Prosperity vs. Theological Error
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:
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).
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,