The Gospel is a message


by Mike Ratliff

3 παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς 4 καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NA28)

3 For I handed on to you among the first things that I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures 4 and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The Christian’s walk is one in which we must take up our own crosses and follow our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. In this life we will have tribulation. However, in the midst of fiery trials we grow less self-oriented, less self-dependent, and less self-righteous while we learn that we must, at all costs, abide in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this time before our Lord takes us home, there will be much heartache, many crushing blows, and at times, it will seem that the world and those who follow it have all the cards and are on the way to winning by whatever means. However, as our Lord Jesus said on the night of his arrest leading up to his crucifixion, “ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ εἰρήνην ἔχητε. ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ θλῖψιν ἔχετε· ἀλλὰ θαρσεῖτε, ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον.” Or, “These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you have affliction, but be cheerful, I have conquered the world.”  Continue reading

Jesus Christ the Son of God and His Deity


by Mike Ratliff

25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. John 5:25 (NASB) 

The misunderstanding or false teaching about two truths pertaining to our Lord Jesus Christ and man are at the center of much of the false teaching that passes for “Christian theology.” It has always been so. The first truth refers to the deity of Christ and His sovereign authority as Lord and God. The second truth pertains to the original sin of Adam and fact that all people are born dead in trespasses and sins with no exceptions. That spiritual death is without any ability to please God in any way. If we get either of these truths wrong then we will get the Gospel wrong and that means all our theology is wrong as well. That is why cults that deny Christ’s deity are not Christian in any shape form or fashion.  Continue reading

Spiritual blindness and hard hearts


by Mike Ratliff

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:17-24 (NASB) 

In this short study we will look at the concept of spiritual blindness and the progressive “hardening” or “callousing” over of the heart toward God and His truth as men seek to center everything in self to have their worship and religion be Man Centered instead of where it should be, and is in the hearts of those truly Regenerate, God Centered. Oh yes, I do recognize that all of us must grow from spiritual infants into maturity and that we can and do follow false teachers and bad doctrine, but God will not keep those who are His in this darkness forever, but will do what it takes to draw them out even if it means they become ejected from their home church for example. I have heard examples of that from so many of you that I have lost track of the number and I no longer doubt that this is God’s doing for He did it to me as well. Continue reading

You do not believe because you are not of my sheep


by Mike Ratliff

30 ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν. John 10:30 (NA28)

30 “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Genuine Christianity, not the false versions of it, is unique when compared to the world’s religions. In fact, those false versions of it are just like the rest of the world’s religions in one regard that makes genuine Christianity absolutely unique. All other “religions” are based upon some form of works based theology and belief system in which some form of justification is made through those works which increase the value of the person in that religion thereby gaining the reward. On the other hand, genuine Christianity is nothing like that at all. Salvation or justification comes as a result of something God has set out to do and has completed. Those who are justified were elected by him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1) based upon no works or deeds or value inherent in them  (that none may boast). All of the work to justify these elect was done by God and completed; and he, being sovereign and all-powerful, saves them all as we will see in the short passage we will exegete below. Those who are saved are new creations after their justification because God himself regenerated them so that their dead faith is made alive and they are now able to believe the gospel and be saved (Ephesians 2:1-10; Titus 3:5). Who believes? Who are these Christians?  Continue reading

Are those who are not doers of the Word, but are only hearers really Christians?


by Mike Ratliff

22 Γίνεσθε δὲ ποιηταὶ λόγου καὶ μὴ μόνον ἀκροαταὶ παραλογιζόμενοι ἑαυτούς. James 1:22 (NA28)

22 Now be doers of the Word and not only hearers deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In 1997, about three years before God moved my wife and I from the OKC area to Tulsa, our Pastor contacted me during the week and told me that he wanted me to fill in for him on Wednesday night after our weekly meal. That meant I would conduct a short Bible study and then have a question and answer period in which adults present could ask anything they wanted about doctrine or the Church or the Bible and I would attempt to answer it. The Bible study part was not a problem since I planned on simply using one I had prepared for another study that I had not yet taught. However, the Q & A was a bit unsettling. I had seen how that went. It was a bit like “Stump the Pastor.”  Continue reading

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do


by Mike Ratliff

35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36 (ESV) 

Probably the command from our Lord that is the most difficult for us to obey is found in Luke 6:35 (above). That is, it is hard or difficult if we are full of pride and are self-focused. However, as the master vinedresser prunes us as we abide in the True Vine and the refiner burns away the fleshly dross from us in the refiner’s fire, we will be humbled as we surrender to the potter, as the clay should. This humbling is what is required for Christlikeness to become manifest in and through us. Why? If we are being driven by pride then we will be self-focused and operate as if we are the center of our universe. However, humble believers, those who are maturing, are those who have given that up as something that hinders their walk with the Lord. Maturing believers see the things of this world, the very things the world runs after, as nothing but dung in comparison to what they have in Christ. He becomes their all-in-all. Their love for Him spills over into all parts of their lives and for the Saviour’s sake they love their enemies and are merciful to all just as He was and is. Our Lord demonstrates the epitome of this as He was crucified.

