John G. Lake, Zion City evangelist and co-founder of the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa, laid out one of the strongest pentecostal cases for the superhuman ability to overcome sickness. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, in her 1875 manifesto Science and Health, disavowed the reality of sickness and death–arguing suffering comes from mental errors. E.W. Kenyon believed physical healing is God’s intention for humanity. Kenneth Hagin claimed: “I have not had one sick day in 45 years.” Continue reading
The Prosperity Gospel heresy is so dangerous because it contains elements of truth. If it were completely false, no one would believe it. God does sometimes bless people with material prosperity and well-being.
But Scripture also warns of the dangers of promising health and wealth, especially when it is used to draw people to God. We could define the Prosperity Gospel message thus: Jesus came into the world to make people prosperous, not to remove God’s wrath upon them. God’s will is never suffering, but always health and wealth. Continue reading
TD Jakes and his false teaching of modalism is certainly a great threat to the church. Here in Africa, however, his followers are most influenced by another of his heresies: the Prosperity Gospel.
Stickers like that on the left is common in our villages. Notice the name of the church, the key words, and the swanky pose. Most of this is the cheap imitation of what they see Jakes do on TV and in his books. As the pastor of the Potter’s House, Jakes has crystalized in his doctrinal statement the false teaching that is rampant in so many African churches:
We believe that it is God’s will to heal and deliver His people today as He did in the days of the first Apostles. It is by the stripes of Jesus that we are healed, delivered and made whole. We have authority over sickness, disease, demons, curses, and every circumstance in life.
The Prosperity Gospel teaches that it is always God’s will to heal. If healing doesn’t come, it is because of the sick person’s lack of faith. But is this true? Was faith necessary for healing in the New Testament? Continue reading
“You are healed!” This was what one charismatic woman declared over me recently upon hearing of my flu-like symptoms. When I told her my illness was just the same as it was a minute ago, she implied it would pass in a couple of days. “Sickness has no power over you, man of God.” If only this were true.
This lady didn’t know it, but she was exhibiting one of two common marks of the Prosperity Crusades: (1) pre-arranged settings and (2) delayed healings.
The Prosperity crowd typically does their healings in sterile, pre-planned environments so they can control who comes and goes. Paraplegics? Downs Syndrome? Amputees? Not a chance. These wily hucksters are looking to heal heart failure and headaches. Bodyguards protect the stage in order to vet each person who wants healing. Everything is orchestrated perfectly.
Contrast this with Jesus, who didn’t need to touch or even see the official’s sick son. He healed him from 25 kms away (Jn. 4:50). Elsewhere, Jesus happened to be at Peter’s house when he healed his mother-in-law (Mt. 8:14-15). Humanly speaking, the healing was unplanned and impromptu. The same thing happened with Peter, who healed the cripple en route to the temple (Ac. 3:6-7).
There are times, however, when those thirsting for a cure don’t play along with the charlatan on stage. Their arm was lame and it’s still lame. What now? This is when the idea of postponed healings comes into play. Like the woman said earlier, sometimes healings take a couple of days to kick in.
But, again, this is not the case in Scripture. The nobleman’s son was healed the very hour Jesus said the word (Jn. 4:52-53). He healed the lepers (Mk. 1:42), the blind man (Mk. 10:32), and the paralytic (Ac. 3:8) instantly. There are a couple of examples in the Gospels where a miracle was delayed for a few minutes (e.g. Lk. 17:11-19) but there was a purpose for this small delay, and never was it for an extended amount of time.
For those church con men who claim to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by healing the sick, a good place to start would be with immediate and spontaneous healings. Anything short is fraud.
While waiting in the doctor’s office last week, I sat next to a full-blown Prosperity campaigner. If Joseph Prince or Kenneth Copeland were Don Quixote, this man would have been Sancho Panza. “It’s never God’s will for Christians to be sick, “ he said, only to follow with the saddest line of all. “That’s why I just can’t understand why my wife is here.” A few minutes later, they rolled her out in a wheel chair.
There are many answers to the question of why. Why do Christians suffer? On several occasions we’ve taught our people in the village 30 reasons-it-is-good-for-christians-to-suffer. Most of these come from St. Paul, himself no stranger to affliction but just as anxious to share in Jesus’ suffering (Phil. 3:10).
A good place to start is the story of Jesus healing the nobleman’s son (Jn. 4:46-54). This man and his whole household came to Christ because of the boy’s sickness. The implication is that had the boy not been sick, the father would never have had a reason to believe. This should rectify our qualms with affliction, as so much good comes from it.
Suffering is the oft-used tonic in God’s medical bag. Indeed, strength and vitality bring special blessings, but broken bodies are even better if they draw us to Christ. As David said, “It is good for me that I was afflicted” (Ps. 119:71).
Ministers carrying their Bible in one hand and braggadocio in the other is nothing new. Modern titles of doctor, pastor of pastors, apostle, and prophet are really not modern at all. Jesus described the false teachers of his day as those who “loved…being called rabbi” (Mt. 23:7). If the Pharisees lived in today’s South African church, they would have their faces crested on the bright t-shirts of their congregation. At the least, a portrait of he and his wife on a bumper sticker.
