Posted by: Damon Whitsell | January 13, 2010

HERESY UNMASKED: PROSPERITY SCRIPTURES IN LIGHT OF SCRIPTURE

PROSPERITY SCRIPTURES IN LIGHT OF SCRIPTURE: From HERESY UNMASKED: Analysis of the Word of Faith Movement Doctrines

Seeing that there are many Scriptures employed by the WoF advocated to promote the Prosperity Gospel, I will take on few of them. We will take the time to interpret each passage in its proper context – after having gone through this, you the reader must draw your own conclusion of the other texts employed by these preachers. These Scriptures are not in a certain sequential order.

Genesis 13:2 “And Abram [was] very rich in cattle, in silver and in gold.”

Often this passage is used to say that Abraham who is the father of faith was rich so are we supposed to be. However, careful reading doesn’t promise that because of Abraham all believers also ought to be materially rich. God had blessed him greatly with material wealth because of the promise he made to him (Genesis 12:2-3), this was perhaps also an indication of the spiritual blessings God had reserved in Christ (Hebrew 11:8-19). To use this passage as an example for believers’ wealth is to deliberately read meanings into God’s word and give the Christian false hopes of what God didn’t promise them. The fact that Abraham and many of the patriarchs were rich is not a universal blanket of guarantee that every Christian ought to be materially wealthy. Galatians 4, makes it clear of what kind of blessing God was referring to when referring to Abraham as the father of faith of all who believe in Christ.

Job 36:11 “If they obey and serve [him], they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.”

This verse in isolation of the historical understanding of the Jewish view of the presence of God in one’s life can create a chaotic state of interpretation – supporting the Prosperity Gospel. Elihu speaks of that God is almighty and he can do whatever he wants with man and if a man is to sin against God, his sin will not go unpunished by God. Then he turns around and say that if a man is to obey God and worship him, such a person’s days will be in prosperity. Prosperity in this case can mean literal material blessing as that of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and David but it could also mean tranquility of having the assurance that our conscience is not reporting us before God i.e. we’re without guilt and condemnation. Thus the lesson from here cannot be interpreted as material wealth alone for commonsense tells us that there have been and are many righteous people who are not materially prospering.

The Jewish people considered having great substance as a sign of having God’s presence with you. But that is not the same case Jesus came to present when he came – he taught of being rich in spirit, living upright and pleasing God. Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians 1:3-23, after making his greeting remarks continue to explain the kind of wealth we as believers have in God through Christ Jesus. Throughout this chapter all his references to blessing, wealth, riches, glory, inheritance, dominion etc is in a spiritual sense. Above all, he places the gift of salvation as great wealth and then he speaks of our position in Christ Jesus – unto whom all powers and dominions will submit at the end of the age. He speaks of how greatly God before the foundations of the world have foreordained the saints to be partakers of this glorious wealth of God’s grace. Our prosperity as believers is in the fact that we have Christ who have set us free from the dominion of darkness, and have secured for us an eternal inheritance in the Father and when this world have come to an end we will inherit this great kingdom of our Father.

For the believer his prosperity is not necessarily in the amount of material wealth he has or don’t have. Our prosperity as believers is in the saving grace of God and whose power has delivered us from sin and now we have peace with Him. Even when we don’t have all that this world has to offer, we have peace in us that the world cannot give nor take away from us. Is that not prosperity enough for the saints? Above all that we’re consigned to be the inheritors of God’s eternal kingdom which surpasses all the glory and riches of this world.

Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of the LORD itself makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.”

It takes a deliberate ignoring of the context to derive the kind of meaning the prosperity preachers find from this portion of Scripture. Solomon isn’t teaching that God is going to make believers rich – as a king he was even quite aware that there were many Jews (children of Abraham’s bloodline) living in poverty. Seeing that God had made him exceedingly rich more than any king who lived before him and any that were to come after him (II Chronicles 1:12) – with that background he exclaims that if God have blessed you – there’s no sorrowing that comes with it. People of the world and those who desire to be rich have to employ all sorts of unethical schemes, but the man whom God out of his own will decides to bless materially, will have his blessings with tranquility, and not worry.

