Strange Fire


 

by Mike Ratliff

1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Leviticus 10:1-2 (NASB) 

9 But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) 

Until 2004 I could not stand to read some Old Testament books such as Leviticus and Job. I would read them only to find my mind wandering off in all directions. It was frustrating. However, something wonderful happened after God changed me over a period of about 8 months from January through August. I don’t know exactly what He did, but I interpret it as a severe and necessary heart transplant. He may have simply circumcised my heart. I don’t know. However, I do know that until that time I was very religious, but very self-focused. I loved the Lord, and served in many capacities in church. I was a Bible teacher. However, the rest of the time was all mine. I was fleshly. I was focused on my own desires. However, I was very frustrated with my lack of self-control. I desperately wanted victory over these things. Continue reading

Soli Deo Gloria


by Mike Ratliff

31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NASB) 

11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11 (NASB) 

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:4-6 (NASB) 

1 This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 Peter 3:1 (NASB) 

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— Ephesians 3:1 (NASB) 

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying,
“Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 7:9-12 (NASB) 

36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36 (NASB) 

I heard a comment not long ago describing American Protestantism. The commenter was a Christian from Europe. He said that it was Protestantism, but without the historical context of the Protestant Reformation. In other words, the emphasis on the polemic points that separated Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism was missing. Because of this, there was more tolerance for relativism in the American Church. When I first heard that comment I was not so sure that he was right nor was I sure that was such a big deal. However, the more exposure I have had with the ‘emergent’ movement, Christian liberals, Christian skeptics, and Neo-Evangelicals, the more I have come to see what that man was talking about.  Continue reading

Solus Christus


by Mike Ratliff

13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. Colossians 1:13-18 (NASB) 

As we have seen, Sola Scriptura is essential to genuine Christianity. Sacred Scripture is supreme and authoritative over the Church. It is the only ultimate and infallible authority for faith and practice. From Sola Scriptura flows Sola Graita, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. The individual Solas cannot stand apart from the others. From them we state, From Scripture we learn that our salvation if by Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone. For instance, if someone says that they reject parts of this and simply want Jesus they are violating this and are out of balance theologically. This leads to all sorts of unbiblical behavior in the name of Christ. Continue reading

Sola Fide


by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

With a gloriously monotonous regularity Paul pits faith off over against all law-keeping as its diametrical opposite as to referent. Whereas the latter relies on the human effort of the law-keeper looking to himself to render satisfaction before God, the former repudiates and looks entirely away from all human effort to the cross work of Jesus Christ, who alone by his sacrificial death rendered satisfaction before God for men.➀

20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; Romans 3:20-22 (NASB) 

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Romans 3:28 (NASB) 

5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, Romans 4:5 (NASB) 

14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; Romans 4:14 (NASB) 

16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. Galatians 2:16 (NASB) 

11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:11 (NASB) 

9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, Philippians 3:9 (NASB) 

From such verses it is plain that Paul taught that justification is by ‘faith alone’ (sole fide). The Roman Catholic Church has always objected to the use of this sola (”alone”) attached to fide, contending that nowhere does Paul say “alone: when speaking of the faith that justifies, and that where the Bible does attach sola to fide when speaking of justification it declares: “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone: (James 2:24). All this is true enough, but I would insist, as the above citations indicate, that when Paul declares (1) that a man is justified “by faith apart from works of the law,” (2) that the man “who works not but believes in him who justifies the ungodly” is the man whom God regards and righteous, (3) that a man is “not justified by works of the law but through faith,” and (4) that “by the Law no man is justified before God…because the righteous by faith shall live,” he is asserting the “aloneness” of faith as the “alone” instrument of justification as surely as if he had used the word “alone,” and he is asserting it even more vigorously than if he had simply employed alone each time.➁

The “Material Principle” of the Reformation was justification by faith alone. As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.” The Genevan Confession likewise pointed out the necessity of those justified living by faith saying, “We confess that the entrance which we have to the great treasures and riches of the goodness of God that is vouchsafed us is by faith; inasmuch as, in certain confidence and assurance of heart, we believe in the promises of the gospel, and receive Jesus Christ as he is offered to us by the Father and described to us by the Word of God (Genevan 11).

5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:5-11 (NASB)

My brethren, saving faith comes through the saving power of that faith. This power resides not in faith itself, but in our Lord Jesus Christ on whom it rests. What actually occurs when one is saved is that Christ saves that person through faith. This faith receives what God freely gives. Continue reading

Sola Scriptura


by Mike Ratliff

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) 

We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. We deny the legitimacy and any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship. – Article XVIII of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy October 1978

The authority of the Bible is based on its being the written Word of God, and because the Bible is the Word of God and the God of the Bible is truth and speaks truthfully, authority is linked to inerrancy. If the Bible is the Word of God, and if God is a God of truth, then the Bible must be inerrant–not merely in some of its parts, as some modern theologians are saying, but totally, as the church for the most part has said down through the ages of its history.➀

One of the many ‘attacks’ this ministry has received since its inception has been on our treatment of scripture as inerrant and that it has authority over the Christian Church.  Continue reading

Sola Gratia


by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

“Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions…. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put into your heart?”

