The Holiness of the Church


by Mike Ratliff

9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) 

The Church is not a building. No, in the New Testament, written in Koine Greek, the English word translated as “church” is the word ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia). This word literally means, “the called out ones.” It’s usage in scripture denotes the New Testament community of the redeemed in a two-fold aspect, the first referring to all those called by and to Christ in the fellowship of His salvation, which is the “Church” worldwide at all times. The second aspect, rarely used, refers to a local body of believers.  Continue reading

Christ Our Advocate


by Mike Ratliff

1 Τεκνία μου, ταῦτα γράφω ὑμῖν ἵνα μὴ ⸀ἁμάρτητε. καὶ ἐάν τις ἁμάρτῃ, παράκλητον ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν δίκαιον· 1 John 2:1 (NA28)

1 My little Children, these things I write to you so that you do not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. 1 John 2:1 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Perfection is not for anyone is this life. The only perfect person who ever walked this Earth was the Lord Jesus Christ and the reason He could be perfect and was perfect is that He is deity. Part of His mission was actually to perfectly keep the Law in order to be the propitiation and only acceptable sacrifice in the Father’s eyes in place of those He came to save. We see this in the following verses.

2 καὶ αὐτὸς ἱλασμός ἐστιν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, οὐ περὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων δὲ μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου.
3 Καὶ ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐγνώκαμεν αὐτόν, ἐὰν τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ τηρῶμεν. 4 ὁ λέγων ὅτι ἔγνωκα αὐτὸν καὶ τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ μὴ τηρῶν, ψεύστης ἐστὶν καὶ ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀλήθεια οὐκ ἔστιν· 5 ὃς δʼ ἂν τηρῇ αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον, ἀληθῶς ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ τετελείωται, ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκομεν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐσμεν. 6 ὁ λέγων ἐν αὐτῷ μένειν ὀφείλει καθὼς ἐκεῖνος περιεπάτησεν καὶ αὐτὸς [οὕτως] περιπατεῖν. 1 John 2:2-6 (NA28)

2 And He is the propitiation for our sins, not for our sins only, but also for the whole world.
3 And this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commands. 4 The one saying, “I have known Him” and he does not keep His commands is a liar and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly in this one the love of God has been perfected, by this we know that we are in Him. 6 The one claiming to abide in Him ought to walk as He walked. 1 John 2:2-6 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)  Continue reading

What is Reformed Theology?


by Mike Ratliff

My good friend Stuart said recently on Facebook when asked if he was Reformed, “Calvinist, not Reformed.” I put a big like on his response. However, there is a great deal of things that those of us who are Baptists, but also Calvinists, have in common with our Reformed brethren. Stuart has asked me to write a commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians. I agreed to do that if he would handle the “book” part. However, I will be 70 years old in a couple of weeks and as Dr. James White said the other day on Twitter, “Age must have something to do with my stamina on writing. I am getting so tired when I have to write a lot, but it has to be done…” I started developing the chapter layout and text of my commentary last week and found out, like Dr. James White, that I’m not as young as I was back in 2004-2009 when I could put out long complex posts on a nightly basis and never seemed to tire. However, I am also approaching this project carefully and doing a lot of documentation and cross-referencing while I write everything based on solid exegesis. Now, with that being said, writing at that level also precludes me from working as much as I would like on posts here. That does not mean I won’t, it just means I will have to find a way to balance things. Please pray for me on this. After church today I worked on the manuscript for most of the day and I am just too tired to do any more research for a new post. So, I would like to post a link to a series of articles by R.C. Sproul about Reformed Theology. I read these way back around 2005-2006 and this moved me into an understanding of what Calvinism is and what it was not. Continue reading

Justification by faith alone demonstrates God’s righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26 (NASB) 

The passage above (Romans 3:21-26) is loaded with doctrinal truth. I could write a paper just on Romans 3 and it would probably take me quite some time to get all the cross-references tied in and all the explanations set just right so those who read it would be edified. However, just reading these Holy Spirit inspired words, ῥήματα (rhēmata), should cause us to reflect on the incredible work of salvation God has done in us for none us deserve it (v23) nor did we do anything to attain it (v24) except believe by a faith that was a gift from God according to Ephesians 2:8-9:

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) 

Continue reading

In Christ


by Mike Ratliff

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14 (NASB) 

We live in a time of deep deception. Even genuine Christians can be deceived if they are not exceedingly careful. It is imperative that, even though we must remain in the world for a time, we must not be of it. The Church has been under heavy attack since Acts 2. It is a wise and discerning thing for us to understand that God uses this to purify, cleanse, and teach the Church. It is as we address heresy that doctrine is developed or our understanding of God and His ways becomes more defined for us. Continue reading

Salvation Garments


by Mike Ratliff

1 Awake, awake,
Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion;
Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city;
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Will no longer come into you.
2 Shake yourself from the dust, rise up,
O captive Jerusalem;
Loose yourself from the chains around your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion.
3 For thus says the LORD, “You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money.” Isaiah 52:1-3 (NASB)

The way many look at our salvation it is as if they believe that it is a work of some kind. The cry to put on strength and beautiful garments is seen as a new believer putting on something they already have. However, in Isaiah 52:1-3 we see that those being saved were in bonds. They were in a captivity into which they were not sold, but they were redeemed without money. From where does their strength and beautiful garments come?  Continue reading

Proclaiming Christ 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. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NASB)

We preach to men as if they were conscious of being dying sinners; they are not; they are having a good time, and our talk about being born again is from a domain of which they know nothing. The natural man does not want to be born again. – Oswald Chambers from The Psychology of Redemption, 1062 R.

