Who is the “Thief” in John 10:10?

Now most people who have heard anyone quote/paraphrase the first half of the verse – “the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy.” – know that most of those people they’ve heard quote it are intending the listener to understand the “thief” to be Satan.

The problem with this assumption is that nowhere in the text does Jesus mention “the devil.” Granted, the devil can fall into the category of “thief” that Jesus has created in this parable – but I believe we do harm to the text and misunderstand Jesus when we automatically interpret “the devil” in the place of “the thief.”

Side NOTE: I am fairly certain that Scripture nowhere attributes the title of “thief” directly to Satan…

So, who does Jesus have in mind?

Well, first off, if he has anyone in particular in mind, it seems to be any number of those within the decades before His Incarnation (and even within His own lifetime) who had risen up and called themselves the Messiah – trying to amass followers and liberate Israel from the Romans. (John 10:8)

Along with that, however, I do not think it would be too much of a stretch to think that Jesus also meant the Sadducees and Pharisees to fall under this category as well – although they may actually be closer to the “hired hand.” (John 10:12-13)

However, all of this is in keeping with the mistake of those who misquote John 10:10 in reference to the devil – it is missing Christ’s entire point in using this parabolic illustration.

The thrust and purpose of Jesus’ words is obviously HIMSELF. How HE is the door to life, how He is the Good Shepherd, and He is a faithful and mighty master. The thief and the hired hands only serve as a juxtaposing contrast to the goodness, faithfulness, and power of the Good Shepherd. (John 10)

To focus on the contrasting “images” instead of the subject of the parable (I.e. Christ) is an insult to our Lord – not to mention bad hermeneutics.

All of that said – it is true that held within this glorious example of the goodness, faithfulness, and intentional power to save of Jesus, there is an undercurrent of an assumption about the wariness we should have about false teachers and deceiving “leaders.” (2 Peter 2, Jude, Matthew 7:15-23, etc.)

So, is there a group that can fall into these contrasted to Christ categories today?

Well, yes, I believe it would be appropriate to put Kenneth Hagin, Jeff Taylor, Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Benny Hinn, Todd White, Bill Johnson, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Creflo Dollar, Paul & Jan Crouch, Oral Roberts, Rick Joyner, Joel Osteen, Joseph Prince, and all other leaders and “pastors” of the Word of Faith movement and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) into the category of “the thief” who comes “only to steal, kill, and destroy.” And I believe men like Rick Warren, Robert Jeffress, Carl Lentz, and Brian Houston fall under the category of “hired hands” – not necessarily apostate wolves in sheep’s clothing, but certainly squishy and spineless on the Gospel.

Beware of such men and women, yes; and do not be ignorant of the devil’s devices and rebellious influence in the world, yes… but do not let those things twist your remembrance or reading of the Scriptures.

Christ is the Good Shepherd, and His sheep hear and follow His voice – because He is Able and Mighty and Faithful to save!

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First Thessalonians 1

“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 1 (ESV)

Side NOTE: The background for the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, from Scripture, seems to be in Acts 17:1-9. And based upon that portion of Acts, and Paul’s usage of the plural in the last sentence of verse 5 (and some brief internet searches) it seems that “Silvanus” named above may very likely be “Silas” from the book of Acts. As I do not yet read the original Greek fluently, I’ll leave that observation there for what it is.

It is interesting how Paul is always about thanking God for the saints whom he knows and knows of. And it is encouraging and/or useful (I think) that his thankfulness often stems from a very practical/personal interaction element of how he came to know or be with the group his Epistle is written to. In the case of the Thessalonians he remembers broadly their “work of faith,” “labor of love,” and “steadfastness of hope in Jesus Christ.” And from the account given to us in Acts 17, these aspects of the Thessalonians may be all the more intense for Paul due to the relatively small group that were initially saved there and subsequently persecuted by the Jews.

The second thing that jumps out at me in the beginning of this Epistle is Paul’s persistent consistency in using language that puts the impetus on God in the matter of salvation. Although he does not go into the depth he did in the Epistle to the Ephesians, it is undeniable that Paul believes God chose the particular Thessalonians who believed.

