Today I’m going to be posting up the the second part of my notes from the fourth and final talk I gave at the Last Days Bible Conference. That talk was about the Prosperity Gospel. Last post, I gave an overview of Word of Faith theology and attempted to show how it set the stage for Prosperity Gospel theology. In this post, I’m going to be posting the notes that engage many of the standard proof texts of the Prosperity Gospel Movement.
Now in the talk I gave, I had hard time limits so I was only able to deal with some of the main Scriptures that are used in defending Word of Faith and Prosperity Gospel theology. Still, if you have any exposure to informed Biblical exegesis, I’m hoping that my explanations will make sense to you. If you have any actual education in Biblical exegesis, I’d only encourage you to look up the passages used by Word of Faith or Prosperity Gospel teachers and read them in context, since the popular “Biblical” arguments put forth by the Word of Faith and Prosperity Gospel folks don’t exactly hold much water.
Here are the notes:
Let’s look at some of their key proof-texts:
1. Does God wants you to prosper financially? – 3 John 2
The king James says “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
The term “beloved” refers specifically to the single person to whom the letter is written: Gaius. 3 John 1 says “The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.”
Even though the term “beloved” is used in other places in the New Testament to refer to believers, it does not refer to “believers in general” here.
This is made even more clear seeing that the Greek pronouns (the word “you”) in verse 2 are singular, not plural.
3 John 2 is John’s specific prayer for his friend Gaius, and he desires that Gaius would be blessed in person as he is blessed in spirit. Even if it is a prayer for financial blessing, it’s a prayer for 1 person alone.
2. Is faith a substance? Heb. 11:1 –
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
This whole confusion lies in the fact that the term “substance” in the KJV is used in a different sense that is assumed.
The term is a combination of “sub” & “stance” or “that which is beneath”.
The Greek term is hupostasis and the idea is one of certainty, or solidity. Faith is what supports that which we hope for.
It’s telling that out of the 5 occurrences the of the Greek noun hupostasis in the NT, 3 of them are translated “confidence”.
3. Does faith comes by hearing the word? Rom. 10:17
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Does faith come by hearing the word? Yes.
Is faith some sort of substance or power? Not for a second.
Rom. 10:13 says “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” and then 10:14-15 asks several questions:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
So Romans 10:17 is talking about saving faith, not some sort of generic faith or any other type of faith…and the type of faith that the Word of Faith people proclaim doesn’t even exist in the first place.
4. Is faith is what heals? Mark 5:34
When reading the gospels, it’s important to notice the larger structures. Jesus clearly did more and said more than is in the gospels, so the question should be “why did Mark include this in this way”.
In Mark 3:22-30, the Scribes who had heard about, and witnessed, Jesus’ healing and exorcisms had to give an explanation for how he could do those things. They couldn’t challenge whether he was performing amazing miracles, so they said that his power came from Satan.
In Mark 4:1-9 Jesus begins his parabolic ministry, in Mark 4:10-20 he explains that the purpose of parables is for judgment of the Jewish leaders (as well as the meaning of his first parable), in Mark 4:21-34 he tells 3 more parables, and then he commences performing miracles again.
In Mark 4:35-41 he performs a different type of miracle: he shows immediate power of nature itself.
Then in Mark 5:1-20, Jesus casts out a herd of demons from a single man, but it’s interesting that the demons recognize him (5:7). The story closes with Jesus telling the man to go and tell his friends how much the Lord has had mercy on him (5:19).
Then, in Mark 5:21-43 he raises a dead girl, but on the way he heals the woman with ongoing bleeding.
The sequence is important. He performs miracles in all 4 spheres of existence: nature, the spiritual realm, the body, and death itself. If anyone has missed who he is now, they have no excuse.
Then, in Mark 6:1-6, he’s rejected in Nazareth, of all places!
Now in Mark 5:25-34, Mark clearly structures the story in a telling way. Jesus is on the way to lay his hands on the sick girl (5:23), but the sick woman lays her hands on his garment (5:27).
Did this same Jesus, the one who read the minds of men, not know who had touched him? Of course not.
She came forth in 5:33 and told what had happened so that the people could see who it was. She would have been known as a chronically unclean woman, having bled for 12 years, and Jesus wanted everyone to see that she understood who he was.
When Jesus says “your faith has made you well” in 5:33, it’s idiotic to say that the faith was the healing agent. Mark 5:30 says clearly that the power of Christ (not God the Father) is what did it.