We live in a time in which the evangelical church appears to have been taken over by men who have rejected the Apostle Paul’s method of preaching the Gospel in favor of man-centered, man-pleasing methodology that is grounded in cultural relevance. You can tell very quickly if a local church has succumbed to this by observing whether the focus of what goes on there is on Christ Crucified or on the personalities of the leadership therein. If it is the latter then observe carefully how the Gospel is presented, that is, if it really is. If the preaching in the church is man-centered and geared to pleasing men then it will contain threads of entertainment intertwined with psychological methodology all based upon the concept that these things can actually persuade people to become Christians. Continue reading

Finishing the Marathon


by Mike Ratliff

In 1978 I decided to become a runner. I was 26-27 at that time. I began running a mile or so out from my apartment in Forestville, Maryland then running back. As I was able, I added distance to that run in half-mile increments on the outbound route. That would add a mile to my run. By late 1979 I was able to run 5 miles in about 30 minutes or so. In 1980 I moved from the Washington, DC area to the Oklahoma City area. By this time my Dad had taken up running. He could not run the distance at my speed, but he could run all day. He ran marathons. Continue reading

A Call to Repentance


by Mike Ratliff

8 He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:8-10 (NASB) 

If we study God’s Word from cover to cover we will find that only God is perfect. He is Sovereign. He is Holy. He is complete and perfectly righteous. On the other hand, people are none of the above. We are a fallen race who, even after God’s gracious regeneration of our hearts, must continually work our salvation with fear and trembling. That implies that we still sin. We still fall into temptation and become entangled. Even when God graciously allows us to walk in victory for awhile, we get our eyes off of Him and onto ourselves and begin to believe that we are invulnerable to the worst our flesh can throw at us. That, of course, sets us up for a next stumble.

Continue reading

Are All Christians Called to Be Holy?


by Mike Ratliff

33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “ Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Luke 12:33-36 (NASB)

One recurring warning throughout the New Testament is that Christians should live in such a way that they will be ready when their Lord returns. What would that life look like? How should we live in order to be ready when He comes and knocks? I doubt that it would look like the self-indulgent, pop-culture oriented, heavily marketed, so-called Christian lifestyle that waters down the gospel and breeds “Christians” who are both theologically and scripturally ignorant. They follow “another Jesus” whose creators have designed to fit the image that draws the crowd they want. The “followers” of this “other Jesus” resent any call to live lives of repentance before a Holy God who is to be feared. What does the life look like that is prepared for our Lord’s return?  Continue reading

Suffering and God’s Will


by Mike Ratliff

8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (NASB) 

Many years ago in a much younger season in my life, I worked with a fellow whose theology was quite different than mine. I had small children at that time and whatever diseases they brought home from school, my wife and I always contracted them. I would come to work suffering from the plague given to me by my children causing my coworker to admonish me for having sin in my life, which, according to him, was the cause of my misery. His theology was that God’s will for His children was that they be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous instead of disease ridden, living within humble means, and not always “winning.” Continue reading

The Discipline of God


By Mike Ratliff

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB) 

When I was a new Christian I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll in which he stated that before God can use a man for His purposes He must hurt him and sometimes rather severely. That was a quite startling to me at that time since that was so alien to the ‘doctrine’ I was exposed to in the church I belonged to. The focus there was that God was love and that He loved each of just the way we were. If that was so then what Swindoll was teaching wrong. However, as I studied my Bible I found that he was right and what I was hearing in church was wrong. Continue reading

Put On the New Self


by Mike Ratliff

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB) 

The enemy of our souls has from the beginning worked against all believers’ knowing and understanding the veracity of their eternal standing before God. God says that those who believe Him and obey Him, denying themselves in the process, have indescribable blessings awaiting them in eternity. Satan’s lie to us has never really changed. His goal is to distract us from the eternal promise then manipulate our flesh to demand that we focus on our own desires and needs in light of the temporal. Sadly, there is a growing movement that calls itself ‘Christian,’ but it’s message is focused on the here and now, not eternity. It is the Word Faith movement. For example, think of Benny Hinn and Todd Bentley who make incredible claims about their ability to heal with ‘signs and wonders.’  Related to it are preachers such as Joel Osteen who preach a message of prosperity and salvation by professing Christ in order to receive temporal blessings.  Continue reading

God Wills Us to be Holy


by Mike Ratliff

1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (NASB) 

Holiness is commanded by God. He wills it. Our Lord Jesus Christ requires it and the Word of God calls for it. The goal of our redemption is that we become Holy as God is Holy. Our Lord died on the cross in order that all of His people would be justified. This justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous having Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account. This had to come first in order that we may be sanctified and made Holy. Continue reading