Prosperity, Posterity, Pilgrimage (pt 3)

POSTERITY – that I remain healthy so that me and my tribe would live long in this land.

Sometimes I am a purist, wanting to comprehend and review the validity, legitimacy of teachings, principles and practices. This irksome attitude would highlight problems around me – both real and perceived, whether with situations or with people. Oftentimes it makes me self-righteous; thinking that I know better. What ego!

At other times I tend to be a pragmatist, knowing that we are all still imperfect, fallen, ignorant or ill-informed. Then I would be accepting and accommodating especially of others. Maybe that is why I am still in the church which so many berate.

I do really want to seek the truth as much as possible. Such was the case this morning when upon stepping out of the church service, I saw a group of adults wearing T-shirts with words “Forever Young” emblazoned. I opined to my wife, hinting most likely a “positive confession” statement echoing proclamations from the pulpit about “He renews my youth like the eagle” (Ps 103:5), and “I shall live till I am 120 years old”

Indeed this is a phenomenon within WOF churches – drawing mainly from the Old Testament that we shall live long and be kept healthy and strong.

According to Graeme Goldsworthy in his article on “The Kingdom of God and the Old Testament” evangelicals recognize that our view of the inspiration and authority of the entire Bible has saddled us with the Old Testament (passages) whether we like it or not. However he cautioned an error to be carefully avoided: “Many people simply draw on the great variety of Old Testament narrative for its wealth of human story … (leading to) a moralizing application that does little more than point up examples for us to follow and examples for us to eschew. Because there is no sense of structure and dynamic development, each narrative or text is treated in isolation from the wider framework of God’s progressive revelation. Consequently, the relationship of Old to New involves little more than illustrations of gospel truth.”

A lapse in the “big picture’ of biblical theology does set off the tendency to cherry pick and “proof text” feel-good verses as typical and prescriptive for our faith. Some termed it as “scripture-twisting”. But a few WOF teachers are really good in using Hebrew and Greek to buttress the conviction convincingly. Oftentimes, I had also been swarmed and swayed, without the benefit of a good grasp of biblical theology.

So are we proclaiming “Forever Young” as an eschatological truth, or as an experiential reality or as an erroneous presumption and perception. It is difficult to differentiate as this confession for that which is good and positive is rooted deeply in WOF teachings.

The question is, are my assumptions sound? Are they biblical?

Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church

Michael Lawrence, in his “Biblical Theology In The Life of the Church” said

“our theology determines the shape and character of our ministry. Theology is how we move from the text of Scripture to how we should live our lives today.

biblical theology” is theology that’s biblical, or theology that’s sound.

“The word “sound,” …. means reliable, accurate, and faithful. And it’s the word “sound” that Paul uses over and over with his disciples Timothy and Titus to describe their doctrine and their teaching. Sound doctrine opposes ungodliness and sin (1 Tim. 1:10–11). Sound instruction opposes false doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3). Sound teaching is the pattern Timothy has seen in Paul (2 Tim. 1:13). Sound doctrine will be rejected by the churches who would rather hear what their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4: 3). And, again, sound doctrine will encourage those who hold firmly to the trustworthy message and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1: 9). Over and over, Paul tells these two men to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2: 1). Sound doctrine, or theology that is biblical, ….”

“… biblical theology is about reading the Bible, not as if it’s sixty-six separate books, but a single book with a single plot — God’s glory displayed through Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is therefore about discovering the unity of the Bible in the midst of its diversity. It’s about understanding what we might call the Bible’s metanarrative.

“Biblical theology is how we go about the task of reading the Word and ensuring that it’s God’s Word rather than our words that are shaping people’s lives. Biblical theology is how we bring people into the life-changing story of God’s redemptive plan.

So, in church and in our fellowships, we often proclaim health for ourselves, and advocate a life span of 120 years, based mainly on OT passages. We want to live long, and avoid disease and death (taught by EW Kenyon, the grandfather of the WOF).

But when I come to the NT, I find the following seemingly different aspirations :

Luke 2:29-30 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation”

Phil 1:21-23 “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.”

2 Cor 4:16-5:8 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 5 For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, 3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

I quoted Goldsworthy previously. More of him below –

“Prosperity teaching relies heavily on an Old Testament’s vision of life. It highlights the physical blessings given to Adam and Eve and the promises of prosperity given to Abraham.