5. Can you have what you say? Mark 11:23-24
Kenneth Hagin said “…if Mark 11:24 doesn’t mean what it says, then Jesus told a lie.”
The passage says,”Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
If it means what it says, any Christian with faith should be able to move mountains.
I’d love to see anyone do that.
If the passage is being taken in a woodenly literal fashion (and it is), then Prosperity Gospel preachers should be able to actually move mountains.
By that standard, there’s not a single person in history who has ever had faith.
The Word of Faith teachers take 11:23 as a metaphor but not 11:24.
Why is that?
It’s obvious. The passage cannot possibly be taken in a woodenly literal fashion…therefore the “whatever you ask in prayer” cannot include the absurd.
Clearly this isn’t a recipe to “write your own ticket with God”, as Oral Roberts and Kenneth Hagin have both said.
6. Do words have power? Proverbs 18:21
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
Proverbs 18:18-19 both speak about ending quarrels
Proverbs 18:20 says “From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.”
Those 4 proverbs are thematically linked; the immediate context is quarreling.
Beyond that, to suggest that one’s words can *actually* grant life or death is simply stupid and clearly a metaphor.
7. Is sewing and reaping an eternal law?
No. Gen. 8:22 is specifically talking about farming, and that in the context of God promising to never again curse the ground or kill every living creature as long as there is the earth, farming, seasons, days and nights, etc.
What about Gal. 6:7-8?
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Gal. 6:9-10 explains: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
What about 2 Cor. 9:6?
The passage reads, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”
So what is being sown? 2 Cor. 9:7-9 says it’s money.
What is being harvested? 2 Cor. 9:10 – “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”
8. Is there a divine formula for getting money?
Luke 6:38 – “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Luke 6:37 – “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”
We’re not talking about money, in the slightest!
9. Do all the Old Testament promises apply to the Gentiles through Jesus?
The typical expression of this idea is Heb. 13:8 + Gal 3:14 + Deut. 28 = MONEY!
What about Heb. 13:8?
The passage says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Oh really? In the Old Testament he was the angel of the Lord. Is he still the angel of the Lord?
Is anything going to change for Jesus between now and the eternal state? OF COURSE!
The whole idea that God hasn’t changed one bit is difficult when it’s taken as a blanket statement meaning “nothing in God’s dealings with the mankind has changed.” If that’s the case, one has to wonder what Prosperity Gospel folks do with the new covenant?!?
So what about Gal. 3:9-14?
This cannot even be serious. Just read the passage.
“So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
This is clearly and specifically talking about justification and the Spirit, not the blessings promised to Israel in Deuteronomy 28.
Biblical Corrections and Thoughts:
1. Thoughts on Health and Wealth:
Health and daily provision are benefits of common grace (Psalm 73:3; Matt. 5:45), but they’re not promised to be given, in any special measure, to people who profess Christ in this life. Jesus will provide those things to believers, certainly, but that will occur in the life to come (Matt. 19:29; Luke 16:25; Is. 65:17-23; Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:35-53; Rev. 21:4).
Jesus overtly warned about the dangers of chasing wealth: he commented on how it would choke the message of the gospel from producing fruit in someone’s life (Mark 4:18-19), he warned against seeking money for such pursuit reveals sinful priorities (Luke 12:15-21), he taught that chasing wealth as antithetical to serving God (Matt. 6:24), he even taught how loving wealth was a barrier to salvation (Mark 10:17-27). One of the distinctive marks of the Pharisees was that they loved money (Luke 16:14).
The rest of the disciples/apostles spoke out harshly against chasing/loving money as well. Luke mentioned how the attempt to use money to acquire spiritual blessings was the mark of a wicked heart (Acts 8:18-23). John the apostle wrote about how wicked men will attempt to gain money under the guise of righteous ends (John 12:4-7). Paul referred to it as being synonymous with idolatry (Col. 3:5), a mark that disqualified a man from serving as an elder in the local church (1 Tim. 3:3), a mark of wickedness (2 Tim. 3:2) and spoke of a desire for wealth as a snare that plunges people into ruin, destruction and apostasy (1 Tim. 6:9-10). The author of Hebrews wrote that the Christians’ life should be void of the love of money and rather characterized by contentment (Heb. 13:5).
