The Prosperity Gospel: An Erroneous Gospel & A Distortion of the Gospel
The problem with the prosperity gospel is not the jets (that is like diagnosing a yellow fever patient with headaches!). The jets and other things may be symptoms, but the fundamental problem with the prosperity gospel is with the content itself. It is not the true gospel – it is an erroneous gospel, or at best a distortion of the gospel!
In the long run, it cannot help you become godly. In any case it only further impoverishes the poor.
Here’s the outline of this email:
A. What is the gospel
B. What’s the prosperity gospel
C. What is wrong with prosperity gospel
D. Some sociological effects of the prosperity gospel
E. Conditions/things that enable the prosperity gospel in Nigeria
A. What is the gospel? (you may skip to the next section if familiar with the gospel)
1 Corinthians 15:1-5 (ESV)
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you” unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures….
The core of the gospel (good news) is this:
All are sinners – broken God’s law and offended him, separated from God (Isaiah 59:2), dead in our sins (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:3), and cannot please God (Rom. 3:10-11), and will suffer damnation (2 Thess. 1:9).
As a result of God’s love, Christ died (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10), for our sins -as a substitute for us (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal:3:13; 1 Peter 2:24), that he was buried, raised on the third day
His death is able to
take away the wrath of God against sin which is directed towards all sinners (Romans 3:25-26; Isaiah 53:5, 10);
set anyone free from the slavery to a sinful life (Romans 6:17, Gal. 3:13, 1 Cor. 7:23, Heb. 2:14-15), and
reconcile people to God (Romans 5:10, 2 Cor. 5:18-20)
This is available to anyone who recognizes their sinfulness, repents (Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10) and trusts Christ completely to save them from their sins. (John 1:12; 3:16).
B. What are the features of the prosperity gospel?
The prosperity teachers I know acknowledge all the above (at least in doctrinal statements) so one could say it is prosperity teaching (instead of prosperity gospel), however, because of how it is inexorably linked to the gospel itself and seeks to convince people that the gospel itself guarantees people material prosperity and wealth, it is called the prosperity gospel. It teaches some or all of the following:
1. Jesus died to provide you material wealth and God wants you to be rich, therefore Christians should expect material wealth to come their way as a seal of God’s approval. Eg.
2. If material wealth does not manifest, or if you are going through any suffering, it’s probably due to a lack of faith, and you are out of the will of God. In other words, God doesn’t want you to suffer.
3. Christians should speak positive confessions, and it will make them prosper materially.
4. If you give to God (by giving the man of God) then God will give you back more money guaranteed. So if you want to prosper or grow richer, “sow a seed” until the desired amount of money is acquired. If you are poor, the way to become rich is by giving to the man of God who is rich and that is a passport to becoming rich yourself.
4. All the wealth in the world will be transferred to the Christians before Christ returns, then we will deliver the kingdom to Him.
5. Jesus lived his earthly life as a rich man
C. What is wrong with this (Prosperity) teaching?
That the Bible clearly teaches God’s blessings is not under question. From Genesis 12 to Deuteronomy 28 etc. it is there. But the Bible does not teach it the way it is presented in this prosperity teaching.
An example will suffice: “JESUS went to the cross to give you a better life to live. Enjoying life to it’s fullness is your covenant inheritance!!!” …from an unnamed preacher’s fb wall – the preacher may be reading this mail.
Excuse me but that is so wrong!! Jesus didn’t go to the cross so you or I can get a better job, live in a nice house and enjoy a life of material wealth. There are many people who hate God and have all those things!You don’t need to be a christian to do all those things – Let me promise you, if you work hard and become competent at what you do and present your competence, you can accomplish any of those things whether you are a christian or not!!
What are the results and dangers of the prosperity gospel?
It distorts the gospel by equating material gain with godliness. People give testimonies of how God “blessed them” materially every Sunday but evil and corruption still abound and thrive in the society. They have “infallible proofs” (to quote some men of God) of God’s work, but increased net worth is not a sign that God has favoured someone. This is the kind of teaching that produces Lawrence Agada and Gbenga Kehinde cases. (if you are unfamiliar with these – Google it)
It promotes greed, covetousness and an unhealthy desire for riches – all things that the Bible severely warns against. (Luke 12:15; Mark 4:19; 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:3,5) Please read those passages and you will get the idea – the prosperity teaching emphasizes and encourages people toward material wealth “from God”, however, the Bible warns against accumulating material wealth! Subtle but huge difference in the direction of emphasis! The prosperity gospel does not prepare people for eternity, but gives them incentive to live here and little reason to think of the hereafter. However, we do well to heed 1 Corinthians 7:31
It takes away the focus from God the giver, to material wealth, his gifts. While the Bible teaches us to give as an act of worship (Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:16, and to give sacrificially according to Christ’s example (2 Corinthians 8) not for what we should gain, this teaching tells believers to give in order to get more.
It downgrades people’s trust and focus from God and his people to one “man of God” who is the mediator of the prosperity.
