Only One Gospel Part 14

by Mike Ratliff

17 Now while seeking to be justified in Christ, we were found also to be sinners ourselves, then is Christ a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I destroyed, I demonstrate myself to be a transgressor19 For through the Law I died to the Law that I may live to God. I have been crucified with Christ;  20 and it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me, and that which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself up on behalf of me.  21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:17-21 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

We have come to Galatians 6 the last chapter of this foundational epistle that defines what the Gospel is and what it is not. Judiazers had infiltrated the Galatian churches, which Paul had planted. These Judiazers claimed that the doctrine of Justification by grace alone through faith alone as God’s gift alone was not enough. These false teachers added “works righteousness” to what Paul taught. Their flavor of “works righteousness” was that these gentile Christians must become circumcised and keep the Mosaic Covenant in order to be truly justified before God. This epistle was written by Paul to counter this evil. Why is this important for us to study this in our day? The false teaching that “works righteousness” is necessary for our justification before God is still poisoning the Church. It comes in many forms. Some are quite obvious while others are very subtle. Some are taught directly while the subtle variety, though meaning well, put Christians into bondage to the Law from which, in fact, the Gospel frees those justified by grace through faith by God himself. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 13

by Mike Ratliff

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:12-14 NASB)

I worked for a short period of time in the late 1980’s in PC marketing. I’m really not cut out for sales, but most of the other sales people I worked with were in their natural element. Most of my “customers” were just normal people coming into the store looking for a computer. Others were businessmen looking for a solution for their office environment. For example, I sold computers to oilmen who bought high end PCs with a lot of RAM and very large monitors with very expensive graphics cards to handle the software they used. All of that I looked at as God’s sending me clients so I could earn a commission as part of his providing my daily bread (Matthew 6:11). The most heartrending experiences I had during that time though were people who would come in to the store and they would be passed to me for some reason. They would come to my little cubicle and we would talk. It was there that they would see my Bible on my desk or the little plaque my wife gave me with Isaiah 40:31 on it, and then they would say they were Christians too and then they would look for a “deal.” I could tell, as I am sure most of you could too, that most of these people were seeking to manipulate the fact that I was a Christian so they could “profit.” When I refused to be manipulated that way some became ugly and spiteful and some even threatened to call the management and tell all sorts of things about me if I didn’t give them what they wanted. That was always terrible, but I think it was also quite surprising to them when I told them to go ahead. The really sad thing was that most of those professing Christians I worked with probably would have done everything under the sun to “make a sale” even if it did mean doing things that no genuine Christian should ever do to his or her employer.  Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 12

by Mike Ratliff

6 I marvel that you are so quickly being turned from the one who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel; 7 which is not another; except there are some troubling you and are desiring to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel to you besides that which we preached to you, let him be a curse. (Galatians 1:6-8 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

John Bunyan compared the life of faith to a pilgrimage in his masterpiece, Pilgrim’s Progress. On the other hand, the Apostle Paul often compares our life of faith with a race. In my younger days I was a long distance runner. I competed into my late 40’s in the Corporate Challenge and prior to that I was a member of the Oklahoma City Running Club and ran in who knows how many 5k, 10k, 5-mile and even 10-mile races in and around the OKC area. I knew all about what it took to be a good runner on race day. If I didn’t prepare right then I couldn’t race well. If I didn’t put in the miles in training to run in a 10 mile race then I certainly couldn’t run in that race on race day without problems. Our life of faith can be compared in many ways to a race. Paul used it figuratively that way in Galatians 2:2, Romans 9:16, and 1 Corinthians 9:24.  Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 11

by Mike Ratliff

30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. 31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:30-32 NASB)

Those who like to portray our Lord Jesus Christ as just a bundle of love who would never do or say anything to any that could possible cause offense obviously have never studied what he actually said in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In our Lord’s parable of the soils (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15) he gives us a contrast between genuine believers and those who only appear to be and others who obviously are not. I posted on this several years ago here. The point is that just are there are very religious people who have done religious works and may even appear to be “christian” to some, our Lord says that the criterion to be one of his is not by one’s own choice, but by first being chosen by God, prepared by God, then having the Good News sown into the soil of the heart by him. As our Lord said in John 8:30-32 (above), those who are truly his are those who not only hear his Word, but continue in it. They are truly his disciples and they will know the truth and the truth will make them free. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 10

by Mike Ratliff

1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (Romans 9:1-8 NASB)

I just spent the last several days traveling from Kansas City to the Washington D.C. area and back. While it was merciful to get away from this dreadful heat wave and drought that has persisted since May 29th, I looked very hard for God’s people in the D.C. area, in Baltimore and Annapolis. I saw lots of church buildings, but I’m not sure I came across a lot of Christians. We ate in a restaurant in Georgetown on Saturday night and there were three men and a woman at the table next to us in a very long and serious discussion. They looked very distinguished. In between the serving of the courses they went over a very formal document in which they attempted to define what the terms “Born-Again” and “Evangelical” meant and how it would be handled by whatever “organization” that document defined. My wife and I discussed it later and she succinctly stated that I could have settled all of their confusion very quickly with some direct preaching from the Word. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 9

by Mike Ratliff

3 So also we, when we were children, we had been enslaved under the fundamental principles of the world.  4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under law 5 that he might redeem the ones born under law that we might receive adoption as sons.  (Galatians 4:3-5 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

