Tuesday, January 10, 2006

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.)
  3. 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].)
More quotes can be found in the article Word of Faith and Revival Leaders: What They Teach.

On Matthew 6:33

Terence 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!

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!

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.

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.

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

The Apostle Peter wrote of a heavenly inheritance that does not perish, spoil or fade:

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

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.

On God and Money

Terence wrote,

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.

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.

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 6:8-12

The 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 10:29-30

Terence 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.”

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!

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.

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 Job

Terence 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)

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!

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.

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.

I have become a laughingstock to my friends, though I called upon God and he answered- a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless! – Job 12:4

How many wrongs and sins have I committed? Show me my offense and my sin. – Job 13:23

Contrary to the prosperity gospel, Job rightfully said that God afflicts both the righteous and the unrighteous.

It is all the same; that is why I say, 'He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.' – Job 9:22

His 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 4:7-8

At 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 42:2

And 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 21:7

In 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 Prosperity

Terence wrote,

This is an established pattern in the Bible. The nations of Israel and Judah prosper 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.

No, 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.

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.

12 Comments:

Blogger The Hedonese said...

Hey bro! Great stuffs here... I should invite you to share a bit at the Agora Spore get-togethers :)

http://theagorasg.blogspot.com

Lots of convergence of interests we have here :)

10/1/06 11:51 PM  
Blogger beowulf said...

Thanks for the compliment. :)

11/1/06 12:46 AM  
Anonymous kelawar said...

Hi there beowulf!

You do know the Bible can always be taken in some other context to suit the purposes of the person quoting the verse. Unfortunately, it is far easier to do this than to read things in perspective.

Thanks for the elaborations.

11/1/06 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Terence said...

Hi, its me again. Before I present my arguments, I would like to say a few things.

Firstly, why do I persist in this argument, or rather, this discussion about theology?

1) I consider it important in my Christian faith to know the Word of God through and through.

2) "Sparring" with a Christian whose beliefs opposes mine will strengthen my understanding of God's Word.

Secondly, I'd like to say that let's not be too defensive about our arguments. You are not God, and neither am I. Note that both of us are bound to make some theological errors in the arguments that we put forth. If we make an error, just admit it (i'll start the ball rolling, you'll see).

Thirdly, I don't know about you, but I'm not here to make enemies. If you consider me a worker of the devil and if I'm out to destroy you're faith, please be informed that I'm really not.

I'm gonna be really focused. Don't expect me to sidetrack too much.

13/1/06 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Liberated said...

You started by listing a few quotes from several noted prosperity gospel preachers that sound heretical. I would be startled as well if I were you. No doubt at first glance they do look heretical. But I implore you to be careful about where and what you are quoting from. Many of these quotes are really out of context. Allow me to illustrate:

Apparently your quotes are all taken from http://www.intotruth.org/wof/sayings.html. What do I mean by taking a quote out of context? Consider this one:

Robert Tilton: You can have whatever you say. (Praise The Lord TBN 9.2.90)

At first glance, it is a controversial statement. But do we know the full meaning of what is said? The full statement could go like this, “You can have whatever you say, PROVIDED that it is according to the will of God.” He may not even be preaching when he said that! It’s like hearing the phrase “I’m gonna kill you!” and then assuming that the person is really going to murder somebody. We must consider the context of quotes and bible verses, for that matter. Anyway, let’s not digress.

First of all, let me admit something. I made a mistake. Quoting myself, I said 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.” You explained that righteousness is ours by the grace of God; righteousness is received through faith. I examined the scriptures concerning your point, and I find it to be true!

So yes, we already have the Kingdom of God and the righteousness of God. No doubt about it (see I learnt something from you). But there is but one problem. You claim that “all these things” do not refer to earthly things.

But let us look at Matt 6:25-33:

28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, WILL HE NOT MORE CLOTHE YOU, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32FOR THE PAGANS RUN AFTER ALL THESE THINGS, AND YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER KNOWS THAT YOU NEED THEM. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Compare “for the pagans run after all these things” (v32) with “…and all these things will be given to you as well.” (v33)
There is no doubt “all these things” refer to EARTHLY things. Let us remember to read the verse in context of the chapter.

So it is God’s divine will that He prospers us when we are righteous by faith in Christ Jesus. So the good news is, since we are already righteous, God will surely provide for our needs! And if people like King Solomon, Job and Abraham can be very rich, so can Christians like you and I! You see, God has no problems with us being rich. He just has problems with us being filthy rich.

You cited the examples of the apostles and John the Baptist who were poor and homeless as evidence against the prosperity gospel. But you also made this assumption: that the prosperity gospel promises a persecution-free, blissful Christian life. Many of the apostles no doubt suffered, were homeless and starving, but does that mean they were like that all their life? Definitely not. As far as I know, Pastor Kong Hee has NEVER preached that Christians will not suffer, will not go poor, will not endure persecution. Neither has it been preached that Christians will always die glorious and wealthy. If any prosperity preacher teaches that, then either you have misquoted him/her (I know charismatic preachers like to come out with short, catchy phrases that if, misquoted, can sound unscriptural) or he’s simply flat out wrong!

So what if John the Baptist ate locusts and lived in the desert? Does it mean that we should all be poor? No! Just as some of us choose to abstain from wine or meat, John the Baptist, I believed (let me emphacize that it is just a guess just in case you misquote me), made a lifestyle choice. Why did John the Baptist choose to live poorly? The Bible doesn’t say. We will never know. But to assume that all Christians are to live poorly based on this one man is wrong. Yes, God has control over when we will be rich and when we will be poor. But I believe, as Christians, God wants to meet our every need and even prosper us!
Job definitely was prosperous. Yet he suffered tribulations. So did Abraham, King David, Joseph, Daniel. In fact, every Christian, rich or poor, will suffer persecutions! Like death, it is a sure thing!

