Prosperity vs. Theological Error

July 9, 2009 Posted by Rich Vermillion

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Prosperity vs. Theological Error

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Yesterday, a question was posted on my Ask Rich page by Tyrone Cain. For my reader’s convenience, I have appended his questions here:

So Rich, if these guys [Kenneth Copeland and his buddies] are shams, what’s in it for them? Do not blessings comes with giving [whether] it be [for] them or someone else? Do you have a better means of giving someone hope? The bible says the destruction of the poor is their poverty (Proverbs 10:15). Is not poverty evil? Paul said we are to be delivered from this present evil world (Galatians 1:4). Is he talking about now or when we die? Is not the gospel the good news in which paul said he is “not ashamed for it is the power of god” and that it leads to salvation; and in the Greek and Hebrew is not salvation more than the born again experience?  Is not the “power” God’s word? Does not the bible state that, “All things are possible to those who believe” (Mark 9:23) and that “God is able to do exceeding and abundantly above all that we can ask or think according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20)? If the Holy Spirit in me bears witness with what these guys are saying according to the Scriptures, what then is the problem? Please help a brother out—not with beating and badgering the prosperity teachers, but with Scriptures that will deliver me from this present evil world [and] give me hope. How [does] a regular Joe like me, according to Scripture, live the abundant life that Jesus died for? Thank you very much sir. Waiting for your reply.

Please note that I took the liberty to do a major edit on his comment for the benefit of my readers. However, you can still see his original post unedited on the Ask Rich page with a link to this reply. In the mean time, here is my reply:

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Brother Tyrone,

Thank you for posting your questions, though I must admit that you made it a bit hard for me to decipher with your challenging text usage. Please take it easy on me next time you comment, okay Bro?   :•)

As near as I can tell, you must have read my post How I Know (and Why I Rebuked) Kenneth Copeland and missed the full context of my statements. Let me try to clarify things briefly here within this post, and I will also reference herein other posts where you may obtain even more information about these topics. Along the way, I will try to answer some of the questions you posed in your comment.

Prosperity is Good:

Let me begin by pointing out that you appear to think I am against the biblical precept that God loves to prosper His Own children; I am not. If you glance around this website, you will see numerous other articles written by me regarding economics and finance. Would I be anti-prosperity and have included all of those on my own ministry blog?

Please take a few moments to pay special attention to at least three of my articles: Economics, Gold, and the Word of the Lord part 1 and part 2, and Prophets-Come-Lately (and Their Inept Counsel). Through these you will obtain a better idea of where I am coming from in regards to how so-called “prosperity” is taught nowadays by some, such as Copeland and many of his friends. Several other related posts on this blog) will help you to understand a more full picture of how the Bible explains a person can prosper themselves materially, even in a major recession or depression, such as the world is experiencing now.

Abundant Life Properly Defined:

Regarding your question, “How does a regular Joe like me, according to Scripture, live the abundant life that Jesus died for?” Let me first draw your attention to the proper definition of the “abundant life” to which Jesus was referring. It would seem that you think that His reference to the “abundant life” was about material prosperity. However, that is not what the Bible defines it as:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, NASB)

And He [Jesus] said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15, NKJV)

For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17, NASB)

And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21, KJV)

My dear brother, the “abundant life” that Jesus came to give us has nothing to do with material prosperity—except a probable side-effect when a righteous person walks in conformity to the Word of God over time.  The “abundant life” Jesus was talking about is the kingdom of God within a believer, which is defined as “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ The “abundant life” is the same Eternal Life that Jesus came to give us through His death, burial, and resurrection.

Did Paul the apostle have “the abundant life”? Most assuredly, yes. However, consider what is written in the Bible about what Paul preached:

[Paul and Barnabas] preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14:21-22, NIV)

Notice that Paul “preached the good news” (i.e. Gospel) but also admonished the new believers that hardships were going to occur as well (e.g. persecution). He did not say, “all your problems are over” because Paul knew firsthand that was certainly not the case:

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:22-28, NKJV)

Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am. I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]. (Philippians 4:11-13, AMP)

My dear brother, if Paul did not consider earthly comforts and material possessions to be “the abundant life” that Jesus was talking about, why should we? The Lord surely wants to bless His children for He “wishes above all things that we would prosper, and be in health, even as our souls prosper” just as John did for Gaius (3 John 2). He also promises to deliver those who will look to Him for salvation (e.g. Psalm 91). However, the key thing is that believers must prosper first in their souls—with the true abundant life. This should occur before material prosperity, because wealth will ruin the fools (Proverbs 1:32). God is too good a Father to let His kids become “ruined” because of a lack of spiritual maturity regarding material things.

So, Tyrone, your definition needs to be biblically-defined…and not Copeland-defined. The latter will get you into trouble doctrinally and otherwise. This leads me into a discussion/biblical analysis of a few of Copeland’s doctrinal errors…

Copeland’s Theological Errors:

To begin, let me note first that the How I Know (and Why I Rebuked) Kenneth Copeland post you read on RichVermillion.com was intended to do two things:

1 – To set the record straight about my former association with Copeland. (And again, if I were anti-prosperity, would I have ever associated with him in the first place?)

2 – To draw attention to the KennethCopelandBlog.com project. Therein, I am (over time) detailing more and more of the sins from which Kenneth Copeland and his family need to repent.

Please visit the KennethCopelandBlog.com website for additional context and information, and give special attention to the post thereon entitled, Rev. Hagin’s Previous REBUKE of Kenneth Copeland. Therein, you will find therein that the very “father” of the Word of Faith movement himself previously rebuked Kenneth Copeland (and others) for pushing their “prosperity” teaching to extremes that violated Scripture. In other words, even the “founder” of the so-called “prosperity message” said that Kenneth Copeland and many of the other “prosperity preachers” had gone too far and had gotten into error as a result. Thus, I am simply reiterating Hagin’s point in this regard.


Is There a ‘Prosperity Gospel’?:

Now, with regard to the Gospel itself, I recommend you read my post entitled, The REAL Gospel, here on this very blog. Therein I highlight the essential elements of a true Gospel presentation, which Paul expounded to King Agrippa in Acts 26:20 when he said, “that all men should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” You will notice Paul did not mention anything about “God will make you rich!!!!” as being a key element to the Gospel message. Thus, by failing to draw sufficient attention to the “repentance” part of the true Gospel, and by turning their message into a “cotton-candy” diet of sugary fluff, the so-called “prosperity preachers” (such as Copeland) have wandered off into heresy. Again, read The REAL Gospel and you will see better what I am talking about.

