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.”

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Stop Thinking About You!

Yet again I hear of another book which aims to pervert and twist the meaning of a Biblical text so that it will line up with their American ideals. Granted, this particular pastor had a slightly better emphasis and view of God than Joyce Meyer or others of the Word of Faith ilk – but that does not make his approach any less backwards.
The text the book was supposedly drawing on for its content was Matthew 22:35-40 (roughly speaking – I’ve not read the book, so I’m going on what I heard on the radio):

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:35-40 (ESV)

Now the first portion of the radio broadcast focused on the first “section” (apparently it is divided into three) of the book; how we are to view, love, and relate directly to God. Some nice and proper things were said by the pastor as he was being interviewed on that portion, but one thing he said was eerily indicative of how off base his view and intent in the middle portion of the book would be once the radio interview got there…
He said something along the lines of “one of the things that we do, as people, is seek our meaning and purpose. We want to know why we’re here – and God gives us that need. And I always say you will find the greatest meaning in life in worshiping God, because that was what we were made to do…”
I am paraphrasing there, but I believe I captured the essence of his intent from what I can remember. And I could appreciate his statements about the worthiness of God to be worshipped, but how he said what he said just irked at me until I realized his thought was as backward as the entire middle portion of his book.

We do not worship, serve, love, or obey God to “find meaning and/or purpose” or any other reason that has US at its focal point. Those may be products or natural results of worship – and because of our fallenness and pervasive rebelliousness our actions and intents may always be tainted with a selfish focus – but we are SUPPOSED to love, worship, obey, and serve God for the very basic and primary reason of HIS WORTHINESS; and simply because He commands it.

But I digress, my reason for mentioning that statement from the writer is to point at the very simple reason that the man can write an entire third of a book on “loving yourself” based on Jesus’ wording in verse 39 quoted above. And that reason is that the author – along with so many American’s who profess to follow Christ – is placing his own ego (or, more accurately on the part of his intent, the egos of his readers) into the text.

Nowhere in the Law (which is what Jesus is quoting and summarizing) is there any hint that the Biblical authors ever had any concept of what we today call “self-esteem” or “an appropriate self love.” Every place the Scriptures speak to “self-love” it is in a negative context and does nothing but condemn it. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 1 Timothy 2:21, Romans 1:21-25, etc…)

Getting back to the radio interview, however, I will say once again that this pastor sounded much more pious and “Christiany” than the common Word of Faith spewer. He spoke of “having a proper view of ourselves” and “loving ourselves the way God does” in slightly less offensive fashion than I have heard before – but the idea was essentially the same as what I have addressed before in previous posts.

The problem is that it’s the entirely wrong approach. If you “hate yourself” you may very well need to have a change in perspective, but that necessary change will not be from the “negative” to the “proper negative” or the “positive” or even the “right positive.” What you need to do is STOP LOOKING AT AND THINKING ABOUT YOU!
Way more people could do with a more negative view of themselves – especially those professing Christ as Savior – however, the aim of Holy Writ is not to have us “think of ourselves properly” but to “lose, forget about, and die to ourselves.” (Matthew 16:24-25, Luke 14:25-33, etc…)

And guess what, the more you “die to self” and look to Christ, and believe, trust, worship, and obey Him – by default you will have/develop a proper understanding of yourself. But that is a simple product, or result, of NOT focusing on you at all – because God All-Mighty is the one Being worth loving, obeying, and thinking about.

So please, do not allow the tripe you hear every day coming from the current “Christian” culture to influence you away from the real solution to any problem you may be facing in life.

Christ, and the hope of one day standing in His Glorious presence, can remove so many of this terrible world’s aches and pains (or at least point to the escape route)… Trust HIM; learn to love HIM more and better and more appropriately; and stop thinking you need to “love” yourself, or some other such nonsense.

God is the one we should be concerned with loving. And by extension He will help us love those around us – and IN THAT He will help us to stop being the narcissistic pieces of dirt the idea and mindset I’m ranting about stem from.

Satan and the Christian

Some observations of what Scripture says about Satan’s relationship to the Christian…

According to Strong’s Concordance, outside of the gospels and the book of Acts, in the New Testament Satan is mentioned less than twenty times. Obviously if we bring in the gospels and include references to “the devil” and possibly “the evil one” we’ll get a bit more of a base of what the Bible actually says about the fallen angels – but don’t miss the significance (or lack thereof) of the apostles’ lack of reference or teaching about Satan. And while we are on this “times referenced” point, I will also propose to the reader that Satan – as an individual or even as a general reference to fallen angels – is addressed even less often in the Old Testament.
However, I would also suggest to the reader that the most voluminous and clear teaching that we have about Satan in the Bible is IN the Old Testament; specifically the book of Job.
At this juncture I would greatly encourage the reader to pause and at least peruse (if not read in its entirety) the book of Job, paying particular attention to references to Satan (chapters 1 & 2) and God’s response to Job (chapters 38 through 42).

