Our Recent Posts


Word of Faith Movement: A Doctrinal Critique

Doctrine The Word of Faith movement may readily be identified by a number of doctrines that are formulated quite differently than orthodox hermeneutics would allow. The doctrines of the Word of Faith are typically derived either by taking biblical passages out of context or appealing to a “new revelation” from God that “clarifies” or expands what the Bible says. By taking verses out of context, the Word of Faith teachers are able to proof-text their doctrines and make them sound wholly biblical. And when another text seems to contradict the doctrine they are espousing they reverse the analogy of Scripture and allow the obscure to interpret the clear. To say that the teachers are receiving new revelation (that is understood to be the direct word of God) is to infer that what they say, in turn, is as authoritative as the Bible. They usually (though not always) deny this when it is put to them, but they present these “truths” in this way, and their followers receive them in this way. The result is that people begin to look primarily to the teachers for Truth rather than searching the Word (as did the Bereans – Acts 17:11) to see if what is being taught is in fact true, or they read their Bibles only through the prism that their teachers have presented. This type of interpretation then colors the whole of the biblical message and redirects the focus from the glory of God to the glory of man. Following are eight key doctrinal perversions employed by Word of Faith teachers. Not all Word of Faith teachers use each of these in the same way, and, in many cases, the doctrines overlap; however, each reflects a fundamental departure from orthodoxy which, if carried out, renders the doctrine dangerous and heretical. God Word of Faith position God is subject to the authority of man on earth. In granting dominion to Adam over the earth, God abdicated His sole authority and willingly put Himself under the will and word of His creation. Further, Word of Faith teachers routinely speak of visions wherein they have seen God and describe Him as looking very much like a man. Error With this doctrine, God is reduced to a cosmic bellhop. Word of Faith teachers promote the idea that because God is bound by His Word, man can use God’s Word to “make” Him do things. This, obviously, denudes God of His kingship. Such a God is neither sovereign nor omnipotent. Further, to say that God has a physical form does violence to the biblical record of God as a Spirit (John 4:4) and contravenes the doctrine of God’s omnipresence, and to say that God the Father is made manifest in all of His glory before the eyes of man contradicts the passages where it is said that no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 6:46) Scripture He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15-16) Then Job answered the Lord and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:1-2) But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalms 115:3) We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will. (Ephesians 1:11) So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, "Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. "Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. "Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. (1 Chronicles 29:10-12) Man Word of Faith position Because man is created in the image of God, he is a “copy” of God. This means that Adam had a divine nature. With the Fall, however, Adam lost his divine nature and authority, losing it to Satan who now has dominion over the earth. After conversion, man regains that divine nature and, with it, a “creative power” that can be loosed with enough faith and an audible “positive confession.” Man is, therefore, described as a “little god.” Error This doctrine confuses the distinction between Creator and creation. Further, it suggests a “yin/yang” idea of equal and opposite powers, rather than the biblical idea of God as sovereign over all (the earth, humanity, Satan, etc.). The historic position of the church has understood the imago Dei to mean that man has a mind, emotions, and a will; that he is uniquely created, and that he is appointed as a “vice-regent,” having dominion over the earth. It has never been understood to mean that man has the nature of God, and it has certainly never been understood to mean that man has any authority whatsoever over God. Scripture "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3) "You are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.” (Isaiah 43:10) You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, "He did not make me"; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9; 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 9:21) The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. (Psalms 24:1) Revelation Word of Faith position “Anointed” pastors/teachers receive “revelation knowledge” that speaks directly to a doctrinal issue or to a person’s condition or situation. This revelation is the true and accurate Word of God. It is to be appropriated and obeyed. Error Word of Faith teachers often speak as if the “revelation knowledge” they have received is infallible. This results in two problems: first, it often leads them into a quagmire of conflicting and contrary statements that are impossible to unravel; and, second, it reveals a form of the Gnostic heresy – a special knowledge that others long for but never attain. It is often preceded by “God told me to tell you…” or some variation of that formula, the implication being that the teacher is more likely to hear from God than the one sitting under his teaching. Scripture “But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?' "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22) To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Isaiah 8:20) Positive (and Negative) Confession Word of Faith position Speaking something audibly makes it so – whether for good or for ill. Words contain power: “What you confess, you possess.” Error This idea, drawn from the passages relating how God “spoke” creation into being, is another twist on the “we are gods” theme. It has the net result of crediting the believer for whatever is good in his or her life (healing, wealth, etc.) and blaming the believer for the bad (sickness, poverty, etc.) based solely on the words that they speak. It is known as Rhematology, or the “theology of the spoken word.” The fallacy of this doctrine is evident from Scripture where Job, Jeremiah, David, Jonah, and Elijah all made negative confessions that didn’t result in a negative reality. Scripture "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9) But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE," we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. (2 Corinthians 4:13-14). [In context, Paul quotes Psalms 116:10 to indicate that, in the midst of hardships (4:7-12), “believing” and “speaking” are the pneuma tes pisteos – the spirit of faith: not to have the believing and speaking change the circumstances, but to evoke worship, devotion, and confidence in the sufficiency of the grace of God. The mouth speaks what fills the heart (Luke 6:45)] Faith Word of Faith position “Faith” is a “force” that, when sufficiently held, will bring to pass whatsoever is “believed” to be true (e.g. “I am healed”; “I have been promoted” when these things are not yet true). God created the world “by faith,” and endowed man with the same kind of faith that He has. This was corrupted in the Fall, but can be reclaimed by believers. Error This kind of faith requires the person to ignore the reality of the present and “see” the desired reality instead. Word of Faith proponents advocate putting faith in faith, whereas the Bible teaches that faith is “being sure” or confident that what God says is true, and that the object of faith is not the power of faith, but God. Further, this doctrine endues man with the creative ability that belongs to God Who alone speaks things into reality. In fact, Word of Faith teachers say that even non-believers can exercise faith and “will” things into existence. Finally, the Word of Faith movement hinges upon the misinterpretation of Mark 11:22 which they read as Jesus instructing His followers to have the “faith of God.” This faith of God theology drives much of the movement. God operated by faith in creation, they say, and we are instructed to have that same faith. However, that is a faulty translation of the text. The objective genitive construction of this phrase is most sensibly translated “have faith in God.” The preponderance of Scriptural evidence that supports this correct translation doctrinally is simply ignored by the Word of Faith movement. Scripture Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26) Poverty/Sickness/Failure Word of Faith position All bad things are directly brought about in the believer’s life by Satan due to either sin in the person’s life or a lack of faith. Error This doctrine denudes God of His sovereignty and elevates Satan to the sovereign ruler of all that is not “reclaimed” by believers. It further denies that God may sovereignly use means to mature, teach, or correct believers. Finally, it denies the reality that evil is present in a fallen world, and naturally occurs. Scripture Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. (Psalms 119:75) All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11) No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. (1 Timothy 5:23) Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. (2 Timothy 4:20)

