God’s Purpose for the Church Part 6

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)

I originally planned on this being a six part study, but have decided to break the last part into two posts so there will be a “Part 7.” I had a lot of work to do today of the sort that enabled me to listen to podcasts while I worked. I have been keeping up with Dr. Al Mohler’s “The Briefing” podcast since April of this year. If you don’t listen to it I highly recommend that you do even if you do not agree with Dr. Mohler on some theological issues. Why? The podcast is simply him going over what is going on the secular media and then he contrasts that with the Christian World View. It has been most enlightening. The podcasts is only about 20 minutes long each weekday. After those, I usually, if I have the time, try to catch up on listening to Dr. James White’s “The Dividing Line” podcasts. I also listen to the White Horse Inn podcasts, with Dr. Michael Horton, which comes out weekly. My theology is probably lined up closest to that of Dr. James White of those I just listed, but the input I get from those others in invaluable. Why? 

While I am Reformed in my Theology in that the God I worship is Sovereign over his creation and acts monergistically in and through it to carry out his will for his glory alone, I am also a Baptist like Dr. White. I suppose that is why I have always been drawn to John Bunyan and Charles Spurgeon. On the other hand we may have theological differences with our brothers in Christ such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, et cetera, but that does not mean we separate from them on “traditional grounds” like so many are wont to do in our day.

As many of you know and as I have shared here many times, I grew up as a Southern Baptist and served as a SBC deacon and Bible teacher from the mid-1980’s through the middle part of 2006. My dad was also a SBC deacon. We talked about these things when I was younger way before I ever got involved in leadership. I asked about all those other denominations and what was the difference between those Lutherans, Presbyterians, Church of Christ, Free Will Baptists, Southern Baptists, Methodists, Nazarenes, et cetera. I’ll never forget his answer. He told me that the Nazarenes came from the Methodists because they believed the Methodists had gone liberal and weren’t following Wesley anymore. He then told me about the split of the Church of Christ from the SBC, which his dad (who was a SBC pastor from the late 1800’s into the mid-1950’s) told him about. He said was the split was that the Church of Christ folks and the Fundamental Baptists didn’t believe the SBC (or whatever their parent Baptist denomination was) was “Fundamental” enough. He didn’t know much about Lutherans or Episcopalians. However, he did tell me that the theology of best Presbyterians was no different than what we believed. I’ve never forgotten that.

When I began studying theology for myself and God did a great work in this heart and I surrendered to his Lordship in all areas, I found myself a Calvinist. It was then that I discovered that my Dad was right and that the origins of the SBC were Calvinistic even though most today are ignorant of that. The Free Will Baptists, for example, rejected Reformed Theology and are actually Baptists who followed the teachings of John Wesley instead.

What’s my point? Are those who believe like I do my brothers and sisters in Christ, but no one else is? Are there Arminian Christians? Are there Lutheran Christians? Are there Church of England (Episcopalian) Christians? I know there are Presbyterian Christians. My brethren. Just as there are those who profess the same doctrines that I do, but who are false professors, there are those in Churches who sit under some very poor preaching who are genuine Christians. I know this because I was one of those. I knew something was wrong, but I thought the problem was with me. It took God removing me from the poor preaching and teaching and placing me under the teaching of his pure Word, the truth, for me to finally understand that I had been trying to make theology fit my framework and understanding of things rather than me surrendering to God and his sovereignty. It was only as I did that that the Word of God became open to me the way it is now.

I rarely debate doctrine with anyone. On the other hand, I will debate heretics. What’s the difference? Those who have a chip on the shoulder and are bound and determined to prove that all Calvinists are wrong, et cetera are just wasting valuable time, my time. I don’t chase down every Arminian out there and do that to them. Why don’t I? It took God taking me through his Word for months before I came to the truth and it was heartrending. However, I see now that Reformed Theology is Biblically consistent across the board while Arminianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and Pelagianism are not. When someone wants to argue about these things though I simply point to the posts I have written before and move on. There is nothing new to be discovered here and what good can come of it?

I went into all that after I translated Ephesians 2:11-21. A post on this section could be titled, “Christ our Peace and Cornerstone” or, “One in Christ.” Yes we may have some differences between how we serve and worship God, how we interact with the world, i.e., “What our world-view is” with some who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. On the other hand, there are so many in our time who claim to be Christians when they prove that they are not by their lives being identified with the same value system as that of the world. I will use one more example then we will go to the passage.

After I got back from my trip to Washington, D.C. at the end of July the news media went berserk over comments made by Dan Cathy the CEO of Chik Fil A who, in an interview with a Baptist publication about family values made some statements that I agree with 100% such as what constitutes  “marriage” and what doesn’t. That means he used God’s standard from his Word and did not mince words while saying that God defined marriage and man does not have the right to change that definition. Also, he made comments about God’s judgment coming upon this country for turning from his standard of marriage and redefining it according to the world’s value system. Well, as you well know, the homosexual rights people took this and tried to demonize Dan Cathy and Chik-Fil-A. Several political figures chimed in and came across as “Big Brother Thought Police Thugs” demanding that Dan Cathy change his stance or else, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. My example from this was that many of us decided to support Dan Cathy and Chik-Fil-A by eating there week before last. What was so interesting was (and I was expecting this) the backlash from this. I did expect the homosexual lobby to do their best to respond by doing some revolting thing by offending everyone at a Chik-Fil-A, which they tried to do. How mature is that?