(Side NOTE: Satan is never referenced again after his role in the first two chapters of Job.)

From the first two chapters of Job we can assume at least 3 things about the character of Satan: 1: he is NOT omnipresent; 2: he can do nothing that God does not permit (at the very least in the sense of “does not prevent him”); 3: Satan was probably more interested in cursing God and besmirching His Name than he was in ruining Job’s life.
In the end of the book, God never rebukes Job for attributing the tragedies that happen to him as ultimately being in the hands of God; and not once in the 4 chapters of God’s challenges and questions to Job does He ever mention Satan. I believe the serious, critically thinking reader of the Scriptures should find these facts to be noteworthy.

What does all of this have to do with the relationship of Christians to Satan specifically, or demons generally?

Before we get to that, let us observe the only other scene we are given in the Bible’s historical narrative that includes Satan as an active player – the temptation of our Lord in the wilderness.

To my knowledge, Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13 are the only passages of the New Testament in which Satan (a.k.a. “the devil/tempter”) is displayed as an actual character interacting with another person. I find it significant that – as was the case with Job – Satan’s only interaction recorded for us in Holy Writ is with God Himself.

As far as what we are to learn about the devil from these passages – though their primary aim is NOT to teach about the devil – I take away primarily the confirmation of point (3) after we considered the account in Job: Satan is primarily interested and/or occupied in cursing God and attempting to besmirch His Name.

But to come to the main focus of this post, I would now point the reader to Luke 22:31-32.

In these two verses we seem to have a ‘Job-ish’ situation in which Satan has made a “demand” of God, that apparently – to some extent – God has condescended to acquiesce to (as evidenced by Jesus’ admission of his interceding for Peter)…

Now, most of us – I believe accurately – will assume that this “sifting” has something to do with the following verses in which Jesus prophesies that Peter will deny him.

I think the first thing that the disciple reading this text should take comfort in is Jesus’ concern and care for those that are His. Though I do not believe this demand of Satan is normative, it is a great comfort to know that the Lord will not allow his sheep to be tempted or tormented by “the evil one” beyond what they can bear.

Notice, however, that Jesus does not give us any more details; such as how, when, or even why, Satan will carry out the demanded “sifting.” Obviously somehow he was involved in Peter’s denials of the Lord, but I think our Lord’s lack of specificity on Satan’s end should keep us from worrying about or wanting to know exactly how Satan interacted with Peter – as it is apparently not that important for us to know.

(Side NOTE: While discussing the text with my wife, she offered the speculation that Satan potentially didn’t do or “try to do” (since Jesus has prayed for him, obviously the devil does not prevail against Peter) anything to Peter until after his denial of the Lord – based upon Satan’s tactics of deception or accusation… I offer that speculation as food for thought, but I do think the text should primarily indicate to us that we need not be concerned with more than preliminary speculation on the issue.)

So, thus far I have observed special occasions in which Satan is named as having acted – or made a request to act – in the life of a child of God. Taken by themselves, I believe they point to the NON-normative nature of the devil’s conscious, personal relationship to individuals among the people of God. And even as we move to consider more generic statements from the apostles on the devil’s ability to influence disciples of Christ, I believe my three proposals of the primary motivations and desires of Satan will stand; 1) Satan shares no attributes/abilities with God(I.e. Omnipresence, omniscience, etc.). 2) Satan is restricted by the Will of God, and can do nothing that is not first permitted – or “not prevented” by God (however that happens to work). 3) Satan is more preoccupied with his agenda to slander and destroy God than he is with any particular human being…

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.

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.

Believer’s authority – Part 2

A critical examination of the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” as taught by Kenneth Hagin in his book of the same title.

(NOTE: Kenneth Hagin recounts having changed and repetitiously “prayed” Paul’s prayers in The first half of Ephesians over himself many times… for fuller context; see “Part 1”)

“I spent about six months praying this way during the winter of 1947-48. Then the first thing I was praying for started to happen. I had been praying for “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. 1:17), and the spirit of revelation began to function! I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before. It just began to open up to me.” ~ Kenneth Hagin, the Believer’s Authority – page 10

A question to the reader: does a “spirit” (when in reference to a human being) have to be “activated” or “accessed” in order to “function,” so to speak? And, if so, why isn’t there clear instruction in Scripture for this practice?