Health and Prosperity Word of Faith position 1) God never wills that we suffer physically or materially. The reference to “by His stripes we were healed” means that physical healing is always available if the believer has enough “faith” and makes a “positive confession” (i.e., “claim” it). 2) Jesus was wealthy (e.g., He needed a “treasurer”) and it is God’s will that we be wealthy, too. Error Apart from the bad exegesis of the first part and the ridiculousness of the second, this doctrine leads believers to hold to false hopes that, when unfulfilled, leave them worse off than they were before. Regarding the interpretation of Isaiah 53:5 (But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed), this verse is dealing with atonement, which is the healing of sin (“iniquities”; “transgressions”). The passage goes on to discuss the “guilt offering” (v. 10) of the Messiah and the fact that He would “bear the sins of many” (v. 12). In context, it is obvious that the subject of these verses is sin and not sickness and disease. Peter similarly makes reference to this verse: and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24) Again, this is an atonement verse, and the atonement is concerned with remedying the moral obstacle that separates man from God. That moral obstacle is not disease or sickness; it is sin. While Scripture (both in narrative and didactic passages) does indicate that God can and does affect physical healing, it never makes universal claims to this effect, and the verses above, which form the foundation for the Word of Faith doctrine that it does, are misinterpreted. Regarding the idea that Jesus was wealthy, and that it is God’s will that all believers be wealthy, Scripture clearly refutes this. As to the material station of Jesus, Scripture offers the following information:

  • Jesus was born in lowly conditions, in a manger in a stable. (Luke 2:7) Jesus used a borrowed room for the Last Supper. (Mark 14:13-14)

  • Jesus rode on a borrowed colt. (Mark 11:1-6)

  • Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. (Matthew 27:57-60)

And, in Jesus’ own words: "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Luke 9:58) As to whether God wills that all believers be wealthy, we have a number of examples of godly men who were not. Discussing the conditions he and Apollos endured, Paul wrote: To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. (1 Corinthians 4:10-13) Likewise, many of the Old Testament saints lived lives hardly exemplifying the prosperity promoted by the Word of Faith teachers: They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated. (Hebrews 11:37) It becomes quite apparent, therefore, that the Word of Faith strays far from the Word of God when claiming that all believers are to have health and wealth. Scripture Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? (James 2:5) Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. (Philippians 4:11-12) And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:20-21) But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6) Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9) The Atonement While some Word of Faith teachers have backed away from this doctrine, it has long been a hallmark of the movement to teach that 1) Christ died spiritually on the cross; 2) Christ took on the nature of Satan; and 3) the atonement was won because Satan took Christ to Hell “illegally,” thus nullifying the power of death. Consequently, after the third day, Jesus was “born again.” Thus, believers, upon being born again, are made like Christ. Error The errors in this doctrine are many and serious. Christ always was and always will be fully God. Thus, He eternally retained and retains all of the attributes of God. [Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)]. Jesus said, “It [the atonement] is finished,” as He breathed His last. The payment for sins was accomplished. There was nothing further to be extracted from Him, and certainly not by Satan. Word of Faith teachers say that the plan of redemption just got started when Jesus died on the cross, and that if His death on the cross was enough, anyone could have died for our sins. They restate the Nestorian heresy that said that the God-Jesus watched as the Man-Jesus was tormented in Hell, which violates the doctrine of the hypostatic union of Christ. This historic and orthodox doctrine states that the second Person of the Godhead, God the Son, took on a human nature in the Incarnation that was then inseparably united with His divine nature forever. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man in one Person. The Nestorian belief that the two natures could be and were divided was rejected and condemned by the early church. This modern restatement of the ancient heresy diminishes Jesus precisely so that the Word of Faith teachers can imply that we are just like Him. After we are reborn, they argue, we are just as Jesus was after He was reborn. Further, if Jesus took on the nature of Satan, then one member of the Godhead was satanic. And, for that time, the second Person in the Godhead was separated from God and was, thus, unholy. Again, regarding the deity of Christ, this doctrine would have Jesus not being God for a time (for God could not take on the nature of Satan). In every respect, this must be rejected. Finally, the doctrine that Jesus died spiritually (this is so pervasive it is often simply called “JDS”) is a heresy that has been refuted time and time again throughout the history of the church. Jesus commended His spirit into His Father’s hands – not Satan’s. Jesus died in the flesh for our atonement, but God didn’t die. Scripture For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3:18) Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18-19) And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9) For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:19-22) Conclusion Each of these doctrines represent a significant departure from historic orthodoxy, and each may well be seen to be a violation of the “Essentials of the Faith” in varying degrees. Each is certain to result in confusion and an obstruction to spiritual maturi

Church For Black Men is a partner of LK10 House Church Ministry - a Christian House Church Planting Non-Profit.

©2018 by Church For Black Men & Families