Prosperity, Posterity, Pilgrimage (pt 4)

Where is your sting

Posterity

This morning, I woke up thinking about death and dying.

The Psalmist lamented

Psalm 89:47-49(ESV)
47 Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
48 What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah
49 Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?”

Such is the lot of man since Adam fell. And it is appointed for man to die … (Heb 9:27).

But “ God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, …” (1 Thes 5:9).

So in His Purpose in Christ, He rolled out His Plan, with a program beginning with a person to become a special people, assigned and allotted a place in the midst and center of three continents. This chosen people shall have a lasting posterity, and prosper and succeed till the Redeemer comes. He would ensure their posterity so that His Purpose, Plan and program be accomplished.

I have to be fair. With much fake news, fake adverts, etc swirling around, I need to check myself that my comments be factual, full (in context of complete scenario) and not flawed. At least, I must try.

Everyday is SONday

Last Sunday, I only saw a few wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “Forever Young”. But every Sunday, I’ve seen more T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Everyday a SONday”! I really like that. They are worn by the hundreds of volunteers serving in the children’s Sunday School. The T-shirts I mentioned previously were merely a handful. Must not be hard on others and so full of my opinions!

I only know in part!

1 Cor 13 says “11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

I must seek to clarify and convince with truth rather than to condemn.

My 82 years old sister now is dying from acute kidney failure with many other underlying medical issues. But many days ago, she had asked Jesus to forgive her sins, and welcomed Him into her life! Last night, I told her, “don’t be afraid, Jesus is with you.” And everyday, as I take the communion on her behalf, God reminds me that Jesus has seen her, and had compassion on her. I pray frequently that Jesus shall envelope and embrace her with His peace that is beyond understanding. And she will soon put on a new body. Its all about spiritual and eternal posterity.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 3 has been used by many to claim the blessings of Abraham.
“6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”

Perhaps the passage allude to Gentiles having faith like Abraham are being blessed with justification, righteousness and sonship as preached in the Gospel. In this context, I have to guard myself against eisegesis and not go beyond what is written (1 Cor 4:6), and presume that I inherit all the blessings of Abraham with earthly prosperity and posterity .

We get a clearer progressive picture of posterity when Christ said ““All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”

In the OT – it was to be fruitful and multiply – the human race and then especially the Hebraic race.

In the NT – we are to go and make disciples – of all nations. Paul purposefully chose to be single, thus depriving himself of any posterity because he wanted spiritual posterity in the faith rather than in the flesh. The NT records for us believers in Christ multiplying.

Gods Design cover

In “God’s Design: A Focus on OT Theology”, Elmer Martens has this to say :

The covenant with Abraham is described in greater detail in Genesis 15 and 17 and is related to the initial blessing of a multitude of descendants promised to Abraham (Gen 12 : 2 ). Along with the promise of descendants, God promised Abraham territory. “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates . . .”’ (Gen 15 : 18 ). The triple promise of descendants, territory, and blessing is embraced in a covenant given to Abraham in his ninety-ninth year (Gen 17 : 1 –8 ). Reiterated to Isaac (Gen 26 : 3 ) and to Jacob (Gen 28 : 19 ; 35 : 9 –12 ), the promise continued to have a threefold gift of descendants, territory, and blessing. YHWH’s intention for his people is that they enjoy the good life. The words of the text are: “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession” (Exod 6 : 8 ). The land was already earlier the object of promise, where it was the concrete part of God’s blessing for his people. Elsewhere the land is described as the land flowing with milk and honey (Exod 3 : 17 ), which is to say that it is a land in which life is pleasant and in which living is marked by abundance. The land comes before long to symbolize the life with YHWH in ideal conditions, a quality of life which might be characterized as the abundant life.

The land as the object of promise, where it was the concrete part of God’s blessing for his chosen people – to have descendants (posterity) and abundance (prosperity) – a promise not just to Abraham, but to the patriarchs so that they can be a viable and resilient nation and people to restore God’s Kingdom and usher in the King.

