Article 1: Lindsay Lim, an Ex New Creation Church member for 18 years, briefly shares on Joseph Prince & Olivia Lum, founder of Hyflux – By Rev George Ong
Article 2: Joseph Prince’s Health & Wealth Gospel is demolished by the renowned Gordon Fee & eminent John Piper – By Rev George Ong
For Article 2:
Don’t miss John Piper’s 1-minute video.
Be sure to read excerpts of Gordon Fee’s book, “The Disease of the Health & Wealth Gospels,” which are appended in this article.
Gordon Fee’s (who is a Pentecostal scholar and an Assemblies of God ordained Minister, is very well regarded as a Bible commentator across denominations), view that healing isn’t primarily in the atonement, has destroyed Joseph Prince’s stand that healing is in the atonement.
Lindsay Lim, an Ex New Creation Church member for 18 years, briefly shares on Joseph Prince & Olivia Lum, founder of Hyflux – By Rev George Ong
Lindsay Lim wrote;
“When I was in New Creation Church, I recalled how Joseph Prince boasted in a Cell Group Leaders’ meeting
that someone gave her first million to church and the person was Olivia Lum.
Joseph Prince’s exact words then were;
‘How often do you get $1 million in tithes?’
Joseph Prince also boasted during service that he needed to have lunch with this person
who gave her first million to church.
Of course, being the shameless pastor that he was (and still is),
he bragged that Hyflux succeeded because Olivia Lum followed his teaching.
So, tell me now that Olivia Lum has broken the law,
is it the result of Joseph Prince’s teaching too?
Perhaps, it’s time to edit his books where Hyflux’s success was used to glorify Joseph Prince’s teaching.”
If you have missed reading Lindsay Lim’s testimony about how she came out of New Creation Church, please click on the link below;
Joseph Prince’s Health & Wealth Gospel is demolished by the renowned Gordon Fee & eminent John Piper – By Rev George Ong
“One of the things he carried for us; of course, first and foremost, He carried our sins, praise the Lord. But the Bible also says He carried our diseases, Amen. Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses. With His stripes, we are healed (Isa 53:5). But He also carried our poverty…”
Joseph Prince said;
“With His stripes, we are healed (Isa 53:5). But He also carried our poverty…”
These 2 key Health and Wealth gospel teachings of Joseph Prince can be stated as follows:
First, because Christ has “carried our poverty” and redeemed us from poverty (and also based on other passages in Galatians), every new covenant believer has the covenantal right to be very rich as Abraham was.
Second, based on Isaiah 53:5, “With His stripes, we are healed”, Joseph Prince argues that healing is in the atonement, and since that is the case, every New Covenant believer has the covenantal right to experience perfect healing.
The Health and Wealth gospel, and especially, the perfect healing teaching of Joseph Prince is refuted by John Piper
in a one-minute video (to view, see below, after my article, for the link).
It is also completely demolished by Gordon Fee in his book,
“The Disease of the Health & Wealth Gospels,”
which you will have the opportunity to read it as excerpts are appended in this article (see below).
Most of you may know who John Piper is, but some of you may not be familiar with Gordon Fee.
But if you check with your Pastor, particularly the older ones, they are most likely to have heard of Gordon Fee’s name and even read his books and studied his writings.
Though Gordon Fee is a Pentecostal, who hails from the Assemblies of God, he is an accomplished scholar, who is well-respected across denominations.
Here are his credentials:
Gordon D. Fee (PhD, University of Southern California) is a Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies at Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, and an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God.
Considered to be one of the foremost experts in textual criticism of the New Testament of the Bible, Dr Fee was a member of the editorial board that composed both the New International Version (NIV) and Today’s New International Version (TNIV) translations of the Bible.
He is also the author of numerous commentaries and books on biblical interpretation, including the popular introductory work, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth (co-authored with Douglas Stuart).
Before I unveil what John Piper said in the one-minute video and what Gordon Fee had written in his book,
here are my thoughts about one key area of Joseph Prince’s Health and Wealth gospel – perfect health – that has gone wrong.
Joseph Prince believes that healing is in the atonement. From that belief, he asserts that every believer can enjoy perfect health.
The truth is, while we can experience a foretaste of perfect health,
we cannot experience the full measure of it simply because creation and our bodies are not yet fully redeemed.
Even if it is true that healing is in the atonement (which I am sympathetic with), we are still living in a fallen world, where diseases still abound.
Paul teaches that in a fallen world, the whole world, including our bodies, is in the process of decay:
“that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21).
“The decay will continue until we receive: “the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23).
So, regardless of whether one believes healing is in the atonement (which Joseph Prince believes in),
we have to remember this
– that while we can have a foretaste of that total redemption, including the healing of the body right now,
we cannot have it all now.
Though Christ died on the cross to deliver my body from physical death,
I still have to die physically.
Though I have everlasting life and that includes my body,
it is in this body that I am groaning with Paul, waiting for the full and total redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:19-25 NIV).
Though Christ has purchased the total healing of my body from sicknesses on the cross,
I can’t have it all yet.
Though Christ died on the cross to give me a body that one day will be entirely healthy and free from all diseases,
I can’t have it entirely right now.
But I can have a foretaste of it.
I can experience the healing power of God every now and then, and even in increasing measures in my personal life.
But as long as I am in this body,
I am groaning, waiting for the resurrection and the full redemption of my body,
which includes perfect health, and which is a future thing (Rom 8:23-25).
So, it is definitely wrong to say that I can have perfect health in this life, and ‘in the now’ as Joseph Prince falsely teaches.
This is because the day when we can have our new resurrected bodies that will be totally free from sicknesses and diseases
is at Christ’s return and in the new heaven and a new earth, which is at a future day.
So for the moment, I can claim a foretaste of this in this life.
Believers should pray for healing each time they are sick.
But that does not mean every single disease on every believer’s body will be healed – given the reasons I’ve already explained.
As long as I am in this life, I am groaning in this body, waiting for what?
– The redemption of my body
– which is the same as the resurrection of my body in 1 Corinthians 15
– which is a future thing (Rom 8:23-25).
My perfect health is what Christ has accomplished on the cross, and I will inherit it one day when I have a new and perfected body in a new heaven and a new earth.
And we look forward to having our new perfect body with no sicknesses or diseases.
