Subjectivism is the great danger of private interpretation


by Mike Ratliff

13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:13-14 (NASB) 

Even though it is discounted by many today, the Protestant Reformation was a wonderful work by God in that the Gospel was freed from the captivity of the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Over the centuries the Gospel had become obscured as the Bishop of Rome was declared perfect with authority over Scripture. Any resistance to his authority was dealt with through excommunication followed by being burned at the stake. The Reformation not only recovered the Gospel and Justification by Faith, the Bible became available to the common people whereas before this, no one was allowed to read it by the edicts of the Pope.

At Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms when pressed to recant of His teachings he proclaimed, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Continue reading

Christians can understand the Word of God


by Mike Ratliff

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
16 I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word. Psalms 119:9-16 (NASB) 

It is vital for Christians to know God’s Word, to love its precepts so much that they hide it in their hearts so they will never forget it. Why? This is the foundation of discernment. God gives the gift of discernment to His people. Some have more than others of course, but we all must learn to develop it and it begins by knowing and understanding God’s Word. Why? God’s Word is our plumb line. All Christians have a right and duty, not only to learn from the church’s heritage of faith, but also to interpret Scripture for themselves. The Roman Catholic Church had forbid this very thing, which resulted in the Protestant Reformation. The Church at Rome’s reason for doing this was a fear that people easily misinterpret the Scriptures. This is a legitimate fear. The Westminster Confession of Faith agrees that “All things in Scripture are not alike in plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all,” but it also states clearly the authority of individual believers to read the Bible for themselves: “not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding” of the Scriptures. What are these “ordinary means?” Continue reading

Subjectivism is the great danger of private interpretation of the Bible


by Mike Ratliff

13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:13-14 (NASB) 

Even though it is discounted by many today, the Protestant Reformation was a wonderful work by God in that the Gospel was freed from the captivity of the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Over the centuries the Gospel had become obscured as the Bishop of Rome was declared perfect with authority over Scripture. Any resistance to his authority was dealt with through excommunication followed by being burned at the stake. The Reformation not only recovered the Gospel and Justification by Faith, the Bible became available to the common people whereas before this, no one was allowed to read it by the edicts of the Pope.

At Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms when pressed to recant of His teachings he proclaimed, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Continue reading

It is vital for Christians to know God’s Word


by Mike Ratliff

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By keeping it according to Your word.
10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have told of
All the ordinances of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts
And regard Your ways.
16 I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word. Psalms 119:9-16 (NASB) 

It is vital for Christians to know God’s Word, to love its precepts so much that they hide it in their hearts so they will never forget it. Why? This is the foundation of discernment. God gives the gift of discernment to His people. Some have more than others of course, but we all must learn to develop it and it begins by knowing and understanding God’s Word. Why? God’s Word is our plumb line. All Christians have a right and duty, not only to learn from the church’s heritage of faith, but also to interpret Scripture for themselves. The Roman Catholic Church had forbid this very thing, which resulted in the Protestant Reformation. The Church at Rome’s reason for doing this was a fear that people would easily misinterpret the Scriptures. This is a legitimate fear. The Westminster Confession of Faith agrees that “All things in Scripture are not alike in plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all,” but it also states clearly the authority of individual believers to read the Bible for themselves: “not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding” of the Scriptures. What are these “ordinary means?”  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

And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us


by Mike Ratliff

14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. (John 1:14 NA28)

14 And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. and we gazed upon his glory, glory as of the only one from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

One of my favorite passages in Sacred Scripture is Psalms 23. One part of that really speaks to me is v3 where David wrote about God saying, “He restores my soul;” There are many times where I find myself in a place where I desperately need for God to do for me what David describes in this Psalm.

1 The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalms 23:1-6 NASB)

I write this motivated from my Lord’s own work in my heart over the past several days as God has indeed “restored my soul.” The battle against apostasy and seeing how the visible church is becoming more and more symbolic and less and less genuinely focused on what the Apostle John calls “Spirit and Truth” has caused me to become susceptible to attacks from the enemy all designed to discourage and distract. However, God allows us to be attacked like that. He allows us to be taken into the valley of the shadow of death and so be tested that we may become more and more reliant on God’s grace and less and less on ourselves. After these trials, he will take us to a quiet place of restoration and recovery, and, for me, that is to dig into and exegete His Word for His glory and the edification of the Body of Christ. Hence, we will look at John 1:1-18 and the Word that became flesh or “the Incarnate Word.”  Continue reading

Always apply the Word of Life


by Mike Ratliff

1 Ὃ ἦν ἀπʼ ἀρχῆς, ὃ ἀκηκόαμεν, ὃ ἑωράκαμεν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς ἡμῶν, ὃ ἐθεασάμεθα καὶ αἱ χεῖρες ἡμῶν ἐψηλάφησαν περὶ τοῦ λόγου τῆς ζωῆς — 2 καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἐφανερώθη, καὶ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ μαρτυροῦμεν καὶ ἀπαγγέλλομεν ὑμῖν τὴν ζωὴν τὴν αἰώνιον ἥτις ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἐφανερώθη ἡμῖν — 3 ὃ ἑωράκαμεν καὶ ἀκηκόαμεν, ἀπαγγέλλομεν καὶ ὑμῖν, ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς κοινωνίαν ἔχητε μεθʼ ἡμῶν. καὶ ἡ κοινωνία δὲ ἡ ἡμετέρα μετὰ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 4 καὶ ταῦτα γράφομεν ἡμεῖς, ἵνα ἡ χαρὰ ἡμῶν ᾖ πεπληρωμένη. (1 John 1:1-4 NA28)

