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The False Gospel of Word of Faith
by David A. DePra
The Word of Faith heresy, popular on Christian television today, and popularized by Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, Fred Price, Jesse Duplantis, Creflo Dollar, Rod Parsley, Paula White, Paul Crouch, and others, has probably done as much damage to the church as any in the last 50 years. And now there is a new generation of young leaders who have bought into this error without even realizing what they are doing. And they will likely embellish it. We need to see what lies at the root of this heresy so that we might steer clear of it, or expose it.
The Word of Faith heresy has many dimensions – many false teachings about the Redemption, and many false teachings about Christian living. For example, many Word of Faith proponents teach that if you, "plant a seed of money into a ministry," that God will give you a big harvest. That false teaching is probably the one that is the most visible one today. And there is also the teaching that God guarantees divine healing, and also the claim that it is always God’s will for you to possess wealth. But I am not going to take the time to discuss each of these here, as they are discussed in other places in this book. For this chapter, I want to talk more about the CORE HERESY of Word of Faith – the heresy upon which all the above mentioned are based. That core is the principle of spiritual authority – that is, the misuse and misappropriation of spiritual authority.
Those who teach the Word of Faith heresy rightly state that Adam had all authority given to him – dominion over the earth being the biggest part of that. But he lost it through sin. Now -- ALL authority has been won back by Jesus Christ. He possesses ALL authority. But it is at this point that things go astray. They go on to say that since we are fellow-heirs with Christ that we also have that same authority and the same power to do what He is able to do. That authority supposedly includes creating what we want by our words, and commanding wealth and health into existence. We can also bring down the enemy, and in effect, take over the world. All of this is based on their understanding – and it is an errant one – of what it means for the believer to possess the authority of Jesus Christ.
Once this error is established, it leads to the notion that God already has for you great wealth, health, and the power to do mighty works in Jesus’ name. You simply need to see it, believe it, and confess it into existence. All of this – is based on what they often call, "the authority of the believer," which is given to us through Christ.
Obviously, such error will conclude in great darkness. Indeed, the Word of Faith heresy goes far beyond a simple claim that God is sharing with us His authority. No. Rather, most all who teach Word of Faith teach that we are actually LITTLE GODS. Sure. That is just about the only place such nonsense can lead.
The Authority of the Believer
Let’s get to the core issue of the Word of Faith heresy: Spiritual authority. First, some passages from the Bible. Jesus did say that through His resurrection that all authority had been given to Him:
And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matt. 28:18)
And the Bible does teach that we are fellow-heirs with Christ, and that it is God’s will for us to sit with Christ on His throne:
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Rom. 8:16-17)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph. 2:6)
To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Rev. 3:21)
These are facts – there is an authority that we possess in Christ as believers. The Word of Faith teachers are quick to point out these facts. But that is not the problem. The problem, as is the case with ALL heresy, is what they make these facts MEAN. Not only do they teach error as to what this authority means, but they completely disregard the Word of God as to the process by which we have this authority.
So our task is clear: We must discover exactly what is the authority of the believer. Obviously, this is an important subject. But as we see the Truth about it, we will see exactly why Word of Faith is heresy.
Kenneth Copeland is one of the most highly influential Word Faith teachers today. On television awhile back he was teaching the basics of Word of Faith. This was a good opportunity to hear the whole heresy right from scratch. As he was teaching, he turned to the passage from Romans 8 that I quoted above. But he quoted only the first half of the passage, and did not even acknowledge the remainder of the verse. He read:
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…….
Copeland pointed out that since we are fellow-heirs with Christ, that we are, right now, entitled to all the authority that Christ has been given. He taught that Adam lost the original inheritance God gave him, which included dominion over the entire earth. But Christ restored all that Adam lost, and now has that dominion. And since we are joint-heirs with Christ, our entitlement is equal to that of Christ.