I didn’t understand why you were disturbed when I said, “money can become a great way to finance God's work! … money being a tool for God's Kingdom.” Maybe you have the mentality that charismatic Christians only think about money. No doubt, it is God and the Holy Spirit that is doing the work whenever we preach the gospel. MONEY CANNOT BUY SALVATION. But we need the money to facilitate God’s work. If your family is poor and homeless, would you be able to own a computer and start this website? If your pockets are empty, would you be able to buy a plane ticket to India for a mission trip? Did you think that your Bible came down from heaven one day and somehow landed on your desk? Make no doubt about it, the more money one has, the better God can use us to preach the gospel to the world!

Before I conclude my argument, let me just tie up a few loose ends.

You quoted Phi 3:13-14, 1 Pet 1:3-4 and Matt 6:33 in your argument against the prosperity gospel. But in no way are they against wealth and righteousness bringing in wealth. It is okay to have earthly wealth. As long as we make sure that first and foremost, we already have the heavenly inheritance stored up for us in heaven.

You quoted Luke 12:33 too. This verse only says two things.
1) We should sell our possessions as a sacrifice for God’s work (the charismatic church excels at encouraging people to give their finances to God).
2) We should have treasure in heaven.

You cited that Jesus asked the disciples to go penniless when preaching the gospel. Once again I must ask whether this is a directive for all Christians when we preach the gospel, or is it a specific command for a specific instant? Remember, God provided for you (your Bible, home, computer) through your parent’s money.

About Mark 10:29-30, your explanation probably sounds more plausible than mine. But I couldn’t understand the excerpts that you extracted from the commentaries.

To conclude, I just want to say that heavenly inheritance and earthly wealth are definitely not contradictory and that by being righteous in God through Christ Jesus, we can be assured that God will provide for all our needs and even prosper us. Just because a certain apostle or prophet of God died a poor and horrible death does not mean that God is contradicting Himself.
Persecutions are a fact of life for every single Christian on this planet. Please note that there are also a lot of Bible characters that died rich and died peacefully.
Once again

I want to reiterate that the prosperity gospel is not a scheme for preachers to get rich. It is a doctrine that promotes God above finances, assures that God is the Provider of all, has sovereignty over everything and we are definitely dependant on Him. But at the same time, God will prosper us (not without persecution) as a Christian. About us coming boldly before God to ASK Him for blessings, let us not touch on that first. Let us establish the fact that God wants us to be rich and wealthy.
Maybe I would like to pose you a question: If God doesn’t want us to be rich, how poor should we become? Should we sell our houses and all our possessions and live a holy life bumming around in the streets? If God wants us to just have enough for ourselves, how are we in a position to bless others when they have a need? How can we provide food, shelter and clothing for others when we just have enough for ourselves?

14/1/06 1:30 AM  
Blogger beowulf said...

On Poverty
Terence wrote, “Maybe I would like to pose you a question: If God doesn’t want us to be rich, how poor should we become? Should we sell our houses and all our possessions and live a holy life bumming around in the streets? If God wants us to just have enough for ourselves, how are we in a position to bless others when they have a need? How can we provide food, shelter and clothing for others when we just have enough for ourselves?”

Firstly, I did not say that we must be poor. Whenever I use poverty as an example, it would be to show that God’s will is not the same for everyone. Some are meant by God to be rich while some are meant to be poor. Like Job, we must give thanks in all circumstances. It is written: “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised” (Job 1:21). Like Job, if we are poor or not rich, it is not because of our lack of faith but it is the will of God.

Secondly, we can bless others even when we are poor. Take for instance, the Apostle Paul wrote, “And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own” (2 Corinthians 8:1-3).

We being poor will not hinder God from accomplishing His will. In the feeding of the five thousand, there were only “five loaves of bread and two fish” (Matthew 14:17). However, Jesus was able to make do with the little they have and feed everyone. Did Jesus conjure up money to buy food for the five thousand? No, he did not. Money is not the only answer to bless others. If you think this way, you are severely limiting the power of God and His various means to accomplish His will.

On Robert Tilton
Terence wrote, “At first glance, it is a controversial statement. But do we know the full meaning of what is said? The full statement could go like this, “You can have whatever you say, PROVIDED that it is according to the will of God.” He may not even be preaching when he said that!”

You might want to check out Robert Tilton’s website Success N Life where he made the following statement (http://www.successinlife.tv/vowing.html):

Your tithe (10%) of your income belongs to God and is what you owe in Thanksgiving for past blessings. A vow is something you promise God for future blessings. YOU CAN MAKE A VOW AND EXPECT A RETURN.

"You will make your prayer to Him, and He will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You shall also decide and decree a thing and it shall be established for you, and the light(of God's favor) shall shine upon your ways." JOB 22:27,28 (AMP)

* According to Job 22:28:
* you pray
* decide what you want
* pay your vow
* decree that it be done
* and declare that it is being accomplished


You cannot get any more explicit than this. It is pretty obvious that the prosperity teaching of Robert Tilton is heretical. Furthermore, Robert Tilton is deliberately misquoting the Word of God. Who is the person speaking in Job 22:27,28? It is one of Job’s friends, Eliphaz the Temanite. We would find out later in Job 42:7 what God had to say about Job’s friends,

"After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.'" – Job 42:7

In the light of the teachings found in Robert Tilton’s website, the statement “You can have whatever you say” made by Robert Tilton is quite clear and can stand on its own.

