The Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints / Persevering Grace


by Mike Ratliff

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)

Probably the number one thing that I have learned while presenting the doctrines of grace is that there are people who simply will not believe nor back away from their own conception of Soteriology. For instance, I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who smirk and roll their eyes back when the topic of Persevering Grace comes up. I heard one fellow say once that God writes those who are saved in the Lamb’s Book of Life in pencil and that pencil has an eraser. Where in the Bible is that one?

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The doctrines of Election and Reprobation


by Mike Ratliff

13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 2:13. 14 NASB)

A few years ago before I began working from home fulltime and was still working from an office outside of our data center, a fellow from another department who I was working with on an issue made a comment about some of my devotional stuff and my small Bible that I carried in my computer bag, which were laying on my desk. I knew that he had at one time been a Methodist pastor, but had left the ministry. I have no idea what the history of that was. The comment he made was an incredulous statement in which he questioned how I would ever find the time to spend “doing that” as busy as I was. I told him that I did that when I first got to work in the morning before anyone else was there after I had done all my server checkups. At that time I was working my way through R. C. Sproul’s book Chosen By God and it was lying there as well. He asked when I read that. I told him I did that as I ate lunch. He picked it up and read the back cover and then put it down quickly like it burned his hand then made another incredulous statement, “You’re a Calvinist!”  Continue reading

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies!


by Mike Ratliff

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 (NASB) 

In this post we will study Romans 8:18-39. All of the Bible is important and should be studied thorougly. In this passage it is vital for each Christian to grasp the truths therein in order to stand firm in the midst of every conceivable attack our enemy can use against them. Also, the truths in this passage are like a dividing line. Those who come down on the side of God’s Sovereignty and the security of the believer within it have it right, while there are many who call themselves Christians who ignore these truths and teach the opposite leaving those who follow them in the bondage of fear and doubt and even believing in the sovereignty of Satan and his demons. There is another group of course, that would be all in the liberal camp who take the name of Christian for whatever reason, but believe in no historical Christian doctrines. No, they only believe in their own man-made “god” and “jesus” made in their own image. These magnificent truths are meant only for genuine believers not those who have never bowed the knee to Christ and are now walking in repentance having been saved by grace through faith as a gift from God himself.  Continue reading

Original Sin, Total Depravity, and Free Will


by Mike Ratliff

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 (NASB) 

Sacred Scripture’s diagnosis of sin is as a universal deformity of human nature found at every point in every person (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:9-23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8-10 see above). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament describe sin as rebellion against God’s rule, missing the mark God set for us to aim at, transgressing God’s law, offending God’s purity by defiling oneself, and incurring guilt before God the Judge. The moral deformity is dynamic: sin is an energy of irrational, negative, and rebellious reaction to God. It is a spirit of fighting God in order to play god. The root of sin is pride and enmity against God, the spirit seen in Adam’s first transgression, and sinful acts always have behind them thoughts and desires that one way or another express the willful opposition of the fallen heart to God’s claims on our lives.  Continue reading

Victory in Christ Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 (NASB) 

All of those truly in Christ have an enemy.  He hates us.  He hates our Lord.  He hates the Father. He hates the truth.  He hates the light given to us by our Lord  by which we see the truth. He hates the truth that he has already been judged and his future in Lake of Fire awaits while our sins were already judged at the Cross as they were imputed to Christ who paid the penalty for them as our propitiation. Because of this we have a glorious future awaiting us in eternity with our Lord. Yes, our enemy hates us and all that. Because of this and the fact that he is more evil than we can imagine, he attacks us in every conceivable way possible in attempts to discourage us and keep us from living and walking in the light of the truth provided for us by our Lord. That is why it is vital for each of us to grasp the truths from the passage above (Romans 8:31-39) in order to stand firm in the midst of every conceivable attack our enemy can use against us. On the other hand, the truths in this passage are like a dividing line. Those who come down on the side of God’s Sovereignty and the security of the believer within it have it right, while there are many who call themselves Christians who ignore these truths and teach the opposite leaving those who follow them in the bondage of fear and doubt and even believing in the sovereignty of Satan (our enemy) and his demons. There is another group of course, that would be all in the liberal camp who take the name of Christian for whatever reason, but believe in no historical Christian doctrines. No, they only believe in their own man-made “god” and “jesus” made in their own image. These magnificent truths are meant only for genuine believers not those who have never bowed the knee to Jesus Christ as Lord and are now walking in repentance having been saved by grace through faith as a gift from God.  Continue reading

