Jones, David email@example.com
Russell Earl Kelly’s Review and Outline
with Additional Thoughts of the Excellent book:
Health, Wealth and Happiness
David W Jones and Russell S Woodbridge, 2011
Note: This book is excellent in every way. I highly recommend it.
Why is the prosperity gospel so popular?
1. It contains a grain of truth.
2. Appeals to the natural human desire to be successful
3. It promises much and requires little.
4. Many of its advocates have polished presentations.
5. Many followers have little knowledge of the Bible doctrine.
6. Many have experienced success and healing and have attributed it to the prosperity gospel.
7. Many Christians lack discernment in this area (p18-19)
NEW THOUGHT MOVEMENT (p27-49)
In 1895 a Boston group defined its doctrine as “to show that through right thinking one’s loftiest ideals may be brought into realization and to advance intelligent and systematic treatment of disease by spiritual and mental methods.” (p27).
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a clairvoyant who claimed to have spoken to Paul for over a year and with Martin Luther over 100 times. Yet, contrary to Luther, he rejected the Trinity, the deity of Christ and salvation by grace through faith alone. The human mind has the capacity to control the physical world. (P28-29).
Phineas Quimby (1802-66), the Father of New Thought, pioneered the idea of mental healing. The mind can create and influence others by thinking what one wanted to happen (p29). He believed that sickness follows disturbance of the mind (30). Mary Eddy Baker was one of his patients (31).
Ralph Waldo Trine (1866-1958) taught that Buddha was equally inspired with the Bible. Influenced Napoleon Hill (31-32).
Norman Vincent Peal (1898-1993) wrote The Power of Positive Thinking (1952). Chapters were Prayer the Most Powerful Form of Energy; How to Think Your Way to Success and Change Your Thoughts and You Change Everything. Peale merged secular ideas with biblical themes (3-34).
TEACHINGS OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL: (50-80)
As an organized movement the prosperity gospel has only existed for about a hundred years (50).
E W Kenyon (1867-1948), Father of the Prosperity Gospel, was influenced by Unitarian-Universalists and Christian Science. He taught that speaking the right words would bring about a new reality and probably began the phrase “What I confess, I possess.” (51) Positive confession is the key to prosperous living and health. “The cross has no salvation in it. It is a place of failure and defeat.” “When Jesus died his spirit was taken by the Adversary and carried to the place where the sinner’s spirit goes when he dies.” ”The value of Christianity is what we get out of it.” In Kenyon’s system a relationship with God is a means for a person to get what he or she wants. God never planned that we should live in poverty – physical, mental or spiritual.” (52-53)
KENNETH E HAGIN: (1917-2003) (54): In the late 1940s Oral Roberts spread the word about faith healing and faith prosperity. Kenneth Hagin is the Father of the Word of Faith movement. At age 16 he reported dying, seeing Hell and being brought back to life 3 times while being converted. At age 17 he reported seeing Jesus 8 times in a few months. Typical of prosperity preachers, he relied on extrabiblical revelations (54). As an Assembly of God preacher, he claimed to be an anointed prophet. His message from Jesus was “Say it. Do it. Receive it. Tell it.” Critics have found many verbatim quotations plagiarized from Kenyon (55).
THE TEACHINGS OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL (55)
1. A Distorted View of God:
GOSPEL: God is one in essence and three in person – coequal and coeternal.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Many deny the Trinity. They teach the ancient heresy of MODALISM: God is One in Person and appears in different Modes; God is not simultaneously the Father, Son and Spirit. TD Jakes, a Oneness Pentecostal, teaches Modalism. In 1990 Benny Hinn proclaimed that each person of the Godhead was Triune (57). Creflo Dollar says that God is one person with 3 different roles.
Kenneth Copeland wrote “I was shocked when I found out who the biggest failure in the Bible actually is … The biggest One in the whole Bible is God … Now the reason you don’t think of God as a failure is He never said He’s a failure.” (58)
2. Elevation of Mind Over Matter (59)
Like New Thought, words –both thought and spoken—are a force and have creative power. Charles Capps wrote “Man speaks spirit words that work in the world of the spirit. … Man breathes spirit life into God’s Word and it becomes a living substance, working for him as it worked for God in the beginning. These spirit words dominate the natural world” (59).
Creflo Dollar said “As believers we have authority over the physical world.” Speaking the right words combined with faith in those words can produce amazing results (59). The believer’s task is to use the words in order to exercise spiritual laws for their own benefit. (60) If believers repeat the right words and believe, then God must bless.