With regard to the Greek and Hebrew meanings of the words “salvation” and “saved”—you are partly correct (i.e. correct regarding their meaning, but not with regard to their application). One can certainly point out the fact that these words mean “complete salvation, even from sickness and poverty” (which would be true), especially when teaching people who are already Christians. However, with unbelievers, a preacher would need to maintain a Gospel-presentational context of “after you repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance, these are some of the benefits you can expect as well….”. Peter did this in his Gospel presentation in Acts 2:14-46, for example. So to illustrate with a metaphor:

The “dessert” is supposed to come after the main “meal” of a true core Gospel message.

Again, read the Book of Acts and compare what the believers originally preached with what these men propagate today, and you will find there is a significant difference. If they want to call it a “doctrine” (errant as it is), that is one thing. To call it a “Gospel” is quite another. To call the perverted “prosperity preaching” of Copeland and his associates “a form of the Gospel” is as much a heresy as anything else to which Paul was referring in Galatians chapter 1 when he said that such tripe, “is NOT a Gospel” and that such people will be “accursed” for saying that it is. Consequently, this is one of the sins for which I am calling on Copeland to repent (I really do NOT want the guy to go to hell, and I am sure you would agree).

“Prosperity” as a Doctrine:

For prosperity teaching directed toward believers to be biblical (i.e. not calling it a “Gospel” message per se, but simply a doctrine for Christians to learn and apply to their lives), it would also REQUIRE the proper inclusion of teaching about obedience to God, hard work, self-sacrifice, discipline, investment, saving, monetary theology, economics, how to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3), and etc.

The so-called “prosperity teachers” have failed miserably to do this, which was one of the major points Kenneth Hagin made when he rebuked them himself years ago for getting too extreme in their teaching. (Again, see the Hagin article on the KennethCopelandBlog.com website mentioned above.) Thus, their errant teaching is way too isolated even from some other related bible teaching on the subject of making money—not to mention from the subjects related to proper Christian service to the Lord.

Since you mentioned the doctrine of giving in your Ask Rich comment, let me also point out that such doctrine is only one part of the scriptural building blocks to biblical prosperity. Further, such doctrine, to be biblical, would by necessity include giving to the poor, giving to local ministries, and even giving to other believers in need—which doctrinal aspects are generally ignored by Copeland and his friends. (They tend to only emphasize giving to them and/or others within their buddy-group—which happens to be something else Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin tried to correct them about).

However, even when properly taught within its full range of application, the doctrine of giving is most certainly not the “whole enchilada” for obtaining biblical prosperity, as these errant ministers often lead others to believe. There is just more to it than that.

Many of the additional biblical elements of obtaining material prosperity (especially the pragmatic ones) can be found within my ministry blog here at RichVermillion.com. (And I do not ask anyone to give me even “a dime” for having made these teachings available).

Again, I firmly believe that God wants His children to prosper materially. I am just biblically balanced in my understanding of how, why, and when, He would choose to financially enrich His children.

Let’s Name that ‘Spirit’:

In regards to your question, “If the Holy Spirit in me bears witness with what these guys are saying according to the Scriptures, what then is the problem?” let me be straight, Bro: The Holy Spirit is not going to contradict Himself. He never disagrees with the Word of God He wrote through the apostles and prophets (see 1 John 5:6-8 for example). Thus, whatever is “bearing witness” to you regarding the errant teaching of these ministers is not the Holy Spirit.

Bro, we all need to develop first and foremost a sound understanding of the Scriptures and judge things by the Word of God, not merely by how we “feel” or whatever “witness” we feel we have about it. We must judge things properly by the Word first, and then the “inward witness” second. Personally, I think it is just your emotions agreeing with what they are teaching; much like a child’s emotions agree that he should eat candy as a replacement for regular food. That is carnal thinking, my brother.

To take this discussion to an even higher level: Let’s keep in mind that the church in Scriptures with the most manifestations of the Spirit of God (the church at Corinth) is also the same church that had the most counterfeit manifestations by demons. Paul had to actually explain to them, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed’; and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3, NASB) This, sadly, is the state of the Charasmatic church in the USA at large: Too caught up into “manifestations” and what some “spirit” says to have enough sense to know the difference between God’s Holy Spirit and demonic manifestations. This unfortunate fact, coupled with the USA church’s tendency to idolize their “celebrity preachers” (which is bona fide idolatry, and an abomination before God) is why so many “sheep” are being led stray by “wolves” today.

The deficiency is the Charasmatic church at large is the same they had in Corinth: A lack of good theology, and a passion for the Word of God equal to or greater than their passion for spiritual manifestations. This deficiency left the Corinthians susceptible to deception and error, and it is still the chief cause of “Charismania” today within the church (i.e. unbiblical teachings and error, coupled with demonic influences). We need to have a firm biblical foundation in which to build our spiritual “houses” upon, and the church needs to stop building upon “sand.” Jesus said that the “rock” on which to build our foundation is none other than the Word of God alone (see Matthew 7:24-28 and Luke 6:47-49).

Conclusion:

In summary, Bro, I am not anti-prosperity—but I am firmly anti-error and anti-heresy. In order to understand my positions on these topics more clearly, you would need to first examine my other writings. In the mean time, forget what your emotions or “witness” is telling you about the teachings of Copeland and his friends (or anyone else, for that matter) and get grounded upon the Word of God. The Word, in its full context, is the only measuring stick we are to trust when measuring the validity of doctrine. Further, all topics of doctrine need to be examined thoroughly in the light of the other biblical doctrines, because they are all mutually dependent upon one another.

Lastly, thanks for participating in the Ask Rich page, and for voicing your concerns/questions. I hope I answered them adequately in brief here—especially within the context of my other referenced posts. I also hope that I have given you much to “chew on” and that, as a result of reading my reply, you will reassess your own walk with the Lord and theology—and then press in to follow Jesus through a balanced spiritual life firmly founded upon the Word of God.

Feel free to post another comment to THIS post if you have a follow up question. That will allow us to have an open discussion thread here on this topic, and it will permit others to join in with their own thoughts as well.

