Posted by: Damon Whitsell | July 14, 2010

The Error of a Prosperity Gospel by Gospel Assembly Church

God gave the continent of Africa to Brother Lloyd Goodwin. By that, I mean that he was the first true man of God, from the corporal-corporate body of Christ, to come to Africa for nearly 2000 years. He stepped into a hotel conference room in a Nairobi hotel in 1978 and began to blast out a foundation of truth and New Testament order.

That was nearly thirty years ago. Some may decide to leave that foundation. They might not tell you they are doing so, but if they preach something different, and conduct their services after a different order, then they have moved off the foundational teachings of this body. Yet the foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth those who are His. II Timothy 2:19. For the body of Christ to continue to operate, and to grow, we must continue to build upon the right foundation. Paul said in I Corinthians 3:11, “No other foundation can be laid.” And truly, no other foundation can build the true body of Christ, than the foundation laid in this continent nearly 30 years ago. Ephesians 2:20 says that the true work of God is to be built on the foundation of apostles, prophets, and Jesus Christ.

Now, 30 years down the road, a new gospel has been brought to this continent. It did not originate in the body of Christ, and we do not want it to contaminate the body of Christ. It is a prosperity gospel preached by a fast-growing Pentecostal movement.

In fact, prosperity-tinged Pentecostalism is the fasting growing religion in Africa, growing even faster than Islam. Of the 890 million people in Africa, 147 million are now what they call “renewalists.” That figure is from a 2006 study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The term, “renewalist,” includes both Pentecostals and charismatics. Renewalists make up more than one-fourth of Nigeria’s population, more than one-third of South Africa’s population and an amazing 56% of Kenya’s population. This growth of religion is nothing short of astounding.

The news is good, but it is not all good. The renewalists move beyond traditional Pentecostal practices of speaking in tongues, prophesying, and healing, to a new-found belief that God will provide houses, money, cars, and even spouses in response to the believer’s faith. God supposedly supplies these things almost immediately in response to faith.

In that 2006 survey, the Pew Foundation asked if the people believed God would “grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith.” 85% of Kenyan Pentecostals said yes. 90% of South African Pentecostals and 95% of Nigerian Pentecostals also said yes. Nearly 90% of those surveyed in those three countries said that religious faith was “very important to material success.”

Let me say here and now that I believe God will supply all our needs. He has promised that in the Scriptures. But I do not believe God is under any obligation to supply opulence. He does not give vast riches and great wealth to everyone who believes. David said in Psalms 37:25 that he had never seen the righteous forsaken, nor His seed begging bread. Philippians 4:19 promises that God will supply your need; but not necessarily your wants.

Faith is not a guaranteed ticket to health and wealth. But I understand why people grasp at straws. 315 million people in sub-Sahara Africa live on less than one dollar a day. The average life expectancy throughout the continent is 41 years. One in three Africans suffer from malnutrition. So preaching about the cross, suffering, and denying yourself is not too appealing.

But the truth is the truth. It does not change according to our economic situation. Discipleship is still the truth. We are to take up our cross and follow our Lord. He was Lord of all, and deserved all the wealth of the world, but lived and died in relative poverty. His Father supplied all His needs, but never gave Him earthly wealth.

In Philippians 3:19, Paul condemned those whose god is their belly. Another apostle told the people of the Lord in James 4:3 not to ask for things to consume on your own lusts. The Bible pronounced curses on the rich. James 5:1-5 teaches that riches are a snare to the righteous. Psalms 37:16 says that the little that the righteous have is better than the riches of the wicked. Note that the righteous are poor, the wicked are rich. Psalms 62:10 warns: Don’t set your heart on riches.

Proverbs 11:4 shows that righteousness is more important than riches. See also verse 28. Proverbs 23:4 tells the disciples of the Lord not to labor to be rich. Proverbs 30:8 says to pray that God neither gives riches nor poverty. Deuteronomy 8:11-14 is a dire warning about the danger of prosperity.

More than two centuries ago, John Wesley said: “I fear, wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore, I do not see how it is possible . . . for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion, almost necessarily, produces both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.”

The 18th chapter of Revelation is a prophecy of God’s judgment on the economic and commercial aspects of Babylon. We can be free from religious Babylon, but still entangled in commercial Babylon. The cry, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues,” applies to all three parts of Babylon; and is issued in the chapter that deals with the wealth of commercial Babylon.

Someone may say that if we don’t preach prosperity, we will not have large churches. So what? Building large churches is not necessarily our goal. Are we counting heads or changing hearts? Is it somehow better to reach large numbers of people with a cursory religiousity, than to reach a few very deeply and effectively?

Numerical growth is a good thing – if the new members are becoming disciples. Unless we see transformational changes in the lives of the believers, we are just entertaining an audience. That is not what the body of Christ has been called to do.

My prosperity gospel is the same one that the Apostle John preached to the true church 2000 years ago. In III John 2, the apostles said that it is good to have health and prosperity; but it is more important to have prosperity in your soul. Lay up treasure in heaven. God has promised us an opulent kingdom – a better and eternal life. The promise of Revelation 21:4 is a better world with no tears, no death, no sorrow, and no crying or pain.

An understanding of the plan of God, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, is what Jesus called “true riches.” See Luke 16:11; 12:21. James said to be rich in faith. James 2:5. Paul wrote to the Colossians about “the riches of full assurance of understanding” and “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3.

Don’t fall into the error of believing a “prosperity gospel.” Instead, hold out for the message of truth that is found in the body of Christ. Lay up treasure in heaven. Serve God in whatever circumstance He gives you. He is sovereign, and in control of all things. He can bless you, but remember that the only true riches are found in a knowledge of the truth.


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