Adapted from the book Christianity in Crisis by Hank Hannegraff.
In out text Jesus warned His listeners about false teachers and just as in His day, there are many who claim the Name of Christ and yet teach and preach lies. One of these groups is what many call the Word of Faith movement. Many have learned the hard way that the Word of Faith teachings are not all that they claim to be, and have had to suffer great loss, and as a result, have not only been hurt physically, mentally, and emotionally but some have even turned their backs on the Lord Jesus, all because they were taught false doctrine.
So lets take a look at the Word of Faith doctrine and compare it with our only reliable source, the Holy Word of God given to us in the Bible. Let’s begin with their doctrine of faith. The base scripture that the Word of Faith movement uses for their teachings on faith is Mark 11:22. Word of Faith teachers’ claim that the correct translation of this verse is “have the faith of God”. The Greek reads echete pistin theou, or have faith of God. However literal translations are not always complete translations, for we also have to check the Greek grammar. Theou is an objective genitive; that means that the noun (theou) is the object of the action, thus God is the object of faith, and so the verse is actually and accurately translated as “Have faith in God”. Word of Faith teaches that the law of faith is to the spiritual realm as gravity is to the physical realm, and thus anyone, Christian or Non-Christian can plug into it and get results. Man does not therefore have to deal with a personal God, but rather with impersonal laws, which can be manipulated by anyone, regardless of their relational standing with God through Christ. The Word of Faith teachers’ claim that this law is set into motion by the words of ones mouth. “What we confess is what we possess”. The Word of Faith doctrine also teaches that ones words have creative or destructive power. Depending on weather it is a positive or negative confession. This makes man not only a creator but also a god. Word of Faith teachings also claim that God Himself is bound to these spiritual laws, and thus has to move on our behalf, when we put them into practice. However if God must obey these spiritual laws, it has reduced Him to something less than sovereign. It has made God into mans puppet. The Bible is very clear that God is sovereign. The faith theology also depersonalizes God; it renders Him an impersonable force, which must do mans bidding. As far as man having creative power; man is a creature, and no creature in the Bible is ever accorded creative powers: no man, no angel, no devil or demon, no animals. The closest that man comes to having creative powers is Gods command to be fruitful and multiply. But if pro-creation constitutes creative powers, then animals are creators too. Creation, ex nihilo (out of nothing) is entirely the prerogative of God!
Faith teachers often quote the scripture found in Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”. However the actual Greek says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Rhema of God”. Many a sincere Christian has diligently spent hours reading their Bibles hoping to increase their faith, but unless God speaks the word into ones spirit, and makes the word alive, it never produces faith. The Bible states in 2nd Corinthians 4:13 “I have believed and therefore spoken”. Not I spoke and therefore believed. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”, (Matthew 12:34). This clearly shows that we are to believe it first and then will speak what we believe. No person will go around saying that they have the flu, unless they first believe that they have the flu, but yet the Word of Faith movement insists that people go around and say that they are healed, rich, and righteous when it is clear that we are sick, poor, and sinful.
The Word of Faith movement is also zealous on its teachings of healing. Healing is an accepted doctrine of both the Pentecostal movement, and the Charismatic movement, yet the difference between the Word of Faith’s teachings and the Pentecostal, or Charismatic teachings is as drastic as night and day. The Bible clearly shows that God is a healing God, and that healing is still for today. Healing is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1st Cor. 12:9), the church has been commissioned to pray for the sick (James 5:14-15), signs, wonders, healings, and deliverance can and often do follow those who preach the gospel (Mark 16:15-20). However Christianity is not a healing cult. The Word of Faith emphasis on health and wealth distorts the centrality of Christ and His gospel. The Bible teaches that believers will not be entirely free from bodily suffering until the return of Christ and we are changed from the corruptible to the incorruptible. In Romans 8:19-21 Paul tells us that all of creation groans under the curse of suffering. It is because of our flesh that we still sin. We have a sin nature. And it is because of our flesh that we still suffer sickness. The Word of Faith movement often claims that sickness is a result of sin, but they tend to forget that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23). We have a sinful nature. So the answer to the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is simple. There are no good people.