Blessings to you and yours, as you follow Jesus and His Word, with a balanced understanding, and with all your heart.

Always in Jesus,

-Rich Vermillion

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19 Responses to Prosperity vs. Theological Error

  1. prosperity says:

    Rich, A fine post! We live among abundance. Poverty is a human miscreation. If Spirit lives in all things, including money, how can there be a limit to it? God is limitless. To believe in poverty and argue for its existence is a disservice to God and yourself.

    Thanks for sharing your insight. Ryan

  2. Thanks Ryan for commenting. We surely agree that poverty is bad. Anyone who thinks otherwise should try it sometime! ;)

    Though it is only a matter of semantics, I would not personally call poverty a “miscreation” but rather a “perversion of the creation” by Satan and sin. Nevertheless, we agree in principle that it is bad.

    Since you mentioned “money” in your comment, let me also point out that we need to have a proper biblical and historical definition of “money” if we want to prosper materially in the long run. That would mean true commodity money (such as gold, silver, copper, etc) and not pieces of paper with ink on them. The former has true intrinsic value (which I define in some of my other articles), while the later is nothing more than worthless “promises” to pay nothing.

    The “paper” originally promised to pay gold or silver, now they just say “Federal Reserve Note” in the USA, which means is is actually a debt instrument…not money. Thus, I advise people to turn all their available “paper” into real money (especially their savings) before the imminent economic collapse occurs.

    I suggest you (and my other readers) peruse my post God’s Money, and Private Coinage as a start on this topic.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Always in Jesus,

    -Rich

  3. Alan Bryan says:

    I will soon have a new email as our office is moving and breaking up. Partly because of one person in our office who very much adheres to Kenneth Copeland’s prosperity message. I am not certain where or how you got my email but what I read here does bear witness with me. Scripture says to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. I believe this is done certainly in our giving, but more importantly by our obediance to God and what he asks us to do. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.” It seems that if we seek after God, the riches or prosperity of this world will chase us down. I see too many Christians chasing after their prosperity at the expense of other believers around them.

    God has blessed me, and delivered me thru some tough times financially, and emotionally. I am stronger for having gone thru what I did, wouldn’t want to repeat it. I believe God gave me specific steips to follow, which I have. My Office friend thought it went against his idea of the prosperity message, but I was genuinly seeking and acting on what the Lord lead me to do. It wasn’t quick, but God was faithfull to see me through. In the end, God is for eternity, what is a few years of tough times here in this world? I believe the integrity, ethics, one developes is of more value than the prosperity. In Proverbs it says to seek after wisdom and knowledge, rather than silver and gold. I could say more, but your message stirred in me to respond with what I have. God Bless, Alan Bryan

    Rich Note: Thanks Alan for the wonderful comment, and for sharing your own testimony. That is a blessing. Great feedback, my brother. Stay strong in the Spirit and God’s Word, and keep pressing forward in Jesus.

    One major drawback in my waiting almost 9-months before utilizing our email list again is that too many people forgot who I am, or how they got on our list! (chuckle) I’ll try to make my correspondences a bit more frequent from now on. ;)

  4. Paul & Rachael says:

    Excellent, excellent, excellent, but don’t let that leven puff you up!! LOL
    Keep up the good work. TRUTH OF GODS WORD amen.

  5. Thank you Paul and Rachael for your words of encouragement…and your admonition to stay humble. (chuckle)

    “Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifies” the beloved Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:1 (KJV). If anyone was in possession of enough spiritual knowledge to be “puffed up” thereby, it was Paul. Thus, his words need to continue to be a reminder to the rest of us that we certainly have no sound reason to glory…except ONLY in the Lord. So true, my siblings. Thanks.

    Lastly, thank you also for your sincere “amen” to that which I have written above. For nearly two thousand years the Body of Christ emphasized devotion to the Lord, and that material blessings were to be esteemed lightly in comparison with the promised Heavenly rewards for those who are faithful “to Him who called them.” Consequently, whenever material prosperity was taught it was generally expounded upon within the light of hard work, honesty, and applied biblical wisdom; and again, even then only within the context of submission to the Lord, His Word, and devotion to His service.

    Thought it was certainly good for the “prosperity teachers” in times past to remind the Church that the Lord wants to bless His people, they have certainly pushed that truth beyond scriptural boundaries and into error/excess (which Kenneth E. Hagin also warned them concerning before he died). Thus, it is certainly time for the members of the Body of Christ to return to biblical balance regarding these truths; to turn their backs on covetousness and refocus their eyes and hearts once again towards eternal things.

    Again, thanks for writing.

    Always in Jesus,

    -Rich

  6. Guy Fisher says:

    Rich: Thanks for helping others to see “the real” Kenneth Copeland and what he teaches.
    I must comment on your use of 3 John 2. This verse has absolutely nothing to do with prosperity in the Charismatic useage. In context (and the Bible must always be read in its proper context) 3 John 2 is a simple Greeting to the letter. It is not a promise for all time for people to be rich and healthy! As noted Bible scholar, Dr. Gordon Fee (Regent College Professor of NT) comments that 3 John 2 is, “the standard form of greeting in a personal letter in antiquity.” He continues, “to extend John’s wish for Gaius to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians of all times is totally foreign to the text. John neither intended that, nor could Gaius have so understood it. Thus, it cannot be the ‘plain meaning’ of the text.” [Gordon D. Fee, The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels (Beverly, MA: Frontline PUblishing, 1985), 6.

  7. Rich Reply: Thank you, Brother Fisher, for posting your comment hereon, and for doing a fine job in documenting your position. Quite frankly, too few people who take an opposing viewpoint on an issue ever bother to document WHY they have done so. I always have the highest respect for any person willing to take the time to actually cite the reasons for their belief, even when they take a position on a point that is somewhat (or even entirely) contrary to my own. You are to be commended, sir. :)

    I partially agree with you in your point (that is, as I understand your expressed perspective). This verse is often pushed to extremes by so-called “prosperity” teachers, in that they take it out of the context of the entire Bible and make it into a carnal pursuit of earthly riches. Kenneth E. Hagin himself wrote in his book The Midas Touch that such misuse of Scripture by the “extreme prosperity” teachers was in error. He, like you, pointed out that it is erroneous to believe that financial/material “prosperity” (as it is often thought to mean extreme material riches and opulence) is for all Christians. That is wrong, for surely Paul (as I pointed out in my article above) knew what it was like to experience hardship. So please do not take my point out of that context, because I do agree with you (and Kenneth E. Hagin) that “opulent riches” are NOT for every Christian in every time and in every place. Any cursory review of church history would prove that to be a foolish doctrine, especially in the light of much of the New Testament. Hebrews 11:32-40, for example, emphasized the faith of people “of whom the world was not worthy.” What did they do? They were willing to live in caves, to suffer lack, and to be persecuted unto death for their faith and service to the Lord God Almighty.