Which leads us to our third question: does “touch not the Lord’s anointed” mean the pastor is above rebuke? Is the PG’s love affair with tawdry titles biblical?
In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul gives nearly 20 descriptions of a gospel minister. Here are a few: servant, last of all, fool, weak, homeless, reviled, persecuted, scum, refuse. If an “apostle” wants all the fanfare that comes with that label, he should begin by attaching these descriptions to himself.
Never in Scripture is the pastor referred to as God’s anointed. While Jesus is called God’s “Anointed” (Acts 4:26) pastors generally have less winsome titles. A common strategy false teachers use to defend themselves from criticism is the OT passage that says “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (1Chr. 16:22; Ps. 105:15). They interpret “mine anointed” as the pastor and the command as being given to those who point out his poor preaching or white silk suit.
Suppose Bishop Baloyi has a girlfriend on the side or offers empty promises or has rebellious children or loves money. In the Prosperity world, none of this is up for rebuke because First Chronicles is clear.
Scripture says otherwise. St. Paul specifically tells the church to rebuke sinning pastors. In fact, the admonition should be public (1Tm. 5:20). Open censure of unrepentant clergy brings fear to the people.
Moreover, the context of 1 Chron. 16 is a plea for Israel to be encouraged. “Remember the covenant!” Even though you were few and homeless, the LORD placed his protecting hand upon you, not allowing pagan nations to “touch” his “anointed ones” (v. 22). These words actually come from David’s song of thanksgiving. If “touch not mine anointed” means no rebuke for God’s people, we would expect to see this in David’s life. But who received more open criticism based on immoral behavior than David (2Sm. 12)?
In the African church these days, about the lowest title one can take is pastor. It seems everyone is a mufundzisi. James disagrees (Jms. 3:1). If God has called a man to this office, he should be quick to follow Paul’s example of renouncing flashy titles.
In answering our second question from the Prosperity quiz, let us start with a story.
One evening I sat down with a villager who had been a lifelong member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He nodded throughout my presentation of the gospel and church doctrine. As I got up to leave, he told me I would be successful as a pastor because “words have power, and we must speak them.”
Harmless perhaps, but after ministering for years among African prosperity churches, I knew exactly what he meant. I questioned him about that statement and just as I expected, the popular teaching of Positive Confession had even seeped into the worldview of an old member of a historically conservative church. “Say the words,” he told me, moving his hand from his lips to the sky. “It will happen.”
Verily, the tongue does have the power to do evil and good. Proverbs 18:20-21 is talking about the incredible power of speech. Solomon uses three body members to describe communication: mouth, lips, and tongue. Each member is made small but with lots of muscle. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (v. 21). The tongue can do great evil, such as leading others into immorality. The evil woman is “loud” (Pr. 7:11). If the man cannot see her, then he certainly will hear her. Contrast this with the godly woman who learns “quietly” (1 Tm. 2:11) and has a spirit that is “quiet” (1 Pt. 3:4). The tongue grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). To avoid this, Paul lists five things to rid ourselves of, at least two of them dealing with the tongue (clamor and slander). The tongue can bring violence. “A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating” (Pr. 18:6). On the positive side, the tongue has the power to heal a broken soul (Pr. 12:18), to educate (Pr. 15:7), and to bring joy (Pr. 16:24). The NT version of this is James 3:8-10. “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil…from the same mouth come blessing and cursing.”
The clerics of cornucopia love to take small phrases from the OT and twist them to line their pockets. For them, this verse teaches Positive Confession, meaning our words have the power to create reality. For example, listen to Joyce Meyer in Eight Ways to Keep the Devil Under Your Feet.
Words are containers for power. They carry creative or destructive power, positive or negative power. And so we need to be speaking right things over our lives and about our futures if we expect to have good things happen (30).
Nigerian pastor D. K. Olukoya is more graphic in Prayer Rain.
I vomit every satanic deposit in my life, in the mighty name of Jesus. (You may prime the expulsion of these things by coughing slightly. Refuse to swallow any saliva coming out from the mouth.) . . . You can prime the expulsion of the following things by heaving deeply and applying little force [sic] upon the lower part of the abdomen. I deliver and pass out any satanic deposit in my intestine, in the name of Jesus. Speak to your womb to retain and maintain the pregnancy till birth. I command my money being caged by the enemy to be completely released, in the name of Jesus (18).
All across Africa, church people are being promised jobs, twins, sports cars, and spouses if they will but speak the words. Why? “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” If you want your sickness to end, say it, speak it, and it will happen.
Proverbs 18:21 actually teaches the opposite of the Prosperity message. Solomon is not telling us to talk more but to talk less. The second half says “and those who love it will eat its fruits.” That is, words have consequences, powerful words have powerful consequences, and voluminous words have voluminous consequences. “Those who love it”, that is, those who love to talk, will reap what they sowed.
This verse is pointing its gun at the forehead of TBN. It says, beware of telling that sick child her positive words have the power to heal. These words actually have the power to cause her death, and you will eat deadly fruit as the consequence. Beware of telling Mrs. Credulous her last coin to the pastor will buy her a new house, for the meal of God’s wrath is spread before you.
Only the Word has the power to create with words (Jn. 1:3). He is the creator. We are the creatures. But our words can do great good and evil. All of us must give account of them one day (Mt. 12:37).