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THE TRUTH ABOUT THE WORD OF FAITH

exwordoffaith.blogspot.com

I used to wonder why Shepherding reappeared in the Charismatic churches considering that the founders pretty much shut it down around 1990, and publicly repented. It didn’t make sense why it not only lingered, but began thriving again. I have lately found out why it reappeared. It snuck in through the teachings of the Word of Faith, one of the most influential movements since the Azusa Street Revival of 1906. The Word of Faith may be influential, but it is also an apostasy, and carries Shepherding clinging to it like a leech.

I was a follower of the Word of Faith doctrine from 1990 until 2005. Even when I began to break with the Word of Faith over the extremes of the Prosperity Gospel, I still maintained connections with them. I was a licensed minister through a Word of Faith church from 2004 through 2007, and my wife worked for Kenneth Copeland Ministries from 2003 until late 2007. During that time, I noticed more and more spiritual abuse, things that reminded me of Shepherding. I began to wonder, “Is the Word of Faith in general, and Kenneth Copeland Ministries in particular, Shepherdist, or merely spiritually abusive, or am I nuts?”

Early this year (2008), I found out that I am not nuts!

In his book A Different Gospel, D.R. McConnell points out the origins of the Word of Faith. This is not a rant by a Fundamentalist preacher. This book began as McConnell’s master’s thesis when he was a student at Oral Roberts University. He is a Charismatic pastor, so this is an insider’s look at something he finds disturbing.

McConnell says that today’s Word of Faith preachers (Kenneth Copeland, John Avanzini, Creflo Dollar, etc.) base their doctrine on the works and teachings of Kenneth Hagin. We knew that.

McConnell then says that Hagin based (some say plagiarized) his doctrines on the works of E.W. Kenyon. We knew that, too.

But then McConnell drops a 2,000 megaton bombshell, ripping through my views of the Word of Faith like a lawnmower through Bermuda grass. He states that Kenyon based his teachings and beliefs on what he was taught in college, at the hands of teachers who were Gnostic and Christian Scientist.

Whoa! That makes the whole doctrine pretty much suspect from the beginning!

Kenyon attended the Emerson School of Oratory in 1892. There, he was under the influence of Charles Emerson, a Christian Scientist; R.W. Trine, a Gnostic who wrote one of the major books on New Thought; and M.J. Savage, a Unitarian whose church Kenyon attended.

Let’s look at those beliefs and see how the Word of Faith dovetails into them.

Gnosticism is a complex system of beliefs hammered together from earlier ones. It has existed as far back as before the time of Christ and was a real problem to the Church as early as the time of John and Peter. To summarize Gnosticism, it believes that salvation is through knowledge of mysteries (gained through intuition), that all matter is evil and that only spirit is good (a belief called Dualism), that Jesus could not have been purely good because He was in a human body, that Jesus was a mere man, that God created lesser gods, and that only Gnostics, “people who knew,” were guaranteed salvation. They also believe that God could only be reached through gnosis, through the divine revelation of mysterious knowledge. Gnostics also believe that God is a hermaphrodite; half male, half female. Gnostics believed in a divine formula, that once understood, would destroy the power of evil.

Gnosticism’s more modern offshoot, New Thought, states that Spirit is the ultimate reality, the true human self is divine, divinely attuned thought is a positive force for good, most disease is mental in origin, and that right thinking has a healing effect. While that may sound Biblical, it is actually a form of early Humanism, and was founded on pantheism, occultism, spiritualism, and the basics of Gnosticism.

Christian Science is founded on the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy. This system believes a lot of things that are Biblical, but some of the things that they believe that aren’t include “mind over matter,” the idea that all things are spiritual and the material world is an illusion, and the denial of physical ailments. Please note that Christian Science is not Scientology.

Hmmm … I see parallels already. Let’s review some of them.

The Word of Faith believes:

— Divine Revelation: well, I believe in it, too, but all divine revelation has to mesh perfectly with the Bible. Word of Faith preachers teach that they are the dispensers of this revelation, and imply that only they are capable of giving it. They will rely more on what “God told them” than on what was written in the Bible, despite their insistence that we, the congregation, must find three scripture verses to support what we want to do. This is not unlike the Gnostic belief in mysterious knowledge.

— They put God in a box: Word of Faith preachers deny God’s sovereignty and actually mock the concept. They make God a slave to “spiritual laws” that even He can’t break. They teach that we can twist God’s arm to get what we want, enabling us to write our own ticket with Him (Kenneth Hagin’s term), or turn God into a vending machine (Richard Roberts’ term). The concept of spiritual laws and the idea that God is at our beck and call is definitely Gnostic.