    On the other hand, I cannot agree with you that 3 John 2 was not meant to be a clear indication of the apostle’s (and thus, God’s) desire to see the brethren “prosper” in the clearly biblical sense (i.e. not indicating necessarily “opulence”).

    The Greek word used in this passage is euodóō (Strong’s #2137). James Strong said it means, “to help on the road, i.e. (pass) to succeed in reaching; fig. to succeed in business affairs.” Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D., says in The Complete Word Study Dictionary (NT) further explains that it means, “To lead in a good way, to prosper in one’s journey. Figuratively, to make prosperous, to give success to.” Does God our Father wants us to “succeed” in our Christian journey here upon the earth? I think most would answer a clear “yes” in light of Scripture. Thus, it is obvious by His choice of this Greek word within this passage that He surely wishes to express to us that He wants to equip us adequately for our mission here upon the earth, to include good physical health as well as material and financial resources.

    Let me note here that Dr. Zodhiates agrees with you and your source citation that it was a standard greeting in 3 John 2 and not a promise from God that Gaius would forever be in health and overflowing in riches, “It was rather the wish of the writer in the same manner in which we write a letter saying, ‘I hope you are well and prosperous, having all your needs met.” Nevertheless, let me first focus your attention on the fact that John’s well-wishing was conditional: As your soul prospers. That does not appear to be a part of a standard opening greeting. How many people place conditions on their well-wishing, unless inspired by the Spirit of God to do so?

    Consequently, let me point out that I think we can all agree here (Dr. Zodhiates and Gordon D. Fee included) that John was writing Scripture and not merely a letter to his friend. Thus, we would by necessity have to all also agree that his well-wishing for Gaius was inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself and not merely by his own sentiment. If so—and since God is no respecter of persons—then this desire of the Holy Spirit for Gaius’ well-being would have to apply to all of God’s children and not just this particular individual. Thus, this passage in 3 John 2 does provide us a proof of God’s general desire for our success, health, and well-being as Christians (but again, not necessarily opulence), as long as the Christians meet the same condition that the Holy Spirit placed within this epistle—namely, that our souls prosper first.

    Furthermore, when you review 3 John 2 in the light of Scriptures found in other places of the NT (such as Philippians chapter 4, 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9, and Jesus’ own teaching in places like Matthew 25, & etc.) and in the passages of the OT that surely apply also to Christians (such as Deuteronomy 26 & 28, Psalm 23, & etc.) and we can clearly see that God DOES surely want to prosper His children in general, and His obedient servants in particular (note Isaiah 1:18-20). Anybody who denies that fact has to deny a considerable number of passages within the Bible, and not just 3 John 2. In fact, if you compare the first two chapters of Genesis (i.e. prior to man’s sin and fall) with the last two chapters of Revelation (i.e. after everything has been fully restored to God’s intended pristine state) you will clearly see that God’s intention has always been the full and complete prosperity of His people–spiritually, mentally, physically, financially, socially, and every other way. Sin, poverty, sickness, misery, despair–all these are a direct result of Adam’s transgression and Satan’s work. Remember: Jesus came to “destroy all the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) and that clearly includes all the aforementioned vexations and curses, for they never existed before man’s fall, nor shall be after the devil is thrown into the Lake of Fire forever.

    Again, you and I–and the above folks mentioned–all agree (and, again, even Kenneth E. Hagin agreed) that the so-called “prosperity” dogma that purports that God “promises” opulent wealth for all his children is foolish, erroneous, and unbiblical. I assume we could probably all agree that this error has been pushed by some (including Kenneth Copeland) to the point of being heresy, in that it detracts from and distorts other portions of Scripture that deal with proper Christian living in this life (e.g. personal sacrifice, self-control, obedience to God, etc.). That said, I also hope we all agree that our Heavenly Father is not negligent for the care of His own children–as any good father would surely not be (note 1 Timothy 5:8)–and that he wishes us to prosper and be well “on our journey” of Christian faith through this temporal life, even as we travel to the eternal Celestial City…as our dear brother John Bunyan described in Pilgrim’s Progress to the glory of God’s grace.

    So in summary: I agree that the so-called “prosperity teachers” have grossly distorted 3 John 2 into something that it does NOT say (and I hope the full context of my article above validates that I do not see it that way, especially in the light of this addition of mine to your comment). I do NOT agree (if you meant this, or if your cited sources meant this) that 3 John 2 does not express God’s heartfelt desire to see His children prospered in their earthly life’s journey (i.e. having sufficient food, clothing, shelter, and resources with which to provide to their families) and in their earthly service to Him and His Kingdom (i.e. having sufficient material “grace” with which to abound “unto every good work” on behalf of the brethren…see 2 Corinthians 9:8-15).

    So I believe it is clear that 3 John 2 DOES provide the sincere Christian comfort in knowing that his/her Heavenly Father wants him/her to do well, and to have his/her needs met (materially, financially, and even in regards to their health) here on earth. I do NOT believe (and the Scriptures prove this to be so) that it promises “perfect health at all times” (for Paul did not experience that, nor did some of the people referenced in his epistles) nor “opulent riches” and material abundance (though some Christians will experience that if their calling so requires that degree of resources). God does heal people today, and I have not only been healed myself supernaturally at different times, but I have also seen His healing power raise up even the terminally ill under my own ministry. God does prosper His children today, and I have experienced His provisional grace many times and know others who have as well. The Word of God works for those who believe it with sincere hearts of faith and love towards God. God does NOT, however, promise a life of luxury or permanent freedom from attacks of sickness.

    Again, thank you for commenting in general, but also especially for providing documentation to support your position. I hope that my further documentation of the Greek word in question, 3 John 2′s context, and references to other Scriptures, clarify my own position adequately; and should your position have been different than my own which I expressed here, I trust that I also provided you with further resources with which to refine your own understanding of this passage in 3 John 2 (and others Bible passages similar thereto).