Now, note that Word of Faith isn’t simply talking about an inheritance that includes property. No, they include the power to command it into our possession. They say that we have, not only the RIGHT to certain things, but the MIGHT to bring it to pass. Indeed, since we are, "little gods," we can create with our words – with our, "positive confession."
Certainly there are some bits of truth to what Copeland taught. There ALWAYS ARE bits of Truth in heresy. For example, it is a fact that through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ there is a full restoration of what Adam lost. In Christ, we do possess authority over all things. But the question at that point becomes: What does that mean and how does it function? Word of Faith answers in error.
So let’s notice closely what the Bible says: The Bible says that IN CHRIST we possess all authority. And all victory. Get that: IN CHRIST. Not IN US. In other words, spiritual authority is not a THING God gives us. It is not a position we are handed. It is never power we are given to use FOR Christ. No. We never possess authority. Rather, Christ possesses US. And unless we see that this is the basis for all spiritual authority – that we first belong to Christ – we will never see the Truth on this matter.
There is another way to say this Truth: Jesus does not give us a THING called victory or authority. Rather, Jesus IS victory and authority. In effect, we will experience any victory or authority to the extent that Jesus Christ is reigning and ruling in us.
The Bible says, "You are no longer your own, you are bought with a price." (I Cor. 6:19) In other words, we don’t even have authority over OURSELVES. Therefore, how likely does it seem that God is going to give us a THING called, "power," or, "authority," and let us decide how to use it over anything else? No. Rather, we possess no functional spiritual authority at all until we first operate in the Truth that we first belong to Christ.
What this means is that until our personal relationship with Christ is established in Truth, holiness, and faith, there can be no spiritual authority. God could never trust us with it until then. In other words, until we personally COME UNDER His authority and ownership over us, His authority cannot operate THROUGH us.
We see this more clearly once we realize that spiritual authority is not a power we receive BECAUSE of Jesus Christ. No. Rather, Christ Himself IS spiritual authority -- Christ IN US is spiritual authority! There is none outside of HIM. So until we personally come under the Lordship of the Christ who is in us by the Holy Spirit, we cannot operate in spiritual authority.
Remember how we saw that Christ in us is OUR LIFE? We saw that eternal life is not a THING, or a classification. No. Eternal life is Christ in us. Well, the same Truth applies to power. Power is not a THING. Power is Christ. Sure. ALL is of Christ – Christ in us is life, light, power, authority, and Truth.
Now, what this means is that as a believer I can operate in the spiritual authority of God only to the extent that Christ is living in and through me. Sure. Spiritual authority is the life of Christ! But can we see that right away there is a big problem: Me. I must change. I must be changed from a person who serves SELF, over to a person who is moving in harmony with Jesus Christ. I must BECOME someone who God can trust.
Even in human relationships and institutions we would never give authority to someone we did not trust. We would have to trust them to do OUR will, and represent our mind. We would have to know that they weren’t going to use our authority to serve THEMSELVES, but rather, to serve US. Otherwise, we aren’t going to give them our authority. So why in the world do people think God is simply going to hand over divine authority to people who He knows are going to use it to serve themselves. For heaven’s sake, people have been using the things of God to serve themselves for thousands of years! And they are NOT given authority. Imagine if they WERE given it!
So again – if God is going to give us authority, He needs to know that we have been changed from people who no longer live for themselves, but for Him. He needs to know that we will not use His authority to serve SELF – but Him.
Now, God WILL know this, simply because it is the job of the Holy Spirit to cause us to become people who are exactly like that. In case you haven’t connected the dots, we are really talking about people who are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ – not people who merely CALL Jesus Lord, but people who are living UNDER His Lordship. Those are people God can trust.
God has a MEANS by which He uses to mold us into those sort of faithful people. It is the work of the Cross. Sure. The power of God is power of the resurrection, i.e., the life of Christ in us. But you cannot have the power of His resurrection working THROUGH YOU unless that power first works IN YOU. And the power of the resurrection cannot work in you unless you submit yourself to the death of the Cross.