— Jesus died spiritually: while the idea that Jesus went to Hell is as old as the Church, the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds do NOT say that Jesus died spiritually and had to be born again. If Jesus did die spiritually, then Jesus was a mere man, and not God incarnate. Again, this is a Gnostic belief — that Jesus was a mere man.

— Spiritual laws: Word of Faith is founded on the concept that there are spiritual laws in the Bible, that even God is bound to obey. These spiritual laws include things like reciprocity, sowing and reaping, the law of sin and death, the law of the tongue, etc. Once these laws are understood and worked with, then Satan has no more power over the Christian. That may be true, and I’m not saying that it is, but it sounds an awful lot like the Gnostic belief in divine formulas.

— God is as much female as He is male: I don’t know where they get this from Biblically, but more than one Word of Faith has said this. They also teach that Adam was both male and female at the same time, and God removed Adam’s female half, not just a rib. If this were true, then the pronoun for God in the Bible would be either “it” or “s/he,” not “he.” A hermaphroditic view of God is pure Gnosticism.

— Man is equal with Jesus and God: the idea that we are made in God’s image is Biblical, but the Word of Faith teaching that we are little gods, or that we are made in God’s class is not. Being equal with God is Gnostic at best, Lucifer’s rant at worst.

— Our words can change time, space and matter: this is known as “Name It and Claim It.” Sure, our words can change attitudes and maybe our bodies, but not to the extent that we are the “prophets of our own lives.” This is Christian Scientist “mind over matter,” retooled for modern times.

— Emphasis on Dominion over the Earth instead of forgiveness of sins and the need to love others: Most Word of Faith theology is rooted in having dominion over the Earth, and that Adam was the god of this planet. Do I have to go into that? Gnostics believed that they were gods.

— The reality of sickness and sin is denied: The Word of Faith says that they do not deny sickness and sin, but deny sickness and sin’s place in their bodies. It’s the same thing. Christian Science denies sickness, often to the point of dying instead of taking medicine. Word of Faith preachers do the same thing, often mocking doctors and medicine, despite having them on their daily television shows.

— Prayer is replaced by confession: Prayer connects us with God. Confession connects us with us. In other words, confession, whether it is what we desire or a Bible verse, is a Gnostic practice of mumbling chants and spells, replacing God with our own minds, because we have the knowledge it takes to save ourselves.

— God can only be pleased by faith: This is based on a verse in Hebrews. The implication is that if we are not standing on three scriptures from the Bible, believing we receive, and holding God to the spiritual laws, then God is not pleased with us. This is very similar to the Gnostic concept that the only way to God is through gnosis (in this case, the only way to God is through the strict definition of faith that the preacher uses). This totally rules out the concept that the way to God is through Jesus Christ.

— Dualism: The Word of Faith stresses that everything is spiritual, and that the physical is not important. They mock education and creatitivy and the five human senses. They hate sex (Kenneth Copeland said that we were supposed to speak our children into existence, Gloria Copeland said that sex was a product of the fall of Adam, and Benny Hinn said that women were originally supposed to give birth from their armpits). Despite their obsession with healing, they hate the human body, calling it an “earth suit.” Dualism is a Gnostic belief. Sure, you find the same teaching in the works of St. Augustine, but remember, he was a Gnostic before becoming a Christian.

I should have seen all this from the beginning, but I didn’t. I fell for the teaching that I could get rich quick and that I didn’t have to be sick a day in my life. There is a sucker born every minute! The reason the Word of Faith fooled me, and millions of other Christians, is that there is a lot of Biblical truth in it. Much of what Word of Faith preachers teach is sound. But what they teach that is sound is nothing more than the truths found in the Pentecostal movement of 1906 and the Charismatic Renewal of 1967. It’s the rest that’s poisoned; the part that orginated with Kenyon, was modified by Hagin and has been perpetuated by Copeland.

Another reason the Word of Faith fooled me, and millions of others, is that the preachers are genuinely sincere Christians who love Jesus! Kenyon, Hagin, Copeland, Dollar and others have helped millions of people know Christ better. They really believe that what they preach is totally Biblical. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Kenyon fought against the metaphysical religions of Christian Science and New Thought, denying their more obvious unbiblical teachings. Yet, he ended up embracing enough of these unbiblical teachings to turn the Word of Faith from what should have been a new branch of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement into a genuine cult.