    Always in Jesus,

    -Rich Vermillion

  8. Peter says:

    I agree that Copeland and others have been off balance on the prosperity message for a long time… however, prosperity is of God and for every child of God… the problem with the prosperity preachers is this (from my own personal experience as well as my wife’s experience who worked for some well known ministers). 1) They care not about the physical (material) condition of their own flock. 2) They are usually cold-hearted and unconcerned with the trials of the people in their congregation – it’s as if you are bothering them if you try to approach them for help. 3) They too often give shallow and superficial answers to any serious issues and questions you bring to them,- they are dismissive. 4) They never deal with honest questions about their finances and doctrines – in other words, they don’t put themselves in a position where they can be asked specific questions about their doctrine or spending habits. 5) They are too consumed with money and not people. This is just a brief list of the most common areas of grotesque mishandling of God’s people…there are a ton of other reasons but I won’t list all… I am glad that the body of Christ is waking up and not drinking their Kool-Aid any longer…

    Rich Reply: A very good note, Peter. Thanks for the input and your experience-based personal perspective. May God’s manifold blessings abound to you and your wife, as you both continue to follow Jesus and His Word with all your hearts.

  9. RobertJ says:

    (Rich Note: RobertJ posted his comment below on another page, and I relocated it here since this post was a more appropriate context.)

    Rich, Great service your providing in beginning to allow the Light to shine in the various “ministries” out there and in particular KCM. I was involved in the WordFaith “denomination” for 25 years under a Rhema grad pastor. Toward the end of 2003 the Lord told me I would enter a period of personal change that was greater than that which took place when I was first saved. Wow I thought… but that word truly kept me “anchored” over the next several years as my entire paradigm shifted. Anyway information began coming concerning the world we live in and finally in late 2006 and into 2007 I realized that either the church leadership was extremely ignorant or they were intentionally hiding the true state of our country and world. One Sunday our pastor came back from a conference and talked about how God was “moving” in that some guy was handing out new suits to all the “preachers”. Well that was pretty much the last thing I needed to hear. All I can say Rich is what you’re saying here in this blog is just scratching the surface and not limited to any particular organized religion. In fact you may be too cautious. It may be time to shout it from the rooftops. The whole system is corrupt and designed to keep God’s people in the dark penned up so to speak and yes men for the world’s system. Seems we need to be the voice crying out in the wilderness and there are quite a few- more than we think as Elijah found out. (More be with us than with them!!)

    • Visitor says:

      If you mean what I think you mean by this (“… concerning the world we live in and finally in late 2006 and into 2007 I realized that either the church leadership was extremely ignorant or they were intentionally hiding the true state of our country and world..”), amen, I would agree 100%!!

      I’m sure you’ve seen the articles online that KC is a Freemason (has used Masonic symbols on his literature), as well as Oral Roberts (KC’s “mentor”), & Robert Schuller (has sent out Masonic double-headed eagles as love gifts, not to mention being the student par excellence of Mason Norman Vincent Peale), etc. etc. How deep does the rat’s nest go?

      First visit to this site, looking forward to reading more.

  10. Robert says:

    Hi Rich,
    My early Christian walk was feeding upon the Rhema Library back in the mid-80′s and still respect the Hagins although I do not agree Biblically with all of his teachings. Thanks for doing the excerpt on the heresy that the prosperity teaching has become. In fact, I was looking for the Midas Touch online because I had heard about Hagin Sr.’s rebuke in the book from a friend who graduated from Rhema. It amazes me that most swept the rebuke under the rug and all of my friends that go to and listen to these same preachers never knew that these ministers were ever rebuked. thanks for taking a stand. I’m a nobody (no name) kind of preacher out there who has a small listening group but I have been dealing with the fallout that many are experiencing that have followed this “Biblically-out-of-context” teaching. So many are asking me questions who have a true heart to follow God but have been misguided by these teachings and are disillusioned now.
    That’s what sad about this. Many who devoted their whole lives to this thinking have suffered shipwreck and aren’t sure what to believe now. We are definitely to serve God with our whole hearts whether we are poor or rich. God says that if a nation is right before Him, He will bless it.

    Anyhow brother, thanks for your Biblically based teaching on this subject. It’s good to find another brother who has good biblical interpretation skills and not just the Holy Spirit. You are right in your one comment above – the Word of God is the rock that we must build our spiritual foundation on. It is our SURE WORD OF PROPHECY.

    In saying all of that, the Bible says, wisdom is known by its fruit so I judge things by the Word of God and I judge teachings by the fruit it produces. A small testimony here: I had been taken advantage by a good majority of Christian business men that sat under this prosperity teaching for much of their lives. It all seemed about them. But then I got back to my Keith Green roots and realized that true Christianity is dying to self and letting Christ live through you and when people believe something so much that they take advantage of their brothers and sisters in Christ to get what they want, something is seriously wrong with that teaching. It was about 90% of the businessmen that I knew who were Christian that sat under that teaching who seemed to not think twice about stepping on others in their climb up that financial ladder. We are never told once to seek wealth but to put God first and His righteousness (Matthew 6) and that He would meet our needs if we truly left all to follow Him with our whole hearts.

    I am actually doing a discourse on the 100-fold return teaching on Youtube. If you would like to check it out let me know. I didn’t post the link on here out of respect for your readers. I do tackle this heretical teaching apologetically and what I call “common-sensically” and show how the scriptures are pulled way out of context.

    Furthermore, in saying all that I just blabbed, I really believe we need to teach the body of Christ HOW to read the Bible biblically so that they don’t fall into error in the first place. So many people get hurt because of lack of understanding of reading the Bible as a whole or they are taught God is love and no mention of His holiness and justice is ever given and people are left with a misrepresentation of who God is or as I like to call it – They create a Jesus in their minds that they are comfortable with” which is spiritual idolatry. Okay, I have blabbed too long. Thanks for your stand and keep fighting the fight.

