What Should We Think of the Prosperity Gospel?

Question 1: Can it ever be God’s will for a Christian to be sick or to suffer?

Question 2: Is the purpose of the cross to make us physically rich and prosperous?

Stephen: What is the prosperity gospel?

Pastor Eric: The teaching that Christ died either primarily or in part to make us healthy, wealthy, and prosperous.  The teaching that it could never be God’s will for a Christian to be poor, sick, or suffer.

Stephen: Is it true?

Pastor Eric: No, it is not true, and here is an example:

Hebrews 11:33-39Through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,  Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.  Women received their dead raised to life again:

and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith

Stephen: Why do some people teach the prosperity gospel?

Pastor Joel: Rather than teaching the whole counsel of God on the issue, they take portions of scripture and lift them form their context to defend and present this idea.

Example: Isaiah 54:17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.

Or:

Deuteronomy 28:1 The LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.  The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways.  The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:

  • Many pastors ignore the context of these verses.  They were given to Israel in a covenant with God.  In the NT, we see a basic principle that God blesses His children, but we do not have the same kinds of absolute statements that we see here about Israel.
  • Many pastor fail to see the other side of these passages.  Notice the next section in Deuteronomy. 

If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field.  Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store.  Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.  Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out.  The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.  The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.  The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.  And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.  The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.  The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart: Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof.  The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation which thou knowest not eat up; and thou shalt be only oppressed and crushed alway:  And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee. Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.  Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.

  • God had entered into a covenant with Israel, and He gave them the promised land.  These verse are meant to inform Israel that if they obey their king, God will bless them, but if not, He will swiftly judge them.  This is exactly why we read the terrible thing in the OT concerning Israel.  They broke the covenant, and God kept His word.  We see God’s faithfulness to His covenant in these verses and in Israel’s history, but we are now in a new dispensation/era, and a part of a new covenant.

Stephen: Is it really dangerous to preach this message?

Victor: Yes.  Any time you preach something that is not true, whether it is a calculated decision or simply an honest mistake, their will be consequences for you and for those who are under your teaching ministry.

Stephen: What are your greatest concerns with this message?

Victor: It distracts from people’s true need.

  • A preoccupation with things distracts us from the true needs of our soul. Notice:

Proverbs 30:8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Matthew 6:30-32 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (The things meantioned in the context are not riches, but rather the basic needs of life, food and clothing)

Revelation 3:17-18Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich;

  • They thought they were rich because of what they had, but in God’s eyes, they had neglected their greatest need, the needs of their soul.

Stephen: What are some of your conncerns with the prosperity gospel?

Pastor Joel:

  • It takes the issue away from justification and holy living, and puts the emphasis on ease and comfort.

1 Timothy 6:6-11 Godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  Flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

  • It encourages people to be worldly.

1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

  • It twists people’s view of God’s sovereignty.
  • It puts God under man’s authority, not man under God’s authority.
  • It fails to see the redeeming value of suffering in the Christian life.

2 Corinthians 4:17 Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Romans 8:18 The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Romans 8:22-29 We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.   And even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the redemption of our body.  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son,

1 Peter 3:17-18It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

  • It makes the people at the top rich and those on the bottom servants to those on the top.

1 Timothy 6:5 False teachers are men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.

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The Gospel under Attack in Our Generation: Making certain works a requirement to stay saved

The Gospel under Attack in Our Generation: Making certain works a requirement to stay saved

Question 1 for audience: Can we lose our salvation if we do not fight to keep it?

Question 2 for audience: Why?

Stephen: What does it mean to back load the gospel?

Pastor Joel:

  • Two great attacks on the gospel:
    • Adding certain religious duties, acts of obedience, or works to faith alone in Christ to become justified.
    • Adding certain religious duties, acts of obedience, or works to faith in order to stay justified.
  • Both attacks on the gospel make salvation a reward at least in part, rather than a gift that is all of grace.

Philippians 2:12 Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

  • God is not justifying us based on some goodness in us, but rather because Christ righteousness has been imputed or credited to us by God’s grace.
  • God is also not justifying us on the basis of some continuing strength in us.  It is free.  It is all of grace, and it is on the basis of the work of Christ.
  • This is the beauty of the gospel: God forgives us, because His legal wrath has been satisfied in Christ, and He declares us to be righteous, because the righteousness of Christ has been freely credited to us at the point that we repent toward God, and trust alone in the Gospel message.