On the Apostle Paul
Terence wrote, “Many of the apostles no doubt suffered, were homeless and starving, but does that mean they were like that all their life? Definitely not.”

I think this is quite a presumptuous statement to make. To address your argument, I will focus my attention on the Apostle Paul. The question is: did God eventually made the apostle prosperous with earthly wealth? I believe not. And here is why.

As I have mentioned before, the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 4:6-17 that the apostles were hungry, thirsty, in rags and homeless. This epistle was written around 55 AD. According to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, the apostle was martyred under the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. And since Nero died in 68 AD, the earliest possible year the apostle died would have to be between 67 AD and 68 AD as his last epistle was written in 67 AD.

In the apostle’s second epistle to the Corinthians, which was written around 56 AD, he wrote: “Known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:9-10) Once again, we have a glimpse of the life of the Apostle Paul. His situation has not improved, as he still possessed “nothing.”

Let us move forward to the epistle to the Philippians, which was written between 60 AD and 61 AD. The apostle was already in prison. Despite his circumstances, he was very aware that his sufferings were not because of his lack of faith. He wrote: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Apparently, he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”

The first epistle to Timothy is one of the last epistles the apostle wrote. It is dated between 63 AD and 66 AD. Just like the epistle to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote it while in prison. Obviously, his circumstances have not changed. He wrote, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:7-8) If the apostle possessed wealth, he would not have been writing like that.

The next last epistles of the apostle were also written in prison – the second epistle to Timothy and the epistle to Titus. The last epistle to Timothy was written around 67 AD while the epistle to Titus is dated between 62 AD and 67 AD.

It appears that the Apostle Paul never really had the chance to experience worldly wealth for he was martyred between 67 AD and 68 AD. His execution is covered in The Church History of Eusebius and Fox’s Book of Martyrs. As a Roman citizen, we should expect him to meet death by the sword.

In conclusion, to address your argument, the epistles and the historical documents proved that God did not eventually bless the Apostle Paul with earthly wealth. He was homeless and starving. He was sent to prison. And at the end of his life, he was executed as a convicted criminal. His writings in his epistles do not remotely suggest that he was looking forward to earthly wealth in the future. Contrary to your statement “God wants us to be rich and wealthy,” the example of the Apostle Paul clearly shows that God never intended the apostle to be rich and wealthy. Thus, this biblical example proves the prosperity gospel to be false.

References:
http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=2079
http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-01/Npnf2-01-07.htm
http://www.ccel.org/f/foxe/martyrs/fox101.htm

On Prosperity
Terence wrote: “As far as I know, Pastor Kong Hee has NEVER preached that Christians will not suffer, will not go poor, will not endure persecution. Neither has it been preached that Christians will always die glorious and wealthy. If any prosperity preacher teaches that, then either you have misquoted him/her (I know charismatic preachers like to come out with short, catchy phrases that if, misquoted, can sound unscriptural) or he’s simply flat out wrong!”

Sure, I agree the prosperity teachers did not teach that. But they teach much worse. Let me refer you to the article Giving: The Key to Abundance, which is found on Benny Hinn’s website (http://www.bennyhinn.org/yourlife/Spiritual-Life-Timeless-Truth/Giving-The-Key-to-Abundance.html).

What if you were given a key and told it could unleash the greatest secrets of life? I want you to know that God offers you a key to unlock the doors to power and wisdom, to abundance, debt-free living, and to a strong family heritage – to recover all!

God is ready to teach you how to give, how to profit, and how to establish a powerful heritage of giving in your family because giving is the key to success.


Benny Hinn presented an absolute formula for success in life; give and expect health and wealth to follow. His formula is THE KEY, not one of the keys. So unless you follow his formula, you would not be blessed by God. Thus, it would be your own fault. Benny Hinn is also implicitly saying that the dire situation the Apostle Paul was in is because he did not follow Benny Hinn’s success formula by consistently giving enough.

Let me refer to another article in case you think one is not enough. Kenneth Copeland, another prosperity teacher, has this article in his website (http://www.kcm.org/studycenter/articles/money_management/prepare_prosper.php).

In light of that truth, it's easy to see why God wants us to increase financially at the same rate we increase spiritually.

Godly prosperity is the result of putting God's Word–all of it, not just the parts about financial prosperity–first place in your life. It comes when you apply His principles on a continual basis–not just because you want money, but because Jesus is your Lord and you want to follow Him.

With that foundation laid, you'll be ready to step out in faith and receive the abundance God has in store for you.

Many people who have lived godly lives have failed to do that, so they've missed out on God's financial blessings. Although they've continually applied the principles of God's Word and become prime candidates for great prosperity, they've unwittingly passed it by because religious tradition has taught them that God wants them in poverty. Christians like that have great wealth in their spiritual bank account, but because they don't realize it's there, they never tap into it!


According to the prosperity teachings of Kenneth Copeland, the Apostle Paul failed at either one of the following: 1. He did not grow spiritually. 2. He did not apply the principles of prosperity to his life on a continual basis. 3. He did not “step out in faith” to tap into his “spiritual bank account” to gain access to his great wealth.

On Matthew 6:25-33
I will have to bring up the example of the Apostle Paul again. If God promises earthly things to all who are righteous, then His promise to the apostle has failed. This Scriptural passage must be interpreted in the larger context of the Word of God.

I have also pointed out before that the statement “all these things will be given to you” is automatically fulfilled for all who are in Christ. There is no “name-it-claim-it,” no “give and expect health and wealth” and no “principles for prosperity” implied here. There are no extra conditions, but the gospel and the righteousness of Christ. If this passage refers to earthly things, then all Christians would be wealthy, regardless of whether they ask God or not. Christians would be wealthy, regardless of whether they tithe or not.

