What is Salvation?


by Mike Ratliff

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

Back in 2006 when God opened my eyes to what the leadership at our church was doing with the Purpose Driven stuff and I raised the alarm I was rebuked again with argument that I should just kick back and cooperate so that the church could peacefully go Purpose Driven so that God could work there and people’s lives could be changed. When I began commenting on the old Slice of Laodicea blog about that same time, those PDC apologists who hated our firm stance against it said very much the same thing. If you listen to Rick Warren speak when talking about what a great ministry Saddleback Valley Baptist Church is, he will always try to emphasize the thousands of people whose lives have been transformed or changed.  Continue reading

To know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge


by Mike Ratliff

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NASB) 

I grew up in a Christian family. Not only was my immediate family all Christians, all of my extended family were as well. My Grandfather Ratliff was an evangelist who traveled all over Oklahoma, even before it became a state in 1907, preaching brush arbor “revivals” when there was no church building in town large enough for the crowds who came from all around to hear him. In any case, the environment in which I grew up was one in which I could not conceive of people hating the Gospel or being offended because of the Cross. Even after the Supreme Court ruled that Public Schools could no longer host “religious” things or focus on Christianity in any way, the Elementary school I attended still allowed a Gideon representative to come in every month or so to show a slide show to us that presented the Gospel. No one complained. Perhaps I grew up somewhat sheltered from the world’s hatred of God’s truth and that my concepts of these things were naïve, however, that is no longer the case. Continue reading

The Gospel is a message


by Mike Ratliff

3 παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς 4 καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφὰς 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NA28)

3 For I handed on to you among the first things that I received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures 4 and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The Christian’s walk is one in which we must take up our own crosses and follow our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. In this life we will have tribulation. However, in the midst of fiery trials we grow less self-oriented, less self-dependent, and less self-righteous while we learn that we must, at all costs, abide in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this time before our Lord takes us home, there will be much heartache, many crushing blows, and at times, it will seem that the world and those who follow it have all the cards and are on the way to winning by whatever means. However, as our Lord Jesus said on the night of his arrest leading up to his crucifixion, “ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ εἰρήνην ἔχητε. ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ θλῖψιν ἔχετε· ἀλλὰ θαρσεῖτε, ἐγὼ νενίκηκα τὸν κόσμον.” Or, “These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you have affliction, but be cheerful, I have conquered the world.”  Continue reading

Biblical salvation vs man-made philosophical religiosity


by Mike Ratliff

10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. Hebrews 2:10 (NASB) 

The basis of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism are the very same as that of Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or any other religion except Genuine Christianity. That basis revolves around Man’s Free Will and making a decision then receiving some sort of blessing or curse depending on whether the decision was according to the tenets of one’s man-made religion or not. Continue reading

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified


by Mike Ratliff

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (NASB) 

The manner of our Lord’s death was one designed by the Romans to humiliate its criminals. The cross was a place of shame, disgrace, humiliation, indignity, degradation, and ignominy. The Roman soldiers were experts at this form of execution in which the criminal was beaten, undressed, arms spread and nailed to a cross-beam, feet nailed to a vertical beam, and hoisted above the ground for the world to see. However, as we read in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 (above), Paul decided to know nothing among those to whom he preached and ministered except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Continue reading

The eleven offenses of the Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

34 Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν. Matthew 10:34 (NA28) 

34 Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The genuine gospel does not bring all people together. It divides. The trend in today’s “visible church” is all about being as inoffensive as possible even to the point of compromising the gospel. The sort of “minister” who does that and his “ministry” is not of God, but is of this world and is of the flesh. Below are the eleven tenets of the offense of the gospel. Enjoy and be blessed as you examine yourself.  Continue reading

For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.


by Mike Ratliff

34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34 NASB)

34 ὃν γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ θεοῦ λαλεῖ, οὐ γὰρ ἐκ μέτρου δίδωσιν τὸ πνεῦμα. (John 3:34 NA28)