This does not happen simply because you are saved. Read the epistles. There is a process necessary. I must die daily. God must deal with me – with my SELF life. Then I will be under His authority – and I will be under it with thanksgiving! If we want authority, that is the beginning.
So what we see is that The Word of Faith heresy is really a denial of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Why? Because it offers power and authority to the believer without the on-going work of the Cross.
Really, the denial of the Cross is in so much error that characterized today’s charismatic movement. They don’t deny that Jesus died for us on the Cross, or deny that this is why we are saved. But they do deny the Cross as the means by which God deals with us as Christians. Instead, they have fashioned a way AROUND the Cross – through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. They claim that through this, "second blessing," we receive the fullness of the Spirit, power and authority, and so much else. But the Bible teaches that all of these dimensions are nothing more than CHRIST IN US – His resurrection life coming to be manifested in and through us. And the Bible teaches that the MEANS by which this is made possible is through the on-going work of the Cross.
Finish the Passage
As I mentioned, Copeland did not quote all of Rom. 8:16-17. He only quoted the first part – the part I pasted above. Then he stopped. I waited and waited to see if he would quote the rest of verse 17, but he did not. He never even mentioned it. Instead, he used just that much of the verse to try to prove that if we are children of God, we inherit what Jesus inherits, and this includes all the authority to do what Jesus would do.
But let’s finish the passage from Romans 8. Paul wrote:
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…..IF SO BE that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Rom. 8:16-17)
That’s quite an omission, isn’t it? In fact, the entire meaning of the passage is changed once we read the entire passage. Now, instead of the believer being able to exercise unconditional authority simply because we are in Christ, there is a BIG CONDITION laid down. Paul gives a CONDITION to the possession and exercise of our inheritance: IF SO BE that we suffer with Christ.
Note that phrase: Suffer WITH Christ. Not, "suffer because of Him." We might have to do that too, but that isn’t what Paul is saying results in being a joint-heir with Christ. No. He says, "Suffer WITH Christ." So let’s ask: What was the primary means by which Christ suffered? Answer that and it will tell us what we must do to suffer WITH Him.
The primary means of Christ’s suffering was the Cross. Thus, can we see that Paul IS talking about the work of the Cross? Sure. But Copeland and others leave out the Cross – leave out the very MEANS by which the power of Jesus comes to be manifested through us. You NEVER hear it in their teaching. Ever. They bypass that completely, and make spiritual authority a THING God gives us apart from any necessity of us being formed together with Christ.
If Christ is in us, then sure, all the power of Christ is in us – as a potential of growth. But only as Christ comes to govern us, can His power really work through us. And the MEANS by which Christ comes to govern us is the crucifixion of the SELF life that seeks to subvert HIS rule over us! Unless this is happening in an on-going way, the exercise of true spiritual authority is impossible.
I cannot think of anything worse than a person who has developed no submitted relationship with Christ, and who has no knowledge of the Truth, and who has not himself come under the rule and governing power of the Holy Spirit – but who has been given unbridled power and authority! Do we really believe that God would make it possible for us to exercise all of His power and authority – but with no necessity of OUR submission to God Himself? What you would have are a bunch of extremely arrogant people. It would end up destroying them.
Word of Faith, and so many of the errors that are associated with it, create a system that is completely detached from a personal relationship with God. It becomes a THING unto itself. That is why, for example, that Kenneth Copeland calls faith a, "force." It is not. Faith is a relationship word – indicative of our relationship with God. But Word of Faith has taken realities like faith, speaking the Truth with your mouth, giving, healing, and so much else, and made them into laws that work for us if we do the right thing. Thus, some of these false teachers state, "You can have what you say." But there is no consideration given as to whether what we say is the will of God. They claim that since God WANTS to bless us – which IS the Truth – that all we need to do is claim our blessings, whether they be health or wealth, and confess them, and it will happen for us. No consideration is given to how this fits into our personal relationship with Christ, whether our heart is right with Him, or whether what we are trying to bring to pass might be bad for us at the present. No. In short, they made it possible for those IN the kingdom of God to operate in the benefits of that kingdom to the complete disregard of their relationship with the KING, and to the complete disregard of whether His kingdom rule in them presently allows for the things they want to bring to pass in their own will.