Deuteronomy 8:18 “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for [it is] He who gives you power to get wealth, so that He may confirm His covenant which He has sworn to your fathers, as it is today.”

Remember what God told Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thus, when God blessed the Israelites with material wealth it was because of the covenant he had made with their ancestors of this Jewish nation. How a Christian can take passages that are strictly related to how God dealt with the Jews and apply them today – is a giant step of spiritual fraud and deliberate twisting of Scripture. This portion of Scripture is not intended to be applied to the believers because it is directly related to the Israelites to remind them of God’s covenant with them and that they should not forget Him and think that they’ve become wealthy and powerful out of their own efforts. Moses is calling them to see their success as God’s faithfulness to His covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (their forefathers).

Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creepers creeping on the earth.”

It is important to ask the following questions in order for us to have an accurate interpretation to this passage. When was this kind of dominion to be with man? What was the condition of man then? What is the condition of man today?

The kind of dominion spoken of was to be in a perfect world – in the absence of sin. Surely when God created man, he was sinless and he was living life according to this passage. But it is important to realize that that privilege was removed from him the day he disobeyed God’s command and ate of the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden. It is generally said by the advocates of the Prosperity Gospel that Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the law and to restore the dominion Adam lost in the Garden of Eden. Now nothing could be so far from the truth, because Jesus’ coming was to restore man’s lost relationship with God. If that were the case, we are supposed to live in perfect harmony with the wild beasts and no man should lack; sin, evil, pain and suffering would be banished. And throughout the Gospels we see that Christ’s mission on earth was spiritual. Man needed spiritual healing and reconciliation with God – not an economic revolution.

This passage was the initial purpose and plan of God for creating man – but he lost it when he sinned and got kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The perfect harmony that existed between man and nature got destroyed, his economic status became laborious, and his spiritual position is that of separation from God (Romans 3:23). He virtually lost it all but God out of His own mercifulness reached out by sending His Son into the world to bring us back into His presence (John 3:16) not to the garden of Eden.

John 10:10 “The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

This passage in seclusion of the antecedent verses can be interpreted to mean anything we want it to mean from salvation to wealth. The correct meaning of it can only be captured by reading what Jesus had previously mentioned and what he continues to say from verse eleven downwards. If we truly love the Lord with our minds, we will take sufficient time to study Scripture in its full context so we may be able to arrive to meaningful and accurate interpretations.

Verses 1-9: Jesus talks about sheep hearing his voice and that he’s the Door and True Shepherd. He goes on that all who came before him (teachers of the law especially the Pharisees and Sadducees), were all thieves, they cared little about the welfare of the sheep especially their spiritual condition and relationship with God. They didn’t tell them the truth that they were lost, therefore those who place their trust in Christ Jesus shall be saved. Then in verse 10, He says that those thieves only came to steal, kill and destroy, but as for him, he came to save them from their sins – delivering them from eternal death so they may have eternal life (life in abundance). From verses 11-18, He talks about what he would do in order for these sheep to have life in abundance – He will lay down his own life to rescue them from eternal death. He tells them that through his death on the cross man will have eternal life and peace with God through the forgiveness of their sins.

This passage in no way teaches anything to do with material gain or prosperity as advocated by the WOF Movement preachers. Scripture speaks in plain human language and doesn’t present an obscured message to its readers – wealth is wealth and salvation is salvation.

II Peter 1:3 “according as His divine power has given to us all things that [pertain] to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue,”

Careful study of this verse both its antecedent and subsequent verses will surely bring us to conclude that Peter wasn’t referring to riches or wealth. Verse 3 is actually incomplete because it is a continuation of verse 2 that reads “Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,” and it is concluded by the fourth verse that “through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature,having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” To twist this verse to mean wealth in the present world is a deliberate failure to
understand the grammar of Apostle Peter’s letter. Seeing also that many of these saints lived in poverty, things that pertain to life could have been the basic needs of food and clothing – and with that they were quite content, affirming Apostle Paul’s exhortation (I Timothy 6:8 “So if we have food and shelter, let us be content with that.”).

