Charismatic Chaos - Part 13
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/02/2003
The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama
City, California, By John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape,
GC 90-64, titled "Charismatic Chaos" Part 13.
Charismatic Chaos - Part 13
"Does God Promise Health and Wealth?"
Tonight we want to go back to our study of the contemporary Charismatic
movement. This movement has many fascinations, many unique things. While
you are kind of getting your mind geared: Phil Johnson was just telling me
(Phil is executive director of Grace to You) and he said the other day a lady
called the 800 line and she had good news for us. She said that she was
given permission by Robert Tilton (Robert Tilton is one of the leading
Charismatic television personalities) to tell everyone that it was revealed
to him that "Jesus is coming November 15th" and that she is leaving her
entire estate to Grace to You. Can you grasp the implications of that? For
those of you who are struggling, it seems to say that we'll be here after He
comes and goes! I don't think that she has fully thought it through; I'll
put it that way.
Now turning back to our discussion of the Health and Wealth gospel. We
started last time to talk about the cargo cults in the South Pacific where
there are still Aboriginal people who worship the cargo gods. They developed
a religion because during World War II so many big airplanes landed on their
islands; they were the first exposure they ever had to modern technology and
they thought they were gods who were flying in and delivering all of this
cargo, and they developed religions out of this, and today they have little
temples made out of bamboo and other kinds of woven material. Temples that
look like control towers, cargo planes, and airplane hangers, and they
worshiped the cargo gods. A materialistic kind of religion; they want the
cargo gods to come back and deliver them some more Zippo lighters, radios,
and nuts and bolts, and tools, and all the things that were landing there in
World War II.
I suggested to you that the modern Health, Wealth gospel is nothing but
another kind of cargo cult where people are looking for a god who delivers
all the goodies that they want. That the essence of the cargo cult was that
God is there to provide what we want and the essence of the Health, Wealth
gospel is the same: that God is there to provide what we want and frankly
what we demand. And I suggested to you last time that all of the elements
that are common to the cults exists within the prosperity movement or the
Health, Wealth movement: a distorted Christology, an exalted view of man, an
erroneous view of God, a theology based on human works, a belief that new
revelation is coming and unlocking secrets that have been hidden for years,
extrabiblical human writings that they deem inspired and authoritative. All
of those are typically cultic features.
Now, I said that we were going to look at some of the aspects of the
Health-Wealth gospel and to look at some of the theological keys to
understanding them. Last time we discussed the fact that they have the wrong
God. They do not understand that God is sovereign, they do not understand
that God is able to act independently, they believe man is sovereign: God has
given over sovereignty to man and now God is at the mercy of man and if He is
going to do anything we have to release Him to do it. Man is sovereign, God
has been deposed and man has been put in His place. He [God] is dependent
upon human faith, He is dependent most of all on human words, in fact, they go
so far as to say we are little gods, and since we are little gods, God has
delegated divine authority to us, and just like God spoke and things were
created, we now speak and they are created as well. So we have creative power
with our words because we are in fact sovereign little gods, and God has
delegated sovereignty to us.
We talked about the fact that since they have this view of God there is
really no need to pray to God, in fact they say it would be better off to
talk to your disease or talk to your wallet then to talk to God because you
can speak into existence anything you want with the creative power that you
have as a reproduction of God Himself. And thus they have pulled God down
and they have elevated man, and we won't go over that in detail anymore than
just to review that briefly.
Now secondly, not only do these Health, Wealth preachers and this movement
have the wrong God but they have the wrong Jesus, and I want you to listen
very carefully to this because it is so important. The Jesus of the Word
Faith, the Positive Confession, the Health, Wealth movement is not the Jesus
of the Bible, the New Testament. Word Faith teachers say, "Jesus gave up His
deity and took on Satan's nature in order to die for our sins." Let me say
that again, they say that, "Jesus gave up His deity and took on Satan's
nature in order to die for our sins." Kenneth Copeland who is a worldwide
proponent of this defends his infamous prophecy that called doubt on the
deity of Christ by saying,
Why didn't Jesus openly proclaim Himself as God during His 33
years on earth? For one single reason: He hadn't come to earth
as God, He had come as man.
