Be Strong in Grace

by Mike Ratliff

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB) 

One of my favorite things to do is study my Bible, and then write about what God has shown me from His Word. Currently our temporal world is going through plague called COVID-19. However, as a student of history, I know that this sort of thing has happened countless times in the past all over the world. As Christians, how are to respond? What if we too are suffering in some way? While I do not have the disease, this is Springtime in Oklahoma and that means my seasonal allergies are hitting hard right now. My doctor has me on steroids this year along with a very strong anti-histamine. On top of that my wife and I are following the rules about sheltering in place. I work from home so my job as a Database Administrator for a large Healthcare company is not affected except that what I am supporting at work sure has changed. My wife and I are trying to be wise about our consumables and not to hoard. We sure miss seeing our grandchildren and daughter right now. Our church is meeting online as well as our small group. We are praying with each other online. We are being the Church while not resembling the “religious church” the world thinks we are.

Even so, the pressure to not post on this blog at times because of all this comes upon me. There is this voice that seems to say that it would be okay to just not do it this evening. No one cares anyway. However, I serve my Lord Jesus Christ as His δοῦλος (doulos). This post is the result.

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. 10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. 11 It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timothy 2:8-13 (NASB) 

Why did Paul suffer? He wrote this from prison. His suffering was the price he paid for preaching the gospel. Some say the gospel is not necessary. Why not just trust that God will save His elect. He is going to anyway. Why preach the gospel to everyone? We must never allow the gospel to be overshadowed by election. Election is not the gospel. When Paul ministered in planting churches everything he did and said was bathed in the gospel. Why?

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NASB) 

People are saved by hearing the gospel. Studying doctrine and contemplating the wonders of election, justification and sanctification is great, but it does not replace our obligation to share the gospel with everyone. God has chosen the foolishness of trusting in, believing in and submitting to a Saviour who was crucified and died on the cross to justify those who do believe and repent. I will someday, perhaps even today, stand before my Lord to give an account. I pray that I will not be ashamed of what I did with the truth He has given me. Therefore, I renew right now my commitment to continue to rightly divide the Word of truth and proclaim that truth to all who read what I write. The gospel must be central to our message. It must permeate all that we do. It isn’t an add on to our message. It is the message. Why? Salvation requires and comes only through faith.

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:8-17 (NASB) 

I pray that those reading this will renew themselves to living gospel centered lives free from the coldness and sterility of simply studying doctrine and theology as ends in themselves. The end of all things is Christ. What we do with what He has given us must be dedicated to our obedience to Him in all things.

Soli Deo Gloria!

3 thoughts on “Be Strong in Grace

  1. “We are being the Church while not resembling the ‘religious church’ the world thinks we are.” Yes, this is what I’ve been trying to communicate to others. The Church is not a “matured Judaism,” retaining Judaism’s earthly rituals and forms; the Church can still function without a “Temple” and priests and rituals. We love actual, physical fellowship, and we love partaking of the Lord’s Supper together, but absent those luxuries, we are no less in communion with Christ, our Head, and the members of His Body. We are being knit together as one in the Lord, even with Christians we have never met before; His work in His Body never ceases.

    And in all this, evangelism continues. We have answers for the world asking questions. We can show them that Christianity is far more than a meeting on Sunday mornings (as precious as those times are), but rises above all earthly entanglements and sufferings, far beyond earthly restrictions and ordinances. Nothing can prevail against the Church, for Christ is its Head in heaven, God the Son who nourishes and cherishes His own.

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