Salvation by grace alone through faith alone excludes works righteousness

by Mike Ratliff

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘ We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:7-12 NASB)

In the passage above John the Baptist was addressing a form of spiritual blindness that was afflicting the Pharisees and Sadducees. Is there the same sort of stubborn blindness pertaining to Christianity? Yes, sadly there is. Spiritual blindness is a darkness beyond our ability to describe. This blindness is rampant in the “visible Church” in our day. Jesus prophesied about this. Continue reading

Genuine faithfulness versus man-made religion

by Mike Ratliff

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)

All who are truly in Christ must admit that this walk is fraught with doubt as well as pressure to conform to a form of godliness that has no power, to be faithful at doing church as the primary indicator of our genuineness, as well as to live up to the idea that lost people have of what a Christian must be. As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. While I am grateful for the deep Bible knowledge that I gained through being in Church every Sunday, I have also learned that much of the focus of organized religion is geared more to creating religious faithfulness rather than to disciple believers to abide in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes

by Mike Ratliff

1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them 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, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4 ESV) 

I am sure when our Lord told His disciples on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 5:14-16), “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is 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 have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never 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 religion of works-righteousness

by Mike Ratliff

“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:24-30 ESV)

Many who believe they are Christians are not. They have a form of righteousness, but it is not the righteousness born from above. It is self-righteousness. One group that contended with John the Baptist, our Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples, was the Pharisees. Who hasn’t heard believers accusing other believers of being Pharisees? These accusations are usually thrown at people who are stricter than the accuser in their judgments of saved and lost. The Liberal calls a person who judges on the basis of regeneration as the only evidence of saving faith as being a Pharisee. The mainstream church-goer calls all fundamentalists Pharisees. The antinomian calls those who preach Lordship salvation Pharisees. Continue reading

A Trying Day

by Mike Ratliff

My wife had surgery today. It was carpel tunnel surgery on her right hand. She had the left had done about six weeks ago. In any case, we were at the hospital from about 8:30am this morning until the middle of the afternoon. While I was waiting for the surgery to end and rejoin my wife in the recovery area I was bombarded by a series of bizarre posts and questions from a person who’s theology could best be described as 100% work’s righteousness based upon cherry picked, out of context passages to support his “theology” then when I responded by placing that passage in the correct context and with passages that showed the exact opposite point he was trying to make he would accuse me of making scripture argue against itself as per the following:

“Scripture does NOT argue against scripture!, but every pontificator of substitutionary atonement resorts to that tactic as a defense. “But now a righteousness from God has been made manifest, apart OF law” Greek does not have prepositions and some foolish and stupid translator picked the wrong one! Romans 2:13 is NOT a false statement. DO NOT MAKE THE SCRIPTURE ARGUE AGAINST ITSELF UNDERSTAND!?”

No matter how I responded showing the wonderful truths of Justification by Grace alone through Faith alone as God’s gift, this is how he always responded. Then I decided to translate Romans 2:13.

13 οὐ γὰρ οἱ ἀκροαταὶ νόμου δίκαιοι παρὰ [τῷ] θεῷ, ἀλλʼ οἱ ποιηταὶ νόμου δικαιωθήσονται. (Romans 2:13 NA28)

13 For the law hearers are not just with God, but the law doers will be justified. (Romans 2:13 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Hmmmm, doesn’t that sound familiar?

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25 ESV)

Of course, we could expound the rest of James thesis of James 1 and 2 and see that genuine faith produces good works, which is what Paul tell us in Ephesians 2:10 that we who are Justified by grace through faith as God’s gift are, “are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them“.

My wife is doing fine and I am not in the least intimidated by this “heretic” whom the enemy is attempting to use for whatever reason to attack me and this ministry. I have blocked him from commenting for he refuses to follow the rules. I do ask that you continue to lift us up in prayer for my wife’s healing and that God will continue to use me according to His will all for His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria!





