THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL

Question: “What does the Bible say about the prosperity gospel?”

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Answer: In the prosperity gospel, also known as the “Word of Faith,” the believer is told to use God, whereas the truth of biblical Christianity is just the opposite—God uses the believer. Word of Faith or prosperity theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wills. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables the believer to do God’s will. The prosperity gospel movement closely resembles some of the destructive greed sects that infiltrated the early church. Paul and the other apostles were not accommodating to or conciliatory with the false teachers who propagated such heresy. They identified them as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them.

Paul warned Timothy about such men in 1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11. These men of “corrupt mind” supposed godliness was a means of gain and their desire for riches was a trap that brought them “into ruin and destruction” (v. 9). The pursuit of wealth is a dangerous path for Christians and one which God warns about: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (v. 10). If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. But He did not, preferring instead to have no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20) and teaching His disciples to do the same. It should also be remembered that the only disciple concerned with wealth was Judas.

Paul said covetousness is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5) and instructed the Ephesians to avoid anyone who brought a message of immorality or covetousness (Ephesians 5:6-7). Prosperity teaching prohibits God from working on His own, meaning that God is not Lord of all because He cannot work until we release Him to do so. Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not submissive trust in God; faith is a formula by which we manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. As the name “Word of Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts.

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A favorite term in the Word of Faith movement is “positive confession.” This refers to the teaching that words themselves have creative power. What you say, Word of Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your confessions, especially the favors you demand of God, must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer (as though man could require anything of God!). Thus, God’s ability to bless us supposedly hangs on our faith. James 4:13-16 clearly contradicts this teaching: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Far from speaking things into existence in the future, we do not even know what tomorrow will bring or even whether we will be alive.

Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it. Believers, especially leaders in the church (1 Timothy 3:3), are to be free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5). The love of money leads to all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus warned, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). In sharp contrast to the Word of Faith emphasis on gaining money and possessions in this life, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The irreconcilable contradictions between prosperity teaching and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
Source ; gotquestions.org

AQS – #5 The Unknown

Answering Questions Series #5

Some may deem it embarrassing, others may turn red, but yet still, a few may make an attempt and may cause more harm than good. We will term it as the NO ANSWER QUESTIONS.

The most knowledgeable teacher will face this type of question, if you haven’t yet faced it; it simply means perhaps real tough questions aren’t coming your way.

We term it as No Answer Questions not because the questions have no answer, but rather because the teacher has no knowledge of the answer (at that moment).

Honesty is a virtue all teachers must teach and practice and portray to students, and as Bible teachers, even much honesty is expected of us. We should not be red faced or embarrassed if we are asked a question we have no knowledge about.

Example: “How old was Adam when Eve was created?
Even though the answer to the question above is not recorded in scripture, Bible teachers should find pleasure in honestly telling the enquirer “I honestly don’t know the answer to that question, but now that you’ve asked, we can both find out together.”

Accepting you are ignorant and being ready to learn can actually be a badge of honour and it portrays humility on the part of the teacher rather than trying to answer a question you have little or no knowledge on.

The Bible states emphatically that only God is all-knowing , and Bible teachers accepting their ignorance only proves they are human and affirm the Biblical truth of God’s divine attribute of omniscience.

AQS – #4 Between Morality & Decency

Answering Questions Series #4

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Questions on morality and decency can also be dicey to deal with. Some argue the issue of morality is relative, so one cannot clearly draw a line between right and wrong. What people actually mean in this context is decency being relative, not morality.

God has given Christians a standard for good moral living through the Bible. Secondly, morality exists because of the nature of God, and men were created in God’s image, hence have the ability to express certain aspects of His nature (though not in the perfect sense).

The universal law written on the tablets of men’s hearts can be termed the Universal Moral Law (Romans 2:15). Men from different races and cultural backgrounds and faiths have always agreed to a large extent that injustice, murder, theft, corruption, wickedness, adultery, breach of contract, dishonesty, false witnessing and unfaithfulness etc are objectively wrong. The standard of morality is not as relative as some may make it seem. Due to all humans being created in God’s image, we are all born hardwired with a sense of right and wrong.

What culture and society actually affects is “decency”. For example:
-How long should a ladies skirt be?
-How much of a woman’s body is acceptable when exposed in public?
-Is a man allowed to have long hair or wear earrings?
-Are ladies allowed to wear trousers?
-How much of a woman is a man allowed to hold if they are not married?

