So I’d say about a year and a half ago, I got into a healthy debate with a woman who proclaimed the teachings of prosperity gospel, where essentially one can have whatever they desire if they speak it into existence (healing, wealth, marriage, etc). Or in other words for those not familiar with the meaning of the phraseology “speak it into existence”, essentially saying you have the power to have whatever you want if you ask and believe hard enough, and God is just waiting for you to use that power as if He was a genie ready to grant your every wish. She cited a litany of verses to me, all of which I believe I was accurately able to explain in context, but even after that, she was still unwilling to change her mind. In a way I can understand why she wouldn’t. If I believed God gave me the power to get whatever I desired through naming and claiming things, the last thing I would want is someone to tell me that my belief isn’t necessarily accurate and I can’t. Obviously we all want good things, and just to be completely clear, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with desiring good things. But looking back at the response I wrote to her, I wanted to share it with you all, because I believe it can be a useful tool for elevation of accurate understanding of Scripture in context. So here is my original response (only slightly edited because of typos and adjustments in articulating what I mean) that I wrote to this woman that cited a number of verses proclaiming prosperity gospel.
“Thank you for thoroughly providing a response to my post, and also that you allowed for a critical comment. I don’t want to appear as if I’m debating with you, so I do apologize if it comes off as if I am, but I just have more thought to add for consideration with some of your points, and I’ll gladly allow you to have the last word if we still disagree, and just agree to disagree. So I’d like to go verse by verse with you in your references. Isaiah 53:5, I would suggest we observe what the first part of the verse is talking about. Now we know this is referring to Christ because Peter alludes back to this verse in reference to Christ in 1 Peter 2:24. So observing the first part of the verse, Isaiah 53:5 states, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities;” I think we’d agree this refers to Christ’s Crucifixion.
So within that context, continuing the verse it states, “upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed”. I would suggest to you based on the context of what’s being discussed in this verse, the healing is referring to the healing of our sins. Now the next verse you quoted, Matthew 8:17, as I’m sure you know references back to Isaiah 53:4. But for this verse we need only to look at the context of Matthew 8:17, by looking at the prior verses. Jesus healed people and cast away demons. So in context, Matthew 8:17 appears to just be affirming the fulfillment of the prophecy. This does not appear to be a general statement directed to the body of Christ.
Moving to James 5:14-15, it states, “14 Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” Interesting thing about this verse, anointing with oil was actually a common use of medicine during those times. So it not only refers to praying, but also taking medicine. But to address your usage of this verse, I think we should pay attention to the last half of verse 15. “and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” Now I think a good question to ask, is why is this referring to sins when the first part of the verse appeared just to be talking about physical sickness.
Let’s continue to verse 16, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” Okay, healed from what? Well, verse 19 appears to be our answer, “My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another, 20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” Now maybe I’m wrong, but just going by the context of the verses, the larger context is talking about saving a sinner’s soul from death. Which would seem to make sense since it was talking about healing earlier.
Now the next verse you quote, Matthew 9:27-29, is Jesus healing the blind. Now if we’re following your logic of this as proof of faith healing, then every blind person who has faith should be able to see today just like these blind men were able to see, but that’s not the case. So the question we have to ask then, is why did Jesus heal people at this time? Well, I would suggest John 20:30-31 answers that question for us, which states, “30Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” These were not only written to prove to us that He was who He was, but the purpose of the performing of the miracles was to prove to them that he was in fact the son of God.
Similar to Moses proving he was called from God by performing miracles, and just as the Apostles proved they were representing God by performing miracles such as when they spoke in tongues in Acts 2, and thus convinced the Jews to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now with Mark 11:22-24, we have to look at the context again. Who was Jesus speaking to? He was speaking to Peter in this verse, thus this statement is being applied to Peter it appears. This does not appear to be a statement explicitly directed to the Body of Christ as a whole. And I think the fact that Peter asks for all of the healing he performs in Acts in the name of Jesus is proof of this statement being applied to him and the other Apostles for that matter. And why this statement of power was given to Peter and the Apostles, I would suggest it was to prove they were representing God, and prove again and again to the Jews that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was true.