Another thing I will put out there for the reader to ponder; I personally always retranslate phrases like “I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before” and “it[the Bible] just began to open up to me” as actually meaning something along the lines of “now the text doesn’t actually say what I’m about to tell you, but…”

Think about it, especially when coming from someone who’d supposedly been teaching the Bible for many years (14 in Hagin’s case – pg 11), why should we trust them when they begin to teach something diametrically opposed to a normal understanding of the Scriptures?

For instance, the second actual bit of Scripture Hagin quotes in his book is Ephesians 6:12 (notice, he skips a massive portion of the Epistle before giving any exegesis… and supposedly his book is a “study based on Ephesians”) – he then goes on to blather and bluster about “our authority over such evil spirits”(pg 12) when there is nothing about “authority” even within the context of the text he quotes. Now, he tries to make it sound like it is by telling us that we must ‘think of this passage in light of what Paul wrote elsewhere,'(pg 12) but fails to give any form of direct quotation.

(Side NOTE: I would like to know who on earth the people are that “think that authority over the devil belongs to only a few chosen people to whom God has given special power”(pg 12) according to Hagin… notice again, no references or sources)

What he does do is try to reference “being born again” and tie that to this assumed “authority in Christ” without giving any Scriptural basis for the presupposition.

The same page(12) of Hagin’s book leads me to caution the reader about trusting the teaching of anyone who thinks they know so much about Satan and his wants and desires. Where is it told us in Scripture what “the devil” does and does not want us to know or do? Again, I plead with the reader not to allow wolves like Hagin the ground for their presuppositions that have no basis in Scripture.

Although we are told in Ephesians 6 that as disciples of Christ we now primarily wrestle/struggle (notice there is no concept of “overwhelming victory” in the passage – it simply mentions the act of “striving against”) against “spiritual forces,” there is no reason to assume that the evil thoughts and schemes of men are not also in view here – do we not face such “spiritual darkness” when we preach the Gospel to a hostile crowd and call upon the Holy Spirit to make dead men alive?

In any case, the next passage of Scripture that Hagin quotes is Ephesians 1:3.

“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.” ~ Last paragraph of page 12, “The Believer’s Authority”

First, I’m sure the reader has already noted the lack of context given by Hagin when he quotes the text. And he has forced an assumption upon the phrase “spiritual blessing” merely based upon the presence of a word that can be translated into English as either “every” or “all.” Where in the text does it say that “authority” falls under the category of a “spiritual blessing?”

Also, with all of the clear teaching given on justification and salvation in and through Jesus Christ in Paul’s other Epistles, why is there not more clear teaching on how this gives the believer supposedly supernatural powers of control over supernatural beings? Are we really expected to just assume the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit given the Christian to fight temptation, flee from sin, and do what is pleasing in the sight of God should include some vague notion of “bossing around demons,” as it were?

Obviously Hagin’s primary problem here, as usual, is in interpretation.

The purpose, extent, and descriptions of these “spiritual blessings” the Christian is given is explained in Paul’s following words starting in verse 4!

Just read the first 2 chapters of Ephesians with the goal of understanding what Paul’s primary point was and you will easily see that the wonder and glory of God (and His worthiness to be praised) in the salvation of wicked men and women through Jesus Christ is the highest idea within Paul’s words! Anyone who would try to make this about the “awesome power(ahem, given by God, of course) of the Believer” over ANYTHING is deceived and/or attempting to deceive others.

Thus far Hagin gives very little support for the presumptive statements he makes about his chosen topic. In future posts I will do my best to more thoroughly address the Scripture that Hagin tries to use – but for now I wish to press upon the reader, once again, the need to acknowledge (if not outright challenge) the assumptions presented with no Biblical bases by Hagin and those of the Word of Faith movement for their false doctrine of “the believer’s authority.”

Believer’s authority – Part 1

A critical examination of the doctrine of “the believer’s authority” as taught by Kenneth Hagin in his book of the same title.

Kenneth E Hagin is often referred to as the father of the “Word of Faith” movement – a particular brand of the ‘health and wealth’ or ‘prosperity’ “gospel” – and I would submit to the reader that his definitive manifesto, if you will, was “The Believer’s Authority.”

If not in all cases, it is certainly within my personal experience with “Faith” people that the doctrines espoused within Hagin’s book are key and essential to these people’s very religion.

And so, in providing this examination and criticism of the book, I hope to prevent others from falling into the “Word of Faith” trap, and perhaps offer a light to help those who are already adherents a way out of that cloud and mire.

First, before addressing specific passages of Scripture quoted and statements made in the book, the reader must understand that, like all authors, there are a very many assumptions and presuppositions within what Hagin wrote. In reading anything – even my own words here – I urge the reader to think critically about the content of words and utilize what ever learning they have and resources at their disposal to test what they read. Just because someone makes a statement using a quote from something before it and then using similar language, does not mean their argument stems from or is consistent with what they quoted.