  11. Karen Factor says:

    Rich,
    This is more of a question than a comment. I hope you can answer because I’m at a loss as to what to do. My mother has been deeply entrenched in the “prosperity gospel” for decades, especially in the heretical teachings of Kenneth Copeland. She inflicted these beliefs upon me as a child and my own true faith was derailed for many years until God delivered me from these false beliefs. I’ve tried talking about this with her and tried to lead her to those who preach the true gospel, to no avail. What can be done, after of course praying for her, to help show her the error of these teachings? Is someone like this doomed to be deceived (and possibly die and go to hell) or is there a way to help her now after she’s spent so much time being (willfully?) deceived? Any advice you can give would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for your response and may God continue to bless your ministry.

    • Karen,

      I will give the matter some prayer and see if I can elaborate more on this quick answer. But for now, let me point out that the key issue with your mother — based upon what you have told me — seems to be that she is an “idolater” according to the Bible:

      Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5, NKJV, emphasis mine)

      Idolatry can be either in the mind or with a carved image, or both. The passage above shows clearly that being motivated by covetous impulses to embrace the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” (which is NOT another Gospel, according to Galatians chapter 1) is just as much idolatry as if she bowed down to an image named “Mammon” and worshiped at some pagan alter:

      But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:23-24, NKJV, emphasis mine)

      Depending on her background, this could mean that she was NEVER actually born again, as repentance is the FIRST step in getting saved:

      First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God [i.e. put their saving trust/faith in Jesus] and prove their repentance by their deeds. (The words of the apostle, Paul, recorded in Acts 26:20, NIV, note and emphasis mine)

      And idolatry is one issue from which people have to repent in order to truly embrace the Savior by faith:

      Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:29-31, NKJV, emphasis mine)

      So based upon my initial analysis of what you have posted, you have to realize that your mother may have never been born again, and thus, is still in her sins. This means you MAY have to deal with her as an unsaved person to whom you are witnessing, and not merely as an errant Christian who has swallowed a false/distorted doctrine (i.e. you may need to treat her as you would a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness.)

      Again, my analysis here is based solely upon your brief description of the situation, so give this much prayer and see how the Lord leads you.

      In the mean time, I recommend that you go to THIS WEB PAGE and download the two audio MP3 files, Hell’s Best Kept Secret and True and False Conversion. You can make a regular audio CD from these on your computer using iTunes (available in both Windows and Mac versions at Apple.com) or simply play them on on any MP3 capable player.

      Because these two messages augment and support each other, I recommend that you listen to these two in sequence the first time. Then listen to them each again, several more times. This will help to equip you to minister more effectively to your mother. You will be able to better determine if she was ever really born again; and if not, you will be better able to minister to her within that context.

      Feel free to stop by again and post an update here using the “reply” feature under this post of mine sometime later (but do not post any information that is too personal in such a public setting, of course). In the mean time, I will give the matter some prayer and see if there is something else I many post here in addition to this first response.

      Always in Jesus,

      -Rich

  12. Mr. Buie says:

    Have you heard any of Creflo’s teaching on money and finances recently? It would seem that he he shifting to a balanced teaching. I recently heard him state that not every Christian was supposed to be millionaires. He has given $28 million back to his church as well. I’m not aware of what Copeland’s doing, but it seems that the Lord is at work in Creflo’s life and doctrine.

    • Mr. Buie,

      I have not listened to Creflo Dollar in quite a long time; but that would be great news if he has moved away from the theological errors of Copeland & company, and has begun to embrace/teach sound biblical exegesis on the subject of finances. Let us continue to pray for Creflo and his people that this trend will take them firmly into solid theological foundations on ALL important Bible subjects—the Gospel itself being the most primary, of course.

      As far as Kenneth Copeland goes, I do not yet see any move on their part towards biblical repentance and a change in either their behavior OR doctrine. Their influence on other ministers seems to be slipping quickly, however, and THAT is certainly a good thing. As more and more of their frauds/deception become public (in-part, due to our own KennethCopelandBlog.com project) it seems that both donors and “preacher buddies” are distancing themselves from KCM. Good for them.

      The recent cutbacks in KCM’s major budget items, such as their Sunday broadcast schedule and payroll, have also highlighted the fact that what they preach does NOT work as advertised. In fact, KCM and the Copeland family never even tried to live the way the teach others. They have always lived by exorbitant salaries and other financial “perks,” which were all paid-for by mainly (either directly or indirectly) by unsuspecting (and overly-trusting) donors and the sales of KCM’s errant teaching products (e.g. books, tapes, DVDs, CDs, etc.).

      In the light of today’s economic trouble, many former Copeland “preacher buddies” (including Creflo) may be waking up to the true nature of his mentors’ character and business practices. The “bills” are just not getting paid anymore when “prosperity preachers” preach the tripe they once did, and that surely has to have an effect on how Creflo and others view those errant teachings today. Again, if Creflo Dollar (and others) are getting back to sound biblical doctrine in these areas, that would be a marvelous thing indeed.

      Thank you for the “heads up” on this topic. I will check into Creflo’s present ministry practices/teaching within a few weeks to see what changes there are of which I can take notice.

      In the mean time, let me encourage you to check back here to my blog (and/or to sign up for our Feedburner™ automatic email notifications powered by Google) because I will be announcing the launch of a brand-new financial website VERY soon (perhaps as early as this week, Lord willing). Once that site is launched, and you have a chance to review a significant portion of the content thereon (which I am writing now), then I would be honored if you would post your own review thereof within these comments here (and there too, if you would like).

      Thanks again for stopping by and giving us the update on Creflo Dollar.

      Always in Jesus,

      -Rich

    • grant says:

      ive never once heard creflo preach the real gospel. its hard for a rich person to get into Heaven the Lord says. the people i know who make 100,000 or more and millions of dollars give 90% away. i refuse to make over 40,000 a year and i am still terrified because that makes me rich compared to the rest of the world.

      my advice. drop creflo and listen to francis chan on the topic. how can we justify making hundreds of thousands of dollars when people are dying? an apartment, food, water, and a cheap car should be enough. where is the rest of our money going. NO ONE SHOULD BE BRINGING IN OVER 100K A YEAR. IF you make a million, give 900,000 away. creflos fruits make show him to be one of the wolves that will have his place in the lake of fire. only God knows his heart, but his fruits biblically show he is a heretic more concerned with money and temporal things than eternal things. we are called to suffer! let us suffer together!! what has Christ cost you? let us rejoice and give our worthless money away as a display of faith in or Lord that paper is worthless to us, but Christ is a treasure.