The divine image, values and character of Godhead was supposed to be reproduced by Adam and Eve. (Gen 1:26-28). And in Ex 32:13 – “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

YHWH’s intention for his people is that they enjoy the good life. The words of the text are: “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession” (Exod 6 : 8 ). The land was already earlier the object of promise, where it was the concrete part of God’s blessing for his people. Elsewhere the land is described as the land flowing with milk and honey (Exod 3 : 17 ), which is to say that it is a land in which life is pleasant and in which living is marked by abundance. The land comes before long to symbolize the life with YHWH in ideal conditions, a quality of life which might be characterized as the abundant life.

The covenant with Abraham plays a central role in the biblical storyline.
God promised Abraham offspring, land, and universal blessing. The promise to Abraham finds its culmination in Jesus Christ as the true son of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). All those who belong to Jesus Christ by faith are children of Abraham. The promise of land was fulfilled when Israel possessed Canaan under the leadership of Joshua and Solomon, yet Israel lost the land and went into exile because of sin. The promise of land was realized proleptically in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for his resurrection represents the arrival of the new creation, and it will find its final fulfillment in the new creation—the new temple over which God and the Lamb will reign (Rev. 21:1–22:5). The promise of universal blessing is fully and finally fulfilled in Jesus Christ through whom people from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation are included in Abraham’s family.

Pilgrimage, for this world is not my home. I must constantly remind myself – do not get entangled with earthly pursuits, or to think so much of health (for posterity or longevity of my tribe, perceiving sickness and death as something to be avoided) and wealth.

P/S.  Just received and read this re “proof-texting” on popular WOF verses :  

       http://theaquilareport.com/5-passages-pastor-wishes-youd-stop-taking-context/

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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.

The Leaven of the Health and Wealth teachings

The leaven of the birds of the air.       

Lately, I have been writing about the different realms of wisdom as mentioned in the book of James – spiritual, secular and satanic.  It is utmost that my life is governed and directed by the power and life of the Holy Spirit – Spiritual revelations of the King’s values, rather than secular reasonings (1 Cor 2:14-16, Prov 3:5, Rom 12:2,) or satanic reckonings (Matt 4:10, 16:23, James 3:15).  It is real that Satan not only displaces God’s Word from our midst as in the parable of the Sower, but also tempts us when he replaces God’s Word with his own satanic doctrines, distortions, deceptions which appears to be reasonable and wise (2 Cor 2:11).

O how we ever need to pray for His deliverance from the evil one, the world of evil, the work of evil, the workers of evil (both seen and unseen), the words and wisdom of evil (inclusive of secular earthly wisdom).  We should not be ignorant of the diabolical wiles of the evil one to destroy all that Jesus stands for.

God willing and enabling, I intend to dwell at length in future into how secular wisdom and reasonings and satanic reckonings have displaced and replaced the Spirit’s and scriptural teachings with regards to Health and Wealth in our churches today.

Alby would be having David Holdaway speak on the 14th Nov 2015.  I signed up immediately.  What attracted me was the mailer describing his book, which would also be issued for participants

“When Jesus used the Aramaic term mammon to refer to wealth He was giving it a personal and spiritual character in Matthew 6:24. He personified mammon as a rival god, a spiritual power, an idol that can become infused with demonic energy. He was saying that if we do not gain power over money then money will gain power over us and attract spiritual forces to capture and control our lives. This is why the Apostle Paul could say, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” The devil knows that followers of Christ will not willingly bow to him but if he can get them to bow down to money he will use it to pull their strings like puppets as he becomes their puppet master.

David Holdaway, who who has written four books on finance, will speak about the social and spiritual forces connected to money and the differences between Gods’ economic kingdom and the world’s (devil’s) economic system. Learn how to be a master over money and wealth and live in God’s blessing instead of being a bondage to it. This is a seminar that will transform your perspective.

Two of the biggest mistakes many of these make when they speak about financial increase is that firstly, they tend to quote scripture selectively.  Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”  When a half truth is presented as a whole truth, it becomes an untruth.”

