Faith


by Mike Ratliff

1 Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων. 2 ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ ἐμαρτυρήθησαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι. 3 Πίστει νοοῦμεν κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι θεοῦ, εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι. Hebrews 11:1-3 (NA28)

1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by this the elders were given approval. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not created from visible things. Hebrews 11:1-3 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Several years ago while we were still battling continually with the Purpose Driven nonsense a friend sent me a link to a devotion from a PD web site. The title of the devotion was “Faith: Doing Exactly What Jesus Says to Do.” The reason my friend wanted me to read it was obvious. Why? Is that a definition of faith as we understand it as Christians? Obviously not! However, over the years of dealing with the PD heresy along with Ken Silva he commented often that I seemed to have a handle on it that most of the others at CRN did not seem to have. I was surprised by that because I really struggled for a long time trying to grasp what was at the core of Rick Warren’s message. However, that devotion is the very thing that points to what makes the “gospel” preached by all versions of the Seeker-Sensitive paradigm a false gospel. What is it? Continue reading

Grace


by Mike Ratliff

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” 16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. 17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:14-17 (NASB) 

Grace is our theology. In a sense the word grace sums up all biblical theology. Of all the theological words we could discuss–redemption, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, election, and many more–none cuts to the heart of our theology like grace. Continue reading

What is an Almost Christian?


by Mike Ratliff

16 θεὸν ὁμολογοῦσιν εἰδέναι, τοῖς δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται, βδελυκτοὶ ὄντες καὶ ἀπειθεῖς καὶ πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἀδόκιμοι. Titus 1:16 (NA28)

16 They profess to know God, but by their works, they deny Him, being detestable and as to every good work, unfit. Titus 1:16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In Puritan Matthew Mead’s The Almost Christian Discovered we find the very definition for what is plaguing the visible church in the 21st Century.  If Pastor Mead was alive today preaching as he did in the 17th Century, he would be quite controversial, but isn’t that what we who are called of God to stand for His truth in the lost and dying world supposed to do? In our time we lament what cheap grace and easy-believism and post-modernism have done to our churches’ ecclesiology, watering down the Gospel and doing away with rightly dividing the Word of Truth while turning the what should the weekly gathering of the local church into some sort of sales promotion or entertainment event. Those terms would be unknown to Pastor Mead, but he would have been quite familiar with one coined by Martin Luther, antinomianism. This describes those who desired to be called Christian, with all of its benefits, but shunned all of its obligations. Continue reading

Idol


by Mike Ratliff

21 Τεκνία, φυλάξατε ἑαυτὰ ἀπὸ τῶν εἰδώλων. 1 John 5:21 (NA28)

21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21 (NASB) 

Our English word idol is derived from the Greek εἴδωλον (eidōlon). Homer used eidōlon for phantoms and apparitions. In later Classical Greek, it carried the other non-religious meanings of picture, copy, or “any unsubstantial form, an image reflected in a mirror or water, an image or idea in the mind.”

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Paul and Silas in Philippi


by Mike Ratliff

11 Ἀναχθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ Τρῳάδος εὐθυδρομήσαμεν εἰς Σαμοθρᾴκην, τῇ δὲ ἐπιούσῃ εἰς Νέαν πόλιν 12 κἀκεῖθεν εἰς Φιλίππους, ἥτις ἐστὶν πρώτη[ς] μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία. Ἦμεν δὲ ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ πόλει διατρίβοντες ἡμέρας τινάς. Acts 16:11-12 (NA28)

11 And having set sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a prominent city of the District of Macedonia, a colony, and we stayed in this city some days. Acts 16:11-12  (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

As you know, Paul’s friend and companion Luke wrote the book of Acts in the New Testament. In Acts 16:10, we read that after Paul and seen the vision to leave Asia and come to Europe after seeking the will of God for next focus of his missionary journey, Luke includes himself in the narrative as an eyewitness, therefore, his account of what happened to Paul and Silas in Philippi are given as one who was there.  Continue reading