Besides that, Peter writes a letter of exhortation to those Jews who have placed their faith in Christ, simply repeating to them the words of the Lord Jesus when he was on earth that: John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Seeing that the life of the Christian ought to be blameless, Peter says that not only has he given or met our necessary needs to survive this physical body but we are also commanded to live righteously representing the Lord Jesus Christ in our day to day living (I Thessalonians 2:12; 4:7; II Thessalonians 2:14; II Timothy 1:9; I Peter 2:9; 3:9). Thus we as Christians are to live godly lives, therefore, he continues to say that if any man suffers let it not be because of evil but because of righteousness and his faith in Jesus Christ. Since the Christian is called to live uprightly he continues that God has given the believer the means of living to that standard and I believe the Holy Spirit is working in the believer giving him strength to live a life that is pleasing to God.

III John 1:2 “Beloved, in regard to all things I pray that you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.”

This verse or passage of scripture needs to be understood in its context in order to interpret it accurately. First of all, it’s nothing more than a prayer that John is making for Gaius. Secondly, the remaining verses explain why John opened with such a statement. Gaius was known to be a man walking in truth and the saints had a great testimony of his life. Assuming that he was a very close man to John, John writes to say that the same way he’s prospering in his soul through being truthful and loving the brethren – which in John’s definition signified spiritual maturity – he wishes him well also to prosper in other affairs of life and even his health. John in no way is teaching the Prosperity Gospel message here, he’s simply wishing that it would go well with Gaius, that his basic needs of life would be met so he continues unhindered in his service towards the brethren and strangers in general.

If John was merely writing appealing to material prosperity than he was contradicting himself – seeing that many of the Apostles didn’t have such luxurious lives – if not all of them! The sentence is no different from when one writes to a friend and wish him well be it for his birthday or just a letter for casual chatting – we all wish our friends well. So the meaning of this passage must not be obscured with the interpretations of the WoF movement to support their heresies of material prosperity or wealth and health teachings that don’t find their roots in God’s Word.

II Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how though he was rich, for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.”

It is not surprising to me that these preachers’ theology is quite babyish. The above passage is often used as proof that believers ought to be rich because Christ became poor for them to become rich. Yes, that’s the meaning of this passage if it were read in isolation of the other texts surrounding it. But you’ll actually get the shock of your life dear prosperity adherent if you read this chapter from verse one through twenty four. Paul open’s by talking about the Macedonian church that though they were poverty stricken did not withhold to give out of their neediness to support the saints in Jerusalem. Thus these saints emptied themselves regardless of their own needs to share what they had with fellow believers in Christ i.e. they shared the burden of others by giving.

With that background Paul makes an appeal to the then wealthy or economically prospering church of Corinth that look at your brethren in Macedonia, though they are poor they are sharing the burdens of the saints in Jerusalem. Since you Corinthians are greatly blessed materially, you could follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ, he didn’t consider his glory when he thought of saving you i.e. he gave up his former glory so you may become partakers of God’s glory through him. From that illustration he says, you Corinthians should see Christ as your example in this matter of helping fellow saints in Jerusalem, step out of your comfort zones and share the burden of your brethren by giving to them out of your wealth – so they also may become rich (having food and clothing). It will only take a deceiver to ignore the context of this passage because it will help him in advocating his own doctrine. The surrounding passages of this chapter clearly teaches that Paul mentioned the above verse in a totally different context than what is taught by the Prosperity Gospel preachers and teachers.

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There also many other passages employed by these heresy preachers – and seeing the context of the above passages in comparison to what they have been interpreted by these false teachers, what credibility is there in the others that they willingly continue to twist just to meet their own desires. This is a clear call why believers need to be taught he Word of God in a proper sense, so they’ll know the truth and no man will cause them to waver from its truth. These preachers disregard the context of the Bible and choose to apply their own hermeneutics that will advance their own ends – that is not to love the Lord with our minds.

Bible students must learn to interpret Scripture in their historical, and cultural context. This will make us understand better that though all of Scripture is written to us, not all of its passage are for us to apply. Thus even things that deal with individuals and nations are necessary for our information of knowing how God dealt with His people but it doesn’t call or demand that we should apply or personalize those passages.

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