A Response to Terence Concerning the Prosperity Gospel
This is in response to the blogger, Terence, who has posted nearly identical comments on my articles 1 Corinthians 4:6-17 - Suffering or Prosperity? and Refutation of City Harvest's "Divine Healing" Article (Part 1)Terence wrote,
But I have to disagree with your stand on the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel does not turn God into "nothing more than a genie in a bottle, where God accedes to every material and healing requests of the believer." Where did you get that from? I believe in the prosperity gospel, yet I do not believe a single ounce of that statement.Perhaps you may want to refer to these quotes:
- Are you facing an impossible situation in your finances that has no earthly remedy? ... Offer up your sacrifice and prayers to the Lord in faith, believing that He will do according to your word … Heavenly Father. thank you for the promise of Your Word that declares that, whatever I ask You in the name of Jesus, You'll do. – Larry Keefauver and Tom Gill, Declare Your Inheritance, Harvest Times Issue 23
- As a believer, you have a right to make commands in the name of Jesus. Each time you stand on the Word, you are commanding God to a certain extent because it is His Word. – Kenneth Copeland (Our Covenant with God [Fort Worth, TX: KCP Publications, 1987], 32.)
- When I first got saved they didn't tell me I could do anything. What they told me to do was that whenever I prayed I should always say, 'The will of the Lord be done.' Now, doesn't that sound humble? It does. Sounds like humility, it's really stupidity. I mean, you know, really, we insult God. I mean, we really do insult our Heavenly Father. We do; we really insult Him without even realizing it. If you have to say, 'If it be thy will' or 'Thy will be done'--if you have to say that, then you're calling God a foolbecause He's the One that told us to ask. . . . If God's gonna give me what He wants me to have, then it doesn't matter what I ask. I'm only gonna get what God wants me to have. So that's an insult to God's intelligence. – Frederick K.C. Price ("Ever Increasing Faith" program on TBN [16 November 1990].)
On Matthew 6:33Terence wrote,
THE fundamental verse of prosperity gospel is Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." What does "these things" refer too? Looking at the verse in context, we find that it refers to our daily needs: clothing, food, shelter and of course, the money to purchase these things. So what the verse is saying is this: That if we seek God first and his righteousness in our lives, God will provide for our needs!First of all, I do not think you understand the concept of being righteous. We are righteous by virtue of the righteousness of Christ, not by our own righteousness (Philippians 3:9). Believers are automatically righteous in God’s sight. Therefore, to imply that there is such a thing as an unrighteous believer is an oxymoron.
So God does NOT answer to our every whim and fancy! We answer to God! We can be sure that God will provide for us and bless us when we are righteous before God and if we are living in God's divine will. Verse 34 talks about ceasing to worry about our finances and our needs, because God will provide for us! This is what the prosperity gospel is about!
Second, what is the divine will of God? Actually, there are two divine wills of God; one that is revealed and another that is hidden from us. Let me give an illustration from the Bible; the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The betrayal of Jesus by Judas is a sin according to the moral law of God. This sin is against the revealed will of God, but God permitted it to happen according to His hidden will. Also, according to God’s moral law, murder is against the will of God, but God allowed Jesus to be murdered through crucifixion. Again, it is the hidden will of God that Jesus was crucified.To put it simply, we are all living under the hidden divine will of God. No one except God would know of His hidden will. Therefore, I would suppose you are not referring to His hidden will. And how about God’s revealed will then, the moral law of God? Unfortunately, it is written in Romans 3:23 that no one can fully obey the law.
Let me examine your statement in the light of what has been shown: “God will provide for us and bless us when we are righteous before God and if we are living in God's divine will.” If you are referring to the revealed will of God, that is His moral law, how much obedience is enough to be blessed? Is fifty percent obedience enough? How about eighty percent then? At which point does God begin blessing the believers?What is Matthew 6:33 about in the first place? The clue is found in the words “His kingdom and His righteousness.” Consider this verse,
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:13-14
As believers, we are already in the kingdom of God. However, the kingdom of God will reach its ultimate end when Jesus Christ returns in glory (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). We have already sought “His kingdom and His righteousness.” Christ’s righteousness is already imputed onto us. Since all these requirements are fulfilled for believers, the words “all these things will be given to [believers]” must be automatically fulfilled as well.
