The Gospel vs Another Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Matthew 24:23-24 (NASB) 

I will be 67 years old later this year. I have been a Christian for over 32 years, but I grew up in a “Christian” home going to church every Sunday until I grew up and went my own way. I know that Christians are commanded to be forgiving, kind, and gentle with others. However, we are also commanded to stand firm and withstand false teachers and their doctrines. When I began writing and blogging as an extension of my teaching ministry, I soon experienced a very rude awakening. When I wrote about things that were experiential and not tied to any specific doctrines no one seemed to care, but the closer I came to that dividing line that separates God’s Truth from everything else, the attacks of every sort seemed to descend on me from every direction. The more precise I came in laying out what is true from that which is not true, the angrier many of my so-called brethren became. It seems the way to ‘get along’ in the visible church is to accept the default form of Christianity and never, even if you have irrefutable Biblical truth to the contrary, teach against it. The one who does that is labeled as divisive as well as an enemy of Christian unity. But this stance is all one-sided. We are divisive for publishing God’s pure doctrines, but those who hold to man-made doctrines are allowed to say anything they want about us. It is as if they have free speech, but we do not.  Continue reading

Christ’s work of redemption is finished!


by Mike Ratliff

10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “ The righteous man shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:10-11 (NASB) 

The easy-believism “gospel” as well as any version of it that either calls for more works (i.e. piety) on the part of the believer over and above believing the Gospel and receiving Christ as Lord and Saviour or suggests that the saving work of Christ on the Cross was not “sufficient enough” to cover the sins of the those He came to save, therefore they must somehow achieve perfection on their own or enter into some form of purgatory after death to make up for that, are perversions of what is clearly taught in God’s Word. They are based on the presupposition that God has created salvation in a man-centered, law-based, works-righteousness oriented way that is found nowhere in Sacred Scripture. The correct presupposition, being Biblically based, we will explore in this post and will focus primarily on Hebrews 10:1-18.  Continue reading

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life


by Mike Ratliff

1 Πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ Χριστὸς, ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγέννηται, καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν γεννήσαντα ἀγαπᾷ [καὶ] τὸν γεγεννημένον ἐξ αὐτοῦ. 2 ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἀγαπῶμεν τὰ τέκνα τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅταν τὸν θεὸν ἀγαπῶμεν καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ ποιῶμεν. 3 αὕτη γάρ ἐστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν, καὶ αἱ ἐντολαὶ αὐτοῦ βαρεῖαι οὐκ εἰσίν. 4 ὅτι πᾶν τὸ γεγεννημένον ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ νικᾷ τὸν κόσμον· καὶ αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ νίκη ἡ νικήσασα τὸν κόσμον, ἡ πίστις ἡμῶν. 1 John 5:1-4 (NA28)

1 All who believe that Jesus is the Christ, born of God, and all who love the Father loves the one born of him. 2 In this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and we obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For all that has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 1 John 5:1-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Satan’s worldwide system of deception and wickedness, at times, seems to be overcoming the Church not the Church overcoming it. However, through Christ and his provision of salvation, believers are victorious over the invisible system of demonic and human evil that our enemy operates to capture men’s souls for hell. Currently, the visible church seems split with divisive conflicts that those with any rational sense of reason can only attribute to demonic attacks our enemy is using to divide Christians to get them away from our primary mission, the Gospel and the Great Commission and, instead, focusing on issues that simply cause these conflicts and strife keeping us from what we should really be about. Continue reading

What is Biblical salvation?


by Mike Ratliff

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

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 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 Community Church is, he will always try to emphasize the thousands of people whose lives have been transformed or changed.  Continue reading

What does faith have to do with eternal life?


by Mike Ratliff

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. John 5:24 (NKJV) 

A fascinating study is to take a close look at the reaction the 1st Century Jews had to Jesus’ claim to deity then compare it with that of the heretics who came later. These 1st Century Jews took Jesus’ words in John 5 about his relationship to the Father as claims of deity, that is, making himself equal with God (John 5:18). Heretics who were not from the time of our Lord and were not Jews of that period were the ones who came up with Arianism, Modalism, et cetera. Each of these types of attack on doctrine of the Holy Trinity are proofs that those doing this may have indeed heard the truth (Jesus’ Word), but they most certainly have not believed the Father who sent him. If so they would most certainly not attack that wonderful doctrine that is so hard for the unregenerate to accept let alone believe. What did Jesus say about those who hear his Word and believe him who sent him? These have been granted eternal life.  Continue reading

What are the words of God?


by Mike Ratliff

34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. John 3:34 (NKJV) 

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, “Most assuredly, 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,“Most assuredly, 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 the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is 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 be 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

Real Salvation


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 of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NKJV) 

Our salvation is far more than simply justification by faith, which in and of itself is incredible, but also includes the imputation of the actual active righteousness of Christ, His good works or keeping of the Law, which is required for our complete acceptation by God into His Kingdom. I know that many reading this may not see the point of this or have no idea what I am talking about. However, please understand, I am praying that you will understand the truth of this because this is a huge missing piece from the gospel in the church in our time. Without this teaching, the church is plagued with professing Christians who are in a form of self-salvation. They did the religious thing “to get saved” at church. They were sincere, but there is no real change in their lives. However, the Bible is very clear as in the passage above that we are saved “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Therefore, there is a huge problem with a lack of assurance in these people. The issue is not their lack of sincerity or their lack of obedience since their religious experience, but that they have believed a false, man-made gospel that has no spiritual power to really save or regenerate anyone.  Continue reading