The questions continue in an endless array…

These questions do not directly attack objective morality, but rather decency which seems to have a unique link to morality. Decency is highly relative and answering such questions demands a lot of care and wisdom from God.

In some African cultures, ladies only cover their breasts when they are married. They wear scanty clothes to cover their private parts and walk around topless and are not ashamed because that is their culture, to them, they are decent. But this case is not the same for the Middle Eastern lady who is expected to cover up fully, leaving just her eyes. In extreme cases, the eyes also have a veil which allows little light enough to make her see.

With the issue of long hair and earrings for men, in some cultures, it is accepted and decent, in others, it is frowned upon. Men of Scottish decent wear the kilt which to many, may resemble a ladies skirt. Some Christian denominations do not permit ladies to wear trousers, but others do, others do not allow would-be couples to go out on dates, not to talk of holding hands and going for a walk.

Questions of decency have a very relative perspective from culture to culture, and in answering such, we ought to take into account the traditions of the people in question and the motives for having such standards. But on the other hand, questions of morality and Christian living are clear cut in the Bible and we are advised to look no further for answers. But if perhaps the one who asks does not believe in the credibility of the scriptures, you can appeal to his heart and conscience (if he/she will be honest enough), and you will realize all men are hardwired to have a sense of right and wrong because we were created in the image of God whose very essence and nature is the ultimate good.

AQS – #3 Trivial Questions

They do not touch the strings of central Christian doctrinal truth. They do not mar the perfect image of grace painted by the great master artist and neither do they concern the central theme of the ancient contemporary word ever true. We will term them as Trivial Questions.

Trivial Questions are quite broad because trivial may sound relative. How could you term a question as trivial when to the enquirer, he/she is honestly seeking answers? It is perfectly true not to judge ones question as trivial no matter how ignorant or irrelevant it may sound. To be on a safer side, let’s assume our term “trivial” describes the questions not directly related to the central theme of scripture. (God’s work of reconciliation through the ages, finished through Christ).

Examples of such questions are;
-Where did Cain get his wife?

– Is it right to celebrate Christmas?

-Is the Sabbath Saturday or Sunday, and are we still to keep it?

-Will Judas Iscariot be saved?

…And many others.

Most a times, trivial questions may be as a result of doctrine based on culture/precepts of men, or scriptural connotations readers may arrive at if much care is not taken.

In the case of Cain’s wife, one may easily conclude there may have been other humans created aside the first man Adam, but the Bible does not support that theory (Romans 5:12, 5:19). The account of Genesis where this problem arises is due to “generational narration” of events rather than “chronological narration”. Adam is said to have had other sons and daughters after Seth (Gen 5:4), and it is reasonable to conclude Cain met a relative in some time in the future (sister, niece, or grandniece etc) judging from how long they could live and also how far they could wander in those times.

With issues on Sabbaths, ceremonies and observed holidays, it is indeed true that the Jewish Sabbath is on Saturday and Jesus actual birth date is not known, but the scripture is clear in Colossians 2:16 “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:”

Let us endeavor to uphold the truth of the gospel of grace. Above all, let us proclaim Jesus Christ the author and perfecter of our faith and help others focus and keep their eyes on Him who makes all things fall in place.

Stay blessed.

PS: Your comments are very much welcomed.

AQS – #2 Tricky Questions

Answering Questions Series #2
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In this series, another set of questions posed to Bible teachers or study leaders will be discussed. We will term them as tricky questions.

Tricky questions mostly have the motive of either trapping the teacher in his words, or the enquirer seeking a way to justify his/her self-righteousness or unrighteousness. Jesus was one major target of tricky questions.

Eg; The woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-6), issue of paying tax to Caesar (Matt 27:17-21), issues on Sabbaths and Jewish rituals.

All of the above and more sought to put Jesus in a corner or trick Him with His own words. Other instances, men sought to justify themselves by asking certain questions. The key to answering tricky questions is WISDOM from God’s Holy Spirit. It takes God’s Holy Spirit to reveal the hidden motives in men’s hearts and to answer with wisdom that cannot be refuted. James advices that we ask God for wisdom, because he gives it freely without partiality (James 1:5)

Some modern day tricky questions include
-If we are saved by faith and not works, then my works do not matter, do they?
-Faith alone cannot save, your works must also count, right?
-Why would an all loving God allow such evil in this world? It’s either He is weak, or He simply doesn’t exist or?
-What is wrong with kissing? The Bible even says we should greet each other with a holy kiss.

