Because we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand we rejoice in hope of the glory of God


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 ESV)

What is the difference between faith and hope? Are they the same thing? They are not the same, but they are two sides of the same coin. If I want my old College to win in football against our biggest rival that is hope. On the other hand, if I believe it will happen then it is faith. With this faith, my hope is enhanced. It becomes active. On the other hand, if I have little faith that it will happen then my hope becomes simply wishful thinking. What about our faith through which we are saved by grace? Is this faith simply working up enough belief so that our hope becomes strong, or is there more to it than that?
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Battling Breast Cancer


Jodi, the wife of my friend Jason McClaren, a Seminary student in OKC underwent surgery for breast cancer in April. They have a fund raising site set up to help offset the cost of that. If you would like to help them. Go here.

Posted in FYI

Are you Reformed or fundamentalist or both?


 

by Mike Ratliff

The “emergent” or “emergence” movement in the visible church began as an opposition to Right-Wing Conservatism or “Fundamentalism” in the Southern Baptist Convention that took over that denomination beginning in the early 1970’s and becoming mostly successful in 1980’s and 1990’s. Of course, that movement into “right-wing” conservatism was in response to an earlier push in the denomination that was taking it to the left into liberalism. The result was “fundamentalism.” Since this ministry has existed I have been called many names by angry people who disagreed with the message here. One the “emergents” liked to throw at me was, “you are just a “fundamentalist!” However, I have also heard the term used in a positive way.

If we are honest and think through things like this from a Biblical perspective, a Christian world-view, we should come to understand that to some being a Christian fundamentalist is a positive thing while to others it is the next thing to being a self-righteous Pharisee. Also, this word is used in the news media in a negative context to describe religious people who commit acts of terrorism or retreat from society into cultic communes. The emergents, as do all Christian liberals, view fundamentalists with anger and resentment. They view them as backward and mired in dead religiosity. However, is that what fundamentalism is? Continue reading

Having been freed and from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

17 χάρις δὲ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι ἦτε δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὑπηκούσατε δὲ ἐκ καρδίας εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχῆς, 18 ἐλευθερωθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἐδουλώθητε τῇ δικαιοσύνῃ. (Romans 6:17-18 NA28)

17 But thanks be to God that you used to be slaves of sin, but you have become become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching; 18 having been freed from sin, you were enslaved to righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18 ESV)

What does it mean that genuine Christians have been enslaved (ἐδουλώθητε) to righteousness (δικαιοσύνῃ)? So many professing Christians today have absolutely no concept of this. It would be safe to say that those professing Christians who are ignorant of this are the vast majority. Some of those ignorant of this have never been properly discipled so their concept of the correct way to walk before the face of God in this life, is based in some sentimental or “culturally relevant” standard instead of what God’s Word says. On the other hand, there are also some in this group who are not genuine Christians. They are not regenerate so they would be those who are still δοῦλοι τῆς ἁμαρτίας. Continue reading

Justification and the God-Centered Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4 ESV)

Most, if not all, of the contention that I have experienced in this ministry has to do with people’s demand to be “justified” on their own terms. For instance, one fellow angrily told me that the genuine gospel was to do good works, to feed the hungry and minister to the homeless. Another one insists that all he has to do is love God and love everyone and that is how he experiences “salvation.” Are these valid forms of the Gospel? Continue reading

A Living Sacrifice


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, διὰ τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ θεοῦ παραστῆσαι τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν ἁγίαν εὐάρεστον τῷ θεῷ, τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν· 2 καὶ μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ, ἀλλὰ μεταμορφοῦσθε τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοὸς εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τί τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον. (Romans 12:1-2 NA28)

1 Therefore, I urge you brothers through the compassions of God to present your bodies as living, holy sacrifices, well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may discern the will of God, that which is good and well pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

Works righteousness is the default religion of man. However, God’s ways are not man’s ways. Neither are His thoughts man’s thoughts. His ways are higher than man’s. The Natural Man believes that the way to be justified by God is to do good works or not be as bad as those really evil people. However, Romans 1-11 makes it clear that no one is righteous or innocent. All have sinned. All are guilty. Also, there is not one thing anyone can do about that problem. Oh, people have and still try all sorts of things to try to earn salvation, to be justified by God. They become very religious. They do good works. However, Paul makes it crystal clear that that is all a total waste of time. Continue reading

The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints / Persevering Grace


by Mike Ratliff

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)

Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?

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Irresistible Grace / Efficacious Grace


by Mike Ratliff

As we have seen, Unconditional Election is the work of God the Father. Particular Redemption is the work of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, is also at work in the salvation of the elect. It is His efficaciously gracious work to apply the benefits of Christ’s works to those elect whom Jesus has redeemed.  Continue reading

Limited Atonement / Particular Redemption


by Mike Ratliff

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. 28 And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. 32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath. (Leviticus 23:26-32 ESV)

Yom Kipper, also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people. It takes place on the 10th day of the seventh month (Tishri) on the Jewish calendar. Please carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Do you see the serious emphasis God places on the need for His people’s atonement? What is this atonement? Biblical atonement is the act of God canceling the debt of His people’s sin. Without it God’s wrath against their sin could not be appeased.

