The Visible vs the Invisible Church

In light of what came to light over the last couple of posts concerning the doctrine of Unity and Separation and, from that, some insight into the Federal Vision Heresy, I decided to revisit a post from 2006 titled  Let Us Reason Together Part 26 – The Wheat and the Tares. At the end of that post I linked to an article at the Reformation Theology website, which is well worth reading in light of these current attacks. I suggest you read my post about the our Lord’s parable about the wheat and the tares first then read what follows. Be blessed my brethren. – Mike Ratliff

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The Federal Vision Heresy

by Mike Ratliff

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:1-6 ESV)

If you haven’t read last night’s post, The Doctrine of Unity and Separation, I suggest that you do so now. I also suggest that you read all of the comments especially those of my friend Daniel Chew. In them, he brings out his experience of debating Frank Turk a few weeks ago. He (Frank) and many other bloggers and Christian apologists have, over the last several years perplexed us with their very strange stands against the application of what should be clear cut examples where we should be applying the doctrine of Separation from those who say and do things that are clearly unbiblical in nature nor do they square with the doctrines of orthodox evangelical Christianity. Daniel’s response in the comments last night shed a great deal of light in that area. I confess that I was surprised. I had heard of the Federal Vision, but, as I shared with Daniel, I am no expert on it. I know who the New Calvinists are. I know who the Emergents are. I know who the New Evangelicals are. However, their theology seems incoherent to me with no solid basis in fact. I just could not find it, much like it took me several years to understand where Rick Warren was coming from (he is a Pelagian).  Continue reading

The Doctrine of Unity and Separation

by Mike Ratliff

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:5-9 ESV)

It doesn’t take very long for me to discern whether the person I am dealing with is truly God’s man or woman or is a pretender. That personal interaction is necessary for me to see the true nature and focus of the person. As we debate or discuss doctrinal or church issues or even secular issues it soon becomes very clear whether I am dealing someone who is walking according to the Lordship of Christ or is their own man or woman. Their values soon become apparent. All of us are in various stages of spiritual growth and repentance to be sure, but the mark of the washing of regeneration is there to be seen in all of God’s people that cannot be counterfeited. Of course, this is only discernable by those who are looking for it and then only through God’s testing fires.  Continue reading

The Eyes of the Heart

by Mike Ratliff

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:15-23 ESV)

I have used the term “Spiritual Blindness” quite a bit here in my posts and I have done so assuming that you all know what I am talking about. There are times, however, when I am utterly amazed at the depth of spiritual blindness in some professing Christians. I am not God. I am not omniscient so I do not know if some of these people are false believers or if they are simply very immature. If I knew them more personally perhaps I would know, but, in any case, when someone professes to be a Christian, but holds the view that “we are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14), therefore, we need not bother with the law at all. We may do whatever we please even if it is condemned in Scripture. This is the error of antinomianism. That term, antinomianism, means lawlessness – being against law. Those who are afflicted with this disease are so because God has not enlightened the eyes of their hearts with His truth.  Continue reading

The Gift of God

by Mike Ratliff

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God… (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

It wasn’t that long ago that I received a warning email from a friend that a firestorm had been started within the internet discernment blogs about what some were calling the “damnable heresy of Lordship Salvation.” I and many of my good friends responded with sound Biblical doctrine to the assault and I don’t think the enemy’s attack accomplished much of anything other than getting some of us to dig a bit deeper into God’s Word then prayerfully respond in the power of the Holy Spirit. God’s people were edified and, as always, His truth blew massive holes in the lies of the enemy. After all, what we are talking about is saving faith. Is it something within natural man that everyone is born with and so can bring to life through self will or self effort or is it, as the Bible clearly says, that man is dead in trespasses and sins and, therefore, this saving faith is a gift from God and our salvation is His work from beginning to end?  Continue reading

Man-made Religiosity

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:16-19 ESV)

I received an email today from my friend Ken Silva that contained the following “rebuke” in the form of a “word ” the person claimed to have received directly from God pertaining to Ken and his ministry.

A word came to me for you from our Lord Jesus Christ. I sent you to pastor a flock of sheep,not to separate the sheep from the goats. I will do that. You are throwing many of my sheep in with the goats by throwing their shepherds in with the goat-herders.Your zeal for the truth is blinding you to the power of my redeeming grace. In your writing I have called you to apprise not to attack. In the former I am pleased. In the latter I am not. In your zeal to reveal the compromising (and I know there are many), you have compromised the compassionate, many of whom I know but you do not. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil through self-righteous hearts. Do not call unclean that which I have made clean and that which I am making clean. Be still and know that I am God, not you. Wait upon Me. Meditate on Me as well as my Word. God made the sabbath for man not man for the sabbath. Meditate on Me. Yes, meditate on Me and my precepts as David did. Return to me. Stop trying to save the sheep of others before you tend to the flock immediately in your sight. Yes Ken, tend to the least of my brethren in New Hampshire, tend to their needs, not to the learned and the wise who flatter themselves. My people are thirsty Ken. Do not give them dry doctrine to drink. Lead them to the well of my living waters. There you will see who is a shepherd and who is a goat-herder.

Here is Ken’s response:

Thank you for contacting Apprising Ministries. I reject this false prophesy in the Name of Jesus Christ; this wasn’t from God. Continue reading

Having a Zeal for God But Not According to Knowledge

by Mike Ratliff

[10:1] Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.