At the moment, I can have installments, and a foretaste of that.
But I can’t have perfect health now,
as this body is still part of this old and unredeemed world, and as we are still living in the period of the ‘already but not yet’.
One day at Christ’s return, Christians will be completely saved – both body and soul.
Yet we must remember we are living in the present state and the present world of decay and death. Our body is part of this decaying nature.
But one day, God is going to make, not just my soul but also my body, everlasting.
One day, nature will be recreated. It will be free from decay.
Nature and our bodies will be recreated and perfected by God.
And creation and nature have got to wait for our bodies to be put right.
That’s why creation and nature are eagerly waiting and groaning for the revealing of the sons or the children of God:
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Rom 8:19-22 NIV).
Creation and nature were cursed, and decay set in at Adam’s sin.
But there will come a day when creation and nature will be renovated and transformed.
This is what creation and we are groaning for, like in the pains of childbirth for the birthing of a new and superior order.
Creation and nature are groaning in tension like a woman in labour to be recreated, and for the bodies of the sons of God to be perfected.
Creation and nature are not the only actors that groan for this glorious future where death and decay will be done away with.
But, we too, are groaning, because we live in the same tension as they are, between what they/we are, and what they/we can become:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom 8:22-25 NIV).
We, who have already experienced “the firstfruits of the Spirit” (Rom 8:23), and tasted the healing power of God now,
are groaning for the resurrection, the redemption and perfection of our bodies in the future.
From Romans 8:22-25, we learn that not only does creation ‘suffer’ this tension of living in the ‘already but not yet’, but all Christians experience this tension as well.
The redemption of creation and nature is tied to the redemption of man’s body.
The last act of adoption to sonship, which is yet to be fulfilled, is in the redemption or resurrection of our bodies:
“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23).
We are just groaning and longing for the adoption of sonship, the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:23).
Though our souls are redeemed,
our bodies are not ‘totally’ redeemed and saved as it is still part of the old nature of decay and death.
One would have to admit that no matter how many times one can experience the healing power of God on our bodies,
they are decaying, and we will die one day.
But, praise God, one day, our bodies will be resurrected with a new body.
Though our souls are saved, our bodies are not totally saved – waiting and groaning for a future day in which they will be redeemed (Rom 8:23).
And one day, both our souls and bodies will be ‘totally’ saved.
The redemption of our body is the resurrection that Paul also talks about in 1 Corinthians 15.
Our salvation will be complete when our bodies are redeemed and resurrected at a future day.
Paul did not view the body as a separate entity from the soul.
He viewed it wholistically – that on the final day of glory, the whole of man – body and soul will be saved.
The resurrected and redeemed body will no longer be subjected to sin and disease.
Paul is not only talking about the full redemption of creation and nature, he is also talking about the full redemption of man – and that includes the redemption of the body.
There will come a day when we will have new and perfected bodies that will be totally free from all sicknesses and diseases.
It will be a new and recreated body. It will be an immortal body that is totally free from decay and death.
This is what we are groaning for.
And when that day dawns, the tension of the ‘already but not yet’ will be over.
The tension that though we groan after this full redemption of our bodies, and yet we are still living in this old nature that is subjected to disease, decay and death, will finally be resolved.
Then our souls and bodies will be completely saved.
Then, our bodies will be perfected, free from every sickness and disease.
This body that is free from every sickness and disease is what we are groaning after.
The older we get, and as our bodies are afflicted with diseases, decay and death, the more we groan for this new and fully redeemed body that is free from all sicknesses.
And this is the hope that you and I are waiting and living for:
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (Rom 8:24).
Hope, in the biblical language, doesn’t mean wish. It means confident expectancy. You know you are going to have it.
But, just in case we get over triumphalistic and unbiblical like Joseph Prince,
Paul has to remind us that this hope that we groan for a body that is free from all sicknesses and diseases, is yet in the future.
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Rom 8:24-25 NIV).
We must not be too anxious about wanting to have a perfect body or live in perfect health all in one go in the now.
We must wait patiently for the total fulfillment of it, which is set in the future.
And when we were saved, we were saved in this hope that not only will God save our soul, as He has already done but that one day, He will save our body too.
Though we can’t have our bodies completely healed and free from all diseases because our bodies are not resurrected and redeemed, we can have a foretaste of it by experiencing the healing power of God from time to time in the ‘now’.
But what Joseph Prince has unbiblically done
is to transfer all that will take place in the realm of the ‘not yet’ into the dimension of the ‘already’.
I believe I have exposed Joseph Prince’s false teaching that believers can experience perfect health and expect to be healed every time in this day and age
to be false.
While we can claim healing on the basis of what Christ has done for us on the cross,
we cannot expect to be healed every time and be in perfect health in this life.
But, one day, when our bodies are redeemed and resurrected, our hope for the perfection of our bodies that will be free from every sickness and disease, would be attained, finally.
Then and only then will perfect health and a body that is free from every sickness and disease be our portion forever and ever.
“One of the essential biblical problems with the Prosperity Gospel is an over-realised eschatology, meaning, the things that are promised, gloriously for us; we’re all going to be rich; we’re going to own the world; we’re going to judge angels.
Paul used that argument in 1 Corinthians 3 – ‘don’t you realise that you are going to inherit the world; the world is yours, power is yours, life is yours, death is yours?’ And the conclusion he drew was, why would you boast in man?
In other words, why won’t you take that as a means of enabling you to suffer, be lowly and kind and servant-like, and walk on this calvary road. Take the pain of being a Christian. That’s coming.
But what they (Prosperity Gospel preachers) do, instead of say, ‘Ah, we have to wait for that and pour our lives out through many tribulations here,
they say, ‘Bring in now, bring in now. The kingdom is already here, right. Jesus brought the kingdom.’
And it’s the overlap of these 2 ages, they don’t understand. The new age is a beautiful age. And there are healings that happen in this world, I don’t deny that. I just deny very vehemently everybody is going to be healed.”
Next, ‘The Disease of the Health & Wealth Gospels’ – By Gordon D Fee.
Quite a fair bit is taken from this book and appended as follows:
1. THE ‘GOSPEL’ OF PROSPERITY
“The fault (of Prosperity Gospel), of course, lies not with such isolated truths, but with the bottom line, which always comes back to one continual reaffirmation: God wills the (financial) prosperity of every one of his children, and therefore for a Christian to be in poverty is to be outside God’s intended will; it is to be living a Satan-defeated life.”