On John the Baptist
Terence wrote, “So what if John the Baptist ate locusts and lived in the desert? Does it mean that we should all be poor? No! Just as some of us choose to abstain from wine or meat, John the Baptist, I believed (let me emphacize that it is just a guess just in case you misquote me), made a lifestyle choice.”

Any “lifestyle choice” we make is still subjected to the will of God. If John the Baptist chose to be poor and was poor, it means that God allowed him to be poor. It means it is the will of God for John the Baptist to be poor.

Take for instance, the prophet Jonah. It was the will of God for Jonah to preach to the city of Nineveh. However, Jonah decided to act contrary to the will of God and ran away. In the end, the will of God prevailed and Jonah had to preach to the city of Nineveh.

If it is the will of God for all Christians to be rich and wealthy, then no matter what lifestyle choices we make, we would not be able to oppose and overcome the sovereign will of God. Therefore, the example of John the Baptist proves that it is not the will of God for all Christians to be rich and wealthy.

On Money and the will of God
Terence wrote, “But we need the money to facilitate God’s work. If your family is poor and homeless, would you be able to own a computer and start this website? If your pockets are empty, would you be able to buy a plane ticket to India for a mission trip? Did you think that your Bible came down from heaven one day and somehow landed on your desk? Make no doubt about it, the more money one has, the better God can use us to preach the gospel to the world!”

The will of God is accomplished with or without money. Just as Jesus fed the five thousand without resorting to the use of money, God is able to make use of various means to accomplish His will. Do not make the mistake of presupposing the will of God is accomplished through money. The Word of God shows us accounts of people who jumped the gun, thinking that they were fulfilling the will of God. Abraham thought he was fulfilling the will of God by taking Hagar as his concubine. The apostles James and John thought that their wills were aligned with the will of God by asking Jesus for permission to call down fire to destroy the Samaritan village (Luke 9:54). Despite the sincerity of the Apostle Peter, Jesus rebuked him for opposing the will of God (Matthew 16:23).

We would not know the exact means God would use to accomplish His will. God could have sent down fire from heaven to destroy the Egyptian army chasing Moses and the people of Israel, but He did not do so. God could have destroyed the city of Jericho without using the people of Israel, but He did not do so. Instead of praying for health and wealth, why not pray to be used as an instrument according to His will? Pray that if it is according to the will of God, God will open a way, not necessarily through money. I would not dare assume that my will is definitely in accordance with the will of God, but in everything the will of God comes first.

God does not have to make us rich to accomplish His will. He can make use of non-Christians to accomplish His will. God made use of the Assyrians to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel according to His will. God made use of Cyrus king of Persia to bring His people back to Jerusalem. There are so many ways for God to accomplish His will. He can put you in situations where the gospel can be preached. Instead of bringing you to India, God can bring the Indians to you. When the Indians returned back to India after receiving the gospel, they can preach the gospel at home. God can make use of non-Christian organizations to send you to places where the gospel needs to be preached. God, who was able to harden the heart of Pharaoh and turned Nebuchadnezzar insane, is surely able to move the hearts of non-Christians to contribute their wealth for the advancement of the gospel.

On Philippians 3:13-14, 1 Peter 1:3-4, Matthew 6:19-20 and Luke 12:33
Terence wrote, “You quoted Phi 3:13-14, 1 Pet 1:3-4 and Matt 6:33 in your argument against the prosperity gospel. But in no way are they against wealth and righteousness bringing in wealth. It is okay to have earthly wealth. As long as we make sure that first and foremost, we already have the heavenly inheritance stored up for us in heaven.”

These verses emphasize the rewards of the gospel. If the promise of earthly rewards is found in the gospel, then it is strange that the Word of God would leave this promise out. In Philippians 3:13-14, the Apostle Paul defined the prize to be found in heaven, not on earth. If the rewards of the gospel contain an earthly prize, the apostle would have been looking towards an earthly prize, in addition to a heavenly prize.

The same goes for 1 Peter 1:3-4. There is no mention of an earthly inheritance. The Apostle Peter wrote that through the gospel, we have gained a heavenly inheritance. However, the prosperity gospel teaches the inheritance would be on earth as well as in heaven. If there is a promise of earthly inheritance through the gospel, the apostle would not have failed to take it into account in his epistle. Since only the heavenly inheritance was mentioned, this proves there is no such thing as an earthly inheritance.

The absence of earthly treasures as a reward of the gospel in these passages is extremely noticeable. If earthly treasures are promised, the Word of God would not have left this “promise” out in these key passages about treasures, inheritances and prizes.

On Mark 6:8-12
Terence wrote, “You cited that Jesus asked the disciples to go penniless when preaching the gospel. Once again I must ask whether this is a directive for all Christians when we preach the gospel, or is it a specific command for a specific instant? Remember, God provided for you (your Bible, home, computer) through your parent’s money.”

I brought this verse up because you wrote that money is a “tool for God’s kingdom.” If money is a tool, then it is odd that Jesus would send his apostles to preach the gospel without money. Therefore, money could not have been an essential tool since Jesus specifically told his apostles not to carry any money.

Having more or less money will not impact the number of people coming to the saving knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Money is never a determinative factor. God is. We are saved only by the grace of God alone. The reason we choose God is because God chose us first. For it is written: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5).

A church could be financially rich, but spiritually poor. God can use a poor church to bring many more people to Christ instead of using a rich church. The lack of money is no obstacle to the sovereign grace of God.

