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A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.
by Robert Dean
Series:3rd John (2003)
Duration:53 mins 30 secs

Prosperity Gospel; Spiritual Prosperity


3 John 2 KJV "Beloved, I wish [pray] above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."

This is one of the most abused verses in all of the Bible. The reason it is so abused, distorted, misapplied, is because this has been taken out of context and is the key verse for supporting what is called the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel. It is a form of teaching that dominates the air waves today. It is important to realise that in any heresy they all follow Satan's big lie technique. That is, if you say something loud enough, long enough and often enough people will eventually believe it.

The word for "prosper" in verse 2 is the Greek word euodoo [e)uodow] and it simply means to be well. Etymologically this comes from as word that's prefix is eu. Whenever we see that prefix in Greek it has the idea of benefit or something that is good for you, something that is well. For example, we have in English the words euphoria or eulogise. So we have eu plus the word hodos [o(doj] which is the word for a path, a journey, like a traveller going on his way. So this word euodoo was a word in everyday use, like "Have a good day." The broad use of the term was hoping things turned out well, having success during the day; not in the sense of hoping someone made a lot of money during the day but that things just go the way that you want them to go, that your journey would go well. In the Greek world this was a common greeting used in letters of that day for wishing someone success in life and in that sense it is not a divine promise of material success or financial abundance. But that is how it has been misinterpreted and misapplied today. So John is praying that things would go well with Gaius and that he would be in health. The second word, health, is the Greek hugiaino [u(giainw]. Both words are infinitives of result. hugiaino is a standard word used for health, physical wellbeing. But it had a broader meaning as well, a generic sense of stability, that things in life would be well balanced and temperate.

John adds a final phrase to this that gives it a spiritual emphasis: NASB "just as your soul prospers." There the word prosper is a repetition of the first word we looked at, euodoo, and there he is emphasising that physically he might be as healthy and stable as his soul is now because of his spiritual maturity.

It is vital for a pastor to teach people how to think. Satan so often distracts and distorts is because people just don't think, and one of the things that happens is that somebody will be heard to use certain phrases that may sound legitimate but are not, so we have to learn to listen with discernment. 

The health and wealth gospel

It goes by several different names: the health and wealth gospel, the prosperity gospel, and it is also known as the faith movement or the word of faith movement. This "word of faith" really brings in the Gnostic element of this. Gnosticism was the idea that I have to find out the secret knowledge. I will have the key to health and prosperity and success in life and happiness in life but I just have to find out that secret formula, that secret knowledge. But in Gnosticism they always had something outside of God and that was these Gnostic principles. They were abstract principles that exist outside of God and even God is subject to them. This is the same thing that is seen in the word of faith movement. They abstract this principle of faith to a principle that even God is subject to. So faith in and of itself becomes a metaphysical principle of power, and the way they talk about faith reveals this. So it is a neo-Gnostic movement. It is also called the born-again Jesus movement and that brings in the idea that their Jesus isn't the Jesus of the Bible and doesn't do what the Jesus of the Bible does. It is also known as the name it and claim it theology because of the emphasis on positive confession.

Their basic thought is that all growing and spiritually mature Christians should be living lives of total material success, physical health and financial wealth which is attained through a positive confession of faith. In other words, if you are sick it is a sign that you are not trusting God, you are carnal, you don't know anything about the Bible, and you are not using faith at all in your life. Jesus does for the sin of poverty and if you are poor you are just not trusting Jesus. They make poverty a sin, sickness in and of itself a sin, so they have a distorted view of the atonement.

