Do works have anything to do with Everlasting Life?


by Mike Ratliff

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” John 6:28 (NASB) 

The flesh is still with us all, even those who have been born again unto eternal life. The flesh does not understand grace. The flesh does not understand the relationship to the Christian being born again unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, the visible church is ripe with false teaching at this time that emphasizes all the wrong things, and, coupled with rampant Biblical illiteracy, most professing Christians are like those Jesus was confronting in John 6 who could not conceive what our Lord boldly told them in vv35-40 that belief and salvation is a gift from God not something earned or deserved.  Continue reading

Jesus offers rest to the weary


by Mike Ratliff

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 (NASB) 

I spent many years as a deacon in two SBC churches in the late 1980’s the 1990’s and the early 2000’s. I would say that my spiritual maturity during that time was one of a new Christian who was growing, but certainly not someone who would be considered an elder. I was untrained theologically.  The preaching and teaching we received in those churches was not very deep. The leaders in those churches were more interested in encouraging the people to work harder and give more. My main spiritual gifts are all centered around teaching so I gravitated toward teaching Bible Study classes. One of the things God did during that period that changed my growth rate in Christ was me being selected for Precept training as an instructor. Those going through the courses paid for the classes and part of that money went to have me and a few others trained to do Inductive Word Studies from God’s Word.  I went to all three levels of training and the third level, in 1992, was learning how to do Greek word studies in the New Testament. This changed everything for me, but it was several more years of circumstances beyond my control that God used to move me into this discernment work that I do now.  Continue reading

True contentment


by Mike Ratliff

1 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NASB) 

Life is a continual hunt or search for circumstances that will result in contentment. That is the focus for the natural man. When societal norms become relaxed from the “bonds” that restrict certain forms of self-expression” we witness rising levels of aberrant behavior that are simply attempts by seekers of this “contentment” to find, experience, and practice them hoping to finally reach some level of passion or peace or whatever that will last and leave them in that “contented” state. We see this in Christianity as well. What we understand as Orthodox Christianity is not at all satisfying to the unregenerate. However, religiosity is an integral part of the human makeup, therefore, with this volatile combination, we witness increasing levels of bizarre forms of “Christianity” as those desperately seeking what “satisfies” go after the “feelings” as they vainly try to fill that hole in their soul that demands fulfillment. Continue reading

The testing of your faith


by Mike Ratliff

3 Ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦντες οὐ κατὰ σάρκα στρατευόμεθα, 4 τὰ γὰρ ὅπλα τῆς στρατείας ἡμῶν οὐ σαρκικὰ ἀλλὰ δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ πρὸς καθαίρεσιν ὀχυρωμάτων, λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες 5 καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NA28)

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not warring according do the to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful through God to the overthrow of strongholds overthrowing reasonings 5 and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God and leading captive every thought into the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

All believers who are still in this life also live and walk in the flesh in a physical sense, but the goal must be to grow into maturity and no longer walk that way in a moral sense (Romans 8:4). Christians who are obediently doing this must actively war according to the spirit, never the flesh, in the battle to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-4). Therefore, those whose ministries are based around appealing to the flesh are actually warring according to the flesh and that does not work, at least not in an eternal sense. What is done in the flesh may look impressive to those who walk in the flesh in a moral sense, but they are impotent and powerless to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ. Why? They cannot successfully oppose satanic assaults on the gospel or any of God’s truths.  Continue reading

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB) 

My father died in 2010 at the age of 86. My mother will be 91 in October of this year if she makes it, but only God knows that. She seems to be nearing the end of her journey to the Celestial City.  I have reflected much on this lately and, in light of this, my own priorities.  Have I been wasting much of the valuable time and energy given to me by our Lord in building on His foundation with wood, hay, and straw? Have I been focusing on the things of this world, seeking the pleasures of this world to the exclusion of walking close with my Lord, living in His Word and prayer? Have I been putting self ahead of the needs of others? You see, what marks a true Christian over a false Christian is whether Christ’s character is being developed in theirs or not. This character development results in the believer’s perseverance.  Continue reading

Pray without ceasing


by Mike Ratliff

17 pray without ceasing; 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB) 

Of all of the commands from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 I am sure that the one from v17, which I placed above, has caused the most consternation and possibly the most bad theology of all the others combined. What does Paul mean that we should “pray without ceasing?”  Is this even possible without becoming a monk in some monastery locked up in a cell to spend the rest of your days praying and doing nothing else? Some have actually taught that and tried to put it into practice just like I described. Let us take a closer look.