On the commentaries of Mark 10:29-30
I think the commentary of John Gill is relatively straightforward. He is basically saying that “a hundred times” refers to “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.”

The essence of what John Calvin is trying to say is found in his statement: “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.” Therefore, it is not the quantity that counts, but the quality. The “luxuries of kings” cannot be compared to the “small portion of good.”

17/1/06 8:31 PM  
Blogger Jack The LOT{B}R said...

Oh beowulf..

You really have the energy to spend. This is really an effort demanding task. God bless you! But...alas, who will listen? Whom shall hear?

Ppl love to hear sweet nothing, not a bloody cry from the cross.

19/1/06 5:43 PM  
Anonymous Terence said...

You made a good point. God is not limited to spreading the gospel through financial means alone. Certainly he can cause the red sea to split, he can cast down fire from heaven. But it would be foolish to limit God as a God that doesn’t work through finances. Miracles can happen in many ways. But financial miracles are certainly within God’s means, don’t you think? You seem to confuse the fact that just because money is used in spreading the gospel, the amount of money spent actually determines the amount of souls saved. Money is simply the means to provide logistical support for the work of the Kingdom. Certainly the booking of function halls, the plane tickets, the projectors, the song sheets, the guitars all require money to purchase?

How many red sea splitting type miracles have you seen up till today? Rarely, if not, never. The amazing miracles that happened in the Bible are not frequent occurrences. What happens in an ordinary Christian’s day-to-day living? Doesn’t he have to work? Doesn’t he have to earn a living? Doesn’t God then have to provide for him financially?
Consider an apostle Paul type mission tour in the present era, projected on a global scale. In order to travel to and fro from one continent to another requires a lot of money.

Do you see why God works through money now? Because he wants us to be a diligent, hardworking people who doesn’t expect God to just drop provision from the sky. The prosperity gospel teaches that if we trust God with our finances, applying ourselves hard in our jobs, God will surely bless us.

Prosperity is simply the by-product of living in righteousness. My claim that righteousness brings wealth is not unfounded. Let us imagine a bible-believing, God-fearing Christian in a modern working environment. He is faithful in all his deeds, possessing integrity and is trustworthy, he speaks the truth and not lies, he walks in Godly wisdom, he loves others just as he loves himself and he is dilligent in all his work.

Will he not have the favour of men? He would be what Jesus was as described in Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Surely he will prosper ahead of his peers? Surely his boss will promote him? Of course he will have his enemies. But Proverbs 21:5 promise that “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” God rewards those that work hard.

In Deuteronomy 8:18, it says that “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

Power to get wealth. The issue here is not about whether the covenant that God established applies to us. The issue here is that God provided man with the means to get wealth. He has blessed man with the skills and abilities to be prosperous.

Apostle Paul wasn’t poor. No doubt there were times where he lived in poverty and had no homes and food or clothing. But we must take note that the times he suffered was when he was under persecution: either he was shipwrecked, under house arrest or in prison. There's no evidence that he was penniless throughout his mission journey.

On the contrary, it seems that Paul had the means to support himself. Let us look at Acts 18:1-4:

"After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth. 2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them. 3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded both Jews and Greeks."

Paul was a tentmaker. It was his occupation, a means by which he could earn money to support his mission trips. Furthermore, in Galatians 2:10, Paul said that "they desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do," refering to James, Cephas, and John's reminder that he should also preach the gospel to the poor. The question here is: If Paul was poor, would James, Cephas and John need to remind him to preach to the poor? If Paul was poor, how could he travel to so many places and spread the gospel? If you read 1 Cor 9:1-18, he certainly received no donations from the church.


It is God’s general will that He will prosper those that love Him. The patriarchs of the Bible were all wealthy. Joseph prospered as he stayed faithful to God. Daniel and his three friends too. David and Solomon were wealthy. So was Job. Esther was elevated to be queen next to King Ahasuerus. The nations of Israel and Judah prospered when its people loved God.

But prosperity does not simply mean “to abound in finances.” That is too narrow a definition. In Proverbs 13:4, it says that “the soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” Prosperity certainly includes immaterial things: joy, happiness and health. So was John the Baptist poor? That is an inaccurate statement. To be more precise, John certainly prospered, just that he prospered in other ways. But materially, be wasn’t in poverty. Certainly he lived a simple life. But he could get by. He had food, clothing and a place to live (the wilderness).

Poverty remains a fact of life. Jesus’ apostles certainly suffered poverty at times. But we must remember, they were under persecution and distress. They were beaten and scourged. They were in prison. The rich is certainly not excused from persecution from spreading the gospel! God can certainly bless us. But he does have the right to take it .

It is wrong to suggest that poverty is God’s will. Before the world was corrupted, there was no poverty. It was God’s intent that everything, everyone was prosperous. Yet sin entered the world. Does He know that it is going to happen? Yes he does. But is it God’s will? No. God’s ultimate plan was that of salvation, that all might come to know Him. This is expressed in 1 Tim 2:4:

“who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

So if it is God’s will that all might be saved, why is it that not all are? Because some has chosen to turn away from God, to rebel against Him. So if salvation brings prosperity, then we can say that God desires all to be prosperous, yet not all do. It is not because it is not in God’s will, but it is because of the corrupt nature of man and the environment.

So poverty goes both ways. It is in fact the net result of the rich oppressing the poor due to greed and selfishness, coupled with the Poor’s laziness to work and their refusal to do anything about the current situation. Poverty had arisen out of man’s imperfect nature. Poverty did not originate from God, but from the devil.