Now, my soteriologically synergistic brethren may be a little agitated at such an observation, however, verse 4 is quite clear. Paul thanks God for the Church at Thessalonica because he knows that they, being loved by God, were chosen by God. And Paul knows this for one reason that is threefold; because the gospel came to them “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

It seems to me that Paul is using Hebrew parallelism in describing his assurance about God’s choosing and saving the Thessalonians – for where does the “power” of the gospel come from but the working of the Spirit to “fully convict” those whom God has chosen for salvation?

And then Paul reminds his readers of “what kind of men” he and Silvanus “proved to be” among them for their sake. It seems here in the latter half of verse 5 that Paul inserts the beginnings of what is an underlying theme of both the Epistles that he wrote to the Thessalonians; and that is something of a Christian “work ethic” or “code of conduct” – if you will. Though this only becomes blatant in 2 Thessalonians (some of them apparently having missed that point) – I do not think it a stretch to see a little of that reasoning in the things that Paul will bring up later in this Epistle.

However, the primary and actual point of Paul mentioning what kind of men he and his companion proved to be was to continue to commend the Thessalonians – and further the list of things he is thanking and “remembering” before God – for their having been imitators of them “and the Lord.”

And in what way does Paul describe them as imitators of Christ? In their receiving the gospel in “much affliction,” being granted joy by the Holy Spirit because of that word and in spite of the affliction – and in so doing being made an example to other believers in nearby regions. And not only a living example, but proclaimers of the gospel of Christ – evidenced from Paul having heard that their “faith in God has gone forth everywhere,” (verse 8).

And subsequently Paul thanks God and encouraged the Thessalonians by including verses 9 and 10. Making it a perfect transition into the underlying themes of both Epistles to the Thessalonians – that of Christian living and the Eschaton.

It will be interesting to see – as we pick up “chapter 2” – how Paul continues with this personal address as he also weaves in teaching and recollections of imitation-worthy examples for how we as Christians should act and think…

For now, I encourage the reader to walk through the entirety of the Epistle in their own private study, and hope my observations have been at least interesting, if not entirely “helpful.”

Believer’s authority – Part 5

A continuing critique challenging the assumptions and biblical interpretations of Kenneth Hagin’s “The Believer’s Authority”

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.

Believer’s Authority – Part 4

Continuing a critical examination of Kenneth Hagin’s book: “The Believer’s Authority”

“What is Authority?” – Chapter 2 of “The Believer’s Authority”

Now, to be honest, I could probably write an entire essay on the term “authority” and how it is used in the New Testament (as it relates to the disciple of Christ) – especially in relation to challenging the false assumptions and teachings espoused in pages 15 through 18 of Hagin’s book, The Believer’s Authority. However, I believe that Hagin’s presuppositions and questions are so shallow that anyone with eyes to see can easily point to the holes in his arguments and statements – as far as simple language and reality are concerned – and so I will not bother to waste time on semantics (unless a reader has questions to that effect – in which case, feel free to leave a comment, and we can talk). I will, however, address the passages of Scripture that he references in his second chapter and where necessary I will quote and challenge his conclusions.

So the first passage that Hagin actually quotes at any length and discusses in his second chapter is Luke 10:19

Here is the verse: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”

And here is the verse in context (both are quotations from the ESV):

“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” ~ Luke 10:1-24

Again leaving alone the semantics, there are a few interesting things about this section of Holy Writ that I believe should cause anyone to pause before buying the assumptions thrown at us by Hagin.

First there is who the phrase Hagin actually quotes is addressed to, i.e. the seventy-two disciples. Now, judging from Luke’s refrain from using the word “disciple” in reference to “the seventy-two,” (and the way verse 23 begins) I do not think this group included those who would eventually be called the apostles. However, that has little to do with the specifics of this point – aside from the question of why these “seventy-two” never appear again in Scripture, if they were the only ones these words (verse 19) applied to.

My primary hang up on this “who the words were addressed to” point is the phrase “and nothing shall hurt you”… that phrase most obviously – out of everything here – could not have been meant literally/physically as far as it’s broader application goes (I.e. to Christians today)… and, to an extent, at some point the words stopped being true for this group (especially if the apostles were counted among them), because they all eventually died in some manner or another – and the apostles at least (if they were included) were eventually “hurt” in many ways by others, many of them eventually being martyred.