I know, I know … there are Word of Faith apologetics that refute every one of these observations. The thing for me is this — I was an insider and saw this firsthand. I saw the abuses, and the apostasies, and people running around chanting their mantras, and I had enough. McConnell’s claims make sense to me. They explain what I saw. You have to decide for yourself.

This does not make the Word of Faith a heresy. Heresy is a rebellion against the doctrines of an established church. The Word of Faith is its own denomination, so it has nothing to rebel against. It is instead, an apostasy! An apostasy is nothing less than a rebellion against God Himself.

It gets worse.

There is a direct link between the Word of Faith and Shepherding.

Tricia Tillin, in her online testimony, shows this direct link. She lives in Great Britain, and was involved with KCM and the Word of Faith during the latter part of the 20th Century. In her blog, she writes that in 1985, she visited the UK headquarters for KCM and had a conversation with the worker there. During this conversation, Mrs. Tillin brought up how she was relieved that Kenneth Copeland was so opposed to Shepherding. Mrs. Tillin expected the worker to agree with her. Instead, Mrs. Tillin writes “She was evasive, would not condemn Shepherding doctrines, and then said that there had been a change of heart and the Copeland ministry would now be working more closely with the Shepherding leadership, and we should be praying for unity between them. This was devastating! Formerly they agreed Shepherding was in error, but now they’d changed their minds, and were going to work alongside each other!”

Then there is Stephen Parson’s book Ungodly Fear. Parson writes that in 1985 (the same year that Mrs. Tillin visited the KCM headquarters in Great Britain), at a convention of the Network of Christian Ministries, Kenneth Copeland said the Word of Faith and the Shepherding doctrines ought to be merged.

So, two different sources identify that the Word of Faith and Shepherding married each other. This does, at least to me, explains what I saw during my tenure with KCM and the Word of Faith. If the Word of Faith was so far from the truth to begin with, then it’s easy to understand how it could so easily embrace another apostasy like Shepherding.

And it also explains how Shepherding has made so many inroads into the Charismatic churches and ministries. Kenneth Copeland is a highly respected and influential teacher among many Charismatics. They are simply doing what they see his ministry and church do.

http://exwordoffaith.blogspot.com/2008/02/truth-about-word-of-faith.html

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This Assemblies of God position paper is a response to what the denomination considers to be extremes in the Faith Movement. The denomination is obligated to distance themselves from errors and extremes that have their roots in Pentecostalism.

The Believer And Positive Confession

The Life of Faith

The Assemblies of God from its early days has recognized the importance of the life of faith. It has been given prominent e-mphasis because Scripture gives it prominence.

The writer to the Hebrews points out that without faith it is impossible to please God. Then he describes faith as believing two things–that God is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

All the blessings which God has for His people are received through faith. Salvation (Acts 16:31), baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:15-17), divine preservation (1 Peter 1:5), inheritance of the promises which include healing and provision of material needs (Hebrews 6:12), and motivation for witnessing (2 Corinthians 4:13) are among the many provisions of God’s grace.

Today, as in every generation, it is important for believers to be mindful of the example in Scripture of being strong in faith (Romans 4:20-24). They must be on guard against anything which would weaken or destroy faith. They need to pray for its increase (Luke 17:5) and constantly seek to cultivate it through reading the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

The life of faith is the life of victory (1 John 5:4).

The Believer and Positive Confession

Occasionally throughout church history people have taken extreme positions concerning great Biblical truths. Sometimes teachers have advocated these extremes. On other occasions followers have gone beyond the teachings and reflected adversely on the cause of Christ.

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Positive and negative confession are expressions which in recent years have received acceptance in an extreme form in some circles. Both the definition in writing and the pattern of usage give some insight into the implications of these terms.

The fact that extremes are brought into focus does not imply rejection of the doctrine of confession. It is an important truth. The Bible teaches people are to confess their sin (1 John 1:9). They are to confess Christ (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9, 10). They are to maintain a good confession (Hebrews 4:14; 10:23, ASV).

But when people, in emphasizing a doctrine, go beyond or contrary to the teaching of Scripture, they do not honor that doctrine. Conversely, they bring reproach upon it and the work of the Lord. For this reason it is important to call attention to these excesses and show how they are in conflict with the Word of God.

Some Positions of the Positive Confession Teaching

The positive confession teaching relies on an English dictionary definition of the word confess: “to acknowledge, or to own; to acknowledge faith in.” Confession is also described as affirming something which is believed, testifying to something known, and witnessing for a truth which has been embraced.

This view goes a step further and divides confession into negative and positive aspects. The negative is acknowledging sin, sickness, poverty, or other undesirable situations. Positive confession is acknowledging or owning desirable situations.