Dollar says “God uses words to create what he wants to exist. Christians have the same ability. … When you want healing, say what the Bible says ‘By his stripes I am healed’” (60).
Kenneth Copeland says that once you have prayed in faith … You can now rest assured that what you prayed will now come to pass.
Prosperity gospel arguments are false because they fail to distinguish between an Infinite Omnipotent God and finite humans; if people had the same creative power of God they should be able to create new objects out of nothing (61).
They seem to forget the conditional aspect of prayer – “Thy will be done.” Copeland thinks that it was God’s faith in His own words that created the world. In Copeland’s twisted theology even the God of the universe needs faith (61).
Joyce Meyer even provides lists of positive confessions. The positive confessions are simply positive thinking like that of the secular New Thought’s law of attraction: you attract what you think about (62).
Joel Osteen says you have to see your success in your mind because what you see in your mind is what you produce. Mind over matter (62).
3. AN EXALTED VIEW OF HUMANKIND (63)
GOSPEL: Humans exist for the purpose of glorifying God.
Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Eph 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
Eph 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Prosperity theology INVERTS the relationship between the Creator and the creature. Humans are at the center of the universe; God exists to meet their needs. The gospel is human-centered and egotistical.
Joel Osteen says “I can expect preferential treatment. I can expect people to want to go out of their way to help me.” In other words, God exists to serve people and everybody exists to serve me. This contradicts Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (63).
Paul Crouch and many others consider humans to be divine. He says “I am a little god. Critics be gone.” Kenneth Copeland says “You don’t have a God in you; you are one.”
GOSPEL: Yet the Bible never teaches that humans are divine (63). Humans are neither Omnipotent, Omniscient nor Omnipresent.
Ps 82:1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
Ps 82:2 How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?
Ps 82:3 Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.
Ps 82:4 Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
Ps 82:5 They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.
Ps 82:6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
Ps 82:7 But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.
Ps 82:8 Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Ps 82:6 is quoted by prosperity gospel teachers to prove the men are gods. Creflo Dollar also uses Ps 82:6 to distort truth (63-64).
GOSPEL: Look at all of Psalm 82:1-7. (1) God is standing in the congregation among the gods (v1). (2) The “gods” are evidently dishonest judges and rulers of Israel (v2). (3) The “gods” are told to “do justice,” “defend the poor” and “deliver the poor” (v3-4). (4) The “gods” of verse 6 are the disobedient “gods” of 1-5. (5) The “gods” of verse 6 shall be brought down and “die like men” in verse 7.
T D Jakes says that humans were made from God’s DNA. However the Bible does not teach that humans were made out of God; it teaches that humans were made BY God. (Much more on page 64.)
4. FOCUS ON HEALTH AND WEALTH (64)
Many teach that neither Jesus nor His disciples were poor. Robert Tilton even teaches that it is a sin to be poor; this is outrageous and despicable theology. The driving force is not to help others, but to receive compensation in return. When Christians give generously, God gives more in return and there is an ever-increasing cycle of prosperity.
GOSPEL: Jesus teaches His disciples to “Lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35).
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: lend because they will get a great return. The prosperity message is in captivity to the American dream and many in impoverished nations easily fall prey to that vision. The prosperity preachers become wealthy while promising American-type wealth to their poor congregations which remain poor.
Many prosperity teachers make promises that are simply not true (65). They say “Give to the ministry; plant a financial seed and God will give you a return on that act of faith (66). For the most successful prosperity preachers themselves, this formula works (67).
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Kenneth Hagin says “I believe that it is the plan of God our Father that no believer ever be sick.”
GOSPEL: We cannot ignore the temporal effects of the fall of humankind (67). God approved of Job’s calamity and Paul’s poor health.
Robert Bolden says it is your right to be healed and you only need to exercise faith (68). Joyce Meyer says “’I will’ is the strongest assertion that can be made in the English language” (68).
5. ERROR OF UNORTHODOX VIEW OF SALVATION (69)
While making seemingly orthodox statements about the plan of salvation, many seriously leave the truth (69).
Kenneth Copeland teaches that Jesus completely emptied Himself of His divinity while on earth and ceased to be God during his incarnation (70).
Creflo Dollar says “Jesus did not show up perfect; he grew up into his perfection” (70). In reality, though, only the God-Man can save from sin.
