The Law of the Spirit


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

Though the Justified are Released From the Law The Sin Nature Remains


by Mike Ratliff

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 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 (NASB) 

For the several years of this ministry I did almost daily battle against the emergent movement. That meant I had to know what they were “all about.” To do that I had to listen to their sermons and read their articles and whatever else I could get my hands on. To this day I am still amazed at their reasoning for how they arrived at their theology of unbelief. Most of them are 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 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 remember hearing one emergent sermon where the speaker said 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 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

Sanctification and the Law of the Spirit


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 and the sin nature of the justified


by Mike Ratliff

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 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 (NASB) 

If you have ever listened to or read the teachings of any of the emergents or “liberal christians,” then you probably have noticed the similarities in their reasonings for how they arrived at their theology of unbelief.  Most of them are 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. The emergents  and liberals 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 one well known emergent say in one of his sermons that the only way to grow spiritually is to get rid of belief and move into doubt. So, the theology of the “emergent church” and the “christian liberals” 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

At the root of hypocrisy is pride the antithesis of humility


by Mike Ratliff

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Proverbs 16:18 NASB)

At the root of hypocrisy is pride the antithesis of humility, which is exemplified for us by Paul’s attitude to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 3:8. On the other hand, pride is absolutely never portrayed in the Bible in a positive way. Never is pride tolerated. Never is it praised as it is today. However, in the visible church in our time don’t we hear sermons and read teachings about “positive pride” and the building up of self or the searching inside to find the real “you” that God is deeply in love with and only wants you to find it so He can show you what a fantastic you that you really are? Well, I have a Greek word for that, σκύβαλον. In any case, let’s look at the Greek words in the New Testament translated as “pride,” “proud,” and “puffed up.”  Continue reading

Pride, proud, arrogant, puffed up


by Mike Ratliff

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Proverbs 16:18 NASB)

At the root of hypocrisy is, of course, pride. Pride is the antithesis of humility, which is exemplified for us by Paul’s attitude to the Ephesian church in the following passage.

8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; 10 so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. (Ephesians 3:8-13 NASB)

 

On the other hand, pride is absolutely never portrayed in the Bible in a positive way. Never is pride tolerated. Never is it praised as it is today. However, in the visible church in our time don’t we hear sermons and read teachings about “positive pride” and the building up of self or the searching inside to find that real “you” that God is deeply in love with and only wants you to find it so He can show you what a fantastic you you really are? Well, I have a Greek word for that, σκύβαλον. In any case, let’s look at the Greek words in the New Testament translated as “pride,” “proud,” and “puffed up.”  Continue reading

Law and Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6 ESV)

“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3:19 ESV)

God commanded Adam to eat from every tree of the Garden of Eden except from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He told Adam that if he did eat of it that he would surely die. In the next chapter we find Eve beguiled by the Serpent’s wiles to look upon that tree and desire it for food to become wise. She took of it and ate then gave some to Adam. God then encountered them as they hid from him since their eyes were now opened because they now knew good from evil. They had lost their innocence. Their vertical relationship with God was now broken. Their ability to commune with Him was no longer there. Why? Continue reading

Not Legalism but Law and Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.  (Romans 6:5-9 NASB)

As one who has been accused of being a Pharisee bound to legalism more times than I could ever recount, I was very pleased recently when I discovered a more biblical definition for “legalism” which states that the “legalist” is one who attempts to make legal and binding that which is never addressed to be so by God. For instance, I was taught growing up by my well meaning parents that even to take a sip of an alcoholic drink was a sin. I have read the Bible cover to cover many times and I know for certain that there is no such command in scripture that is even close to that admonition. However, I did find several references to not becoming drunk with wine or strong drink. Our Lord turned water into wine at Cana. He drank wine at the Last Supper. Paul counseled Timothy to take a little wine with his food to help his stomach, et cetera. Continue reading

Is Our Justification According to Works of the Law or by the Grace of God?


by Mike Ratliff

6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NASB)

Since the inception of this ministry I have been approached by many concerned people who are convinced that they have sinned one too many times and have forfeited their salvation. They were being continually antagonized about their sin by a voice within. In every case, after some careful questioning, I learned that each of them have been part of a church or denomination whose doctrine of justification is a blend of grace and law, faith and works. Also, as I attempted to explain that justification is by faith alone according to the grace of God, each of them responded in disbelief and that usually ended the conversation. When I tried to share with them that the unregenerate are not troubled by their sin this way it fell on deaf ears. Continue reading

Pride


by Mike Ratliff

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18 ESV)