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The Doctrine of Unconditional Election


by Mike Ratliff

The Doctrine of Unconditional Election is not for sissies. What I mean by that is if we adhere to this doctrine then we had better be ready for those in unbelief to attack us with their broadsides and accusations. It seems that every Pelagian out there, whether full blown Pelagian or semi-Pelagian or Arminian, is convinced that Man is not dead in his or her trespasses and sins and is fully able to elect God or not. Of course, none of their arguments hold any water because they are derived either from man-centered philosophy or from Bible verses taken out of context (eisegesis). On the other hand, the Doctrines of Grace are all completely Biblical and are based entirely in Holy Scripture expositions done exegetically.

The Doctrines of Grace describe and teach what God has done for His people in Jesus Christ. While the Doctrine of Unconditional Election is important it is not the best place to start in trying to understand God’s good work in His people’s hearts and for their behalf in eternity. Why? It is completely contrary to Man’s natural way of thinking and understanding. However, it is vital that we do understand and grasp it. Why? This doctrine is “an important measuring rod for someone’s theology, since an acceptance or rejection of this doctrine reveals at once whether a person is biblically correct on such other doctrines as the nature and extent of sin, the bondage of the will, the full grace of God in salvation, and even the presentation of the gospel.”1

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Total Inability / Total Depravity


by Mike Ratliff

Those of us who dearly love Reformation Theology often use the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.” to represent the five points. I will be posting a 5 part series on the 5 points. One of my favorite books about this is The Doctrines of Grace by James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken. I will use this book extensively in this series along with others by R.C. Sproul, John Owen, and Martin Luther. However, my primary source will be The Bible.

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Serving Jesus Christ in the midst of apostasy


by Mike Ratliff

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6 ESV)

It is one thing to confess Christ or profess to be a Christian and quite another to live and walk before the face of God within that confession or profession in obedience to God and His Word. There are so many in our time who claim to be Christians, but whose lives are marked by them speaking and living according to the world and its ways. I, like many of you, have become very perplexed when certain Christian leaders who profess all the right things are then seen to fellowship with those who are obvious apostates. If we are not careful and properly focused in our devotion, which is the definition of godliness, we can become discouraged because we are looking to men rather than our Saviour for the proper way to walk, minister, and confront false doctrine.

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Once Saved Always Saved vs Persevering Grace


by Mike Ratliff

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 ESV)

When I was growing up as a Southern Baptist the Gospel we heard preached to us continually always included a doctrine that could best be called “Once saved, Always Saved.” After God had mercy on me in 1986 when I was 34, opening my heart to believe the Gospel, I went right into serving in various Southern Baptist churches eventually becoming a Bible teacher and Deacon and serving in the role of an Elder even though our church did not officially have that role defined at that time. It was as I began studying doctrine back in 2003-2004 that I realized that I had grown up as an inconsistent Arminian.  In any case, in that study of doctrine I also compared Arminianism and Calvinism. I had heard of Calvinism in a historical sense but really knew nothing about its theology. However, through this study, I also found that I was not in agreement with all the points of consistent Arminianism. As I prayerfully studied Reformation Theology over a period of several weeks I found myself coming to grasp each of the five points. How did this happen? What was it that God was revealing to me from His Word that caused this? It was the fact that Sacred Scripture clearly shows that  He is sovereign over all especially the salvation of all who believe the Gospel.

While Southern Baptists have a doctrine called “Once saved, Always Saved,” those of us who are Reformed in our Theology also are firm in our belief in the security of the believer, but in Reformed Theology it is called Perseverance of the Saints. However, I prefer the term, “Persevering Grace.” The former makes it seem as if the believer is eternally saved by his or her own merit or ability. The latter, however, states that it is God who preserves His saints by His grace.

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God Redeems His people through the blood of Christ


by Mike Ratliff

3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.” 4 And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the Lord. 6 And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” 8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:3-8 ESV)

With the demise of the Biblical/Christian Worldview those of us who belong to the Lamb of God must stop assuming that our culture, our environment, knows or grasps what we mean when we talk about sin and God being Holy, Righteous, and Just. In Romans 1, we see that the truth is known by the natural Man in the “heart of hearts,” but it is suppressed. In turn, God gives them over or gives them up to a debased mind. This is spiritual blindness. These given over to their lusts and desires are no longer convicted of the evil of their sin. They lose their fear of God’s judgment. Over time, they become resentful and full of hate towards any who teach or preach the Gospel to them. Why? There is that reminder within them that judgment is pending. This is why so many flock to seeker-sensitive “churches.” There they are stroked and made to feel good without having to deal with the real Jesus and the demand for repentance. Their religion, Christless Christianity, is friends of the world and eager to welcome those of other ‘religions’ except for those troublesome orthodox Christians who preach the whole Gospel, the Law of God, and the truth about sin and total separation from God for the unredeemed. Continue reading