(This article was originally printed in October, 2004)
THE BIBLE: THE VICTIM OF THE MODERN CHURCH
“If you will pledge your $100 donation tonight, even if you don’t have it, God will give it to you. Just decree it. You can decree a thing.” (Quote from a famous prosperity teacher.) “Using Job 22:27-28, ‘Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows. Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways,’ ” the Preacher goes on to say, “Imagine that. I no longer have to petition God, fast, or even seek His Will. All I need to do is decide what I want, give God my formal and authoritative decision, and He must obey.”
“Prosperity preachers” call this God’s law of retribution and use these verses to recover all the Devil has stolen from us. They claim, by way of our own decree, the Devil has to restore every dollar and every temporal blessing he has stolen from “Christians.” “Get violent in the spirit world and take back what’s been stolen,” they claim.
When evaluating this teaching I looked on my television and saw a Preacher leading his congregation, screaming to the Devil, “Gimme my stuff! Gimme my stuff! Gimme my stuff!” They scream. They laugh. They shake their fists at the Devil demanding that all their temporal goods be returned.
If we take and isolate these Verses removing them from their proper context, we could make a strong argument in defense of the prosperity gospel. However, if we follow the principle of II Timothy 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” then we will see the context of Job 22:27-28, “Thou shalt make thy prayer unto Him, and He shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows. Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.” It is not God instructing us to tell Him what to do. The advice given in this Verse does not resound from Job or an Angel, but rather Eliphaz, one of Job’s so-called “three spiritual friends,” who believed they were sent by God to straighten Job out. Eliphaz was wrong to equate Job’s suffering as his penalty for sin.
In Job, Chapter 22, Verses 5, 6, 7 and 9 it says, “Is not thy wickedness great? And thine iniquities infinite? For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought, and stripped the naked of their clothing. Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink, and thou hast withholden bread from the hungry. Thou hast sent widows away empty, and the arms of the fatherless have been broken.” Eliphaz lists all Job’s iniquities and transgressions. And in Verse 23, “If thou return to the Almighty, thou shalt be built up, thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles,” he tells Job to repent and turn back to the Lord.
By misusing these Scriptures, the modern day prosperity teachers have made our Lord subservient to his new master, spiritual man. The truth is Eliphaz had missed God. He was in the flesh as evidenced by his statements. If we continue on with II Timothy 2:15 and “rightly divide the word,” we read where God addresses Eliphaz and his two friends in Chapter 42:7 “And it was so, that after the LORD had spoken these words unto Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends: for you have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath.” And then we go to Verse 8, where God says, “Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and my servant Job shall pray for you: for him will I accept: lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.”
Seven days a week over national and international T.V., Preachers of the false prosperity teaching are accepted and embraced by the Church as Preachers of God. Some even accept what they say as Divine truth. But nothing could be further from the real truth. Their twisted teachings are heresy and cannot be substantiated in Scripture. They teach we can become little gods, when in fact this is the same lie Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5).
III JOHN, VERSE 2
Another Scripture these prosperity teachers use is III John, Verse 2, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” The emphasis of this Scripture, as interpreted by the false teachers, is God wants us to be monetarily rich. But when you go to the Greek, you find the word prosper is made up of two words. The first word means “good” or “well” and the second, “road.” So, what John is saying is basically, “Beloved, I want you to have a good journey through life as your soul has a good journey to heaven.” It was simply a greeting.
LUKE, CHAPTER 6, VERSE 38
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38). When you put this Scripture in the right context, you will find the Lord was teaching on forgiveness, not on money. Read Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” He was telling us that by the same measure that we forgive, we will be forgiven. A serious modern day problem is many preachers are getting their sermons from other people (the Bible warns about shepherds who get their messages from each other). This is one of the reasons we have “another Gospel” and “another Jesus” being preached today (II Cor. 11:4). Preachers are parroting their sermons from each other and from motivational teaching. Actually, a lot of what is being preached today is simply motivational teaching with a few Scriptures thrown in. I could go on and on showing how Scripture has been misused and misquoted and taken out of context through the “name it and claim it” of prosperity teachings, but I’ve proven my point. The prosperity teaching has opened the doors wide through it’s misuse of Scripture to influence the modern church growth movement.
MODERN CHURCH GROWTH MOVEMENT
Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Church” and “Purpose Driven Life” are to the Church what “Martha Stewart Living” is to the homemaker. Both are marketing a product or products they have developed. Purpose Driven Living is a spin-off of the Bible by using and misusing Scripture in order to seduce the consumer (the Church) into reading and participating in his “40 Days of Purpose.” I want to emphasize it is Warren’s 40 days of Purpose and not God’s. He has marketed the idea of how this process can help Christians grow spiritually and how they can become an effective contribution to their Church and their community.