Continue reading

A case of a disingenuous Christian


by Mike Ratliff

18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 “You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.” (Acts 8:18-23 NASB)

In these times of the “Compromised Church” with very little knowledge of historical Christianity and what makes up what is truly Orthodox, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when I’m called a heretic and false teacher for teaching Reformation Theology and then revealing that my view of eschatology is (gasp) not dispensational/pre-millennialism. I have been told more than a few times that I could not possibly be a genuine brother and hold to the view of eschatology that I espouse or that I am a Calvinist, et cetera. What is it that makes one a genuine Christian rather than a disingenuous believer? Let’s take a look at a New Testament example. Continue reading

Saving faith is a gift from God


by Mike Ratliff

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.  (Luke 2:15-20 NASB)

Human faith is not the same thing as Genuine (saving) faith, which is a gift from God. The former is based in Human reason and intellect. The latter is supernatural. What passes for faith in many professing believer’s “Christianity” is a belief based in who preaches to or teaches them. This is not Genuine faith because it is not a belief in the Word or in God through the Word. These are “believers” who will eventually fall away. Some may last a lifetime, but as soon as the fires of tribulation come upon them they slide into apostasy because their faith is not of the substance that endures. Continue reading

The Spirit is who makes alive while the flesh does not profit anything


by Mike Ratliff

63 τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν τὸ ζῳοποιοῦν, ἡ σὰρξ οὐκ ὠφελεῖ οὐδέν· τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λελάληκα ὑμῖν πνεῦμά ἐστιν καὶ ζωή ἐστιν. John 6:63 (NA28)

63 The Spirit is who makes alive while the flesh does not profit anything. The words which I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life. John 6:63 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

A study of 2 Kings 12-16 is horrifying to read. Why? The rampant apostasy in both the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern King of Judah was beyond reproach. King Ahaz of Judah actually sacrificed his own son(s) to idols. I am sure things were just as bad, if not worse, in the Northern Kingdom. However, are any better in our time. In today’s study we will look at John Chapter 6 and see that apostasy in our Lord’s time was little different than we are encountering in our day. Many who know me well say that I seem to enjoy teaching from John’s Gospel and his epistles and Revelation than from any other parts of the Bible.  I don’t know about that, but the Apostle John is someone I can identify with very well. I have been accused by those same people who who enjoy analyzing me so much of not being able to compromise at all. I have no grey areas. Things are either right or wrong. I agree with that assessment to a point and I see the same sort of view of non-compromising adherence to the truth with the Apostle John. However, let us not forget that what he wrote for us in God’s Word is that very thing. We are reading the inspired Word of God and in John 6, the very words of our Lord are, for the most part, in response to His critics who were in the darkness of unbelief. Don’t we have the same thing going on in our time? Continue reading

Our Lord’s 4 witnesses to His deity


by Mike Ratliff

30 Οὐ δύναμαι ἐγὼ ποιεῖν ἀπʼ ἐμαυτοῦ οὐδέν· καθὼς ἀκούω κρίνω, καὶ ἡ κρίσις ἡ ἐμὴ δικαία ἐστίν, * ὅτι οὐ ζητῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με. John 5:30 (NA28)

30 “I am not able to do from myself. As I hear I judge and my judgment is just because I do not seek my will but the will of the one who sent me.” John 5:30 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle John said in John 1:1-5, “Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν.  πάντα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων·  καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.”, and in v14, “Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.”, translated as, “In the Beginning was the word and the Word was with God and God was the Word. This one was with God in the Beginning. All things came to be through him and without him not one thing came to be which came into being. In him was life and the life was the light of men and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not grasp it.” and in v14, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us and we gazed upon his glory, glory as of the only one from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Our Lord Jesus Christ, being God the Son, the second person in the Holy Trinity became flesh and “tabernacled” among us. The Gospel of John was written by the Apostle as a “witness” of our Lord’s incarnation and is without a doubt the most profound exposition of Jesus as both God and man.  Continue reading

Subjection to authority


by Mike Ratliff

5 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. 7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. Ephesians 6:5-8 (NASB)

God’s ways are not Man’s ways. His ways are far above our ways. In fact, to those with a fleshly focus, His ways are entirely inscrutable. It is saddening to hear so many in the pulpits of churches preach messages that lead their followers to pursue a self-focused or selfish lifestyle. It is as if they completely ignore all of the teachings in Sacred Scripture that command Christians to be humble and obedient. Continue reading

A word study on obedience


by Mike Ratliff

1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7 (NASB) 

Part of the process I go through to determine what God wants me to write about or what to study is, of course, prayer and meditation. That meditation involves searching Sacred Scripture, seeking God’s truth. Sometimes that involves going deeper where I stop and dig deeper into a certain word or truth. Lately I have become convinced that I need to look up the Greek lexical definitions for the noun and verb forms of our English words “obedience” and “to obey.” From there I have decided to do a study of how these words are used in the New Testament and that would give us the understanding of the writers of those books of the Christians’ obligations to know and obey God’s commands. Continue reading

The supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ


by Mike Ratliff

19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. Philippians 1:19-20 (KJV) 

The NASB translates the passage above as:

19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:19-20 (NASB) 

What is this “provision” or “supply” Paul is talking about and how can we “tap” into it ourselves as we stand firm in these Laodicean days? Let’s see… Continue reading

Genuine believers bear godly fruit


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB) 

The fruit of a ministry in God’s economy is not the number of people “converted” under it. No, the fruit, which will be what God will use to judge, refers to the effectiveness that ministry has in leading and developing within those who are ministered to by it unto a Christ-like life produced by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). What is it that those God uses in these ministries do that achieves this? They teach their flock sound doctrine from God’s Word. The Holy Spirit takes these truths and applies them to the hearts of the flock. It is not emotion or feelings. It is being transformed by the renewal of their minds because they are being living sacrifices unto God (Romans 12:1,2).  Continue reading