According to the Bible, the only people through whom spiritual authority works are those who have lost all of themselves to God’s authority. Jesus said, "You must lose your life to find it." This is a principle all through the plan of God, and we can apply it to the authority of the believer. Jesus would say, "You must lose your life to find power and authority in Christ." There is simply no other MEANS by which God has given whereby we might come into the power and authority found in Christ.
Practically speaking, this means that we have no right, or power, to do anything in the name of Christ, that Christ would not do – in our specific situation at that specific time. That means that we must discover the will of God -- we must BECOME the will of God, by submitting our whole selves to Him. We must come under HIS RULE and authority. And then – even after we do all of that – we are merely those who DO HIS WILL. We have no right to decide how to take that things of God and apply them to a given situation.
In the wilderness temptation of Christ, Satan quoted scripture and tried to get Jesus to apply the promises of God to a time, place, and situation, that was NOT God’s will. Satan continues this today. He says, "If you be a son of God, command….." I think the answer to the question as to whether we, as sons of God, have the authority to take the things of God and apply them as we please, ought to be clear. We don’t. And any suggestion that we do is right out of Satan’s handbook for deception.
Power to Become
The issue here is very simply whether we would use the things of God – authority in Christ – for our own purposes. If we would, we are not faithful. There can be no spiritual authority. If we would NOT, then we ARE faithful – but even then the authority we have remains IN CHRIST. It is not OURS. It is HIS.
But what kind of authority are we really talking about here? The authority to create with your words? To be a, "little god?" I have to be blunt in saying that if you really believe that you can create your own reality with your words because you are a little god, you are deluded. You need to return to the Person of Christ and be set free. No. The authority that we, as believers, have in Christ, is the authority of LIFE. It is the power of resurrection LIFE.
Resurrection life is power OVER sin, death, and the old creation. But don’t think of this as a static thing, as if it is a classification or a position only. No. Life is….well….ALIVE. In other words, when you were saved, you came alive. But now His life in you seeks to move and grow. The power we have been given from above is therefore the power to move, grow, and BECOME.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)
But ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
The power and authority that we have in Christ is not a power to DO THINGS – it is really the power to BECOME. His resurrection life in us wants to push out and form us together with Christ – make us living epistles. Then any DOING will simply be an extension of our union with Christ – the fact that we are living representations of His resurrection.
But again – if the power of Christ is found in His resurrection life, can we see that there is much IN US that must go the way of the Cross before His resurrection life can be manifested through us? Sure. But if you listen to false teachers like Copeland, there isn’t really anything we need to overcome to exhibit the power of Christ except our failure to believe that we can exhibit it! No. The only way in which the power of His resurrection can operate IN ME is if the power of His Cross is at work. Any other suggestion is not only error – but it is THE NUMBER ONE TEACHING OF SATAN – that we can have life without the work of the Cross. We will see this in a moment.
So, the notion that God would give people the power to DO – to exercise authority – to the disregard of their relationship to Him, or to the disregard to what they are BECOMING – is a complete distortion of everything God wants to do in His people. God wants to manifest CHRIST IN US! Christ in us. And if we would see this, and let Him, then the power of His resurrection would be there.
God has not given us authority as a THING to exercise. He gives us CHRIST IN US. Then, as Christ comes to govern us through the Holy Spirit, along with that comes power and authority. But notice what I just said: As Christ comes to govern us. Unless Christ is coming to govern us, the power of Christ cannot be released or work through us.