Secondly, if a teacher encourages verbal repetition and memorization or adjustment of a portion of Scripture with no emphasis toward critical thinking and study, be very wary of that teacher. For instance, in the first chapter (page 11) of the “Believer’s Authority” Hagin tells about how he “personalized” the prayers of Paul in Ephesians 1:16-20 & 3:14-19 to “pray” them for himself over and over again – and encourages the reader to do so, without giving any Scriptural basis or reason for doing so… I might point out that the words of our Lord in Matthew 6:7 came to mind as I read this account and suggestion.

Finally the reader should always have this question as a base to examine an idea that is presented to them: is the focus and goal of this idea to glorify God, or to puff up mankind?

And with that we shall begin the Foreword of “the Believer’s Authority” (I am using a PDF of the book that I found online – according to the file it is the “Second Edition – Twenty-Second Printing 1996. ISBN 0-89276-406-6”

The Assumptions of the Foreword

Right from the outset, Hagin gives us the unorthodox and man-centered assumption that he presumably will prove throughout the course of the book; that is that “believers” have some form of undefined, supernatural “authority” given them to use on earth, a power of which they have been failing to take advantage.

He gives us this assumption clearly not only in the foreword of the book, but in the very first sentence; “Back in the 1940s, I asked myself the question, “Do we have authority that we don’t know about – that we haven’t discovered – that we’re not using?””

May I suggest to the reader that this is never how you should approach the Religion of God? Starting with a question that didn’t even come from Holy Writ is dangerous territory to dabble in – the Scriptures should never be approached with a presupposing request for information on a topic it may very well never address.

Now the concept of “authority” is addressed in the Bible, but again, that doesn’t mean we approach the text with a question that presupposes something, because that opens the door to a plethora of misinterpretations.

Which leads to my next thought on the Foreword. Hagin then mentions that he did “word studies” on “power” and “authority,” another questionable and ill-advised tactic that often ends in the “studier” just finding the answers their question assumes – especially when they have no grounding in or understanding of the cultures or languages the original manuscripts of the Scriptures were written in.

In short, the assumptions of Hagin’s book are clear and manifest in the Foreword. The reader’s first questions should be, “why ask this question?” and, “is there even Biblical warrant for it?”

Chapter 1: the Prayers of Paul

In his introduction to chapter 1 Hagin tells us that his book is based on Ephesians, but he only encourages us to read (repetitively) the first three chapters of the Biblical text (pg 9). (I would encourage the reader to read the entirety of the Epistle, if they would like to follow in depth.)

Then he goes on to point out Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians in the first three chapters of the Epistle, at which point he writes “the turning point in my life came when I prayed these prayers for myself more than a thousand times.“(pg 10, italics original)

His subsequent explanation of that I have already addressed where it comes to the vain repetition, however, the reader’s other concern should be that Hagin seems to have a very twisted understanding of what Paul actually meant by what he prayed. But Hagin doesn’t even bother to explain to the reader what he believes Paul means or why he believes it.

We are given a pretty good indication of the vague, superpowerish view Hagin has of some of the things Paul prayed for by his statement in the last paragraph of page 10 when he writes “the spirit of revelation began to function!”

His following proclamation of “I began to see things in the Bible I had never seen before”(pg 10) and his declaration that he “grew spiritually” more in six months than he had “14 years as a minister”(pg 11) does not help me trust that he suddenly gained a “better” understanding of Scripture. Especially not when almost immediately after quotes himself as saying to his wife, “I was so ignorant of the Bible…”(of 11); his ignorance is plain from his view and use of the text of Scripture.

The verse he works these claims, quotes/paraphrasing, and conclusions from, in context is this (I have emphasized the phrase Hagin pulled from the text)

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1:15-21 (ESV)

From reading the passage in its entirety it becomes obvious that the “spirit of revelation” mentioned in verse 17 is one in the same with the “spirit of wisdom” – and, regardless of what you think this “spirit” actually is, it is obviously that it’s primary purpose is to grant knowledge and confidence or hope in who God is. The entire idea that Paul lays out in verse 18 and following is the awesome greatness of God the Father in His glory, who has granted us salvation and relationship/peace with Him through Jesus Christ.

The fact that Hagin just rips “the spirit of revelation” out of that context to claim some kind of “new” ability to “see things” in the text for himself just indicates to me that Hagin never had or gained a proper understanding of Scripture…

I will return to this subject later, for now I will leave the reader to consider the thoughts and questions posed this far.

~ J D White