PROSPERITY GOSPEL (PART TWO)
Russell Kelly’s Review and Outline with Additional Thoughts of the Excellent book:
Health, Wealth and Happiness
David W Jones and Russell S Woodbridge, 2011
THEOLOGY OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL (81-103)
THE BIBLICAL GOSPEL
1 Cor 15:1-4; Rom 3:21-26; 2 Cor 5:11-21.
First, God is holy and perfectly righteous (Rom 3:21-26). In His mercy and grace God chose to save rebellious sinful people (Rom 3:25) (p82).
Second, every person has sinned against a holy God and deserves hell (Rom 3:23). No one can meet God’s standard of perfection. No one is good enough to merit God’s grace and everyone is under God’s wrath against sin as well as His judgment.
Third, the triune God sent Jesus to earth to accomplish redemption (Rom 3:24-25). Jesus, being both full God and fully man, lived a sinless perfect life in obedience to His Father. He lived a life that we could not.
Fourth, Jesus died willingly on the cross in the place of sinners. In this loving act He became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Jesus satisfied the wrath of God against sin --- the wrath and judgment that people deserved (Rom 3:25). Jesus is our Substitute and, with his death on the cross, He took the punishment for our sins.
Fifth, God was reconciling humanity to Himself (2 Cor 5:18). The debt of sin was cancelled and trespasses are not counted against those who believe. “We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:14).
Sixth, God raised Jesus from the dead for our justification (Rom 4:25). Through the resurrection, then, God approved of Jesus’ sacrifice and thereby ensured salvation for all who believe (82-83).
Mark 8:34-35 Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
If rightly understood salvation costs people everything (84).
Christians need to hear the gospel all of their lives because it is the gospel that continues to remind us that our day-to-day acceptance with the Father is not based on what we do for God but on what Christ did for us in His sinless life and sin-bearing death (85). If Jesus is left out of the gospel, if the cross is left out, if God’s judgment against sin is left out, if humanity’s sin is left out – there is not gospel (86).
ERROR: When Bryon Pitts reminded Joel Osteen that his statement about the gospel did not mention God or Jesus, Osteen replied “That’s just my message.” The prosperity gospel says “I try my best for the purpose of getting things from God.” The prosperity gospel teaches believers to depend on their own works, thoughts and efforts in order to succeed in life (86).
Orthodox Christianity understands “faith” to be “trust in the person of Jesus Christ, the truth of His teaching and the redemptive work he accomplished at Calvary.
Kenneth Copeland writes that “faith is a spiritual force, a spiritual energy, a spiritual power. It is this force of faith which makes the laws of the spirit world function.” According to prosperity theology, faith is not a God-centered act of the will stemming from God; rather it is man-centered spiritual force directed at God (87).
In Matthew 8:8-10 faith is in the Messiah to heal (88). In Matthew 9:22 faith is in God to accomplish the impossible. In Mark 9:23 it is faith in Christ’s ability to heal. Contrary to the prosperity gospel, the Bible does not teach believers to have faith in words of their own powers. Having faith in self or faith in faith is opposed to having faith in God (88).
Faith is not a magic formula that works by itself apart from faith in God (89). While Job suffered greatly and lost everything he had, including his health, he did not lose his faith in God; prosperity preachers would frown on Job today as one who had no faith (89).
The prosperity gospel claims that both physical healing and financial prosperity have been provided by the atonement (89).
2 Cor 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
2 Cor 8: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality:
Prosperity preachers misuse 2 Cor 8:9. In context of verses 10-14 Paul is teaching that Christians should share whatever they are rich in: Corinthians were rich in money and Judeans were rich in faith (90).
Misapplying Isaiah 53:5, Joyce Meyer says “By his stripes I was healed. Healing belongs to me.” Yet, if physical healing is promised in the atonement, then all believers should be healed when they exercise faith. Acceding to prosperity teachers, the cure for healing is to have a positive outlook – thinking and saying the right words (90).
If healing does not occur (they teach), the problem is your lack of faith (91). In reality, the context of Isaiah 53:4-5 is spiritual in nature – the remission of sins. This is repeated in 1 Pet 2:24. We are also reminded in 2 Corinthians 12 that God refused to answer Paul’s repeated requests for physical healing (91).
Sickness itself is not necessarily the result of one’s personal sin (91). This is clear in Job’s suffering and also in John 9:1-7 where Jesus’ disciples thought that the blind man was blind because of his own sin or that of his parents (92). For prosperity preachers the cross becomes little more than a means to an end: Jesus died for your sins so that you can be prosperous and healthy. This contrasts with Jesus’ message that believers must take up their cross daily and die to sin (92).
