In chapter three of his book “The Believer’s Authority” Kenneth Hagin introduces the primary presumptive formula for where this false doctrine is supposedly found in Scripture.
He starts the chapter by quoting Matthew 28:18 (page 19) – and then makes this statement:
“When Christ ascended, He transferred His authority to the Church. He is the Head of the Church, and believers make up the Body. Christ’s authority has to be perpetuated through His Body, which is on the earth.” – Kenneth Hagin, “The Believer’s Authority” (page 19)
Notice the complete baselessness of Hagin’s claims – namely, that “Christ’s authority has to be perpetuated through His Body…” He quotes a passage ABOUT JESUS and suddenly turns toward “us” (the believers). Now, he technically is going to try and “establish” these ideas throughout the course of the chapter – however, he will be completely unable to provide us with a Biblical text that actually teaches what he tries to teach. He must rely primarily upon twisted inferences and bald-faced claims that have no support in any portion of Scripture.
For the rest of pages 19 and 20 he will directly quote Ephesians 1:18-23 and Colossians 2:15, interspersing them with somewhat true statements about Jesus’ work on the cross and His victory over “sin, death, and Satan.”
But he does all of this under the assumption that this all has relevance because it gives the believer this mystical superpower he calls “authority.”
“The source of our authority is found in this resurrection and exalting of Christ by God. Notice in the eighteenth verse [of Ephesians 1] that the Holy Spirit through Paul prays that the eyes of the Ephesians’ understanding—their spirits—might be opened to these truths. He wanted all churches—all believers—to be enlightened. The truth of the authority of the believer, however, is overlooked by many Christians. In fact, most churches don’t even know the believer has any authority!” – Kenneth Hagin, “The Believer’s Authority” (page 21)
Notice that Hagin forces his own doctrine and idea into the text of Ephesians. He provided no actual context or exegesis of Paul’s words, but wrote as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world that Paul had the “believer’s authority” in mind when he wrote the Epistle.
In actual fact, if you read Ephesians properly – as in you look for THE INTENT OF THE AUTHOR – you will find Paul’s primary aim (especially in the beginning of the letter) is the glory of God in the gospel and Christ’s work on behalf of His people. Nowhere would an honest reading of the book imply a doctrine of “authority” belonging to the believer on Christ’s behalf.
But notice the craftiness of what Hagin has done in the paragraph quoted above. Not only had he been trying to force an assumption into the reader’s mind throughout the first chapters of the book, but here he tried to twist Paul’s prayer that the Ephesians would understand and know things about God in Christ to somehow mean that Paul wanted them to know about this false doctrine.
And in case someone caught the fact that Hagin contorted the text in order to change it to mean what he wanted he added: “You never will understand the authority of the believer only with your intellect; you must get the spiritual revelation of it. You must believe it by faith.” (Page 21)
I would caution the reader that any statement like that – made by anyone in any context – should cause sirens, warning bells, and red flags to signal in the thinking person’s mind. Historic, orthodox Christianity never demands that we jettison our brains. However, Word-Faithism tends to be utterly anti-intellectual for the exact reason that its false doctrines and lies about Scripture begin to fall apart the moment we start to use the thinking faculties God gave us and seek to understand what God intended through the authors of Holy Writ, instead of looking for things we would like to have the text speak to.
After this Hagin quotes Ephesians 2:1-7 and tries to correlate our justification in Christ’s resurrection as having to do with the false doctrine he is purporting.
“Notice that the Head (Christ) and the Body (the Church) were raised together. Furthermore, this authority was conferred not only upon the Head, but also upon the Body, because the Head and the Body are one. (When you think of a person, you think of his head and body as one.)” – Kenneth Hagin, “The Believer’s Authority” (page 22)
Notice that Hagin has conflated the ideas of Ephesians 1:20-23 and 2:6. Hagin has essentially turned “the believer” into Christ Himself, instead of the object that Christ has saved and justified as Paul has laid out.
The very phrasing in Ephesians 1:22 excludes the kind of conflation of “authority” that Hagin is advocating: “And he(God, the Father) put all things under his(Jesus) feet and gave him(Jesus) as head over all things to the church(believers),” – although the metaphor of “body” is used in the following verse, there is nothing here that implies that God is sharing His “authority” with anyone but Himself.
The same goes for Ephesians 2:6, because – although it does speak to our association with Christ – the very next verse implies a very real “not yet” (or eschatological) nature to the idea when it says: “so that IN THE COMING AGES he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (emphasis mine)… all of this to re emphasize the fact that, if we read Ephesians with the desire to see what Paul intended to communicate, we will see God’s awesome graciousness toward His children in Christ; how they are hidden and justified in Christ, and how salvation is all the work of God and NOT men… nowhere will we find the silly idea of the believer commandeering Christ’s authority for their own use.
At this point I would ask the reader an honest question: would it not be reasonable to assume (since Paul is building – or “rebuilding” as the case probably was – an understanding of soteriology in Ephesians) that if Paul had any desire for believers in Jesus to make demands of God and Satan based on some “authority” that they possess because they are basically just an extension of Christ, that he would have written a little more clear and extensive teaching on the matter? After all, he moves into advice about proper sanctified living and even gives specific advice to husbands, wives, children, and slaves and masters on how they should carry out their God-given callings… why not give us some specific instruction about our authority, if it’s such a big deal?
The answer is what I have asserted throughout the course of this post: the false doctrine of the “believer’s authority” is not actually taught in Scripture. The most it’s adherents can come up with is twisted inferences that ignore context and require absurd assumptions about the meanings of metaphors and analogies.
Hagin had more to say on this key pillar of the doctrine in his third chapter, however, this post has run a bit long, so I’ll pause here and pick it up another time.
In closing I would again plead with the reader (if you have been influenced by the Word of Faith movement in general, or by Kenneth Hagin’s ideas specifically), ask questions that get at the heart of what you assume when you read Scripture. Don’t let anyone tell you a text means something unless they can substantiate it from the flow and substance of the entirety of the passage they say their idea comes from – and even then, ask if their idea is a historical one(long held throughout church history), or if it is an aberration from what orthodox Christianity has always taught. And any number of questions you can think of to “test the spirit” of an idea. (1 John 4:1)
Please do not fall into the snares of wrong and dangerous thinking encouraged by the lies and delusions of the Word-Faithers.