Joseph Prince’s ‘Christ Became Poor to Make Us Rich’ Doctrine (2 Cor 8:9) is Debunked – By Rev George Ong (Dated 5 Dec 2021)
(This article was also sent to Rev Dr Ngoei Foong Nghian, General Secretary, NCCS office, and for the attention of the Executive Committee Members.)
In a weekly sermon aired on 28 November 2021, last Sunday, Joseph Prince said the following; please click to view excerpts in the one-minute video,
“It says clearly, ‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’; look at this verse. ‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.’ How do you explain that? It is very clear. It’s talking about the context of the cross. The only time Jesus was made poor was at the cross. One of the last things he saw was actually the soldiers, the Roman soldiers gambling for his clothes. He was made poor.”
“And the context; you cannot say the context here is that, ‘though he was rich for your sakes, He became poor, that you through His poverty might become poor?’ No, it doesn’t say that. ‘That you might become rich.’ But you say, ‘Oh Pastor this is referring to spiritual riches.’ My friend, the whole context; context is king. Never take a verse out of its context.”
In ‘Destined To Reign’, Page 283, Joseph Prince wrote,
“Similarly, you confess that you are rich not to become rich. You confess that you are rich because you are already rich through Jesus. At the cross, He became poor so that you through His poverty might become rich! (2 Cor 8:9) You confess this to be conscious that through Jesus, you are already rich.”
2 Corinthians 8:9 NIV
9 “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
Joseph Prince argues that Jesus, who was materially rich, became materially poor at the cross so that New Covenant believers might become materially rich. However, at least 5 Bible scholars do not share his view (there are many more):
In ‘10 Principles of Christian Giving’ (2 Cor 8:9), John Stott, a highly competent Bible commentator, and well-respected teacher by many across denominations, wrote:
“Because of our poverty Christ renounced his riches, so that through his poverty we might become rich. We must not misunderstand this by supposing that material poverty and wealth are in mind. No, the ‘poverty’ of Christ is seen in his incarnation and especially his cross, while the ‘wealth’ he gives us is salvation with all its rich blessings.”
In the Word Biblical Commentary of 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 8:9) by Ralph P Martin, Page 261, he wrote:
“(2) at 8:9 he does glide from the “grace” of God (8:1) to the Corinthians’ making good their promise of a generous gift (v 7) by means of an appeal to the unrivalled act of Incarnation in which the Lord Jesus Christ gave up his wealth to assume our poverty. This is “a daring but characteristic argument” (Bruce, 222). Here surely “wealth” and “poverty” are ciphers not for material prosperity and penury (poverty) but for a spiritual “exchange,” as the incarnate Christ became what we are in order to make us what he is, to use Iranaeus’s formulation. Our becoming rich by his lowly Incarnation cannot be understood otherwise…”
In The Bible Speaks Today on The Message of 2 Corinthians (2 Cor 8:9) by Paul Barnett, Pages 143-144, he wrote:
“Philippians 2 also helps to explain Paul’s words ‘he became poor’ and ‘his poverty’. In that passage Jesus ‘made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant’ and ‘humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross’. 16 Jesus’ ‘poverty’, therefore, was his humility in incarnation and life, and his obedience in death… Paul’s words ‘he became poor’ describe Jesus’ humble life and obedient death which, as Brunner observed, were an ‘indissoluble unity.’”19
In The Second Epistle To The Corinthians in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (2 Cor 8:9) by Philip E Hughes, Pages 299-300, he wrote:
“None other has impoverished himself as He did. He, the first-begotten before every creature, through whom all things visible and invisible were created, and in whom all things consist (Col 1:15ff, Jn 1:1ff), He whose was the ineffable divine glory before the world was and from all eternity (Jn 17:5, Heb 1:3), He who is one with the Father (Jn 10:30): He it was who emptied Himself, humbling Himself by His incarnation, assuming the role of a servant, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil 2:6ff.) From highest heaven He descended to Calvary and the grave. None was richer than He; none became poorer than He. All this and much more it meant for our Lord Jesus Christ to become poor. And, Paul explains to the Corinthians, it was ‘for your sakes’.”
… “‘He wished to become poor for a time for you,’ writes Herveius, ‘in order that you might become partakers of His everlasting riches…”
… “And so we have been enriched by His poverty, since in His blood the sackcloth of our sins has been torn to shreds. Through that blood we have cast away the rags of iniquity in order that we may be invested with the robe of immortality.”
