What is strange fire unto the Lord?


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 or how He did it, but 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 I was totally self-focused. I was fleshly. I was focused on my own desires. However, at the same time, I was very frustrated with my lack of self-control. I desperately wanted victory over these things. Continue reading

Pride, worldliness, and strife


by Mike Ratliff

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4 (NASB) 

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.  Continue reading

God’s view of sin


by Mike Ratliff

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NASB) 

Those who have a problem with the Doctrine of Original Sin and the Wrath of God against all sin attempt to paint the God of Reformation Theology as some sort of ogre full of anger with very little love manifest except in the case of a chosen few. In their examples of how God operates in saving people, sin is never the issue. They portray God as loving everyone to the maximum even if their sin amounted to open rebellion against Him on their part. In their theology He just looks the other way and attempts to save everyone, but the point of contention is that the God in their example is unable to save anyone. The salvation of people is only made a possibility with those actually being saved being those who hear the Gospel and respond by exercising their sovereign Free Will. On the other hand, the God of the Bible is not anything like this. He is Sovereign. He saves those whom He has elected or chosen unto eternal life. No one limits Him in any way. Man’s will is in no way a barrier to God fulfilling His Will. From these two vastly different understandings of theology comes two very different understandings of sin.  Let’s look at a biblical view of sin and I invite you to compare your own understanding of it to what we unpack here. If your’s is different, I suggest to you that the Bible is not in error…  Continue reading

Efficacious faith is a gift from God


by Mike Ratliff

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NASB) 

Efficacious adj. producing the desired effect – from The Oxford New Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus Third Edition.

Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up into eternal life, as Christ calls it in John iv.1

Saving or efficacious faith is not the same thing as the best faith man can muster through the exercise of the will. According to our Lord Jesus in John 4:13-14 (above), efficacious faith is that which is given to the believer by God and this same faith will become in the believer a spring of water welling up to eternal life. This is not belief that is the product of reason or intellectual assent. It is not a belief that the believer must generate and desperately hold onto lest it be diminished and be lost. In the excerpt from Martin Luther’s letter to Pope Leo X, Concerning Christian Liberty, we read that those who conceive of faith as something done by the believer count it as simply a social virtue and that is an easy thing. Luther says that those with this concept of faith believe as they do because they have not experienced efficacious faith and have never tasted the great strength there is in it. I contend that the purveyors of the Seeker-Sensitive, Emergent, and Missional forms of “Christianity” are of the same sort of faith Luther is contrasting in this letter with genuine believers who are so because they have drunk of the water given to them by the Lord that has become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. These of the New Type of Christianity have a faith consisting of works-righteousness. This is a man-made faith not the efficacious faith that is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:1-10).  Continue reading

Belief, unbelief, and streams of faith


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) 

Dealing with those who insist that they are Christians while what they say and do is marked as distinctly the fruit of unbelief, can be a very trying experience. I suppose that is why our enemy will never stop his attacks on those who are called by the name of Christ to discourage and confuse them. Not that long ago an “Emergent” leader named Doug Pagitt referred to those of us at CRN and other Orthodox Christians as serving God because we were driven by fear. In that same article he also said that the differences in our faith and his was that they are nothing more than different “streams of faith.” What does that mean? Continue reading

The light of the world


by Mike Ratliff

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB) 

While Joel and Victoria Osteen believe that our Lord’s command to let your light shine before others is to prosper and show everyone how God is blessing you, this is not what He was talking about in the passage above at all. We are not to be conformed to this world, we are to be  unified with our brothers and sisters in Christ while not being yoked to professing Christians who are not genuine, and we are to lay up our treasure in heaven not here on earth. Living like this makes one stand out because it is a way of life that is conformed to God and His ways, which are not the ways of the world. It will get the attention of the unregenerate. Continue reading

Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord


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) 

It is very common in the visible church in our time to hear preachers and teachers and people within local bodies of believers to boast about all sorts of things pertaining to their salvation or walk. They boast about their confirmation, baptism, church membership, Holy Communion, keeping the Ten Commandments, living the Sermon on the Mount, giving to charity, and living a moral life. It is not uncommon to hear some even boast about their faith, but all boasting is rooted in good works, not grace.  Continue reading

Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?


by Mike Ratliff

1 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:1-4 (NASB) 

The Church of the New Covenant, 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.  Continue reading

Do not love the world nor the things in the world because If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him


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. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian 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 “process” of being transformed unto Christlikeness as Paul stated above. 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

Abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit


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 or 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

The blessings of righteousness, the fruit of justification


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 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 alone – 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 (Romans 3:27-31) 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 in any way on the believer 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 nullify 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

All in need of God’s righteousness have condemnation awaiting them


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 this post we will look at Romans 1:18-3:20. That may sound like a lot of verses, but 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

According to the goal pursue the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

13 ἀδελφοί, ἐγὼ ἐμαυτὸν οὐ λογίζομαι κατειληφέναι· ἓν δέ, τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινόμενος, 14 κατὰ σκοπὸν διώκω εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως τοῦ θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. Philippians 3:13-14 (NA28)

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself to have made it my own; but one thing, forgetting what lies behind while straining forward to the things ahead, 14 according to the goal I pursue the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (a personal translation of Philippians 3:13-14 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Those truly in Christ are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Not all agree about what that means, but according to that passage it does tell us plainly, “ὥστε εἴ τις ἐν Χριστῷ, καινὴ κτίσις· τὰ ἀρχαῖα παρῆλθεν, ἰδοὺ γέγονεν καινά” or “so that if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old things passed away, behold he has become new.” Those who are a καινὴ κτίσις· have moved from spiritual death to spiritual life in Christ Jesus. The Christian now lives for Christ by living for others, effected by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:3, 6, 18) and the death of Christ (5:14-15). This was destined by God to come amid this evil age. Notice it was never meant to suppliant it, but to be in the midst of it and be continually at war with it. This war causes many casualties. So many professing Christians fall victim to taking the wrong side in this war and find in the end that their profession was nothing more than words. The god of this age blinds the eyes and hearts of his slaves and many of them are very religious. This blindness creates hearts so hard and unbelief so thick that the Gospel, even when well preached, interests them not at all.  Continue reading