Understand


by Mike Ratliff

13 διὰ τοῦτο ἐν παραβολαῖς αὐτοῖς λαλῶ, ὅτι βλέποντες οὐ βλέπουσιν καὶ ἀκούοντες οὐκ ἀκούουσιν οὐδὲ συνίουσιν, 14 καὶ ἀναπληροῦται αὐτοῖς ἡ προφητεία Ἠσαΐου ἡ λέγουσα·
ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε καὶ οὐ μὴ συνῆτε,
καὶ βλέποντες βλέψετε καὶ οὐ μὴ ἴδητε.
15 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου,
καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν
καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν,
μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς
καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν
καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν
καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς. Matthew 13:13-15 (NA28)

13 For this reason I am speaking to them in parables for while seeing they do not see and while hearing they do not hear nor do they understand, 14 and the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled in them, which says,
‘In hearing you will hear and by no means understand,
and while seeing you will see and my no means perceive.
15 for the heart of this people has been made dull,
with their ears they hear with difficulty,
and their eyes are closed, lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart and return,
and I would heal them.’ Matthew 13:13-15 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In the heartbreaking passage above the word “understand” translates the Greek verb συνίουσιν (syniousin) it is the third person plural present tense, active mood, and indicative voice of συνίημι (syniēmi), which means “understand.” It originally meant to bring together. One Greek scholar has explained συνίημι this way, “The comprehending activity of the mind denoted by συνίημι entails the assembling of individual facts into an organized whole, as collecting the pieces of a puzzle and putting them together. The mind grasps concepts and sees the proper relationship between them.”

Another example of this word appears in Acts 28:25-28.

25 ἀσύμφωνοι δὲ ὄντες πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἀπελύοντο εἰπόντος τοῦ Παύλου ῥῆμα ἕν, ὅτι καλῶς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον ἐλάλησεν διὰ Ἠσαΐου τοῦ προφήτου πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ὑμῶν 26 λέγων·
πορεύθητι πρὸς τὸν λαὸν τοῦτον καὶ εἰπόν·
ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε καὶ οὐ μὴ συνῆτε
καὶ βλέποντες βλέψετε καὶ οὐ μὴ ἴδητε·
27 ἐπαχύνθη γὰρ ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ τούτου
καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν βαρέως ἤκουσαν
καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῶν ἐκάμμυσαν·
μήποτε ἴδωσιν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς
καὶ τοῖς ὠσὶν ἀκούσωσιν
καὶ τῇ καρδίᾳ συνῶσιν
καὶ ἐπιστρέψωσιν, καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς.
28 γνωστὸν οὖν ἔστω ὑμῖν ὅτι τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ἀπεστάλη τοῦτο τὸ σωτήριον τοῦ θεοῦ· αὐτοὶ καὶ ἀκούσονται. Acts 28:25-28 (NA28) 

25 And when they did not agree with on another, they were dismissed after Paul had spoken, “The Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, 26 saying,
‘Go to this people and say,
“You will keep on hearing, but will not understand,
And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive.
27 For the heart of this people has become dull,
and with their ears they scarcely hear,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their heart and return,
and I would heal them.”’
28 Therefore, let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been set to the Gentiles and they will listen. Acts 28:25-28 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

While under house arrest in Rome for two years, Paul taught those who visited him. Some believed, but some didn’t. When he saw the unbelief of the Jews, He said, quoting Isaiah 6:9-10:

9 He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:9-10 (NASB) 

Romans 3:11 likewise declares:

11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; Romans 3:11 (NASB) 

In both cases the point is that the unbeliever does not understand spiritual truth; he cannot “put the pieces together” and comprehend what he is hearing. This is why Jesus used parables in His teaching.

In contrast, Romans 15:21 declares that Paul’s word among the Gentiles fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, that the Gentiles who had never before heard God’s truth would hear and understand. This is a great encouragement to us. Why? After’s Peter’s confession that Jesus was “The Christ, the Son of the living God,” our Lord responded, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” Likewise, the Holy Spirit illumines spiritual truth to us so we can understand it, so we can “put the pieces together.” 

I know that before the Holy Spirit did that for me I was spiritually clueless even though I had gone to church my whole life. But one Sunday morning as I was minding my own business trying to be as invisible as possible in Bible Study class, the truth of the Gospel hit home like a ton of bricks and all those years of hearing the Gospel suddenly made sense and I saw that I was a lost sinner whose only hope was to turn to Jesus as my Lord and Savior, repent of my sins and be baptized. I have never been the same. How about you?

Soli Deo Gloria!