God’s providence and inheritance


by Mike Ratliff

11 Ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ 12 εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης αὐτοῦ τοὺς προηλπικότας ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ. (Ephesians 1:11-12 NA28)

11 In whom also we were made an inheritance, having been predestined according to the plan of the one working all things according to the counsel of His will. 12 For us to be to the praise of His glory, having previously hoped in Christ. (Ephesians 1:11-12 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Most modern Bible translations undoubtedly render v11 a bit differently than I did above. The words “we were made an inheritance” translates one verb, ἐκληρώθημεν, which is the Aorist tense, Indicative mood, Passive voice of κληρόω or klēroō, “obtain an inheritance. The passive voice is the key. Paul is saying that Christians are made an inheritance by God for God. One of the great misconceptions of our salvation, which is made by so many, is that it is the result of something we do, but how anyone could believe that after reading Ephesians 1 and 2 is beyond me.  Continue reading

Victory in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“ For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NASB)

It is vital for each Christian to grasp the truths from Romans 8:18-39 in order to stand firm in the midst of every conceivable attack our enemy can use against them. As we study this passage we learn several things. One very important truth is that what God reveals is how these truths in this passage are like a dividing line. Those who come down on the side of God’s Sovereignty and the security of the believer within it have it right, while there are many who call themselves Christians who ignore these truths and teach the opposite leaving those who follow them in the bondage of fear and doubt and even believing in the sovereignty of Satan and his demons. There is another group of course, that would be all in the liberal camp who take the name of Christian for whatever reason, but believe in no historical Christian doctrines. No, they only believe in their own man-made “god” and “jesus” made in their own image. These magnificent truths are meant only for genuine believers not those who have never bowed the knee to Christ as Lord and are now walking in repentance having been saved by grace through faith as a gift from God himself.  Continue reading

The Reformed Doctrine of Definite Redemption


by Mike Ratliff

17 Καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ νύμφη λέγουσιν· ἔρχου. καὶ ὁ ἀκούων εἰπάτω· ἔρχου. καὶ ὁ διψῶν ἐρχέσθω, ὁ θέλων λαβέτω ὕδωρ ζωῆς δωρεάν. (Revelation 22:17 NA28)

17 And the Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And the one hearing let him say, “Come.” And the one thirsting let him come; let the one desiring take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The Reformed Doctrine of Definite Redemption is also called “The Doctrine of Particular Redemption” and, historically, “The Doctrine of Limited Atonement.” This doctrine speaks about the intention of the triune God in the death of Jesus Christ. Without questioning the infinite worth of Christ’s sacrifice or genuiness of God’s sincere invitation to all who hear the gospel (Revelation 22:17 above), this doctrine states that Christ in dying intended to accomplish exactly what he did accomplish, that is, to take away the sins of God’s elect, and to ensure that they would all be brought to faith through regeneration and preserved through faith for glory. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not intend to die in this efficacious sense for everyone. The proof of that, as Sacred Scripture and experience unite to teach us, is revealed very clearly in the fact that not all are saved.  Continue reading

He who eats this bread will live forever


by Mike Ratliff

53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58 NASB)

In January 1986 God intervened in my life with eternal results. He called me to Himself. He regenerated me. He justified me. He sanctified me. He adopted me. He changed me forever. However, I was a baby Christian. I had only a vague concept of what God had done on my behalf. I really did not have a clear understanding of this thing we call Christianity. All I knew was that before that wonderful day I did not care too much for church. My concept of the proper Christian life was one of being religious, but that religion had to meet certain criteria. However, after God saved me, my concept changed radically. I suddenly found that I loved God and His people. I loved hearing Bible centered sermons and being in Bible study classes. I had a deep desire to know God’s will that I may obey Him in all things. However, that earlier concept of the proper Christian life was still with me, that is, that one’s religiosity was what determined one’s right standing before God. Continue reading