God frequently preformed miracles at the hands of Paul (Acts 19:11) yet Paul was often unable to heal some of his closest companions. “Trophimus I left sick at Miletus.” (2nd Timothy 4:20). “Use a little wine for your stomach… and your frequent ailments.” (1st Timothy 5:23). It is important to note that Timothy had frequent ailments. Also, why didn’t Paul tell Timothy to confess healing scriptures? Paul himself was sick on occasion, (Gal. 4:13-15 is an undisputable truth of this statement). In 2nd Corinthians 12:7-9 Paul states that he asked the Lord three times to remove the thorn in his flesh, yet God sovereignly refused. Weather this thorn was a physical sickness or some other physical attack, (it was in his flesh, so we assume that it was physical) is not relevant. What is relevant is that God was not subject to the prayers of Paul. The sufferings of Job are another example of where the Word of Faith theology contradicts the biblical teaching. The faith teachers contend that Job brought all of his problems on himself through negative confession and fear. However they seem to miss that Satan could not have touched Job without Gods permission. In Job 2:3 God Himself states that He ruined Job without cause. Also Job was spoken of by God as blameless (Job 1:8 and Job 2:3). If God says that someone is blameless, then it is safe to assume that person is blameless. The Word of Faith teaches that Jobs statements in Job 1:21 and Job 2:10 were wrong statements by Job, spoken out of ignorance, but the Bible is clear to show that Job’s statements were correct and not spoken in error or in ignorance. Job 1:22, “Through all this Job did, not sin, nor charge God with wrong”. Job 2:10, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips”. Also Job’s faith in God was steadfast throughout his trials (Job 13:15). The Bible tells us that all scripture is given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
God is a healing God, but the fact remains that not everyone receives healing, weather they are men and women of faith mentioned in the Bible, or men and women of faith in the Body of Christ in the present day. The Word of Faith movement claims that healing is in the atonement, and is accessed by faith. If so, then if one doesn’t have the faith for healing, does he or she have the faith for salvation? Therefore it would only seem reasonable, if following this doctrine, that those who die, due to a lack of faith end up in hell, for the same reason. Healing was in-fact provided for in the atonement, just as deliverance from sin, but it is a mystery how the Word of Faith movement can see that sin isn’t done away with until the return of Christ, and yet claim that if you are not receiving your healing here and now, then you are lacking faith.
Faith teachers will frequently say, “The Bible teaches more on prosperity than on heaven or hell”. But what they fail to admit is that though the Bible does teach more on money than either heaven or hell, it’s teachings on money are warnings about seeking it and trusting in it. Perhaps the best way to show the Biblical doctrine on prosperity is to list the scriptures that deal with it and let the reader read them for himself or herself. Matthew 6:19-24, Mark 4:19, Mark 10:25, Luke 6:20, Luke 6:24, 1st Cor. 11:22, 1st Tim. 6:17, James 5:1-3. These are just a few of the New Testament scriptures that deal with prosperity. In the Old Testament there are also several warnings about money. One of the most notable scriptures that describes and rebukes the Word of Faith prosperity doctrine is 1st Timothy 6:3-11. Verse five tells the believer to withdraw from those who suppose that godliness is a means for gain (financial gain). Verse six clearly shows us that godliness with contentment is GREAT GAIN. Verse nine states that those who desire to be rich (seek after wealth) will fall into temptation. The Word of Faith teachers stress that prosperity is ours and that we should seek after it, that we should stand up and boldly claim our right to our money! Another false doctrine of the Word of Faith dealing with prosperity is that they teach that Jesus and His disciples were rich. But this claim can easily be disproved by asking oneself the following questions. Why did Jesus have to borrow Peters boat to preach in Luke 5:3, instead of renting a boat, or better yet buying one? If the disciples were rich why did Peter ask Jesus what he and the other disciples would receive in Matthew 19:27? Also in this same verse, was the hundred-fold return that Jesus spoke of literal? I know of no one who has received 100 times the land that they have given up, not even the prosperity teachers in the Word of Faith movement, and I know of no one who even wants 100 wives. No it wasn’t literal; Jesus was speaking of brothers and sisters in Christ, and a land that was not seen with the human eye. Why did Jesus walk everywhere He went, instead of having a horse or wagon, or at least some sort of transportation? Why did Peter have to get the temple tax money out of the fishes mouth? Why did Judas settle for only thirty pieces of silver? We know that Judas was stealing from the bag. If Jesus was so rich, then surely Judas could have stolen more than thirty pieces of silver, and he would have weighed the cost. Thirty pieces of silver one time or much more through out Jesus’ ministry on earth. And what about Paul? Why did he have to resort to tent making? Word of Faith teachers will say that Jesus was so rich that the Roman soldiers cast lots to get His designer clothes. But this also is false. The Roman soldiers cast lots to get the clothes of Jesus as a trophy, much as World War Two Veterans kept Japanese battle flags and such. Common sense will show that Jesus and His disciples were not rich.
The Word of Faith movement also teaches that we as believers have become little gods. This teaching of the faith theology is very similar to Satans temptation of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Eat the fruit and become as God. Many would say to me, "Who are you to judge?” It is not my intention to judge anyone, I choose to let the Word of God judge this doctrine. Some will also say, “Well some of the Word of Faith teachings may be wrong but some of it isn’t. Why not just filter out the bad?” That is like saying that some of the Jehovah’s Witness doctrine is bad but some of it is good, so just take the good, and leave the bad, or even Islam, but the Bible tells us that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. It is my sincere prayer that those who hear this today this will honestly look at the evidence I have presented, the evidence in their own personal lives, and the evidence found in the Word of God, and then make their own decisions. That they will study their Bibles and believe what they read, instead of reading what they believe. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.