The prosperity gospel is a very serious theological abomination and philosophical distortion that has crept into the church that is being proclaimed to the countries of the world. Because of it, Christians are being weakened, God is being dishonored and misrepresented, and souls are perishing. Prosperity theology provides a false hope, presents a failed message, and proclaims a false gospel. This week, we will again examine the prosperity “gospel” as we continue to investigate the 5 foundational theological errors of the prosperity doctrine vs. the true gospel revealed to us through scripture.
No Other Gospel Part 2
The Gospel of Christ vs. the Prosperity Gospel
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – July 23rd, 2017
(Please note: Prosperity Gospel Links and Resources can be found at the end of these notes.)
- The prosperity gospel is a very serious theological abomination and philosophical distortion that has crept in to the church and is being proclaimed to the countries of the world. Prosperity theology is one of America’s biggest exports; people are being destroyed by it, Christians are being weakened by it, God is being dishonored and misrepresented by it, souls are perishing because of it. Prosperity theology provides a false hope, presents a failed message, and proclaims a false gospel.
- We are talking about this because of responsibility and relationship
- Review – there are false gospels that have and are being proclaimed and false preachers that are proclaiming them.
- Scripture tells us we are to: Watch out for them (Matt 7:15-16), Be alert for them (Acts 20:29-31), Avoid them (Rom 16:17-19), Have nothing to do with them (2 Tim 3:1-5), Do not partner with them (Eph 5:5-7), Expose them (Eph 5:8-12)
- Definition of the prosperity gospel
What is the prosperity gospel? It is a ‘gospel’ claiming freedom from sickness, poverty, and all suffering on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross. Promising material, physical, and visible blessings for all who would embrace it, the prosperity gospel insists that God’s will is for all His children to prosper here and now.
(PROSPERITY? Seeking the True Gospel by Michael Otieno Maura, Conrad Mbewe, Ken Mbugua, John Piper,Wayne Grudem)
The prosperity gospel (also known as the “health and wealth gospel” or by its most popular brand, the “Word of Faith” movement) is a perversion of the gospel of Jesus that claims that God rewards increases in faith with increases in health and/or wealth. As Stephen Hunt explains,
In the forefront is the doctrine of the assurance of “divine” physical health and prosperity through faith. In short, this means that “health and wealth” are the automatic divine right of all Bible-believing Christians and may be procreated by faith as part of the package of salvation, since the Atonement of Christ includes not just the removal of sin, but also the removal of sickness and poverty.
Five theological errors of the prosperity gospel
The Abrahamic covenant is a means to material entitlement.
Jesus’s atonement extends to the “sin” of material poverty and promises physical healing.
- Over-reaching Eschatology – saying the benefits and rewards of the next age are to be realized and actualized in this age. Are there benefits to giving now, yes – does God do miracles now, yes. The main goal of this age is to establish the kingdom of God in our hearts and to be conformed into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). Our faith is being refined and proven genuine by various trials.
1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
- There are benefits for us now but it is not about here and now. We must have an eternal perspective. Now we serve, sacrifice and suffer while still having joy that is inexpressible. Paul puts it this way:
2 Cor 4:7-12 NIV
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.
- The first century Jews got this wrong as well, so they missed the Messiah and many are doing the same today at the hands of those who teach false doctrine.
Christians give in order to gain material compensation from God.
The driving force behind this teaching on giving is what prosperity teacher Robert Tilton referred to as the “Law of Compensation.” According to this law—purportedly based on Mark 10:30—Christians should give generously to others because when they do, God gives back more in return. This, in turn, leads to a cycle of ever-increasing prosperity.
As Gloria Copeland put it in her book, God’s Will is Prosperity, “Give $10 and receive $1,000; give $1,000 and receive $100,000. . . In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal.”
Mark 10:30 ESV
who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands,
Now let’s look at this verse in context:
Mark 10:17-31 ESV
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
- Jesus was having a conversation with a moral and wealthy man who wanted to know how he could inherit eternal life.
- Jesus ultimately always calls us to follow him, and anything that keeps us from doing so is an idol in our lives. Do we love Him more than anything else? Is he worth everything.
- Jesus did not fly in on his personal jet, drive up in his luxury car, walk up in his designer cloths and teach this man the laws of prosperity and give him a 1000 for 1 wealth building opportunity and encourage this man to sow into his ministry (they don’t even have to follow – just give).
- He told him he needed to get his heart right, get rid of his idols by giving the money to the poor (not to him) – and told him he would have treasure in heaven (not on earth) and that he needed to follow him. (these guys are not even teaching to follow Jesus – just to give to their ministries).
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
- Jesus then taught them it is difficult for those who have earthy wealth to enter the kingdom – why would he promise to give them more of what hinders them to get into the kingdom? – all of the stuff holds us back from seeing our true need.
- “for all things are possible with God” is used to justify a lot of stuff. Jesus said this in reference to the context of salvation – not for other things.