In John 3:1-21 our Lord spoke the words of God to “ a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.” In this passage our Lord clears the table and tells it like it is. He tells Nicodemus in v3, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Of course, Nicodemus doesn’t “get it at first and asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” in v4 and, “How can these things be?” in v9. In between those two perplexed questions, our Lord, the Λόγος or logos or Word, the living Christian proclamation as a whole of the New Testament proclaimed τὰ ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ or “the words of God” to Nicodemus in a way that he had never heard before. He said,”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” As we read in John 3:34 (above), He spoke or uttered the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ to this man and all who read John 3. What did he say? Only those born again are part of the Kingdom of God and to be born again is to born of the Spirit. Notice carefully that this rebirth is not something controlled by or contained by or comprehended by people of the flesh. Everyone truly born of the Spirit are so by the work of the Holy Spirit not by the works of men. These are the ῥήματα τοῦ Θεοῦ.  Continue reading

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not man’s gospel


by Mike Ratliff

11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον· 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (Galatians 1:11-12 NA28)

11 For I make known to you brothers, the gospel that I preached, 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 1:11-12 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The εὐαγγέλιον or euaggelion, which the word “gospel” above translates, means “good message” or “good news.” What Paul stated in Galatians 1:11-12 is vital for us to grasp. Those of us who are in Christ can proclaim this εὐαγγέλιον for it is a message of very good news about something our Lord Jesus Christ has done on our behalf, but we cannot “be the gospel” nor can we “live the gospel.” It is a message of Christ’s work of redemption that was successful. He died on that cross and in so doing, His perfect obedience was made available to be imputed to all who believe this εὐαγγέλιον and in so doing, receive Christ as Lord and Saviour in repentance being saved by God’s grace through faith. In this, the Father justifies them, imputing Christ’s perfect righteousness to their account. This is possible because, while he was on that cross, their unrighteousness was imputed to his account and through his death, he became their propitiation. This εὐαγγέλιον is indeed good news because it means Christians do not have to work their way to God. Their salvation according to Ephesians 1,2 is actually God’s work entirely, not theirs. The preaching of the gospel is a call to repent and believe which is how those who do become Christians receive Christ as Lord and Saviour. Now, is that the gospel prevalently heard in the visible church in our time?  Continue reading

The word of the cross to those perishing is senseless, but to us being saved, it is the power of God


by Mike Ratliff

18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν. 19 γέγραπται γάρ·
ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν
καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NA28)

18 For the word of the cross to those perishing is senseless, but to us being saved, it is the power of God 19 for it has been written,
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise ones
and the understanding of the intelligent I will set aside.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Look at those man-focused, pragmatic, seeker-sensitive “churches” seemingly all around us in our time. They may vary in many ways, but there is a commonality that marks them all as products of the spirit of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) rather than the spirit of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). That commonality is seen in the passage I placed at the top of this post. It is what makes them of the spirit of Laodicea. They are structured and operate according to the wisdom of men. Their very way of handling the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ depletes the cross of its power. What do I mean? When the “so-called gospel” that is “preached” is given in a way that intentionally removes its offense and an attempt is made to make it sensible to the lost and dying world by removing the blood and removing the necessity of our Lord’s death for those who owed a debt to God they could never pay, well, what is given is more of a sales pitch and self-help remedy. All this does is create a body of people who are neither cold nor hot. No, they believe they have everything and are right with God, but are in reality, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked who are simply ready for the next deceiver to come along.  Continue reading

Paul and Silas obediently plant a church in Philippi


by Mike Ratliff

11 Ἀναχθέντες δὲ ἀπὸ Τρῳάδος εὐθυδρομήσαμεν εἰς Σαμοθρᾴκην, τῇ δὲ ἐπιούσῃ εἰς Νέαν πόλιν 12 κἀκεῖθεν εἰς Φιλίππους, ἥτις ἐστὶν πρώτη [ς] μερίδος τῆς Μακεδονίας πόλις, κολωνία. Ἦμεν δὲ ἐν ταύτῃ τῇ πόλει διατρίβοντες ἡμέρας τινάς. (Acts 16:11-12 NA28)

11 And having set sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the next day to Nepalis 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a prominent city of the District of Macedonia, a colony, and we stayed in this city some days. (Acts 16:11-12  translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Paul’s friend and companion Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts in the New Testament. In Acts 16:10, we read that after Paul and seen the vision to leave Asia and come to Europe after seeking the will of God for the next focus of his missionary journey, Luke includes himself in the narrative as an eyewitness, therefore, his account of what happened to Paul and Silas in Philippi are given as one who was there.  Continue reading

Did Jesus preach the gospel?