While there are variations of interpretation and emphasis concerning this teaching, a conclusion seems to be that the unpleasant can be avoided by refraining from negative confessions. The pleasant can be enjoyed by making positive confessions.

According to this view, as expressed in various publications, the believer who refrains from acknowledging the negative and continues to affirm the positive will assure for himself pleasant circumstances. He will be able to rule over poverty, disease, and sickness. He will be sick only if he confesses he is sick. Some make a distinction between acknowledging the symptoms of an illness and the illness itself.

This view advocates that God wants believers to wear the best clothing, drive the best cars, and have the best of everything. Believers need not suffer financial setbacks. All they need to do is to tell Satan to take his hands off their money. The believer can have whatever he says whether the need is spiritual, physical, or financial. It is taught that faith compels God’s action.

According to this position, what a person says determines what he will receive and what he will become. Thus people are instructed to start confessing even though what they want may not have been realized. If a person wants money, he is to confess he has it even if it is not true. If a person wants healing, he is to confess it even though it is obviously not the case. People are told they can have whatever they say, and for this reason great significance is attached to the spoken word. It is claimed the spoken word, if repeated often enough, will eventually result in faith which procures the desired blessing.

It is understandable that some people would like to accept the positive confession teaching. It promises a life free from problems, and its advocates seem to support it with passages of Scripture. Problems develop, however, when Bible statements are isolated from their context and from what the rest of Scripture has to say concerning the subject. Extremes result which distort truth and eventually hurt believers as individuals and the cause of Christ in general.

When believers study the life of faith and victory God has for His people, it is important, as in all doctrine, to seek for the balanced emphasis of Scripture. This will help to avoid the extremes which eventually frustrate rather than help believers in their walk with God.

Believers Should Consider the Total Teaching of Scripture.

The apostle Paul gave an important principle of interpreting Scripture which calls for “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13). The basic thrust of this principle is to consider everything God’s Word has to say on a given subject in establishing doctrine. Only doctrine based on a holistic view of Scripture conforms to this Biblical rule of interpretation.

When the positive confession teaching indicates that to admit weakness is to accept defeat, to admit financial need is to accept poverty, and to admit sickness is to preclude healing, it is going beyond and is contrary to the harmony of Scripture.

For instance, King Jehoshaphat admitted he had no might against an enemy alliance, but God gave him a marvelous victory (2 Chronicles 20). Paul admitted weakness and then stated that when he was weak, he was strong because God’s strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).

It was after the disciples recognized they did not have enough to feed the multitudes and admitted it that Christ marvelously provided a more than adequate supply (Luke 9:12, 13). It was after the disciples admitted they had caught no fish that Jesus directed them to a most successful endeavor (John 21:3-6).

These people were not told to replace negative confessions with positive confessions which were contrary to fact. They stated conditions exactly as they were rather than pretending they were something else. Yet God marvelously intervened even though they made what some would call negative confessions.

Comparing Scripture with Scripture makes it clear that positive verbal expressions do not always produce happy effects nor do negative statements always result in unhappy effects. To teach that leaders in the early days of the Church such as Paul, Stephen, and Trophimus did not live in a constant state of affluence and health because they did not have the light on this teaching is going beyond and contrary to the Word of God. Doctrine will be sound only as it is developed within the framework of the total teaching of Scripture.

The Greek word translated “confess” means “to speak the same thing.” When people confess Christ, it is to say the same thing as Scripture does concerning Christ. When people confess sin, it is to say the same as Scripture does concerning sin. And when people confess some promise of Scripture, they must be sure they are saying the same thing about that promise as the total teaching of Scripture on that subject.

The words of Augustine are appropriate in this regard: “If you believe what you like in the gospel and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

Believers Should Consider Adequately the Will of God.

When the positive confession doctrine indicates a person can have whatever he says, it fails to emphasize adequately that God’s will must be considered. David had the best intentions when he indicated his desire to build a temple for the Lord, but it was not God’s will (1 Chronicles 17:4). David was permitted to gather materials, but Solomon was to build the temple.

Paul prayed that the thorn in his flesh might be removed, but it was not God’s will. Instead of removing the thorn, God gave Paul sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God’s will can be known and claimed by faith, but the desire of the heart is not always the criterion by which the will of God is determined. There are times when the enjoyable or pleasurable may not be the will of God. James alluded to this when he wrote, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). The word translated “lusts” does not refer to perverted desire but to pleasure or enjoyment; that which the heart desires. Several translations use the word “pleasure” rather than “lust.”

