The Missouri Baptist Convention has published a new resource called The Last Apologist: A Commentary on Jude for Defenders of the Christian Faith. The 275-page book is available in print and Kindle editions on Amazon, and in print from the MBC. But we also want to make each of the 16 chapters available online. This post features the last portion of Chapter 10: Woe to Them! Cain, Balaam, and Korah.
Previously: The Rebellion of Korah
Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. (Jude 11 HCSB)
Is the rebel spirit alive today?
False teachers in the 21stcentury have much in common with Cain, Balaam, and Korah. They redefine God’s work of salvation, peddle prophecy for profits, and exalt themselves above the authorities Christ has ordained for His church. While many examples could be cited, let’s consider proponents of today’s Word of Faith movement – a vast and varied brand of apostate Christianity that shamelessly follows in the footsteps of ancient Israel’s unholy triumvirate.
The central teaching of the Word of Faith movement – also known as the prosperity gospel and the health and wealth gospel – is that God wills our prosperity and health; therefore, to be a Christian in poverty or sickness is to be outside the will of God.
Take note of the following Word of Faith teachings and see if you can trace them to the way of Cain (self-centered religion), the error of Balaam (a gospel of greed), or the rebellion of Korah (mutiny against divinely appointed authorities):
Human beings are little gods. Human nature consists of body, soul, and spirit, but the spirit is the real person made in God’s image; therefore, human beings are exact duplicates of God, or little gods. Our problem is that we allow our bodies and souls to control our lives rather than our own divine spirits.
God is like us. He is a God that possesses faith. He created the world by faith and accomplishes His will by believing things in His heart and speaking words of faith, thereby bringing things into existence. We may do the same.
Jesus came to restore our godhood. When Adam fell, he forfeited his status as the god of this world by obeying Satan, who in turn gained legal dominion over this world and passed Satan’s nature of death, along with sickness and poverty, down to the rest of humanity. Jesus came to create a new race of humans who, like Jesus, would be God incarnate.
This is the last in a five-part series on the Prosperity Gospel.
As we wrap up this series on the Word-Faith movement, let’s ask: What should be our attitude toward wealth and health?
We should be content with what we have.
Paul experiences many hardships in his ministry – beatings, shipwreck, hunger, cold, imprisonment, and much more. Yet he writes that he has “learned” to be content (see Phil. 4:11-12). Further, he reminds Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).
We should be indifferent toward wealth.
Prosperity is neither good nor evil. But our attitude toward wealth reveals a great deal about us (see 1 Tim. 6:6-10, 17-19).
Agur’s request of the Lord in Prov. 30:8b-9 expresses a proper attitude toward worldly gain: “Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God.”
Jesus specifically warns us against laying up treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-21) and reminds us that we cannot be slaves to both God and money (Matt. 6:24).
Previously: What’s wrong with the Word-Faith movement?
This is the fourth in a five-part series on the Prosperity Gospel.
Following are a few examples of Scriptures prosperity preachers twist to promote their health-and-wealth gospel. A more complete treatment is available in The Apologist’s Tool Kit, available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
Prov. 6:2 – You have been trapped by the words of your lips – ensnared by the words of your mouth.
Word-Faith leaders quote this verse to illustrate that our words have power. If we speak positively, we get positive results. But if we speak “negative confessions,” we get negative results.
In truth, this proverb teaches nothing of the kind. Solomon simply points out that whenever you enter into an agreement with someone, you are honor-bound to fulfill it. Nowhere does Scripture teach that our words create reality.
Leaders of the word-faith movement, also known as the prosperity gospel, say they place a high value on scripture. Unfortunately, their unique interpretation of God’s word leads to unbiblical conclusions about God’s design for the Christian life.
A case in point: 3 John 2, which reads: “Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
As prosperity preachers like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen would have you believe, this verse expresses the divine view that every child of God should enjoy financial blessing and perfect health. But is that what the passage really means?
Hardly. In the first place, the Greek word translated “prosper” means “to go well,” not to become rich. Secondly, John uses a common greeting to address his friend, Gaius, similar to salutations we place in modern-day letters.
As Gordon Fee writes in The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels, “This combination of wishing for ‘things to go well’ and for the recipient’s ‘good health’ was the standard form of greeting in a personal letter in antiquity. To extend John’s wish for Gaius to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians is totally foreign to the text.”