The Christian perspective on suffering in the flesh

by Mike Ratliff

17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, 20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3:17-22 (NKJV) 

The Lord Jesus Christ suffered unjustly on behalf of those He came to save because it was God’s will. He perfectly accomplished God’s purposes in this. Even though those in Emergence Christianity are attempting to hijack our Lord’s Crucifixion for their own purposes, let us never forget that His violent, physical execution did terminate His earthly life when He was “put to death in the flesh”, nevertheless, He was “made alive in the spirit” on the third day. This is not referring to the Holy Spirit, but to Jesus’ true inner life, His own spirit, which is contrasted with His humanness, His flesh, which was crucified and lay dead for three days in the tomb. His deity, His Spirit, remained alive, literally “in spirit” (Luke 23:46). In light of our Lord’s suffering for righteousness, Christians should have a “Christian” perspective on suffering in the flesh as well.  Continue reading

The doctrine of original sin is a vital part of genuine Christian orthodoxy

sinby Mike Ratliff

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17 (NKJV) 
1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”
4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:1-6 (NKJV) 

19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19 (NKJV) 

The doctrine of original sin is a vital part of genuine Christian orthodoxy. For a long time I didn’t really appreciate how important it is in our concept of the depths of our guilt before our sovereign and thrice Holy God. However, as I have become involved in ‘discussions’ with those who reject this doctrine, God has revealed to me, through my studying his Word in order to answer certain ‘arguments,’ that when this doctrine is not part of one’s theology then their concept of their salvation is more self-centered and, in some cases, is understood that one is a Christian based solely on religious acts they have done or even “good works”. Let’s look again at the Apostle Paul’s thesis on our salvation, which none of us deserve. Continue reading

Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

by Mike Ratliff

17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Mark 10:17 (NKJV) 

The natural man cannot conceive of eternal life coming to anyone who does not “earn” or somehow “deserve” it. Jesus’ teaching set the record straight, but many today still do not regard what He said. Even preachers and religious leaders have bent the truth and twisted it in such a way so as to provide a way for professing believers to have a “work” they could point back to that marks them as having done that one thing that enables them to inherit eternal life. The Kingdom of God is not earned by people who somehow elevate themselves higher than others through their good works or their religiosity. No, our Lord used children as examples whom He referred to this way, “For to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Continue reading

Free from indwelling sin

by Mike Ratliff

1 Οὐδὲν ἄρα νῦν κατάκριμα τοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Romans 8:1 (NA28)

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to the ones in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

 Romans 8 is best understood after reading the Apostle Paul’s exposition of his own “wretched man” trapped in a “body of death” in Romans 7:14-25. 

14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25 (NKJV)

There are some who teach from this passage saying that it describes Paul’s life before Christ citing that this description is contrary to his own account or description of true believers in Romans 6 (cf. vv. 2,6,7,11,17,18,22) . However, as we read this passage it is obvious that this is a believer because he desires to obey God’s law and hates his sin. He is humble, recognizing that nothing good dwells in his humanness. He sees sin in himself, but not as all that there is, and he serves Jesus Christ with his mind. This very struggle was my desperate struggle for a couple of decades and I get private emails from many readers in the same boat, doubting the veracity of their salvation because they are in the same battle. Why are they in despair? Why was I in despair for so long? The churches, the religious systems of which we were part of told us in their pragmatism that there would be some point when we would outgrow this and reach some level of maturity through which we would no longer struggle like this. If that did not happen either we were very immature or not Christians at all. Continue reading

Marks of the True Christian

by Mike Ratliff

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:9-21 (NKJV) 

All that is not of faith is sin. That includes good works and any religious acts that are done from any motivation or source other than faith. The Christians who walk before the face of God Spirit-filled are the ones who are walking by faith. Those that become Spirit-filled are those who are living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). The continual process of mind renewal is transforming them (Romans 12:2). This renewal is actually a complete renovation of the intellect or mind by the Holy Spirit as they become immersed more and more into the Word of God. This causes them to surrender more and more unto the Lordship of Christ. They have given over their circumstances to the Lord so they have taken up their crosses and are following the Lord. Continue reading