Kenneth Hagin limits Christ’s atonement to his spiritual death and not to his physical death.
Frederick K C Price also rejects Jesus’ physical death as payment for sin: “the punishment for sin was to go into Hell itself” (71). This contradicts 2 Cor 5:21.
From what did Jesus save people?
GOSPEL: The orthodox answer is “from sin.”
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Many prosperity preachers prefer that Jesus saves people from a non-prosperous life. They undermine the gospel with their teaching. They focus on humans and not on God. The prosperity gospel is little more than a secular-style self-help program for material success (70).
JOEL OSTEEN (PAGES 72-80)
Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas with a weekly attendance of over 40,000 – the largest church in the USA (72).
Osteen often makes up his own hermeneutics when interpreting Scripture (73-74). He presents the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ as a paradigm for overcoming challenges and obstacles in life instead of exalting Christ as the substitutionary sacrifice for sin (74).
Osteen also uses words as if the words themselves have magic powers. “There is a miracle in your mouth. If you want to change your world, start by changing your words. … with our words we can prophesy our own future’ (75). His belief in the power of words places people in control of their own destinies (75).
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: In explaining the steps to salvation, Osteen says “Lord Jesus, I repent of my sins. I ask you to come into my heart. I make You my Lord and Savior.” Osteen teaches that one is saved from the possibility of a difficult life rather than from one’s sinful condition (76). “When we believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and believe in ourselves, that’s when faith comes alive. When we believe we have what it takes, we focus on our possibilities” (76). “When you’re in difficult times, it’s good to remind God what you’ve done” (76).
GOSPEL: contrary to Osteen’s teaching here, biblical faith involves rejecting a self-righteous standard and recognizing that only Christ has the power to save (76).
Contrary to Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 64:6, Osteen holds an optimistic view of the goodness of people and their abilities (77). Like Jakes, he thinks that humans are made from the substance of God and have God’s DNA. “It’s in your blood.” Pure positive thinking can defeat hereditary disease (77).
Although science has proven that acquired abilities are not passed on via hereditary, Osteen teaches that positive actions change DNA which is then passed on to future generations (78). This is a works-based righteousness that eliminates the need for God’s grace. In fact God never promised unconditional blessing to one’s descendants because the basis of our blessings is the life of Christ.
When interviewed on national TV’s 60 Minutes, Brian Pitts noted Osteen’s perverted theology: “To become a better you, you must be positive towards yourself, develop better relationships and embrace the place where you are. Not one mention of God in that.” Osteen responded “That’s just my message.” Osteen’s answer is not centered on Christ. He is preaching his own message (78).
Osteen appears to open the door of salvation to everybody regardless of one’s acceptance of Jesus Christ (79). He does not place Scripture in the center of his message (80).
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 fully 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 ignores 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 ignores 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).
EXPLAINING 3 JOHN 2
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 it 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. 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).
BIBLICAL WEALTH AND POVERTY P123-141
Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
Matt 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (125)
Suffering is part of being human. Since the entrance of sin all men are to toil and sweat and all women are to bear children in pain. Even the subservience of the woman to her husband is part of the curse of sin (126-127).
Part of Israel’s Old Covenant law was protection of the people from abuse by the more wealthy. None could be forced to work on the Sabbaths, many debts were to be forgiven on the seventh-year Sabbath and property was to be returned on the Year of Jubilee. Gleaning rights took from those who had and fed those who had not. The possession or lack of material goods is neither commended not condemned anywhere in Scripture in and of themselves – abuse is condemned plus the consequences of being so rich that one forgets his need for God (129).
Biblical justice does not require or expect equal distribution of resources (130). The Bible continually endorses hard labor in order to meet material needs (not sitting and putting faith in faith and faith in words apart from obedience to God’s Word) (130-131).
Prov 10:4 He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.
Prov 28:19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.
Prov 6:10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
Prov 6:1 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
Prov 19:15 Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.
Prov 20:13 Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread. (131)
JESUS WAS POOR:
(1) He was born in a stable.
(2) As a carpenter’s son he was part of a lower or middle class family
(3) His parents were poor enough to qualify to offer two pigeons – the sacrifice designated for the poor (Lk 2:24).
(4) Jesus associated with and ministered among the lowest classes of society.
(5) Matt 8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
(6) He apparently had no home, no land and no regular income.
