No pardon, no salvation!


by Mike Ratliff

4 “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
A leader and commander for the peoples.
5 “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know,
And a nation which knows you not will run to you,
Because of the Lord your God, even the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:4-8 (NASB)

For quite some time now we have been looking long and hard at the narrowness of the Gospel and how it it is not editable. It is not open to change. No matter how much a person wants it to be otherwise, it is unchangeable. It is God’s Good News to fallen man. This good news is the proclamation that there is a way, only one way, for sinful people to be reconciled to God. It is good news because all people suffer from the same condition. They are born dead in trespasses and sins and are not morally able to do anything about it. This separates all of us from God because He is Holy and must judge all sin. The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ went to the cross and became sin on our behalf. God judged our sin in Him. This “atoned” for our sins. Now let us look at the pardon available to all who believe. Continue reading

The gospel that is believed and saves


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)

The churchianity that most of us  grew up with is confused with genuine Christianity by many people. It is actually a set of beliefs or values  laid out in our minds’ decision grid. It becomes a value system in the heart that reckons salvation to be based on religious acts such as saying a certain prayer in a certain order while holding to a certain frame of mind. When doubt comes, and it always does, we are told to look back on “that day” when we said that prayer. Some even go so far as to say that they doubt if a person is really a Christian if they cannot remember the exact moment when they prayed that prayer.  Continue reading

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him


by Mike Ratliff

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:41-44 (NASB) 

One of the aspects of our Christian faith that we lose sight of sometimes, and it gets us in trouble when we do, is how vital it is that we remain totally amazed that we ever got saved at all. We make a huge error when we forget this because that path leads to self-righteousness, self-absorption, and an ungrateful heart towards God. Even though we may not be fully aware that we are in that place of self-focus, we cannot be Spirit-led when we are full of self. Continue reading

Love of the world


by Mike Ratliff

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

One of the markers of Christian genuineness is separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading

What does it mean for Christians to draw near unto God?


by Mike Ratliff

7 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9 (NASB)

What does it mean biblically to draw near unto God? Obviously, the Jews our Lord confronted as Matthew recorded in the passage above were not doing so. However the writer of Hebrews says to those who are truly born again:

19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22 (NASB)

Here is Hebrews 10:22 from the NA28 Greek text, “προσερχώμεθα μετὰ ἀληθινῆς καρδίας ἐν πληροφορίᾳ πίστεως ῥεραντισμένοι τὰς καρδίας ἀπὸ συνειδήσεως πονηρᾶς καὶ λελουσμένοι τὸ σῶμα ὕδατι καθαρῷ·”

The words “let us draw near” translates the verb προσερχώμεθα, which is the Present tense, Subjunctive mood, Middle voice, 1st person, plural of προσέρχομαι (proserchomai), “to approach, accede to.” This verb structure refers to continuous or repeated action, regardless of when the action took place. The subjunctive mood suggests that the action is subject to some condition and the present subjunctive can be used to give exhortation, which is exactly what the writer of Hebrews is doing here.  Continue reading

He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB) 

I am a Baptist at heart. I have heard the statement, “Once Saved, Always Saved.” comment more times than I could ever count. My theology has changed much in the last couple of decades, but one thing that did not change was my firm belief in the security of the believer. In Reformed Theology it is called the Perseverance of the Saints. However, I prefer the term, “Persevering Grace.” The former makes it seem as if the believer is eternally saved by his or her own merit or ability. The latter, however, states that it is God who preserves His saints by His grace. Continue reading

Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness you are blessed


by Mike Ratliff

12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB)

What is Christian suffering? I doubt if most Christians in the United States have a clear understanding of real persecution for their faith that is going on daily in other parts of the world. There are dear saints dying for their faith daily in parts of the world and those of us in the U.S. believe we are being persecuted if someone passes a law or ordinance restricting their religious liberties. Well, one of the reasons Christianity is not persecuted to the extent is in other parts of the world is that the ‘visible church’ here has been compromised to a great extent. What does that mean? It means that leaders within it have made friends with the world and have invited it in. There is little separation. However, this writer contends that if anyone reading this, including myself, would actually become separate from the world and its values in their daily lives and withdraw from institutions that are ungodly and not participate in any activities that are blasphemous then that persecution that is talked about in 2 Timothy 3:12 would become a reality just as it has in China, North Korea, Pakistan, and all Muslim countries.