Being Spirit-filled, prophecy, and tongues

by Mike Ratliff

26 But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”
28 So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!”
29 Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” 30 And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel. Numbers 11:26-30 (NKJV) 

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (NKJV) 

Carefully read the two passages I placed at the top of this post, Numbers 11:26-30 and 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. Actually, the second passage leads right into the the passage which is the focus for this post, 1 Corinthians 14:1-25. I wanted you to read these other passages to keep things in context. I have a friend, a good friend, who claims to be “a Pentecostal.” However, he and I have talked quite a bit about this topic. He asked me a few years ago if I had ever spoken in tongues. I told him that I had not. I asked him if he had. He told me that he had not either, but that since the church or denomination he was part of placed such a premium on that that it bothered him some that he did not. He refused “to fake it.” He told me that if he was not overcome by some outside force to speak in tongues then he was not going to just start doing it. He then asked me if it bothered me that I had not spoken in tongues. I told him that it didn’t bother me at all. He asked me why. I almost quoted sections of 1 Corinthians 14 to him. I am a Bible teacher. I teach from God’s Word. I make things from God’s Word clear to those who also have the Spirit of God. Tongue speaking is not meant for that purpose, but is a sign gift used by God to influence unbelievers. On the other hand, in the Church, the verbal gifts that God uses are those of preaching and teaching, which would include prophecy. I then told my friend that if God wanted me to speak in tongues then it was entirely up to Him to make that happen and I am His bondservant or slave to do with as He wills. Continue reading

Filled by the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

Ephesians 5:18 (NA28) 18 καὶ μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ, ἐν ᾧ ἐστιν ἀσωτία, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι, Ephesians 5:18 (NA28)

18 And do not become drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled by the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

What does it mean for a Christian to be “filled” by the Holy Spirit? In my translation above the preposition “by” renders the Greek word ἐν (en), “in, with, by, among, at, on, when, to, as, for, through, while, within, of, about, into, because, during, throughout, before, under.” Why did I render it as “by” instead of “with?” As Louis Sperry Chafer said, “It is not a matter of acquiring more of the Spirit, but rather of the Spirit of God acquiring all of the individual.”1 The believer who is Spirit-filled is influenced by the Spirit and nothing else while those who are not, are more influenced by the temporal. To be filled by the Spirit is to have our thoughts, desires, values, motives, goals, priorities, and all else set on spiritual things and spiritual growth.  Continue reading

Those who are truly born again

by Mike Ratliff

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39 (NKJV) 

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:3-12 (NKJV) 

Hell is real. All who do not repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will spend eternity there. Those who repent and believe are those who ‘come to Jesus to drink.’ They believe as the Holy Spirit is poured out on them to the point that their lives are taken over by Him. Those who do will never experience hell. Instead, they come to Jesus and find rest for their souls. Those who do this are poor in spirit. They mourn for their sins. They are not proud, but meek. In their growing godliness they hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness to become manifest in them. They become more and more Christlike, therefore, they take on His character. They show mercy as He does. They become more and more pure of heart. They remove themselves from seeking their own. Instead, they become those who live to bring others to their Lord. Conversely, this holy and separate life does not cause them to find peace in the world. No, instead they are persecuted for righteousness sake. Continue reading

God’s wisdom is spiritual wisdom

by Mike Ratliff

6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (NKJV) 

When we are pressured in our circumstances to compromise and respond via the flesh, i.e. the way of the world, we are actually employing worldly wisdom. That wisdom says to, “Look out for number one!” It says to, “Never allow yourself to be taken advantage of.” It says to, “If attacked, respond in kind.” When Christians react this way then they are actually utilizing values that are part of a system that does not know God, cannot know God, and sees truth as relative. Those who hold to relativism appear to the unregenerate as the most enlightened and, obviously, more fair minded. However, when the disciples of relativism come head to head with those who will not compromise  God’s truth, their response can be quite brutal. Continue reading

Who are those who cause divisions?

by Mike Ratliff

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. Romans 16:17-18 (ESV) 

