God Justifies the Ungodly

by Mike Ratliff

1What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:1-8 ESV)

I was in a discussion recently where the person I was conversing with was very upset because he felt that when we raise the standard high in our churches that it can be very discouraging to those who are not as spiritually mature as others. He believed that churches need to be more easy going and less demanding. He also believed that all we have been saying lately against seeker-sensitive church models is unfair because in those churches those who may not be very mature can feel comfortable and welcome. My heart broke while reading his comments because I understood exactly what he was talking about and I began to see that there is another group of Christians out there that are drawn to churches that are not so demanding on doctrinal issues as in a typical Reformed church. They are the ones who feel that they will never measure up. They feel inadequate to the apparent “Holiness” seen in the more mature members in those churches.

Well, I don’t know what sort of Christian would ever place those sort of demands on other Christians. However, I do know that Christians are not perfect and not one of them can stand before God and say they deserve their salvation. All of their spiritual growth since their salvation would not have happened outside of God’s grace. Their spiritual gifts were just that, gifts. None of us deserve this salvation. Our good standing before God is a gift from our Heavenly Father that not one of us deserve.

I have heard many atheists say something like this, “I hate your stupid religion (Christianity) because your God saves wicked men.” I remember when Ted Bundy, before he was executed several years ago, professed faith in Jesus Christ. The howl from some people that this evil serial killer could possibly be in Heaven after he died showed the absolute absurdity of Christianity. However, as the passage that I placed at the top of this post says about God that He is, “Him who justifies the ungodly.” (v5)

What most people, including many professing Christians, do not understand is that no one is righteous before God. All of us who profess that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour were in no better standing before God than the worst murderer that has ever lived prior to our salvation. I suppose some people may believe they are better than other people because of their innate goodness, but that holds no water with God.

10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18 ESV)

Because of Man’s fall into sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) all people born since (except our Lord Jesus Christ) were born spiritually dead in their sins. Some people who are not Christians do good works. Many Christians do good works within their own strength and abilities. All of that, to God, is as filthy rags.

6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NKJV)

No matter how “good” people become outside of God’s grace, to God it is worthless. No one can do enough good things in their own abilities to be declared righteous before God. However, don’t many Christians do this very thing? Don’t we all know of Christians who have become self-righteous and, because of that, they look down their noses at those of us who may not live such perfect Christian lives as them? Yes, this piece is about how God saves the ungodly, but it is also about how Christians have no business looking down their noses at other people with a heart full of pride and self-righteousness.

God has given a task to some of His people to exercise the discernment He has given them in order to proclaim the truth about apostasy and heresies in His Church. However, they are never to do this with a spirit of self-righteousness. They must speak the truth in love always seeking to heal and bring people from darkness into light. This role is not one of a judge. Judgment is God’s not Man’s. If we exercise our discernment, but end up attacking people in a judgmental way, we have stepped across a line that will always result in very undesirable conflicts that do not glorify God nor edify His body. Remember, no one is righteous before God, but Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15)

What has to happen for sinners to be declared righteous before God? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:5 ESV) What does this mean that Abraham believed God? What does that do for us? If we are in Christ then we have “faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Because of this God treats us as if we had been perfectly just and as a result, He has made us an heir with of God and a joint-heir with Christ. Although we are sinners by nature, we are treated as if we are deserving. We are loved with as much love as if we had always been godly whereas before we were ungodly. This is Amazing Grace.

Since all people are ungodly sinners and God saves sinners then this makes the Gospel fully available to who? Isn’t it available to all people and shouldn’t it be preached to them? I am Reformed, but I believe as Charles Spurgeon did, that the Gospel must be freely preached to every soul possible. God will save those who are His, but that is through the preaching of the Good News. We must never forget that not one of us deserves our salvation. All of us are guilty before God, but God’s pardon is for the guilty. Jesus said, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick.” (Mark 2:17 KJV) Therefore, the great remedies of grace and redemption are for the sick in soul. They cannot be for the whole. Those who think they are good enough without this pardon are in for a very rude awakening because Self-Righteousness is a delusion straight from the enemy of our Souls.

The following quote is from Charles Spurgeon’s All of Grace. “Do you think that you must be lost because you are a sinner? This is the reason you can be saved. Because you realize that you are a sinner, I would encourage you to believe that grace is ordained for such as you. The hymnwiter Joseph Hart even dared to say, ‘A sinner is a sacred thing; The Holy Ghost hath made him so.’ It is true that Jesus seeks and saves those who are lost (Luke 19:10). He died and made a real atonement for real sinners. When men are not playing with words or calling themselves “miserable sinners” in false humility, I feel overjoyed to meet with them. I would be glad to talk all night to bona fide sinners. The inn of mercy never closes its doors on such, neither on weekdays nor on Sunday. Our Lord Jesus did not die for imaginary sins. His heart’s blood was spilled to wash our deep crimson stains that nothing else can remove.