Is it Good Works or is it Works Righteousness?

by Mike Ratliff

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.  (Luke 2:36-38 NASB)

When I was a young man and even prior to that when I was a teenager, I was quite religious. I went to church with my family and tried to emulate what I saw my parents do in their devotion. I tried to reach a point in my own devotion where I could be fulfilled, wanting to serve God with the joy and fervor I saw in other believers. However, I just could not do it. I found myself bored in church. I found no inner drive to read my Bible. I had no desire to have a consistent devotion to God because there were so many other things in my life that were more important to me than that. I was tormented by the fact that I could not behave consistently “Christian.” I had no self-control in certain situations. Then I would visit my family and attend church with them on Sunday full of remorse and guilt. I would exit the service determined to do good works and not sin anymore. I look back on that time now and almost laugh except it was a horrible conflict in my life at that time. I was convinced that being a Christian consisted of doing Christian things. In that unregenerate mind, a Christian was a Christian because they did those things. That, of course, is what works righteousness is. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 14

by Mike Ratliff

17 Now while seeking to be justified in Christ, we were found also to be sinners ourselves, then is Christ a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I destroyed, I demonstrate myself to be a transgressor19 For through the Law I died to the Law that I may live to God. I have been crucified with Christ;  20 and it is no longer I who live, but Christ living in me, and that which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself up on behalf of me.  21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:17-21 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

We have come to Galatians 6 the last chapter of this foundational epistle that defines what the Gospel is and what it is not. Judiazers had infiltrated the Galatian churches, which Paul had planted. These Judiazers claimed that the doctrine of Justification by grace alone through faith alone as God’s gift alone was not enough. These false teachers added “works righteousness” to what Paul taught. Their flavor of “works righteousness” was that these gentile Christians must become circumcised and keep the Mosaic Covenant in order to be truly justified before God. This epistle was written by Paul to counter this evil. Why is this important for us to study this in our day? The false teaching that “works righteousness” is necessary for our justification before God is still poisoning the Church. It comes in many forms. Some are quite obvious while others are very subtle. Some are taught directly while the subtle variety, though meaning well, put Christians into bondage to the Law from which, in fact, the Gospel frees those justified by grace through faith by God himself. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 13

by Mike Ratliff

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:12-14 NASB)

I worked for a short period of time in the late 1980’s in PC marketing. I’m really not cut out for sales, but most of the other sales people I worked with were in their natural element. Most of my “customers” were just normal people coming into the store looking for a computer. Others were businessmen looking for a solution for their office environment. For example, I sold computers to oilmen who bought high end PCs with a lot of RAM and very large monitors with very expensive graphics cards to handle the software they used. All of that I looked at as God’s sending me clients so I could earn a commission as part of his providing my daily bread (Matthew 6:11). The most heartrending experiences I had during that time though were people who would come in to the store and they would be passed to me for some reason. They would come to my little cubicle and we would talk. It was there that they would see my Bible on my desk or the little plaque my wife gave me with Isaiah 40:31 on it, and then they would say they were Christians too and then they would look for a “deal.” I could tell, as I am sure most of you could too, that most of these people were seeking to manipulate the fact that I was a Christian so they could “profit.” When I refused to be manipulated that way some became ugly and spiteful and some even threatened to call the management and tell all sorts of things about me if I didn’t give them what they wanted. That was always terrible, but I think it was also quite surprising to them when I told them to go ahead. The really sad thing was that most of those professing Christians I worked with probably would have done everything under the sun to “make a sale” even if it did mean doing things that no genuine Christian should ever do to his or her employer.  Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 12

by Mike Ratliff

6 I marvel that you are so quickly being turned from the one who called you in the grace of Christ to a different gospel; 7 which is not another; except there are some troubling you and are desiring to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel to you besides that which we preached to you, let him be a curse. (Galatians 1:6-8 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

John Bunyan compared the life of faith to a pilgrimage in his masterpiece, Pilgrim’s Progress. On the other hand, the Apostle Paul often compares our life of faith with a race. In my younger days I was a long distance runner. I competed into my late 40’s in the Corporate Challenge and prior to that I was a member of the Oklahoma City Running Club and ran in who knows how many 5k, 10k, 5-mile and even 10-mile races in and around the OKC area. I knew all about what it took to be a good runner on race day. If I didn’t prepare right then I couldn’t race well. If I didn’t put in the miles in training to run in a 10 mile race then I certainly couldn’t run in that race on race day without problems. Our life of faith can be compared in many ways to a race. Paul used it figuratively that way in Galatians 2:2, Romans 9:16, and 1 Corinthians 9:24.  Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 11

by Mike Ratliff

30 As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. 31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:30-32 NASB)

