THE WORD-FAITH MOVEMENT
WOLVES IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
By: Victor T. Stephens
"For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31)
Confession and Health
As pointed out near the beginning of our study, Word-Faith theology states that using the force of faith one can use the power of words to predestine his own future. This is known as "Positive Confession". One domain where this cultic formula is applied to by Word-Faith teachers entails health, sickness and disease. Since Word-Faith teachers believe it is God's will for all believers to experience divine health, they can rely on the "force of faith" to confess their healing.
Let's now note and examine the following ten (10) verses which Word-Faith teachers employ to support their doctrine of "confession and health".
… and said, "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you." (Exodus 15:26)
"Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases ...” (Psalm 103:2-3)
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue..." (Proverbs 18:21)
"Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:4-5; see also 1 Peter 2:24)
When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "He Himself took our infirmities; And bore our sicknesses." (Matt. 8:16-17)
"And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:17-18)
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father." (John 14:12)
"Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus..." (Heb. 3:1)
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." (Heb. 13:8)
"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." (James 5:14-16)
Word-Faith teachers reference the passages above in their effort to prove that divine physical healing is guaranteed today. They teach it is God's will for every believer to be physically healed in our present day precisely as it is God's will that everyone be saved. Is such a point of view an accurate and fair comparison? Not by any means!
Let's now address these scriptural references in proper context.
Analysis of Exodus 15:26
Exodus 15:26 is addressing the nation of Israel who was under the Mosaic Law; not the church. During their journey from Egypt, the Lord promised to heal Israel from the diseases that He afflicted on the Egyptians. If the nation of Israel obeyed God's commandments, then they would be blessed. If they disobeyed His Word they would be cursed. This provisional covenant with Israel is inapplicable to the Christian Church today. God does indeed provide physical healing under the new covenant, but it is not a guarantee. God heals us according to His will. The only remote similarity of this verse with the new covenant is that God will permit sickness and disease if such afflictions bring a person to salvation, causes a believer to develop a closer relationship with Christ, and/or for disciplinary purposes. (More on that later)
Analysis of Psalm 103:2-3
Psalm 103:2-3 is in reference to our subsequent redemption in the Millennium. Verse four says, "who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion." David is saying that God will heal us spiritually by forgiving all our sins and will heal us physically by healing all our diseases. He is speaking in the context of the ultimate promise of our glorified state (Rev. 21:4). While the Lord is capable of healing every disease, this passage is not intended to suggest a guarantee of present physical healing of every sickness and disease. If we read ahead to verses 15 and 16, we are made aware of the brevity of life.
Analysis of Proverbs 18:21
Employing the "force of faith" prescription coupled with the aforesaid verses, Word-Faith leaders attempt to sanction divine physical healing for all Christians who possess adequate faith. If a believer is feeling sick, then he should deny his symptoms and speak positive words of faith. Word-Faith leaders suggest that if a Christian has an incurable disease or is permanently handicapped, then he lacks faith and is living outside God's will. T.D. Jakes alleges:
"It's what you say to yourself that gets you healed. If you say that you won't be healed, you won't be healed. If you say that you are broke, you will stay broke. Oh! But I came to serve notice on the Devil. The Bible says, 'The power of life and death is in the tongue.' Slap somebody and say, 'You better speak to yourself.'"
(T.D. Jakes, "Seize the Moment", Woman Thou Art Loosed, 2000 Atlanta, Georgia)
According to Joel Osteen, with a smile, he says we should:
"Start calling in divine health....You may have sickness in your body; you need to call in health. Words are like seeds; they have creative power." (Joel Osteen, "Speaking Faith Filled Words", Tape # 223, 2004)
While it is true that the tongue may encompass potential to have positive or negative effects on ourselves and other people (feelings, self-image, convictions, attitudes, for example), what T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen and other Word-Faith teachers fail to understand is that there are limitations to the power of the tongue. Nowhere does the Word of God support the notion that believers in Christ have the ability to create divine health using the powers of the tongue.
Perhaps this brand of cultic mythology may operate in the man-made classic show, "I Dream of Jeannie", but in the real world created by God, the Lord did not give man such powers. It is ironic that Word-Faith teachers discourage believers from viewing cultic media (television, movies, etc.), yet they themselves subscribe to similar heresies.
Analysis of Isaiah 53:4-5; Matthew 8:16-17; and 1 Peter 2:24
Many people believe that the word "heal" in the Bible is always referring to divine healing for the physical body, unmindful of the context of Scripture. While the word "heal" can include divine physical healing, it is not limited to such a rendition.
A deeper evaluation of Isaiah 53:4-5; Matthew 8:16-17 and 1 Peter 2:24 will reveal that these passages reflect both spiritual and physical healing. Isaiah 53:5 and 1 Peter 2:24 are referring to spiritual healing via salvation. On account that these verses are speaking of Christ's crucifixion on the cross, enduring punishment and bearing ours sins, Christians are thus healed from a state of spiritual sickness and death to a state of spiritual life. Jesus said in Luke 5:31-32, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Clearly, the sickness and healing that Jesus is speaking of is spiritual, not physical.
