This theological misconception is often called the “Prosperity Gospel.” This is where many nominal Christians or those who would reject Christianity get many of their stereotypes of Money-Hungry preachers that they see on TV dressed in their designer suits and driving Rolls Royce’s. This teaching is NOT true Biblical Christianity. It is in fact a bastardization of the gospel to fit the needs of men and women who greedy after filthy lucre. Jesus and the rest of Scripture speak to the ills of wealth and greed and the dangers and pitfalls that it can bring.
At this point I could go into a deep theological study of this false gospel, but I would like to give you the words of Paul to Christians in Galatia and then please take the time to listen to one of the best repudiations of prosperity gospel, by Pastor John Piper. Galatians 1:6- , “I am astonished that you are deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one you have received, let him be accursed.“
The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 are probably one of, if not, the most misused words in all of the bible. Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” The immediate assumption by those who hear and/or use this quote is that no one is allowed to judge or decide whether the actions of others are wrong, sinful or immoral. Often followed or in place of the judge not statement with, “Only God can judge me.”
This is a completely wrong and erroneous understanding of the passage. The key to understanding any writing, including biblical writings, is context. Jesus is not saying no one can say to someone their actions are wrong. The context Matthew 7:1-5. “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
The major premise here is hypocrisy, not discerning right or wrong actions. Jesus is saying when you judge a persons actions, make sure your life is free from accusation in that area. The problem becomes when a person judges another for a minor point, or a speck of wood in their eye, and they in reality have the larger problem, or the log in their eye. At this point you would think still, maybe no one should judge because everyone struggles with hypocrisy. Yet, Jesus commands us to first make sure our life is right before God. And if it is, then we will see clearly to judge or discern the actions of another. This is spoken of also by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.”
In America it is extremely popular today to speak of the love of God, or God is love, which is absolutely true (1 John 4:8). The question remains then, how is God’s justice reconciled? The assumption is that God’s love overrules or negates the justice of God. Or put in another way, if God was truly loving He would never allow anyone to spend eternity in the torments of hell. The theological misconception here is that God is under no obligation to show mercy and be gracious to man. Over and over in the Scriptures, God’s glory is played out not only by His mercy and grace, but also His justice. In punishing the guilty God’s righteousness is put on display.
We all understand this when a murderer or pedophile is brought to justice. However, we want God to stop evil, but where do we want this to stop? “The murder level? The lying level? or the thinking level? If we want Him to stop evil, we gotta be consistent, we can’t just pick and choose. That means you and I would be eliminated right? Because we think evil stuff.” – Lecrae. Jesus in multiple instances deals that sin and evil is not merely actions but flows from the heart and mind.
So how is God’s love for sinners and His justice toward sin reconciled? Jesus, the God-man who lived in perfect obedience to the law was sent to suffer the condemnation of the law to bear the wrath of God against all sin. In other words, Jesus took your penalty and mine so that God’s justice and His wrath would be satisfied (Romans 3:21-26). Shai Linne, who in His song, “Judge of All the Earth,” inspired this series as well as the premise for this post. Finishes with this, “So now God is able to be just and the justifier of all who turn from their sin and place their trust in Messiah. The resurrected Lord is our infinite treasure truly, He gives us new eyes to see His justice in all its beauty!”
This misconception is one that is strikingly popular in our day where it is often quoted by all types of people including recently a political figure attributing it to Holy Writ. This phrase is not in the Scriptures at all nor is its philosophy found in its pages. This quote is actually originated from Aesop’s Fable: Hercules and the Waggoner that dates to around the 6th century B.C.
The Scriptures paint a different portrait, that God helps those who cannot help themselves. Going a step further, not only does God give help to those who are helpless, he gives freedom to those ensnared in the clutches of sin and life to those who are spiritually dead.
Romans 5:6-8, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The second misconception I want to address is the idea that there are many paths to God, Jesus is just one of them. This is sometimes voiced, as it doesn’t matter what you believe so long as you are sincere. The problem with this view again begins with a foundational misunderstanding of God’s character. The philosophical understanding at the root of this misconception is that if God is loving He would surely not allow someone who is sincere in whatever religion they are practicing to be cast off for all eternity. This is an overemphasis of one attribute (love) over others, such as justice. This is a topic that will be dealt with in depth in later posts.
Outside of the overemphasis on God’s love, the Scriptures are explicit on several doctrines that are essentials to the Christian faith. All of which speak very clearly to claims of exclusivity. A denial of any of these doctrines constitutes a lack of regeneration or a lack of salvation.
–Jesus is both fully God and fully man (John 1:1,14; 8:24; 12:39-41; Col. 2:9; 1 John 4:1-4).
–Jesus rose from the dead physically (John 2:19-21; 1 Cor. 15:14).
–Salvation is by grace through faith (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 3:1-2; 5:1-4).
–The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:8-9).
–There is only one God (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8)
–God exists as a Trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
–Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary (nature of incarnation)
–Jesus is the only way to God the Father (John 14:6).
The last claim, from the words of Christ Himself, allow absolutely no room for Christ being only one of many ways to God. Christ’s claim is that He is in fact the only way to God, by faith in His death and resurrection to bear God’s wrath against sin in our place.