Prosperity Gospel: Some Biblical Thoughts

Here are some thoughts on three Scripture passages to conclude the four blogs on prosperity.

In Romans 4.13-25, Paul provides a clear portrait of the teaching of Jesus in Mark’s passage (See Prospirity Gospel). Paul told the story of the faith of Abraham. It is clear that Abraham’s faith was in the faithfulness of God rather than something that he had to muster up (v. 21). The text does not tell us that Abraham claimed the fulfillment of the promise that God had given him. He did not run out into the camp and begin telling everyone he was a father. He did not begin telling others that Sarah was pregnant. Neither was true! He considered the reality of his situation. His own body and the body of Sarah were like being dead, (i.e., beyond the age of bearing children). What he chose to believe was the faithfulness of God to bring about what he had promised.

Paul provides another interesting passage that needs to be clarified (Rom. 10.17). This passage is cited for the belief that there is a connection between being in tune with the Word of God (i.e., the Bible) and one’s ability to have faith. This is a prooftext that demonstrates the parochial views that often surround basing a belief on Scripture pulled out of context. The context of this passage is Paul’s belief about how the Jews will be evangelized. The NIV translates it, …faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Closer than KJV, but still not the intent of Paul. Good News Bible, a dynamic equivalent translation suggests the following, …So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ. This verse does not teach that one can gain faith from knowing Scripture. Rather, it does teach that one may come to faith through hearing preaching about Jesus.

The main passage used to espouse the concept of a Prayer of Faith is James 5.13-16. We return to the former question: Is there a category of prayer called a prayer of faith? I do not believe there is! The context of this passage in James is the ministry of believers to one another. James does not conceive of sickness and suffering as the same. He offers different remedies in verses 13 and 14. (Captured well by RSV.) The NIV translates verse 15, …and the prayer offered in faith…. The Good News Bible offers this translation, …The prayer made in faith will heal the sick person; the Lord will restore him to health, and the sins he has committed will be forgiven. So then confess your sins to one another, so that you will be healed. There is nothing in this passage that implies that one can pray a certain “kind of prayer”, i.e., a “prayer of faith”, and the sick person will be healed.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

David Martin December 14, 2005 at 9:14 am

Dear Winn,
I was a student at the Vineyard School of Ministry (Denver) in the late 80’s. The school is gone and with it all records of the courses I’ve taken. I’m trying to get credit for three credit hours of religious studies through a portfolio at Regis University. Do you have any rememberance of the course work we had to complete, list of text books etc. To possibly refresh your memory, I sat next to you at a dinner the Vineyard was having for staff, Christmas dinner I believe, when you were introduced to the staff. I remember I was impressed, Phd from Fuller Theological Seminary and you responed, “Yeah that and $.50 will get you a cup of coffee.” I’m glad to see your still teaching.
David P. Martin

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drwinn December 17, 2005 at 5:20 pm

Hey David,

Nice to connect again. BTW: The degree was not a PhD from Fuller. It was a DMin. for California Graduate School of Theology. Next April, Lord willing, I will graduate again with another DMin. from Geroge Fox University ane with that and about $4.00 can get one a cup of joe at Starbucks.

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