At the root of hypocrisy is, of course, pride. Pride is the antithesis of humility, which is exemplified for us by Paul’s attitude to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 3:8. On the other hand, pride is absolutely never portrayed in the Bible in a positive way. Never is pride tolerated. Never is it praised as it is today. However, in the visible church in our time don’t we hear sermons and read teachings about “positive pride” and the building up of self or the searching inside to find that real “you” that God is deeply in love with and only wants you to find it so He can show you what a fantastic you you really are? Well, I have a Greek word for that, σκύβαλον. In any case, let’s look at the Greek words in the New Testament translated as “pride,” “proud,” and “puffed up.”  Continue reading

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism Promotes Self-Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

The five points of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as defined by Christian Smith are these:

  1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

However, this is the basis of the “theology” predominantly preached and taught throughout the “seeker movement” as my friend Lane Chaplin made clear here. I pray that you do follow that link and read Lane’s post from 2008 and also read Christian Smith’s article from The Christian Post, which is also included at the bottom. Continue reading

A Blow at Self-Righteousness


A Sermon Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 16th, 1860, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.

“If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.”—Job 9:20.

Ever since man became a sinner he has been self-righteous. When he had a righteousness of his own he never gloried of it, but ever since he has lost it, he has pretended to be the possessor of it. Those proud words which our father Adam uttered, when he sought to screen himself from the guilt of his treason against his Maker, laying the blame apparently on Eve, but really upon God who gave him the woman, were virtually a clame to blamelessness. It was but a fig leaf he could find to cover his nakedness, but how proud was he of that fig-leaf excuse, and how tenaciously did he hold to it. As it was with our first parents so is it with us: self-righteousness is born with us, and there is perhaps no sin which has so much vitality in it as the sin of righteous self. We can overcome lust itself, and anger, and the fierce passions of the will better than we can ever master the proud boastfulness which rises in our hearts and tempts us to think ourselves rich and increased in goods, while God knoweth we are naked, and poor, and miserable. Tens of thousands of sermons have been preached against self-righteousness, and yet it is as necessary to turn the great guns of the law against its walls to-day as ever it was. Martin Luther said he scarcely ever preached a sermon without inveighing against the righteousness of man, and yet, he said, “I find that still I cannot preach it down. Still men will boast in what they can do, and mistake the path to heaven to be a road paved by their own merits, and not a way besprinkled by the blood of the atonement of Jesus Christ.” My dear hearers, I cannot compliment you by imagining that all of you have been delivered from the great delusion of trusting in yourselves. The godly, those who are righteous through faith in Christ, still have to mourn that this infirmity clings to them; while as to the unconverted themselves, their besetting sin is to deny their guiltiness, to plead that they are as good as others, and to indulge still the vain and foolish hope that they shall enter into heaven from some doings, sufferings, or weepings of their own. I do not suppose there are any who are self-righteous in as bold a sense as the poor countryman I have heard of. His minister had tried to explain to him the way of salvation, but either his head was very dull, or else his soul was very hostile to the truth the minister would impart; for he so little understood what he had heard, that when the question was put, “Now then, what is the way by which you hope you can be saved before God?” the poor honest simpleton said, “Do you not think sir, if I were to sleep one cold frosty night under a hawthorn bush, that would go a great way towards it?” conceiving that his suffering might, in some degree at least, assist him in getting into heaven. You would not state your opinion in so bold a manner; you would refine it, you would gild it, you would disguise it, but it would come to the same thing after all; you would still believe that some sufferings, or believings of your own might possibly merit salvation. The Romish Church indeed, often tells this so very plainly, that we cannot think it less than profanity. I have been informed that there is in one of the Romish chapels in Cork, a monument bearing these words upon it, “I. H. S. Sacred to the memory of the benevolent Edward Molloy; a friend of humanity, the father of the poor; he employed the wealth of this world only to procure the riches of the next; and leaving a balance of merit in the book of life, he made heaven debtor to mercy. He died October 17th, 1818, aged 90.” I do not suppose that any of you will have such an epitaph on your tombstones, or ever dream of putting it as a matter of account with God, and striking a balance with him, your sins being on one side and your righteousness on the other, and hoping that a balance might remain. And yet the very same idea, only not so honestly expressed—a little more guarded, and a little more refined—the same idea, only taught to speak after a gospel dialect—is inherent in us all, and only divine grace can thoroughly cast it out of us. The sermon of this morning is intended to be another blow against our self-righteousness. If it will not die, at least let us spare no arrows against it; let us draw the bow, and if the shaft cannot penetrate its heart, it may at least stick in its flesh and help to worry it to its grave. Continue reading

Sanctification: The Law of the Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 ESV)

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