He who is a dirty sinner is the kind of man that Jesus Christ came to make clean. A gospel preacher on one occasion preached a sermon from the verse, “Now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees” (Luke 3:9). He delivered such a sermon that one of his hearers said to him, “One would have thought that you have been preaching to criminals. Your sermon ought to have been delivered in the county jail.” “Oh, no,” said the good man, “if I were preaching in the county jail, I would not preach from that text. There I would preach, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). This is true.” The law is for the self-righteous, to humble their pride. The Gospel is for the lost, to remove their despair.” – Charles Spurgeon

I know that most reading this are Christians, however, there could also be those who are not or are not sure about their salvation. To the Christian, if you know lost people around you then share the good news with them in the power of the Holy Spirit. To those reading this who are not Christian or are not sure about your salvation, this message is one of good news. Yes, you are a sinner, but so am I and so are all other Christians. The difference is that all in Christ have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. They have seen their utter lost condition before God against His perfect Righteousness and Justice. They have believed that Jesus Christ died in their place to pay the price for their sin. They have confessed and repented of their sin. They have, in turn, surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is their Lord and Saviour. At that moment of belief, God the Father declared them Righteous and, in fact, imputed the Righteousness of Jesus Christ to their account. Then He adopted them into His family. He is in the process of changing them from the inside out in order to build their character to be like Jesus Christ. They also now have the Holy Spirit within them. If you are in the place where you know you are lost and know that the only hope you have is found in Christ, then now is time of belief for you. Simply turn your heart to God, confess that you are a sinner to Him and ask that He forgive you. Turn from your sin and ask Jesus Christ to save you and be your Lord. There is nothing magical about the words you use. Simply believe, confess, repent, and surrender to Jesus as Lord. Now, if you have done this, then let others know. Get into your Bible and find a good church that preaches the gospel so that you can be discipled. l would really like to hear from you as well. Email me at mratliff@kc.rr.com.

Jesus Paid it All by Elvina M. Hall 1865

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”


Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.


And now complete in Him
My robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side,
I am divinely blest.


Lord, now indeed I find
Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots
And melt the heart of stone.


When from my dying bed
My ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,”
Shall rend the vaulted skies.


And when before the throne
I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down
All down at Jesus’ feet.


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21 thoughts on “God Justifies the Ungodly

  1. So then tell me. Why is it that most everyone who is a contributer to CRN is constantly trying to prove to everyone else how holy they are. It reminds me of when my daughter interviewed for an “elite” (so they thought of themselves) Christian High School. I knew out of the gate, it was not the right place for her. The dean of girls proceeded to tell us how much she did in her church, and blah, blah, blah. Funny, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her left hand wasn’t supposed to know what her right hand was doing, and if she was doing it to be seen by men that she had already gotten her reward. As I’ve grown wiser, through the grace of God, and gained discernment, after much time on my knees, I now see that those who brag about how perfect and holy they are are usually the ones who either have the most to hide or the most guilt of past sins. (self included).
    I’ve said it many times before, it’s not about a denomination. As Jesus said, we must be born again. Who are we to judge if someone has been born again? So, why do I read the posts? To see what is going on in various churches and to know that I made the right decision to leave an organized church. The Lord is my Shepard. He tells us that he will be our teacher. The church has become like the government. Sucking the money from everyone who works for it to pad their own pockets and to create jobs for all of their cronies. I’m frankly disgusted with the whole charade.

    By the way, I pulled her out of that school after 1 year. One year too long in my book. One teacher told her all of the Catholics were going to hell, and her interim Bible teacher held what I liken to a Seance in her bible class. Parents beware.

    Looking forward to His return.



  2. Natalie,

    I can’t speak for anyone else at CRN, but if I have ever come across as trying to prove how holy I am then please forgive me. The heart of my ministry is that of getting Christians to see that they are sinners saved by grace who are no better than anyone else in Christ. If a Christian is constantly trying to get people to look at their works from the motivation of feeding their ego then they are dominated by pride. Our walk should be permeated by humility instead.

    Also, just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean that they are. Christian authenticity is revealed by the fruit that God produces in those who abide in Christ. Religiosity is not one of those fruits.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  3. I don’t believe everyone , if anyone at CRN is trying to show how holy they are. I wonder why when someone points out error biblically , people want to call them” holier than thou people” or Pharasaical. Are we so sensitive today?