Reading Isaiah 53:5-12 gives more evidence that the theme is spiritual healing, not physical healing. The Hebrew word "pesha" translated "transgressions" is used in Isaiah 53:5,8; the Hebrew word "avon" translated "iniquities" is used in Isaiah 53:5-6,11; the Hebrew word "chet" translated "sin" is used in Isaiah 53:10,12; and the Hebrew word "pasha" translated "transgressors" is used in Isaiah 53:12. Again, the context of Christ's death surrounds the subject of sin and redemption (spiritual healing), not physical sickness and disease.
Consider these verses:
"In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Heb. 9:22)
"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood." (Rev. 1:5)
"For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life." (Lev. 17:11)
"He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." (Rom. 4:25)
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matt. 26:28)
In Matthew 26:28, take note that Christ didn't say for our physical healing. Again ... it should be evident that the atonement of Christ is mainly about our problem with sin, not physical sickness and disease.
Now, the prophecy of Isaiah 53:4 indicates physical healing; and Matthew 8:16-17 is its fulfillment which occurred during the healing ministry of Jesus prior to the atonement. In other words, the atonement of Christ actually occurred years after His healing ministry. Thus, Isaiah 53:4-5; Matthew 8:16-17 and 1 Peter 2:24 are not related to assured divine physical healing in today's church age. Contrary to the Faith Movement's claims, God does not always heal every believer in every case.
Let there be no misunderstanding; this does not mean that Christians are without the possibility of receiving divine physical healing from God. There are occasions where God does heal and work miracles today. Healing is a gift of God which is granted or withheld at His discretion. Believers may experience divine physical healing based on their faith, or obedience, or God's sovereign choice.
Word-Faith advocates argue, "Since sickness comes from sin, it seems logical that we should not be sick. Divine health was guaranteed in the atonement of Christ as much as the forgiveness of sins." Word-Faith false teacher, Andrew Wommack, echoes this notion saying:
"Healing is a done deal, and is available to us now exactly the same as forgiveness of sins."
(Andrew Wommack, "God Wants You Well", page 13)
The atonement serves to redeem us from sin from a spiritual standpoint, but has not completely extirpated it at this present time (Romans 7:17; 1 John 1:8). Likewise, the same is true for physical infirmities. Moreover, sickness is not necessarily a result of personal sin, but it is part of living in a flawed world and in a mortal body. As we presently possess a sinful mortal body, we also possess a mortal body that is subject to decay. 2 Corinthians 4:16 says:
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Cor. 4:16)
The complete expanse of healing that was purchased in the atonement will not be experienced until after the resurrection and glorification (Rom. 8:22-25; 1 Cor. 15:42-43, 51-54; Phil. 3:20-21; Rev. 21:4). At that point we will be completely healed and possess an immortal body. Jesus' healing ministry prior to the atonement served as a preliminary experience of the ultimate healing and perfect health to be encountered by all Christians at the resurrection and glorification of the body.
The Word-Faith camp suggests that believers today are "anointed" to heal people in the same manner as Jesus and the Apostles. Such an implication is factually false. During the healing ministry of Jesus, miracles and signs gave overwhelming testimony for his identity (Matthew 8:16-17; 11:3-5; Mark 2:9-11; John. 5:36; 10:37-38.). There were a number of people, including the disciples, who questioned the Lord's uniqueness (Matthew 16:13-15; John 4:45-50); and thus, they wanted to see miracles and signs as proof of the divine power of the Gospel. Jesus provided additional evidence for his identity by bestowing the power of miracles and signs to the apostles and their close associates (Hebrews 2:3-4; Luke 10:17-20; John 20:30-31; 2 Corinthians 12:12, Acts 2:43; 5:12, 15-16; 14:3; 15:12; 19:11-12). Moreover, the Lord granted them with such power to establish the truth of their witness; and to serve as an evident platform of identification pertaining to their authority and communication of the Gospel (Matthew 10:1; Romans 15:18-19; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:4; Acts 2:22,43; 4:30; 5:12-14; 6:8 14:3; 15:12).
In addition, there were apostolic legates such as Stephen, Philip and others (Acts 6:5-8). However, they were commissioned by the apostles themselves, not by Christ directly.
The healing ministries of Jesus, the apostles, and their close associates also served to heal the sick out of compassion (Mathew 14:14). However, for the same reason ... out of compassion, God may not provide physical healing to someone on account that He is more concerned about a person's salvation and spiritual life than their physical body (Mark 9:47; Luke 17:1-2).
While God still performs healing today, there is no promise in God's Word that all followers of Christ would be authorized the same degree of power as Jesus, the apostles, and their close associates. If all believers were equipped with the capacity to perform miracles and signs, then these attributes could in no way be the identifying credentials of an apostle. Paul upheld his apostleship using signs and miracles as proof of his identity. In 2 Corinthians 12:12, he says,
"I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles."
(2 Cor. 12:12)
If miracles and signs should be the norm for all believers, how then could Paul refer to these as evidence of his apostleship?
There are many scriptures to illustrate that the apostles, their seventy trained associates, and the apostolic legates were uniquely chosen for a specific period of time in Church history. They were foundational with a revelatory ministry. Ephesians 2:19-20 says,
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."
Notice that this passage says the assembly of believers (the church) has been "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."
Since the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church, why are some "pastors" attempting to rebuild it? Those today who attempt to authorize themselves with the same power as that of the apostles are trying to rebuild a foundation that already exists. Hebrews 6:1-3 says,
"Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so." (Heb. 6:1-3)