Only, "if we suffer with Him," that is, come under the power of the Cross; have our personal ambition and pride and self crucified, can we truly experience what it means to be a fellow-heir with Christ. There is much in us, long after salvation, that is according to the flesh. Unless that is dealt with, there can be NO spiritual authority.
A Satanic Teaching
The teaching of Word of Faith is Satanic. That might seem to be an exaggeration, but if you start reading the NT, you will find that the Word of Faith teaching is precisely what Satan offered Jesus Christ in the wilderness. He offered Him the kingdoms of the world through a short-cut, without the need of the Cross.
Later, during the ministry of Christ, Satan tried again. He tried to approach Christ through none other than the apostle Peter:
From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savor not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matt. 16:21-25)
Peter wanted the kingdom THEN, which would leave no room for a Cross. About the last thing the apostles had expected was that their Messiah had to die. But Jesus knew that a kingdom without the Cross meant a kingdom filled with people who were not saved, but who were affirmed in Adam. And Jesus likewise knew that this has ALWAYS been the goal of Satan since the fall of Adam – to legitimize and affirm man as he is, and put aside the need for repentance, and the Cross.
The gospel of self-esteem is another version of this doctrine of Satan. It is an offer of new life – not through the death of the OLD – but through the preservation, exaltation, celebration, and repair of the old. It is a denial of the work of the Cross. Indeed, the very definition of antichrist is Christ without the Cross – man as his own boss, happy, content, and totally deceived.
Jesus’ response to Peter was clear. The bottom line is that the NUMBER ONE ploy of Satan is to offer us LIFE without the Cross. He offers us a kingdom and authority without the need for US to come under God’s kingdom and authority. And today people everywhere are falling for it.
The charismatic movement has fashioned a way for Christian people to obtain POWER from God, without the Cross – just receive it in the form of a second blessing. Receive power as a THING – independent of the Person of Jesus Christ IN US. Make POWER to be the ability to DO THINGS for God, instead of a manifestation of the Person of Christ in and through us. Make yourself a, "little god," but ignore the fact that you don’t know God Himself. On the surface, it may not appear that believing in a second blessing could possibly be a denial of the Cross, or have any relation to these other errors. But the deceptions of Satan are a PROCESS. They are rarely wrapped in paper that reflects the contents.
I realize that there are millions of Christians who believe in a second blessing, but do not realize their error, and who would not dream of deliberately sidestepping the Cross, or walking in error. There are also many who believe in a second blessing but do walk under the power of the Cross. For that we can give God thanksgiving. But it is not a coincidence that where you find the teaching of the second blessing, you very often find the teachings of Word of Faith, positive confession, health and wealth, and many other errors. There is a process of deception going on here, and I believe that God would open the eyes of those who truly want Him, that they might see the Truth and be set free.
I also know that many who reject the idea of the second blessing also reject the Truth of the Cross. They haven’t fashion another way to receive power – they simply don’t acknowledge the power of Christ’s resurrection at all. To many of these, "non-charismatic," people, Christianity is a religion. They have some intellectual knowledge of the Bible, but don’t know God Himself. This too is a deception.
The only solution is to realize that Christianity is Christ in us. Christ is the power of God. (see 1 Cor. 1:24 and Rev. 12:10) And the means of the power of His resurrection is the power of His Cross.
Are We gods?
Once I accept the false notion that if Christ is in me, I automatically have both the RIGHT and the MIGHT to exercise the power and authority of Jesus, other false teaching will emerge. As mentioned, in the camp of Word of Faith, we have the teaching that you are, "a little god:"
"You are not a spiritual schizophrenic -- half-God and half-Satan -- you are all-God" (Kenneth Copeland, Now We Are in Christ Jesus (Fort Worth: KCP Publications, 1980), 16-17)
"You don't have a God in you; you are one," (Kenneth Copeland, The Force of Love (Fort Worth: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, 1987, audiotape #02-0028), side 1.)
