Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Puritan Perspective on Prosperity

The Word of Faith movement within Christianity today promotes the heretical doctrine that Christians can attain health and wealth through positive confession. This is not a biblical concept based on the whole counsel of God (see 2 Cor. 8 and 1 Peter 4). Speaking the right words to attain a specific outcome is witchcraft. Think of Aunt Clara on the popular TV seires Bewitched; she couldn't get her spells to work because she always messed up the words. To promote the unbiblical concept of positive confession, leaders of Word of Faith movement (such as Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, etc.) rip Bible verses out of context to support their contention. A popular verse used in this movement is 3 John 2: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in heath, even as thy soul prospereth."

Let's see what the Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs says about 3 John 2 in his book Earthly-Mindedness. In Chapter 7 he looks at ten distinct evidences of a man's walking with God. The tenth evidence is that Scripture speaks of a man walking with God in uprightness. Mr. Burroughs notes that in 3 John 3 the Apostle John rejoices because he heard that Gaius walks in the truth; the Word of God prevailed in Gaius's heart, and because it prevailed in his heart he walked in the strength and power of that truth. The author goes on to state why Gaius was in such a condition on pages 197-198:
"It is no wonder that the soul of this man was in as good a condition as it was. For you find in the 2nd verse of this Epistle [3 John 2] a very strange expression of John's about Gaius. What does he say of him? I wish above all things, that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prosperth. It seems that this Gaius had a poor, weak, sickly body, but a very good soul. John said, "I wish that you may prosper as much as your soul prospers. O that you had as good a body as you do a soul!" It's a very strange expression. That would be a curse to many of you, I'm afraid. But John could say about Gaius, "O that this man, Gaius, had as good a body as he has a soul!" And how did he come to have his soul prosper? He walked in the truth and sincerity of his heart, hence his soul came to prosper. And those that have weak parts, if they walk in the truth their souls will prosper."
Jeremiah Burroughs rightly expresses the true meaning of 3 John 2-3. He shows us that if a Christian walks in the truth of God's Word, then his soul will prosper. It doesn't matter what his outward circumstances are; the most important thing is spiritual condition--the prosperity and health of his soul. Health and wealth can be blessings from God, but they are not guaranteed as in the case of Gaius.

Context is key in reading and understanding the Bible. Obviously, the Apostle John is not saying that all Christians will prosper and be in health like those in the Word of Faith movement maintain. Be careful of popular "Christian" personalities who use single verses to support their spiel. Regardless of what any man says or doesn't say, God is not and never will be obligated to do anything for him--Christian or not.

"Now I [the Apostle Paul] beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple," (Rom. 16:17-18).