What’s more is that both John the Baptist and Paul continually taught that the poor should seek generosity and contentment as opposed to more money (Luke 3:10-14; Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 9:6-15; Phil. 4:10-20; 1 Tim. 6:6-8), and Paul held himself up as an example of such behavior (Acts 20:33-35, 1 Cor. 4:11-12). Beyond that, Paul didn’t give poor churches a pass on serving and generosity because they were poor and he certainly didn’t tell them to “claim God’s provision” (or however you want to phrase it).
2. Does God promise believers money and financial success as a reward for faithfulness, anywhere?
Is it even a part of the equation?
The whole concept betrays the consistent teaching of the New Testament.
– Jesus was homeless (Matt. 8:20),
– The apostles were poor and homeless (1 Cor. 4:11-12; 2 Cor. 6:3-10; Phil. 3:8)
– The churches in Macedonia that were financially generous while living in extreme poverty were held up as an example of spirituality to be copied (2 Cor. 8:1-5), but the rewards they reaped were not financial.
3. Why does this make me so utterly furious?
a. This is so infuriating because the Prosperity Gospel is so utterly wicked; Jesus condemned it in his day in the harshest of terms.
In both Mark 12:38-13:13:2 and Luke 20:45-21:6 one sees the same event recounted. Jesus warns his disciples about the Pharisees, who “walk around in long robs” (dressed in a way to show off their financial status) and ” love greetings in the marketplaces” (public recognition of their spiritual position) “the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts” (being honored before men).
Why did Jesus warn his disciples about the Pharisees?
It was because “devour widows’ houses” (gain their wealth by abusing those that they were supposed to care for) and “for a pretense make long prayers” (are verbose in their prayers due to pride, not piety).
Instead of being seen as examples of righteousness, Jesus stated that they would receive a more serious condemnation because of their wicked attitudes and actions.
After Jesus warned his disciples, Jesus had an illustration of the problem appear right before him.
As wealthy people were offering large sums of money at the temple, a widow gave 2 copper coins (the smallest sum of currency in that era). Instead of contributing out of her abundance like the wealthy, the poor widow basically gave her grocery money to the temple with expectation that she would be blessed for her “sacrificial” giving.
The widow was not an example of piety, but rather a horrible illustration of how wickedly the Pharisees victimized those who followed their teaching.
Instead of helping the widow (which in the Old Testament was always a mark of true spirituality and a changed heart – Ex. 22:2; Deut. 10:18, 14:28-29, 24:17, 24:19-21, 27:19; Ps. 68:5; Prov. 15:25; Is. 1:17, 1:23; Jer. 7:3-7, 22:1-5; Ez. 22:6-7; Zech. 7:4-11; Mal. 3:5), the Pharisees were eating their food by literally taking the grocery money from the poor.
After this scene, Jesus pronounced the destruction of the temple and gave what is known as the Olivet Discourse.
It is very interesting that the thing that inflamed Christ’s heart to the point that he pronounced the destruction of the temple was the victimization of the widows in Israel.
Those same widows (and fatherless, and poor) are now similarly victimized by means of the promises of the most popular counterfeit “gospel” on the planet: the Prosperity Gospel.
b. The Prosperity Gospel insures that Christians remain in a self-perpetuating immaturity:
God’s main medium for cultivating spiritual growth is purification by means of discipline/suffering (Rom. 5:1-5; 1 Cor. 11:29-32; Heb. 12:1-14; Ja. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:3-7; Rev. 3:19).
Christians share in Christ’s sufferings as a normative part of the Christian life (2 Cor. 1:5-7; Phil. 3:7-11; Col. 1:24; 2 Thess. 1:4-5; 2 Tim. 2:1-4; 1 Pet. 4:12).
c. When people are deceived by the Prosperity Gospel, they trust God to keep promises he has NEVER made and call foul when he doesn’t keep them.
Among other things, Christians are promised persecution in this life (2 Tim. 3:12).
Though there is some comfort/relief/blessing in this life for believers (1 Pet. 5:9-10), the comfort/relief/blessing that believers are promised will ultimately not be in this life (2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Tim. 2:8-13; Heb. 10:32-39; Ja. 5:7-9; 1Pet. 4:13-19).
Your best life is in the future, not the present.
That’s the end of the notes, and the end of this short series.
I hope that this has been somewhat helpful, but remember that these notes are supposed to accompany the audio of the conference. The notes are basically almost exactly what I had in the pulpit, so listening to the audio with the notes in hand should help you follow more closely and catch all the stuff that I said too quickly to write down.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “I hope I said something noteworthy!” Unger