"I say this with all respect so that it don't upset you too bad, but I say it anyway. When I read in the Bible where he [Jesus] says, 'I Am,' I just smile and say, 'Yes, I Am, too!'" (Kenneth Copeland, "Believer's Voice of Victory" broadcast on TBN, recorded 7/9/87)
"I am a little god! Critics be gone!" (Paul Crouch, PTL Program, July 7, 1986)
Somehow lost in this foolishness is the fact that Satan said to Adam, right from the start, "You shall be as gods…." But so much else of scripture is ignored that I guess the fact that they ignore that plain statement of Satan should not be surprising. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a little god. Being my own god has been my problem, and it has been yours. It is something from which I want to be set free. I have to really wonder about the spiritual condition of anyone who actually thinks that they are qualified to be a little god. I have to wonder what they think their relationship to God through Jesus Christ is supposed to be – or whether they could possibly have seen much Truth at all.
The Bible never says we are little gods. It says we are redeemed humanity – new creations IN Christ Jesus.
The belief that we are as God is usually not presented front and center in most Word of Faith teaching. It flies under the radar because those who teach it know it will offend. But they absolutely believe it. Sure. And can we see how the notion that you and I are little gods springs from the idea that WE have everything Jesus has? – just because we are Christians? It is then just a short leap to say that we ARE everything Jesus IS: God.
This is why Word of Faith states that you create by your words – they say this because GOD creates by HIS words. So, they claim, you can have what you say – whether good or bad. This nonsense used to referred to as the doctrine of, "positive confession:"
"The force of faith is released by words. Faith-filled words put the law of the Spirit of life into operation." (The Force of Faith, Kenneth Copeland, Ft. Worth: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1983).
"As a believer, you have a right to make commands in the name of Jesus. Each time you stand on the Word, you are commanding God to a certain extent because it is His Word." (Our Covenant with God, Kenneth Copeland, Fort Worth, TX: KCP Publications, 1987, 32.)
"Words are spiritual containers," (Kenneth Copeland, Forces of the Recreated Human Spirit, 15; cf. 14.)
"As a born-again believer, you are equipped with the Word. You have the power of God at your disposal. By getting the Word deep into your spirit and speaking it boldly out your mouth, you release spiritual power to change things in the natural circumstances." (Kenneth Copeland, The Power of the Tongue, 15.)
"What do you need? Start creating it. Start speaking about it. Start speaking it into being. Speak to your billfold. Say, "You big, thick billfold full of money." Speak to your checkbook. Say, "You, checkbook, you. You've never been so prosperous since I owned you. You're just jammed full of money." (Marilyn Hickey, "Claim Your Miracles" (Denver: Marilyn Hickey Ministries, n.d.), audiotape #186, side 2)
"You've got to speak it out. Your words have creative power. One of the primary ways we release our faith is through our words. There is a divine connection between you declaring God's favor and seeing God's favor manifested in your life. And some of you are doing your best to please the Lord. You are living a holy consecrated life, but you're not really experiencing God's supernatural favor. And it's simply because you're not declaring it. You've got to give life to your faith by speaking it out." (Joel Osteen, Audio clip from Bible Answer-Man Broadcast, April 26, 2004, emphasis added).
"Early in our marriage, Victoria and I were out walking through our neighborhood one day when we came upon a beautiful new home in the final stages of construction… Victoria was excited. She turned around, looked back at the home, and said, ‘Joel, one day we're going to live in a beautiful home just like that!…’ Over the next several months, she kept speaking words of faith and victory, and she finally talked me into it. She convinced me that we could live in an elegant home like the one we saw. I got rid of my limited thinking and I started agreeing with her. I started believing that somehow, some way, God could bring it to pass. We kept on believing it, seeing it, and speaking it." (Osteen, Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential, Chapter One, emphasis added).
