If you are (or were, like me) a member of a Pentecostal or Charismatic church, you most likely have heard from the pastor that God WANTS TO bless your business or finances and never wants you to be sick. What does the Bible teaches in this regard? Did God promise health and wealth?
Phil Johnson once said, “I would love for my sermons always to be full of pure encouragement and positive edification. (But) I’d rather talk about the truth than concentrate on error. Scripture is profitable not only for “teaching and for training in righteousness,” but also “for reproof and correction.”
The faithful preacher is obliged to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort,” especially when false teaching is as common as it is in our generation. Careful discernment has never been more urgent. Discernment is not a special spiritual gift delegated to a select few believers. Every Christian has a duty to differentiate between truth and error. We are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “test everything; hold fast what is good[, and] abstain from every form of evil.”
Many Christians seem to think it is wrong for Christians to criticize anyone else’s religious beliefs, including some of the most outlandish false doctrines and superstitions. They think it is somehow unspiritual to test the truth-claims made by anyone who comes in the name of Christ, or who claims to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
That is one of the toxic legacies of most of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. They promote the notion that the Holy Spirit always works outside the realm of doctrinal precision or even in opposition to orthodox confessions of faith. Their “interpretations,” bad teaching, and outlandish private revelations have nothing to do with the truth of Scripture. At the same time, they actively discourage critical analysis of anyone who claims to be Spirit-filled. And it has led to the rise of a twisted false gospel – a message of promising earthly riches instead of heavenly blessing.
They are more spiritually bankrupt than medieval Catholicism was just before the dawn of the Protestant Reformation. Sadly, most of their members absolutely love to have it that way. They do not want to hear any criticism about worldliness or bad doctrine. Their religion is all about self and what God “owes” them, and they will not tolerate anyone who points that out.
They are not interested in scripture, doctrine or truthfulness. They just want to have a good experience and feel good about themselves. More than that, they want to hear that God feels good about them, and that He exists to do their bidding. Discernment is the one spiritual gift they do not want to practice or even hear about.
But the New Testament is full of warnings about false teachers and corrupt doctrines that come into the church to confuse the saints and mislead the lost. Paul’s parting words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 were, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert.”
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul says that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” The greater danger by far will come from people within the church who profess faith in Christ; who wear angelic smiles and decorate themselves with all the emblems of religiosity. Jesus Himself said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
These churches use their numbers as “evidence” that they are bearing fruit, but Jesus never suggested that the person who can gain the most followers is the most reliable teacher. In fact, Jesus himself chased away large crowds of half-hearted, worldly-minded followers in John 6. In Matthew 7:14, we read, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Bad doctrine is precisely the kind of diseased fruit Jesus said proves the whole tree is bad. When a church has an obsession with money, makes countless false prophecies, performs phony miracles, and lives a lifestyle that has more in common with Ahab and Jezebel than with Christ and the disciples–that is a seriously corrupt tree.
They do not actually steal, but they follow Jesus for what they can make or get out of Him. The symbols of their worship are the loaf and the fish. Now, this is as degrading a form of worship as the adoration of graven images. Gain is the god of many in all congregations: they seek Jesus, not because they care for his words, but because they eat of the loaves. They fear the Lord, but they serve other gods.
It is a perverse lie to teach that God guarantees healing, perpetual health, material wealth, and financial affluence to anyone. Their teachers act as anointed miracle-merchants and if they fail, they use the trick of telling the church members that they lacked faith and therefore they did not receive healing or material blessings. In the meantime, the “tithes” and donations keep these miracle-merchants going.
Those are false promises that do not pertain to the gospel in any way. The gospel Jesus preached was a message about the forgiveness of sins and the kingdom of God – eternal and spiritual matters, not worldly wealth. In Matthew 19:24 Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” To have faith is to have your heart set on heavenly things. Colossians 3:1-2: “[If] you have been raised with Christ, [you should] set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
The strongest biblical warnings about false teachers are found in Jude and 2 Peter 2. Both passages tell us that one of the key signs of a false teacher is greed – an obsession with money and material things; a craving for worldly fame; a thirst for earthly power and popularity; and a relentless covetousness for things that serve only to gratify the flesh.
They are suggesting to people that their worldly cravings are the whole basis of faith. They teach people that faith is nothing more or less than believing God will give us what we want. They use the name of Christ in order to borrow legitimacy for a false religion of pure greed, while Christ has no real or essential place in the religion they proclaim. They have turned Him into a minor deity whose only function is to drop earthly merchandise from heaven.
Second Peter 2:14 says, “They have hearts trained in greed”–and then Peter quickly adds that they are accursed. He does not view this as a minor character flaw that needs to be toned down or managed carefully. He says it is a damnable sin. It is almost as if second Peter 2 and Jude were giving a precise description of today’s charismatic religious celebrities.
The prosperity preachers often tell fantastic tales that most rational people know are simply fabricated stories and unvarnished lies. Benny Hinn claims that people in his meetings have often been raised from the dead. But all his public performances are videotaped for television, and he cannot show even one example of a medically-verifiable, clear-cut healing of a congenital disability (where he heals the truly lame, deaf, or blind). Much less can he document the resurrection of any dead people.
At Bethel Church in Redding, California (where Bill Johnson is lead pastor) there is a group of young people who claim they have walked on water. Even though they are teenagers with cell phones who videotape everything they do, they do not have any actual videos of anyone in their group walking on water.