“Let us take, for example, the “basic Scripture text” of this (Prosperity Gospel) movement (3 John 2, in the King James Version):
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”
Of this text Copeland says, “John writes that we should prosper and be in health” (p. 14).
(George Ong’s interjection: Joseph Prince teaches the exact same thing as Kenneth Copeland).
But is this what the text actually says? Hardly! In the first place, the Greek word translated “prosper” in the KJV means “to go well with someone,” just as a friend in a letter two days ago said, “I pray that this letter finds you all well” (cf. 3 John 2 in the KJV, GNB, NEB, RSV, etc.).
This combination of wishing for “things to go well” and for the recipient’s “good health” was the standard form of greeting in a personal letter in antiquity.
To extend John’s wish for Gaius to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians of all times is totally foreign to the text.
John neither intended that, nor could Gaius have so understood it. Thus, it cannot be the “plain meaning” of the text.
We may rightly learn from this text to pray for our brothers and sisters that “all will go well with them”; but to argue from the text that God wills our financial prosperity is to abuse the text, not use it.
One may well argue that all subsequent Christians are out of God’s will who do not go to Carpus’s house in Troy in order to take Paul’s cloak to him (2 Tim. 4:13), or that all Christians with stomach ailments are not to pray for healing at all, but rather to stop drinking water and to drink wine instead (1 Tim. 5:23). For these, too, are what the texts actually say, in (Kenneth) Copeland’s sense.
It should be noted further that “abundant life” in John 10:10, the second important text of this movement, also has nothing to do with material abundance. “Life” or “eternal life” in John’s Gospel is the equivalent of the “Kingdom of God” in the Synoptics. It literally means the “life of the Age to Come.” It is the life that God has in and of Himself; and it is his gift to believers in the present age.
The Greek word perrison, translated “more abundantly” in the KJV, means simply that believers are to enjoy this gift of life to the full” (NIV). Material abundance is not implied either in the word “life” or “to the full.” Furthermore, such an idea is totally foreign to the context of John 10, as well as to the whole of the teaching of Jesus.”
(George Ong’s interjection: Joseph Prince teaches that John 10:10 contains material blessings of wealth for New Covenant believers.)
“It should be noted further that this “gospel” is also not biblical in the larger sense of that word, in that it reflects a truncated view of the whole of Scripture. The selectivity of these (Prosperity Gospel) evangelists allows them not only to espouse a view not taught anywhere in the New Testament, but also carefully to avoid hundreds of texts that stand squarely in opposition to their teaching.”
“Granted that often in the Old Testament – but never in the New – possessions are frequently related to a life of obedience. But even here (New Testament) they are seen to have the inherent double danger of removing the eye from trusting God and of coming to possess the possessor.”
“According to Jesus, the good news of the inbreaking of the Kingdom frees us from all those pagan concerns (Matt. 6:32). With His own coming the Kingdom has been inaugurated-even though it has yet to be fully consummated; the time of God’s rule is now; the future with its new values is already at work in the present. We have been “seized” by the Kingdom; our old values, the old way of looking at things, is on the way out; we are joyously freed from the tyranny of all other lords.
In the new order, brought about by Jesus, the standard is sufficiency, and surplus is called into question. The one with two tunics should share with him who has none (Luke 3:11); “possessions” are to be sold and given to the poor (Luke 12:33).
Indeed, in the new age unshared wealth is contrary to the Kingdom breaking in as good news to the poor. Therefore, if one has possessions (precisely because they have no inherent value) he can freely share them with the needy.
But if one does not have possessions, he is not to seek them. God cares for one’s needs; the extras are unnecessary. The rich man who seeks more and more is a fool; life does not consist in having a surplus of possessions (Luke 12:15).
It is precisely this new age attitude that one finds reflected in the early chapters of the Acts. The early church was not communal. But they were the new community – the new people of God. Hence no one considers anything owned to be his or her own possession. The coming of the Spirit that marked the beginning of the new order had freed them from the need of possessing. Hence there was sufficiency, and no one was in need.
This same carefree attitude toward wealth and possessions also marks all of Paul. He is a free man in Christ, who knows contentment whatever the circumstances. He knows both want and plenty, both hunger and being well fed. He “can do all things” – which in this context clearly refers to being in need! “– through Christ who gives [him] strength” (Phil. 4: 10-13).
Thus he (Paul) tells those who have nothing to be content with food and clothing. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap” (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
But then he (Paul) remembers those who happen to be rich. They are to treat their wealth with indifference; they must not put any stock in it. Rather they are to be “generous and willing to share,” for this is true wealth (6:17-19).
The point is in the New Age, prosperity is simply of no value at all. How, then, can God will such a zero value for all His children? The cult of prosperity thus flies full in the face of the whole New Testament. It is not biblical in any sense.
2. THE ‘GOSPEL’ OF PERFECT HEALTH
“The second part of the “wealth and health Gospel,” that God wills our perfect health, differs from the cult of prosperity in several significant ways. In the first place, the physical and mental healing of human life is part of the redemptive activity of God.
In contrast to the cult of prosperity, the “gospel” of perfect health is a distortion of something which in fact is biblical, since the New Testament stands squarely on the side of healing: It is part of Jesus’ and the apostles’ ministries; gifts of healing are part of the church’s charismata; and at least one text (James 5:14-15) specifically enjoins believers to pray for the sick with the promise of answered prayer.
Furthermore, whereas material possessions are irrelevant to the people of God (they freely give if they have them, but they do not seek them), the same is not true of the human body. At least one of the reasons Christians pray for the sick to be healed is their conviction that the body, though still subject to decay and death in the present age, nonetheless belongs to the Lord and is destined for resurrection (1 Corinthians 6:13-14). A body healed – or healthy – because of God’s gracious activity on our behalf is a sign of the future already at work in the present age.
If this is true, that both Scripture and theology support our praying in faith for the gracious healing of the sick, then wherein lies the problem?
What is the “disease” nature of the “gospel” of total health for Christians?
Basically, it lies in some biblical and theological distortions which insist:
(1) that God wills perfect health and complete healing for every believer, and
(2) that God has obligated Himself to heal every sickness for those who have faith (unless the sickness is the result of breaking God’s “health” laws).