Those who like to portray our Lord Jesus Christ as just a bundle of love who would never do or say anything to any that could possible cause offense obviously have never studied what he actually said in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In our Lord’s parable of the soils (Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15) he gives us a contrast between genuine believers and those who only appear to be and others who obviously are not. I posted on this several years ago here. The point is that just are there are very religious people who have done religious works and may even appear to be “christian” to some, our Lord says that the criterion to be one of his is not by one’s own choice, but by first being chosen by God, prepared by God, then having the Good News sown into the soil of the heart by him. As our Lord said in John 8:30-32 (above), those who are truly his are those who not only hear his Word, but continue in it. They are truly his disciples and they will know the truth and the truth will make them free. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 10

by Mike Ratliff

1 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. (Romans 9:1-8 NASB)

I just spent the last several days traveling from Kansas City to the Washington D.C. area and back. While it was merciful to get away from this dreadful heat wave and drought that has persisted since May 29th, I looked very hard for God’s people in the D.C. area, in Baltimore and Annapolis. I saw lots of church buildings, but I’m not sure I came across a lot of Christians. We ate in a restaurant in Georgetown on Saturday night and there were three men and a woman at the table next to us in a very long and serious discussion. They looked very distinguished. In between the serving of the courses they went over a very formal document in which they attempted to define what the terms “Born-Again” and “Evangelical” meant and how it would be handled by whatever “organization” that document defined. My wife and I discussed it later and she succinctly stated that I could have settled all of their confusion very quickly with some direct preaching from the Word. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 9

by Mike Ratliff

3 So also we, when we were children, we had been enslaved under the fundamental principles of the world.  4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under law 5 that he might redeem the ones born under law that we might receive adoption as sons.  (Galatians 4:3-5 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

As I shared in our last post, Only One Gospel Part 8, my own pilgrimage or sojourn from my justification to this stage of my sanctification has not been a smooth upward line on a chart. No, in fact, one of the reasons I think I have such a clear understanding of Romans 7 is that I have lived it especially during those dark periods of those fiery trials that seemed to last forever during the 1990’s right up to through 2009 when my seizure disorder, which had been dormant since 1976 reappeared. However, the main element that comes through all of these “elemental principles of the world” is that even though those of us who are in Christ are indeed saved by grace and are new creations all according to the will of God all by his work, we are still in this temporal state in these bodies of flesh in this lost and dying world that neither knows our Lord nor what true joy is. However, even in the midst of a our tests and trials, we can rejoice in our Lord and be full of the joy of the Lord for we know that God is 100% in control and our time to meet him face to face is fixed and our time in our Lord’s presence will be for eternity. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 7

by Mike Ratliff

13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. 16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. (Romans 4:13-17 NASB)

One of the comments from yesterday’s post, Only One Gospel Part 6, stated succinctly that as I presented the message of this series, “Mike – you are swimming up stream in the self-centered culture.” My friend who stated that is right. However, isn’t that what Jesus told us would be the case? If we are his disciples and prove it by following him, obeying him, living by faith, not conforming to this world, et cetera then this world would hate us just as it hated him. However, it wasn’t until I got quite deep into this teaching and discernment ministry that I discovered the shocking truth that most of the push-back to the truth from God’s Word, getting Doctrine right, not compromising for the sake of unity, et cetera was coming from professing Christians. Some of those professing Christians had quite well known ministries and their apologists were quite brutal, underhanded, and played dirty. What am I saying? The self-centered culture that is in darkness that these truths expose is actually most of the visible church. Continue reading

Only One Gospel Part 6

by Mike Ratliff

21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB)

This morning, as I worshiped at our church, we had what some call “The Lord’s Supper” and others “Communion.” No matter which name is used, I rejoiced as I took the bread and the cup and meditated on what my Lord Jesus went through to become my propitiation, to become separate from God the Father, one who knew no sin to be sin on behalf of those he came to save so that they might become the righteousness of God in him. The reason the joy was so intense for those who “get” the magnitude of this is that they also know that not one of those could ever have become reconciled to God the Father by any action or deed or by attempting to keep the Law. No, there was no other way other than a sinless sacrifice paying their penalty for them and that is exactly what our Lord Jesus did. Continue reading