Continue reading

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness


By Mike Ratliff

31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. Hebrews 11:31 (NASB) 

5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6 Jesse was the father of David the king.
David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Matthew 1:5-6 (NASB) 

24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James 2:24-26 (NASB) 

How would you like it if your name was forever associated with the profession of prostitution? Rahab lived on the wall in the city of Jericho. When the two spies sent by Joshua entered the city, they stayed at her house. When the city officials knew of their presence, Rahab hid them then helped them escape. In return the spies promised to save her and her family when Jericho was attacked by the Israelites. Later, she was wed to Salmon of the tribe of Judah. Their son Boaz was the kinsman redeemer who married Ruth. Their son Obed became the father of Jesse who became the father of David the King.

This put Rahab in the genealogical line of Jesus Christ. However, she is still called Rahab the Harlot or Rahab the prostitute in scripture. Why? Rahab is a trophy of God’s grace. She is an example to us all that the good we do that is eternal is always by and through God’s grace. When we are weak, yet obedient, God is strong through us. That is why James can say that good works will always accompany genuine saving faith. As regenerate believers, we must learn this. Any works we do in our own abilities are not eternal. All of the work God does through us is eternal. Continue reading

Christian Joy no matter what


by Mike Ratliff

2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3 γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶλειπόμενοι. James 1:2-4 (NA28)

2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith works endurance; 4 let endurance work to fulfillment, that you be mature and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The word joy in my translation is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά or chara, “is an antonym of grief and sorrow. It denotes ‘joy, happiness, and gladness.’” In other words, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling Christians to not grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when they “fall into various trials.” The words “you fall” translates the verb περιπέσητε, which is the Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, and Active voice of περιπίπτω or peripiptō, which is a compound of περί or peri, “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω or piptō, “fail, fall (down), light on” with the result coming to mean, “to fall into something that is all around, that is, light among or upon, be surrounded with: – fall among (into).” Doesn’t that “figuratively” describe how we so often have found ourselves in the midst of something that seems “overwhelming?” The word trials translates the noun πειρασμοῖς, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός or peirasmos, “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.” Continue reading

Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials


by Mike Ratliff

2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3 γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι. (James 1:2-4 NA28)

2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its full effect that you may be mature and complete lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

The man-centered religions that claim to be “Christian” in our time could never take James 1:2-4 literally. No, instead, they must demand from their own man-made Jesus that they have their best life now and that the Sun stand still so that they can fulfill the vision that they claim to have received from him. This whole idea of a faith that is self-renouncing while submitting to Christ as Lord in all things, taking up our crosses, bearing his reproach outside the gates because he bore our reproach to pay the price to atone for our sins is totally alien to those “so-called Christians” in those “religions.” Add to that the fiery trials of sanctification and they claim that we are taking the Bible too literally and that since God is love, he would never do that to anyone.  Continue reading

Those who truly have fellowship with Christ


by Mike Ratliff

14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 (NASB) 

Contrary to what most believe about Christianity, what one’s own framework is of their conception of salvation and having fellowship with Jesus Christ is irrelevant. Unless this ‘understanding’ is totally submitted to the Word of God and the authority of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit then it will be according to the counsel of the individual’s own conscience. This counsel is according to the value system of the individual not according to what God has revealed. It creates its own image of God and holds that image accountable to the individual’s value system. Continue reading