In Gethsemane Jesus asked that if it were possible the cup might be removed. That was His desire, but in His prayer He recognized the will of God. He said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

The Bible recognizes there will be times when a believer will not know what to pray for. He will not know what the will of God is. He may even be perplexed as Paul sometimes was (2 Corinthians 4:8). Then, rather than simply making a positive confession based on the desires of the heart, the believer needs to recognize the Holy Spirit makes intercession for him according to the will of God (Romans 8:26, 27).

God’s will always must have priority over the believer’s plans or desires. The words of James should be kept constantly in view: “Ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15).

Getting what the believer wants is not as simple as repeating a positive confession. Pleasant things might be out of the will of God; and, conversely, unpleasant things might be in the will of God. It is important for the believer to say as Paul’s friends did, “The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14)–more important than to demand a life free from suffering.

Believers Should Recognize the Importance of Importunate Prayer.

When the positive confession view teaches that believers are to confess rather than to pray for things which God has promised, it overlooks the teaching of God’s Word concerning importunate prayer. According to some who hold this view of positive confession, God’s promises are in the area of material, physical, and spiritual blessings; believers are to claim or confess these blessings and not to pray for them.

The instruction not to pray for promised blessings is contrary to the teaching of God’s Word. Food is one of God’s promised blessings, yet Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Wisdom is a promised blessing of God, yet Scripture states, if any man “lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not” (James 1:5). Jesus called the Holy Spirit the promise of the Father (Luke 24:49), and yet He also taught that God would give the Holy Spirit to them that ask (Luke 11:13).

While there were times God told people not to pray, as in the case of Moses at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15), there are many Scriptures reminding believers to pray, and that, without ceasing (Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Jesus emphasized the importance of importunity in prayer. The illustration of the persistent friend who came at midnight asking for bread to set before his guests became the basis for Christ’s statement, “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Luke 11:5-10). The parable of the widow and the unjust judge became the occasion for our Lord to emphasize importunity in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). These people were commended for importunity and not for prayerless positive confession.

While God’s ways are above man’s ways, and we cannot understand the reason for every command in Scripture, we do know that in His wisdom God has ordained prayer as part of the process included in meeting a need. Rather than an indication of doubt, importunate prayer can be an indication of obedience and faith.

Believers Should Recognize They Can Expect Suffering in This Life.

The positive confession teaching advocates reigning as kings in this life. It teaches that believers are to dominate and not be dominated by circumstances. Poverty and sickness are usually mentioned among the circumstances over which believers are to have dominion.

If believers choose the kings of this world as models, it is true they will seek the trouble-free life (although even kings of this world are not free from problems). They will be more concerned with physical and material prosperity than with spiritual growth.

When believers choose the King of kings as their model, however, their desires will be completely different. They will be transformed by His teaching and example. They will recognize the truth of Romans 8:17 which is written concerning joint-heirs with Christ: “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Paul even went so far as to glory in his infirmities instead of denying them (2 Corinthians 12:5-10).

Though Christ was rich, for our sakes He became poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). He could say, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

While God in His providence has endowed some with the ability to accumulate greater wealth than others, something is tragically lacking if there is not a willingness to do the will of God and surrender all, if need be, including creature comforts.

Jesus never ceased to be God, and through the power of the Holy Spirit performed many miracles; yet He was not free from suffering. He knew He must suffer many things of the elders (Matthew 16:21; 17:12). He desired to eat the Passover with the disciples before He suffered (Luke 22:15). After His death, the disciples recognized that Christ’s suffering was a fulfillment of prophecy (Luke 24:25, 26, 32).

When believers realize that reigning as kings in this life is to take Christ as the model of a king, they will recognize suffering can be involved; that sometimes it is more kingly to stay with unpleasant circumstances than to try to make all circumstances pleasant.

Paul had been shown he would suffer (Acts 9:16). Later he rejoiced in his sufferings for the Colossians. He saw his suffering as filling up “that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).

God promises to supply the needs of believers, and He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation; but reigning in life as Christ did may also include suffering. The committed believer will accept this. He will not be disillusioned if life is not a continual series of pleasant experiences. He will not become cynical if he does not have all the desires of his heart.

He will recognize the servant is not greater than his Master. To follow Christ requires denying ourselves (Luke 9:23). This includes denying our selfish desires and may include admitting our problems.

Problems are not always an indication of lack of faith. To the contrary, they can be a tribute to faith. This is the great emphasis of Hebrews 11:32-40:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

To hold that all suffering results from negative confessions and indicates a lack of faith contradicts the Scripture. Some heroes of faith suffered greatly, some even died through faith, and they were commended for it.