Continue reading

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves


by Mike Ratliff

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:22 (NASB) 

The visible Church in our time has been compromised for the most part by human philosophy and has succumbed to the pressure from the world to not emphasize God’s truth as absolute. Professing Christians who discount the Word of God as absolute truth are actually placing their intellect, their beliefs, and the counsel of their own hearts above the Word of God as it relates to authority and truth. It is one thing for an atheist to denigrate Christians, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the God the Holy Spirit. That is almost expected and should not surprise us. However, when the majority of professing Christians demand the right to behave contrary to what the Word teaches about Christian behavior can God’s judgment be far behind? Continue reading

Sanctification – deliverance from bondage


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NASB) 

In this post we will look at Paul’s “therefore” he placed in the passage above. In other words, in Romans 8:1 Paul begins an important summary and conclusion which is related to his preceding arguments. We normally find that argument in the passages directly preceding the “therefore.” However, this “therefore” introduces the staggering results of all Paul’s teachings in the first seven chapters of Romans, which would include justification by faith alone on the basis of God’s overwhelming grace.  Continue reading

Sanctification – though Christians are justified and released from the law their sin nature remains


by Mike Ratliff

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23 ESV)

When I first started this ministry those who opposed it very heavily were emergents. That was in 2006-2010 or so. To prepare for their onslaught I would listen to their “sermons” or read their articles, which was painful.  It is so interesting to listen to their reasoning for how they arrived at their theology of unbelief. Most of them were confessed refugees from some form of pietistic or American Evangelicalism that leaned heavily towards semi-pelagianism and legalism. That mix in whatever proportions is intellectually veneer thin. When the leadership within those groups move at all away from being centered on God’s Word and His grace then all that is left is the legalism that only leads those in unbelief to despair for without the preaching of the Good News according to the Free Grace of God, all that is left is simply manmade religiosity. These emergents who fled from that now look at all who they view as dogmatic in any way about their theology as simply “fundamentalist” even though there is a vast difference between what we preach and teach from what they fled from. I have always resisted that label of “fundamentalist” for that very reason. No, I am most definitely not a Christian liberal like the emergents, but neither am I mired in spiritually dead legalism. No, I work very hard at being Biblically centered. That means that it is God’s Word, which He gave us that gives us the hard answers and God’s very doctrines, which we must learn and follow. However, as we have been learning, this is not in any way legalism, but is only possible for those who have been baptized into Christ by God. They have the Holy Spirit and by God’s grace they can obey Him and live for Him. They believe and obey God. I heard Jay Bakker in one of the sermon reviews I listened to say that the only way to grow spiritually is to get rid of belief and move into doubt. So, the theology of the “emergent church” is actually founded on the sand of unbelief. These emergents are refugees from bad theological systems, which they fled from in despair, but have created something that is probably just as bad, if not worse. In the latter part of Romans 7 Paul gives a window of what this despair can look like. We will look at that and what the right solution is to it.  Continue reading

Sanctification – 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 is our point of “our decision for Christ.” No, Justification as Paul preached it is foreign to all of that. So where does all that come from? It comes in from people confusing their justification with their sanctification in many cases.  Continue reading

Justification by faith – the blessings of righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. 23 Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, 24 but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:22-25 (NASB) 

We have completed Paul’s case that God justifies sinners on the basis of faith alone. In the passage above (Romans 4:22-25) we have his concluding remarks to that part of his dissertation. He has made it clear that those truly in Christ did not get there according to merit or works, but on the basis of faith alone, but now we begin the section of Romans that if not taken in context can cause much confusion. I will not move quickly through it. I have found it amazing to study God’s Word in context as we are doing and come across a passage that has been used by “proof texters” to teach a pet theology, but when kept in its proper context, it does no such thing. Carefully read again the passage I placed at the top of this post then read the passage below because, as you will see, it begins with the word “therefore.”  Continue reading

Justification by faith – 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

Unbelief and Its Consequences


by Mike Ratliff

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood,
16 Destruction and misery are in their paths,
17 And the path of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9-18 (NASB) 

In yesterday’s post, For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “ But the righteous man shall live by faith”, we looked at Romans 1:15-17, which gives us Paul’s theme for this Epistle. which is The Gospel of the Righteousness of God. My intent for this post is to cover a lot of ground, Romans 1:18-3:20. Why? Remember my brethren, Paul didn’t write Romans with chapters and verses. In any case, that section of Romans is what Paul uses to build his case against all mankind in that they are born dead in trespasses and sin without exception. God is Holy, Righteous, and Just and there is not anything any person can do to become justified or declared righteous on their own merit. No, there must be another solution that does not compromise God’s perfect Righteousness. In any case, in this post we will look at the airtight case Paul builds against all mankind that shows the utter wretchedness of the natural man. Continue reading