It preys on the less privileged – who give their little in order for the leader to live in opulence.
It damages people’s faith, by setting them up for disappointment when the things promised by the men of God does not happen.
The prosperity gospel destroys sincere men (and women) who start out with a desire to serve God, but end up serving their bellies!
All these are not new actually – the Bible warns against it in 1 Timothy 6:3-10
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:3-10 (ESV)
D. What are some of the sociological effects of the prosperity gospel?
In the United States, some researchers have drawn some connection between this prosperity gospel and the subprime-lending boom, which preceded the housing and economic crisis. The effects of this prosperity gospel made people easy prey to unscrupulous bank officials – meanwhile the victims were giving testimonies of how God gave them a miracle!! To read more about this check here or here
E. What are some of the enabling conditions that perpetuate the prosperity gospel in Nigeria?
A Society that worships money. Influence is equated with wealth and opulence in Nigeria. But God has never viewed things that way. God looks at heart issues such as faithfulness and integrity (1 Samuel 16:7). Even in the church (especially in the church) we see this value system. Just for fun I have an interesting hypothesis – compare the way some of us revere our papas and bishops on the one hand, then think of people like bro Mike (Adegbile) or Bala Usman on the other hand. The age, ministry experience, spiritual influence or labor for the Lord may be equivalent as far as the eyes can see (of course we can’t exactly measure some of these things). However, I don’t perceive the same level of respect or reverence for the latter (even from those who passed through NIFES). My hypothesis/question is this: could it be that the respect differential is because this latter category does not have as much money as the former. Could it be that if bro Bala became a millionaire minister today and could afford a jet like bishop Nwachineke or Rev OmoOluwa, his visage and stature would suddenly be enlarged in our eyes? I know this may sound provocative but I am wondering aloud whether a lot of the so called “respect” we have for great men of God is simply the good old respect for money! In which case we are simply a product of our times. Except we have a different citizenship and should live by different values.
A society that is void of accountability. I don’t need to say more on this matter because someone has written about it. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth – you know what that means? Transparency should be highest in the church. But we have bred a system where pastors and bishops are not accountable to anyone and the people are afraid of accountability. I think we are a part of the problem honestly. If I had a more active imagination I would think there was a conspiracy of silence about this subject since the discussion was opened almost 2 weeks ago.
A church that worships on the idolatrous personality altar of “men of God”. We are told that nobody should say anything about a man of God because if you do, you will be cursed. Really?? Is that really scriptural? Especially if you are speaking out about righteousness and not simply driven by your own spiteful, sinful motives. See Galatians 2:11-21 where Paul rebukes Peter for hypocrisy. Peter was a “senior” apostle if there ever was any. He was an apostle when Paul was still a persecutor and was one of the people who accepted and validated Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:27). If he believed and behaved like us he would never speak up about this and Peter would not be corrected. We may think it is respect to ignore spiritual leaders when they sin, but is hatred. We can watch a man of God go to hell because we did not want to “touch not the anointed” Let me speak as one of those â€˜men of God’s. It is lonely “up” there where people place spiritual leaders as if they are without flaw or struggles. It is also dangerous! Without any form of accountability it is easy to fall away from Jesus. The problem is that after this has happened one can still keep going through the motions for years before it becomes obvious. Love your pastor enough to pray for him, and to be forthright about sin in the church.
A church that is largely ignorant of the true gospel and of doctrine. Today the four letter word of the church is theology or doctrine! That is why we are being ravaged by Satan. Many of the spurious teachings making rounds in the church are things which have been weighed and found wanting long ago but we keep falling for them. We are open to humorous, witty, pragmatic messages which make us feel good but do not build us up in the knowledge of God. But we do not want to learn doctrine, thus when an eloquent preacher with a bold voice comes to town preaching unsound doctrine we get all carried away rather than do what Aquila and Priscilla did with Apollos in Acts 18:24-28.
This email is very long so I will not go into the twisting of scriptures which is used to justify the prosperity gospel (Jesus was a rich man – evidence: he had a treasurer ( courtesy Fred Price, Dr Oyedepo), or they cast lots for his clothing therefore it was name brand designer quality (courtesy John Avanzini, and an earlier email in this house)! There is enough in the scriptures to refute those.
Anyhow, if Jesus died to make his followers materially rich – what a big failure Jesus was since none of his first followers was known for being rich. In fact many of them who started from comfort moved by choice to a rigorous life driven by a higher purpose namely, to see people transformed spiritually by faith in Christ (Eg. Barnabas). I want to throw a challenge to anyone in the house to show me one passage – only one passage – which shows that part of the mission of Jesus was to make people rich, or give them financial breakthroughs and the likes. Yes show me one passage which shows us that when we interpreted in its context!!
Let me appeal to my brother preachers in the house. Please let us be responsible with our preaching and teaching of God’s word. And let us model godliness with contentment for our people. Let’s no lose sight of he mission. We are not called to raise up superstars but to raise up people who are being transformed into the image of Christ.
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