Where did all of this come from? It didn't just pop up. We have to understand history. It has its roots in the early or middle part of the nineteenth century. Many assume that all charismatics have this same sort of view, and that is not true. The most influential charismatic, though, that got into health and wealth teaching was a man named Kenneth Hagen, Snr. He is considered the father of this health and wealth, born-again Jesus theology, but it is a very different form of healing than traditional charismatics held to. Word of faith teaching is really the result of a combination of ideas that arose in the 19th century. On the one hand there was the development among non-Christians of the transcendental thinking, an almost a pantheistic view that God is in everything and above everything, He is not imminent in creation He is just transcendent and you can't really know Him. So once you get God so far out there you can't know anything about Him the only way you know anything is when it is generated out of yourself. So it has this very mystical emphasis. Then at the same time coming out of Boston initially and then spreading its ugliness throughout the world is Unitarianism. On top of this another thing that came along at the same time was a type of thinking called new thought metaphysics. This is the idea that man's thinking can control his environment. New though metaphysics had quite a number of different children. This was developed initially by Phineas Parker Quindy  (1802-1866). He began healing by simple hypnotism and he used hypnotism to develop the idea that you can solve any problem in life, you just need to have your mind freed from these constraints. He developed this whole system of new thought and it was the seed bed of much of what has come to be called self-help philosophy.

To buy into these philosophies and attempt to syncretise them with Christianity means being a failure in the spiritual life because it is using a lot of ideas and principles for problem-solving that are contrary to the Word of God. In fact, what they emphasise is human ability. So new thought metaphysics is just a loose mixture of all kinds of ideas that were never systematised. It is a precursor to the new age movement. New thought metaphysics emphasises the immanence of God but it also emphasises the divine nature of man, that every man has a spark of divinity in him, (That is different from being in the image and likeness of God, by the way) and that every human being has immediately available to him God's power. You just have to have the right key, the right mental attitude, and then you can tap into God's power. According to them sin, disease, and poverty are all the result of incorrect thinking. In their view Jesus was simply a teacher and a healer, a mere man, not God. He was no more divine than the rest of us because we all have that spark of divinity in us. New thought thinking has strains of monism, i.e. that ultimate reality is all one, there is no real distinction ultimately. It picks up ideas from ancient Gnosticism, and Platonism as well. In essence its true belief was that ultimate reality is spiritual and not physical. We are just sort of an image of ultimate reality, like Plato's shadows in the cave. We are not real, what is real is what is out there in this sort of ultimate reality. Therefore physical effects are merely secondary and not real. The human mind through positive mental attitude and positive conception can change the physical realities, and we can change from sickness to health, from poverty to wealth.

New thought didn't have any specific dogma, it was based on hypnotism and a lot of self-help type of things. It picked up ideas from social Darwinism, Unitarianism, transcendentalism, Platonism, and a lot of other isms that were popular at that time. Probably the person that Quindy had his greatest influence on was a woman by the name of Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy who was the founder of Christian science. His thinking was also influential in what has come to be called the unity school of Christianity, divine science, the church of religious science, and other of these mind-science cults. Another one of Quindy's adherents was a man by the name of Charles Emmerson who founded the Emmerson College and School of Oratory in Boston. Then one of Emmerson's students was a man by the name of E. W. Kenyon (1867-1948), the real grandfather of the word of faith movement. He began life as a Methodist, later became a Baptist, he ended up in Boston in the late 1890s where he enrolled in the Emmerson School and drank up the teaching on new thought metaphysics. He thought that the problem with Methodism was that there wasn't enough that was biblical and that there wasn't enough of the blood of Christ in Christian science. So he reacted to these things and tried to recreate his own ideas. His books were then picked up and plagiarised by Kenneth Hagen Snr.

Hagen was very popular. He was close to Oral Roberts and they both have Bible Institutes in Tulsa Oklahoma. In the 1960s an impoverished student came to Hagen's Rhema Bible Institute and wanted to learn the Bible. He said he couldn't buy any tapes but would trade his car for them. He was given the tapes. That young man at that time was Kenneth Copeland who is now considered to be the foremost spokesman for the health and wealth gospel. This theology was originally declared to be heretical and was rejected by the Assembly of God, and most conservative Pentecostals, but now it is the dominant theology among Pentecostals.