Are “all these things” given according to Matthew 6:33? Yes, but not in the sense of what the prosperity gospel implies. According to Terence, “all these things” are not automatically given. Believers need to be more "righteous" to inherit "all these things," as if there is another level of righteousness. If this is true, there are two classes of Christians: one class of blessed wealthy "righteous" Christians and another class of unblessed poor "unrighteous" Christians. Do we find any indication of such teachings in the Bible? I don't think so.
Here is another passage of Scripture found in the gospel of Matthew:
Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of
Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. – Matthew 19:27-29
According to Jesus, the disciples “will receive a hundred times as much.” Could Jesus be referring to earthly treasures? When we read 1 Corinthians 4:6-17, we discover that this is not the case. I have covered this in the article titled 1 Corinthians 4:6-17 - Suffering or Prosperity? The apostles were hungry, thirsty, in rags and homeless. At the end of their lives, most of them were martyred for their faith. If Jesus has promised them earthly treasures, then His promise has failed.
Therefore, it is clear Jesus must not have been referring to earthly treasures, but referring to heavenly treasures. It is written:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:19-20
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. – Luke 12:33
The Apostle Paul reinforced this doctrine of heavenly treasures when he was in prison writing the epistle to the Philippians.
The Apostle Peter wrote of a heavenly inheritance that does not perish, spoil or fade:
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:13-14
In conclusion, the first part of Matthew 6:33 would refer to the call of men to receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of Christ. The second part of the verse is about the promise of rewards in heaven.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you. – 1 Peter 1:3-4
On God and MoneyTerence wrote,
This is what I call setting up a straw-man argument. I have no issue with “mastering” money or whatever you call it. The real issue lies with the false doctrine that God promises to make us healthy and wealthy on earth.
Then what does verse 19-24 say? That we cannot serve 2 masters. But does this mean God and Money are contradictory things? No! In verse 24, it says that "we cannot serve two MASTERS." That means we can only serve God or Money. But this does not mean that we cannot HAVE or master money. It just means that we cannot let money control us! If God is in control, money can become a great way to finance God's work!
Having established that 1) God is definitely our Provider if we are righteous, and that 2) God and Money are not contradictory but are in fact complimentary, with money being a tool for God's Kingdom, let us look at Mark 10.
I am disturbed that you made the statement “money can become a great way to finance God's work! … money being a tool for God's Kingdom.” Though it is true that most of the time money is required to get from point A to point B to preach the gospel, one must not forget the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation.Observe in the gospel of Mark, when Jesus sent out his apostles,
These were his instructions: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." They went out and preached that people should repent. – Mark 6:8-12The Kingdom of God is not expanded through money, but by the work of God alone. Therefore, all glory must be given to God alone. The recorded means of evangelism is through prayer and preaching, not money (Matthew 9:37-38, Romans 10:14-15).
On Mark 10:29-30Terence wrote,
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”This verse has nothing to do with being prosperous or wealthy. It is speaking specifically of those who forsake home and loved ones for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel. These individuals will receive a “hundred times” in the sense that they become a part of a community of believers.
These two verses talks about our rewards for forsaking all and following Him. What are our rewards? Eternal Life definitely. But not just that. God promises rewards IN THIS PRESENT AGE, which are a hundred times more than what we gave to God (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions)! Persecutions! Godly rewards come with persecution no doubt!
Let me quote the Baptist theologian Dr. John Gill (1690-1771) from Exposition of the Entire Bible:
shall receive an hundred fold: Mark adds, "now in this time"; and Luke likewise, "in this present time", in this world; which may be understood either in spiritual things, the love of God, the presence of Christ, the comforts of the Holy Ghost, the communion of saints, and the joys and pleasures felt in the enjoyment of these things, being an hundred times more and better to them, than all they have left or lost for Christ's sake; or in temporal things, so in Mark it seems to be explained, that such shall now receive an hundred fold.