In the examples stated above, teachers are advised to look beyond the question and probe into the hidden motive for asking such a question. Let us not tread on the edges of the temptation that all those out to ask tricky questions have “evil motives”. Some may simply not know the motives in their heart and God may shine light on their hearts through the wisdom He will speak through you.
First and foremost, we are saved by GRACE (Eph 2:8) , faith is just the medium or pipe through which grace flows to us. Faith in itself does not safe, neither works. One who downplays the power of grace to save through faith in Christ may seek to justify his self-righteousness, and one who downplays the power grace has to produce “good works” through faith , may simply seek to continue living a passive life and claim a “grace” he may not really understand. Genuine faith in Christ has the power and potency to transform lives positively through the grace He gives.

With the problem of evil, God is not the creator of evil because He is the “Ultimate Good” (Matt 19:17). “Evil” actually exists because of the existence of God. If there was no God, no one can have a standard to say “this is right” or “this is wrong”. Who set the standard? God, and because standards have been set, free moral beings with free will (men) can CHOOSE to deviate from it. God has a solution for evil (Jesus Christ), and Peter advises us not to take God’s slackness in judgment as weakness but rather as His patience, not desiring that any should perish (2 Pet 3:9). Think about it, the real evil is in the “hearts of men” (YOU and ME) . If God really wants to “deal” with evil, He would simply wipe out humanity. It would also be on a good note to make the one posing the question realise the problem has never been with God, but rather with men. Christ is the first step in solving the problem of evil, and that step, God has taken.

-Kissing the cheek and feet as a form of greeting and respect was a culture in ancient Bible times and even in some middle eastern parts of our world today. The issue is really not about the kissing, but about LUST and sexual gratification outside the recognized union of MARRIAGE. If you can kiss or fondle someone you aren’t married to without having any emotion of LUST (which is highly impossible), then go ahead. But if the act may lead on to something graver and may stir lust in you, don’t start in the first place, you may only end up seeking to justify your wrong.

Comments are very much welcome.

To be continued…

AQS – #1 Logical Impossibilities

Answering Questions Series
#1
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One major challenge teachers face all over the world is the challenge of answering questions.

Jesus faced it several times, and as bible study leaders and teachers, we face this challenge too.

One type of challenging questions we would highlight are what are termed logical impossibilities

Examples are:
-“Can God do wrong?”
-“Can a man believe in Jesus and not be saved?”
-“Can a man have an intimate relationship with Christ and not be transformed ?
-“Will the devil ever be saved?”

Such questions are termed logical impossibilities because to ask such a question in itself is to defy logical reasoning.

For example, to ask if a circle has sides like a square OR to ask if you can cut down a tree and it will still be standing OR can a mango seed germinate into a tomato plant?

In such cases, teachers need not ‘scratch their heads‘ to look for ‘loose ends‘ or ‘loop holes‘ in the answers they already know.

It is best to bring out the logical error in the person’s question and ask for a rephrasing if the person so pleases.

Eg: God is the Ultimate Good. He is the never changing and unerring ‘standard’ of the cosmos. To ask if God can be wrong is to ask if a metre rule can be measured out and found to be half a metre. Impossible! A metre rule is one metre, where ever and how ever you measure it. It can never be any more or less a metre (if it changes not) … so the question is a logical impossibility.

Again, to ask if a man can believe in Jesus and not be saved is a violation of scripture (He who believes in Him shall be saved).

Do not bother finding out meanings of the word ‘believe‘ or ‘saved’, etc. They are basic English words well understood.

To seek loop holes in the TRUTH in a sense is to doubt the truth. Truth is true, even though you can convince yourself otherwise, it still won’t make it false.

Realising questions that are logical impossibilities helps Bible teachers/study leaders answer certain questions with more ease and humility by letting the one making the enquiry realise what he/she seeks to find out about simply cannot be.

In all things, let God’s Holy Spirit be our guide and giver of wisdom, because logic is the result of God’s reasoning and not a creation/fabrication of man to try to explain an unknown world. 🙂

The series continues another time…