In the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries on 2 CORINTHIANS (2 Cor 8:9) by RVG Tasker, Pages 115-116, he wrote:
“The ‘grace’ in question was shown in the fact that ‘our Lord Jesus Christ’…became poor. The aorist tense of the verb suggests that it is the fact of the incarnation, rather than the conditions under which the incarnate life was lived, that is here uppermost in the apostle’s mind. The Christ became poor in the act of becoming man… ‘Though he was rich’ i.e. though He shared His Father’s glory before the world was created (see Jn xvii. 5)… In reading this verse the Christian cannot, however, forget the purpose of the incarnation.”
“The purpose of this willing submission to poverty was that believers, who accept in faith the sacrifice made by Him on the cross for their sakes at such tremendous cost, should one day share the very glory which He had laid aside precisely in order that He might die the death by which alone He could redeem them.”
All 5 Bible scholars contradicted Joseph Prince’s view. They all shared the view that 2 Corinthians 8:9 has nothing to do with material poverty or riches but it has everything to do with spiritual poverty and riches.
The rich Jesus became spiritually poor because He gave up the glory He shared with His Father for a while, in order to be born as a mere man to take up the role of a suffering servant by dying on the cross for the sins of the world.
Believers, who accept Jesus to be their Lord and Saviour, will one day share the very glory which He had temporarily laid aside. That’s how they who are spiritually poor, who are headed for hell, are being made spiritually rich, who are destined for heaven.
These 5 Bible scholars are also in agreement that the rich Jesus who became spiritually poor (not materially poor as Prince has alleged), did not occur just at the cross (that Joseph Prince has falsely postulated), but at His incarnation when He gave up the glories of heaven to become a mere human being.
Man, who is spiritually poor with their sins that would doom them to the lake of fire, is now made spiritually rich, by being reconciled to God through the poverty of Jesus, which began at His incarnation, when He gave up the glories of heaven, and was consummated at the cross when He suffered and died for the sins of the world.
So according to these 5 scholars (and many more), and the Biblical context, Joseph Prince himself is clearly out of context when he said that it was material riches that the passage was referred to and that Jesus became poor only at the point of the cross.
Well, Prince did say in this sermon (not shown in my 2 excerpts of this video) that the context of 2 Corinthians chapter 8 and 9 is about finances and giving. That’s the first half of the truth he has it right. But he craftily went on to smuggle in the second half that just because the text is about finances and giving, it is also about Christ making us materially rich, which is false.
Jesus, the richest person in the whole universe, indeed, became poor not to make us materially rich but eternally rich. He gave up the glories and grandeurs of heaven, the true spiritual riches that He possesses for a while for our sake, and became spiritually poor at his incarnation; descended to earth as a mere man by being born in a filthy stable, and died on the cruel cross as a ‘criminal’ in total shame. At the cross, He lost even His clothing when the soldiers gambled for them – being naked (or near naked) is the ultimate poverty, humiliation and degradation that a man could ever experience.
Is it so that we can just be materially rich as Joseph Prince falsely teaches? No! God forbid that Christ will go through all that just to make us materially rich! Christ became poor so that we can become spiritually and eternally rich beyond our wildest dreams. Through His spiritual poverty, we have become partakers of His everlasting riches and sharers of His glory by being joint-heirs with Him. Though all of us are without hope and headed for hell, we have been made spiritually rich because of our richest, eternal, and heavenly inheritance in Christ Jesus. Praise be to God!
Next, let me give you the larger context of 2 Corinthians 8:9 by examining 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:
2 Corinthians 8:1-9 NIV
1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul alluded to the excellent example of the generosity of the extremely poor Macedonian church – Why? In order to spur the Corinthians to give to the poorer Jerusalem believers in 2 Corinthians 8:6-8 (see also 1 Cor 16:3).
So the aim of Paul was to encourage the Corinthians to give to the more needy Church of Jerusalem. To achieve his purpose, Paul cited the excellent example of the Macedonian Church that even though they were a poor church, they gave all they had. The message of Paul was that since the extremely poor Macedonians had excelled in their giving, the Corinthians Church, who was in a less dire circumstance than them, could certainly do it too, in their giving to the Jerusalem Church.