He seems to be saying that Jesus came only as man and not as God. The Word
Faith Jesus often sounds like nothing more than some kind of divinely
empowered man. Further, quoting from Kenneth Copeland,
Most Christians mistakenly believe that Jesus was able to work
wonders, to perform miracles, and to live above sin because He
had divine power that we don't have. Thus they have never
really aspired to live like He lived.
They don't realize that when Jesus came to earth He voluntarily
gave up that advantage, living His life here not as God, but as
a man. He had no innate supernatural powers, He had no ability
to perform miracles until after he was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as recorded in Luke 3:22 [that would be at His baptism].
He ministered as a man anointed by the Holy Spirit.
These statements tell us that Jesus is divested of His deity. Evidently, it
matters little to this system whether Jesus was God or man. Further, Kenneth
The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, "A born-again man
defeated Satan, the first-born of many brethren defeated him."
He said, "You are the very image and the very copy of that one."
I said, "Goodness gracious sakes alive!" I began to see what
had gone on in there. And I said, "Well, now You don't
mean--You couldn't dare mean that I could have done the same
And God said, "Oh yeah! If you'd known that--had the knowledge
of the Word of God that He did, you could've done the same
thing, because you're a reborn man too." And then God said,
"The same power that I used to raise Him from the dead, I used
to raise you from your death and trespasses and sins. I had to
have that copy and that pattern to establish judgment on Satan
so that I could recreate a child and a family and a whole new
race of mankind." And then God said, "You are in His likeness."
Now this is simply saying, to sum it up, "Jesus came into the world not as
God but as a man. As a man He died, and then as a reborn man He lived. And,
in fact, He wasn't any different then Kenneth Copeland or a lot of other
people." That utterance is obviously blasphemous. It is astonishing to me
that anyone with the barest knowledge of Biblical truth could accept it as
true revelation, but judging from the response to Copeland's ministry and
many others who teach the same thing, hundreds of thousands of people believe
this, and they are divesting Jesus of His identity. He is the God-man and to
say that He is anything less than the God-man is heresy! And again, I mark
for you, note carefully, that in cults it is typical to have an aberrant view
The Word Faith movement also moves on to talk about His Atonement in terms
that are utterly unfamiliar to orthodoxy. His sacrificial death on the cross
was the primary work our Lord came on earth to accomplish. The atonement is
the major emphasis of the whole New Testament and is central to everything we
believe and everything that we teach as Christians. Yet the Word Faith
movement teaches things about the work of Christ that are absolutely aberrant
to the point of blasphemy. Copeland says,
Jesus was the first man to ever be borned [sic] from sin to
righteousness. He was the pattern of a new race of men to come.
Glory to God! And you know what He did? The very first thing
that this reborn man did--See, you have to realize that He died.
You have to realize that He went into the pit of hell as a
mortal man made sin. But He didn't stay there, thank God. He
was reborn in the pit of hell.
The righteousness of God was made to be sin. He accepted the
sin nature of Satan in His own spirit, and at the moment that He
did so, He cried, "My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?"
You don't know what happened at the cross. Why do you think
Moses, upon the instruction of God, raised a serpent up on that
pole instead of a lamb? That used to bug me. I said, "Why in
the world have you got to put that snake up there--the sign of
Satan. Why didn't you put a lamb on that pole?"
The Lord said, "Because it was the sign of Satan that was
hanging on the cross." He said, "I accepted in My own spirit
spiritual death, and the light was turned off."
Later in that same message Copeland adds,
The Spirit of Jesus accepting that sin, and making it to be sin,
He separated from His God, and in that moment, He's a mortal
man. Capable of failure. Capable of death. Not only that,
He's fixing to be ushered into the Jaws of hell. And if Satan
is capable of overpowering Him there, he'll win the universe,
and mankind is doomed. Don't get the idea that Jesus was
incapable of failure, because if He had been, it would have been
What in the world kind of double talk is this? The idea that Jesus is a man,
taking on the nature of Satan, going to hell because He is thrown into the
pit of hell as a sinner waiting to be reborn and entering into some kind of
mortal combat with Satan and the winner gets the universe. All of that is
absolutely foreign to what the New Testament teaches about the atoning work
of the God-man. And in fact, Copeland has embraced a heresy known as the
Ransom theory of the atonement also, that is an old heresy that basically
said God has been held up by Satan and until somebody pays Satan a ransom he
is not going to let Jesus go, so God was stuck and He had to pay the ransom
price for salvation to Satan. Christ's death was that ransom paid to Satan
to settle the legal claim the devil had on the human race because of Adam's
sin. That view, by the way, contradicts the clear teaching that Christ's
death was a sacrifice offered to God not to Satan, read Ephesians 5:2.