(George Ong’s interjection: Joseph Prince teaches exactly what Gordon Fee has listed in the above 2 points.)
Integral to this theology is the insistence that faith can claim such healing from God, and that any failure to be healed is not the fault of God but of the one who has not had enough faith.
Very often claiming healing means to confess it as done, even though the symptoms persist, so that at times one meets a blind, or diseased, person who claims to have been healed, even though the blind continue to grope in darkness and the sick still are riddled with pain.
Since l am obviously on the side of miraculous healing, I hesitate to try to combat this distortion, lest I sound like one who is against it altogether. But not so. I firmly believe that gifts of healing belong in the church.
(George Ong’s Interjection: Critics of Joseph Prince’s Health and Wealth gospel have the same stand as Gordon Fee. We believe that healing belongs to the church, but we are against the teaching of perfect health by Joseph Prince that every New Covenant believer will be healed on this side of heaven.)
But I also believe that this overzealous attempt to bring glory to God is in fact a distortion of truth that has created a number of neurotic believers (because they don’t seem to be able to muster up “enough faith”), and has kept the church as a whole from being open to the gift of healing.
Therefore, although my sympathies lie with the evangelists here, I must protest the bad biblical interpretation and theology of this movement.
As with many such half-truths, the “gospel” of perfect health seeks (commendably) to base itself entirely on Scripture.
However, the use of Scripture by evangelists of this (Prosperity) gospel is faulty in precisely the same three ways as with the wealth side of their “gospel”:
(1) some poor, or flat-out wrong, interpretations of key texts,
(2) selective use of texts, and
(3) failure to have a wholistic biblical view of things, especially a failure to understand the essential theological framework of the New Testament writers.
As a result, they tend to repeat the Corinthian error and are unable to hear Paul’s answers in 1 and 2 Corinthians as over against themselves – although these (Prosperity Gospel) evangelists are the unwitting descendants of the false apostles of 2 Corinthians 10-13.”
“The arguments for full and complete health as God’s only will for all believers are based on three sets of texts:
a) Paul’s statement that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:14) coupled with Deuteronomy 28:21-22, where disease is one of the curses of disobedience to the law. It is argued from these texts that sickness is a part of the “curse of the law” from which Christ redeemed us.
b) Isaiah 53 and the citation of 53:4 in Matthew and of 53:5 in 1 Peter 2:24. It is argued from these texts, and especially from the change to the past tense in 1 Peter, that healing is in the atonement in the same way as forgiveness.
c) A whole host of texts that remind us that God honors faith; e.g., Matthew 9:29; Mark 11:23-24; John 14:12; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:6-8. Space does not allow a thorough investigation of all these texts, but a few suggestions are in order.
a) The first set of texts may be quickly set aside. This is a typical example of a totally faulty “concordance” interpretation, which finds English catch words in various texts and then tries to make them all refer to the same thing. There is not even the remotest possibility that Paul was referring to the “curses” of Deuteronomy 28 when he spoke of the “curse of the law.”
And “redemption” in Galatians has to do with one thing only: how does one have right standing with God – through faith (= trust in God’s gracious acceptance and forgiveness of sinners), or by works of the law (=acceptance by obedience to prescribed rules)? Thus the Holy Spirit could scarcely have inspired a meaning of the text that is so totally foreign to the point Paul is making in this context in Galatians.
b) It is also questionable whether one can rightly argue that the Bible teaches that healing is provided for in the atonement. Such a doctrine has in fact been the position of historic Pentecostalism. However, the “position paper” on divine healing adopted by the General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God (dated August 20, 1974) makes it quite clear that the historic position does not see healing in the atonement in the same way as salvation. Healing is “provided for” because the “atonement brought release from the… consequences of sin”; nonetheless, since “we have not yet received the redemption of our bodies,” suffering and death are still our lot until the resurrection.
It would seem, therefore, that only in a circuitous way is it really possible to argue for bodily healing in the atonement. While there are scores of texts that explicitly tell us that our sin has been overcome through Christ’s death and resurrection, there is no text that explicitly says the same about healing, not even Isaiah 53 and its New Testament citations. Matthew’s use of Isaiah 53:4 does not even refer to the cross; rather he clearly sees the text as being fulfilled in Jesus’ earthly ministry. This is made certain both by the context and by his choice of Greek verbs in his own unique translation of the Hebrew (elaben= he took; ebastasen = he removed).
The citation of Isaiah 53:5 in 1 Peter, on the other hand, does not refer to physical healing. The usage here is metaphorical, pure and simple. In a context in which slaves are urged to submit to their evil masters – even if it means their suffering for it – Peter appeals to the example of Christ, which Christian slaves are to follow. This appeal to Christ, beginning at verse 21, is filled with allusions to and citations of Isaiah 53, all of which refer to Christ’s having suffered unjustly as the source of the slave’s redemption from sin. Thus Peter says: “He himself bore our sins (Isaiah 53:12, cf. 53:4 in the Septuagint)… that we might die to sin.” He then goes on: “By his wounds you have been healed (53:5), for you were as sheep going astray (53:6).” The allusions to both verses 5 and 6, joined by for and referring to “sheep going astray,” plus the change to the past tense, all make it abundantly clear that “healing” here is a metaphor for being restored to health from the sickness of their sins. Such a metaphorical usage would be natural for Peter, since sin as “wound,” “injury” or “sickness” and the “healing” of such “sickness” are thoroughgoing images in the Old Testament (see, e.g., 2 Chronicles 7:14; Psalm 6:2; Isaiah 1:5-6; Jeremiah 30:12-13, 51:8-9; Nahum 3:19).
Furthermore, the Old Testament citations in 1 Peter rather closely follow the Septuagint (the pre-Christian Greek translation of the Old Testament), even when this translation differs from the Hebrew; and the Septuagint had already translated Isaiah 53:4 metaphorically (“He himself bore our sins,” rather than “our sickness”).
My point: Matthew clearly saw Isaiah 53:4 as referring to physical healing, but as a part of the Messiah’s ministry, not as a part of the atonement. Peter, conversely, saw the “healing” in Isaiah 53 as being metaphorical and thus referring to the healing of our sin sickness. Thus, neither New Testament reference sees the “healing” of Isaiah 53 as referring to physical healing in the atonement.