God is not just calling people into evangelism or apostleship. Some are called into politics, into the entertainment industry, into science, into sports, into law enforcement and other occupations in society today. Not everyone’s primary calling is to spread the gospel, although all of us are called to evangelize. Jesus, though His primary calling was to the Savior of Mankind, did other wonderful things as well. He met people’s needs. He kept a party going by turning water to wine. He healed the sick. He brought justice to the adulterer. He ended corruption by converting Matthew the tax collector. He filled people’s tummies by feeding the five thousand. God is a miracle-working God. And he certainly can use money as a way to accomplish these miracles. Who are we to limit Him?

28/1/06 2:03 AM  
Blogger beowulf said...

The Sufficiency of the Word
Terence wrote, “But it would be foolish to limit God as a God that doesn’t work through finances. Miracles can happen in many ways. But financial miracles are certainly within God’s means, don’t you think? … Money is simply the means to provide logistical support for the work of the Kingdom. Certainly the booking of function halls, the plane tickets, the projectors, the song sheets, the guitars all require money to purchase?”

I do not recall reading about the Apostle Paul booking “function halls, the plane tickets, the projectors, the song sheets, the guitars” to preach the gospel. Are all these necessary for the gospel to be preached? No, I don’t think so. Your unbelieving relatives, friends and colleagues certainly do not need superfluous gimmicks to hear the gospel. All they require is for you to preach the Word of God to them. It is written, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

It is God who opens the hearts of His elect to the word of Christ. It does not matter if the pastor is dynamic, the music is wonderful, the decorations are splendid, and the atmosphere is awe-inspiring. Money can buy all these things. But without the Holy Spirit regenerating the hardened hearts of sinners, no one can be saved.

I would not dare limit God as a God who doesn’t work through finances. Ultimately it is up to God to decide the means to do it. There is a difference between saying God is able to work through finances and it is the will of God for all Christians to be financially prosperous. I agree with the former and disagree with the latter.

My argument is God can work through anything He so wishes. If He chooses to use money, so be it. If God chooses to work through other means, that is His prerogative. He is God after all. All the resources of heaven and earth are at His disposal. Let God decide on the matter. It is according to His will, not your will. His will is perfect. Your will is imperfect. Your request to be financially prosperous may not be in accordance with the hidden divine will of God.

On Missions
Terence wrote, “How many red sea splitting type miracles have you seen up till today? Rarely, if not, never. The amazing miracles that happened in the Bible are not frequent occurrences. What happens in an ordinary Christian’s day-to-day living? Doesn’t he have to work? Doesn’t he have to earn a living? Doesn’t God then have to provide for him financially? Consider an apostle Paul type mission tour in the present era, projected on a global scale. In order to travel to and fro from one continent to another requires a lot of money.”

Of course a Christian needs to work. I did not say he doesn’t. Miracles do not need to be the Red Sea type. God can simply move the hearts of people. As I have written before, God can make use of non-Christians to accomplish His will. God is sovereign over all of His creation. Money does not have to come from Christians alone. Christians are not the only people that God works through. Once you recognize this, you can see that missions do not rely on the prosperity of Christians, but rather on the sovereignty of God.

Speaking of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, is there any reason why one couldn’t hitchhike, say from Singapore to China, preaching the gospel as one travels? Do we need to book a stadium to preach the gospel? The Apostle Paul preached the gospel in prison. The Apostle Philips preached to the Ethiopian eunuch on the desert road. We can preach the gospel wherever we are, whenever the opportunity arises.

There are many people in Singapore who has not heard the gospel. The Malays are one such unreached people. You can preach the gospel to your neighbors, friends, colleagues and relatives. You can preach the gospel on the streets. You can walk across the Causeway to Malaysia to preach the gospel to the Malays. You can preach the gospel to the foreigners who are in Singapore, which are the Indians, Chinese, Thais, Filipinos, Malays, and Indonesians etc. You can preach the gospel on the streets. You can go door to door to preach the gospel. All these evangelistic activities do not require much money.

On Luke 2:52 and the workplace
Terence wrote, “Will he not have the favour of men? He would be what Jesus was as described in Luke 2:52: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Surely he will prosper ahead of his peers? Surely his boss will promote him? Of course he will have his enemies.”

In Luke 2:52, Jesus has not began His ministry yet. He only began at about thirty years of age (Luke 3:23). So of course, Jesus has not yet been hated and persecuted by men. During His ministry, Jesus said of Himself and His followers,

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18)

You are not persecuted for possessing integrity, trustworthiness, truthfulness and being diligent in your work. You do not have to be a Christian to possess such attributes. You are persecuted for being a Christian. You are persecuted because of the gospel you preached. “A Bible-believing, God-fearing Christian in a modern working environment” is one who preaches the gospel to his colleagues. The gospel is regarded as foolishness by the world (1 Corinthians 1:18). The gospel is offensive to the non-Christians. Non-Christians are enemies of God (Romans 5:10). You are not exactly scoring points with your colleagues by preaching the gospel to them. Thus, do not expect to gain favor with the enemies of God.

On Proverbs 21:5 and Proverbs 13:4
Do we interpret the Book of Proverbs as sure promises of God? Of course not. Take for instance these proverbs:

“But whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” (Proverbs 1:33)

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)

“When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

As many parents would know, Proverbs 22:6 is not something one can claim to be a sure promise of God. Proverbs 1:33 does not holds true as it is clear from history that many Christians are far from being safe from harm.

In the case of Proverbs 3:1-2 and Proverbs 16:7, Jesus kept the commands of God in His heart. And surely the ways of Jesus were pleasing to God. However, did God prolong the life of Jesus many years and cause Jesus’ enemies to live at peace with Him? Well, you know the answer.