Furthermore, Copeland and the Word Faith teachers move outside of orthodoxy
and teach that Christ died spiritually. Now we sometimes say that Christ was
separated from the Father on the cross and sometimes we say that is a kind of
spiritual death, but the reality of it is that Christ did not die spiritually
in the sense that His divine spirit went out of existence. It is error to
teach that Christ's spirit ceased to exist, "(the light was turned off") he
called it. Or, that He was somehow separated from God and became in an
instant a mortal man and worse, took on the nature of Satan, was dragged into
hell and tormented for three days and three nights. Fred Price who follows
up this same kind of teaching, in a newsletter wrote this:
Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a
cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid
your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and
to serve time in hell separated from God. Satan and all the
demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a
net over Jesus, and they dragged Him down to the very pit of
hell itself to serve our sentence.
Two thieves could have paid that price? Could a zillion thieves on a zillion
crosses have paid the price of our sins? Obviously not. Jesus' deity and
His sinlessness as the only qualified Lamb of God made Him the only person
who could have suffered for our sins. To say that it could have been anybody
is absolutely ridiculous. You were redeemed with not perishable things, not
like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your
forefathers but with the precious blood as with a Lamb without blemish and
spot. The Lamb Christ, the Blood--His Blood. They are confused about who
Christ is, they don't know whether He is God or whether He is man, and they
are confused about what happened on the cross, the meaning of the atonement.
Copeland also preaches an aberrant view similar to that I noted from Fred
Price, quoting Copeland,
Jesus had to go through that same spiritual death in order to
pay the price--Now it wasn't the physical death on the cross
that paid the price for sins because if it had been, any prophet
of God that had died for the last couple of thousand years
before that could've paid the price. It wasn't the physical
death. Anybody could do that.
What they are teaching is that Jesus' death on the cross didn't save us, what
happen was, He went into hell and that's where He won our salvation, but that
is not what the Scripture says and that is not what Jesus meant when He said,
"It is," what? "Finished!" Now behind these very popular teachings of these
two men is the teaching of Kenneth Hagin. Kenneth Hagin says,
Jesus tasted death--spiritual death--for every man. See sin is
more than a physical act it's a spiritual act. And so, He became
what we were, that we might become what He is, praise God, and
so therefore, His spirit was separated from God.
Why did He need to be begotten or born? Because He became like
we were, separated from God. Because He tasted spiritual death
for every man. And His spirit and inner man went to hell. In
my place. Can't you see that? Physical death wouldn't remove
your sins. "He's tasted death for every man"--He's talking
about tasting spiritual death.
Jesus is the first person that was ever born again. Why did His
spirit need to be born again? Because it was estranged from
He has Jesus in a prolonged condition of ceasing to be God and being man
alienated from God, in hell, trying to "get His act together" in order that
He can be reborn.
The Word Faith movement has concocted this strange theology that makes
sinners gods and makes the sinless Son of God into a sinner. Such teaching
is utterly unbiblical. It demeans our Lord, it demeans His work, as it is
obvious to anyone.
Furthermore, the atonement did not take place in hell. It was completed on
the cross when Jesus said, "It is finished" (recorded in John 19:30). First
Peter 2:24 says that Christ "bore our sins in His body on the cross," not in
hell. Colossians 2:13-14 says He canceled the debt of our sins "and He has
taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Ephesians 1:7 says,
"We have redemption through His blood ['blood' here refers to His physical
death--the actual shedding of His blood on the cross]," and there is our
forgiveness. Jesus promised the repentant thief, "Today, you'll be with Me,"
where? "Paradise," He wasn't in hell for three days. He served notice to
hell that the powers of evil were defeated.
The Bible knows nothing of the kind of atonement that exists in this Word
Faith teaching. The Bible knows nothing about the kind of Jesus they are
talking about either. They have the wrong God and the wrong Jesus.