But Hagin makes no attempt in pages 15-18 of his book to deal with these “problems” in the Biblical text. He simply assumes the words apply to him and begins to develop a doctrine entirely based upon that one verse completely removed from its context.

Now, one would think that I’d be happy that a few paragraphs into developing this doctrine he says “God himself is the power behind our authority!” (Which is true, especially in an appropriate understanding of the “authority” spoken of in Luke 10:19) But his next words point out what is wrong with that sentence: “The devil and his forces are obliged to recognize our authority!” (Page 15)

The primary problem with Hagin’s words is his use of “our.” This possessive view of what Jesus spoke of is part of what what Jesus rebukes in verse 20! Although a form of “ownership” (if you will) was involved in what was given to the seventy-two – Jesus left no room for development upon his words, and directed the thoughts of the disciples toward the great goodness of God and His gracious salvation.

But Hagin again fore goes a thoughtful argument for his idea and simply rambles off into a silly illustration about “delegated power” and how police officers exemplify his idea before mentioning Ephesians 6:10(page 16) as if that had anything to do with the false doctrine Hagin was trying to develop.

In the last half of his second chapter, Hagin provided an unverifiable story about himself that he seems to think proved his conclusions. After telling us about a dream and basically demanding that we believe his interpretation of it being a “vision from the Lord” (page 16 & 17) he quotes (in part, mind you) 1 Peter 5:8-9. I believe the entirety of the passage destroys his attempt to twist it to his own ends, so I will quote it for you here:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6-11 (ESV)

NOTE: the reader really should read the entirety of Peter’s first Epistle to have the whole context of what the apostle is saying in the passage above.

One immediate red flag is Hagin’s deliberate omission of the majority of verse 9 in his own quotation of the text(page 17). But anyone can see that Hagin CANNOT quote the text in full and maintain his false doctrine.

First, the rest of verse 9 implies that the original recipients of Peter’s Epistle were experiencing some form of suffering, and they should find comfort in knowing others in the Church suffered similar things. And Peter is using “the devil” as a warning for them to persist in the faith and resist temptation (whether it came directly from Satan or not) because if they did not stand firm, Peter reminds them, the devil (or even sin itself, if we take the analogy from Genesis) prowls around, looking to devour anyone who gives in to temptation… but there is NOTHING in the text that suggests that Peter expects his readers to go around making demands, giving commands, or even actively “battling” the devil to get rid of the suffering that seems to be somewhat attributed (at least in part) to him. We are simply to trust God for His ultimate deliverance, and be vigilant to stand firm in the faith and struggle forward in the Spirit’s empowering sanctification.

Now there is FAR more to the text than I can cover, but I think it is clear enough – having made the observations I have – that it has nothing to do with Hagin’s point on page 17 of his book.

Hagin again quotes Ephesians 6:10 as if it has something to do with his doctrine (which it might in his own mind, but certainly not in that of the apostle), and also tacks a quotation of 1 John 4:4 on to the end of his chapter(pg 18), obviously think it too – as out of context as it is – in some way reinforces his false doctrine. However, I’m sure the reader can see and reject the blatant eisegesis being used to substantiate something that has no Biblical substance.

So, to close;
1: I again implore the reader to demand a reason for why we should accept Hagin’s or any Word-Faither’s assumptions about these texts upon which they build their doctrine of the believer’s “authority.”
2: Never trust an interpretation of a text that ignores the ORIGINAL INTENT and CONTEXT of the passage and the author.

Finally, there is a short “prophecy” given at the end of Hagin’s second chapter(pg 18) that should cause any critically thinking and Biblically educated disciple to balk at Hagin’s blasphemous audacity.
After all of his poor “proof-texting” and eisegetical quotation without providing substantial reason for the belief he was putting forth, basically Hagin says “now I’m going to write some Scripture at the end here that assumes and proves what I’ve already said.”

The blatantly manipulative and/or “deceiving and being deceived” nature of the last paragraph of the second chapter of “the believer’s authority” alone should give anyone pause before swallowing Hagin’s kool-aid.