“Yes,” says [Wesley], “I do indeed.”

“And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?”

“Yes, solely through Christ.”

“But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?”

“No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.”

“Allowing, then that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?”

“No.”

“What, then are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?”

“Yes, altogether.”

“And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

“Yes, I have no hope but in Him.”

“Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite things wherein we agree.” – From the writings of Charles Simeon, a recorded conversation between him and John Wesley on December 20, 1784.

I personally have little use for Calvinists who treat the Gospel as if it is something unpalatable or off limits or to be shared only with a small group of people. No matter if we are Calvinists or Arminians who differ on some doctrinal points, I will consider all my brother or sister in Christ those who profess sola gratia, by grace alone. On the other hand, those who trash the Gospel by making it totally subordinate to men with God a helpless bystander will witness me raising my Monergistic flag. Monergism states that salvation is by grace alone and any addition at all to God’s grace is to destroy its graciousness, its very nature as a gift. Continue reading

Walk worthy of the Lord in every way


by Mike Ratliff

9 Διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς, ἀφʼ ἧς ἡμέρας ἠκούσαμεν, οὐ παυόμεθα ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν προσευχόμενοι καὶ αἰτούμενοι, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε τὴν ἐπίγνωσιν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ ἐν πάσῃ σοφίᾳ καὶ συνέσει πνευματικῇ, 10 περιπατῆσαι ἀξίως τοῦ κυρίου εἰς πᾶσαν ἀρεσκείαν, ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ καρποφοροῦντες καὶ αὐξανόμενοι τῇ ἐπιγνώσει τοῦ θεοῦ, Colossians 1:9-10 (NA28)

9 Therefore, we also from the day which we heard, do not cease praying for you and asking that you be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 to walk worthy of the Lord in every way pleasing to Him in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9-10 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

It seems my life has become a continuous series of tests and trials, putting me into places of contention in which it is clearly apparent to me that the way I have gone before is not how God would have me go and be walking worthy of the Lord in every way pleasing to Him in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God. Of course, the reason this is clearly apparent to me is that the part of me that is under the spotlight is my pride. I can act like those around me in arrogant, self-protection or I can, in the power of the Holy Spirit, deny self and μετὰ πάσης ταπεινοφροσύνης καὶ πραΰτητος, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, seek to ἀνέχομαι, forebear with those with whom I in contention ἐν ἀγάπῃ, in love. Of course, I have paraphrased Ephesians 4:2, which is actually about unity within the Body of Christ. However, I am convinced that we must also apply the same forbearance to everyone while never compromising by unifying with those who are not true Christians.  Continue reading

The Christian’s Incompatibility With Sin


by Mike Ratliff

1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3 (NASB) 

It is imperative that Christians have a correct and viable theology of suffering. These health, wealth, and prosperity preachers in our time will disagree of course, but let them. We have God’s Truth, His Word, held in objective context up against their subjective, ear-tickling smoke and mirrors false religion. Oh, there may indeed be some “spirituality” going on in there, but to proclaim, “God is here!” or “God is in this!” or “We are having a Revival, come and join us!” is the very act of man elevating himself above God, telling Him what to do and when. However, I digress; God has always used suffering in the lives of His people to sanctify them, to draw them to prayer, to purify them, to grow them spiritually, and to direct their paths. I am convinced that this Covid-19 Pandemic and how it is affecting all our lives is being used by God to do that very thing. Paul called some of his suffering a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan (2 Corinthians 12), but allowed by God to keep him from exalting himself because of his great knowledge. When we learn to view the seriousness of our sin as Paul did and God’s glory as imperative then we will begin to understand that sin in the life of a Christian is an anathema in a realistic, daily sense rather than in some sort of abstract give and take.  Continue reading

What is Christian Liberty?


by Mike Ratliff

25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25 (NASB) 

Liberty – ἐλευθερία – eleutheria – freedom, generosity, independence. Freedom is presented as a distinctive blessing of the economy of grace which, in contrast with the OT economy, is represented as including independence from legal restrictions and rules of life (1 Corinthians 10:29; Galatians 2:4; 5:1, 13). In contrast to the present subjection of the creature to the bondage of corruption, freedom represents the future state of the children of God (Romans 8:21; see also vv. 20, 23). The perfect law of freedom (referred to in James 1:25 [above]) is the freedom of generosity, seen exclusively in James 2:12, 13, when the Judge shows his generosity in proportion to the mercifulness of the believers on earth.