"You can cancel out God's plan by speaking negative words. God works by laws." (Joel Osteen, "Speaking Faith Filled Words," Tape # 223. Daystar Television, May 2, 2004
Read again the quote from Joel Osteen about confessing into their possession an expensive house. Do you believe that this is possible? That this is the way God works? That you and I simply decide what we want, and because we have the authority of Christ, we can create it with our confession? Where is this – even ONCE – pictured in the Bible? Where is it – even ONCE – talked about in the Bible? You won’t find it.
If Joel Osteen really believes this to be true, then here is my suggestion to him: Start confessing money and provision into the lives of the poor and needy. Or, confess it into your own possession and give it to the poor. If you got your house that way, this should be a snap.
But ask: What might we say about Joel Osteen – a famous teacher and a best-selling author – what might we say about him because he believes and teaches this incredible error? That he is just, "mistaken," about a petty principle? That he is really a nice guy, and that no one is perfect? That he is off the mark on just this one, little thing? Actually, I think what we would have to say is that the man has a completely distorted picture of Jesus Christ, and of God’s plan and purpose. I mean, let’s be honest, if a person truly believes this rubbish, is it possible that they have received a revelation of the Truth at all?
I say NO. I say that those who teach these terrible errors are IN THOSE ERRORS precisely because they have not received the Truth! What? Are we to believe that they know the Truth, but teach error along side of it? No. They don’t know the Truth. That is WHY they are teaching error – unless you want to say they are deliberately and knowingly LYING. I’m not sure how much more obvious it could be that people who teach such error are deceived.
According to my Bible, someone who would believe such utter nonsense, and stand up and teach it to others, should not be in a position where they can teach others and damage them with heresy. My Bible says that Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Marilyn Hickey, and many others, are, at best, THEMSELVES in grave need of spiritual HELP. They need to be corrected and stopped. They need to listen, and not teach. They need to repent and be set free by the Truth. But, of course, we are way past that possibility with most of these false teachers. They have been approached, appealed to, and even publicly confronted over their teachings. Their response has been to DEFEND their error and continue in it. And they all affirm it in each other – not to mention the fact that those who send them millions every year likewise affirm their teaching. Their entire concept of faith, God, and Christianity itself, is off the track.
At the end of the day, the Body of Christ is going to produce what it chooses to produce. We are going to get the message out that we choose to get out. God WILL ALLOW THIS – whether that message is Truth or error. Right now, much of it is error. The Body of Christ, as a whole, has no one to blame but ourselves. We have either financed or affirmed these false teachers, or we have neglected to finance and affirm teachers of the Truth. Either way, we have collectively become a living message. But is it the Truth? Are we witnesses for the Living Christ?
Health and Wealth
Let’s move on. There is, of course, the teaching of Word of Faith that demands that it is always God’s will to heal, and it is always God’s will for you to be rich. Sure. If you are a little god, and have all the power of Jesus, then these things ought to be at your command:
"What you are saying is exactly what you are getting now. If you are living in poverty and lack and want, change what you are saying.... The powerful force of the spiritual world that creates the circumstances around us is controlled by the words of the mouth." (The Laws of Prosperity, Kenneth Copeland, Ft. Worth: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1974).
"If you keep talking death, that is what you are going to have. If you keep talking sickness and disease, that is what you are going to have, because you are going to create the reality of them with your own mouth. That is a divine law." (Fred Price, Realm, 29).
"The whole point is I'm trying to get you to see--to get you out of this malaise of thinking that Jesus and the disciples were poor and then relating that to you- thinking that you, as a child of God, have to follow Jesus. The Bible says that He has left us an example that we should follow His steps. That's the reason why I drive a Rolls Royce. I'm following Jesus' steps." ("Ever Increasing Faith" program on TBN (9 December 1990].)