Thirdly, they have the wrong faith. This is a fascinating and a very central
part of their system. Let me help you to understand this. They teach that
faith is some kind of law, some kind of inviolable, immutable, unchanging,
impersonal law--that it is like gravity. That anybody who gets involved with
it gets the same results. I mean, you could take ten people up to the top of
a building and you could have three of them that understood the law of
gravity, three of them that knew nothing of the law of gravity, and three of
them that didn't believe the law of gravity exists, and one person who was
deaf, dumb, and blind and didn't know anything, and if they all jumped they
would all go down. Why? Because the law of gravity works no matter what you
believe. The law of gravity is fixed. It is not a question of faith, it is
not a question of anything. You jump it and you go down! And they take that
same concept, like the law of gravity, and move it into the spiritual
dimension and say faith is like that. It doesn't matter who you are, if you
just enact the law of faith it will work.
Pat Robertson, for example, was asked if the laws of the kingdom work even
for non-Christians and this is what he wrote in his book called "Answers to
200 of Life's Most Probing Questions," he wrote:
Yes. These are not just Christian and Jewish principles, any
more than the law of gravity is Christian and Jewish. The laws
of God work for anybody who will follow them. The principles of
the Kingdom apply to all of creation. And what the law of faith
is all about is "If you believe you can have something--you'll
get it!" If you believe that you are going to get
well--you'll get well. If you believe that you are going to get
money--you'll get money. If you believe that you are going to
get married--you'll get married, because you are enacting a law
and it is an immutable, inviolable law that works for anybody,
anytime. It's impersonal, it's fixed.
And what the error of this is, simply stated, is that this puts confidence in
the nature of faith rather than in the object of faith. It assumes that
there is something inherent in believing, that enacts something, when it
isn't true at all. It is not the nature of faith that is effective, it is
the object of faith. It is my faith in God that gets results, not my faith
in faith. There used to be a song when I was a kid, and it was a pretty
popular one, "I Believe!" Do you ever remember that song? "I believe for
every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows," and it went on, "I
believe.....I believe" And that was the whole sentence, "I believe!" And
you kept wanting to say, "You believe what? You believe whom? You believe
how?" "No, I believe!" And sometime you hear secular people interviewed and
they say, "Well, I am a person with real faith. I am really a believing
person." "Oh, good. Well what do you believe?" "Oh, I just believe in
You see this is the same kind of secular concept taken over into this
movement that says, "If you apply the law of faith, if you just sort of screw
up your faith and say, 'I believe,' you'll make it materialize. If you could
just eliminate doubt and eliminate all negative thought and just think super
positive, and really believe hard (I don't know how hard you have to believe,
but harder than most people are able to believe, obviously)." There are some
people who get rich in this movement, and you know who they are. Most of the
people stay right where they are--just as poor and unhealthy as they were
before they learned this stuff.
Faith, according to Word Faith doctrine, is not submissive trust in God; it
is not belief in revealed revelation in the Scripture. Faith is a formula by
which you manipulate the universe, by which you manipulate things. Charles
Words governed by spiritual law become spiritual forces working
for you. Idle words work against you. The spirit world is
controlled by the word of God. The natural world is to be
controlled by man speaking God's words. So, if you just believe
and say it with your mouth you'll make it happen [that's your
creative power again].
As the name "Word Faith" implies, this movement teaches that faith is a
matter of what we say more than in whom we trust or what truths we embrace
and affirm in our hearts. A favorite expression in the Word Faith movement
is "positive confession." Have you heard of that? It refers to the Word
Faith teaching that your words will create, they have creative power. They
say, "What you say you create!" So if you believe it strongly enough to
speak it, you'll create it. You will create your riches. You will create
your health. You will get out of your wheel chair. It determines everything
that happens to you they say. Your confessions, based upon your faith in
faith, will bring things to pass, and God has to act because it is a law.
Whether you are a Christian, Jewish, or Non-Christian it's going to work.
Kenneth Hagin writes, "You can have what you say. You can write your own
ticket with God. And the first step in writing your own ticket with God is:
Say it." What they are trying to do is to get you to say it, and say it, and
say it, and say it, until you finally convince yourself you believe it. And
then supposedly once your saying it becomes believing it, you will create it.