Hebrews 11 overall appears to be referring to the future promise of salvation brought by faith. Observe verse 13 which states, “All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them.” Next let’s observe verse 39-40 “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.” Now in between those verses when it’s talking about by faith, I would suggest to you it’s talking about obedience. The use of the phrase by faith in most of those verses followed with an action. And as we know, faith without works is dead, so I would suggest to you it’s stressing the importance of that as we get to our eventual salvation.
Psalm 37, this is David speaking. Now I think it’s important to ask, who would David be directing the psalm to? Well, we know for a fact this is not directed to the body of Christ, because he wasn’t alive by the time it was established in Acts 2. More likely, he’s directing this to the people of Israel. So we don’t follow this psalm as necessarily instructed to us, similar to how we don’t follow the Law in the Old Testament anymore, but it’s all still an important part of knowing the origins of our faith. So that verse not being applied to us would thus seem to not follow with your statement of God putting in us a desire to want more and faith being needed for that. Now you say the just live by faith, and that’s true, but faith is not merely a strong feeling of belief as it’s misunderstood to be. I would actually suggest to you it’s not really a feeling at all but that’s another discussion. But as illustrated in Hebrews 11 and James 2:26, faith appears to be active obedience. Now it’s not desire that I suggest hinders the kingdom of God, because we all have desire. I only suggest it’s the thought that some believe that’s what God created man for, to fulfill man’s desires, that hinders the advancement of the kingdom.
Scripture appears to even instruct us not to be presumptuous in thinking we’ll get whatever desires we want fulfilled. James 4:13-15 states “13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” If the Lord wills, good things we desire to do or want to happen may happen, but the Lord can also decide not to will something, because He knows better. And I would say I don’t suggest he’s only known for suffering and lack in this viewpoint. Because we’re blessed even when we suffer or lack, because we have the peace, joy, and contentment of living for God and Jesus, just as Paul was content in doing so no matter what his circumstances were, which sometimes they were really good, and sometimes they were very bad.
To your provider point, I would suggest Scripture seems to show that it’s our conduct, and not our personal gains that influence people. As to what you proclaim as promises, I’ve mostly addressed that earlier in showing the verses you’ve referenced as appearing to be taken out of context. And speaking of referencing, to the last verses you referenced (1 John 5:14-15), we have to look at things in context again. The requests being referred to as being obtained appears to be talking about life being given to someone committing a non-mortal sin. Look at the verse before and after the verses you quoted. Verse 13 states, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” and verse 16 states, “If you see your brother or sister committing what is not a mortal sin, you will ask, and God will give life to such a one—to those whose sin is not mortal” So with those last verses addressed, as I stated earlier, I hope I don’t come off as if I’m just trying to debate you, and I respect if you end up still disagreeing and allow you to have the last word. But I hope you’ll thoughtfully consider the points I made about reading those verses in context, and once again, I do appreciate the time you took to respond, and your respectfulness in conversing with me, as I hope my words have been as respectful as my intent is for them to be. :)”
In her response back to me, this person believed that I only looked at Scripture as information, and misunderstood my position as being that I was arguing all scripture only applies to people 2000 years ago, and affirmed that she believed all of scripture applies to her. Though it would appear factually speaking that can’t be true. There are verses that are specifically directed at husbands, wives, children, parents, men, women, and on and on which we can all agree don’t apply to everybody, because it’s impossible for any of us to be all of those things at once. All of this to also say there are of course numerous verses in the New Testament that are directed towards Christians as a whole, and the Old Testament can be useful for supporting New Testament Christian teachings and understanding who God is. And of course certainly God can bless Christians with good things in this life if we’re allowed to request for things as Philippians 4:6 states. My only issue is that partakers of prosperity theology tend to primarily focus on obtaining desires. I think that completely misses the point of the Gospel and the Christian faith as a whole, which is something I’ve written on before that you’re more than welcome to read here.
As always, any questions, comments, or thoughts for understanding, feel free to share with me for the sake of helping increase our understanding of the Christian faith together. If this post was enlightening and thought provoking to you, please share this with others on your social media. It would be very much appreciated. Peace to all those who are in Christ!