Preaching the Gospel vs being Missional


by Mike Ratliff

2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:2-7 (NKJV) 

When we study and teach on Justification by God of His people, shouldn’t the clutter be removed and the rubbish swept away? All aspects of our salvation should be clarified and those things that are only meant to cause confusion or misdirection (showing those with discernment their true source) should be shown for what they really are and cast aside. Then, with a sharp focus, we must look at the truth, which means we go to the source; i.e. The Word of God not some emergent or missional guru. Therefore, in this post we will look at part of Romans 10, in which the Apostle Paul, showing that God has provided a way to justification in His eyes to both Jews and Gentiles, further nails down from where salvation comes, who possesses it, and how they got it. What could be more important than that?

Continue reading

Peter preaching the Gospel at Pentecost


by Mike Ratliff

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in heaven above
And signs in the earth beneath:
Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
21 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.’ Acts 2:14-21 (NKJV) 

Thus began the Apostle Peter’s sermon following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost just 10 days following our Lord’s Ascension. I am going to walk through this sermon with you so that we can see how the Gospel works when preached with power and with the right focus. Who is being glorified in vv14-21 above? Is it the preacher Peter? Is it those prophesying? Is it those responding? No, it is God who is causing this to happen through the moving of His mighty hand. What will be the result as Peter summarizes in v21? Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Here is that verse from Greek, “καὶ ἔσται πᾶς ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου σωθήσεται.” The NKJV’s rendering of “calls on” translates ἐπικαλέσηται the Aorist, Subjunctive, Middle form of ἐπικαλέομαι or epikaleomai, which, in this context, is making use of the name of the Lord in adoration as Lord and Saviour. This is a turning to Him for salvation from the hour of judgment and wrath to come. That is how Peter opens his sermon. Let us see the rest. Continue reading

The Cross is proof of God’s grace


by Mike Ratliff

13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ Luke 18:13 (NKJV) 

In our day it is not unusual to hear a man-centered version of the Gospel message that has everything turned around backward and is presented in such a way that is meant to appeal emotionally to unbelievers with a statement such as, “Christ’s crucifixion is proof of our worth to God!” The appeal is meant to show that if Christ was willing to go to the Cross to save sinners like us then that proves we are of value to God. I have even heard one version of this that says that Jesus would have gone to that Cross even if it was for just one unrepentant sinner. Is that found anywhere in God’s Word? I have never found it. Instead, what I see clearly presented there is that all of us are undeserving sinners and even dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). Until God regenerated us, we are spiritual corpses, that is, without spiritual life. Therefore, grace that is not all grace is no grace. Grace that saves means that God has done everything; if He does not do everything, then it is not grace.  Continue reading

Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’


by Mike Ratliff

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (NASB) 

The passage above (Matthew 28:16-20) is best known as our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission to the Church. This is what we are to be about. I heard a survey taken at a Christian bookseller’s convention a few years ago in which one of the questions asked was something like, “Is the Great Commission best fulfilled by preaching the Gospel or by Christians ‘being the Gospel?’” Well over half of the answers given were affirmative for the latter rather than the former. That was not surprising after the rest of the survey results were revealed though. The overall lack of depth of real Bible knowledge and doctrine in that group was indeed telling. From that discussion it became apparent that most of those responding to the survey actually believed that their performance as Christians had more to do with evangelism than actually preaching the Gospel itself.  Continue reading

The Gospel and what God does with and through it


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NASB)

1 Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, 2 διʼ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 NA28)

The Apostle Paul defined the gospel for us throughout his writings in the New Testament. In these dark spiritual times in which people believe their opinions and feelings are consistent with “truth” it is vital that we know God’s truth and make it known to all who will hear.  I would like to start in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. I placed vv1-2 at the top of this post. In v1 he tells us that he is going to define the Gospel (εὐαγγέλιον) as a process. In this process, the Gospel must be proclaimed (εὐηγγελισάμην) and through this some who hear it will receive it and it is their very foundation. I pray that you noticed the similarities between the two Greek words above. The word εὐαγγέλιον is Greek for “a good message” or “the good news.” The word εὐηγγελισάμην literally means “announce good news.” It is the word from which we get our English word “evangelize.” Notice also that those who hear the good news and are saved by it also stand (ἑστήκατε) within it because it is their foundation. This Greek word means “you stand” They abide in the covenant of the Gospel because it is now their foundation. Continue reading

The Wisdom 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” 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 not pay 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. They believe they have everything and are right with God, but are in reality, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked and are simply ready for the next deceiver to come along.  Continue reading

Paul and Silas and the new 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 Neapolis 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 from the NA28 Greek text)

As you know, Paul’s friend and companion Luke wrote the book of Acts in the New Testament. In Acts 16:10, we read that after Paul had seen the vision to leave Asia and come to Europe after seeking the will of God for 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