 

This morning, I started reading Gordon Fee’s book “The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospel”. He is the eminent Pentecostal theologian and scholar, whose book “How To Read the Bible …” is a classic text for bible schools.  He wrote (in italics)

The pitch (by H&W proponents) says: “It’s in the Bible; God says it; so think God’s thoughts; claim it, and it’s yours.”

Not all who propagate this “gospel” do so as boldly, nor are they necessarily enemies of Christ; nonetheless their message consists of a dangerous twisting of God’s truth which seems to fit the American dream far more than the self-sacrificial discipleship taught by Jesus and exemplified in Paul.

The basic problems here are hermeneutical; i.e., they involve questions as to how one interprets Scripture ….

The most distressing thing about their use of Scripture is the purely subjective and arbitrary way they interpret the Biblical text. Thus in one of the more popular books we read: “We are putting the Word of God first and foremost throughout this study; not what we think it says, but what it actually says.” 

This is nobly said; but what does it mean? Implied is the hint that interpretations that differ from the author’s are based on what people think, not on what the Bible says.

Such “interpretations” are usually attributed to the Holy Spirit. More likely, however, they come from the evangelists’ own free associations in “meditation.”

…… The selectivity of Biblical texts by these evangelists allows them to espouse a view not taught anywhere in the New Testament, and also carefully to avoid hundreds of texts that stand squarely in opposition to their teaching.

Conventional wisdom sees life always in terms of quid pro quo, one thing in return for another.

But conventional wisdom is not Biblical.

Conventional wisdom is simply unreliable.

Conventional wisdom, therefore, cannot be made a part of the Biblical view of poverty and prosperity.

(Gordon Fee as portrayed in Charisma magazine –

 http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/bible-study/11740-a-professor-with-spirit



The pulpit has introduced leaven in the form of Conventional wisdom in teaching believers, and unwittingly opened the door for the words of evil into the food basket and menu in feeding the flock. Sigh.  See my previous posts on the teachings on the Birds by AW Pink and Jacob Prasch.
Just read this related article. 

https://bible.org/article/bankruptcy-prosperity-gospel-exercise-biblical-and-theological-ethics

The Grace of Giving or the Grace of Prosperity?

Today, my pastor focused on the 2 Corithians 9:8,9 at length, switching between the NKJV version and the Amplified paraphrase, to prop up the argument that prosperity is within God’s ambit of blessings :-­

And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and ­­whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. (Amplified paraphrase)

I just wonder why this theme of prosperity is stretched to such an extent, over four Sundays?

Could it be that in labouring on with this point, there is 1) the conviction that this topic is extremely important and relevant to members, or 2) to defend this teaching against detractors with real or perceived scriptural  passages for support.

My misgivings are

  • {Added on 23rd June} In the context of 2 Cor 8&9, the key thought / intent of the author is to
    • Highlight that though the Macedonian believers were poor, having experienced God’s Grace, they excelled in sharing this unmerited grace in giving and generosity (8:1-7)
    • Corinthians are reminded of the unmerited grace and favor of Christ ALL received, though not in a circumstantially and earthly equal material manner; and reminded of their previous commitment to share.
    • It happens that the Corinthians have RELATIVE abundance, compared to others who lack. In the event that the Corinthians feel that they would be divested and dispossessed by their giving and sowing, God will enlarge the harvest of their righteousness as God is able to continue to bless the Corinthians by grace in abundance (9:12), just as He did to the poor Macedonians with a spirit of rich generosity (8:2) – “see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
    • The text in 9:18 IS NOT a promise and teaching about material prosperity for all believers. It is about the abundant grace of God which all experienced in diverse ways always.  For those who experienced more material blessings, this unmerited grace of abundant material blessings is to be shared in the grace of giving and generosity!
  • The key intent, content and context of the passages in 2 Cor 8 & 9 is to seek the generosity of the Corinthians, and not a proposition that God wills believers to be prosperous – as taught by WOF followers
  • The Amplified Bible, which is also one of my favourites for reading and meditation, is not a transliteration or a translation. It is actually a paraphrase, amplification of the text with synonyms upon synonyms and implied meanings as against explicit intent of the contextual content (see point 1 above).
  • One should form convictions and conclusions on clear direct intent and teachings of the scripture. We should not clutch at every unintended proof text to support our preferences. Scriptures are definitely not bankrupt of clear and sound explicit teaching for major and important issues.  Rather, the use of proof texts often reveals the bankruptcy and sustainability of this belief.
  • The Apostle Paul never bemoan the poverty and privation of the saints (2 Cor 8:2,14; 9:12); only the absence of generosity of the Corinthians who benefited from the grace and provision of God had not kept faith with their commitment to share (see point 1).