      • Grant, I deleted your other long comment because it was (1) too long (i.e. I am the only one who has the prerogative to post long comments on this website…chuckle); (2) had too many typos and confusing statements; (3) it had too many theological errors; (4) it would have taken too long for me to properly respond to it; and (5) I have already addressed those points with sound theology and logic upon this page within other comments, so it would waste my time to address it again.

        However, I am letting this comment of your above post, as I can reply a bit more quickly than the other (and it fits into the topic of this page better). ;)

        I agree with you that people need to turn a “deaf ear” to Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, and all the other religious frauds out there. What they teach is NOT biblical, as Demise of the “Prosperity Gospel” post clearly explains on my own EconomicTheology.com website. I can also agree with you that those who are blessed by God to possess material wealth should be generous toward funding the Gospel and helping the poor and needy. I can also agree with you that spiritual matters are FAR MORE important than material matters. Lastly, I can also agree with you that “paper money” is intrinsically worthless (though I think my position on that subject is a bit more broad than your own).

        However, that is about as far as our agreement can go at this point…

        You seem to have the mistaken idea that spiritual and material things are mutually exclusive. In other words, you seem to think that one cannot be “spiritual” if they also happen to be materially blessed. The Lord Jesus said it was hard for those “who trust in riches” to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. That was His clarifying explanation. Poor and rich people alike have that problem.

        Consider this: What are material things, except something that God Himself created? If He created them, then they must be intrinsically good, and not bad. It seems to have never occurred to you that when you condemn material wealth categorically, you condemn God’s creation. Is that wise? I think not.

        Grant, it is apparent that you have been poorly taught by somebody. You really need to study more on these topics. A couple of things come to mind to illustrate that fact:

        First, the Bible says very clearly that a “good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (i.e. grandchildren, see Proverbs 13:22). Unless you get busy making more than $40,000 a year, I do not see how you are going to pull that off. The Bible also says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8, KJV). So if you are married, you have an obligation to your wife and children (and parents, if they are in need) to provide for them. If you refuse to go beyond a meager income, you are not being “spiritual,” you are actually being quite stupid and cruel to your family. You are “worse than an infidel” the KJV version says. You are certainly not demonstrating yourself to be a “good man” either, as you are not presently on track to leave an inheritance to another generation.

        Furthermore, you made this statement:

        how can we justify making hundreds of thousands of dollars when people are dying?

        To answer that question, let me cite from Chapter 7: Compounding Labor Compounds Wealth of my Organic Economics™ online book:

        Again we see how that honest free trade can promote the general prosperity of all direct and indirect participants of each transaction, and even benefit society as a whole—even through a labor compounding investment vehicle like stock investing.

        Thus, those who accuse capitalists, business owners, and corporations, as being “oppressors” of the poor or as being “hindrances” to a prosperous society, have no idea how the world really functions according to God’s “organic” laws of economics (much less any accurate understanding of the Scriptures themselves).

        In the light of what we have studied within our Organic Economics™ series so far, my statement above should be quite self-evident. However, referring to our patriarch Abraham one more time, let us examine one quick illustrative Bible citation. Note what the Lord told the man would happen if he served God wholeheartedly, and followed His ways:

        The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

        (Genesis 12:1-3, NIV, emphasis added)

        The Lord told Abraham (then Abram) that He would first bless him, and then that blessing would overflow into the lives of others. This is a very Organic™ principle from Scripture to note also in the light of what we just discussed:

        Corporate Prosperity: The total wealth and prosperity of any group of people is composed of the sum of the individuals’ wealth and prosperity. When individuals are blessed by God—and allowed to prosper by their fellow men and governments—they will increase the aggregate prosperity of the entire community as well. On the contrary, when the wealth and prosperity of individuals is diminished by government intervention and/or social disruption, the aggregate condition of the community will suffer both directly and indirectly.

        If just one person in a community increases financially, would he or she not buy goods and services with that money as well? If they typically will, then would not those other people/businesses prosper as a direct result of the first person? And if they will, would not their own windfalls then be spent with other people/businesses, who would then benefit as well? Though the “ripple effect” measurement diminishes the farther away we take this example from the original person, the fact that both direct and indirect “blessing” comes to others through the first person’s blessing should seem very elementary to understand.

        Of course, that is just one short citation from an entire online book (which is still developing, but is currently available up to chapter 11). That entire teaching will help you understand that those who choose to prosper GOD’S WAY (i.e. I am excluding religious cons, such as the televangelists) are in a far better position to bless their communities than those who do not. So in short, you are likely handicapping your own ability to help those who are “dying” all over the world, because your entire understanding of material things is flawed.

        Next, let me point out your statement:

        i refuse to make over 40,000 a year and i am still terrified because that makes me rich compared to the rest of the world.

        So you are afraid of money? Let me encourage you that if you are a genuine Christian, you need to get free from that fear. John wrote clearly, “Perfect love casts out fear, because fear has torment” (study 1 John chapter 4). And if you are “terrified” by making money, you are not helping anybody in true biblical love.

        Thus, let me summarize:

        (1) I am concerned for you (and your family) because your position is entirely fear-based, and thus, not biblical. Though you seem to imply that you have more “love” for the poor and needy than a rich person does, your fear about getting any money (i.e. so you can actually help them) reveals that you are not walking in true agape love according to the Scriptures. And the likelihood of you ever getting money is remote, because you seem to be afraid you might loose your salvation over it.

        (2) I am concerned for you (and your family) because your position is entirely selfish. You are not thinking about the poor and needy who are “dying” out there. You are thinking about yourself! Your fear-based comments betray that your entire focus is on you, and not other people. You are also not thinking about your family (if you are married) much less subsequent generations who are due an inheritance from you according to the Bible.

        (3) I am concerned for you (and your family) because not only is your position is unbiblical over all, but it also pre-judges others who may be both wealthy AND generous. Thus, again, you are not walking in biblical love but mere religiosity and pride.

        (4) I am concerned for you (and your family) because your position reveals that you understand very little about both money (from a biblical perspective) and theology (in general).

        So again, I recommend you do some more study on these topics from a source OTHER than whoever you have been listening to recently. Please consider starting with the aforementioned online book because it is FREE, and is very comprehensive on these topics.

        Always in Jesus,

        -Rich

  13. GaryM says:

    Rich,

    While I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish, you seem to rush to judgement about people’s salvation.