He later says, does Kenneth Hagin:
If you talk about your trials, your difficulties, your lack of
faith, your lack of money--your faith will shrivel and dry up.
But, bless God, if you talk about the Word of God, your lovely
Heavenly Father, and what He can do--your faith will grow by
leaps and bounds.
So you just have to talk about it--talk about it. In his little booklet
called "How To Write Your Own Ticket With God," Hagin's supposedly inspired
four-point sermon is: Say it, do it, receive it, and tell it. Hagin claims
Jesus told him, "If anybody, anywhere, will take these four steps or put
these four principles into operation, he will always have whatever he wants
from Me or God the Father." Write your own ticket! The idea of course has
bred superstition, terrible disappointment, and tragic things. Magical
incantations is all they are, it's a form of Voodoo. It has no value beyond
Charles Capps warns against the dangers of speaking negative confessions, he
We have programmed our vocabulary with the devil's language. We
have brought sickness and disease into our vocabulary and even
death. The main word so many people use to express themselves
is death--the word, "death."
"I am just dying to do that." They will say, "I'm going to die
if I don't. That just tickled me to death."
Now that, my friend, is perverse speech. That's contrary to
God's Word. Death is of the devil. . . . We need not "buddy-
up" with death. All men are going to die soon enough, so don't
start "buddying up" to it now.
In other words, you don't want to say those words, because it might happen.
That's how powerful you are--you could kill yourself!
Positive confession, listen, would rule out the confession of sin, wouldn't
it? Word Faith books on prayer, Word Faith books on spiritual growth are
utterly lacking in any teaching about confessing sin. Of course, they
undermine the crucial teaching of 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is
faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
In fact, positive-confession encourages people to absolutely ignore their
sins and deny their reality. Doesn't it? You don't want to mention anything
negative. It has produced multitudes of people who perpetually wear these
emotionless smiles out of fear. Fear that a negative confession might bring
them bad fortune and so they may be piling up sin which is never ever dealt
with. This is like the Hindu view of "Karma" or some pagan concept of bad
luck, i.e., "I don't want to say that or it might bring me bad luck." Hagin
admits that he feels that way himself (I'm quoting him):
I wouldn't tell anybody if I had a doubt-thought, or a fear-
thought [he won't say a sin-thought or a sin]. I wouldn't
accept it. I wouldn't tell somebody if the thought came to
me--and you know the devil can put all kinds of thoughts in your
mind. We are a product of WORDS. Did you ever stop to think
that the Bible teaches that there is a health and a healing in
your tongue? [So he says you must never say things that are
I never talk of sickness. I don't believe in sickness. I talk
health. I believe in healing. I believe in health. I never
talk sickness. I never talk disease. [He's just talking
sickness and talking disease]. I talk healing.
I never talk failure. I don't believe in failure. I believe in
success. I never talk defeat. I don't believe in defeat. I
believe in winning, hallelujah to Jesus!
Now, they won't say the word sin. They won't say we never talk sin, but they
never talk sin. That perspective is rife with obvious problems. Bruce
Barron tells of one Word Faith church where
The pastor rose sheepishly to instruct his congregation on a
ticklish concern. Some of the church members, he had heard,
were spreading contagious diseases among the church's little
ones by bringing their sick babies to the nursery. Against the
nursery volunteers' protests, these parents were positively
confessing that their children were well. Since the parents had
claimed their healing, there was nothing to worry about. They
may have been dismissing those persistent whines and coughs as
lying symptoms, but those lying symptoms proved to be
contagious, and only an announcement from the pulpit could
succeed in putting an end to the problem.
Foolish! Word Faith denial of diseases and problems as "lying symptoms" robs
believers of an opportunity to minister with compassion and understanding to
suffering people. Would you like to be in a Word Faith Church and have the
gift of showing mercy, and try to find somebody who would admit they needed
it? You might look a long time because everybody would be running around and
saying, "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm well, I'm whole, I'm healed, I'm rich!"
How are you going to help somebody when nobody is allow to talk about
anything? How can you help someone whose symptoms you believe are lies from
Satan--or worse, the result of sinful unbelief, that anytime somebody's sick
it's because they are a sinful unbeliever? Consequently, many Word Faith
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