It is common to hear these preachers and their followers berating and commanding the devil in their prayer-times, speaking directly to Satan, supposedly rebuking him and giving him orders as if they were his master. In 2 Peter 2:3, Peter writes, “In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories.” verse 10: “Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings.” But Peter says (2 Peter 2:11-12), “Even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord. But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.” Back in verse 3, He says, “Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
In other words, such people damn themselves and are candidates for hell. Peter goes on to suggest that their punishment is as certain as the destruction of the demons themselves. He also says the judgment of these false teachers will be worse than the judgment of people who perished in the time of Noah, and worse also than the punishment dealt to the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Peter was talking about the prosperity preachers in the church of his time. He was not talking about priests in the pagan temples that were everywhere in the Roman empire. They were men who professed the name of Christ, who claimed to be Christians, who pretended to speak with apostolic authority. He says they are “people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
Believing in Christ does not mean using Him like a genie to get whatever you say. It means surrender to His lordship and trust in Him for the remission of sins. These pastors and evangelicals hardly even mention sin and redemption. There is simply no convenient place for that in their system. Their message is not about heaven or spiritual prosperity; it’s all about worldly wealth and material prosperity here and now. Joel Osteen’s best-selling book was even titled, Your Best Life Now. John MacArthur pointed out that the only way you could possibly be living your best life now is if you are going to hell. It is nothing more than blatant fleshly self-indulgence masquerading as religion in the name of Christ. According to them, God is not a consuming fire and the righteous judge of all the universe. He is not a glorious and holy Being to be feared. They portrays Him as a utilitarian idol to be plied and manipulated into doing whatever we say.
The apostle Paul was very clear in Galatians 1 about how we should respond to a different gospel. In Galatians 1:6, he says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” In fact (Galatians 1:8-9), Paul repeats those same instructions twice in the span of two verses.
What Paul is saying is that anyone who corrupts the gospel badly enough to turn it into a completely different message is not a true Christian. It is wrong to embrace someone as a true Christian brother or sister if all they can talk about is financial prosperity, physical healing and “binding the devil,” rather than redemption from sin.
People love to quote Matthew 7:1: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Paul Washer responds to that by saying, “Twist not Scripture, lest you be like the devil.” That verse is telling us not to judge unfairly or unrighteously. The very next verse acknowledges that we are required at times to judge, and it tells us to temper our judgments with mercy, and precede our judgments with self-examination: “With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” There are many places in Scripture where we are commanded to judge. John 7:24: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” In other words, judge carefully. Don’t be haphazard or biased or hypocritical in your judgments, but judge righteously. First Corinthians 2:15 says, “The spiritual person judges all things.”
How could we be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing if it were unrighteous to make any judgments at all?
Prosperity preachers fit the profile of secret wolves precisely. They do not overtly deny the authority or accuracy of Scripture; they simply ignore the parts that do not fit their theology. They do not usually disavow the deity of Christ or His death and resurrection. They do not necessarily attack any of the vital truths of the gospel. They just load their teaching with false promises, misdirection, tortured interpretations of Scripture, and fanciful doctrines they receive through “dreams” and inventions.
And if the fundamental sin and the material error of the prosperity doctrine is greed, the formal error of prosperity teachers is their reliance on dreams, visions, words of prophecy, and the gnostic claim that the real meaning of Scripture is a secret only one of these enlightened gurus can unlock for you.
That’s not Christianity. True religion and undefiled is not about earthly comforts and worldly well-being. Godliness is not about material gain. That, again, is precisely what the apostle Paul is dealing with in 1 Timothy 6. Starting in verse
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness,
4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,
5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
It is clear that the apostle Paul does not regard false teachers of this type as true brethren. He does not do what many Christians nowadays try to do – they politely ignore the falseness and still attend these evil churches. Here is how he answers their lie (verses 6-11):
6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment,
7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
Paul is echoing the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:31-33
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”
32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
The apostle Paul himself gave this testimony about what true faithfulness and blessedness looks like. This is from Philippians 4:11-12: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”
True biblical prosperity is about spiritual health, joy in the Lord, rewards in heaven, and grace in the midst of earthly sufferings. True prosperity has nothing to do with material wealth or an abundance of worldly riches. In fact, those things can be hindrances to spiritual blessings.
The wicked often prosper materially, while truly godly people suffer. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (That’s 2 Timothy 3:12-13.) Christ himself suffered, “leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Most Pentecostals and Charismatics insist that worldly wealth, physical health, and material prosperity are the ultimate gauge of how blessed you are by God “for being a Christian.” Furthermore, they say, you yourself are the one who ultimately determines how much or how little of God’s blessings you enjoy. They say you have the power of your own heart to have enough faith to claim whatever blessing you want. And if you are not materially prosperous; if you are sick; if you suffer in any way, YOU are the one to blame because you didn’t crank up enough “faith” and create a better reality with a positive confession. You did not claim your own dream by faith.
In fact, their doctrine flatly contradicts everything Scripture says about faith and the promises of God; about suffering and glory; about the work of Christ and the depravity of fallen humanity. This is the religion of mammon-worship; it is not the way of the cross. It is a damning and damnable lie, and those who follow such a false and materialistic religion are on the broad road that leads to destruction.
Their teaching is deadly to your spiritual well-being. In the words of the apostle Paul (Romans 6:18): “[They] do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” “Watch out for [them. They] cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”
(MAIN SOURCE USED: Phil Johnson)