Then, in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul appealed to the glorious example of Christ who gave Himself sacrificially, and by his death on the cross, He has made us rich by His gift of eternal salvation. Paul’s message was that if Christ would go through such lengths to generously and sacrificially give Himself to us, the Church of Corinth should follow His example, at the very least in the area of giving their finances generously to help the Church of Jerusalem. That is the larger context. And from 2 Corinthians 8:10-24 right up to the end of 2 Corinthians chapter 9, is generally, an extension of this theme.
Although the text is about finances and giving, it isn’t about Christ making us materially rich as Joseph Prince falsely postulates.
If Christ became poor so that New Covenant believers can become materially rich in 2 Corinthians 8:9 were indeed true, why was there the need for Paul to collect an offering from the Corinthian Church to help the poorer Jerusalem Christians in 2 Corinthians 8:6-8 in the first place?
Why was the Jerusalem Church poor and why was the Macedonian Church, who was not just poor, but extremely poor, if, according to Joseph Prince, every New Covenant believer and Church is supposed to be materially rich?
In fact, the very context itself – that the Macedonian Church were extremely poor in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, and that the Jerusalem Church must also have been poor as they were in need of help from the Corinthian Church in 2 Corinthians 8:6-8, would decimate Joseph Prince’s view that Christ came to make New Covenant churches materially rich in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
For Joseph Prince to posture the view that Christ came to make every New Covenant church rich in 2 Corinthians 8:9, against the backdrop of 2 poor churches, (the Jerusalem and Macedonian churches) in the same context in 2 Corinthians 8:1-8, just doesn’t make sense.
Yet, Joseph Prince has the misplaced confidence to say 6 times in this sermon (in the 2 excerpts of this short video that I have featured) that he is the one who is doing it in context. Now you know how self-deluded this man is. He is self-deceived not because he doesn’t know he is but because he chose to be so. He is arrogantly saying he is the only one who is right and all the rest of the Bible scholars are wrong. I don’t know about you, but I would trust John Stott and the rest anytime over Joseph Prince, who has the reputation of interpreting Bible texts out of context. Despite that, he has, time and again, falsely claimed and insisted that he has done it in context. Herein lies the persistent hypocrisy of this impenitent man.
If Paul were a Prosperity Gospel (PG) Preacher like Joseph Prince, he would have rebuked the poor Jerusalem Church, and more so, the extremely poor Macedonian Christians:
“Hey, don’t you know you are now the King’s kids? So, live like one. Quit living like a child of a pauper. Don’t ever try to impress people that poverty is spirituality. Start to speak out in faith, and your poverty will be transformed into prosperity.”
But did Paul ever rebuke them for their poverty? Did Paul assure them that their poverty was only temporary, and soon they would be materially rich? No! At no time did Paul ever promise the Macedonian Church, a New Covenant church, that they, being extremely poor, would suddenly become materially wealthy because of what Christ had done for them at the cross.
Next, if Paul was indeed teaching that Christ became materially poor so that we can become materially rich in 2 Corinthians 8:9, Joseph Prince must explain what Paul had stated in the same letter, just about three chapters later in 2 Corinthians 11:27:
2 Corinthians 11:27 NIV
27 “I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”
If that was Christ’s real intention that New Covenant believers are to be materially rich, this certainly wasn’t true in the case of Paul, who was a New Covenant believer himself. As 2 Corinthians 11:27 had stated, Paul was obviously not a rich man, as he was hungry, thirsty, cold, naked and often went without food. In fact, that resembled more of a person who was living in poverty.
So, it is rather clear that Paul could not have meant that Christ became materially poor so that every New Covenant believer could become materially rich in 2 Corinthians 8:9, as Joseph Prince claimed.
If Paul was the one, who supposedly preached the ‘Christ is making New Covenant believers rich because of the cross’ doctrine in 2 Corinthians 8:9 as Joseph Prince has alleged, and if the promise of being materially rich for every New Covenant believer wasn’t even evident in Paul’s life, how can the doctrine that Christ came to make us materially rich be true?
Joseph Prince needs to answer another question that if every New Covenant church is supposed to be rich, why was the Church of Smyrna (Rev 2:8-10), a New Covenant church living in a state of poverty?