But what did Isaiah himself intend? Almost certainly his first reference is metaphorical, as the Septuagint, the Targums, and Peter all recognize. Israel was diseased; she was grievously wounded for her sins (Isaiah 1:6-7). Yet God would restore His people. There would come one who himself would suffer so as to deliver. In grand cadences of Hebrew poetry (note the synonymous parallelism), Isaiah says of him: “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” In the context of Isaiah, that refers first of all to the healing of the wounds and disease of sin. Yet, since physical disease was clearly recognized to be a consequence of the Fall, such a metaphor could also carry with it the literal sense, and this is what Matthew picked up.
The Bible, therefore, does not explicitly teach that healing is provided for in the atonement. However, the New Testament does see the cross as the focus of God’s redemptive activity. In this sense (and in the sense that sickness is ultimately a result of the Fall), one may perhaps argue that healing also finds its focal point in the atonement.
c) The “faith” passages are in fact the crucial ones for the total health movement. After all, other Christians have used the two previous sets of texts as a biblical basis for healing. The argument for perfect health, or healing on demand, lies finally in the joining of healing as a part of the atonement (the basis of the demand: God has provided for it, therefore He must heal when asked) with all the texts on faith (since it is fully provided for by God, it may be secured by the correct formula of faith). Thus the great emphasis in this movement is on “raising peoples’ faith.”
“On the other hand, there is a way of interpreting these texts that can make a mockery of the divine will. “God promises us whatever we ask,” is the battle cry.
Fortunately, however, God does not grant everything we ask. For our asking is based on our own limited knowledge, and all too often it is colored by our self-interest. We can only praise God that He does not answer every prayer “prayed in faith.”
Hezekiah, after all, had his prayer answered and was granted fifteen more years, but it was during those years that Manasseh was born!
The real issue, therefore, when it comes to these texts, is not how “to get them to work for us,” but how we are to understand them in the light of the full biblical revelation. How do they relate to the reality of God’s sovereignty and His overall purposes with mankind?
For the concerns of this paper, the crucial question is whether God specifically wills all Christians to know perfect health. If that were true, and there is not a text that supports it, then “failure” to be healed miraculously would indeed be a failure of our faith. But if it is not true, and it does not appear to be so, then faith not only believes specifically for healing, but also knows how to trust God when the effects of the Fall continue to be very much with us.”
“Tied to this is the insistence on conventional wisdom as biblical. It is argued that every child of God should enjoy perfect health simply because he or she is a child of God; if they do not experience healing, then, of course, it is due to their lack of genuine trust in God.
All of this simply refuses to take the Bible, the Fall, or common grace seriously. From their perspective Christ has redeemed us from the curse, therefore these (Prosperity Gospel) evangelists will not allow the biblical view, which sees the Fall as permeating the whole fabric of the created order. The Bible itself is much more realistic – and much more genuinely hopeful.
God is revealed to have limitless power and resources; He regularly shows Himself strong on behalf of His people. Yet His people still live out their redeemed lives in a fallen world, where the whole creation, including the human body, is in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21), and will continue to be so until we receive “the redemption of our bodies” (8:23).
Thus the Bible records many of Elisha’s miracles, including healings; yet quite matter-of-factly, without judgment, it also records that he “was suffering from the illness from which he died” (2 Kings 13:14).
In a similar manner, it records that James was martyred and Peter delivered (Acts 12) – and Peter’s deliverance was surely no direct result of his or the church’s great faith!
Above all it is the Apostle Paul who presents problems for this point of view. On the one hand, his ministry was accompanied by “signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 15:19); yet neither he nor his associates always experienced perfect health. And never is their sickness attributed to lack of faith, nor their recovery to great faith.
Epaphroditus fell ill and nearly died, and in his case “God had mercy on him” (Philippians 2:26); yet Trophimus is left sick in Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20). For the sake of his frequent stomach disorders, Paul does not tell Timothy to pray or exercise faith for his healing. Again very matter-of-factly, he urges him to take wine for his sickness (1 Timothy 5:23). Why is it, one wonders, that the (Prosperity Gospel) evangelists do not make this Scripture a part of their healing ministry?
Some have argued that in all these cases, and especially the latter, Paul was exhibiting a lack of faith. But such an approach must be vigorously resisted, because it means to sit in judgment on the Holy Spirit Himself. If we believe all of Scripture to be inspired of the Spirit, then He inspired “wine for the stomach” in Timothy’s case, just as He inspired the laying on of hands and oil in James 5:14- 15.
More troublesome yet are Paul’s own physical illnesses and sufferings. His own body was weak, or sickly (2 Corinthians 10:10). Indeed, he says he always carried about in his body the death of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:11), and the context makes it clear that he is referring to his bodily weaknesses. Outwardly, he groaned (4:16), longing to replace his present earthly tent with the heavenly dwelling (5:1-2).
He preached in Galatia as a direct result of illness (Galatians 4:12-15), which almost certainly was some kind of ailment of the eye. Whether or not this was also his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7), there can be little question that the problem for which he thrice sought deliverance was a physical one. Some, to be sure, have suggested that the “flesh” here is Paul’s sinful nature and that some “person” (=messenger) from Satan was attacking his sinful tendencies. But that is to play havoc not only with this text and its context, but also with Paul’s theology of life in the Spirit (Galatians 5; Romans 8).
The most common way to “get around” these texts has been to argue for a distinction between suffering and sickness. Suffering is something external to us, which comes as the result of our following Christ. This, it is argued, is what Paul suffered, and we may expect to as well. Sickness and disease, on the other hand, are a part of the Fall and the curse, and these have now been overcome by Christ.
But this is a distinction that cannot be sustained biblically. It is not that the biblical writers did not, or could not, know the differences; they simply do not make such distinctions.
The clearest evidence of this is the fact that in both the Old and New Testaments the most common word for sickness is in fact the word weakness, so that frequently only the context alone tells us what kind of “weakness” is involved. (Compare, for example, the differences in the NIV and the NASB on 2 Kings 1:2-3.)
The obvious reason for this usage is that all evil is seen to be the result of the Fall, not just sickness. And God can and does deliver from all evil, not just sickness. But in neither case does He always
Just as Satan was responsible for Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” so also Paul was hindered by Satan from returning to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:18), yet there is no hint in either case that he or God “failed.”
