Monday, April 27, 2009

Love Letter or Warning Letter - A Reader's Questions

A reader, "Hisdisciple" responded to my article "Love Letter or Warning Letter" and shared with us his perception of JP Ministries. He also asked two questions which I think deserve to be answered and shared in a separate post rather than in the comments box:

Joseph Prince’s ministry finds its roots in what many people have referred to as the Word Faith Movement. Proponents of this movement include E W Kenyon(whose writings gave rise to most of the radical ideas that inform the movement), Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer et al. They teach a collective theology which propounds that God has promised to bless His people based on His finished work on the cross, as well as the believer’s positive confession of faith (in other words, if you speak forth your need, and lay hold of it by faith, the spoken need will in due time come to pass. Put simply, if I desire a car, I claim it in Jesus’ name, and the car will come my way).

Critics have written quite extensively on Word Faith teachings, so i will not talk further about it here. What I do want to highlight is that JP’s teaching over the last ten years has not moved beyond the whole theme of justification by faith. In fact, there has been no mention of the sanctification process or the need for it. In his teachings, believers become righteous from appropriating the finished work on the cross. There is no need to work out one’s salvation, one simply needs to “rest”.

JP’s teaching on Grace suggests a lack of basic understanding of God’s redemptive work. The Martin Luthers and Calvinists will tell you the only time a believer ever takes a rest in his walk with God is when he is getting saved through the finished work of Christ. One can’t earn salvation through his own good work, but he can by His grace and mercy as demonstrated by His outstretched arms on the cross. This is the turning point in a sinner’s life, when the sinner decides to take up the cross and follow Jesus, so that more and more he can be called to be in His image.

Positionally, the believer is forever saved, but the old man in him still needs to be transformed. Now, this walk of sanctification, JP Ministry completely ignores. It is interesting that JP perceives any effort on the believer’s part to act out God’s imperatives as the believer’s attempt to keep the law. He teaches that under the New Convenant, one does not keep the Law, but lives only by God’s grace. So, according to him, God has not only rescinded the need to keep the ceremonial laws, He has categorically abolished all laws, including the Decalogue!

My questions for all to consider:

1. If God has truly abolished the Decalogue, which reveals His moral character and absolute standards for human decency, then what should a believer hold fast to in order to live out his faith in a corrupt and decadent world? “We are in the world, but not of the world.” God also calls us “the salt of the earth”. What keeps us salty if God removes His standards/values for us? What is Grace? Is it a form of moral standard by which we can define and govern our thought life and behaviour?

2. If,according to JP’s theology, those of us who are trying to work out our salvation with fear and trembling are guilty of earning our salvation through our own “stinking efforts”, then what is the Holy Spirit for in our lives?

I shall not argue over what the Word of Faith preaches because I have not sat under that ministry but I have sat under Pastor Prince's ministry for more than five years and therefore would like to clear up the misconception of Hisdisciple regarding Pastor Prince's (JP) teaching.

Hisdisciple said "In his teachings, believers become righteous from appropriating the finished work on the cross. There is no need to work out one’s salvation, one simply needs to “rest”". Hisdisciple is correct in his perception that JP teaches that we are righteous when we appropriate Christ's finished work on the cross. However, he is sadly mistaken (as are many others too) when he thinks that JP teaches us that there is no need to work out one's salvation. This is because many like Hisdisciple have misunderstood working OUT one's salvation as working FOR one's salvation.

What JP is saying is that Christ's work on the cross is finished; we can never lose our salvation once we receive it. Therefore we live a holy life because we ARE holy, and not in order to BECOME holy. As we live a holy life, we are in fact working OUT our salvation - it is a life of rest because we ARE the righteousness of God in Christ. On the other hand, there are preachers who preach that we can lose our salvation if we "sin wilfully" and do not live a holy life, and those who subscribe to this teaching are not at rest for they live a holy life working FOR their salvation, rather than working OUT their salvation.

