Many of us have seen the Piper video where he expresses his disdain for the “Prosperity Gospel.” But perhaps many are like myself, who do not know the precise theological foundation of this despised message that is sweeping through many developing nations. Since we are going to be ministering in one such nation, I have decided to read the book La Théologie de la prospérité to better understand the underlying beliefs that fuel the Prosperity Gospel (and as an exercise in reading French of course). Thus, we will seek to understand the claims of this gospel in our first blog post, followed by a post that examines these claims biblically.
Prosperity theologians teach that:
Salvation = Forgiveness of sins + Health and Wealth
Just as forgiveness of sins is guaranteed because of Christ’s death, so are good health and riches promised to the believer through the cross.
The Scriptural support used to bolster the claim of good health is found in Isaiah 53:5:
“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
Based on this verse, one is healed from physical diseases because of the chastisement of Jesus. So, just as the believer can go to sleep each night, reassured that Jesus was crushed for his transgressions, he can equally rest assured knowing that Jesus died to release him from any threat of cancer. Not only does the Christian have his health secured through the cross of Christ, but he also is able to inherit riches through the cross. Galatians 3:14 promises that, “In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles.” And what are the blessings of Abraham? Deuteronomy 28:3-6 and 11 explains,
“Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out…And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you.”
Through Jesus, the blessing of a healthy pregnancy, abundant harvests, large quantities of food, and abounding prosperity is granted to those who believe. So, as a believer, these blessings are as certain as my standing faultless before God in Christ.
So if these blessings have been purchased for me, how can I see them in my daily life?
Forgiveness, Health, Wealth are Realized through Faith
Faith expressed through the spoken word serves as an activator that loosens blessings that have already been purchased by Christ. This idea is supported by Mark 11:23-24 which says,
“Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
In Christ, the Christian has the right to claim what is already his, namely health and wealth. Thus the man in the pew can claim “In Christ, I am forgiven!” along with “I declare in the name of Christ that I will get a new car this year” and “I command you, cancer, to leave my sister’s body right now.” Some believe that the very spoken words contain in themselves power since they are what release the blessing. And if there is a lack of healing or financial blessing, the problem is not with the cross of Christ or the benevolence of God, but the problem is rather that the faith of the beliver is too weak to access the blessings.
Another stipulation to financial blessing is one’s commitment to giving to the Lord. Jesus promises to give “100 fold” to those who invest in the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:29-30). Thus the formula is as follows: if one gives $1 to the Kingdom, he is promised to receive $100 in return. And if there are not marks of financial blessing in one’s life, one can assume it is not because God is stingy but rather because the believer is.
And the Christian can, and should, experience all of the physical and material blessings bought by Christ now because the Kingdom age was brought about with Jesus’ coming to Earth.
The “Already” Without the “Not Yet”
King Jesus entered this world as a baby and went around Israel proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand. His entrance into this universe brought in the fullness of his Kingdom and all who follow him receive all the wealth, joy, and privileges of the Kingdom in this life now. There is no need to wait for all things to be made new, because Jesus already made everything new on the cross. Jesus declared “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Can one really live an abundant life in poverty? Or while suffering from a physical disease? No, certainly this is not the abundant life that Jesus promised.
Because of Jesus, those who believe can be assured that they have access to the abundant life which consists of heath, financial blessing, and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus stands at the door and knocks and all those who open it with the key of faith will certainly receive all these blessings right away.
Is this what the Bible teaches? Or is this a little bit of truth stripped from its context to support a message other then what Jesus taught? To be continued…