Sickness, therefore, is not some unique part of the Fall, deliverance from which is ours on demand; it is simply a part of the whole of fallenness. We are promised healing; yet there is also a place in the present age for “a little wine” for one’s frequent ailments.
3. The third area of weakness in the biblical interpretation of this movement is closely related to what has just been said. It is the failure to have, or to construct, an adequate biblical theology. The essential framework of New Testament theology is eschatological; that is, it has to do with the coming of the End. By the time of the coming of Jesus, Jewish hopes for salvation had become totally eschatological. The present age was seen as under Satan’s dominion, and thus totally evil. Evil men ruled, and they oppressed the righteous. The Jews had therefore come to give up on any salvation within history. They looked for God to vindicate them by bringing an end to the present age; He would do this through His Messiah, who would judge evil and usher in the New Age, the Kingdom of God.
It was into this kind of hope that Jesus came. He announced the Kingdom as present in His own ministry and proceeded to demonstrate it by healing the sick, casting out demons, and freely accepting the outcasts. Eschatological excitement reached fever pitch. But instead of ushering in the glorious New Age of their expectations, Jesus was crucified – and the lights went out. But no, there was a glorious sequel. He was raised from the dead. Surely now is the time for the Kingdom, his disciples thought. But instead, He returned to the Father and sent the promised Holy Spirit.
Right here is where the problems come in, both for the early church and for us. Jesus announced the coming Kingdom as having arrived with His own coming. The Spirit’s coming in fullness and power were also signs that the New Age had arrived. Yet the End of this age apparently had not yet taken place. Evil and its effects are still very much in evidence. How were they to reconcile this?
Very easily, beginning with Peter’s sermon in Acts 3, the church came to realize that Jesus had not come to usher in the “final” End, but the “beginning” of the End, as it were. Thus they came to see that with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and with the coming of the Spirit, the blessings and benefits of the Future had already come.
In a sense, therefore, the End had already come. But in another sense, it had not yet fully come. Thus, they saw the Kingdom, and salvation, as both already and not yet. The early believers, therefore, saw themselves as a truly eschatological people, who lived “between the times” – that is, between the time of the beginning of the End and the consummation of the End.
At the Lord’s Table, they celebrated their eschatological existence by proclaiming “the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Already they knew God’s free and full forgiveness,
but they had not yet been perfected (Philippians 3:7-14).
Already death was theirs (1 Corinthians 3:22),
yet they would still die (Philippians 3:20-22).
Already they lived in the Spirit,
yet they still lived in the world where Satan could attack.
Already they had been justified and faced no condemnation,
yet there was still to be a future judgment.
They were God’s “future people.” They had been conditioned by the future; they knew its benefits, lived in light of its values. But they still had to live out these benefits and values in the present world.
The problem in Corinth, and that which the wealth and health gospel is repeating, was to emphasize the “already” in such a way that they almost denied the continuing presence of the world. They saw Christ only as exalted, but not as crucified. They believed that the only thing that glorified God was signs and wonders and power. Because God heals, He must heal everyone. There is no place for weakness or hunger or thirst for this kind of eschatological existence. This false theology lay at the very heart of the Corinthian rejection of Paul. His bodily weaknesses did not commend him to their view of apostleship. An apostle should be “spiritual,” eloquent, living in glory and perfect health. They rejected Paul and his theology of the cross (with its ongoing suffering in the present age), because they saw themselves as “spiritual,” redeemed from such weakness. In their view Paul looked like anything but an apostle of their “glorious” Jesus.
Paul tries everything in his power to get them back to his gospel. In I Corinthians 1:18-25, he reminds them that the gospel has as its very base a “crucified Messiah.” For the Corinthians that’s like saying “fried ice.” Messiah means power, glory, miracles; crucifixion means weakness, shame, suffering. Thus they gladly accepted the false apostles, who preached a “different Gospel” with “another Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:4), and condemned Paul for his bodily weakness (10:10).
In 1 Corinthians 4:8-13 he tried irony. “Already you have all you want! Already you have come into your kingdom – and without us!” he tells them. Then, with absolutely brilliant strokes, he annihilates them with the stark contrasts between himself and them, with himself as the example of what it means to live out the future in the present age.
In 2 Corinthians 3-6, he tries to explain the true nature of apostleship, which has a glorious message but is proclaimed by a less-than-glorious messenger. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us,” he explains (4:7).
Finally, in 2 Corinthians 10-13, he attacks their false teachers head-on. To do so he plays the role of the “fool” as in the ancient dramas. Paul is forced to boast (because of his opponents), so in what does he boast? In all the very things the Corinthians are against – Paul’s weaknesses. In total irony he finally sets himself alongside the boasts of the false apostles, with their great visions and miracle-stories. However – in keeping with his point – his vision turns out to have no great word of revelation (12:4; he was not even allowed to tell its content!), and his miracle story had no miracle! All of this because he was a true disciple of the Crucified One. God’s strength is perfected not in His delivering His Messiah from crucifixion, nor in delivering His apostle from physical suffering, but is seen in the crucifixion itself, and in the apostle’s weaknesses.
Thus the “perfect health” evangelists simply repeat the Corinthian error. They find it impossible to live in the tension between the already and the not yet. Because God has already brought the Kingdom, they demand all of the future in the present age – except for the final resurrection. But 1 and 2 Corinthians stand over against this over-realized eschatology of theirs.
Paul lived out a free, joyous existence in the already (in both want and plenty, in both sickness and health),
because he knew that God had secured his life for the future
– even though it was not yet fully realized.
“Death is ours,” Paul says, yet we still die.
So with healing. It is ours; yet our bodies are not yet perfected.
And in this present age, even some of God’s choicest servants continue to be perfected through suffering, as was the Son of God Himself (Hebrews 5:8-9).
4. A final theological word. Again, as with the wealth side of their “gospel,” the preaching of perfect health tends to put the emphasis on the wrong syllable. Healing ultimately resides in God, they will affirm. Yet in actual practice, it is the result of man’s faith. Indeed, they see God as under obligation to us in this matter.
Healing, therefore, instead of being a gracious expression of God’s unlimited grace, is something He has to do – at our bidding. By way of contrast, the first sentence of a sound biblical theology may well be, God must do nothing. God is free to be God. He is sovereign in all things and is simply not under our control.
