Joseph Prince’s Prosperity Doctrine Based on 3 John 2 is Unsound – 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 30-second video,
“The Apostle John says, ‘Beloved, I pray above all things that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prosper.’ (3 Jn 1:2 KJV) What is it saying? Alright, you cannot say, ‘O that prosper there is soul prosperity; no, he includes soul prosperity in that verse as well because he says I pray that you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. So that is your soul prosperity, that covered already. So what is he saying about the first part – prosper and be in health?”
3 John 2 KJV
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
3 John 2 NASB
2 “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
3 John 2 is another key verse that Joseph Prince used to support his Prosperity Gospel (PG) doctrine – that every believer is to be prosperously rich and healthy.
But one must bear in mind that this verse is nothing but a greeting from the Apostle John to Gaius, who was probably a church leader or elder. It is a prayerful greeting that desires that Gaius is not only spiritually strong, “just as your soul prosper,” (3 Jn 2), but may he also prosper and be healthy.
This is what we would usually write to friends and wish them well: with good health and may they prosper in their career or business. When we write a letter, it is a common practice to greet the receiver first. It’s polite to greet first before you go on to list out your purpose of the letter.
So, when John wrote 3 John 1-2, this was a greeting to Gaius. This is not a promise by God that every believer is to be healthy and very wealthy as Joseph Prince teaches. This is a greeting from John to one person called Gaius.
But Joseph Prince twisted this verse to build a doctrine that it is God’s will that every believer ought to be healthy and wealthy. From a mere wish for just one church leader, he twisted this verse to become his foundational doctrine of health and wealth that every believer is entitled to.
Furthermore, the Greek word translated “prosper” in the KJV means “to go well with someone” as it is translated in the NIV and NLT:
3 John 2 KJV
2 “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
3 John 2 NIV
2 “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”
3 John 2 NLT
2 “Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”
It is no different from a letter from a friend who writes to you, “I hope that this letter or email finds you well.”
Not only do NIV and NLT translate it in this way, but 29 other translations also render it similarly:
CEB, CEV, ERV, EHV, ESV, ESVUK, EXB, GW, GNT, ICB, ISV, TLB, MEV, NOG, NCV, NET, NIRV, NIVUK, NLV, NRSV, NRSVA, NRSVACE, NRSVCE, NTE, RSV, RSVCE, TLV, VOICE, WE.
So, while the second part of 3 John 2 refers to health, the first part does not refer to wealth, but just a wish that “everything is well” with the receiver of the letter.
To infer from John’s wish for one person, Gaius, and extend this to every believer that they from henceforth are entitled to the blessings of health and wealth is stretching the meaning of the verse and totally foreign to the context.
John’s intention was never to teach this. Neither could Gaius have understood it in the same way Joseph Prince had. Joseph Prince has abused the text to promote his PG doctrine.
If we go by the logic of how Joseph Prince interprets 3 John 2, anyone could also say that according to 1 Timothy 5:23, any believer who suffers from a stomach illness, is not to pray for healing, but to stop drinking water, and to take a little wine instead:
1 Timothy 5:23 NIV
23 “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”
But no true Bible teacher will accept such a twisted form of interpreting Bible texts.
Finally, let me quote what John Stott, who is a credible and trusted Bible teacher, wrote in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries In The Letters of John (3 Jn 2), Page 223:
“At the same time, those who have recently developed the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’ (viz. that God means all his children to enjoy health and wealth in abundance) can find in this text only the flimsiest foundation for their position. Consider these points: (1) they depend almost entirely on Old Testament promises of prosperity, which were spoken to the nation Israel and were not repeated in the New Testament to either Christian individuals or the Christian community; (2) they are insensitive to the poverty and hunger of many believers in developing nations, to whom the prosperity gospel evidently does not apply; and (3) they overlook the New Testament emphasis on adversity rather than prosperity as the chief mark of the followers of the Suffering Servant.”
As you would have realised, John Stott’s view is diametrically opposed to that of Joseph Prince. Who would you trust – John Stott, a reliable and authoritative Bible Teacher or Joseph Prince, the recalcitrant text-twister and an out-of-context Bible interpreter?
Rev George Ong