“However, we need to see the progressive nature of Old Testament theology as leading to the New Testament fulfilment. He asserted that through the Scriptures, the revelation of God is progressive. In the OT, it is about the land, and living well successfully to herald God’s kingdom on earth. In the NT, it is all about our LORD

“Israel’s hope was to return to Zion, the place of God’s dwelling among His people. The New Testament must tell us where Zion is if we would dis¬cover the new temple and the ruling Son of David. Be¬cause Jesus is the Son of David to whom rule is given, Zion is where He is – ie., in heaven. The kingdom of God cannot be separated from the presence of Jesus (Heb. 12:22). In thinking of God’s place, it is important not to be too conditioned by our earthly concepts of real estate. The prominence in the Old Testament of the promised land should not be allowed to establish our concept of God’s place. We must remember that the promised land, Canaan, is an earthly expression of a reality which we saw set forth in the garden of Eden. But even Eden could not be Eden without the presence of God. Let Levi teach us a lesson. The tribe of Levi was chosen to be priestly representatives of Israel in having access to God (a priest is one who has access to God). God told Moses that He intended to make a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6), a truth which has its fulfillment in the priest¬hood of all believers. In this sense Levi was privileged to represent God’s people in the ideal relationship of being accepted into God’s presence. All the tribes were aportioned real estate as their inheritance, except Levi. Levi, the truly representative Israel, was given a far greater gift: “They shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance. . . .” Deut. 18:2, RSV. The making of the true kingdom of priests comes through the preaching of the gospel. The ultimate in¬heritance is related to priesthood rather than land rights. And it is this priesthood that the New Testa¬ment applies to Christians, for they have access to the presence of God through Jesus Christ. Because the hope of Israel leads thus to the blessings of the gospel, the writer to the Hebrews describes Abraham’s faith in terms of its ultimate conclusion. It is not to the land of Canaan that Abraham’s faith leads, but to the heavenly homeland (Heb. 11 :13-16).”

So do I want to echo what the pulpit declared oftentimes?

Deut 34:7 “And Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.”

I would be a purist if I learn biblical theology – that there is a program to ensure the health and posterity of the chosen Hebraic race living in the land given by God – part of the plan to herald the coming of the Jesus and His Kingdom. And Jesus, having come and died, His program now is for his redeemed people me to set our eyes on the Lord, Whose kingdom relationships, values and goals are eternal.

I would be a pragmatist desiring health and posterity, and be no different from other Asians going to shrines and temples to pray and hope for a good life in this temporal world, in this land.

(Not long ago, my daughter pressed me to expend my limited resources to renovate a resale flat still in good condition – to live well, to be comfortable. I resisted, saying a tourist would just stay in a hotel and then go home. He would not renovate his hotel room! Oops – an extreme example, but hopefully to affirm and self-fulfil the practice of my faith)

So am I a purist, or a pragmatist? I want to be a pilgrim, for God’s Word declares that I am a alien, a stranger, a sojourner in this land – longing to be with the Lord.

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Prosperity, Posterity and Pilgrimage (pt 1)

It has been more that a decade since the teachings of health and wealth have been a vexation. Knowing the caution of the evangelicals, and yet immersed in a church that boldly, unflinchingly and persuasively proclaim the WOF tenets. The quest for truth was kept simmering, and my ears and mental radar was ever turned on for all the arguments for and against.

I read widely, often intensively. The sermons, and testimonies on health and wealth in my church (and to the world) were hard to shake off or ignored. Somehow wanting to agree, but yet very much unconvinced.

Now it is clear.

Derek Vreeland in responding to critics of the WOF proponents wrote in RECONSTRUCTING WORD OF FAITH THEOLOGY: A Defense, Analysis and Refinement of the Theology of the Word of Faith Movement
He quoted Hagin – and then quoted Walter Kaiser, the renowned evangelical.

Abraham’s blessing is ours!… Abraham’s blessing was a threefold blessing. The first thing God promised Abraham was that He was going to make him rich. “Do you mean God is going to make us all rich?” Yes, that’s what I mean. “Do you mean He’s going to make us all millionaires?” No, I didn’t say that. But He is going to make us rich. You may not understand what the word “rich” means. The dictionary says it means “a full supply” or “abundantly provided for.” Praise God, there is a full supply in Christ! (Kenneth E. Hagin, Redeemed from Poverty, Sickness, and Spiritual Death, (Tulsa: Faith Library Publications, 1983),

The eulogia tou Abraam – blessing of Abraham – recorded in Galatians 3:14 (a) (my comment below) is a singular blessing (i.e. the justification of Abraham by faith) however the undeniable result of covenant blessing in Old Testament theology is material prosperity.