Slavery or bondage – δουλεία – douleia – servitude, dependence; the state of a δοῦλος or doulos, a slave. That state of man in which he is prevented from freely possessing and enjoying his life; a state opposed to liberty. In NT used only figuratively (Romans 8:15, 21; Galatians 4:24; 5:1; Hebrews 2:15).

1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NASB) 

Galatians 5:1 is often used by some to teach a version of Christian liberty that is not biblical. There are some who teach that this liberty, which is for all genuine Christians, is a freedom to ignore God’s moral Law. This is a form of antinomianism. Those who teach this are giving license to believers to sin. This is not what Paul and James were talking about when they spoke of freedom in Christ and the law of liberty.  Continue reading

The High Cost of Living Righteously


by Mike Ratliff

10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:10-13 (NASB) 

“Christians” in the United States and other “civilized” countries do not exist in a climate of a fear of persecution like those in China and India. Some would say that is because of our culture or that there are huge numbers of Christians here. However, the truth of the matter is that Christians who live in total obedience to their Lord will be persecuted. So, what does that say about Christians who live at peace with the world around them? The truth of the matter is this; the reason Christians are not persecuted in the US is that very few of them are walking in the level of obedience to their Lord that would draw attention to them from those who hate the real Jesus and the Word of God. However, if they were living holy lives, sharing their faith, actively making disciples, and preaching the whole Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the wrath of Satan and his seed would come upon them. Continue reading

Remembering and Forgetting


by Mike Ratliff

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 (NASB) 

23 “Am I a God who is near,” declares the Lord,
“And not a God far off?
24 “Can a man hide himself in hiding places
So I do not see him?” declares the Lord.
“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.
25 “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ 26 How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, 27 who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal? Jeremiah 23:23-27 (NASB) 

Man is a fallen creature. He is flawed. He is forgetful. He is self-focused. He is incapable of knowing God without His divine intervention.

19 Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” Joshua 24:19-20 (NASB) 

There are only two groups of people. There are those who are known by God, the regenerate, who have their sins covered by the blood of the Lamb, and are Holy unto the Lord. The other group are those not known by God. They are unregenerate and are in their sins. They are of the World. These two groups are totally separate from one another on the Spiritual plane, but intermingled with one another on the Temporal plane. The first group has received that divine intervention and are now able to serve the LORD. The best the second group can do is be religious and their works unto the Lord are as filthy rags. Continue reading

Christians’ Security In Christ


by Mike Ratliff

22 For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” Ezra 8:22 (NASB) 

Perhaps my case is unique, but I doubt it. The closer I get to being a slave for Christ, a living sacrifice, the more the things around me that make up my “comfort zones” become either obliterated, gone, or broken, or my sensory system which used to somehow find comfort in their make up loses the ability to do so. I believe it is God’s hand in removing the idols from my heart; making me utterly dependent upon Him and Him alone for everything. Of course, this is a work in progress. In the past as I prepared to wrap my mind around God’s Word to write these posts I used to have little rituals of preparation that brought me much joy that no longer do that, but, instead, the very thought of them delivers a certain level of anxiety to my heart that is only assuaged as I prayerfully dig into the Word. It is as if there is a “Danger – Do Not Enter” sign over them. I have noticed that the tone of my writing has changed considerably as well as I have heeded that.  Continue reading

The Nature of Unbelieving Thought


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; Ephesians 4:17-18 (NASB) 

Genuine Christianity is that which is within the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Christians are commanded to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) within that Lordship. We are to obey our Lord as branches abiding in the True Vine (John 15). How do we practically do this? We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, that is, with every thought, intent, and action taken captive to the will of God. We do this by approaching and living life with God at the center of all things instead of ourselves. In the passage above, (Ephesians 4:17-18) we see the opposite way to walk and the outcome of that. Unfortunately, that is how most professing believers approach this life, that is, in functional unbelief. Continue reading

The Nazarene


by Mike Ratliff

45 Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip *said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:45-46 (NASB) 

In the passage above, John 1:45-46, we see two of our Lord’s future Apostles, Philip and Nathanael, conversing. Philip finds his friend Nathanael and tells him that he and other friends have has found “Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote.” This is, of course, the Messiah. Then he tells him who he is, “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” What was Nathanael’s response? He asked a rhetorical question, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” What was Philip’s answer? It was the one we must all take to heart and make the foundation of how we approach both evangelism and apologetics. He said, “Come and see.”  Continue reading