The Book of Proverbs simply contains general observations of the way life usually works. They are written to motivate people towards the right behavior. However, they are not to be used to manipulate life to achieve personal goals. Therefore, Proverbs 21:5 and Proverbs 13:4 cannot be taken as sure promises of God.

On Deuteronomy 8:18
Terence wrote, “In Deuteronomy 8:18, it says that ‘And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.’ Power to get wealth. The issue here is not about whether the covenant that God established applies to us. The issue here is that God provided man with the means to get wealth. He has blessed man with the skills and abilities to be prosperous.”

Please read Deuteronomy 8 in context. This promise is definitely about the Mosaic Covenant, which only applies to the Israelites. Skills and abilities do not mean that one can be prosperous. When you read the next two verses, verse 19-20, you can see the consequences of disobedience.

“If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20)

As we can see, it is actually obedience to the commandments of God that actually counts for the Israelites. The “means to get wealth” is through obeying the Law of Moses. It is not the skills and abilities of the Israelites that made them prosperous, but rather their obedience to the law.

On the Apostle Paul
Terence wrote, “Apostle Paul wasn’t poor. No doubt there were times where he lived in poverty and had no homes and food or clothing. But we must take note that the times he suffered was when he was under persecution: either he was shipwrecked, under house arrest or in prison. There's no evidence that he was penniless throughout his mission journey.”

The evidence is found in the very words of the Apostle Paul. He wasn’t shipwrecked, under house arrest or in prison when he wrote the epistle to the Corinthians. I have brought up 1 Corinthians 4:6-17 before.

“… We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless…” (1 Corinthians 4:6-17)

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:29-30)

When the apostle was in prison, he acknowledged his suffering during his missionary journey. Please observe the words he used in his epistle to the Philippians. The mark of a true Christian is not only of faith, but also of suffering. We are to suffer for Christ.

God also promised the Apostle Paul would have to suffer for the gospel. It is written: “I will show [the Apostle Paul] how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:16)

Being poor does not necessarily mean being penniless. One can be poor and yet possess money and a job. In Mark 12:41-44, there is the example of the poor widow who put two small copper coins in the temple treasury. And how about Joseph and Mary? Joseph was a carpenter. Now even though Joseph had a job, he was poor. How do we know that? When Mary brought Jesus to the temple on the eighth day to be circumcised, she offered a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons (Luke 2:24). According to the Law of Moses, this sacrifice is for women who cannot afford a lamb. This clearly indicates that Joseph and Mary were poor.

On donations to the Apostle Paul
Terence wrote, “If Paul was poor, how could he travel to so many places and spread the gospel? If you read 1 Cor 9:1-18, he certainly received no donations from the church.”

If you read the apostle’s epistle to the Philippians, it does appear that the apostle was supplied with gifts from the churches. It is written:

“I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18).

Logical fallacy concerning the will of God
Terence wrote, “It is God’s general will that He will prosper those that love Him. The patriarchs of the Bible were all wealthy. Joseph prospered as he stayed faithful to God. Daniel and his three friends too. David and Solomon were wealthy. So was Job. Esther was elevated to be queen next to King Ahasuerus. The nations of Israel and Judah prospered when its people loved God.”

This is a logical fallacy. Correlation does not imply causation. Just because God prosper some does not mean He will prosper all. The Bible does not indicate whether Esther was faithful to God. In fact, the name of God is not mentioned at all in the Book of Esther. In the case of Solomon, he did not obey the commandments of God his whole life, and yet Solomon remained prosperous. It is written:

“So the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son.’” (1 Kings 11:11-12)

On the grace of God
Terence wrote, “So if it is God’s will that all might be saved, why is it that not all are? Because some has chosen to turn away from God, to rebel against Him. So if salvation brings prosperity, then we can say that God desires all to be prosperous, yet not all do. It is not because it is not in God’s will, but it is because of the corrupt nature of man and the environment.”

If you want to compare prosperity with salvation, then there is a strong case for God not willing for all to be prosperous. Salvation is ultimately dependant on the will of God. The reason we choose God is because God chose us first. According to Romans 9:18, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden.

It is the will of God that some are saved, while the rest gets passed over. God has predestined before the creation of the world those who are to be saved (Ephesians 1:4). You are right in a sense when you wrote “some has chosen to turn away from God, to rebel against Him.” However, the larger picture is all of us were spiritually dead and chose to turn away from God. We were in rebellion against God from the day we were born. It takes an act of God, the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, to overcome our stubborn rebellion to choose Him.

Just as God wills some to be saved and some to be damned, God wills some to be prosperous and some to be poor. It is written in Romans 9:16, “It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.” It does not depend on our desire to be saved or our good works to go to heaven. Likewise, it does not depend on our desire to be prosperous or our good works to be rich. It depends on the sovereignty of God, whether He wants to grant men salvation or prosperity.

On 1 Timothy 2:4
Does the phrase “all men” refers to every individual or just to Christians only? We have to read this verse in context. In verse 5, we read,

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

Now, does the word “men” in 1 Timothy 2:5 refers to every individual or to Christians only? Does Jesus mediate between God and non-Christians? If you say every individual, then you would be subscribing to universalism, where it is taught every individual will be saved. This is the false gospel. Hence, we must deduce the word “men” refers to Christians only.

Let’s look at the next verse.

“Who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:6)

Again, does “all men” refer to every individual or just to Christians only? Did Christ die for all men or only for His elect? We find our answer in John 10:15, which states: “[Jesus] lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus did not die for the wolves or the goats, but for the sheep.