Believer’s Authority vs. Scripture

I have compiled here a list of quotes from Kenneth Hagin’s book, “The Believer’s Authority,” that are unmistakably contradictory to the statements of Holy Writ. If the reader finds any fault with either my quotations of Scripture or of Hagin (e.g. the reader thinks I am quoting something out of context, etc.), I would encourage you to comment and point out such faults so that we may discuss them in detail…

(Side NOTEs: 1: I have paused my critique of the book by Hagin because I wish to work on a few other topics of study for a while – and I believe this list will prove more instructive to the reader than anything else I could write. 2: Hagin was not the only one that taught this heresy – today we have many false teachers/prophets who would agree with Hagin’s points and espouse differing variations of them; e.g. Bill Johnson, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, etc… – thus why I think it is necessary to pursue this at all. 3: All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version)

“Salvation belongs to the sinner.” – Kenneth Hagin, “the Believer’s Authority” (page 13)

“Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people! Selah” ~ Psalm 3:8

“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” ~ Jonah 2:9

“After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…”” ~ Revelation 19:1 (see also Revelation 7:10, etc)

“… We’ve told them God’s mad at them and is counting up everything they’ve done wrong. Yet the Bible says God isn’t holding anything against the sinner!” – Hagin, “Believer’s Authority” (page 13)

“God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.” Psalm 7:11-13 (see also Psalm 90:7-11, Psalm 2, etc)

“But because of your impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.” ~ Romans 2:5

“That’s what’s so awful: The poor sinner, not knowing this, will have to go to hell even though all of his debts are cancelled!” – Hagin, “Believer’s Authority” (page 13)

Romans 1-3… (In fact, read the entirety of Romans. Nothing in Scripture implies that the unrepentant’s sins(a.k.a. “debts”) are canceled while he is outside of Christ. See also my consideration of this quote HERE)

“The trouble with us is that we’ve preached a “cross” religion, and we need to preach a “throne” religion. By that I mean that people have thought they were supposed to remain at the cross.” – Hagin (page 23)

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”” ~ Luke 9:23

“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jew and Greek, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 & 1:23-24

“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” ~ Galatians 6:14

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” ~ Philippians 3:18-19

“When you preach the cross, you’re preaching death, and you leave people in death.” – Hagin (page 24)

“And he[Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” ~ Luke 9:23-26

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18

“For in Him[Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” ~ Colossians 1:19-20

“It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” ~ Galatians 6:12-15

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” ~ Philippians 3:18-21

“All that Jesus did He did for us.” – Hagin (page 28)

“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”…” ~ John 17:1-4

“In fact, Christ can’t do His work on the earth without us! . . . No, He can’t get along without you any more than you can get along without Him.” – Hagin (page 33)

God speaks of the insignificant puniness of us next to Himself ~ Job 38-41

“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” ~ Matthew 3:8-10

“He[Jesus] answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” ~ Luke 19:40

There are many more examples I can give (and will when I get back to this topic), but for now I believe the honest, Scripturally thinking reader can come to their own conclusions based upon this simple list.

Some Thoughts on Inter-religious Dialogue

Of late I have been following a controversy recently created and stirred up by professing Christians among the “right” in U.S. politics. This controversy primarily surrounds one event (taking place over the course of two evenings) started and participated in by Dr. James White – specifically a dialogue that Dr. White had with a Muslim imam named Yasir Qadhi – and unfortunately the critics focus most of their attention on lambasting and slandering the persons involved. I wish to avoid that end of the controversy, however, and address the views that are being promoted by the critics where it involves how a Christian should interact with unbelievers – particularly members of other religions.

(Side NOTE: the dialogues in question can be found at these links: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=updtj99Fp80 & https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=r2tPHLOej1w . . . For those interested in being better able to share the Gospel with Muslims, I would highly recommend them)

Now, one of the more reasonable arguments I’ve heard from the critics of the dialogues has been pulled from Scripture by referencing 2 John 7-11. Their argument is basically that a public meeting, for the purpose of merely discussing certain issues, should never be held among Christians and people of another faith – because that would violate the spirit of the passage referenced. (Their argument particularly centers around a very fearful view of Islam, however I believe my summary captures the essence of the argument.)