Faith does not determine salvation; grace determines salvation


by Mike Ratliff

13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ Luke 18:13 (NASB) 

In our day it is not unusual to hear a man-centered version of the Gospel message that has everything turned around backward and is presented in such a way that is meant to appeal emotionally to unbelievers with a statement such as, “Christ’s crucifixion is proof of our worth to God!” The appeal is meant to show that if Christ was willing to go to the Cross to save sinners like us then that proves we are of value to God. I have even heard one version of this that says that Jesus would have gone to that Cross even if it was for just one unrepentant sinner. Is that found anywhere in God’s Word? I have never found it. Instead, what I see clearly presented there is that all of us are undeserving sinners and even dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). Until God regenerates us, we are spiritual corpses, that is, without spiritual life. Therefore, grace that is not all grace is no grace. Grace that saves means that God has done everything; if He does not do everything, then it is not grace.  Continue reading

Sanctification is the triumph of grace over the power of sin


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? Romans 6:1-2 (NASB) 

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? Romans 6:15-16 (NASB) 

As I stated in yesterday’s post, if the Gospel is preached correctly, that is, with justification by faith alone being central with absolutely no merit or work by the believer having any bearing on it, then the two rhetorical questions Paul raised in the two passages above should be on the forefront of the minds of all hearing it. Justification by faith as a gift from God, not by our doing in any part (Ephesians 2:8,9) leaves us open bare before God. We have no religiosity to hide behind. We have no steps to perform. We have no decisional thing we can perform that we can point back to that is our lynchpin that we can claim as “our decision for Christ.” No, Justification as Paul preached it is foreign to all of that. So, from where does all that come? It comes from people confusing justification with sanctification.

Continue reading

Justification and Abraham’s example


by Mike Ratliff

27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. Romans 3:27-31 (NASB) 

In our last post we ended with the passage above in which Paul makes it very clear that genuine salvation is by the law of faith not by a law of works. In v28 he says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.Justification is by faith alone and does not depend at all on doing any works of the law. In vv29,30 he tells us that since God is the Lord of all, whether Jews or Gentiles, there can only be one way of justification, which is by faith alone. What does it mean that believers uphold the law rather than overthrow it by our faith? Justification by faith alone does not denigrate the law, but, instead, underscores its true importance by providing a payment for the penalty of death, which the law required for failing to keep it; by fulfilling the law’s original purpose, which is to serve as a tutor to show mankind’s utter inability to obey God’s righteous demands and to drive people to Christ (Galatians 3:24); and by giving believers the capacity to obey it (Romans 8:3,4). Then Paul moves into the obvious objection to these arguments by using the Old Testament Patriarch Abraham whom God declared righteous in Genesis 15:6.  Continue reading

To be firm in your faith


by Mike Ratliff

3 Ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦντες οὐ κατὰ σάρκα στρατευόμεθα, 4 τὰ γὰρ ὅπλα τῆς στρατείας ἡμῶν οὐ σαρκικὰ ἀλλὰ δυνατὰ τῷ θεῷ πρὸς καθαίρεσιν ὀχυρωμάτων, λογισμοὺς καθαιροῦντες 5 καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ, καὶ αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NA28)

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not warring according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful through God to the overthrow of strongholds overthrowing reasonings 5 and every high thing rising up against the knowledge of God and leading captive every thought into the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

All believers who are still in this life also live and walk in the flesh in a physical sense, but the goal must be to grow into maturity and no longer walk that way in a moral sense (Romans 8:4). Christians who are obediently doing this must actively war according to the spirit, never the flesh, in the battle to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17-25; 2:1-4). Therefore, those whose ministries are based around appealing to the flesh are actually warring according to the flesh and that does not work, at least not in an eternal sense. What is done in the flesh may look impressive to those who walk in the flesh in a moral sense, but they are impotent and powerless to free souls from the forces of darkness and bring them to maturity in Christ. Why? They cannot successfully oppose satanic assaults on the gospel or any of God’s truths.  Continue reading