    To me it is the most wonderful , indescribable thing that Christ has forgiven my sins and paid the price for them. Why is not this fact, this most awesome fact, not enough to get people to come to church. Why is this very message not enough to offer people to come to church. Is this not sufficient today? Must we draw them to church with gimics, pop sermons that appeal to ourselves, our cultural whims etc.? This is what many today are trying to say and warn us of. They may not always do it with the best of tact and may sometimes seem to come across as condemning. But we are to judge things. We do it everyday. we judge as Natalie showed , what school we will send our children. We judge between which brand to purchase in the store. If brand X is scimpy on their product , we warn others of it. If some farmer is using a pesticide on his crops that though not condemned by the FDA , is in other reputable circles being warned about as being dangerous. Would we not warn our loved ones , maybe even being zealous in our approach?

    I do not like when someone calls R Warren unsaved. This is the kind of judging we are not to do. But as Mike said, there is a point that the fruits must show if someone claims to be a Christian. I personally believe Warren and others are mistaken in their evangelism. I believe this can be and has been shown to be true by others in a very thorough and very Biblical manner. Men have made mistakes before in the history of Evangelism. Our history in America show this quite well. The church , the true church will survive never the less. My concern is that Warren and others refuse to open their eyes to what others are saying and enter into honest , Spirit Driven , dialogue with them, starting at point A. This is how the first Councils arrived at a solution. But as Natalie has pointed out, the American gods, money and influence mat well be in the way here just as they were with the major denominational churches in the past.

    It does not suffice though to say that all that matters is that people get saved. We have no control over that. That is the sovereign work of the Spirit. We are to deliver the message and not add or take away anything from that message. We may deliver it by print, by the Web, by preaching and by teaching. This is relevancy that is proper. These are methods that we can use. but when the methods change the message , no matter how little or much , we are in error and are being disobedient. Human yes, but disobedient. This is why everything is important, not just getting people to get saved. We must also live our lives here in this world. Getting saved gives us the access to the means of grace and wisdom, but obedience guarantees its implimentation. It is all grace in being saved , but it is obedience there after. To be disobedient, whether knowingly or not quenches the Holy Spirits power and grieves Him. It makes us and the church powerless to deal with a fallen world. Helping AID patients will not bring people to Christ. We are to help, as human beings that have the ability to truly love, but this is not the primary function of the church. This is Kingdom Now theology and I am convinced that this is wrong theology and leads to the error we now see in the CGM and the Emergent movements.

    My prayer is with Mike. I pray for the redemption of souls and that truth will manifest itself in the church that has for over a century now sumitted to the dialectical thinking process that marks our world. I believe that God will save those He has predestined to salvation, but the living of our lives in this world in a manner that glorifies God is up to us. Here we must make judgments .

    In Christ , our Wisdom,


  4. I wish to add another thought. We are saved by grace and no one can boast about their salvation as being something that they partnered with God in. But once we are saved we do partner with God in regards to our sanctification. It is a barometer of our growth, our love for Christ, our priorities. No one is perfect here in the physical realm…not yet. But being imperfect and on different levels of growth does not mean that because one does not yet understand something that we just leave them to their own devices. or be “nonjudgmental”. This is where Paul has been misunderstood by many.We are to be kind , yet firm in showing them what God’s Word says. Non judgemental in regards to their salvation, but judging in terms of what is good , true and beautiful. These are absolutes, thus can be judged as to whether something fits those facts or not. Of course this takes wisdom and discernment. This is a mark of a mature believer. These matured believers are the ones that are to teach and disciple in the Word. The weaker, less matured are to obey as if they were obeying Christ. If they do not, then they are to be disiplined according to Scripture, but with love . We are to be patient , humble, kind, etc with the weaker brother, but there is also a the obedience factor on their side of the coin. This should not really be a major issue if one was raised in accordance with the spritual principle of God/ Man—-Law/Obedience Absolutes/Facts. But the problem that is more apparent in our society is that we have lost those principles. We have become relativistic , even within Christianity. We want to be autonomous, “no one tells me what to do”, “I got my rights” “its my party and I’ll cry if I want to” , I am the captain of my own ship” ” the way I see it ” attitude. This attitude causes the weaker brother to be “ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth”. They may possess the Truth in Jesus Christ, but they do not have the Spirit that will guide them into all truth that pertain to life. Herein lies the dilemna of the church today. Until we raise up a generation , that will like Nehemia find the Word of God and repent, we will not build up the church , but instead bring judgement upon it as an apsotate church. If God judged the nation of Israel , He will also judge the church.