Unbelief leads to deception


by Mike Ratliff

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58 ESV)

As we continue to look at the evidence of God sending out a strong delusion upon professing Christians who appear to be running headlong into apostasy in ever increasing numbers let us look at what it is in these people that has brought this about. Why have they fallen into darkness and we have not? I have always taught God’s Word as literal truth and there are many places in the Word that some professing Christians have a problem taking literally because, if we do, then it refutes their pet theology exactly to the point. That is the nature of God’s truth. I have had some very ugly discussions in Bible Study classes about doctrine in which certain people were insistent that a section of God’s Word cannot be taken literally even though the only refutation they have against doing so is human philosophy. This, my brethren, is unbelief in action.  Continue reading

Once Saved Always Saved vs Persevering Grace


by Mike Ratliff

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24 ESV)

When I was growing up as a Southern Baptist the Gospel we heard preached to us continually always included a doctrine that could best be called “Once saved, Always Saved.” After God had mercy on me in 1986 when I was 34, opening my heart to believe the Gospel, I went right into serving in various Southern Baptist churches eventually becoming a Bible teacher and Deacon and serving in the role of an Elder even though our church did not officially have that role defined at that time. It was as I began studying doctrine back in 2003-2004 that I realized that I had grown up as an inconsistent Arminian.  In any case, in that study of doctrine I also compared Arminianism and Calvinism. I had heard of Calvinism in a historical sense but really knew nothing about its theology. However, through this study, I also found that I was not in agreement with all the points of consistent Arminianism. As I prayerfully studied Reformation Theology over a period of several weeks I found myself coming to grasp each of the five points. How did this happen? What was it that God was revealing to me from His Word that caused this? It was the fact that Sacred Scripture clearly shows that  He is sovereign over all especially the salvation of all who believe the Gospel.

While Southern Baptists have a doctrine called “Once saved, Always Saved,” those of us who are Reformed in our Theology also are firm in our belief in the security of the believer, but in Reformed Theology it is called 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.

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Is there Injustice on God’s Part?


by Mike Ratliff

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! (Romans 9:14 ESV)

The natural mind, plagued with selective rationalization, demands that God be fair in His dealings with all humankind. Fairness speaks of justice. One of the tenets of our republican form government in the USA is a right to a fair and speedy trial before one’s peers. A person on trial for a crime may or may not truly want justice. They may be guilty so their desire is not justice, but grace. If a judge in a criminal trial declares a defendant guilty, but then defers sentencing in lieu of probation or “time served” then he has extended grace to the guilty party.

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The Traditional Southern Baptist View of Salvation?


I had to work late last night so I had no chance to post the next in the Sermon on the Mount series. However, it is so odd how God works things out isn’t it? In my last post, The Sermon on the Mount Part 15, I wrote it after church on Sunday in which my pastor, Rick Holland, preached on persecution based on John 16:1-4. This was after his return from a trip to visit churches in England, Germany and Russia. In Russia he met a man who, when he was 13, his father, who was a pastor, was arrested and executed on the spot by the Soviet Union secret police for refusing to recant. I reflected on this and agreed with Rick that the worst persecution I have ever experienced in my walk has amounted to figurative arrows in the back from professing Christians who have a problem with my theology and my insistence on being very precise in teaching it and upholding God’s truth in its entirety. Continue reading

Those Who Have Eternal Life


by Mike Ratliff

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58 ESV) 

About 26 years ago God intervened in my life with eternal results. He called me to Himself. He regenerated me. He justified me. He sanctified me. He adopted me. He changed me forever. However, I was a baby Christian. I had only a vague concept of what God had done on my behalf. I really did not have a clear understanding of this thing we call Christianity. All I knew was that before that wonderful day I did not care too much for church. My concept of the proper Christian life was one of being religious, but that religion had to meet certain criteria. However, after God saved me, my concept changed radically. I suddenly found that I loved God and His people. I loved hearing Bible centered sermons and being in Bible study classes. I had a deep desire to know God’s will that I may obey Him in all things. However, that earlier concept of the proper Christian life was still with me. That meant that one’s religiosity was what determined one’s right standing before God. Continue reading