Guarding and proclaiming the unchanging truth in a changing world

The prosperity gospel empties the true gospel of it's power

When Paul wrote to the church in Galatia and later to the church in Corinth, he was correcting problems that we see all around us today. The Corinthians had received the pure gospel from the lips of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:1-4), but over time preachers had changed the message in order to suit their audience. When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth he says this in 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, not with words of eloquent wisdom lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power”. Later in 2:1-5 he would say, “I sought to know nothing among you but Christ and Him crucified…and my message to you was not in plausible words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” In Corinth, the centrality of the cross in the preaching of the gospel had ceased being popular, there were new teachers, with more appealing doctrines. Paul’s goal in this letter was to remind them that the power of the gospel is tied to the message of the cross. The gospel is about Christ’s vicarious death on the cross. The cross emphasizes man’s sin, God’s wrath, Christ’s love, and justification for the sake of reconciliation to a holy and righteous God. The cross does not scream, new job, or new car! It screams, God’s wrath has been appeased by the perfect sacrifice of His Son, all glory to God! To take away the cross from the centre of the gospel message is to take away the power of the gospel that announces the blood bought grace of reconciliation through faith. By moving away from an emphasis on the cross they moved away from the power of the cross.

Churches that preach the prosperity gospel make a similar mistake. Their preachers might mention the cross in their preaching and even say that Christ died for our sins. But they say that Christ’s purpose in dying was for our healing and prosperity. Of course, this is a relevant issue to their congregation. Many people are suffering and struggling with financial or health issues. And all of them (as all people do) have material desires. It is an appealing message: come to Jesus and have your best life now. But it is an inferior message because it lacks the power that the real gospel has to save men and women from their sins (Matt. 1:21).

People do not like to be told they are wretched sinners destined for hell, however that is the kind of preaching that shows people the need for a cross. The masses would prefer to know how they can get promoted at work, get ahead in the world and get a quick fix for their earthly troubles. A gospel that does not emphasize these earthly things does not make any sense to many people (1 Cor. 1:18). And that is because naturally, in our sin, we are spiritually blind and have no sense of the eternal beauty of God. But instead of preaching the truth that God uses to waken sinful people to the glory, beauty and salvation of God, prosperity preachers abandon it and seek only to satisfy godless desires. That message does not save because it is not focused on showing people the necessity, provision, blessings of the cross. Prosperity preaching swaps the power of the gospel for a powerless message.

If you believe that Christ saves you in order to give you prosperity in this life, then you have put your hope in a powerless message. Unlike God’s good news revealed to us in the Bible, the prosperity gospel does not have power to save your soul (Rom. 1:16), give you life (2 Tim. 1:9-10), grant you peace with God (Rom. 5:1), reconcile you to Him (2 Cor. 5:18-20), bring you into God’s family (John 1:12-13), give you hope for eternity (Col. 1:21-23) and secure your resurrection to life (John 11:25-27). There is nothing that God cannot do for you on earth. But the power of the gospel is that he can save you forever by changing your status from a hell-bound subject of wrath to an eternally justified child of God. That is power. If you have turned away from preaching the cross to singing the popular tune, you have turned away from the only message that has the power to save from sin. Christ had to die because it was the only way to pay the price for our sin. Did your acquisition of that new house, car or job require the death of the Son of God? The prosperity gospel might seem relevant and it certainly is popular, but by focusing on material blessings it misses the point of the gospel and robs the gospel message of its essential purpose and power.

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