A Brand Plucked From the Fire

by Mike Ratliff

And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:2 ESV)

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:10 ESV)

As I flew from Kansas City to Seattle today, I had the privilege of sitting by a young man named Chris who is about the same age as my son. He and I talked the entire length of the flight. It seemed to last just a matter of minutes. We talked about many things, but eventually the discussion became centered on Christianity and our faith. He was very typical of my son’s generation in that organized religion turned him off and, therefore, he considered himself a questioning agnostic.

I did share many things about our faith including my testimony. My heart went out to this young man because I saw the sincere searching that he was doing. Most of our conversation from that point on was me answering his questions. When we began our approach into SeaTac, he reached over and shook my hand and thanked me for sharing these things with him. Now I have another person to pray for that God will pluck him from the fire.

In the book of Zechariah we have a wonderful passage that give us a picture of God’s gracious and merciful work in saving those who deserve nothing but the flames of Hell.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. (Zechariah 3:1-7 ESV)

Satan is the slandering accuser of God’s people. His attacks are always based within our past sins. When he accuses us we know it because we have sense of our past sins and then we can easily fall into doubt about God’s forgiveness. In this passage God gives Zechariah a vision of the high priest, Joshua, standing before God. What is he wearing? He is clothed with filthy garments. This signifies his sin. Therefore, Satan is accusing him of being unworthy of standing before God. However, what does the Lord say to Satan? He essentially tells him to shut up. Why? Joshua has a special standing before God that has nothing to do with his religious position of high priest. He is a brand plucked from the fire.

What happens when a piece of wood that has been burning is removed from the fire? It is covered in soot and ash. When it is removed from the heat it will stop burning, but it is still charred. To remove it requires one to get dirty. Whoever handles that burnt piece of wood gets their hands filthy. What was the price our Lord paid to purchase you and me from the fire? Did not Jesus have to leave Heaven, become one of us, live in this sin-filled world, then die a criminal’s death on a cruel tree? Why did He do that? It was the only way people whose spiritual garments were filthy could be declared righteous. How did that work? Our Lord, who is sinless and perfect and righteous, took the place of His people in God’s wrath. God is Holy and Righteous and Just. He must judge all sin or He would cease being Just. So, as Christ our Lord was in God’s wrath on the cross, the sins of His people were placed on Him. In Him their sins are paid for.

Those who are God’s people are given right standing before Him because when He sees them He sees the Righteousness of Christ. In His declaration, He states, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” Our salvation is His declaration and work of taking our iniquity away. He removes our filthy garments and clothes us with pure vestments. How does this happen for us in the 21st Century? Carefully read the following passage and pay special attention to the words I have highlighted with a bold font (Ephesians 1:11-14).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:2-14 ESV)

Are you a brand plucked from the fire? To be one then you must have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him. If so, then you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. If you are not sure then I adjure you seek the Lord while He may be found and plead for your soul.

SDG

17 thoughts on “A Brand Plucked From the Fire

  1. Thanks for the encouraging post. I’m glad the Lord doesn’t mind my singed edges. I’m also glad that this kind of post can appear with top billing; it gives me hope to think that many people want to read this.

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  2. びっくり,

    God goes after us even in our charred state, but He regenerates us at salvation. He removes our filthy garments and gives us clean clothes. We are washed clean and our faith is not alive. We can now obey God. He works hard from that point on in sanctifying us by drawing us out of sin and maturing us so that we will be Christ-like. So, in a sense He gets dirty when plucking us from the fire, but His goal is purify and grow us after that.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  3. びっくり,

    The company I work for sent me here for some training. I am preparing to walk over the building where the training is right now. Have a blessed day!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  4. Glad your flight was a safe and good one Mike. Good post also. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think about how I was plucked out of the fire. I am so thankful to Him for doing that. We hope and pray the words you spoke to Chris on the plane will permeate his heart because we know your words are given to you from the Holy Spirit. Oh, and hope you get in some photography while you are there! Take care.

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  5. this has nothing to do with religion but I feel your name sounds familiar. It sounds like one famous game fowl breeder that I’ve read once. Same person or a relative maybe?

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  6. Mike,

    In your response, you made the statement that ‘He regenerates us at salvation.’ I was struck by this comment because I struggle with the idea that some propose that we are saved before we can believe. Is that considered hyper-Calvinism?

    I believe that salvation and faith are gifts from God and that we receive them both at the moment of our salvation. Is this what you mean? If so, do you happen to have Scripture verses to support this idea?