And here is the comment of the Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) from Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke - Volume 2:
But what he promises about recompensing them a hundredfold appears not at all to agree with experience; for in the greater number of cases, those who have been deprived of their parents, or children, and other relatives -- who have been reduced to widowhood, and stripped of their wealth, for the testimony of Christ -- are so far from recovering their property, that in exile, solitude and desertion, they have a hard struggle with severe poverty. I reply, if any man estimate aright the immediate grace of God, by which he relieves the sorrows of his people, he will acknowledge that it is justly preferred to all the riches of the world. For though unbelievers flourish, (Psalm 92:7,) yet as they know not what awaits them on the morrow (James 4:14,) they must be always tossed about in perplexity and terror, and it is only by stupefying themselves in some sort that they can at all enjoy prosperity. Yet God gladdens his people, so that the small portion of good which they enjoy is more highly valued by them, and far sweeter, than if out of Christ they had enjoyed an unlimited abundance of good things. In this sense I interpret the expression used by Mark, with persecutions; as if Christ had said, Though persecutions always await the godly in this world, and though the cross, as it were, is attached to their back, yet so sweet is the seasoning of the grace of God, which gladdens them, that their condition is more desirable than the luxuries of kings.Please do refer to the portion on Matthew 19:27-29 as I have covered this issue in my argument on Matthew 6:33. Once again, I would like to stress the apostles did not die wealthy and healthy. John the Baptist did not die healthy and wealthy. They died poor at the very end of their lives.
On the Book of JobTerence wrote,
“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.” (Job 1:1-3)First of all, Job was already righteous to begin with – “he feared God and shunned evil.” If anything, this biblical account demonstrates the sovereignty of God in taking away Job’s health and wealth despite being him being righteous.
So who is Job? Firstly, he is a blameless and upright man. Secondly, he is rich with a capital R. I wonder how many rich Christians today have undergone the persecutions of so-called Christians who condemn them just because God has blessed them tremendously? I wonder what the media would slander about Job if he lived today?
Nonetheless, God decided to test Him. With God’s permission, the devil took away everything he had: his sons and daughters, his wealth, his possessions. To cut the long story short, his friends and even his wife spoke against him, trying to condemn him while Job insisted his righteousness. In the end, God intervenes, tells Job about his mistakes, and Job repents.
But what happens in the end? God prospers him even more! In Job 41:10, it says, “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.” So what this story illustrates is this: that righteousness brings about wealth and abundance!
Second, the Book of Job is largely concerned with the question, “Is misfortune always a divine punishment for something?” Job was a righteous man and he insisted on his being righteous. Job wanted to ask God for the reason behind his misfortune.
Contrary to the prosperity gospel, Job rightfully said that God afflicts both the righteous and the unrighteous.
I have become a laughingstock to my friends, though I called upon God and he answered- a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless! – Job 12:4How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin. – Job 13:23
It is all the same; that is why I say, 'He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.' – Job 9:22His friends, like all prosperity teachers, argued otherwise and told him that his misfortune, as well as all misfortunes, is the result of the punishment for sin.
Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. – Job 4:7-8At the end of the book, Job repented of his wanting to question God for his misfortune. Job did not repent for insisting on his being righteous. His reason for repentance was the mistake of asking God to show him the reason behind his misfortune. Hence, by repenting he acknowledged the sovereignty of God in all things.
I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. – Job 42:2And also, God became angry with the friends of Job that they “have not spoken of [Him] what is right, as [His] servant Job has” (Job 42:7). Job had spoken right of God by refuting his friends’ notions that it always goes well with good men and ill with bad men; whereas the reverse is the truth.
Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? – Job 21:7In conclusion, this biblical account portrays the sovereignty of God over all things; that God brings misfortune to both the righteous and the unrighteous according to His perfect will. It illustrates that being righteous does not bring about “wealth and abundance.” If you read chapter 42 of the book of Job carefully, there is no indication God making Job prosperous again is based on Job being righteous.
On ProsperityTerence wrote,
This is an established pattern in the Bible. The nations ofNo, prosperity is definitely not an established pattern in the Bible. On the contrary, it is established that God destroys both the righteous and the unrighteous according to Job 9:22. Misfortunes fell upon Job despite Job being righteous. I have raised up examples of the poverty of the apostles and John the Baptist. I do not see any means whereby adherents of the prosperity gospel could get around these examples.
Israeland Judahprosper when its people are righteous. But when they sin against God, punishment and wrath comes. King Solomon, when he was righteous for God, sought wisdom, but he ended up getting wisdom plus prosperity. Adam and Eve had the Garden of Eden before they disobeyed God. But after that all they had was barren land. God saved Noah and destroyed everyone else, effectively giving the whole earth to Noah and his family.
As the inerrant and infallible Word of God, the Bible contains no contradictions. When we study the Word of God, we should aim to harmonize the verses. Upon closer examination of the prosperity gospel, it is conclusively proven that the prosperity gospel is not consistent with these examples I gave and thus should be rejected.