In any case, my point was that there is a large segment of the visible church that is quite vocal and wants to be engaged, et cetera, but it is things like this that draws them out and their reactions prove they are either theological midgets or not Christian at all. I am talking about the New Evangelicals, Purpose Driven, New Calvinists, Emergent group of man-centered “churches” that have edited the gospel to maximize church growth and attempted to alter the church’s mission to be church for the unchurched. This combination assures that they have to be against what we did by giving support to Dan Cathy and Chik-Fil-A because they see any stance for Holiness and Righteousness as offensive to the unrepentantant and they certainly can’t have that. I suppose Jesus was wrong to drive away those phony disciples in John 6 with some hard preaching. These folks probably think so.

11 Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, the ones being called “Uncircumcision” by the ones being called “Circumcision,” done in the flesh by hand– 12 that you were at that time without Christ, having been alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers of the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you, the ones once being far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  14 For he, the one having made the two one and having broken in his flesh the partition of the middle wall of hostility, is our peace. 15 In so doing he annulled the law of the commandments in ordinances that he might create the two in himself into one new man, making peace,  16 and might reconcile the two in one body to God through the cross having killed the hostility by it.  17 AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18 because through him we have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God,  20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,  21 in whom all the building being fitly joined together grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord,  22 in whom you also are bing built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:11-22 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

What is Paul’s point? How are people saved or reconciled to God? Is it through their religiosity or by merit? No, it is in Christ Jesus that we have been brought near by his blood. All in Christ are at peace with God and should be at peace with one another. Now, let’s look at our theology. I said quite a bit about that earlier. Upon what is the Church built? The Church is made up of all of us who are fellow citizens in Christ in the household of God who have been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone. What does this mean? The Church is built upon the God’s truth, which is his Word. That is the Apostles and Prophets. What does it mean that Christ Jesus is the cornerstone? This is an architectural term referring to the stone placed first that was the basis of where every stone in the foundation was to be placed or fitted. It had to be placed in such a way that it could not move. Then all stones in the foundations were set based upon it. It held everything together. That is explained in this analogy in vv21,22. We are not saved then we live any way we like then die then go home to heaven. No, we are new creations in Christ and from that moment of salvation on, we are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. If we are genuine in Christ then we will grow in Christ and walk in the good works prepared for us to walk in beforehand (Ephesians 2:10).

Soli Deo Gloria!

11 thoughts on “God’s Purpose for the Church Part 6

  1. Church history is most interesting, and helped me see why those who are “people driven” have the theology they do – it’s inherited from those who have gone before them. Followers of Finney rarely claim him and rarely abandon their denominational identity – hence the 10 point “remonstrance” from the Pelagians within the SBC earlier this year.

    Mike – do you consider 5 point Arminianism to be heresy?

  2. Having come the route I have..from so much falsehood: RC, a brief stay with SBC, then a longish time with Charismatic Pentecostals, then a stint with some very loving Arminians…and now the little Reformed group I am part of (!!), I am so grateful for the faithfulness of our God, who has continued to draw me closer to Himself and Truth! I know many in those groups truly know Him and love Him..and my prayer is that He will lead them in His time to deeper understanding , as He continues to do for me! Mike, thank you for this post!

  3. Manfred, I consider the 5 points of Arminianism to be Christians attempt to interpret the Gospel along Man-Centered lines and this, of course, robs God of his glory. Is that heresy? It is when it becomes idolatrous.

  4. Mike – I’ve known many Arminians who fail to be true to all 5 points. I certainly agree with you that the 5 points reflect a man-centered view of God and man. I agree with the historical judgment that Arminianism, in its 5 pointed fulness, is heresy – the progeny of Pelagious.

  5. Manfred I had to look that one up “is Arminianism heresy? The best answer I found is on Phil Johnson’s site—http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/10194..

    It’s a great peruse

  6. Linda, I followed that link. Man, did that take me back. :-) I think God used Phil and his wisdom as one of those back when I was being brought into the truth of Reformed Theology whose meekness yet strength in these things was one of those I emulated. Yes, like him, I will contend for the faith against heretics attacking the Gospel, but I’m not going to pick a fight with any Arminians out there just because they are Arminians.

  7. Awesome Mike!!! I hope many more people will read this article since Phil used to be Arminian himself and he understands how it can take several years for God to teach people what God’s word actually says..It took Phil I think he said 10 years after he was saved…

  8. The emerging Church, New Evangelicals, Purpose Driven, New Calvinists are all just wolves dressed up in Sheep’s clothing. (I’m not saying there are no Christians within these groups. I’m sure there’s a modicum of Christians who are. But the groups and the movements and leaders are espousing a cause that is against the Gospel of God’s grace. They’ve not changed, they all have cloaked or morphed themselves behind the backdrop of a lot of things that are “Christianity”. – all are really the new liberalism which is not really new but disguised as such.

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