(7) Jesus borrowed often: a boat, food, a colt, a room and a tomb. (132)
JESUS AND THE RICH
(1) When he associated with the rich and influential, they were often his antagonists (133).
(2) He ministered to a rich young ruler, tax collectors, and a centurion but did not ask them for financial support.
(3) Jesus neither advocated wealth nor poverty (133).
Poverty itself is not presented in the Bible as being inherently sinful (134). It is the causes and effects of poverty which are sometimes sinful but that is also true of wealth.
Jesus did teach His disciples to be on guard against the temptation of material wealth.
Matt 19:23 a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (135)
Wealth was often a spiritual stumbling block in the Gospels.
1. The Pharisees were lovers of money.
2. Money changers in the Temple.
3. Judas Iscariot’s betrayal
Matt 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Mt 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
Mt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Paul understood laboring to meet material needs a normal part of the Christian life (135-136).
Eph 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
2 Thess 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (136)
Money can do more harm than good.
1 Tim 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (137)
1 Tim 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
1 Tim 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
1 Tim 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
Covetousness and greed afflict both the rich and poor. Many examples of the rich coveting are provided in the book.
Heb 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee(139).
UNORTHODOX VIEWS OF MATERIAL WEALH AND SPIRITUAL WEALTH:
1. PROSPERITY GOSPEL — wrong
Spiritual wealth leads to material wealth.
2. JOB’S FRIENDS — wrong
Spiritual poverty (sin) material poverty.
3. ASCETICISM — wrong
Material poverty leads to spiritual wealth.
4. MATERIALISM — wrong
Material wealth leads to spiritual poverty. (139)
The error of all four views is that they insist upon a REQUIRED connection between material wealth and spiritual wealth (140). Unlike the prosperity preachers, material wealth is not a required result of spiritual wealth.
1. GOSPEL: requires people to work in order to meet their needs.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: emphasized the conjuring of mystical forces of faith in order to meet material needs.
2. GOSPEL: focuses on the material needs of others.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: focuses on acquiring wealth for oneself.
3. GOSPEL: warns others of the spiritual pitfalls of accumulated wealth.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: is consumed with the accumulation of wealth (140-141).
Throughout history the most influential Church Fathers gave up great wealthy and preferred to live in poverty in order to serve the needs of humanity. This is true of Cyprian, Tertullian, Augustine, Chrysostum, Jerome and Aquinas. They literally interpreted Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler.
Luke 18:22 Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
BIBLICAL GIVING P142-158
Why Should Christians Give?
To be faithful stewards (142)
Giving is an Act of Obedience.
Christians are obligated to give from that which they have been entrusted (143). The O.T. system under the Law was tithing. There were three different tithes from the increase of food from the holy land of Israel (143). In the New Testament God commanded Christians to give in order to assist believers, strangers and the poor (144).
Giving Demonstrates Love (144)
A second motivation for giving is love for God and love for others (144).
1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
GOSPEL: should be motivated by love.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: teaches, a desire for personal flourishing.
Giving Brings Glory to God (145)
A third motivation for giving is to bring glory to God – to show that God and his kingdom are more important than things of the world (145).
Giving is a Result of the Gospel (146)
A fourth motivation for giving is the gospel itself. One’s view of ownership changes.
God knows that we can become enamored with the things of this world (146). A person’s finances, abilities and time all compete with God for worship (147). People cannot love both God and money because God cannot share His glory.
Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Jesus makes an explicit connection between our love for God, our hearts and our possessions. When the gospel of grace takes root, one’s view of eternity changes (147).
Giving Results in Reward (148)
A fifth motivation for giving is reward. Heavenly rewards will consist of differing levels of responsibility in eternity. The question remains as to whether these rewards are material or spiritual in nature (148).
2 Cor 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
1 Tim 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
1 Tim 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
GOSPEL: Rewards are primarily future and spiritual. Christians ought to give to God out of a loving heart knowing that He will reward as He sees fit.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: emphasizes rewards as if they are the only motivation for giving. It views rewards primarily as material in nature. This false gospel turns God’s grace into a law which He must obey.
How Much Should Christians Give (149)
Nov 23, 2007, Wall Street Journal, The Backlash Against Tithing.
Mar 2, 2008, CBS News Sunday Morning, To Tithe or Not to Tithe (149-150). Without a doubt the discussion about tithing among evangelicals is becoming more prominent. All agree that generous giving is a biblical mandate.