So that gives an idea of where this thing comes from and who these people are, but its roots are not biblical exegesis, its views are a hodge-podge, an amalgam of all kinds of Gnostic, transcendental, self-help type of ideas, and much of it comes right out of demon possession and demon influence.

What do they believe? What is it that is so bad that they believe? What do they believe about God? If we are going to critique a theological system we always start with God. What do they think about the Bible? What do they think about Jesus, about His person? What do they think about Jesus and His work on the cross? How do they define sin and what sin is, and how do they define the solution to sin? You just break it down into the basic categories and analyse it that way.

What do they believe about God? They say that God created the world and does everything by speaking words of faith. God created by faith, and the way they take that is God uses faith to create things. So they view faith as some sort of abstract principle that exists outside of God. Remember, we have emphasised again and again and again when we were studying Genesis that when God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1 there were no laws outside of God in existence. God created them all: them laws of physics, biology, logic, etc. The laws of logic, foe example, are simply a reflection of the orderly thinking in the mind of God. God does not follow some sort of abstract principle. Love does not exist outside of God. God does not live in accordance with some kind of external principle; He is the standard; He is the embodiment of these things. So God is then viewed by them as a faith being. In their view God Himself is bound by the forces of the spirit world (This really brings in some of that Gnostic stuff) and he can only operate through the force of faith. You have to tap into this faith force and use this faith force and make a positive confession in order to do anything. All this means is that there is some sort of power over God to which he must appeal and which He must use in order to create things. Therefore God is less than God, He is not an eternally omnipotent God, and not the creator of everything; there are certain principles of ultimate reality that are even outside of God that He must conform to. So for them their god is not the God of the Bible. They break down the creator-creature distinction. Furthermore, when the Scripture says that man is created in God's image this means that human beings are little gods. If God has to tap into this faith power, this metaphysical power, in order to create things then we can too. So we are created as little gods. This really starts blending into Mormonism. The same thing is true for the positive confession people, the health and wealth people: we are all little gods and we can imitate God by speaking the same words of faith with the same creative power. And just as God created His reality by words of faith you can create new reality by words of faith. So if you don't like your reality all you have to do is learn the magic words and you can create your own reality, and you, too, can have health and wealth, success and prosperity.

What did man become at the fall? They believe that Adam's nature was transformed into Satan's nature. It's not a sin nature, it is Satan's nature. Adam's godhood got transformed to Satan's nature, so there is a sort of kidnapping of Adam's deity. Well if that is the problem then at the atonement Jesus' death must have as its purpose to restore human beings to godhood, and renewed incarnations of God. They have an extremely demonic view of the atonement. In the atonement Kenneth Copeland teaches that Jesus Christ became obedient to Satan and took Satan's nature upon Himself. What does the Bible teach? The Bible teaches that on the cross Jesus Christ was absolute perfect righteousness. He never loses that perfect righteousness; He never becomes personally guilty of sin. God the Father in His perfect righteousness imputes judicially the sins of the world on Christ. It is a judicial imputation, it is not a real imputation. Jesus doesn't become a fallen creature, He does not personally sin on the cross and He does not acquire a sin nature. He becomes spiritually dead in a judicial sense; He is temporarily separated from God the Father so that the sons of the world can be poured out upon Him. When we say Christ died spiritually what we are saying is that the penalty for sin was spiritual death, not physical death. That means separation from God and a loss of a human spirit so that we cannot understand the things of God and we cannot do anything that pleases God. When Jesus Christ died spiritually He was judicially separated from God between 12 noon and 3 pm on the cross. That is the time He bore our penalty on the cross.  In the health and wealth theology, according to Kenneth Copeland, Christ's spiritual death occurred when He suffered in hell at the hands of the demons who tortured Him. The Bible teaches that Jesus went to Hades to announce the victory that has been performed on the cross. What they have done is destroyed that: Jesus is kidnapped off the cross basically, and when He goes into the grave His spirit is taken to Hades by the demons and the demons torture Him. Satan and the demons, according to Copeland, have forgotten that Christ is not a sinner so they think He is just somebody else and drag Him to hell and punish Him illegally. But He is in hell now and God has entered the fortresses of the enemy. So now that Jesus is in hell God is now able to fill Him with words of faith and cause Jesus to be born again as the first-born from the dead. See how they take biblical terms and completely pervert them and give them an entirely new meaning coming out of this whole metaphysical theology that they have. When they talk about Jesus' spiritual death it is not the same, but they use the same terminology. That is why Christians have to wake up and learn something about this, and learn to decipher and discern what people say about different things.