    Please remember that simple faith in Christ is all that is necessary to be saved. Once born-again, we are to let that new nature work its way out to the outside so that others can see.

    Paul told the Corinthians that the man sleeping with his father’s wife (his step mom) was still saved but was to be shunned so that he would repent of this action–not so that he would get saved.

    Again, I appreciate what you are doing here but let’s not rush to judge anyone’s salvation. If they have believed in Christ, they are saved.

    As far as habitual sins are concerned, the scripture states in the original Greek that the one born of God sinneth not. While most commentators seem to think that this means present tense, progressive action, the scripture says “does not sin”…period.

    I believe that a better understanding of this verse is that our spirits do not sin after conversion. We sin from our soulish and fleshly areas. This understanding better accords with scripture and the original Greek.

    As an example, if anyone is overweight then they must not be saved. Why? Because being overweight is from over-eating and to over eat is not something that happens all at once. It happens as a continuous and progressive act. By some analysis it could be said that any who are overweight are headed to hell.

    I hope you see the problem with this particular exegetical viewpoint.

    • GaryM,

      I appreciate your desire to see things done biblically and in proper order. However, I cannot agree with your exegesis as stated. It fails to take into account numerous passages of Scripture which blatantly teach contrary to what you have proposed.

      First, “simple faith in Christ” is NOT all that is necessary to be saved. Use this link to see how many times the words “repent” and “repentance” are used in the NT with regard to being saved, and pay special attention to what Paul said was the very essence of his Gospel presentation:

      First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20, NIV, emphasis added)

      And note how he actually expressed this truth within one of his public Gospel presentations:

      In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30, NIV, emphasis added)

      Regarding your point about not judging the salvation of others, let’s begin by taking note of the fact that Jesus explained that within God’s Kingdom, there are “wheat” but also “tares” (Mat. 13:24-29, 36-43); “good fish” but also “bad fish” (Mat. 13:47-50); “sheep” but also “goats” (Mat. 25:31-46); “wise virgins” but also “foolish” ones (Mat. 25:1-13). And according to Jesus Himself, there will be some VERY shocked “church people” who will find themselves in Hell:

      “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven… And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Mat 7:21-23 excerpt)

      Further, the citation above from Matthew 7 follows immediately after our Lord’s warning about “wolves in sheep’s clothing”:

      Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20, NIV, emphasis added)

      Throughout the Gospels, Jesus regularly referred to His people as “sheep” (as He did by His Spirit in the OT writings of the prophets as well). Yet, in this passage He discusses a group who LOOK like sheep on the outside (using His metaphor of clothing) but “inwardly” they were actually NOT sheep at all, but “ravening wolves!” The Greek word translated “ravening” in this passage is harpax (Strong’s #727) and it can also mean an “extortioner, a robber” (Thayer’s Lexicon). Paul wrote by the Spirit to the Corinthians about such people:

      Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NKJV, emphasis added)

      So according to Jesus, there are self-serving “wolves” who are robber (thieves) and extortioners in their hearts. Jesus continued His message in Matthew 7 saying such people as this will hear Him say, “I never knew you, depart from me you who work lawlessness.” Paul confirmed that such people are NOT saved in 1 Corinthians above by the Holy Spirit. And according to the Lord Himself we are to “know them by their fruits” to discern such “wolves” from the true sheep of God’s flock.

      John, the beloved apostle, also emphasized the need to discern and distance ourselves from all false-Christians (i.e. tares, bad fish, goats, foolish virgins, wolves) in ALL three of his epistles. In 1 John in particular, he emphasized this fact repeatedly, and even made it the prime point of what we call “chapter 3″ of his letter.

      So you are very mistaken. Biblically, we are clearly admonished as to the existence of unsaved false-converts in our midst, how to detect them, and even that we should avoid such people (e.g. 1 Corinthians chapter 5 and elsewhere). We even have Paul naming names within his epistles to Timothy. So, though I am sure you are sincere, you are also very mistaken.

      Even logically, your point does not even make sense. Why would the Bible tell us so much about unsaved people masquerading as Christians if we are to do NOTHING about it? Further, if we are to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel,” should that not also apply to potentially unsaved people sitting in our pews thinking they will go to Heaven when they die? If it does, then why on earth would you advise we NOT discuss the potential need for the Copeland family (and others like them) to get saved? Should we not care if they go to Heaven? So not only biblically, but even logically, your position is untenable.

      Similarly, your understanding of the Greek tense of the passage you cite from 1 John 3 is flawed. The Amplified Bible brings that passage out best when it explains:

      No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him--deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].

      Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness [who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action, living a consistently conscientious life] is righteous, even as He is righteous.

      [But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done].

      No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.

      By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God's will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow believer in Christ). (1 John 3:6-10, AMP)

      Practice makes perfect. Truly born-again people have the nature of God in their recreated spirits, and they inwardly crave to please the Father. Thus, they practice righteousness. They make mistakes (as anyone practicing an instrument or new skill might) but they repent, pick back up, and begin practicing righteousness once again.

      Those who are NOT genuine Christians, however, still have the nature of the devil lodged within their spirits, and they CANNOT practice anything else but sin. Jesus said it quite plainly when He stated to a group, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (John 8:44, NKJV).

      So the Bible itself, throughout the New Testament, makes it very clear: There are genuine Christians, and there are false converts. Of this latter group, some are unaware of this fact and we need to evangelize them just as much as the lost people outside the church doors. Others are “wolves” who seek to “devour” others for their own personal gain. And again, we need to try and evangelize them also.

      Still others are “false brethren” of which Paul explained, “…false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves” (Galatians 2:4, NIV). And this fact brings me to my last point:

      Formerly within the Soviet Union (home of the KGB)—and even within China, the Middle East, and other parts of the world today—believers were smart enough to know that they did NOT have the luxury of assuming everyone in the pews were saved. They knew full-well that they may be sitting next to a government spy, who would “get to know them” in order to have them arrested later. They could not afford, as you wrote above, “not rush to judge anyone’s salvation.” Actually, if they FAILED to test and judge the person they were talking to, they knew they might end up in a gulag labor camp (or worse) sometime later.

      Thus, in closing, you point is well-intended, I am sure. But I hope you now realize how utterly unbiblical, illogicaland even unsafe—your stated position really is. Please give this some prayer and study, and may the Lord illuminate you in this important matter.

      Always in Jesus,

      -Rich

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