Ephesians 2:8-9 By grace, through faith; and not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.

Romans 3:24 Justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 4:16 Of faith, that it might be by grace.

Stephen: Are you saying that a true believer cannot lose his salvation?

Pastor Eric: Yes.  It is impossible for a genuine believer to be lost.

Stephen: How is that possible?

Pastor Eric: There are many scriptures that explain this truth:

1 Peter 1:5 Believers are kept by the power of God.

  • Notice kept by God’s power and not our own.

Ephesians 1:12-13 Those who first trusted in…after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation…were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.

  • Notice the emphasis is on trusting in the gospel, works are not mentioned.
  • Secondly, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, and He is our guarantee that we will be glorified.  This emphasizes the permanence of our position in Christ.

John 10:27-33My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.

  • Vs 27 talks about the characteristics of those who are in Christ, not the way we get into Christ or the way we stay in Christ.
  • The others verses state that the believer will never perish, and cannot be snatched out of the Father’s hand.  Notice again that we are kept by God’s power and not our own power.

Romans 8:29-33 He predestined the believer to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren…whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified…If God is for us, who can be against us?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

  • Those who are justified will also be glorified, and there is no charge that can be laid against God’s elect.  Those in Christ are safe because of Christ, not because of their performance.

Stephen: Won’t preaching on grace encourage lawless living?

Victor: No it will not.  We preach grace, not because of what we think it will do, but because it is true, straight from the Bible.

Stephen: Why not?

Victor: Titus 2:11-12 The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age

  • Notice that the grace we receive when e are converted, and in our position in Christ is a grace that motivates teaches us how to live holy lives, and motivates us into that holy walk.  The motive is gratitude and love rather than fear and labor to earn merit.

Stephen: What about people who say they are saved, but their life has never changed?

Pastor Joel: While it is true that the gospel is received by faith alone, and that our works play no part in our justification, either to get justified or to stay justified, it is also true that conversion brings a fundamental change inside the man, which will in time reveal itself in changes in the person’s thinking, character, and conduct.

Romans 8:3-5 What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

  • Notice that the law is powerless to save us and to sanctify us.
  • That is why Christ came.  He provided Himself as our sin bearing substitute so that we could be justly forgiven, and He came to provide a perfect righteousness that God would accept.
  • Notice the purpose mentioned for this work.  It was not just to justify us and give us heaven.  It was also to cause the righteous requirements of the law to be fulfilled in us.  It was also to perfect us and cause us to walk in a way that conforms to His will.
  • This is the reason he contrasts the way of the saint and the way of the unconverted.

James 2:14-18 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? So faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone…show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.

  • This is essentially what James is saying.  Our profession of faith is vindicated before other people, by the change that can be seen in our lives.

Romans 5:18-19 By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

  • Vs. 18 speaks of our justification, and vs. 19 speak of our sanctification.
  • It says that justification is a free gift, and it says that through the obedience of one, many will be made righteous as well.  Justification is about being declared righteous, and sanctification is about being made righteous.

Stephen: What gives someone confidence that they are actually saved?

Pastor Eric: When we trust Christ, there is something that changes in us.  We were previously spiritually dead but now we are alive in Christ.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

  • Primary confidence: And this is the one that really matters. What is the object of my faith in salvation right now?

1 John 5:11-13 This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

  • Secondary Confidence: This is what strengths the confidence of those around me, that I have truly understood the gospel and embraced it.  They can see evidences of God’s spirit sanctifying the young believer.

Romans 8:14-16 As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

  • This bearing witness with our spirit, is primarily an issue of seeing the evidences of the Spirit’s work in our life. The fruit of the Spirit like we see in Galatians 5.

Stephen: What should I do, if I have discovered that I am actually trusting in my ability to continue in obedience?

Victor:

  • Repent: Turn from what you are trusting in.  Turn from your self-righteousness or faithlessness in the Gospel message.
  • Believe on the Gospel:  Trust in Christ’s finished work and stop depending on your own continued work.