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, 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 2:8-10 ESV)
As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. After God saved me in 1986 I was a Southern Baptist until 2006 when our former church was overtaken by the Purpose Driven paradigm. I was bitter about that for a while. I and many of you found common ground having had our churches ripped away from us and in many cases finding it nearly impossible to find a good Biblical local church remaining in our area after the Seeker-Sensitive tsunamis had moved through devastating what were once good churches, leaving behind man-centered, store fronts for Rick Warren’s brand of man-focused religiosity. However, God is good and through this devastation and some personal fiery trials, which actually began in 2004, He has worked in me to grow me into a more mature Christian, stronger in the Word of God than ever, more knowledgeable in Biblical Greek, and deeper in the more cerebral areas of our faith that are sorely needed in our day such as presuppositional apologetics. When I was a Deacon teaching Sunday school at our local SBC church, I was extremely mediocre in most of that and hardly knowledgeable at all in the area of apologetics. Why? I was serving and operating from within a mindset that was extremely spiritually immature compared to today. My understanding of the Gospel and theology was probably deeper than most of my peers at that time, but compared to now, it was probably surface level at best.
As I said above, the wake up call began in 2004 and as I drew closer and closer to being the obedient, prayerful Christian we are all called to be, the more suspect I became in the eyes of my pastor and most of the leadership at that church. I remember 2005 being extremely difficult because of two things. I became Reformed in my Theology and my Pastor began trying to move the leadership into changing our church from a traditional SBC church into a more seeker-sensitive church. At the end of the year, he began actively pushing Rick Warren’s books in our classes and small groups. At the first of the year in 2006, he gave each of the Deacons Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church to read. By then I was in active discussion with Ken Silva and many of you online about this stuff and was becoming more and more educated about what was really going on and how if I could not stop the takeover then my wife and I had to leave that church. When it became apparent that no matter what I said or did the die was cast, we left.
Since that time, my growth in spiritual maturity has not been a steady straight line upward, but compared to where I was in 2004 before God started waking me up, I see a massive change. Before, I was man-centered and still in a fog about God’s Sovereignty in salvation as well as in over our everyday lives. My theology was marked by the sermons and teachings I was subjected to at the churches to which I belonged all those years. It was after I was removed out from under all that that God removed the blinders and through the brilliant light of His Word, I now have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mind to understand and comprehend His truths. This is God’s Work in me, not something I have done. Also, there is a purpose in this. He has not gifted me this way so I can just know this stuff and be puffed up. Who needs that? No, it is for two reasons. He saved me and has gifted accordingly so that I can do Good Works according to His Will for His glory and to edify the saints.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
The words “good works” in the ESV translates ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς. The first word, ἔργοις, is the Dative, Plural, Noun form of ἔργον or ergon, “a work,” “a deed,” “achievement,” “action,” “thing,” or “matter.” In the gospels, ἔργον mostly carries an ethical meaning, as in “good works that constitute the fruit of a redeemed life.” The second word, ἀγαθοῖς, is the Dative, Plural, Adjective form of ἀγαθός or agathos, “benevolent, profitable, useful, beneficial, excellent, virtuous, and suitable.” So, what are these ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς, which God prepared beforehand that Christians should walk in them?
The Christian is now called by God to do things that are good in the ways implied by ἀγαθός. I remember in my old SBC days in those old foggy days of my understanding about the gospel and salvation, that my concept was that salvation was a gift, therefore, it doesn’t demand anything of us. I actually heard sermons that seemed to hint that Jesus was just an add-on to our lives or a “fix-it” for our problems. Just try Jesus! However, when we study Ephesians 2:1-10 in context, we see that our salvation is a life-altering reality. It transforms a depraved, hell-bound sinner into a blood-bought, heaven bound saint. Even though He saved me many years earlier, He was gracious to me back in 2004 to wake me up and get me ready for the tsunami that was coming. When it hit, I was discerning enough to know that it was not of God and I could have nothing to do with it. Even though it was a fiery trial and we have had many others since then, God is good and He has used them all to grow me up in Christ and what you read here is some of the fruit of that.
To God be the glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!