The second sentence of a sound biblical theology will be: Although God must do nothing, in grace He does all things. No healing has ever been deserved; it is always an expression of God’s grace. Some have asked, If God must do nothing, then why pray at all? Why not simply wait for Him to act sovereignly? The answer is simple: Because God answers prayer. The mystery of faith is that there is a wonderful correlation between our asking and trusting, and what goes on about us. God doesn’t have to answer prayer, but He does. God doesn’t have to heal, but He graciously does. Healing, therefore, is not a divine obligation; it is a divine gift. And precisely because it is a gift, we can make no demands. But we can trust Him to do all things well!”
3 THE NEW TESTAMENT VIEW OF WEALTH AND POSSESSIONS
“… Rather it is my hope to indicate what the New Testament itself teaches about wealth and material goods, so as to provide a biblical frame of reference for discussion and decision making.
Anyone with even a surface acquaintance with the New Testament has come to recognize that the Christian faith is decidedly on the side of “the poor”
and that “the rich” seem regularly to “come in for it.”
Thus Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor” and “woe to you who are rich” (Luke 6:20, 24, NIV). His messianic credentials are vindicated by the fact that “the good news is preached to the poor” (Matt. 11:5; see Luke 4:18),
while of the rich He says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eve of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25).
In his parable of the Sower He warns of “the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things” that choke out the Word of God (Mark 4:19), while elsewhere He says that one cannot serve God and money – they are mutually exclusive masters (Matt. 6:24).
Such an attitude toward wealth is reflected further in James and Paul, not to mention John’s Revelation (18:16-17: “Woe, Woe, O great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls! In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin”).
James shames the church for showing favoritism to the rich (2:1-7) and especially in 5:1-6 condemns the rich for their oppression of the poor (“Now listen, You rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming up on you”).
And Paul warns that the rich who eat their “lovefeasts” and Lord’s Supper with regard to the poor are coming under God’s judgment (1 Cor. 11:17-34): elsewhere he warns those who want to get rich that such people “fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
In the light of such texts, it is no wonder that affluent Christians sometimes experience guilt, as though wealth, or being wealthy, in itself were evil. But such is not the case. As we shall see, it is the abuse or accumulation of wealth while others are in need that is called into question.
It is possible of course, to argue – as some have – that these texts merely reflect the sociology of the early Christians, whose Founder was a peasant carpenter, and whose early adherents were “not many wise, nor influential, nor of noble birth” (1 Cor. 1:26) and who had sometimes experienced the confiscation of their property (Heb. 10:34). Blessing the poor and condemning the rich was simply their form of making a virtue of necessity.
But such a sociological reading of the New Testament is a thorough misunderstanding of the deeply theological motivation of New Testament ethics, which ultimately derives from the Old Testament revelation of God as the One who Himself champions the cause of the poor.
It should be noted here that “the poor” in both the New and especially the Old Testaments, refers not merely to those in economic poverty. The “poor” are the powerless, the disenfranchised, those whose situation forces them to be dependent on the help of others. Thus, it includes especially the widow and the orphan, as well as the alien, and even the Levite. The Old Testament Law, therefore, is filled with statutes that protect such people from the aggrandizement of the powerful, who of course are people with authority and money.
Interestingly enough, it has been the Old Testament that has often been seen as the “balance” to the New with regard to personal wealth and prosperity. For here indeed one regularly finds prosperity (especially lands and children) as evidence of God’s favor (e.g., Deut. 28:14; Psalm 112:1-3; 128:1-4). So much is this so that Sir Francis Bacon could write: “Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament; adversity is the blessing of the New.”
But what is often overlooked in such texts is that they are invariably tied to the concepts of God’s righteousness and justice. It is only as one is righteous – i.e., walks in accordance with God’s Law – that one is promised the blessing of abundance and family.
But to be righteous meant especially that one cared for, or pleaded the cause of, the poor and the oppressed. Such a concern is so thoroughgoing in the Old Testament that it is found in its every strata and expression: Law, Narrative, Poetry, Wisdom, Prophet. Thus in the so-called Book of the Covenant (Exod. 21-23), right in the midst of laws about seducing a virgin, sex with animals, practicing magic, and sacrificing to foreign gods, Israel is told not to mistreat or oppress an alien (22:21) and not to take advantage of a widow or an orphan (22:22). If they do the latter, they are warned, “My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless” (22:23-24). In the same context they are commanded to lend to the poor without interest and to return a poor man’s coat taken in pledge by sundown, because “I am compassionate.” In Exodus 23:10-11, the Sabbath year was instituted expressly for the poor, as was the Jubilee year in Leviticus 25 and 27.
This same concern for the disenfranchised is thoroughgoing in Deuteronomy (e.g., 10:17-19; 15:1-4, 7-11; 24:14-22; 27:19) and in the Psalter, which especially extols God because He cares for the poor and comes to their rescue (e.g., 9:8-9, 12, 18; 10:9-14, 17-18; 12:5; 22:24-26; 35:10; 68:4-5, 10).
In the great messianic Psalm 72, the “royal son” above all else, “will judge your afflicted ones with justice” (v. 2); “He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy” (v. 4; see vv. 12-14).
Precisely because God is like this, and His Anointed One will be like this (see Isa. 11:4; 42:1-4; 61:1), it is required of His people that they too plead the cause of the poor. This is especially true of those in authority. Thus it is only after he has murdered and stolen Naboth’s vineyard that God’s final judgment is pronounced on Ahab (2 Kings 21); and a strong part of Job’s defense of his own righteousness was that he had in fact cared for the Poor (29:11-17; 31:16-23).
All of this comes to its focal point in the prophets, whose condemnation of Israel repeatedly has three elements: idolatry, sexual immorality, and injustice to the poor (see Exod. 22:21-27 above). It is because “they sell into slavery honest men who cannot pay their debts, poor men who cannot even repay the price of a pair of sandals” (Amos 2:6-7 GNB), and because they “twist justice and cheat people out of their rights” and “prevent the poor from getting justice in the courts” (5:7, 12) that God condemns Israel (see Isa. 1:17, 23; 3:15; 5:8, 23; 58:1-12; Micah 2:1-2, 8-9; 3:1-4, 11; 6:8- 12; Zech. 7:8-14; and many, many others).