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble


by Mike Ratliff

1 Πόθεν πόλεμοι καὶ πόθεν μάχαι ἐν ὑμῖν; οὐκ ἐντεῦθεν, ἐκ τῶν ἡδονῶν ὑμῶν τῶν στρατευομένων ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ὑμῶν; 2 ἐπιθυμεῖτε καὶ οὐκ ἔχετε, φονεύετε καὶ ζηλοῦτε καὶ οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν, μάχεσθε καὶ πολεμεῖτε, οὐκ ἔχετε διὰ τὸ μὴ αἰτεῖσθαι ὑμᾶς, 3 αἰτεῖτε καὶ οὐ λαμβάνετε διότι κακῶς αἰτεῖσθε, ἵνα ἐν ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ὑμῶν δαπανήσητε. 4 μοιχαλίδες, οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἡ φιλία τοῦ κόσμου ἔχθρα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν; ὃς ἐὰν οὖν βουληθῇ φίλος εἶναι τοῦ κόσμου, ἐχθρὸς τοῦ θεοῦ καθίσταται. 5 ἢ δοκεῖτε ὅτι κενῶς ἡ γραφὴ λέγει· πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα ὃ κατῴκισεν ἐν ἡμῖν, 6 μείζονα δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν; διὸ λέγει·
ὁ θεὸς ὑπερηφάνοις ἀντιτάσσεται,
ταπεινοῖς δὲ δίδωσιν χάριν. (James 4:1-6 NA28)

1 From where do wars come and from where do fights come among you? Is it not from here–from your pleasures warring in your members? 2 You desire and you do not have. You kill and you envy and you are not able to obtain. You fight and you war. You do not have because you fail to ask. 3 You ask and you do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your pleasures. 4 Adulteresses, do you not know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world is made an enemy of God. Or do you think that  it is in vain the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us“? Be he gives greater grace. Therefore it says,
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.” 
(James 4:1-6 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The Church since its inception in the 1st Century AD has been plagued by quarrels, disagreements, feuds, splits, et cetera. According to God, the problem is not with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ or His doctrines, but with the fact that people in the Church are not submitted properly to Him or to each other. Pride is behind most disagreements just as it is behind those who break away from the truth to lead their followers with false doctrines and a focus that is on self rather than on God and his glory. Instead, those who cause these problems are in love with self and, therefore, in love with the world, its ways, and the things of the world.

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What Does it Mean to Overcome the World?


by Mike Ratliff

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:8-12 (NASB) 

There are some who believe that Romans 7:7-25 was written by the Apostle Paul in reference to before his salvation in that he proclaims his frustration with his inability to keep the law by his own strength. However, the unregenerate are not able to see that only 100% obedience to the law is acceptable to God. In this, they do not have the same grief over their inconsistencies in obedience that a genuine believer has. On the other hand, there are some who teach a false doctrine of perfection for Christians. This doctrine teaches that it is possible for Christians to mature to the point that they no longer sin. This is why I hold that Romans 7:7-25 very clearly teaches us that if we attempt to keep the law through morality or legalism then we will experience that same frustration that Paul did. On the other hand, when we understand that it is not us who have overcome the world, but our Lord, then we will have a very different view of tribulation and peace in this life for Christians.  Continue reading

The real problem


by Mike Ratliff

I have been posting here on my blog for past several months about the evils of Critical Race Theory & Intersectionality and how many “Christian” leaders have corrupted their ministries by going full bore transforming their focus from Orthodox doctrines to include these non-Biblical, man-focused subjective non-truths. We have to wonder what would cause these people to do such a thing. Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries, one of the leaders against this evil Tweeted the following today:

PSA: Critical Race Theory & Intersectionality are not the problem. They are deadly symptoms of deeper problems. Evangelicals give only lip service to God’s Word. We have a crisis of man-fearing, unbelief, & cowardice. That’s how CRT/I gained a foothold.

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Christian Hope


by Mike Ratliff

13 Ὁ δὲ θεὸς τῆς ἐλπίδος πληρώσαι ὑμᾶς πάσης χαρᾶς καὶ εἰρήνης ἐν τῷ πιστεύειν, εἰς τὸ περισσεύειν ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἐλπίδι ἐν δυνάμει πνεύματος ἁγίου. Romans 15:13 (NA28)

13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing for you to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The concept of “hope” as it is viewed in the world today, and, sadly, by much of what calls itself “Christian” is an expression of a wish or a want, such as, “I sure do hope I get…,” or “I sure hope I do not get…” In this, there is no certainty in the usage of the word “hope.” However, in the passage above (Romans 15:13) for example, the Greek noun which is the lexical root for both ἐλπίδος and ἐλπίδι, which is ἐλπίς (elpis) speaks of a “desire of some good with expectation of obtaining it.” The Christian concept of our hope in Christ, our blessed hope, is exactly this. We are not hoping, as the world does like football fans that our favorite team will win a game or even the title of conference or whatever. That is not what we base our hope upon. No, our hope is based upon certainty.  Continue reading