But prove yourselves doers of the word


by Mike Ratliff

22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. James 1:22 (NASB) 

The visible Church in our time has been compromised for the most part by human philosophy and has succumbed to the pressure from the world to not emphasize God’s truth as absolute. Professing Christians who discount the Word of God as absolute truth are actually placing their intellect, their beliefs, and the counsel of their own hearts above the Word of God as it relates to authority and truth. It is one thing for an atheist to denigrate Christians, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the God the Holy Spirit. That is almost expected and should not surprise us. However, when the majority of professing Christians demand the right to behave contrary to what the Word teaches about Christian behavior can God’s judgment be far behind? Continue reading

Quickened


by Mike Ratliff

13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, Colossians 2:13 (NASB) 

There is a related word in Scripture to “regeneration.” It only appears twice in the New Testament. One of those is in the passage I place at the top of this post. The words “made you alive together with” translate the Greek συνεζωοποίησεν (synezōopoiēsen) the third singular, aorist active indicative case of συζωοποιέω (syzōopoieō) which means, “make alive with someone.” The KJV translates this as “hath he quickened together.” Continue reading

Stir up one another to love and good works


by Mike Ratliff

23 κατέχωμεν τὴν ὁμολογίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἀκλινῆ, πιστὸς γὰρ ὁ ἐπαγγειλάμενος, 24 καὶ κατανοῶμεν ἀλλήλους εἰς παροξυσμὸν ἀγάπης καὶ καλῶν ἔργων, 25 μὴ ἐγκαταλείποντες τὴν ἐπισυναγωγὴν ἑαυτῶν, καθὼς ἔθος τισίν, ἀλλὰ παρακαλοῦντες, καὶ τοσούτῳ μᾶλλον ὅσῳ βλέπετε ἐγγίζουσαν τὴν ἡμέραν. Hebrews 10:23-25 (NA28) 

23 Let us hold firmly the confession of the hope without wavering, for trustworthy is the one who made the promise. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not abandoning to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Proof that these are Laodicean times, that is, lukewarm, man-centered, not fervently God-centered times in the “visible church” is always found in points of contention. The Social Justice/Woke/Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality corruption of our seminaries and leadership in our denominations should clearly show those with discernment that those involved in that have believed “another gospel.” There is that, then there is the always present so-called Christian leaders teaching a false gospel of “Easy-Believism” (just believe, no repentance required). I thought we had that one snuffed out, but I now believe our enemy will always find fake Christian leaders who hope to build large churches on that foundation of dung. However, if we focus too much on the apostasy all around us my brethren we can become very discouraged, therefore, as the writer of Hebrews says in the passage above, “Let us hold firmly the confession of the hope without wavering, for trustworthy is the one who made the promise. Continue reading

Being a Living Sacrifice


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 (NASB)

All of the things that true Christians should be doing for the glory of God, drinking from the cup of Christ’s suffering, wrestling the correct opponent, loving your enemies, and behaving like a Christian are possible only for the believer who is in the process of taking on Christ’s character. No one can do these things naturally. No one is able to attain this level of spirituality by trying to do those things. Instead, these behaviors flow from a Christlike heart. No believer will ever become Christlike in their character unless they also become Spirit-led. If a believer is controlled by their emotions then they are not Spirit-led. Neither are they who have not learned to walk in the Spirit. If sin runs rampant through a believer’s life then they are not Spirit-led. In addition, if a believer is constantly consumed by anger, bitterness, envy, and self-protection then they are not Spirit-led. Continue reading

Beware of false prophets


by Mike Ratliff

4 And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. 6 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7 “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8 “But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. 9 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:4-14 (NASB)

When I encounter those whose theology and eschatology has been colored by presuppositions, philosophies, and the teachings of some theologians that the Church’s main function is to establish and prepare God’s Kingdom here on this Earth so the Lord will return and to claim it, I wonder how seriously these people take Scripture passages such as Matthew 24:4-14 (above). These same people are all about making secular culture conform to Christianity. I find it very difficult to line that up with what our Lord said in Matthew 24 about what things would be like before he actually did return. What is the reality? Will the Church totally take over the world in this age? From what I have studied in the New Testament, the Church is a called out “congregation” of people that are despised, persecuted, and put to death for their faith as they live for the glory of their Lord in this life. The point of that is to attain a greater resurrection in the next age. Let’s see what our Lord said about the reality of what we have to deal with in this age as the Church. Continue reading

Faith without Works is Dead


by Mike Ratliff

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:14-18 (NASB) 

The passage I placed at the beginning of this article is one the most abused and misunderstood passages that I know of. If it is read casually, it can be easily misunderstood. If is exposited by someone possessing a faulty hermeneutic, it can be twisted to say what no other part of the Bible teaches, that faith plus works is required for salvation. Continue reading

Judging


by Mike Ratliff

1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2 (NASB)

It is impossible to walk through one’s day without having to make judgments. In fact our Lord Jesus who made the oft misquoted and misunderstood command found in Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37 to “Do not judge!” also made the following command.

