our sin and we must work off our debt. This is why their mythical purgatory lasts millions of years – same hope as evolutionists have for creation – time covers every doubt (but not one sin) because we cannot track that long of a period.

    In Christ alone – our hope is found – He is our strength and refuge and sufficient sacrifice for our sin. Let all the saints of the living God praise Him!

  3. “We must do what is right for the health of the Body. This love was evident at Ephesus and Paul rejoiced because of it”

    This is what many Christians miss! They try and separate the false teachings from the dear teacher they love… They actually think that they can still follow that person and just reject their teachings.. I’m seeing it with people like Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller and many others.. We have to reject ANYONE who is teaching false doctrines.. I’m not saying reject them over small errors as we all make mistakes.. But what I’m saying is we are commanded to reject them if they are teaching error that is against the gospel..

    I just listened today on my radio station Kay Arthur and I love her and her teachings…. BUT for the first time today I heard her referring to Beth Moore this and Beth Moore that and some of Beth’s teachings…. I’m really heartbroken with this.. NOW I will no longer listen to Kay Arthur because she is lending credence I’m sure unwittingly to a false teacher….

    This is not LOVE to allow the CHURCH to be polluted! this is as one person pointed out to me so wisely-mysticism love…

    We are “to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. Romans 16:17.is to take note of those who cause division by teaching that which is contrary to the doctrine we have been taught, and avoid them.

    With all those thinking Jesus’ blood was not efficacious, I just wonder how they think the sinless, spotless son of God who paid for ALL our sins at the cross could be added TO by sinful wicked MAN.. To think that WE could tack onto what Christ did is utter SLAVERY and BLASPHEMY…

    Oh this is such grievous times we live in and this soldier is weary with all the apathy for the purity of the Church…

  4. What perplexes me Mike is why are these Truths so liberating, yet so many reformed congregants so formal and dry when it comes to living these Truths.
    Why do we so often see this dichotomy? Is it because even in these teachings men are still hindered from coming to the knowlege of Truth?

    I love the Life in you and several others who comment here.
    One thing too I notice is that in writing comments and articles, the things written can be “hard truths” yet many read them with a voice in their minds of a stern taskmaster rather then a loving servant., missing the message and the messenger…

  5. Mike,
    I had to chuckle at your… “sigh” at the comments you posted. It sounds like it get mighty tiring. That comment by the priest from the Roman Church just bewildered me! I was raised in that cult of Rome and was even an “altar boy” and could parrot the latin prayers during the mass. I say parrot because I had no clue what they meant. Nor did anyone else in the congregation but that is what the “church” taught was the correct way to… please god??? As a teenager I abandoned all that. When I was 30, this Awesome, Holy God of creation reached out to me cleansed me and opened my eyes (spiritual). At that moment in time, something within me died and something came to life. I began to read the Bible and hallelujah, I could now understand it. It took some studying and guidance by Godly men to help me understand (at least a little bit) what happened to me. I had a very profound conversion experience (at least to me) which I’ll save for another day.
    However, It took a few years of wrestling with this RCC thing. Could I be a catholic? It should have been simple enough… duhh, but it wasn’t. When I looked at what their teaching was/is, it was easy enough to say NO! They teach the doctrines of men and have perverted the way of the Lord just as the pharisees did. The RCC reminds me so much of what I read about the pharisees during the time of Jesus’ sojourn in Israel 2000 years ago. This cult has made up so many lies and put to death so many innocent lives and is leading a great multitude astray to perdition. They have some of the most asinine teaching. At one time it was a sin to eat meat on Fridays because Jesus died on a Friday (which He couldn’t have mathematically if he arose on Sunday) so one was permitted to eat fish. Eating fish was going to make you more holy????
    When on TV I see thousands crowding St. Peter’s Square in Rome venerating the pope as “The Holy Father” I am reminded of the verse in Matt 23:9 “and do not call anyone on earth your father, for One is your Father, He who is in heaven”. That’s blatant blasphemy!!
    I have family members and friends and co-workers who are caught in the snare of this cult of Rome.
    I thank my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for faithful servants like you Mike as well as John MacArthur, Anton Bosch, Paul washer and others for teaching and explaining The Word of God. It has taken much time and reviewing and studying God’s Word to grasp “justification” and “sanctification”. It’s All God’s work. Linda said it so well, “I just wonder how they think the sinless, spotless son of God who paid for ALL our sins at the cross could be added TO by sinful wicked MAN.. To think that WE could tack onto what Christ did is utter SLAVERY and BLASPHEMY…
    Christ is the Spotless Lamb of God. How many people asked the apostles, “what must we do to be saved?” Their reply? “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ”. Believe = justified “not guilty”. Repent = sancification “continuing, ongoing cleansing”.

    All the praises… they belong to Jesus!

  6. “I love the Life in you and several others who comment here.” I do you as well.. That’s the Lord Jesus who is so precious in our eyes that is the sweet smelling aroma pleasing to the Father. 2Cr 2:16 “To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?”

    Jesus IS the ONLY RIGHTEOUSNESS who pleases the Father in every single way… Woohooo… We will be able to worship, praise and adore the LORD forever and ever and that JOY will be beyond the BEST of anything this life could ever even conceive to give us..
    May the Lord richly bless you Mickey Merrie!

  7. Thank you and Amen Mike!

    Brother, give the second poster some credit ;-), at least he was right in one thing, in saying John Piper was wrong. Unless Piper repented that is. :)

    Peter, happy to see another one saved from the gates of the mother of all lies! I was too a catholic, altought not practicant, but I idolatrized those images of there so called “saints” when in distress or bitterness, but to no avail or help, as they were and are just images made by sinful men.

  8. “, but I idolatrized those images of there so called “saints” when in distress or bitterness, but to no avail or help, as they were and are just images made by sinful men.”

    I was watching Turner,, I love watching those old shows. anyways I was watching this show and the thesis was about “psychology”. Don’t have a good enough memory to remember the name of the show–sorry.. Anyways,things were not going well with this Doctor’s friend who had his legs cut off by this girl’s father who would not ever let them see each other. In the end the Doctor finally cured his friend with “psychology” and the guys wife ruined the show when she began thanking “Mary mother of God”… I’m like why did they have to put that in there?

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