Being a Living Sacrifice


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 (NASB)

All of the things that true Christians should be doing for the glory of God, drinking from the cup of Christ’s suffering, wrestling the correct opponent, loving your enemies, and behaving like a Christian are possible only for the believer who is in the process of taking on Christ’s character. No one can do these things naturally. No one is able to attain this level of spirituality by trying to do those things. Instead, these behaviors flow from a Christlike heart. No believer will ever become Christlike in their character unless they also become Spirit-led. If a believer is controlled by their emotions then they are not Spirit-led. Neither are they who have not learned to walk in the Spirit. If sin runs rampant through a believer’s life then they are not Spirit-led. In addition, if a believer is constantly consumed by anger, bitterness, envy, and self-protection then they are not Spirit-led. Continue reading

Belief vs Unbelief


by Mike Ratliff

21 Therefore the LORD heard and was full of wrath;
And a fire was kindled against Jacob
And anger also mounted against Israel,
22 Because they did not believe in God
And did not trust in His salvation. Psalms 78:21-22 (NASB) 

There are only two groups of people in the world. There are Christians, the elect, and everyone else, the non-elect. What separates them? What is the difference? It is not different streams of faith, as new agers and the liberals” say, which are all equal and going to the same place and color people in different ways. No, that is what universalists of every variety are selling, but that is most definitely not what God’s Word explicitly says. No, the difference between those in Christ and everyone else is that the former are possessors of faith, which is the Greek word πιστις, which is transliterated as pistes. It and it’s many grammatical forms are translated as “assurance,” “faith,” ”belief,” et cetera throughout the New Testament. Before we define “unbelief,” let us define biblical faith, πιστις, so that we can see very clearly what marks the true believer from the false professor. Continue reading

Saving Faith is a Gift From God by His Grace


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) 

Back in the late 1980’s I enlisted in our church’s Evangelism Explosion program. It required a great deal of scripture memorization, a lot more than I was actually prepared for. Those of us who were trainees were teamed up with a trainer and after learning to share the Gospel in class the day came when we were taken out to make visits to people who had checked a box on some form somewhere that they would be interested in “a visit” from someone from our church. In any case, one of the first passages I memorized in this training was the one I placed at the top of this post. In chapter 1 of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesian Church he gives us one, long elegant sentence in Greek showing that the triune God initiated and accomplished cosmic reconciliation and redemption for the praise of his glory. He also speaks of the Church’s divine election prior to the foundation of the world in v4. In vv15-23 we Have Paul’s Prayer of thanksgiving, also one long sentence in Greek. This is a prayer that the Ephesian church will gain deep insight into the Lord’s powerful working and rich gifts in Christ. Then we come to chapter 2. We will look at Ephesians 2:1-10 in this post to keep things in context, but our focus will be vv8-9 for I want to look at three key words and what they mean to our faith. They are translated in our English Bibles as “faith,” “grace,” and “gift.”  Continue reading

God is Sovereign


by Mike Ratliff

19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
26 ‘The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’
27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. Acts 4:19-28 (NASB)

When we make statements like, “God is Sovereign.” we sometimes include a qualifier in that statement like this, “God is Sovereign over ‘something.” That is a fallacious statement though meant well. God is Sovereign. There is no need to add any qualifier to that statement. I have heard many well meaning people say, “God is Sovereign over salvation.” Well, He is, but He is also Sovereign over all of creation. There is nothing over which He is not sovereign.
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The Holiness of the Ekklesia


by Mike Ratliff

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) 

The Church is not a building. No, in the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, our English translations of it where we find the the word “church,” it is a translation of  a form of ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia). For example, in Acts 5:11, “καὶ ἐγένετο φόβος μέγας ἐφʼ ὅλην τὴν ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐπὶ πάντας τοὺς ἀκούοντας ταῦτα,” which the NASB translates as, “And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things,” contains ἐκκλησίαν (ekklēsian),  which is the accusative, singular, feminine case of ἐκκλησίαAll that means is that ἐκκλησίαν is the direct object of the main verb in that sentence. However notice that there is just one ἐκκλησία“This word literally means, “the called out ones.” It’s usage in scripture denotes the New Testament community of the redeemed in a two-fold aspect, the first referring to all those called by and to Christ in the fellowship of His salvation, which is the “Church” worldwide at all times. The second aspect, rarely used, refers to a local body of believers.

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