As I had written, 3 John 2 has been often quoted to back up the teaching that God wants to prosper us. This has set me to search more to find out how bible scholars and teachers interpret the passage.
Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. (KJV)
Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (NASB)
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. (ESV)
Dear friend, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul. (NET)
.. beloved, concerning all things I desire thee to prosper, and to be in health, even as thy soul doth prosper, (Young’s)
Before I continue, I must admit and declare that I am not a bible scholar, merely a believer who wants to know right, so that I will think right, feel right, do right, speak right and share truths that are right.
In the book of Acts, the Bereans were noble people who were eager to learn, and examined the scriptures daily to verify what they heard. I am sure Paul and Silas were delighted that the Bereans were hungry for the truth. Then there was the Ethiopian eunuch. Ever wondered how he got hold of a scroll – first he was a eunuch, probably excluded from any synagogue, secondly, handwritten scrolls are not easy to obtain. That is eagerness, and determination. And, he learnt how to read the source languages – either Aramaic or Hebrew!! But he could not understand.
Acts 8 “30 So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him.”
I am more like the eunuch rather than the Bereans. And there are many many ‘Philips’ who are running around to ensure that I understand the scriptures. My prayer is for the Lord to send sound ‘Philips’ to my side to guide me. And the Lord is faithful.
Ever since, I have many articles and teachings and resources that help me to have a grasp of this topic of Health and Wealth.
For one who had been there, Jim Bakker wrote his book “I Was Wrong” when he was in prison. (see http://www.spiritwatch.org/firejbwrong.htm).
My pastor mentioned that indeed there are abuses (abnormal use) of the passage about prosperity in 3 John 2. The following cites an incident where K Hagin, the father of the Health and Wealth movement warning his associates on the extremes and abuses of the H&W teachings http://kennethcopelandblog.com/2008/11/11/rev-hagins-previous-rebuke-of-copeland/
Is it a coincidence that many abuses in money matters were and are within the H&W advocates. I read that the emphasis on Experiential Theology rather than Biblical Theology has somehow given rein to more liberty (license?) to applying the bible.
Rather than cross reference to dissenters from the regular denominations, I suppose Gordon Fee would have the credentials and credibility to throw more light on this.
Gordon Fee, considered the first Bible scholar of the modern Pentecostal movement, has spent the last 40 years proving that the Holy Spirit and biblical scholarship can peacefully coexist” He co-authored the best-seller “How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth”
To do justice, I just had to quote. Do go to the above link for the whole article.
“Another area of contention for Fee is the prosperity gospel, or what he calls “health and wealth” teachings. His book The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels is a blistering rebuke of prosperity and perfect health teachings, which he claims have no basis in Scripture. What he describes as the “false gospel” of health and wealth has caused “immense damage” to the charismatic movement, he says.
“Fight over tongues and prophecy if you have to, but don’t fight over something as unbiblical as [health and wealth theology],” he observes. Fee notes in the book that the theology of this gospel seems far more to fit the American dream than the teaching of Him who had “nowhere to lay His head.”
“We shouldn’t reconstruct the Christian faith into an advancement of the American way of life, which I feel is the great sin of the American church today,” he says.
The problem with health and wealth teaching, Fee says, is one of hermeneutics, or “interpretation of Scripture.” He believes much of the prosperity teaching is dressed “in biblical garb” but “flies full in the face of the whole New Testament.”
Twisting certain scriptural passages to fit their theology, proponents of health and wealth are “guilty of selectivity,” Fee says, and then they “avoid … texts that stand squarely in opposition to their teaching.”
He highlights 3 John 2 as a key example: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (KJV). Fee says prosperity teachers interpret this verse as saying, in effect: “We should prosper and be in good health.”
He contends, however, that the Greek word translated as “prosper” in the King James Version means “to go well with someone.” The equivalent of it today would be if someone wrote: “I pray this letter finds you all well.”
He concludes: “The 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. To extend [John’s greeting] to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians of all times is totally foreign to the text.”
Fee also questions the prosperity movement’s interpretation of the term “abundant life” in John 10:10. The meaning has nothing to do with material abundance, he says, adding that “life” literally means the “life of the Age to come.” The Greek word perrison, translated “more abundantly” in the KJV, means “simply that believers are to enjoy this gift of life to the full,” he says. “Material abundance is not implied either in the word ‘life’ or ‘to the full.’””
Or you can further read the following – coursematerials.vision.edu/its/Lesson_20.pdf
Or listen to Gordon Fee’s interview for his convictions on this. http://www.havenministries.com/audio/082806-64k.mp3
I have read and thought through much. If prosperity is my inheritance and right, then I would wish and pray that it becomes a reality. But then, it isn’t true of my experience, or of many other brethren I know. Sigh …
Experiential Theology would propel me to believe and claim, but am I and would I be disappointed? While Biblical Theology is more convincing, and could substantiate with sound scholarship, it leaves me with much to look forward to – to lift up my head for my Redeemer is coming.