28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
- “left everything” – not gave or sold but “left” – left these things to follow Jesus (by the way Peter still owned a house – Matt. 8:14. This is talking about what we left to follow Jesus and for the Gospel – homes, and family and occupation and lands – (Areas and countries) – like missionaries and people moving for the sake of following Jesus and the Gospel
- Then we will gain – “houses” that is places to stay, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, lands (new areas)
- And then the last half of the verse: “with persecutions”, and then “in the age to come eternal life”
- So, if you leave things in this life to follow Jesus and for the Gospel, you will gain in this life, places to stay 100-fold and family 100 fold – new relationships, and new places 100-fold. This is not about giving money to them with the promise of getting 100-fold back in return. It has nothing to do with what they say it is saying.
- Actually Jesus taught to give to those who can’t give back and then you will be blessed and you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:12-14)
Faith is a self-generated spiritual force that leads to prosperity.
Whereas orthodox Christianity understands faith to be trust in the person of Jesus Christ, prosperity preachers teach something quite different. Kenneth Copeland writes in The Laws of Prosperity: “Faith is a spiritual force, a spiritual energy, a spiritual power. It is this force of faith which makes the laws of the spirit world function, there are certain laws governing prosperity revealed in God’s Word. Faith causes them to function.” This is a faulty, perhaps even heretical, understanding of faith.
Phil 3:8-9 ESV
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
- Biblical Faith is believing in Christ, to be found in Him and being declared righteous because of Him. They teach that faith is a force (like the force in star wars) that is directed at God to gain what we want (health and wealth)
- Prosperity preachers even tell us to put faith in our faith (not faith in Christ) but to believe in your faith to get what you want. Kenneth Hagin wrote on “Having Faith in your Faith”.
According to prosperity theology, faith is not a God-granted, God-centered act of the will. Rather, it is a humanly wrought spiritual force, directed at God. Indeed, any theology that views faith chiefly as a means to material gain rather than justification before God must be judged inadequate at best.
Prayer is a tool to force God to grant prosperity.
Prosperity gospel preachers often note we “have not because we ask not” (James 4:2). They encourage us to pray for personal success in all areas of life. As Creflo Dollar writes, “When we pray, believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass. . . . It is a key to getting results as a Christian.”
Prayers for personal blessing aren’t inherently wrong, of course, but the prosperity gospel’s overemphasis on man turns prayer into a tool believers can use to force God to grant their desires. Within prosperity theology, man—not God—becomes the focal point of prayer. Curiously, prosperity preachers often ignore the second half of James’s teaching on prayer: James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. God does not answer selfish requests that do not honor his name.
Creflo Dollar defines faith as a force that allows us to speak WHATEVER we desire into reality. John Piper is quick to point out that “the fallen man desires fame, riches and comfort (lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life) and therefore any message that appeals to the desires of the fallen man is not the gospel! The gospel is foolishness to the perishing
Certainly all our requests should be made known to God (e.g., Phil. 4:6), but the prosperity gospel focuses so much on man’s desires that it may lead people to pray selfish, shallow, superficial prayers that don’t bring God glory. Further, when coupled with the prosperity doctrine of faith, this teaching may lead people to attempt to manipulate God to get what they want—a futile task. This is far removed from praying “Your will be done.”
In light of Scripture, the prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed. At bottom, it is a false gospel because of its faulty view of the relationship between God and man. Simply put, if the prosperity gospel is true, grace is obsolete, God is irrelevant, and man is the measure of all things. Whether they’re talking about the Abrahamic covenant, the atonement, giving, faith, or prayer, prosperity teachers turn the relationship between God and man into a quid pro quo transaction. As James Goff noted in a 1990 Christianity Today article, God is “reduced to a kind of ‘cosmic bellhop’ attending to the needs and desires of his creation.” This is a wholly inadequate and unbiblical view of the relationship between God and man. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/5-errors-of-the-prosperity-gospel
“Man of God” theology” – Theocracy (The-oc-ra-cy)
- This is the philosophy and leadership style these people hide behind to shield themselves from critics and criticism. It silences people with bad theology and fear allowing them to continue to do what they do.
- Paul always set up elders (plural) and commended people for checking with the word to see if what they were speaking was true (the Bereans). Even the apostles confronted and challenged each other (Paul with Peter)
Questions for the ride home:
- What are some things you learned from the message this morning?
- How are these things going to shape and inform your life going forward?
- Examine closely what people are saying compared to the word. (Don’t just take their word for it)
- Keep studying
- Don’t partner or participate with this theology or people who preach it.
Prosperity Gospel Links and Resources
Prosperity Gospel Resources
This link will link you to a ton of articles and books. Start here.
What you should know about the prosperity Gospel
5 errors of the prosperity gospel
Prosperity? Seeking The True Gospel by Mbugua, Maura, Mbewe, Grudem, Piper
Book that can be downloaded for free or a bound hard copy can be purchased
John Piper resources on the prosperity Gospel