Believers Should Recognize the Sovereignty of God.

The positive confession emphasis has a tendency to include statements which make it appear that man is sovereign and God is the servant. Statements are made about compelling God to act, implying He has surrendered His sovereignty; that He is no longer in a position to act according to His wisdom and purpose. Reference is made to true prosperity being the ability to use God’s ability and power to meet needs regardless of what the needs are. This puts man in the position of using God rather than man surrendering himself to be used of God.

In this view there is very little consideration given to communion with God in order to discover His will. There is very little appeal to search the Scriptures for the framework of the will of God. There is little emphasis on the kind of discussion with fellow believers which results in two or three agreeing what the will of God might be. Instead, the desire of the heart is viewed as a binding mandate on God. It is seen as constituting the authority of the believer.

It is true that Jesus said, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). But Scripture also teaches that the asking must be in harmony with the will of God. “This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:14, 15).

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) is still an important injunction today. God is God. He will not surrender His glory or sovereignty to anyone. No one will compel God to action.

The authority of the believer exists only in the will of God, and it is the believer’s responsibility to discover and conform to the will of the sovereign God even in the things he desires. Paul’s words are still applicable: “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

When believers recognize the sovereignty of God and properly become concerned with the will of God, they will not talk in terms of compelling God or using God’s power. They will speak of becoming obedient servants. They will desire to become yielded instruments in the hands of God.

Believers Should Apply the Practical Test.

In reviewing the efforts of those who advocate this positive confession teaching it is evident that the basic appeal is to those who are already Christians living in an affluent society. They encourage a spiritual elitism in which adherents say, “We believe the same things you do. The difference is that we practice what we believe.”

A practical test of a belief is whether it has a universal application. Does the teaching have meaning only for those living in an affluent society? Or does it also work among the refugees of the world? What application does the teaching have for believers imprisoned for their faith by atheistic governments? Are those believers substandard who suffer martyrdom or grave physical injury at the hands of cruel, ruthless dictators?

The truth of God’s Word has a universal application. It is as effective in the slums as in suburbia. It is as effective in the jungle as in the city. It is as effective in foreign countries as in our own nation. It is as effective among deprived nations as among the affluent. The test of fruit is still one way of determining whether a teacher or teaching is of God or of man. “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).

Believers Should Accurately Deal With the Word Rhema.

Because there is very little literature among those who espouse the positive confession teaching concerning the Greek word rhema, it is necessary to consider it as used primarily in oral communication.

A distinction is generally made by proponents of this view between the words logos and rhema. The first, it is claimed, refers to the written word. The second, to that which is presently spoken by faith. According to this view whatever is spoken by faith becomes inspired and takes on the creative power of God.

There are two major problems with this distinction. First, the distinction is not justified by usage either in the Greek New Testament or in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament). The words are used synonymously in both.

In the case of the Septuagint both rhema and logos are used to translate the one Hebrew word dabar which is used in various ways relative to communication. For instance, the word dabar (translated, word of God) is used in both Jeremiah 1:1 and 2. Yet in the Septuagint it is translated rhema in verse 1 and logos in verse 2.

In the New Testament the words rhema and logos are also used interchangeably. This can be seen in passages such as 1 Peter 1:23 and 25. In verse 23, it is “the logos of God which . . . abideth for ever.” In verse 25, “the rhema of the Lord endureth for ever.” Again in Ephesians 5:26 believers are cleansed “with the washing of water by the rhema.” In John 15:3 believers are “clean through the logos.”

The distinctions between logos and rhema cannot be sustained by Biblical evidence. The Word of God, whether referred to as logos or rhema, is inspired, eternal, dynamic, and miraculous. Whether the Word is written or spoken does not alter its essential character. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

A second problem also exists among those who make a distinction between the words logos and rhema. Passages of Scripture are sometimes selected without regard to context or analogy of faith which they claim to speak by faith. In this kind of application of the so-called rhema principle, adherents are more concerned with making the Word mean what they want it to mean than in becoming what the Word wants them to become. In some instances it becomes obvious they love God more for what He does than for who He is.

It is important for believers to avoid any form of Christian existentialism which isolates passages of Scripture from the context or makes some passages eternal and others contemporary.

Conclusion

In considering any doctrine it is always necessary to ask whether it is in harmony with the total teaching of Scripture. Doctrine based on less than a holistic view of Biblical truth can only do harm to the cause of Christ. It can often be more detrimental than views which reject Scripture altogether. Some people will more likely accept something as truth if it is referred to in the Word of God, even if the teaching is an extreme emphasis or contradicts other principles of Scripture.