    Thank you, in advance, for you time.
    Yvonne

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  7. Yvonne,

    Carefully read this passage:

    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV)

    People who are spiritually dead cannot choose God or salvation without God regenerating them first. This isn’t Hyper-Calvinism. Hyper-Calvinism rejects the free offer of the Gospel to all. It takes away the responsibility of Man to believe the Gospel. We do not teach that. We teach that God is Sovereign and Man is fallen and spiritually dead. However all are still responsible to believe the Gospel. God enables us to do that through the washing of regeneration. Read Romans 4, Ephesians 1 & 2, Romans 9, and John 6.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  8. Mike,

    I have read this verse before as a proof text to say that God regenerates us before we can believe. Specifically which part of Ephesians 2: 1-10 says that we a regenerated first before we believe?

    Please know that I am not trying to be difficult! I truly do not understand and have studied and listened to many teachers try and explain this. I just don’t see it.

    Thanks again for your time!

    Blessings!
    Yvonne

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  9. Yvonne,

    Here is the meat of that passage that I am referring to:

    But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–

    Dead people need to be resurrected. Notice that all who are saved are made alive in Christ before they believe. Salvation comes all at once to those whom God saves. It works like this. God draws those to Christ whom He has given to Him. That is found in John 6. Then as these being drawn hear the gospel God regenerates them. This is the washing of regeneration that is found in Titus and Romans 4. This is God taking our dead faith and quickening it by His grace. This is why Ephesians 2:1-10 is so important.

    Ephesians 2:8,9 tells us what?

    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

    This passages tells us that our salvation IS NOT OUR WORK or WORKs. No, God does it all. If we could believe without being regenerated then we could boast. Why? We would always look at our salvation as us making the right decision. Right? Sure, I had that misconception for 19 years. However, as God opened my heart and my spiritual eyes to see the truth of His Sovereignty I suddenly saw how remarkable our salvation really is. He does it all and I am so grateful!

    I suggest that you read John 6 and Romans 4 very slowly. Study them as you ask God to show you the truth. Then come back and read Ephesians 1 and 2.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  10. Hi Yvonne,

    I don’t mean to butt in here. I know that Mike is more than capable of helping you with your questions. But I did just finish writing a series on depravity and election and it answers the question that you’re asking. Perhaps what I have written comes at the answer you’re looking for in a different way that may make sense to you. We all learn in different ways, so hopefully this will help.

    http://www.tonyabetz.org/MSM/Product/doctrinesofgrace1.htm

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  11. Mike,
    Thanks for your gracious response and for your time in helping me.

    I have studied the passages that you mentioned and prayerfully considered the truths they offer. These are not new to me as I have struggled with Calvinism for many years. In fact, as I was studying them again, I found new treasures on which to meditate.

    Here’s my question: Where in these or other passages is there a timeline on what comes first, salvation or belief?

    I understand that God, by His Grace saves us. I understand that we were spiritually dead in our tresspasses. I understand that we do nothing to be worthy of our salvation.

    However, in Acts 16: 31, Paul tells the Phillipian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” Also, In Romans 4:3, Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6 saying, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Then he continues in v.5 to say “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”

    These verses seem to contradict the timeline Calvinists offer that one cannot believe until after you are saved. Is it possible that salvation and faith/belief happen simultaneously? When Paul tells us we are spiritually dead that doesn’t mean we have no capacity to think.

    When the gospel was preached, we who believed entered that rest. (Heb.4:3) We, who God saved, are declared justified. I believe it all happens at the same time. Hearing the gospel preached, recognizing we are dead in our sins and in need of a Savior in Christ Jesus, and the gift of faith that allows us to believe that what Jesus did was for us are all from God. No where do I find a timeline stating or even implying that one must be saved before he can believe. I just don’t see it.

    I will continue to study these passages because many of the teachers that I respect are Calvinists and I hold in high regard many friends who are also in this camp.
    We are all sinners, saved by the Grace of God and we all still make mistakes. I may be wrong on my understanding of these passages and on this particular topic. However, after years of studying the 5 points of Calvinism, I am not yet convinced it is the proper interpretation of Scripture.

    When the day comes that I can bow before our Holy God, it will all be clear!

    Praise be to God!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Yvonne

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  12. Yvonne,

    If I was witnessing to you, preaching the gospel to you or anyone else, I would not tell a person that they have to be regenerated in order to believe. I would do just as Paul did with the jailor. I would tell Him that he must believe. I have no control of when God regenerates anyone, nor does anyone else either. I interpret the broken person who wants desperately to be saved to be one whom God is drawing to Himself. Therefore, I think they must get alone in prayer with God to plead for their souls.

    Regeneration must come first for it is what washes us clean as God brings our faith to life by His grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 shows us that this regeneration, our faith being made alive, is the gift by His grace.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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