When they talk about salvation the word of faith people teach that Christians in regeneration are then empowered to speak words of faith again and define health and financial prosperity guaranteed by the cross. All of this is nothing more than a neo-Gnosticism. The word of faith gospel has a different Jesus, a different gospel, and a different God. To access their god you have to have a special knowledge or gnosis in order to achieve health and wealth and prosperity. 

How do they do that? Their methodology is positive confession. This means you have to visualise what you want, which is an occult methodology borrowed from Hinduism, and then he speaks that into existence with his mouth. It is a form of magic. What is confessed then is supposed to come to pass. They say that if a believer wants to be successful over their circumstances they must confess it positively. There is no negative thinking here, you can't admit that you have a headache, if you have physical pain you can't admit it because you are not trusting God if you do. Positive confession creates a positive reality and, for them, a negative confession creates a negative reality. For them salvation, health and prosperity all must be spoken by the mouth in order to come into existence. Of course, if this is true Moses, Job, Jeremiah, David, Jonah and Elijah would all have problems because they all got pretty depressed at times in their spiritual life and their words and negative confessions would have created all kinds of disasters. We have to realise that this teaching which dominates so much today is just completely unbiblical and based on false exegesis of passages.

3 John 2 is a key verse. Another verse that they go for has to do with divine healing, another major plank in their thinking. For them healing and positive thinking are inseparable. The verses they go to is Isaiah 53:4, 5 NASB "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed." These are verses that are poetry and are using metaphor and imagery to describe the atonement and how Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and in consequence takes care of the consequences. They say that "by His scourging we are healed" means that as a result of His atonement we have healing. First of all, that violates the content of this passage. Second, we have to understand that the Hebrew word used to translate healing is raphah. It primarily has the idea of spiritual recovery, not physical healing, as in Jeremiah 3:22. It does appear, like v. 5, that by His scourging we are healed, but this is really qualified and clarified in the Gospels. Matthew 8:16, 17 NASB "When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. {This was} to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: 'HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASES'." Once again, in order to understand this we have to go back to the Scriptures and realise that there is a difference between the penalty for sin and the consequences of that penalty. The penalty was spiritual death, separation from God in time and, if you don't trust Christ as Saviour, separation in eternity. Consequences included an effect on the animals, on the woman, botany, etc. All of these things are the consequences of sin, including physical death, as is physical sickness. Because Jesus died on the cross and solved the problem of the penalty of sin He eventually is going to be able to solve all the problems and consequences of sin but this doesn't happen until the Second Advent when the lion will lay down with the lamb and we are in heaven in our resurrection bodies. This doesn't happen in our lifetime. All of these will be dealt with because of the atonement as secondary effects and consequences but that doesn't mean that they are to be in effect today.

One of the greatest charges and lies of the health and wealth crowd is that those of us who don't believe in charismatic forms of healing don't believe God heals. God still heals but God is sovereign and He heals when he will, when he will, it is not determined or manipulated by human beings.

We have to be careful of how people use and distort Scripture. We live in an age of as much heresy and as much distortion as the time of the early church. One of the greatest distortions is the distortion of grace. People today don't understand grace. The health and wealth gospel crowds do not understand grace.