Pastors are blindly accepting this process as being from the Lord because of its seducing appeal to develop a bigger and healthier Church. This translates, as they are sold, to more members, more money, and more influence in their local community. Although subtle, this appeals to pride and greed. The good intentions of many Pastors are used by Warren to draw them into a false way to build their Church, which is not of God. How can one say this is not of God when Scripture is quoted all throughout the books? He justified his misuse of Scripture by using many different translations of the Bible. Sadly, these modern translations are not word for word translations that provide an accurate rendering of the original meaning of words. Most of these new translations are either “paraphrases” or “thought-for-thought” interpretations that distort the true meaning of the words and verses. He will even use Scripture out of context to support his thought or idea rather than what the Lord would have us to know about him.
Someone recently questioned Rick Warren about why he used quotes from atheists in his book. This was the response they received:
THE END JUSTIFIES THE MEANS?
“Thank you for your note! Anais Nin was a feminist writer in the first half of the 20th century. She was born in 1903 and she died 25 years ago, in 1977. She was wrong about almost everything, but was correct in the one sentence I quoted. It is a very well known quote, one that I first read in another Christian book. It is quoted in dozens of quote books. When Anais Nin said, ‘We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are’ I’m sure she didn’t know that Solomon pointed out the same truth in Proverbs, thousands of years earlier.
“To use a single quote from a person does not imply support of either that person’s lifestyle or of all they believe. For instance, I quoted Bertrand Russell (an atheist!) at the beginning of chapter 1. Obviously, I certainly reject what he believed – but that particular quote is true. I’d be interested to know if anyone in your group was offended when I quoted an atheist.
“Pastors frequently quote Greek philosophers who were gay, or Shakespeare who was immoral, and all kinds of other scoundrels, pagans, and unbelievers. Even St. Paul quoted two pagan poets in the Bible! (see Acts 17:24-28).
“Even the Bible uses pagan quotes to illustrate biblical truth. Here is what the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says about Paul quoting pagans in Acts 17:
‘In support of his teaching about man, Paul quotes two maxims from Greek pagan poets. The first comes from the Cretan poet Epimenides (c. 600 B.C.), which appeared in his poem Cretica and is put on the lips of Minos, Zeus’s son, in honor of his father. The second comes from the Cilician poet Aratus (c. 315-240 B.C.). By using such quotes, Paul is not suggesting that God is to be thought of in terms of the Zeus of Greek polytheism or Stoic pantheism. Paul is rather arguing that the very poets that his hearers recognized as authorities have to some extent corroborated his biblical message.’
“So, if it was OK for Paul to quote pagan authorities as illustrations (when they were correct) in the Bible, I guess it is OK for us to use them too.”
In Acts 17:22-28, we find Paul in the city of Athens, Greece, a city totally given over to superstition and idolatry. The worship of gods made by their own hands, buildings such as their beautiful temples of gods and goddesses, which were the pride and glory of the Athenian people. Paul preached Jesus as being God. Certain philosophers of the Epicureans and the Stoics encountered him and brought him to Mars Hill, which faces the Acropolis and was the Supreme Court of Athens. Paul being given an unparalleled opportunity to preach Christ and Him Crucified debunked all their philosophies by telling that “in all things you are too superstitious,” which is not the way to live. He addresses their objects of worship by stating “I found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO THE UNKNOWN GOD,’ who you ignorantly worship.” Paul then proclaims God as Lord of Heaven and Earth.
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:24-27).
In Acts 17:28, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” is where we find the two quotes from the Ancient poets proclaiming God as their Savior of all life. “For in him we live and move and have our being” is the first quote. The second one, “For we are also his offspring,” is a direct quote from Aratus of Tarsus (Paul’s own country). As Paul had just defended himself from the accusation of introducing foreign gods by referring to the Athenian altar, so now for the same purpose he quotes their own Greek poets. He used their own teachings against them. Paul is defending himself and using their own poets for his defense. This is far different than using a statement from an illicit, sexually perverted woman (the only correct statement she ever made in her whole life) in a book about God’s purpose for man’s life. Why not use the quote from Proverbs? As well, for Warren to claim that Paul quoted pagan poets to corroborate his Biblical message is to link the Holy Spirit to paganism. Such a statement borders on blasphemy.
In Titus 1:10-16, Paul explains the characteristics of false teachers:
“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:10-16).
They are rebellious, mere talkers, and deceivers. In Verse 11, we see that false teachers must be silenced because of the damage they do to the Church. Paul would condemn the motives of the false teachers because they were interested in dishonest gain. In Verse 12, Paul will emphasize his point by quoting the Sixth Century poet and philosopher Eminides, who was widely believed to be a religious prophet. The quotation may originally refer to people who believed Zeus was still alive; by Paul’s day the saying had become a proverb that merely emphasized the low reputation of the Cretans. Paul’s assertion was that false teachers possessed the baser Cretan tendencies. Notwithstanding, Warren, as I demonstrated in past articles, uses a variety of quotes from worldly individuals to substantiate his false sanctification process, the Purpose Driven Life.
Sadly, the Word of God has become the victim in the modern church movement. It is being held captive to the perverse interpretations of Preachers seeking to establish “another Gospel,” adding worldly lusts as attractions so as to bait Christians.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:8-9).