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. observes, “Material blessings in the Old Testament were used by God for various ends. First of all they were given that God might confirm his covenant promise to build a mighty nation.” (b)

God glorified himself in his covenant(s) with Israel by blessing them materially for specific purposes. The provisions of Yahweh were not only spiritual/ceremonial, but material/physical. The Psalmist declares, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” In Word of Faith theology, these material blessing are conferred upon the Christian as the child of Abraham in Christ.

(a) But what about Hebrews 8? “v13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (I still need to be definite and sound in interpreting this). Has the covenant with Abraham been made obsolete? I am still wondering. It is no longer the blessings of Abraham being transmitted to us. It is through Abraham (progeny) that we are blessed in Jesus – “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ ….” (Eph 1:17-23).

(b) It is hard to doubt the reality of material blessings when Walter Kaiser was referenced. But then Kaiser pointed to the grounds for “His covenant promise – to build a mighty nation”! = For a purpose, ie. God’s purpose in Jesus! It is never for the elevation of Abraham or his descendants in the flesh or in the faith. Neither is it for the individualistic or personal gratification of our earthly needs and passions that distract our pilgrimage to Christ and eternity. Primarily it is for the glorification of His Son, and through His Son, we are blessed, having obtained the inheritance of our King and His kingdom.

Yes, we need to move on in God’s program in the land to His purpose in our Lord Jesus!
I can’t delineate the details and development for my fresh convictions about H&W. Progressively and slowly in fuzzy focus (oxymoron), but definitely now, as never before – sound and sensible and significant and satisfying to me personally with conviction. I tended to being a reductionist, so am not meticulous to show biblical evidence exhaustively. But it has fortified my convictions on this matter.

God has a Purpose in Jesus (Eph 1:3-14; Col 1:15-20). When men failed and fell, God being sovereign, already had a Plan (still in the context of His Purpose in Christ) that cannot be thwarted. Fallen men became fearful (Gen 3:10), but God reached out with a Promise to assuage and assure. His Plan would roll out progressively via a Program using people to repossess land judiciously till Jesus personally comes with full and final redemption.

The program began first with reclaiming earthly land for a Messiah to tabernacle in our midst. Then the program would be with our eternal LORD!

The promise tapered from the human race to the Hebraic race in the person of Abraham. Abraham would have a people (Gen 12:2,3;) and he will have a land (Gen 12:7) ie. posterity and property.

It makes sense to me now. To preserve and sustain the posterity and property, God promised health and wealth, so that the land remains in possession for Jesus to be tabernacled in our midst. Why did God expend so much ink to write about genealogies in the OT? It is posterity of the chosen race.  And health and wealth? – To ensure the fulfillment of His program and that His chosen race is resilient and enduring.

With the advent of Jesus, God’s program progresses on, no longer with the transient channel of the land, but with the LORD Himself!

Col 3: 3 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

So I am to be preoccupied with the LORD, not with posterity and prosperity in this earthly abode, but with eternal kingdom values and goals.

With the Lord in our hearts, it is no longer prosperity (wealth) and posterity (health), but pilgrimage to the new earth and new heavens.

And Abraham was looking forward to the city that has eternal foundations … not the earthly possessions.

Heb 11: 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

1 Peter 2: 9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

The WOF teaching on health and wealth can lead to dire preoccupations that distort the kingdom truth and values, distract us from truly seeking the kingdom of God, and seeking for His will to be done. (Matt 6:10)

But I needed to validate my fresh understanding of God’s Purpose, Plan and Program in Jesus. Health and Wealth – posterity and prosperity are blessings and empowerment in the land for the first coming of Jesus. With Christ having tabernacled in the land, and having finished His work on the cross, it is now about my LORD and my pilgrimage to the eternal realm. I am merely a sojourner waiting for my eternal inheritance in the LORD – an alien and stranger here, better not be too comfortable and attached to things that are earthly, temporal and transient.

I needed to validate my thoughts. I prayed, searched, and was led to dive into biblical theology. Not being a pastor or bible college student with much reference materials, my task was inadequate and imperfect. I could only resort to whatever I had accumulated (Wordsearch, Logos, etc) and Google, and then use “cheat sheets’ of book reviews, synopsis, the ‘look inside’ within Amazon books etc. It has been satisfying.

More of this in the next post.

Shalom.

Phil 3:
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.