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
While the proper interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant makes Christians heirs to the blessings of faith, prosperity preachers say it was for God to bless Abraham materially and to make him successful (93).
Paula White says “God’s Word is full of covenants for our lives.” She errs in assuming that all Bible covenants are for all nations.
Kenneth Copeland says that, because of the Abrahamic Covenant, prosperity belongs to you now. He errs by ignoring Hebrews 11 where most of what God promised Abraham was not fulfilled in his lifetime and Abraham died a nomad outside the promised land of Canaan (93).
Creflo Dollar says that God must prosper Christians materially because of the Abrahamic covenant. He ignore the fact that the Old Covenant prophets and
Jesus and His disciples were not prospered materially. Paul and his band of preachers were not prospered materially and the saints in Judea who needed multiple missions of famine relief were not prospered financially (94).
Gal 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ --- that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Prosperity preachers quote the first half of Galatians 3:14 to prove that material blessings are promised to believers. Yet they ignore the second half of the text which discusses spiritual promises (94).
The Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional on God’s part. In Genesis 15 only God walked through the cut pieces of the covenant ceremony. Abraham’s disobedience could not annul it. We are saved by grace through faith and, having been saved, we become heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant. Yet prosperity preachers teach that believers receive the Abrahamic Covenant via the conduit of continuing faith. However, if unconditional, then all Christians should (according to their view) already be wealthy regardless of whether or not they practice prosperity theology (94). A divine covenant is not performance-based (95).
THE MIND (95)
The prosperity preachers encourage believers to make positive verbal and mental confessions concerning what they desire. Yet if personal flourishing consumes one’s thoughts, such desires have become idolatrous.
In contrast, Paul counseled believers to dwell on things which are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable” (Phil 4:8). Whatever is worthy of worship, or upholds the righteous standard of a holy God, demands the attention of God’s people. A mind filled with God’s Word will desire the things of God.
Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth (95).
1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (96)
The prosperity gospel encourages believers to focus on themselves (96).
Prov 18:20 A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Prov 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Prosperity preachers quote Proverb 18:21 to prove the power of words. Yet some see the context as a warning against being too much in love with your own words – somebody who, like Herod in Acts 12:22, likes to hear himself speak and glorifies himself to his own destruction (96).
James 4:2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
James 4:3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (96-97)
Prosperity preachers like to quote the second half of James 4:2, “you have not because you ask not” and ignore the context of verses 2 and 3 (97).
Creflo Dollar says ”when we pray believing, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass.” His view of prayer seems self-centered. Teaching such claims we can demand things of God is spiritual justification for self-indulgence. It ignore the chief ingredient of every prayer that God’s will may be done. In reality, prayer is a means of fellowship with God and an act of worship (97).
Prayer focuses on God and His glory (98). Jesus taught: (1) Holy be your name, (2) Your kingdom come, (3) your will be done and (4) give us our DAILY bread – not great riches.
1 Tim 6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
1 Tim 6:8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (98)
Prosperity preachers often use highly subjective and arbitrary methods of interpreting the Bible (99). They often ignore context.
3 John 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
This, we are told, means that God wants all believers to prosper “in all things.” Oral Roberts claimed that this text was given to him as a miraculous revelation. And Kenneth Copeland also misinterprets this as a universal promise (99).
First, John was not teaching doctrine; rather he was merely opening his letter with a greeting (100).
Second, and much more important, the Greek word for “prosper,” eu-o-dos-thai, is from two words, eu meaning “good” and odos meaning “way, road, journey” as in John 14:6. Several versions read “that all may go well.” In First Corinthians 16:2 it means “to the extent life has been good to you” and in Romans 1:10 is simply means a “good safe journey” (100).
Third, “as thy soul prospers” indicates that the text means “may matters be good for your physical life just as they have been good for your spiritual life.”
Prosperity preachers have an abnormal fixation on giving (100). Its encouragement to give is not built primarily on a desire to help others (101).
Mark 10:29 There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,
Mark 10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Gloria Copeland and John Avanzini say that Mark 10:30 is a “very good deal.” Yet the context is speaking of the replacement of one’s own “house, relatives and lands” with those of the wide body of believers while being persecuted. It is completely absurd to teach that God literally wants us to have 100 houses, parents, children and pieces of property. Yet, because of the Body of Christ, the homes and possessions of fellow believers are shared with us. See also Mark 3:34-35 (101).
Luke 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest …” (102).
The “give-to-get” “seed of faith” theology does much to enrich the prosperity preachers. “Whereas Jesus taught His disciples to “lend, expecting nothing in return,” prosperity teachers teach their disciples to give because they will get a great return (102).
CHAPTER 4: P107-122
Pain and suffering are common among biblical characters (108).