1 What was from the beginning which we have heard–which we have seen with our eyes, which we beheld and touched with our hands—with respect to the Word of Life—2 indeed the life was manifested and we have seen it and we give testimony and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3 what we have seen and we have heard we proclaim to you also that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write that our joy maybe made full. (1 John 1:1-4 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Eusebius was a contemporary of Constantine. His book, The Church History,  covers the time of the Apostles and spread of Christianity over the Roman world during and after their time. He brings up an interesting point about a third of the way through the book in that while the Apostles were still alive as well as those who were eye witnesses to their lives and ministries and that included those who had actually seen our Lord Jesus before his crucifixion and after his resurrection, our enemy could only successfully attack with limited success from within the Church. Heresies were easily dealt with as John did in the passage above in dealing a deathblow to the major doctrines of an early form of Gnosticism. However, after these first generation leaders of the Church died or were martyred (which was more likely), our enemy changed tactics and so began the era of wolves coming into the Church to lead astray the sheep with deadly heresies such as Arianism. What is the solution? What has always been the solution? It is the same as what the Apostle John did in 1 John and the Apostle Paul did in 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, and 1 Corinthians and the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter. They commanded leaders to teach and preach the Word.  Continue reading

For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God


by Mike Ratliff

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

 34 For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God for he gives the Spirit without measure.  (John 3:34 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 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

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two- edged sword


by Mike Ratliff

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two- edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NASB)

In this day in which the truth is said to be unknowable, Christians must rely on the only source of pure truth we have. There is no truth that we can say is the complete truth unless we take it from God’s Word. The Bible is pure truth and it is the authority we rely on in order to have a firm foundation in this lost and dying world that is consuming itself in rebellion against God.

What can we learn from Hebrews 4:12 about this?

Continue reading

For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two- edged sword


by Mike Ratliff

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two- edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 NASB)

In this day in which the truth is said to be unknowable, Christians must rely on the only source of pure truth we have. There is no truth that we can say is the complete truth unless we take it from God’s Word. The Bible is pure truth and it is the authority we rely on in order to have a firm foundation in this lost and dying world that is consuming itself in rebellion against God.

Just a few weeks ago we learned that “Christian music artist” Michael Gungor is a “Christian Liberal,” that is, he rejects the infallibility of God’s Word, it’s inerrancy, it’s authority, etc. However, he said something very troubling in defending his position. He said that every Christian generation must fight the battle against those he classified as fundamentalist “Bible worshippers.” He stated his theology as being based on following Jesus not what the Bible says. However, we counter, how do you know the truth about Jesus without the infallible and complete truth about Jesus from the Word of God?

Let use look more closely at Hebrews 4:12 to learn about the Word of God and how God uses it in the lives of both believers and unbelievers…

Continue reading

Private interpretation and subjectivism


by Mike Ratliff

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-14 ESV)

Even though it is discounted by many today, the Protestant Reformation was a wonderful work by God in that the Gospel was freed from the captivity of the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Over the centuries the Gospel had become obscured as the Bishop of Rome was declared perfect with authority over Scripture. Any resistance to his authority was dealt with through excommunication followed by being burned at the stake. The Reformation not only recovered the Gospel and Justification by Faith, the Bible became available to the common people whereas before this, no one was allowed to read it by the edicts of the Pope. At Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms when pressed to recant of His teachings he proclaimed,

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

Continue reading

Is the Bible the Word of God and Does it Have Authority?


by Mike Ratliff

12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12 ESV)

Just a few days ago I posted “Is there a war going on between God and His forces on one side and Satan and his forces on the other?” In that post I mentioned a link sent to me by a friend to a post on another blog called The Emergent Village. On that blog I could not help noticing a link to another post by another writer there titled “The Bible is NOT the WORD OF GOD: a polemic against Christendom“. What that fellow had to say is the centerpiece of “Christian Liberalism.” Denying The Bible as the Word of God, a gift from God to His people is the first step into apostasy. Once that step is taken all other truths are no longer held as absolute.

Without that God-given anchor into His absolute truth all else is up for grabs. Those like the fellow who wrote that article and those who agree with him are those who also have a problem with what Orthodox Christianity holds as the gospel, the sovereignty of God, election, the exclusivity of genuine discipleship, et cetera. Because of this “liberalism” they also force a man-centered perspective on God’s Word in one form or another. These same people lean towards a form of Christianity that is almost all experiential. Since their view of how the gospel works and how God works with Man is wrongly focused and the Word of God contains clear teachings about the sovereignty of God, these people conceive of their entire “Christian” paradigm from a philosophical and existential base rather than on the authority of Sacred Scripture. They have to do this since they deny that what we call Sacred Scripture has any authority.

Continue reading

Wielding The Sword Of The Lord Correctly


by Mike Ratliff

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

In this day in which the truth is said to be unknowable, Christians must rely on the only source of pure truth we have. There is no truth that we can say is the complete truth unless we take it from God’s Word. The Bible is pure truth and it is the authority we rely on in order to have a firm foundation in this lost and dying world that is consuming itself in rebellion against God.

What can we learn from Hebrews 4:12 about this?

Continue reading

Private Interpretation Leading to Subjectivism


by Mike Ratliff

13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.  (John 16:13-14 NASB)

Even though it is discounted by many today, the Protestant Reformation was a wonderful work by God in that the Gospel was freed from the captivity of the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Over the centuries the Gospel had become obscured as the Bishop of Rome was declared perfect with authority over Scripture. Any resistance to his authority was dealt with through excommunication followed by being burned at the stake. The Reformation not only recovered the Gospel and Justification by Faith, the Bible became available to the common people whereas before this, no one was allowed to read it by the edicts of the Pope.

At Martin Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms when pressed to recant of His teachings he proclaimed, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Continue reading