In conclusion, context is important. 1 Timothy 2:5 may be read as such: “[God] who desires all [of His elect] to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

On Poverty being of the Devil
Terence wrote, “So poverty goes both ways. It is in fact the net result of the rich oppressing the poor due to greed and selfishness, coupled with the Poor’s laziness to work and their refusal to do anything about the current situation. Poverty had arisen out of man’s imperfect nature. Poverty did not originate from God, but from the devil.”

Please read the Book of Job. Poverty does originate from God. Job was not lazy or oppressed by anyone. It is written:

Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason." (Job 2:3)

In John 9:1-12, we read of the healing of the beggar who was born blind. His blindness is not the result of his sin or the sins of his parents. His blindness is the will of God (refer to Exodus 4:11). Because he was blind, he was reduced to begging. In other words, God caused the blind man to be poor. Therefore, you cannot say that poverty is due to laziness. Poverty is ordained by God to accomplish His purposes.

On John the Baptist and Poverty
Terence wrote, “So was John the Baptist poor? That is an inaccurate statement. To be more precise, John certainly prospered, just that he prospered in other ways. But materially, be wasn’t in poverty. Certainly he lived a simple life. But he could get by. He had food, clothing and a place to live (the wilderness).”

You are stretching the definition of poverty to encompass almost everything in order to render it useless. This is not exactly breaking news, but here is the fact: poor people do have food, clothing and a place to live in. The blind beggar in John 9:1-12 was probably living with his parents. I do not think he was walking around stark naked when Jesus saw him. And since he was a beggar, he would be begging for money to buy food. Perhaps I would say, according to your bizarre definition, the blind beggar was not poor. And maybe the poor widow in Mark 12:41-44 was prosperous by your standards.

Anyone can see that this sounds rather absurd. Being poor does not necessarily mean absolutely penniless, being naked without clothes, and living out in the open without a roof under one’s head. Ever heard of the working poor? They are those who are in the low-income group. They might be farmers, laborers, factory workers, domestic servants, and prostitutes etc. Many of them are trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty.

We find an example of the working poor in Deuteronomy 24:14-15,

“Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15)

On Evangelism
Terence wrote, “God is not just calling people into evangelism or apostleship. Some are called into politics, into the entertainment industry, into science, into sports, into law enforcement and other occupations in society today. Not everyone’s primary calling is to spread the gospel, although all of us are called to evangelize.”

Our primary calling as Christians is to glorify God. We are to obey the greatest commandment. Evangelism is implicitly found in the second greatest commandment, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. The greatest gift of love you can give your neighbor is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I am afraid you got it the wrong way round. We are Christians first and foremost. Our primary allegiance is to God. Because of the Great Commission and the fact that evangelism is implicitly enshrined in the second greatest commandment, our calling is to spread the gospel wherever we are, in whatever we do.

5/2/06 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Terence said...

I think it is time that we put this argument to a close. I have read your last reply, and I am convinced that there is nothing further that can be brought out of this discussion.

In this juncture you have not convinced me that God's will is for some to be poor, and neither have I convinced you that God wants us to be rich.

I think this difference is caused by one thing: your Calvinistic beliefs. The fact that you believe in predestination.

I just want to end off by saying this: it is great that you are so grounded in theology. But know this: theology is not everything. You seem extremely keen on defending every point that you've presented, to a degree that is pretty much unprecendented among anyone i've ever seen. I applaud you.

But never neglect the other aspects of Christianity. Yes, we should be grounded in the Word. But don't forget the emotional, relational side of Christianity. We are created to feel God, to know God and to love God. Love is an emotion (no doubt supported by works), isn't it?

Theology is not the answer to everything. Discussing theology can in fact be rather divisive. Just look at the number of denominations in existance today. There are many things the human mind can comprehand. But the human mind is limited. Hence the division.

Let us find common ground. The fact that we believe in the same God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) and that we know Jesus Christ came down to Earth to save us from sin. The fact that we both want to reach out to the lost, to evangelize to the unsaved.

I guess right know that's all I have to say. It has been enlightening to discuss theology with you. My understanding of the scriptures has been stretched and expanded. Cheerz and have a good year ahead ;)

5/2/06 9:33 PM  
Blogger beowulf said...

It has been interesting having this discussion with you too.

I agree that we are created to feel God, to know God and to love God. Basically, we are created to worship God. Should we worship God in anyway we want without regard for the truth? No, we should not. We are commanded to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

The truth requires knowledge of the Word of God. And theology is the pursuit of this knowledge of truth. If we have a deficient knowledge of God, our worship of God is deficient. An improper theology leads us down the path of idolatry. Do take for instance, the god of Roman Catholicism, Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses. Obviously, their gods are not the God founded in the Scriptures.

It may be true that discussing theology is rather divisive. After all, the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Ideally, Christian unity should be sought after. However, we must never let the second greatest commandment usurp the place of the greatest commandment. That is, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Our minds must be involved in the worship of God. If our love for God comes at the expense of “Christian unity,” so be it.

I believe in the perspicuity of the Scriptures. It means the Bible is clear to the ordinary reader when responsibly interpreted. It does not, however, mean that we are able to comprehend absolutely everything about God from the Bible, but rather only the things He chooses to reveal through His Word.

Therefore, in spite of the limitations we have in understanding everything about God, say the mystery of the Trinity, I don't think we are limited in understanding the Word of God. After all, God clearly meant His Word to be "a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105).

7/2/06 3:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2Peter3:9 says,
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Then "According to Romans 9:18, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden".
So how do we harmonize these 2 verses then?
Thanks..

18/7/06 2:44 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home