God’s Word does teach great truths such as healing, provision for need, faith, and the authority of believers. The Bible does teach that a disciplined mind is an important factor in victorious living. But these truths must always be considered in the framework of the total teaching of Scripture.

When abuses occur, there is sometimes a temptation to draw back from these great truths of God’s Word. In some cases people even lose out with God altogether when they discover that exaggerated emphases do not always meet their expectations or result in freedom from problems.

The fact that doctrinal aberrations develop, however, is not a reason for rejecting or remaining silent concerning them. The existence of differences of opinion is all the more reason why believers should continue diligently to search the Scriptures. It is why servants of God must faithfully declare the whole counsel of God.

http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Position_Papers/pp_4183_confession.cfm

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Winking, Wiggling and the Power of Words

Gregory Koukl

What do “Bewitched”, “I Dream of Jeannie” and Genesis 1:1 have in common? Quite a lot!

I got this crazy picture in my mind the other day. I don’t even know what causes these thoughts to come to mind when they do. I imagine there are times the Lord does that. But other times, who knows what causes those things to come to mind? This picture in my mind’s eye was off Jeannie, from “I Dream of Jeannie” fame. Remember her? Remember how she used to blink her eyes and make her magic happen? About that same time I was thinking about Samantha on “Bewitched.” What would she do? She’d wiggle her nose. (I wonder how many of you just did that.) She would wiggle her nose and then she’d make her little magic happen.

I got to reflecting about whether in their minds–of course they are fictitious characters–but if in their minds they were really doing something magical with their noses or eyes when they did that. In other words, if Samantha had not wiggled her nose do you think she could have still accomplished her magical feats? I imagine so. Or if Jeannie didn’t blink her eyes do you think she could still have accomplished what she meant to accomplish? After all, she was a genie, wasn’t she? She could do that kind of thing.

In other words, it doesn’t seem like there was anything magical in their actions. If there were then all of you out there who just wiggled your nose would have had something magical happen. But nothing did, so it’s not in the wiggling of the nose.

Why did Jeannie blink her eyes and Samantha wiggle her nose? Well, I’ll tell you. It was a sign to the viewers who were watching that Samantha and Jeannie were causing something to happen right then at that moment. You know that they’re determining to do something and then she blinks her eyes, wiggles her nose and then it happens. In other words, it’s an external manifestation which connects their act of will with what occurs. You can’t see their act of will can you? You can’t see something happening inside them willing something to happen. But you can see the eye blinking and the nose wiggling, so then you see the result of this thing appearing or disappearing–their magic occurring. We know that the person that blinked or wiggled caused this other event to happen. It’s a sign. In fact, if she didn’t blink her eyes or wiggle her nose how would we know that they had acted in their wills, which is the thing that we can’t see at all. Or when something appeared how would we be able to credit that to their actions? Maybe it just popped into existence. The wiggling of the nose signified that she was the source of the action that resulted in this thing happening.

One could ask, “Why didn’t they just speak something?” They could have. They could have said something like abracadabra or some magic word. But it fulfils the same function. The speaking in this case is no different than the wiggling of the nose or the blinking of the eyes. The speaking would merely signify an act of the will and no one else blinking their eyes or wiggling their nose or speaking by itself could make magic happen. In other words here, the power was not in the winking, blinking or speaking. The power was in the person who did those things. Those things merely signified and act of the will.

Now what does that have to do with anything? Well, there is actually a spiritual application in this–as is often the case, though not always on this show. All of this relates to the concept of the power of words–identified in the church as the positive confession movement, and identified in the world at large as positive thinking. Now I’m not against those things per se , and I’ll clarify what I mean by that because in fact it does depend what you mean by that–positive confession or positive thinking–whether that thing is bad, or damaging or not, or invalid. I think there is value if we understand them correctly.

Here is what we must understand. The first thing is that words do not have power. There is no power in words. There is no more power in the words themselves than in the wiggling of the nose or the blinking of the eyes as in Samantha and Jeannie. There is no power there. There is nothing about the sound of a word per se that carries with it any force. Even when you read in the Scriptures, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” it doesn’t mean that the sound of the word creates the power. The tongue is an agent of the person. It’s not talking about the word spoken in itself, it’s talking about the tongue representing the agent–the person–that’s involved. Words that injure don’t do harm because of any quality of the word itself. Some in both the positive confession movement and in the positive thinking movement in some form or another hold to that belief. That words themselves have power.