We rest also because it is God working in us, giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Phil 2:13). This is also the answer to Hisdisciple's question 2 - in fact, by the grace of God, Geri "happened" to also touch on Hisdisciple's question on "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" when she commented on another article of mine "Questionable 'Questionable Teachings' (4)".

She said (emphasis in bold and large lettering mine): "A similar case to look at is this one other commonly misquoted quotation that mixed grace/ legalistic pastors love to abuse is found in Phil 2:12...

"12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling," Pastors love to misquote this to promote works and that we need to work out our salvation still.

BUT Notice the comma behind?? This is NOT a full quote... you must also add in verse 13 which says -
13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
And we know this point when quoted in FULL is accurate because Scripture confirms Scripture... Let's take a look at some scriptures that confirm the FULL quote from Phil 2:12-13

1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

And another one that confirms that the FULL quotation is right, not the half quote that pastors often misquote is found in
Hebrews 13:20-21 -
20 Now may the God of peace
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
21 may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,[e]
through the power of Jesus Christ,

every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. "

Hisdisciple asked in Q2 "what is the Holy Spirit for in our lives?" For us believers, the Holy Spirit is in our lives to convict us of God's righteousness which we have (John 16:8-10). We are able to rest knowing that we stand righteous before God because we are in Christ and whatever good that we do is not meant to score brownie points with God, and whatever good that we do is because of Christ in us (Phil 2:13, 1 Cor 15:10, Heb 13:21).

This brings us to Q1 - "What keeps us salty if God removes His standards/values for us? What is Grace? Is it a form of moral standard by which we can define and govern our thought life and behaviour? "

Grace is not a concept or a moral standard. Grace is the undeserved favour that we receive from God, and Jesus is the embodiment of God's grace - "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." (John 1:17-18). God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for man's sins. We did not do anything to deserve God sending Jesus to die for us, it was totally undeserved and entirely because of God's grace:

Romans 5:6-11 (NLT)
6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Grace is not what we can do or have done for God BUT WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US. Through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we who accept Christ as Lord and Saviour receive the Grace of God, we too died, were buried and rose up with Him. We are now born again as a new creation with a new heart, a responsive heart and a new spirit as our old self with a heart of stone also died (Eze 36:26-27).

God does not remove His standards/values for us. Under the old covenant, God shows us those standards/values externally on tablets of stone BUT now in the new covenant, God gives us a new heart of flesh through Christ, and writes those standards/values on our hearts (Heb 8:10).

Ezekiel 36:22-27 (NLT)
22 “Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. 23 I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign Lord, then the nations will know that I am the Lord. 24 For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols.26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

Hebrews 8:10-12 (NLT)
10 But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the L
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 And they will not need to teach their neighbors,
nor will they need to teach their relatives,
saying, ‘You should know the L
For everyone, from the least to the greatest,
will know me already
12 And I will forgive their wickedness,
and I will never again remember their sins.


Marked to be a blessing said...

Hey Stan! I would also like to add another verse in response to "fear and trembling".

Even though Paul says to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling," that is not the first place that phrase is found.

We find Jeremiah 33:9 saying:

"And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honor before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do to them: and they shall FEAR AND TREMBLE for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure to it."

So when Paul says we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, he means to fear and tremble with the expectation of good! How much easier it is to work it out when you know that God is on our side, and the next verse makes so much sense as well in this context.

"for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure"

We fear and tremble with expectation of goodness, which comes because God works IN us... Hallelujah... i think i can stop here and we're all blessed.. =D

Stanley Wong said...

Amen! Thanks bro :-)

As The Deer said...

Marked - bril sharing! =D Thanks!! We are indeed very very blessed! =)

As The Deer said...

How we know the salvation is final and doesnt involve works?

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:11,12,14

When something is made perfect - it IS perfect ... nothing u do can perfect it further =pp

As The Deer said...

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13,14

And that tells us the law was made obsolete and nailed to the cross once and for all. =)

God is good. =) So so so so so good.