Abraham suffered marital strife between his wives. He suffered political strife with Pharaoh. He suffered the fate of his firstborn son, Ishmael, having to leave his presence and being called by God “a donkey of a man.” Except for his wife’s grave site, Abraham never owned any of the land he had been promised (108).
Jacob suffered from bad relations with Laban, squabbling wives, fear of his brother, bad eyesight and a dislocated hip. And Jacob died as a nomad in a foreign land.
Joseph was betrayed by his own brothers and separated from his father. And he spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit (108).
Job lost everything he had after God allowed Satan to torture him. He suffered terrible misery from both his best friends and bodily affliction (109).
David suffered betrayal by his son and banishment as king by his own people. He was not allowed to build his dream project – the Temple.
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and most other Old Testament saints suffered great affliction as leaders for God’s cause.
Jesus Christ, God’s most beloved God-Man, suffered more than can be imagined or described.
James and Stephen suffered martyrdom, plus countless others.
Paul, God’s most successful evangelist, suffered from beatings, prison, ship-wreck, snake-bite, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, poor eyesight and poor speech. See 2 Cor 11:12. Yet God refused to end his physical suffering with divine healing.
Phil 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
2 Tim 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.
1 Peter 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (p109)
Christ is not a means to escape a life of suffering; instead faith is often a reason for personal suffering (110). Considering the subject theologically, one can conclude that pain and suffering are a normal part of the Christian life. Since “Christ-likeness” is the goal of a Christian life, Christians can expect suffering.
John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Matt 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen (110).
CAUSES OF SUFFERING (110)
NATURAL EVIL (111)
Both the greatest saint and worst sinner are born to die physically and such usually involves degeneration and suffering. For the vast majority of mankind, natural disasters such as earthquakes, famines, plagues, tornadoes, floods and droughts affect both righteous and wicked in the suffering they cause.
It is the error of Job’s friends and Jesus’ disciples in John 9:1-7 which concludes that suffering is the direct of result of one’s personal sins (111).
As soon as sin entered in Genesis 3 all mankind (good and bad) suffered. All men were destined to toil and sweat and all mothers were destined to suffer in childbirth (112).
Jesus Himself pointed out that, just because a particular tower fell and killed people, does not mean that those victims were any worse than anybody else (Lk 13:4-5) (113).
The purpose of personal suffering is ultimately to foster one’s personal relationship with the Lord. Referring to Genesis 3, Paul wrote that hope would result (Rom 8:20). Natural evil is a curse brought upon the whole world because of moral evil. It can both punish the wicked and discipline the righteous. It also reminds us that sin and redemption are cosmic in scope (113).
Suffering from moral evil is always personal and begins in the heart of man. The worst kind of moral evil is willfully disobeying God’s revealed will (113). There is an inherent connection between moral evil and human suffering (114).
Gal 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Gal 6:8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting (114).
AN OVERVIEW OF SUFFERING
EVERYBODY IS A SINNER.
When sin entered the world it affected all mankind. As the ruler of planet Earth, Adam’s sin brought a judicial curse on all mankind; all men suffer from natural law and from the sins of others. More to the point of this book, as soon as man reaches the point of knowing right from wrong he sins and also suffers from his own personal sins (Rom 5:16) (116).
People are not essentially good and suffering is not essentially unjust.
Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Rom 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
Rom 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
EVERYBODY POSSESSES FREE WILL.
We are not robots whom God has preprogrammed to obey Him. He gave all of us free will that we might choose to love him. However, along with that free will comes the inevitable time when we will freely choose to disobey and deserve the punishment of our Creator (116).
2 Cor 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
2 Cor 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
The voluntary substitute death of Jesus Christ with its unimaginable suffering was for our sins (117).
THERE IS VALUE IN SUFFERING
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Paul should know. He suffered often and severely over 30 years and saw thousands converted and many assemblies of believers established. While leading prison guards to the Lord, he could say from bondage …
Phil 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (117).
Paul did not believe that all Christians should be wealthy and healthy.
THERE IS VALUE IN SUFFERING
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Even suffering can be used to bring glory to God. God has the ability to use suffering for good (117).
First, suffering can be a warning sign of approaching danger; minor pain can warn of more serious conditions (118).
Second, suffering can warn that it is time to repent (Heb 12:11).
Third, pain can encourage some to find better relationships. Misery loves company. Trials can result in the comfort and ministry to others (2 Cor 1:6-7).
Fourth, nonbelievers can react positively when they see believers act in an appropriate way (118).
Fifth, the greatest benefit of suffering is the sanctification it fosters by forcing people to rely upon God (119).
2 Cor 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Prov 30:8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me:
Prov 30:9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain (119-122).