Simply put, I’m making an observation here, not a judgment. This is a occultic view of words. The word “occult” means hidden, and when we hold that words have hidden powers in themselves we are saying they have occultic powers. This is contrary to the Christian understanding because, according to the Bible and Christianity, things like words don’t have powers; only acting, willing agents have powers in that sense. It’s not the word or the sound of the word which carries the hidden force. When you believe that, well, that’s occultic.

This is why, by the way, when the word carries the force, it doesn’t matter who uses it. Anyone can use the word has the force because it is the word that has the power. Someone says, “It’s the name of Jesus that has power”. What they mean is that the word or phrase “The name of Jesus” has power. If that were the case then anyone could recite that sound, just like anyone could stand in front of the cavern and say “Open sesame” and the cavern would open. Or anyone could say abracadabra, and since the magic is in the word then the event would happen because of the force of the word itself. There is no magic in the phrase “In the name of Jesus”. There is only power in the person of Jesus.

Words are very important. They do a couple of things. This is why I am willing to give some ground to the idea of positive confession or positive thinking, whether you are thinking of this issue in secular or religious terms. I will give ground as long as you understand, as I mentioned, that first of all, the words themselves have no power. Power is in persons. Second, what words do is signify acts of the will.

I was very bothered when a fairly well known person suggested that even God had to speak in order to create. It really sounded like he was saying that the words had the power that even God was subject to, and God couldn’t created unless He spoke.

Now listen, I want to ask you a very important question. Does God have a mouth? No. Neither does He have lungs or vocal chords. Therefore He cannot speak in that sense. When the Scriptures say that God spoke and the worlds were created, I don’t think that He said a magic word. I suspect that the notion of God speaking in that sense is the same as Jeannie and her blinking and Samantha and her wiggling. In other words, it was an event that signifies for us an act of will. God didn’t have to speak to create. He merely willed it to happen and it was so. Now, how do we know of that act of will? We know of it because it is referred to in terms of speaking, but it was the personal act of will that made the difference. When God said, “Let there be light,” He willed that. “Be still.” “Come out of him.” It isn’t the words themselves, it is the willing of the person with the power that makes the difference, not the words. As I mentioned, even the phrase “In the name of Jesus” is not magical. What “In the name of Jesus” means is that someone is acting according to the power and the authority of Jesus Christ. Words signify acts of the will.

Words can also be used to focus the will, and this is where we move more into the area of positive thinking that I think can be very helpful. If a person is going to think positively and repeat these words of success because in speaking the words themselves they will magically bring about the desired end, then they are wrong. Words don’t have that power. But if they are setting a goal and repeating their goals to themselves on a regular basis–getting up every morning and saying this is my goal–I think that is good if we understand that the words are being used to focus the will which makes the difference. In fact, if you make goals in January for the rest of the year and you never look at them for the next twelve months, chances are pretty good that you aren’t going to accomplish your goals because you don’t remember them and your will is not focused on them to accomplish. However, if you write out your goals, get up every single day, repeat them out loud and then you imagine in your mind the steps you have to go through to accomplish that goal, the word is not functioning there as magic. What you are doing is disciplining your mind and using words to focus your will so that your will then can accomplish these goals.

There’s no magic in words, just power in the will that acts. Words can signify acts of the will. Words can also be used to focus the will. And finally, words can be used to convey personal attitudes.

I think this is the sense in which the biblical authors often speak of the power of the tongue. “Death and life in the power of the tongue”. Why? Because of magical words that fall off your lips? No. But because your words convey your attitudes, and when people learn through your words that your attitudes are either good or ill that could be destructive or supportive depending on the case. So if your words are “I hate you” to your wife or your child, you destroy those people. Not because of the words, but because of the attitude in your heart that is communicated with the action of using the words. If you say, “Well done good and faithful servant. I love you.” When you put your arms around your child and say good things to them, the power is not in the words per se but in that the words convey to that person your feeling.

Words have power, after a fashion. We speak words to identify acts of the will. We use words to help focus our will. And we use words in either a constructive or a destructive way to convey personal attitudes. But there is no power in the words themselves. For those who are involved in the positive confession movement, if you think the power is in the words and that you must get that word spoken into daylight, as it were, then you are practicing the occult. You are not practicing Christianity.

If you are being helped by positive thinking material I think that can be helpful if you understand that the only thing that changes things for you personally apart from the direct help of God is your will. No magic words. You use words to help focus your will to accomplish important things. Then you are training your mind in a good way. But if you are using words because you think there is something magic about getting the word out into the air like “success” or “$1 million a year” or “Cadillac, Mercedes” or something like that then you are practicing the occult, and that’s not going to get you any where.

http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5724

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