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 Will Judge the Ungodly


by Mike Ratliff

Ayin.
121 I have done justice and righteousness;
Do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Be surety for Your servant for good;
Do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation
And for Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness
And teach me Your statutes.
125 I am Your servant; give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies.
126 It is time for the Lord to act,
For they have broken Your law.
127 Therefore I love Your commandments
Above gold, yes, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything,
I hate every false way. Psalms 119:121-128 (NASB) 

There are times I deeply desire for God to hurry up and bring judgment upon the wicked people in this world. I love the Lord. I live for His glory. When people belittle Him with their inane jokes, my blood boils. A fellow told me once that he understood the gospel just fine, but it was meaningless because he did not believe in God. The spiritual gift of prophecy God gave me at my rebirth kicked in and I told him that only a fool would say something like that. That probably was not the wisest thing to say, but I became righteously indignant since he was attempting to amuse himself with angering me by attacking my faith. Of course, my response was wrong. I did not respond with winsomeness, gentleness, or self-control. Then he told me everything was relative then attempted to say there were no absolutes and he could prove it. I responded by telling him that he used an absolute statement by saying, “There are no absolutes.” Then he stalked off. That was not very productive was it? Continue reading

The Cost of Following Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 (NASB) 

One of the most tragic aspects of the growing apostasy of the Church, with its roots in Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, is the viewing of salvation as “easy” or something that can be planned or manipulated by men. Along with this, those who are its proponents must necessarily view God as somewhat less than Sovereign. They also do not teach that those who come to Jesus must necessarily become subject to Christ as their Lord. What did Jesus say about this?

Continue reading

How Can We know if we are Elect?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. 2 Peter 1:1-11 (NASB) 

After God dragged me from my former Arminian doctrinal beliefs into the truth of Reformed Theology, my assurance of my salvation did not suffer at all. In fact, it deepened as the profundity of our salvation by grace and justification by faith became apparent to me. I no longer had a fractured picture of God’s eternal plan. It all came into focus as I studied the “Ordo Solutis” from Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-12. However, some I have attempted to teach these truths to have virulently resisted. One of the questions these “resistors of the truth” always ask is, “How could you ever have assurance believing that?” That question puzzles me.  Continue reading

Christ came to fulfill the Law


by Mike Ratliff

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. 6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; Romans 10:4-9 (NASB) 

I grew up as a Southern Baptist in Oklahoma. Even before I was saved in 1986 I had heard from teachers and preachers that Christians are under a dispensation of Grace while Old Testament believers were under a dispensation of the Law. The work Christ did on the cross did away with any need to be concerned about keeping the Law. Now, while that statement, in a sense, is true it is not true in another sense. What am I talking about? As we study the Law of God in the Old Testament we find two distinct sections of the Law. There is the ceremonial Law that includes the very complex system of festivals or feasts and a very detailed system of sacrifices. All of the ceremonial law was intended to be a type or picture of Christ and His work of atonement on the cross. This is a very complex topic and out of topic for this post.  The other section of God’s Law contains the Ten Commandments and all other commands that reveal God’s standards about sin. Continue reading

Assurance of Salvation


by Mike Ratliff

10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 2 Peter 1:10 (NASB) 

How can we know if we are truly in Christ? Or you may ask, “What is the fruit which genuine believers bear?” If true salvation is as impacting on a believer’s life as we contend then there should be verifiable evidence or fruit manifested in that life. The problem is in knowing what evidences really prove the presence of God in a person’s life and those that do not. I have noticed most of us look at the wrong things in our self-evaluations to determine if we are in Christ. Real evidence of the presence of God in a person’s life will be the fruits of salvation. These fruits will in turn lead to outward manifestations of “goodness” or “religiosity” which, unfortunately, can be counterfeited. These outward manifestations are often what we look at to determine if we are a “good Christian” or not. That is a fallacy. Any activity or attitude that can be counterfeited by a false believer cannot be used to verify one’s salvation. Continue reading

The Curse of Mediocrity


by Mike Ratliff

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
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 8:28-39 (NASB) 

Relativism has enslaved this post-modern 21st Century. The push to equalize everything continues unabated even though it has become apparent to continue down this path is bordering on insanity. There is a Nike commercial being shown this Christmas featuring Lebron James, the NBA star. In the commercial he talks about how the current culture we live in now elevates those like him who came from “humble beginnings,” have overcome that by striving to attain a level of cultural acceptance either through their education or, like him, their athletic abilities. He pushes in the commercial that his real goal and that our goal should be to eliminate all “humble beginnings.” Of course, he also decries all forms of Capitalism and has said he wants the world to turn to Socialism. Unfortunately, evangelical Christianity has succumbed to this madness as well. We see this, for instance, in the takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention leadership by men who are advocates of the “Social Justice Gospel,” Critical Race Theory, and a determined effort on their part to move SBC church membership to become liberal in their politics rather than conservative. Continue reading

Boasting is Excluded


by Mike Ratliff

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
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. Romans 3:21-28 (NASB) 