14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. 15 The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
19 “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:14-24 (NASB)
Continue reading

Does your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Romans 10:1-4 (NKJV) 

I am sure when our Lord told His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven…” that there were some who were getting the idea that the way of our Lord was some form of works righteousness that was at a higher, but better level than that of the Scribes and Pharisees who were all about legalism. Some today still have that idea. However, He followed that statement with this one in vv 17-20, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” So, what was our Lord teaching here? He wasn’t teaching us to follow legalism, that is, that our righteousness is somehow obtained by a strict adherence to the Law of Moses was He? Paul was very clear in the book of Galatians that no one ever obtained the righteousness of God that way.  Continue reading

The Doctrine of Original Sin and the Wrath of God


by Mike Ratliff

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5 (NKJV) 

Those who have a problem with the Doctrine of Original Sin and the Wrath of God against all sin attempt to paint the God of Reformation Theology as some sort of ogre full of anger with very little love manifest except in the case of a chosen few. In their examples of how God operates in saving people, sin is never the issue. They portray God as loving everyone to the maximum even if their sin amounted to open rebellion against Him on their part. In their theology He just looks the other way and attempts to save everyone, but the point of contention is that the God in their example is unable to save anyone. The salvation of people is only made a possibility with those actually being saved being those who hear the Gospel and respond by exercising their sovereign Free Will. On the other hand, the God of the Bible is not anything like this. He is Sovereign. He saves those whom He has elected or chosen unto eternal life. No one limits Him in any way. Man’s will is in no way a barrier to God fulfilling His Will. From these two vastly different understandings of theology comes two very different understandings of sin.  Let’s look at a biblical view of sin and I invite you to compare your own understanding of it to what we unpack here. If your’s is different, I suggest to you that the Bible is not in error.  Continue reading

Regenerated to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead


by Mike Ratliff

6 ἐν ᾧ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, ὀλίγον ἄρτι εἰ δέον [ἐστὶν] λυπηθέντας ἐν ποικίλοις πειρασμοῖς, 7 ἵνα τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως πολυτιμότερον χρυσίου τοῦ ἀπολλυμένου διὰ πυρὸς δὲ δοκιμαζομένου, εὑρεθῇ εἰς ἔπαινον καὶ δόξαν καὶ τιμὴν ἐν ἀποκαλύψει Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ· 1 Peter 1:6-7 (NA28)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, for a little while now, if it is necessary, having been grieved by various trials, 7 that the tested genuineness of you faith—infinitely more valuable than gold that perishes even though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6.7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

A few weeks ago we looked at the doctrine of the imputation and what that means to the believer and what implications it has on both how we handle the gospel and how we live this Christian life. The following quote is from John Wesley, “The doctrine of imputation saws off the leg of holiness…” I am writing this post because in our time men like  Rick Warren and those who follow him are revealing their Pelagian roots by insisting that people must “work” in order to be right with God and that the doctrine of imputation is something “made up” by the Reformers like Calvin. I actually had that accusation thrown at me in a Facebook discussion group the other day.  Continue reading

My brethren, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

In our daily Christian walk it is a rare day in which we take every thought captive and, through our active repentance, successfully deny ourselves through every circumstance. I don’t think I could claim that I have successfully done this the majority of the time. However, our God is wise and omniscient. It should be a matter of great rejoicing on our part that our perseverance is in His hands and is based on the work of the Holy Trinity on our behalf, not on our will power. Continue reading

Why did Jesus come?


by Mike Ratliff

32 “ Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32 (NASB) 

We live in a very strange time. Perhaps earlier men lived in times that were just as perilous and even as spiritually dark as ours, but to me, being in my mid-sixties and a Christian for over 31 years, what is happening to the Church seems unprecedented. I know this is nothing new, and the Church has gone through apostasy before and that is why God wrought the Protestant Reformation. However, since the latter part of the 19th Century, liberalism and its various forms have invaded the Church in many ways. If we read the Reformers such as Tyndale, Luther, and Calvin, etc. and the Puritans such as Owen, Bunyan, Watson, Love, and Brooks, etc. up to Spurgeon and Broadus, etc. then compare their understanding of the Gospel and how it is preached and why that is what we are to be about then compare that to what we have now with the likes of Joel Osteen or Stephen Furtick then we must understand that a great downgrade has taken place.

Continue reading