Page 184, footnote 5. For example see David A Croteau, A Biblical and Theological Analysis of Tithing, 2005 … and Russell Earl Kelly, Should the Church Teach Tithing, A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine (2001) 2007. Kelly’s book is a revised version of his dissertation.
Givng Before the Mosaic Law
Gen 14:17-20. Abram tithed off other people’s goods, not his own income. The act of giving appears to be a single occurrence. No evidence in the biblical narrative suggests that God commanded this tithe or that Abraham regularly tithed off his own income.
Gen 28:20-22. Jacob apparently doubted God’s promise and told God that if He would grant him safety, provide food and clothing and bring him back to his father’s house in peace, then he promised God a tenth of his increase (150). When he returned safely two decades later, there is no mention of him tithing (151). As with Abraham, it is difficult to develop a clear on tithing from Jacob.
Giving Under the Mosaic Law
Most O.T. passages that mention giving focus on calling God’s people back to the standard of giving (i.e. tithing) prescribed in the Law.
Malachi 3:8-10. While it may be tempting to use this passage to insist that contemporary believers give 10 per cent, one must keep in mind the context. Malachi is an O.T. prophet confronting the nation of Israel for its violation of the Mosaic Law. A valid principle from the text is that one’s giving can be used to measure one’s love and devotion to God (151-152).
Giving in the New Testament.
Somewhat surprisingly, the New Testament does not appear to prescribe a formal method or amount of giving for Christians.
Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42. This provides little help for a discussion of tithing because the Pharisees were not Christians, but Jews under the Mosaic Law (152).
Luke 18:9-14. The reference to tithing in this passage is largely incidental and is also applied to a Jewish Pharisee living under the Mosaic Law (153).
Hebrews 7:1-10. The main point of this passage is not to teach about tithing.
The New Testament, then, is fairly silent regarding tithing. The New Testament does provide several principles of giving that most evangelicals embrace despite differing views of tithing – principles that ought to encourage many to give more than ten per cent (153).
Principles for Giving: (154)
1 Cor 16:2.
(1) periodic – weekly
(2) personal — everybody
(3) planned – put aside; store up
(4) proportionate – according to means
(5) plentiful – no collection when I come (154-155).
To Whom Should Christians Give.
Scripture does not specifically direct believers where they should give (155).
(1) Local church (Gal 6:6)
An elder or pastor can reasonably expect support from the church where he serves. An elder does not have to draw support, however, as he may minister in a bivocational manner and receive little or no support from the church (Acts 18:1-3; 20:33-35; 1 Cor 9:6, 12, 15-19; Phil 4:14-16.
(2) Other Christian organizations (156).
(3) Give to charity; those in need (157).
Give to ministries that exalt Christ and exhibit transparency in their financial dealings. Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability; also Wall Watchers – Ministry Watch.
A Christian organization that refuses to disclose its financial statements and fails to follow normal accounting practices gives a clear warning sign (157).
How to witness about the prosperity gospel.
1. Why does God exist and what does He control in the world?
GOSPEL: We exist in order to serve and worship and glorify God (159).
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: When you start thinking that God exists to serve you and grant your desires, you usurp his place (160).
2. What is the purpose of suffering and how do I react when I suffer?
GOSPEL: Does your opinion of God change when you suffer? The Bible depicts God as Sovereign and All-Knowing. Suffering is an instrument to make you more like Christ and that God is working all things in your life according to His purposes.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: God is dependent on people to act. You are in control of your own destiny; thus suffering is an indication of your failure to utilize divinely designed means of blessing.
3. What do I deserve in life?
GOSPEL: If we have food and clothing we should be content (1 Tim 6:8) – anything beyond this is pure grace. Eternal condemnation would be a just reward for sinners.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: You are entitled to a good life with good health, beneficial relationships, an abundance of resources and overall success.
4. Why did God save me?
GOSPEL: God saved you on account of his great love for you (160). God saved you so that you might glorify him forever and so that he might display his grace for all eternity (Eph 2:4-10) (170-161). We were rescued to glorify God and do good works.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Did God save you so you could be famous and wealthy? Did God save you so you can fulfill all your dreams? People are encouraged to think too highly of themselves (161).
5. Why do I give to God?
GOSPEL: Give out of a cheerful heart. Give to please God. Give out of love.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Expect God to pay you back. Give to see if God will come through for you. give out of guilt and obligation.
Incorrect reasons for giving sets one up for failure and short-circuits the true motivation for giving – grace (161).