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The Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel
6 years, 3 months ago Posted in: BLOG 3
The Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel

A Little Background

The prosperity gospel, otherwise known as “word of faith,” “name-it-and-claim-it,”  and the “health and wealth gospel”, is a relatively new invention that originated in American Christianity after World War II.  But being popularized by a number of preachers during the 1950s, especially by Oral Roberts and his ‘Expect a Miracle’ television broadcasts, it has spread like wildfire infecting churches the world over.

The baton has been passed from men like Oral Roberts to Kenneth Copeland, who is often called the “godfather of the prosperity gospel”, to a wide range of false teachers who relentlessly market their wares on Christian television and who seek to draw massive crowds in crusades, at home and abroad.  All sickness is categorized as being of the evil one.  If you’re not prosperous, you are told to examine your life and, above all else, “sow your seed.”

To the solid Christian, we can dismiss, laugh and snicker at the folly of these men and women, who masquerade as heralds of the gospel, but the reality is that they have millions of followers.  And even for those who would not consider themselves followers, there’s the possibility that they have been infected to a certain degree as well.  The prosperity gospel might make more appearances in your church than you might be aware of.

Clarity and faithfulness to the Bible are key at this time.  Pastor Desmond Singh often says of the New Testament writers, “If you can’t understand what they’re saying, look at how they lived.”  Who could believably claim that financial or even physical prosperity was a focus in the early church?

With the exception of John, history tells us that each of the apostles were martyred.  Persecution in the form of stoning, beating, mockery, slander and all sorts of other abuses were often the result of taking a stand for the Lord Jesus in those early centuries.

Contrast what they said and how they lived and died with that of the “false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”  (Matt. 7:15).  While genuine men of God sought out God’s glory and took the oversight of His flock seriously, these false preachers only seek gain at the expense of their followers.

With the prosperity gospel having been exported to Africa, here’s a good summary of some of what passes for Christianity in some parts…  Third world countries, especially in Latin America and Africa, where people are in dire poverty and looking for any hint of relief, have proved to be the most fertile ground.

 

“This is So Transparent – Only a Fool Would Believe It”

Despite the fact that there appears to be a church on every corner, the rate of biblical illiteracy has perhaps never been higher.  A case in point would the fact that a book that is a complete mockery of the Bible and God, entitled Heaven is for Real“, has risen to the NY Times Bestseller list.  In the book, the young boy (4 years old at the time) sits down for a conversation with the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus helps him with his homework and the angels sing children’s songs.

People simply don’t know the scriptures and often take what they see at face-value.  We should not take it for granted when we have received sound, biblical teaching from a God-called man.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians,

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (1:9)

In case it was not crystal clear, Paul says the exact same thing twice in the same chapter.  That’s how important he saw a clear presentation of the true gospel.

In other areas of the New Testament, Paul warns of other Jesuses as well.  Not that there are any but the holy Son of God, but preachers were creating their own versions.  The problem we face today is that people simply are not planted in the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  So, on what basis are they going to discern truth from error?  Simply put, Christians do not know the Biblical Gospel and, therefore, cannot spot a counterfeit.  Even a man faithfully preaching the gospel might be surprised to learn what the members of his church actually believe.  Why?  Because many saints are dabbling in and feeding on religious things that they ought not to.

The Apostle Peter, in warning about false preachers in his day, wrote:

For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:18-20)

Today, Christians generally fail to distinguish between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  And on close examination, though some scriptures are taken from the New, much of the prosperity gospel focuses on the Old Testament.  Here are a few favourites:

The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. (Prov 10:22)

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:10)

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)

This does not mean that these scriptures are irrelevant, but compare them to the New Testament where, for example, Paul wrote,

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus… (2 Cor 4:8-10)

Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Tim 3:12)

There are literally dozens of other scriptures that could be pointed to as well.  But not only can we point to individual scriptures, it is the entire theme of the New Testament.  Prosperity preachers may want to entirely get rid of Peter’s first epistle as it deals, almost exclusively, with suffering in this life.  Some even go so far to declare that the Lord Jesus was rich while He was on this earth, along with His apostles.  What is one to make of the Hebrew ‘hall of faith’ in Hebrews 11?

The Conclusion of the Matter

Anyone who exalts miracles and the supernatural above the truth of God’s word and holiness is a prime candidate for deception.  All the prosperity gospel is is idolatry wrapped in Christian garb.  Regarding deception, the Apostle Paul prophesied:

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess. 2:9-11)

Notice who is responsible for sending strong delusion?  God Himself.  Why?  Because the people, like those referenced in Romans 1, have virtually given themselves over to sinfulness.  “My God would never do that!”  Well, read the scripture for yourself.  God is holy, just and good.  In Christ Jesus, He gave the best.  What a shame when Christ’s offering for sin is mocked and people use His name as a guise to get what they want.

We must remember that “godliness with content is great gain.”  In this life we are told to bear a cross – an instrument of execution, where the old man (you) must die so that Christ may come alive.  How this contrasts with the gospel of prosperity.  In the prosperity gospel, where is repentance, turning from sin, contentedness, focus on others, sacrifice and dying to self?  Nowhere to be seen.

It is another gospel.

But in the prophets of Jerusalem
I have seen a horrible thing:
they commit adultery and walk in lies;
they strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his evil…
(Jeremiah 23:14)

Holding nothing back, the Lord says through the prophet:

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

The truth of the gospel may not generate the numerical response that a fleshly, pandering false gospel does. But this has ever been the case.  We must build our lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, holding to the scriptures as our guide.