  5. Fred,

    I heard John MacArthur say today in a summation of what he expected in the “Church” over the next few years. In it he said that the Church had lost the last three generations of spiritual leaders to false teachings and secularly focused seminary teachings. The fruit that is being harvested from that is the current crop of humanistic church leaders taking their flocks down the garden path into deception. He stated that God is still Sovereign and He still loves the church. He said that it’s time for those who do know the truth to step up and be used by God to fill the gap left by our liberal theologians who have abandoned their calling in order to become rich and famous. He looked right at the camera when he said that and it was if the Holy Spirit said, “and you too.”

    I think that these discussions are necessary and God is using them to “fill the gap” left by those Church leaders whose sermons and teachings are as empty as can be.

    Fred, are you ready brother to take up the slack?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  6. Amen Mike, I am ready to do what I believe God is calling me to do. I have been on disability and this has given me ample time to seek God ‘s Word and to study history and cultural critiques. I am not sure where He is leading , but I feel so very strongly about what is happening today. I have lived it and experienced this culture . both in disobedience to God and judgement and in obedience to God and blessings. Your writings seem to show He has called you too. Let us put on the armour of God and march onward in truth . My prayers are with you. Please pray for me that my spirit will always be humble, yet courageous. May He alone be our strength.
    In Him,


  7. Natalie:

    There have been those who have come across as self-righteous on some blogs but about Mike Ratliff you are mistaken. Do a survey of his archived posts and you will find a genuinely humble servant of God who has at times revealed some of his own weaknesses. He attempts to answer ever commentor on his blog which many of us do not do.

    I consider MR and his blog one of the most sincere blessings you can find on the internet. And his voice and spirit is just what is needed at CRN. May God increase his tribe!


  8. Fred, Amen brother you have my prayers.
    Rick, I don’t know what to say to your comment. I know I don’t deserve any praise or any sort of recognition for what I do, but then again, let’s praise God for working through us. His work is edifying and glorifies Him. If you and others find value in what I write then it is because of His grace and His working through His servant. You are a good friend Rick and I thank the Lord for your testimony and your good work on Following Judah’s Lion. It has blessed me tremendously.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  9. I think that the world has put so much stress on tolerance that it has got a wrong effect on Christians that they tolerate even wrong teachings. Many people who are in the Lord’s work and doing good ministry often ask me why I should criticize other’s mistake if they are also doing God’s work. After all they are doing much more than what I am doing. But I don’t agree with their view. Its true that in my position sometimes I don’t do anything at all and its sad, but just because someone tries to do something in the name of Christ and it gets followers it does not mean that they are doing the right thing. God works through any medium and sometimes people come to Christ even through teachings which might contain some falsehood, but it is not right to tolerate falsehood just because there is some effect. The harshest part is when Christians criticize those who point out the wrong teachings and in fact just because someone points out a wrong teaching it does not mean that those Christians are self righteous. As Mike has said, we ought to do it with brotherly love and kindness, and the apostle Paul also has written the same thing. Those who try to point out and correct the wrong teachings in the real and apostate church are just obeying the Lord.
    2 Timothy 4 :2-5
    Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.


  10. Paul

    Great thoughts. Tolerance has come to mean acceptance instead of civility. I also agree that because something has some good to it, does not therefore make it acceptable to “tolerate” the lesser quality. Toleration of the lesser is to be done only while teaching and lifting up the higher. God Bless.


  11. Mike, thanks so much for this much needed, balanced view. We Christians, even if we happen to be mature, walking with the Lord for many years – we need to hear and understand the Gospel everyday! Why? Because sometimes we forget that we are sinners too, and what we were saved out of and from. Rescued from darkness to the Light! We were rescued, we didn’t save ourselves. And we were desperately in need of salvation – rescue! God chose us and saved us, according to His good pleasure, according to the purpose of His will. We must never forget that. (Read Ephesians 1,2&3)

    I believe that one reason why the Lord has let the church wander into such terrible error, complacency and craziness is so that real believers will fall in humility before the Lord, realizing their great need for Him. We simply cannot do this without Him – Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do NOTHING.” So very true. We cannot live the Christian life apart from Him, nor can we navigate the dangerous spiritual waters these days apart from Him. We cannot – we haven’t the strength, the wisdom or the knowledge. We must cling to Him and His word in order to receive from Him everything that we need. And it all begins with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need it today as much as we did at salvation. We need the humility that it should engender in us, as we look at the cross on which Jesus died and see our sins upon it. In Christ is our salvation, our righteousness, and our wisdom. In and through Jesus Christ are all things that we need now, and forevermore.


  12. I agree with Rick, Mikes blog is very God honoring. he does not seek glory, glory is always bestowed apon the Lord. I have learned a lot from this blog and a few other God honoring blogs. I am so thankful for the boldness of others.



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  14. HI MIKE,



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