Revelation 2:8-10 NIV
8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9 I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
Joseph Prince may say to the Church of Smyrna:
“It’s just too bad that Jesus must have forgotten to teach you the ‘prosperity principles’ of success and wealth. If only Jesus had taught you how to pray in faith, you could have experienced victory and riches and avoided all that suffering, persecution, imprisonment and even death or martyrdom which I fiercely teach against! What a shame that Jesus has missed teaching you such glorious principles of success and wealth. Obviously, you do not have enough faith and revelation. That’s why you are still living in poverty. Don’t you know that if you live in poverty, my PG doctrine says you are under a curse? Come on, you ought not to suffer from poverty. Christ became poor so as to make you materially rich. You have obviously forgotten about what Christ came to do for you in His finished work of the cross. How can the children of the King be wallowing in poverty? You need to get out of poverty as you are a poor testimony of the Christian Faith. You are a poor example to the churches as every New Covenant church ought to be rich. When people see you suffering from poverty, who would want to be a Christian? So, start to declare with your mouth in faith that you are very rich as Abraham was. I’ve learned about praying in faith and declaring things into reality from my mentor, Kenneth Hagin, and it’s bound to work.”
It would also have been the best time for Jesus to say to the Church of Smyrna if it was indeed true that He has come to make every New Covenant church rich:
“Hey, what happened? Why are you floundering in poverty? You must have forgotten what I said in 2 Corinthians 8:9, that I became poor in order to make you materially rich. How I wish Joseph Prince is here to teach you about the doctrine of PG as he is the real expert on it.”
Did Jesus say all that rubbish to the Church of Smyrna? No! And did Jesus reprimand the Church of Smyrna for being poor? Did Jesus rebuke them for not praying with enough faith and to pray themselves out of the curse of poverty? Joseph Prince would have done that, but never once did Jesus reprimand them for their poverty.
Conversely, Jesus affirmed the Church in Smyrna:
“I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich!” (Rev 2:9a NIV).
Jesus was well aware that they were living in poverty, yet, Jesus never told them they had to get out of it because they were cursed. Jesus was not as concerned whether they were materially rich or poor, but He was utterly concerned whether they were spiritually rich: “– yet you are rich!” (Rev 2:9a)
Why did Jesus say they were spiritually rich (Rev 2:9a)? It was because they were going through suffering, imprisonment, and some of them would even be martyred for the sake of Christ (Rev 2:10); but they would never lose out as they would be blessed and rewarded in heaven. That’s what Jesus promised in Matthew 5:11-12:
Matthew 5:11-12 NIV
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Jesus never teaches a Christianity that makes one prosperously rich and free from trouble or suffering. He teaches the hard truths that those who follow Him must suffer and even be prepared to be martyred for His sake. But in the end, such believers will never lose, and they will be amply rewarded by the Lord Jesus: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” (Rev 2:10b)
Jesus didn’t promise the New Covenant Church of Smyrna that He would deliver them from poverty to prosperity. Why? – Because the PG doctrine of Joseph Prince that every New Covenant believer must be very rich as Abraham was, was never in the mind of Jesus.
Can you now see that Joseph Prince is not preaching the real Jesus; he is preaching his own version of Jesus – the counterfeit Jesus!
Finally, it could not have been possible for Christ to make us materially rich in 2 Corinthians 8:9 as that would not only go against the immediate context of 2 Corinthians chapter 8:1-9, but most importantly, it would also contradict the teachings of Jesus and Paul regarding wealth in the entire New Testament.
This is because this promise of prosperity and wealth in the Old Testament was never repeated in the New Testament to the corporate church or any individual believer. While the Old Testament’s focus is on material prosperity, the New Testament’s focus is not on material prosperity, but adversity: suffering and persecution.
The fact is, the emphasis had dramatically changed in the New Testament from material prosperity to adversity. The teaching of the New Testament is not about getting rich, but how, through adversity, believers can be strengthened in their faith. (For details, please refer to a previous article, titled, New Testament Scriptures Prove that Joseph Prince’s Prosperity Gospel is a Scam.” Please click here to read.)
This truth is no better illustrated in the Church of Smyrna (Rev 2:8-10) which Jesus Himself commended – that though they were materially poor, they were spiritually rich because even though they would be persecuted, imprisoned and even martyred for their faith, they would be blessed by being more than amply compensated by their great rewards in heaven (Matt 5:11-12).
Thus, Joseph Prince’s ‘Christ Became Poor to Make Us Rich’ doctrine (2 Cor 8:9) is resoundingly debunked.
Rev George Ong