I was born in 1951, but since my birthday is in October, I actually graduated from High School when I was 17. I started college in September and then on my 18th birthday, just a month or so later, I had to register for the draft. My draft number was 6. I had friends who did not even try to get a college exemption from the draft because their draft numbers were 300+. In any case, in 1973 I had left college before graduation and was informed that I had better be prepared to be drafted into the Army. Therefore, I joined the Navy. I went in on a delayed program so I could get the Computer Training they offered. Just one week after I signed those papers, the Vietnam peace accords were signed in Paris effectively ending the need for the draft. On June 1, 1973, I entered the U.S. Navy and learned what it meant to be in the military. Continue reading

The Beatitudes and genunine discipleship

by Mike Ratliff

3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:3-13 (NKJV) 

Back in the mid-1980’s, about 18 months after God saved me, I heard a wonderful lesson at a men’s retreat on Matthew 5:1-12. My Bible knowledge at that time was spotty. I had heard of The Beatitudes, but really hadn’t studied them. I had actually heard others teach that these statements are not possible for Christians until Jesus comes in His glory. I also heard that this is what Christians will be like during the Millennium. Both of these teachings came out of another teaching that said that there were two types of Christians, Disciples and Carnal Christians. At that time, being such a new believer, I thought that was Biblical. I look back on that period of time now and can see clearly why God moved me away from those who taught that.

Jesus said something very different about who were His and who weren’t. Continue reading

Old Man

by Mike Ratliff

6 τοῦτο γινώσκοντες ὅτι ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος συνεσταυρώθη, ἵνα καταργηθῇ τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ· 7 ὁ γὰρ ἀποθανὼν δεδικαίωται ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας. Romans 6:6-7 (NA28)

6 Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of might be made ineffective, that we should no longer serve sin, 7 for the one having died has been justified from sin. Romans 6:6-7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Romans 6:6 clearly shows us that true believers become holy in Christ. However, there is confusion because many do not look correctly at the Greek verb tenses in this passage. If they simply read it in English or some other translation it is easy to not see that all the verb tenses here are past tenses (aorist or perfect). What this means is that every verb tense here that refers to our identification with Christ in His death refers to it being completed in the past. Romans 6:6, therefore, says ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος συνεσταυρώθη or “our old man was crucified with Him” way back when Christ died and that it was completed then and there. What it does not say is that we must each morning get up and “crucify ourselves again to sin.” Instead, it says that by God’s judicial act, not by our experiential effort, the old man was “crucified” and therefore “destroyed.” Continue reading

Assurance for those saved by grace alone through faith alone

by Mike Ratliff

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:16-21 (ESV) 

If you have ever debated proponents of liberal theology then you probably know that these liberals possess a great deal of emotional baggage which, as the debate proceeds, they eventually empty it out on all those they see as “orthodox” and “behind the times.” I have participated in several of these. Their main statement of fact seems to be that scholarship and critical analysis of the Bible far outweighed faith when it comes to theology. In fact, they will try very hard to make us see that the Bible is unreliable and cannot be understood or held by Christians to be the infallible, inerrant Word of God. In one such debate several years ago one of the liberals gave this last parting shot when he realized our faith was strong and we weren’t buying what he was selling, “No, I encourage you to continue in your faith. Hold tight. Don’t let go. But I think that over time you will find that it is kinda like trying to hold on real tight to a handful of sand.Continue reading

What does faith have to do with eternal life?

by Mike Ratliff

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. John 5:24 (NKJV) 

A fascinating study is to take a close look at the reaction the 1st Century Jews had to Jesus’ claim to deity then compare it with that of the heretics who came later. These 1st Century Jews took Jesus’ words in John 5 about his relationship to the Father as claims of deity, that is, making himself equal with God (John 5:18). Heretics who were not from the time of our Lord and were not Jews of that period were the ones who came up with Arianism, Modalism, et cetera. Each of these types of attack on doctrine of the Holy Trinity are proofs that those doing this may have indeed heard the truth (Jesus’ Word), but they most certainly have not believed the Father who sent him. If so they would most certainly not attack that wonderful doctrine that is so hard for the unregenerate to accept let alone believe. What did Jesus say about those who hear his Word and believe him who sent him? These have been granted eternal life.  Continue reading