[2] For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. [3] For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. [4] For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4 ESV)

When I went off to Oklahoma State University in the Fall of 1969 after graduating from High School just three months earlier things were philosophically very different in the world than what we have now. That is, on the surface they are different. My professors in college and many of my former teachers in High School were assured that Christianity and all organized religion was a bunch of nonsense, that it would soon be proven through Science that Natural Selection produced everything living, and that the Universe was created through natural processes. I even had a Roman Catholic Nun as Biological Sciences Lab instructor at OSU that enthusiastically supported Darwinism. However, things have not turned out as these people planned at all. If anything, the world has grown even more religious than it was back then. On the other hand, I would put the Bible knowledge of many of my Grandparents’ generation up against that of most professing Christians in our time and it would be absolutely embarrassing how shallow theological knowledge and understanding within the visible church has become.  Continue reading

Therefore They Could Not Believe

by Mike Ratliff

[35] So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. [36] While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. [37] Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, [38] so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,

and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

[39] Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

[40] “He has blinded their eyes

and hardened their heart,

lest they see with their eyes,

and understand with their heart, and turn,

and I would heal them.”  (John 12:35-40 ESV)

Where I work, we are having a great deal of turmoil with the merger and many projects coming due and a lot of turnover with people departing et cetera. My wife asked me why I have been so short tempered lately and not so happy to head off to the office as I used to be. I thought about that and then I summarized it like this, ‘I have tons of stuff to get done and I can’t work on any of it because I am waiting on other people do what they are supposed to do, but they will not listen to me when I tell them what they are supposed to do. Many people are now “in authority” who have no business being there and they sort of resent it when someone like me tells them what they are supposed to do even though it is very clear that I am right and am backed up with a chorus of others who agree with me.’ I was so frustrated today that I did not realize that one of my friends had walked up behind be in my office as I just sat there shaking my head. He asked me what was going on. I was startled at first then said, “I am so tired of no one listening to me, but then expecting me to solve all their problems while they get all the credit for me doing all their work.” It just slipped out. That part about telling the truth and no one listening is especially frustrating and I have been asking God if He has allowed this for His own sovereign purposes. In any case, God does control all things. If you doubt it, read the following passage from Isaiah.  Continue reading

Truth: The Test of Christian Hospitality

In response to our look at the Doctrine of Separation last week and last night’s post on Faith, a friend sent me a link to the following sermon by John MacArthur on 2 John 9-13. I thought of using it as a source and background for my own exegesis of that passage, but then as I read this sermon I realized that it would be best to simply post it. Be blessed my brethren. – Mike Ratliff

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by Mike Ratliff

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV)

I received an email today from a friend pointing to a webpage called the Purpose Driven Connection specifically to a devotion for February 15. The title for this devotion really took me aback, “Faith: Doing Exactly What Jesus Says to Do.” That is not a definition of faith, but a description of one who is faithful and obedient. In fact, the focus of that devotion leads one to believe that our faith is “works based.” This is rampant in our time my brethren. There is a huge push in our churches for people to have the right world view, the right value system, the right diet and workout plan, the right way to raise their kids, their right way to manage their finances and the right way to be faithful in church and that makes them right with God. Sorry, but all that does is make a person right in one’s own eyes dependant upon one’s own righteousness not the righteousness of Christ. All of that is stuff any of us can do, but I assure you that the salvation that those truly in Christ have is something bought at a price that none of us could pay because the debt was far more than most of us realize. What is true faith if isn’t what the Purpose Driven folks say it is?  Continue reading


by Mike Ratliff

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:10-12 ESV)

Is the following statement true or false? Good works authenticate true faith. I know that for a growing segment of the church visible this is, for them, a loaded question that they will refuse to either address or answer, but if you pin them down, they will say “false.” However, if you are Biblically centered, that is, if you are centered on the fact that God’s Word is His Truth and it is the gift He has given to His people to be the source of His Truth for their time in this life, then the only answer you can give is “yes” because that is what the Bible clearly teaches. Let’s look at a passage (James 3:1-12) that clearly reveals this principle.  Continue reading

Seventy Times Seven

by Mike Ratliff

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)

Pride is poison to the Christian. Oh, our flesh loves it, but it is unredeemed and has nothing to do with God. On the other hand, all truly in Christ are New Creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that part of them that is redeemed is of God not of the flesh and this lost and dying world. However, all of us would be liars if we said that have not found ourselves in situations in which we were completely controlled by our flesh and pride. In those situations, we react fleshly just like the world. We lie, cheat, steal, and refuse to forgive when wronged. Then we become bitter and the cycle just spirals downward. All of this happens because we are walking in the flesh with our pride in control instead of in the Spirit, humbly before our God. It is impossible to forgive from the heart without first humbling ourselves and that takes a work of submission to the Spirit of God.  Continue reading

Walking in Truth and Love

by Mike Ratliff

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. (2 John 9-11 ESV)

The Doctrine of Separation has become a very great point of contention in our time. I honestly have been very surprised by the reaction of some as Biblical principles have been declared and called for to be applied to relationships between Christian leaders and those who profess to Christian leaders, but whose testimony makes them actually false. Perhaps the issue is really that those who desire to compromise in this do not take the obedience to the Word of God seriously. The other issue comes from the the misunderstanding that this call of separation is not a call for believers to separate from unbelievers for how else could we share the Gospel (1 Corinthians 5:9-10) , but is a call for us to remove ourselves from fellowship from religious leaders who profess to be Christians, but who are obviously false in their theology as is commanded in the passage I placed at the top of this post. Continue reading