I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is [really] not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal 1:6-9)
This is a difficult topic to discuss because it risks sowing division within the body of Christ. There are six things the LORD hates, and a seventh that is an abomination which is spreading strife among brothers (Pr 6:16-19).
Paul wrote to the assembly at Rome:
Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting (Ro 16:17-18).
Dissension and discord are spread when pastors and teachers corrupt or distort the word of God. Let’s examine the following passages:
Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (Jn 14:13).
Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you (Mk 11:24).
Kenneth Copeland recently aired a week-long series titled How to Believe God for a House — that by simply exercising their faith a person could boldly claim the promises of God and receive the home of their dreams fully furnished to their heart’s every desire.
This is what is called the Word of Faith Gospel, or (in derision) Name it and Claim it.
Copeland told this story on his blog:
I remember in the early days of this ministry when Gloria and I reached the point where we needed a station wagon to get us and our children from one place to the next so I could preach. Like anything else we needed, we went to God’s promises concerning our need, then we prayed, sowed seed, believed God and started speaking the Word. That’s what we did for that car.
He recalled they were short $3000.00 for the purchase of the car until a man called a few days later:
In less than a week, a man called me, crying. “Oh, Brother Copeland, I’m so ashamed of myself. God told me to send you $3,000 a few days ago and I didn’t do it. I’ve hung on to it until I cannot stand it anymore.” The first time that man heard God tell him to send us the money was the same time we talked about getting the car.”
Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar (and many others on Christian television) exhort believers to simply exercise their faith to get from God whatever they need. The gospel they preach (gleaned from Malachi 3:10) emphasizes that sowing seed into their ministries will reap material blessings. It is not uncommon for Hinn to ask for thousand dollar (or more) donations to his program. The foundation of this false gospel is built upon a distorted interpretation of Scripture:
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return (Lk 6:38).
Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2Co 9:6).
These passages are ancient Jewish allusions to the substance of giving, and dealing fairly with all people. We will be remembered in our time of need by those to whom we give liberally in their time of poverty. A Hebrew understood, however, that his charity might not be returned in the form of material but spiritual blessings.
The prosperity gospel emphasizes, as well, this passage from Paul’s second letter to the assembly at Corinth:
Now 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 (2Co 9:10).
Word of Faith preachers interpret this to mean if you donate $1000.00 to their ministry, God will increase your abundance so you can give even more. But, here, Paul is alluding to a passage found in the Tanakh:
Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD until He comes to rain righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12).
We sow, then, to reap spiritual blessings which YHWH may choose to confer in this life, or after. Warning: If you give $3000.00 to Benny Hinn don’t expect that God will give you the house of your dreams. That is a perverse understanding of the Jewish custom of giving. To give money with the expectation that the LORD will pay you back with interest reflects not a generous heart, but one that is wicked.
One final note on this subject — it is interesting that the New Testament does make reference to the word of faith. In Paul’s letter to Rome he mentions the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Ro 10:8-9).
My question to our readers is this: Which word of faith gospel do you believe? The gospel of prosperity, or the gospel of Jesus Christ?
False teaching abounds within the Charismatic movement that is seen worldwide on Christian television. That was the featured discussion of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference. MacArthur is pastor of Grace Community Church, host of the media program Grace to You and president of The Master’s College and Seminary. He is a Reformed Theologian and Five Point Calvinist whose teaching is framed by a Dispensational eschatology. His credentials, at least, afford MacArthur a respected seat in the assembly of Christians who are diligently seeking the truth of God.
Strange Fire, as a reminder, is a reference from the Torah relating to the sons of Aaron, brother of Moses:
Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD (Lv 10:1-2).
Briefly, the priests were to approach the altar in a manner of holiness acceptable to YHWH. Aaron’s sons violated the commandment of the LORD, and died.
MacArthur’s point was that many within the charismatic movement are approaching God in a manner that is unholy in attitude and practice. Their style of worship might even be considered blasphemous. The crux of the issue is a debate between continualists and cessationists — those who believe that the assigned gifts of the Holy Spirit (miracles, signs and wonders) which were given to the apostles as confirmation of their authority) ended when the last Apostle died, and those who believe that these gifts continue today. [It is important to note that MacArthur believes the Holy Spirit is still active in the world drawing people to Christ, and restraining Satan.]
Those who disagree with MacArthur were quick to respond:
So, it’s about time someone started a broader public discussion and issued an open challenge to some of this (charismatic) theology. But what we got instead was a reckless condemnation of half a billion Christians with little distinction maintained throughout. MacArthur did put in a little qualifier in his opening discussion, but did not maintain it at all later. Indeed, he did the opposite. When the moderator would bring up extreme cases as examples for discussion, MacArthur seemed to use them as a launching point to speak in broad generalities, and with sweeping condemnation of “these people” to hell. With his careless rhetoric, MacArthur locked charismatics and anyone who could be associated with them all in the same building, and then burned the place down, standing proudly in righteous self-justification as he tossed the match. (Reckless Fire, Dr. Joel McDurmon, The American Vision Biblical Worldview Ministry)
Countered by those who agreed:
If you believe in truth and error, facts and falsehood, right and wrong, then you recognize the need to seek truth as opposed to false teaching. This is the position of John MacArthur, and it should be the position of every evangelical Christian, including those who disagree with MacArthur’s cessationist views. Here’s the fact of the matter – the continualist who believes MacArthur is wrong and the cessationist who believes MacArthur is right are closer to each other than the person who says this debate doesn’t matter or cannot be decided. Why? Because both the committed continualist and the committed cessationist believe God has revealed Himself on this issue and that we are accountable to live according to God’s revealed truth. If MacArthur is wrong, he is in the frightening position of attributing the work of the Spirit to satanic deception. If MacArthur is right, charismatics should repent of false belief and practice. As you can see, the stakes are high. (The Right and Wrong Way to Engage John MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” Conference, Trevin Wax, The Gospel Coalition)
John MacArthur’s summation:
There is one other group we’d like to address in the wake of Strange Fire—the folks on either side of the debate who are simply sad, tired, and wish the whole matter would just go away. That group is made up of cessationists, continualists, and charismatics who had set aside their differences in the name of unity and love, and now feel as though a bomb has gone off in the midst of their beloved middle ground. If you’re one of those people, please understand that the decision to hold the Strange Fire conference was not made capriciously. Strange Fire was a response to a tidal wave of dangerous, damning lies that are leading hundreds of millions of people to hell. Unity through silence has not held back that tidal wave—it’s sweeping across the global church. Truth does matter, and it’s worth fighting for.
When does our search for truth violate the faith of fellow believers? Will God judge me as I have judged the Word of Faith teachers? Or as John MacArthur has judged the charismatics? John the Apostle said that we must test the spirits for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1Jn 4:1); Paul warns against the deceitful workmen who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ (2Co 11:13); and Luke wrote, Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30).
We might note that when Paul and Silas were sent to Berea the resident Jews diligently searched the Scriptures to examine the truth of the Apostle’s teaching (Acts 17:10-11). A charismatic, or Word of Faith teacher is not validated just because they are seen daily on Christian television.
Test the spirits — because truth matters.
Suggested Reading: The Gift of Discerning Spirits
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View Part 1 of this Q&A here.