As I shared in our last post, Only One Gospel Part 8, my own pilgrimage or sojourn from my justification to this stage of my sanctification has not been a smooth upward line on a chart. No, in fact, one of the reasons I think I have such a clear understanding of Romans 7 is that I have lived it especially during those dark periods of those fiery trials that seemed to last forever during the 1990’s right up to through 2009 when my seizure disorder, which had been dormant since 1976 reappeared. However, the main element that comes through all of these “elemental principles of the world” is that even though those of us who are in Christ are indeed saved by grace and are new creations all according to the will of God all by his work, we are still in this temporal state in these bodies of flesh in this lost and dying world that neither knows our Lord nor what true joy is. However, even in the midst of a our tests and trials, we can rejoice in our Lord and be full of the joy of the Lord for we know that God is 100% in control and our time to meet him face to face is fixed and our time in our Lord’s presence will be for eternity. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 8

by Mike Ratliff

29 And if you are Christ’s then you are of Abraham’s seed and according to promise, heirs.  (Galatians 3:29 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

I mentioned many times on this blog that I grew up going to church. Some of my first memories were as a small child in church in 1950’s Oklahoma. I doubt if many today would feel real comfortable in the “church environment” I remember from that period. Of course, I did not come to faith until I was in my mid-thirties so I saw most of what went on during that period as a child, a pre-teen, and a teen in the youth group then as a College and Career young adult as an exercise in religiosity that seemed to have something to do with getting better and better at being righteous. When I went into the military in 1973 I left church until the mid-1980’s, married and with a family of my own. What was so interesting was that it was little different than I remembered. I still couldn’t wait for that last verse of the never-ending invitation hymn to get over with so we could get home. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 7

by Mike Ratliff

13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. 16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. (Romans 4:13-17 NASB)

One of the comments from yesterday’s post, Only One Gospel Part 6, stated succinctly that as I presented the message of this series, “Mike – you are swimming up stream in the self-centered culture.” My friend who stated that is right. However, isn’t that what Jesus told us would be the case? If we are his disciples and prove it by following him, obeying him, living by faith, not conforming to this world, et cetera then this world would hate us just as it hated him. However, it wasn’t until I got quite deep into this teaching and discernment ministry that I discovered the shocking truth that most of the push-back to the truth from God’s Word, getting Doctrine right, not compromising for the sake of unity, et cetera was coming from professing Christians. Some of those professing Christians had quite well known ministries and their apologists were quite brutal, underhanded, and played dirty. What am I saying? The self-centered culture that is in darkness that these truths expose is actually most of the visible church. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 6

by Mike Ratliff

21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB)

This morning, as I worshiped at our church, we had what some call “The Lord’s Supper” and others “Communion.” No matter which name is used, I rejoiced as I took the bread and the cup and meditated on what my Lord Jesus went through to become my propitiation, to become separate from God the Father, one who knew no sin to be sin on behalf of those he came to save so that they might become the righteousness of God in him. The reason the joy was so intense for those who “get” the magnitude of this is that they also know that not one of those could ever have become reconciled to God the Father by any action or deed or by attempting to keep the Law. No, there was no other way other than a sinless sacrifice paying their penalty for them and that is exactly what our Lord Jesus did. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 5

by Mike Ratliff

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 NASB)

Justification by Grace alone through Faith alone is a core or central doctrine to true or Orthodox Christianity. This justification is God’s declaration (as we he did with Abraham) of righteousness based upon believers believing and obeying God by turning to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour as they receive the Spirit as they hear the proclamation of the gospel. Now, compare what I just summarized there with what goes on in most “culturally relevant churches” in our time. You know, those churches that are focused on following the person on the stage, but in fact, it is really about self-glorification. That is why people go to those “churches.” They go to hear how good of a person they really are and what the “secret” is of unlocking their potential so that God will give them everything they could ever want because, hey, they are worth it! Sigh, sorry, but that is not even close to being biblical Christianity. It’s some other religion. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 4

by Mike Ratliff

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. (Romans 6:1-9 NASB)

The Christians with whom I have the most “disagreement” are those who are confused about our Justification and Sanctification. I have noticed that most of the articles and videos online that claim to prove R.C. Sproul, Dr. James White or John MacArthur wrong and that their gospel is not biblical while those producing those articles and videos have the real gospel are all of the same bent. They are all infected with the same lack of faith that the Judiazers had in the sufficiency of saving grace made available through the Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross. They all, like the Roman Catholics and the Judiazers Paul was dealing with in his epistle to the Galatians insisted that, yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but there has to be something added to it called works. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 3

by Mike Ratliff

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself on behalf of our sins so that he might rescue us out of this present evil age according to the will of God our Father, 5 to whom be the glory into the ages of the ages, Amen. 6 I marvel that you are so quickly being turned from the one who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel; 7 which is not another; except there are some troubling you and are desiring to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:3-7 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

I normally work from home, however, today I had to make the 20-minute trip into our offices to oversee the moving of one of my database systems from our old datacenter to our new one. As I got within about a mile of our old offices I passed a pickup that had a sticker on the back window that I had never seen before. It resembled the COEXIST sticker we have discussed before, but with the same symbols, the lettering was changed to the word “FICTION.” Here we have two extremes that are obviously both deadly wrong. The first one assumes that all religions must compromise their beliefs to coexist while the second is atheistic, but in reality they both come to the same conclusion, that is, that everything is man-centered rather than God-centered. I see elements of this even in the professing Christians of our day who are staunch defenders of the sovereignty of the Free Will of man while denying that God has the freedom to be the potter at the wheel, making servants according to his will who will believe, that is, come to faith, according to his will and plan and in his timing and then will serve him in ways that make no sense to those mired in their man-centered religiosity. Continue reading