Righteousness in the Old Testament, therefore, calls for fair treatment of the poor. This is the way God is; this is the righteousness He demands. The poor are not to receive better things, or to be treated differently, but to be treated justly – and mercifully. Since the powerful and wealthy controlled the judges, the poor had only God to plead their cause.
Thus it is not surprising that in messianic passages the needs of the poor are going to receive God’s special attention. It is within such a context of “fulfillment” that one must view the ministry of Jesus.
But there is an added dimension. With Him the Kingdom of God had made its appearance. This meant for Him – and the early Christians – that in His own person and ministry the messianic age, the “blessedness” of the future, had dawned in human history. Jesus, therefore, is the beginning of the End, the inauguration of God’s final rule. Thus He came with good news for the poor, which for Jesus meant not only the time of justice for the economically deprived, the vulnerable, but also the time of the gracious acceptance and forgiveness of sinners.
Precisely because with Him the New Age had dawned, this meant that the overthrow of the old order with its old values and injustices had begun. Because God’s Rule had come, people were freed from the tyranny of self-rule and the need “to get ahead.” One cannot serve God and Mammon. Because God accepts and secures us, we need no longer be anxious about material things (Matt: 6:24-34). And because God thus accepts and secures us, we can freely sell our possessions and give to the needy (Luke 12:32- 34) and freely love our enemies and lend to them without expecting to get anything back (Luke 6:32-36). Indeed, the apostle John later says, if one has material possessions and cares nothing for the poor, such a person knows nothing of God’s love (l John 3:17-18: see 4:19-21).
It is within this twofold framework – the revelation of God as the One who brings justice to the poor and the inauguration of God’s Rule in the ministry of Jesus – that we must view the New Testament texts on money and possessions.
Poverty per se is not being glorified, nor is wealth condemned. In the new age a whole new order has been inaugurated, with a new way of looking at things and a new value system.
It is clear that Jesus sees possessions in the old age as doing the possessing, not being possessed. Possessions tend to tyrannize or lead to a false security. Hence some of His strongest words move in this direction. “Woe to the rich, the full,” He says (Luke 6:24-26), not because there is evil in wealth, but alas, because the rich “already have received their comfort.” They see themselves as “in need of nothing,” including God.
Like the rich fool, they seek more and more because they think life consists in having a surplus of possessions. but they are “not rich toward God” (Luke 12:13-21). “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom,” Jesus says. Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Jesus’ point is that it takes a miracle for the rich to be saved, because they are secure in their possessions.
But it is equally clear that Jesus did not have an ascetic’s eye toward property. If He had “no place to lay His head” (Luke 9:58), He and His disciples were in fact supported by the means of well-to-do women (Luke 8:2f.); and Peter owned a home in Capernaum to which Jesus repaired.
In reflecting on the fourth commandment, He says that parents are to be supported from their children’s possessions (Mark 7:9-13). In requiring money to be lent without hope of return there is the presupposition of money. Jesus went to dinners with the rich as well as the poor. Zacchaeus was not required to give up all his possessions: that he made a surplus reparation was the evidence of his salvation.
All of this is true because for Jesus wealth and possessions were a zero value. In the new age they simply do not count. The standard is sufficiency: and surplus is called into question. The one with two tunics should share with him who has none (Luke 3:11); “possessions” are to be sold and given to the poor (Luke 12:33). Indeed, in the new age unshared wealth is contrary to the Kingdom breaking in as good news to the poor. Thus, as Martin Hengel has so eloquently put it:
Jesus was not interested in any new theories about the rightness or wrongness of possessions in themselves, about the origin of property or its better distribution; rather he adopted the same scandalously free and untrammelled attitude to property as to the powers of the state, the alien Roman rule and its Jewish confederates. The imminence of the kingdom of God robs all these things of their power de facto, for in it “many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31; Matthew 19:30, 20:16; Luke 13:30). Of course, Jesus attacks mammon with the utmost severity where it has captured men’s hearts, because this gives it demonic character by which it blinds men’s eyes to God’s will – in concrete terms, to their neighbour’s needs. Mammon is worshipped wherever men long for riches, are tied to riches, keep on increasing their possessions and want to dominate as a result of them (Property and Riches in the Early Church [Fortress, 1974], p.30).
It is precisely this new age attitude that one also finds reflected in the early chapters of the Acts. The early church was not communal. But it was the new community – the new people of God. Hence no one considered anything owned to be his own possession. The coming of the Spirit that marked the beginning of the new order had freed them from the need of possessing. Hence there was sufficiency, and no one was in need.
This same carefree attitude toward wealth and possessions also marks all of Paul. He is a free man in Christ, who knows contentment whatever the circumstances. He knows both want and plenty, both hunger and being well fed. He “can do all things” – which in this context clearly refers to being in need! – “through Christ who gives him strength” (Phil. 4:10-13). Thus, he tells those who have nothing to be content with food and clothing: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap” (1 Tim. 6:6-10). But then he remembers those who happen to be rich. They are to treat their wealth with indifference: they must not put any stock in it. Rather they are to be “generous and willing to share,” for this is true wealth (6:17-19).
It seems to me that this is the biblical framework within which American Christianity must once again begin to move and have its being. For many of us this will mean the adoption of a simpler way of life – not as Law, but as gratitude to Grace. For many it will also mean courage – courage to withstand the paganism of our materialistic culture and courage to give time and money to “unpopular causes,” such as prison reform and world poverty. Such programs as Bread for the World, John Perkin’s Voice of Calvary in Mississippi, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship are leading the way for us in these matters. God’s call to us is for a return to biblical faith and to a radical obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ. This does not require poverty, but it does require righteousness, which in this context means to use our wealth not to manipulate others, but to alleviate the hurt and pain of the oppressed.”
End of Gordon Fee’s book (excerpts).
What John Piper has spoken and Gordon Fee has written, totally demolished the Health and Wealth or Prosperity Gospel of Joseph Prince.
Who would you choose to believe?
John Piper and Gordon Fee, who are both accomplished Bible scholars and well-respected Bible teachers across denominations,
Joseph Prince, the serial liar, serial hypocrite, serial double-talker and serial slanderer?
Rev George Ong