There may be those who espouse that the blessings of God is evidenced in prosperity of the Old Testament Jewish characters (Abraham, David, Solomon), implying that it is not the lot of believers to be poor. Yet I find the wisdom of James, supposedly a minister to Jewish believers rather eloquent and coherent.  The spiritual legacy and asset of the poor are upheld while the rich are derided and disparaged.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (James 1:9-11)

Came across Julian Lukins write-up on Gordon Fee, and on how Fee believes that the theology of prosperity fits more into the American dream rather than to scriptural doctrinal teaching. Gordon, as a pentecostal is well aware that biblical theology is relegated to experiential theology amongst many Pentecostals and WOF followers.

Excerpted below are Lukins write-up:

http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/bible-study/11740-a-professor-with-spirit

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.’”

The teaching of perfect health is a distortion of the Bible’s teaching on healing, he claims: “Gifts of healing belong in the church, but [perfect health theology] has created … neurotic believers, because they don’t seem to be able to muster up ‘enough faith’ [to be healed].” Again, proponents of perfect health theology “simply fail to do adequate exegesis, which has to do with determining the meaning of a text in its original context,” he says.

He cites Galatians 3:13, a favorite verse of perfect health advocates, in which Paul states that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” (NIV). Proponents link this verse with Deuteronomy 28:21-22, he says, in which disease is named as one of the curses of disobedience to the law.

“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,’” Fee states. “And ‘redemption’ in Galatians has to do with one thing only—how does one have right standing with God.”

The real issue, Fee says, is not how to get the biblical text “to work for us” but how to understand the text in the light of the full biblical revelation. He acknowledges that his sympathies lie with those who want to see God perform miracles of healing.

“One must ruefully admit that evangelical Christianity by and large does not expect much from God,” he notes. “Most Christians’ expectation level when it comes to the miraculous is somewhere between zero and minus five. Even though evangelicals often pray, ‘If it be Thy will, please heal so-and-so,’ they would probably … faint if God actually answered.”

Clearly Fee loves the Word, noting that heresies are creeping into the church because of lack of theological understanding and misinterpretation of Scripture. What’s needed, he emphasizes, is Spirit-filled living and sound scriptural interpretation. “If I could say one thing to the American church,” he cautions, “it would be this: Keep integrity with Scripture and spiritual experience.”

Praying for Prosperity

For the third time consecutively in weeks, my pastor unapologetically dwelt on prosperity and said that he would pray for the members to prosper.

He used Jer 33:9 as his text

And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

Somehow, I became worked up. After the church service I told my wife that I am both sad and angry. Since attending NCC, I have been extremely keyed up to know that my pastor has been at the forefront of preaching the gospel of grace, and according to him, bringing about a revolution of grace since the time of the reformation of the gospel of salvation by faith in God’s grace.  I had defended his teachings, enthused others to listen to him, and “marketed” and “promoted” him to others. When this revolution of grace has so much going, to reveal Jesus, to change lives, it has somehow been tainted by this streak of prosperity teaching.  I am saddened that this promised blessing of prosperity (not the prosperity gospel) has turned off many unbelievers, mainline denominations and believers from adopting the essence of grace message as preached by my pastor. Oh…., more would have considered this revolution of grace if not for the addition (adulteration?) in the teachings.