The first thing the reader should note about the passage mentioned – and many like it (e.g. Romans 16:17-18, 2 Thessalonians 3:6 & 14, etc.) – is that the author is primarily warning followers of Christ away from the poison of those who practice and believe things that go against the teachings of Christ. The context of many of Scripture’s warnings against false teaching is false teaching and practice that tries to claim to be Christian.

Put another way, Scripture’s concern is to keep disciples away from false doctrine that claims to be in the same vein as what Christ would teach. It does not necessarily address false religions that do not associate themselves with Christianity, possibly because it is easier to recognize that they are not of God.

However, the strong language against the apostate does not necessarily correlate to assuming the disciples of Christ should treat the unbeliever with the same severity (at least, not at all times). In fact, I would say the actions of Jesus, Paul, and the other apostles is reason enough to think that we should regularly be interacting with the lost. 2 Thessalonians 3:8 implies their having worked daily among unbelievers as well as believers; the whole book of Acts would give examples – but Acts 17:16-21 is a pointed example; and obviously Jesus spent much time with people who He knew would end up deserting Him – John 6:64-66. Now, I have heard one radio talk show host complain not so much about the conversation but the “official public format” of the dialogues participated in by Dr. White and Dr. Qadhi. My question, however, is how is a public format any different than the examples cited? Other than the fact that more people get to learn and participate in the format used by Dr. White?

Lastly, unfortunately it seems this whole thing has become a controversy because so many Republicans in America fear (and sometimes despise) Muslims, and that extends into American Christianity because of how it identifies itself with Republicanism. I would encourage the reader not to make that mistake – a Christian’s politics might primarily be conservative (because of being affected by Scripture), but that does not mean the views or position of the “conservative right” are by default Christian.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

No disciple of Christ should fear anyone of any ideology or religion that sets itself up against God. Take courage, Christian, and share the Gospel with your neighbor (Muslim or otherwise) and treat them with love and respect as you do so.

Believer’s authority – Part 3

Continuing critique of “the Believer’s Authority” by Kenneth Hagin

(NOTE: the first two posts in this series can be found HERE(1) & HERE(2))

“Ephesians 1:3 reads, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us [the whole Church] with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” The American Standard Version renders “all spiritual blessings” as “every spiritual blessing.” This means every spiritual blessing there is. In Christ, all spiritual blessings belong to us. Authority belongs to us whether we realize it or not. But just knowing this isn’t enough. It’s knowledge acted upon that brings results! It’s a tragedy for Christians to go through life and never find out what belongs to them.” Kenneth E Hagin, the Believer’s Authority (last paragraph of page 12 – emphasis/italics original)

(Side NOTES: (1) anyone who wants to say what the differences in Bible translations “mean” (I.e. make a case or point for a specific meaning that is not given in the text) better have a decent grasp of the original language(s) themselves – or be able to point you to sources they used to come to their conclusion… (2) having been granted salvation isn’t enough for your life to NOT be a tragedy???)

I return to this paragraph first because there are a number of things I haven’t addressed yet, and because it – and the section following – is (I believe) a hinge upon which Hagin’s doctrine turns.

Assumptions (again)
Once again I urge the reader to question the assumptions of an author that are not given full Biblical warrant.

Notice that Hagin assumes that “authority” is a spiritual blessing. What gives him the right to assume this? Now, he has kind of already told us that he gets this from the believer’s union with Christ at/in salvation, and later he will eventually give us an incredibly far reaching argument for where he got this idea, but for now let us consider his closing argument for chapter 1 of his book.

‘Things belong to us’

The underlying argument from the end of page 12 to page 14 consists of a fuller explanation of what Hagin means by his statements in the last half of the paragraph quoted above.

He begins the argument by asking his reader if they have ever thought about the following statement: “salvation belongs to the sinner.”(pg 13)

Ignoring the obvious blunder (I.e. that salvation, in fact, BELONGS to (is possessed/controlled/given by) the LORD (Jonah 2:9, Psalm 3:8, etc.) – NOT “the sinner”), let’s read more and find out what Hagin means by the statement:

“Jesus already has bought the salvation of the worst sinner, just as He did for us. That’s the reason He told us to go tell the Good News; go tell sinners they’re reconciled to God. But we’ve never really told them that. We’ve told them God’s mad at them and is counting up everything they’ve done wrong. Yet the Bible says God isn’t holding anything against the sinner! God says He has canceled it out. That’s what’s so awful: the poor sinner, not knowing this, will have to go to hell even though all of his debts are cancelled! Second Corinthians 5:19 will tell you that. There’s no sin problem. Jesus settled that. There’s just a sinner problem. Get the sinner to Jesus, and that cures the problem. Yes, that’s a little different from what people have been taught, but it’s what the Bible says.” – Kenneth Hagin, the Believer’s Authority(page 13)

Now, once again, the plethora of assumptions in this quotation reveal how Hagin understood and applied key doctrines of the Christian Religion, and how you respond to Hagin’s words will be indicative of how you yourself view the Bible.

So, with all of the presumptive statements made by Hagin in that quote, he only referenced one verse of Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:19. Let’s read the verse with a little context, shall we?

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors on behalf of Christ, as if God were imploring you through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made the one who did not know sin to be sin on our behalf, in order that we could become the righteousness of God in him.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (LEB)

What jumps out to me first is the lack of the idea of “already-ness” that Hagin seemed to have. There is nothing in this passage that implies ‘ownership’ (or anything of the kind) for/to the sinner. And even if one subscribes to an interpretation of this text as teaching universal atonement – there is no basis upon which to assume that the God-hater (a.k.a. “the sinner”) is already (I.e. before coming to Christ in repentance and faith) “at peace” with God, or reconciled to Him.

God’s “reconciling the world to Himself” did not automatically remove His wrath against sin. Notice that the subject of this reconciliation is primarily those who are “in Christ,” and have been made “new creations” – it says nothing about those who are outside of Christ having been reconciled. Also, God’s act of reconciling men to Himself is an event that takes place in time (as far as we are concerned), and has nothing to do with anything “belonging” to fallen men.

More problematic than the misunderstanding addressed above is Hagin’s view of people. Primarily whatever he believed about them that allowed him to make statements like: “the poor sinner not knowing this, will have to go to hell even though all of his debts are cancelled!”(pg 13) And: “There’s no sin problem. Jesus settled that. There’s just a sinner problem. Get the sinner to Jesus, and that cures the problem. Yes, that’s a little different from what people have been taught, but it’s what the Bible says.”(pg 13)

The first problem – as I’m sure the reader will have grown tired of reading by now – is that he gives no Scriptural reason for saying this, other than his obvious interpretation of the one text he mentioned(2Cor5:19).

The second problem is that these statements reveal a sub-Biblical (one could almost say anti-Biblical) understanding of mankind.

The “sinner” is NOT a “poor,” unfortunate person who wants to do the right thing, doesn’t deserve hell, and would be brought to heaven and coddled by a gushing god if he only knew what was already his! What the “sinner” IS is a selfish, self-centered, God-hating, self-righteous, and worthless creature that deserves and resides under the wrath of God apart from His mercy and grace in Christ:

“…just as it is written, “There is no one righteous, not even one; There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside together; they have become worthless; There is no one who practices kindness; there is not even one. Their throat is an opened grave; they deceive with their tongues; the venom of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and distress are in their paths, and they have not known the way of peace. The fear of God is not before their eyes.” ~ Romans 3:10-18 (LEB)

For the first three chapters of his Epistle to the Romans, Paul labors to explain and make unmistakably clear the evil of every single human being, and that the just, righteous wrath of God will be poured out upon them at the Judgement (and in many ways is already manifested against them).

Hagin’s seemingly man-centered gospel – and therefore his view of people and their relationship to God – is troubling, to say the least.

I urge the reader to contrast Hagin’s statements and claims against the full text of what is written in Scripture. Though he is correct that Jesus “fixes the problem with/of sinners,” there is no Biblical reason to think that God’s holy wrath does not still abide upon the unrepentant. For now, I have addressed the few Scriptures Hagin tried to use in the first chapter of his book. There are plenty of other things that could be said of the silly claims and worldview revealing statements that he made in the chapter, but I wish to primarily point the reader to God’s Word.

I hope my thoughts and observations thus far have helped the reader to at least begin to see or ponder how sub-Biblical the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” truly is.

May the Lord bless you and help you to be more concerned about Him; His glory; and HIS Authority – and to think nothing of yourself.