Our pastor has been preaching through the first several chapters of Acts. In our small groups we have been taking a deeper look at the passages from which he gets his sermons. Last night was interesting because we talked a great deal about how each of us came to faith. Some of us had false starts, that is, we made a profession of faith as a child or teenager that was emotional not based on faith. Others were members of churches that did not preach the gospel, but they were baptized there. Since then we all have come to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ at various ages, but, interestingly, none of them were the same, not even close. In my own case I sat there and listened to everyone sharing while God took me through the labyrinth of time and circumstances in my life which culminated in me repenting and believing on my Lord Jesus Christ. But, it didn’t stop there. I also reflected on my journey since then. For many years, even as a Bible teacher and Deacon, I confess to you all that my understanding of salvation and the doctrines that have been developed, which explain it, was very fuzzy compared to my understanding now. During those years of doctrinal “confusion” I based my salvation on something I had done. I based my assurance on things I did. When I witnessed to others during that time the emphasis was on bringing people to make a decision followed by them reciting a sinner’s prayer. As well meaning as all of that was, I see it now as the fruit of utter spiritual immaturity.

Continue reading

Death in Adam Life in Christ


by Mike Ratliff

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. Romans 5:12-14 (NASB) 

Those professing Christians who for one reason or another believe they should attack the doctrines of grace usually begin with arguments against the Doctrine of Original Sin. Of course, I know many who I would call doctrinally ignorant like I was for the first couple of decades after the Lord saved me who simply do not know what the doctrines of grace really are. They only hear the “noise” from the “haters” out there who simply cannot believe that God’s Sovereignty overrides their free will. In this post, let us look at our salvation by grace through faith that the Pelagians (whether they know they are or not) tell us we can “make everything right between us and God” by our own willpower alone. Continue reading

There is only one gospel


by Mike Ratliff

8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:8-12 (NASB) 

With all of the “inside job” attacks on the gospel going on right now in the visible church I have decided to take a closer look at the Biblical gospel, what it is and what it isn’t. Some say that we must make our interpretation of the gospel very loose because “no one can know everything about it, therefore, we must be tolerant of other’s views of salvation because the gospel is inherently unknowable.” However, I am not in that camp and I pray that you aren’t either. Our God is a very precise God who does things His way in His timing and always for His glory. Continue reading

Make your Calling and Election Sure


by Mike Ratliff

22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All flesh is like grass,
And all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
And the flower falls off,
25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word which was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:22-25 (NASB)

The Puritans had a term they used in their theological writings and discussions describing professing believers who fell away or were in some way not consistent in their walk. They called them “temporary believers.” This may be a little offensive to many these days, but there are untold numbers of Pastors, Deacons, Elders, Evangelists, or whatever in our churches in our time who would not even qualify for membership in a 17th Century Puritan Church. As I have stated many times, I grew up in Oklahoma as a Southern Baptist. I have seen literally hundreds (if not more) of “invitations.” In a large percentage of these invitations, people walked an aisle, prayed a sinner’s prayer, was Baptised, and made a full member of the church. All of this taking place in a just a period of days. I have also observed a staggeringly high percentage of those professing believers last only a short period of time before disappearing from church never to be seen again. Continue reading

Where then is boasting? it is excluded; by what kind of law? of works? no, but by a law of faith


by Mike Ratliff

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
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. Romans 3:21-28 (NASB) 

As I reflect back on my personal testimony of my pilgrimage and how God drew me to Himself regardless of my unworthiness and then patiently matured me over the years I marvel at His gift of grace. However, that does not negate the fact that I, like everyone else, had a lot of growing up to do, and still do I am sure. For many years, even as a Bible teacher and Deacon, I confess to you all that my understanding of salvation and the doctrines that have been developed, which explain it, was very fuzzy compared to my understanding now. During those years of doctrinal “confusion” I based my salvation on something I had done. I based my assurance on things I did. When I witnessed to others during that time the emphasis was on bringing people to make a decision followed by them reciting a sinner’s prayer. As well meaning as all of that was, I see it now as the fruit of utter spiritual immaturity.

Continue reading

What exactly is salvation?


by Mike Ratliff

16 Οὐ γὰρ ἐπαισχύνομαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, δύναμις γὰρ θεοῦ ἐστιν εἰς σωτηρίαν παντὶ τῷ πιστεύοντι, Ἰουδαίῳ τε πρῶτον καὶ Ἕλληνι. Romans 1:16 (NA28)

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In the passage above the word  “salvation” translates the noun σωτηρίαν (sōtērian), the accusative singular feminine case of σωτηρία (sōtēria), which means safety, deliverance, and preservation from danger or destruction. But what exactly is Biblical salvation?

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It is a lie that religion is the answer for our sin problem


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 (NASB)

Not everyone who claims the name of “Christian” is truly part of the genuine Church. Many of those claimants see Christianity as simply a religion and their religiosity within it as that which assuages their guilty consciences that condemn them for their fleshly lifestyles. Others strive with their entire being to do good and not sin while being very active in their churches. In this they believe that they are in the “group” that God will accept and proclaim righteous. There are others who believe that they are Christians because at some point in the past they “asked Jesus to come into their life or heart.” However, they were taught that that “act of faith” is all that Jesus requires of them. They are now “saved” and should not doubt their salvation. In the late 15th and early 16th Centuries Martin Luther was a very well educated monk in an Augustinian order in Germany. He deeply desired to have assurance of his salvation, but all that he was taught told him to be religious, to be obedient to the demands of the Church in Rome, to obey the Pope and that was all he needed. However, he had a problem. Continue reading