Not only do Word of Faith teachers say that we will have what we SAY – because our authority is in our words – they say this is true even if what we say is wrong, or bad. In other words, are we to believe that we can use the authority we have in Christ to do bad things? If you really are a little god, and we do have the power to create reality with our words, then this is true – and the above quotes show that this is exactly what these people teach! But this simply takes me back to the point I’ve been trying to make: If your authority FROM Christ is a THING divorced from Christ Himself – His will and His life IN YOU – then you could operate in total error and destruction with that authority, and you will still continue to possess it. No. God wants to work in YOU. Then, any power that comes through you will be according TO CHRIST, and not according to YOU.
Somehow in all of this terrible error, these Word of Faith teachers have completely lost sight of the very MEANING and IMPACT of Christ in us. (I don’t think they ever knew the meaning.) Christ in us means change IN US. It means the work of the Cross IN US. It means being made weak in ourselves. Unless that is going on, there can be no authority flowing through us.
To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Rev. 3:21)
Once again we see that authority is contingent upon something. Jesus says it is contingent upon OVERCOMING. But overcoming WHAT?
Word of Faith teaching would say that in order to exercise the authority of Christ, we need to overcome the unbelief that would suggest we cannot exercise the authority of Christ. But the problem is, they make faith a FORCE, rather than a relationship with God. And their teaching on positive confession make believing sound more like self-brainwashing than the result of a revelation of Jesus Christ.
But Jesus is saying that IF we overcome AS HE overcame – THEN we will share His throne. But what did Jesus overcome? And HOW did Jesus overcome?
Jesus overcame this old creation – ultimately through His death and resurrection. So THAT is what WE must overcome – the old creation – and that is HOW we must overcome it. We must continually die and be raised with Him. In other words, we have to lose our lives to find His – in and through us.
this is never accomplished by confessing you have authority. It is not
accomplished by speaking right words. No. It is accomplished by picking up a
Cross and dying. You have to allow God to crucify everything about you that
would hinder His purpose in you. What will emerge is true resurrection life.
So we see that instead of God giving us authority in a way that makes us a big shot, God first crucifies all the SELF out of us, and then we are able to be trusted with His authority. But even then, it is not independent authority. No. We are seated IN CHRIST. Thus, because He is Lord over us, we operate within His will and purpose.
Jesus is Lord
Ironically, Kenneth Copeland proclaims, "Jesus is Lord," as his motto. But Jesus is only Lord because he first died on the Cross, and He is only our Lord, in a functional way, if we die on ours. That is the sole MEANS by which we are raised and seated with Christ in heavenly places – which is the seat of authority.
When in 1 John 4:1-2, John states that no one can confess that, "Jesus is Lord, "except by the Holy Spirit, he was alluding to the work of the Holy Spirit. John wasn’t saying that everyone who says those WORDS is anointed of God. Rather, John is stating that only the Holy Spirit can bring a person to a true confession of Jesus as their Lord, because only the Holy Spirit bring the believer UNDER Jesus as Lord in a real and practical way.
This is nothing more than another way of stating that Christ is in us, and the impact of Christ in us is going to be Jesus is Lord in us. The Holy Spirit is going to be in the process of tearing down every part of us that is not under Jesus as Lord – and bringing all those dimensions of our being under His governing LIFE. The CROSS is needed here. Then we will be operating, both inwardly and outwardly, according to God’s will, and as He originally intended man to live.
Can we see that unless this is happening, that the power of Christ cannot move through us? What? Do we think that the Holy Spirit has come simply to hand us a THING called the power of God?
At some point, these teachings emerge because the people teaching them have personally refused the Cross of Jesus Christ. Sure. Why else would I omit the Cross and claim I can experience all that Christ has without it? Why else would I be blind to the foundational Truth of Christianity?
Word of Faith has many dimensions and relationships with other heresy. There is the dominion theology – that teaches that Jesus won’t come back until Christians covert the world. There is the heresy of the, "latter rain doctrines," of the 1940s. I could go on. But all of them are the result of claiming the believer’s authority, all the while denying the MEANS – the believer’s responsibility to pick up his Cross daily.
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