The legacy of the WOF persuasions remains. Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful, have personally been touched and received the Lord’s blessings in both these areas, but do not feel comfortable and convinced with the constant emphasis on health and wealth. There is so much our walk as pilgrims which we can learn about. (see previous posts eg “The Full Counsel of God”, 3 John 2, etc etc). But of course many like the prospect and promise of prosperity, not unlike the religious practices in seeking blessings from the idols, praying for success in career, lottery, life-partner, eg. Goddess of  Mercy temple in Waterloo Street.  But it is a distraction, a distortion of the present time message of the cross.

While the sermon did include a few preceding verses, I came home and read the preceding chapters.

When the book and the contextual circumstances of Jeremiah’s words are considered, I realise that the prosperity in Jer 33:9 makes more sense in terms of the context (relevance) and that prosperity is relative in and with different peoples and cultures.

How is this verse relevant to me?  The promise in v9 is directed for the return and restoration of people of Israel after their captivity and exile, and when the Messiah is revealed and begins to rule (in the millennium?)  To claim and proclaim that the prosperity is specifically for the congregation of believers today borders on presumption.

How do I define prosperity? WOF teachers would not deny that prosperity refers more to material and tangible quantitative possessions, as my pastor teased that if others do not want it, that’s ok, but he gladly wants this blessing.  But how much would be enough? Is it relevant at all to preach the blessing of prosperity to the average believer when Singapore and America ranks amongst the top ten countries in per capital income? And when our church building cost us about US$500M?  The local church indeed has prospered, and so have all believers, the moment we are in Christ.  Should we constantly get believers to be saved, to be “more saved”, or just remind them that they are saved, completely forgiven once for all and are righteous in Christ – saved by grace, standing in grace and strong in grace? So in truth, when believers are truly blessed in all ways always, isn’t the preaching on prosperity tantamount to tempting others to lust beyond what is needful? In the garden, mankind was tempted with legitimated concerns, and in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted – to stay alive (health), and with the glory and riches of the world (wealth).

While the WOF teachers have brought much to the church, there are aberrations. The pulpit can be a source of temptation – when scriptures are twisted, quoted out of context, manipulated to lure people to lust, and to be greedy for prosperity even when we are not destitute (at least not in America or Singapore).

How do I come to such conclusions? I have begun to read the Pentecostal theologian and scholar Gordon Fee’s classic on “How to Read the Bible” – in terms of exegesis and hermeneutics. I truly want to know Jesus, in Truth and Spirit.  I also want to be like a Berean.

Perhaps the following article in full in the next posting might also be of help.

In the article “Which promises are for me?” Jen Wilkin, cautioned that we can be presumptious and misled when promises in the bible are taken out of the context –

http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/which-promises-are-for-me

As your soul prospers

The sermon on Sunday (9th June 2013) was insightful and instructional – Because we experience much of God’s forgiveness, we now love Him much, and hence, our forgiveness flows freely to others. As we discern correctly how God’s love and forgiveness impacted others, we extend acceptance, appreciation and affirmation for our brethren.

Somehow my pastor digressed into 3 John 2

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (KJV)

Wonder why he did so. It appeared to be defensive – was it meant to address concerns raised by those who question the Health and Wealth teachings? But definitely he was not apologetic, as he went on with the Greek grammar on our present position with regards to wealth (passive) and health (active) – all in the context of our “just as your soul prospers”. It would be more convincing to me if he had dwelt on the meaning of the primary text instead of the Greek grammar and tenses; and in the context and usage during the NT times and referred to the more current translations rather than the KJV.

It is good to rightly set the precedence and primacy of “just as your soul prospers” before “prosper in all things and be in health”. And my pastor did remark that the health and wealth teaching can and has been abused – (abnormal use). Would be good if examples are cited, so that we can be careful. He said something that our approach to H&W must be in the context of being “in truth”. Actually, “truth” was mentioned 5 times from vv 1-8.

Would be better if “soul prospering” be cross-referenced to 1 Peter 2:11

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul”

And then further cross-referenced to 1 John 2:15-17

“15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

So it is clear that the lusts mentioned do wage war against our soul, and would prevent our soul from prospering.

Mankind was tempted along these lusts in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and our Lord Jesus was likewise tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). And broadly, tempted about health and wealth.

Can we be tempted to lust for health and wealth by the pulpit?