By Mike Ratliff

1 When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. (Mark 2:1-2 NASB) 

A few weeks ago a friend contacted me with a question that came up because of a theological disagreement between him and his pastor. The disagreement centered on the necessity of repentance as part of our salvation and as the discussion continued the pastor insisted that Jesus never taught that nor did he preach the gospel because He had not yet gone to the cross. Here is part of the quote from our conversation.

“He asserted that he (Jesus) did not preach the gospel because he had not yet died or had been raised from the dead so therefore there was no gospel to preach at that point. I then asked him from what then and why did Jesus asked them to repent and why and what did he ask them to believe in. He did not really answer this question but went on another line of thought.

He is heavily influenced by the writings and teaching of Tim Keller and NT Wright CS Lewis. He told me to reread the gospel and that I would never witness Jesus preaching the gospel.”

I must admit that this took me by surprise so I am sure my response was not adequate for my friend.  However, this has been bothering me since then. Today at church our interim pastor preached on Mark 2:1-12 and he actually spent some time on v2 which is what this post is going to be about. Continue reading

Saving faith vs moralistic therapeutic deism


by Mike Ratliff

24 Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ· εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι. 25 ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν· ὃς δʼ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν. (Matthew 16:24-25 NA28)

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If someone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, 25 for whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is a message given to be passed on as “Good News” of the completed work of Christ on behalf of those he came to save. The message is about his incarnation, his perfect life, his death on the cross, his three days and nights in the tomb, and his resurrection. All of these things were attested to by witnesses. The resurrection is the proof that our Lord is God and that the work of the Atonement is complete.  Those who hear the Gospel, believe it, receive it by grace through faith and repent as they turn to Christ as Lord and Saviour. As is made clear in Ephesians 2:1-10, there is no one is able to do this on their own, God must intervene making then alive in Christ who were once dead in their sins so they could believe and be saved.  Continue reading

Being Light in the Darkness revisited


I have been in discussion with a dear sister in Christ about discernment matters. One of the things that has been bothering me is why God has placed my wife and I back in our old Church that we were in back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. When we moved back home last year I really did not want to visit this Church because I knew it had gone seeker-sensitive. However, we met several old and dear friends in town from this Church and were invited back and so here we are. The Church has no pastor. It is elder led, but when I go there I am struck by a sense of spiritual confusion. On the one hand there is an interim pastor who preaches everything from a SBC perspective. On the other hand, I sense a deep hunger in the body for two things, to be used by God, but also to know Him. Since the seeker-sensitive model by its very nature messes all that up and changes the focus from God to man, this does not surprise me. However, what I expressed to my friend was that I could not discern what I am doing there. I know that if, given the chance, I will speak the truth. After all, what we do in Christ is for God’s glory alone. Right?   In any case, below is a post from 2011 that my friend suggested I redo a bit and repost.  I have decided to leave it intact. Just remember it references things as they were happening in May of 2011. Continue reading

Salvation and transformation


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)

The very first time I raised concerns about the Kansas City Prophets and the International House of Prayer over 15 years ago over their extra-biblical activities, I was rebuked by another professing Christian with this statement, “You just don’t understand what is going on. If people’s lives are being changed then God is working so you should just shut up.” Back in 2006 when God opened my eyes to what the leadership at our church back in Olathe, KS was doing with the Purpose Driven stuff and I raised the alarm I was rebuked again with pretty much the same argument. I was told that I should just kick back and cooperate so that the church could peacefully go Purpose Driven so that God could work there and people’s lives could be changed. When I began commenting on the old Slice of Laodicea blog about that same time, those PDC apologists who hated our firm stance against it said very much the same thing. If you listen to Rick Warren speak when talking about what a great ministry Saddleback Valley Baptist Church is, he will always try to emphasize the thousands of people whose lives have been transformed or changed. When we lived in the Kansas City area the World Revival Church there used the very same theme in their TV advertisements. Their ads on our local TV channels seemed to always talk about the hundreds of lives transformed or changed through that ministry.  Continue reading