I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
Where exactly was our redemption purchased? Where was the victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave actually wrought? Does it really matter in the grand scheme of eternity? Some would say no. However, if our authority and standard is the written Word of God, I submit to you that it does matter. Hanging on the cross between two thieves, suspended between Heaven and earth; our Lord after enduring awful pain and suffering and experiencing the cruel mocking and insults of many who stood there that day, hung His head and said, “It is finished”. [John 19:30] I submit to you that these were the greatest words any sinner could have ever heard, albeit at great price to our Lord. The worlds debt was paid. Divine justice was forever satisfied. The penalty was canceled. This was all accomplished on the cross.
As we said last time, the cross is the most central doctrine of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Having made peace through the blood of His cross…” [Col. 1:20] This speaks of reconciliation or justifying peace. The enmity caused by sin, the separation between God and man; was bridged, if you will, through the blood of Christ on the cross. There was nothing else to be done. The vicarious sufferings of our Lord on Calvary’s cross were fully sufficient to pay the sin debt all of us owed to a holy God. I am driving this point home for a reason. Quite a different story of our redemption is told by Word-Faith teachers.
Kenneth Copeland for example states, …if it had been a physical death only, it wouldn’t have worked. He and other teachers in the faith movement contend that our redemption was not completed on the cross. Faith teachers employ a metaphysical view of salvation, which spiritualises the atonement and deifies man. The completion of our redemption, according to Word-Faith theology, is located in hell rather than on the cross, thus depriving the physical death of Christ of the power to atone for our sins, which the Bible attributes solely to the blood of Christ [Lev. 17:11; Heb. 10:10]. The central doctrine of the Christian faith has been plundered. Faith teachers contend that Jesus’ physical death again was not enough. They maintain that Jesus had to die spiritually as well as physically, to actually purchase our redemption.
This teaching is certainly nothing new. There really are no new errors, only old lies repackaged and redistributed. This teaching of Jesus dying spiritually was known to the early church as ‘Devil Ransom Theory’ or ‘The Classical Theory’ or ‘The Fishhook Theory’. The early Church fathers who subscribed to this thesis, believed that because of sin man belonged to Satan. In order to save mankind, God is purported to have offered His Son Jesus as a ransom to the Devil. This is in sharp contrast with the Bible’s teaching that Christ had given Himself as an offering for us, and as a sacrifice to God not Satan (Eph. 5:2; cf. 1Cor. 5:7; Heb. 10:12).
The theory that Christ was a ransom paid to the Devil, did not originate with the Faith movement. It was taught as early as A.D. 230 by Origen and more emphatically by Gregory of Nyssa A.D. 370. This doctrine however was always met with the strongest opposition and denial by theologians such as Athanasius A.D. 370; and Gregory of Nazianzum A.D. 390. Never did it become the official and accepted view of the Church.
Many, if not most, of the people who are part of Word of Faith churches probably have very little knowledge of the whole “Jesus died spiritually” doctrine. However, it is a major doctrine taught by the key leaders of the movement and therefore needs to be understood. Did Jesus become sin, or you could say, “become a sinner”, at Calvary and thereby experience spiritual death? Did He become sin on the cross, as this doctrine teaches, or was He a sin-offering?
I hold to the position that Jesus was a sin-offering [Isa. 53:10]. I also maintain that he was holy and pure, just as the Old Testament foreshadowed [Ex. 12:5]. Jesus did not go to hell for three days and three nights, and I speak of the burning side of the pit, to redeem mankind from the terrible ravages of sin, as the Jesus died spiritually doctrine claims. Rather, He continued His obedience to the Father. He said at the time of His death, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit” [Luke 23:46]. We referred to the words of Jesus earlier, uttered on the cross, “It is finished” [John 19:30]. Actually, the Greek text reads simply, “Finished!” It is the Greek word, teleo, and speaks literally of things completed or fulfilled.
What was finished on the cross? The work Christ came to do. As of that moment, man’s salvation was complete. Nothing else was needed. If Jesus died a sinner, as this doctrine contends, someone would had to have died to redeem Him from His unregenerate state and provide for His justification. It is clear that is absolutely ridiculous. What about the shed blood of Christ on the cross? Did it redeem us back to God? Not according to some of the Word-Faith teachers. For example Kenneth Copeland states concerning the shed blood of Christ, “When His blood was poured out, it did not atone. It simply did away with the handwriting of ordinances that were against us. There is really no way to judge such statements other than to label them blasphemy. Concerning this Paul wrote,
For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame who set their mind on earthly things. [Phil. 3:18, 19 NKJV] We can only hope that the proponents of this doctrine don’t know what they are doing, for they are actually denying the Blood Atonement of Jesus Christ, substituting in its place punishment in Hell, etc. Had Jesus actually became literal sin, in other words, had become a sinner, which means that He was now lost and unregenerate while He hung on the Cross of Calvary. He would have then, and you must grasp this, been unacceptable to God for the sins of others. If, on the other hand, He remained pure and Holy as the scriptures assert, then God could accept Him as a substitute on behalf of sinners. [Lev. 4:2, 3]
While emphasizing Christ’s completed work on the cross, are we minimizing the importance of the resurrection? Absolutely not. The Apostle Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15 the absolute importance of the resurrection. However, you need to understand that the resurrection of Christ was never in doubt. The idea of Jesus suffering in the burning pit of hell, with demons dancing around in hellish glee never happened. Satan was defeated at the cross, and not in hell. Jesus paid the price for all sin. Had there been even one sin not atoned for, Jesus could not have risen from the dead. Due to the fact that Jesus atoned for all sin, and He did so through His death, and His death alone, there was no way that Satan could hold Him in death, nor any of the Old Testament saints for that matter. In other words, the success or victory won on the cross guaranteed His triumphant Resurrection!
There is little doctrinal teaching done in most Word-Faith churches. In fact, several years ago I shared with a (at the time), fellow Word-Faith pastor that I was going to do an expositional series through the Epistle to the Ephesians, which second only to Romans is the most doctrinal of Paul’s epistles. He commented, “Don’t tell your people that it is doctrinal. They won’t show up!” Sadly, he was right. We have come to the time Paul warned young Pastor Timothy of. A time when, they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. [2 Tim. 4:3b, 4 NKJV] We are certainly living in that time.
In many of the more “modern” churches of our day another problem is that we have all but completely removed the great old hymns of the Church. In the so-called “Word” churches the hymns are held in disdain as being “embalmed in unbelief”. And yet, the hymns are great vehicles to teach people doctrine. In the “old days”, if you didn’t learn the great doctrines of the Bible from the pulpit, you certainly could learn them from singing the hymns. Now we have praise and worship songs, led by “praise teams”. While I love this music too, it often is long on Madison Avenue glitz and polish and short on anointing. Much of it is quickly written and produced to get the album to the stores. The hymns on the other hand were mostly born out of the fires of trial and adversity where the authors were in a position where they realized that God was all they had, and then realized He was all they needed. They were not for Christian amusement and entertainment, but rather for vehicles to impart doctrinal teaching to God’s people. I for one pray that churches will bring them back in these last of the Last Days.
If the great doctrines of the Bible were taught then much of the false doctrine that has infiltrated the Body of Christ in this hour would never have gotten off the ground. For example, the whole “Jesus died spiritually” doctrine would never have been given any credence whatsoever. You see, my dear Word-Faith brethren teach a doctrine known as identification, which basically says that Jesus identified with us by becoming sin for us, so that we could become righteous. However, this really is not what the Bible teaches. Rather, the great Bible doctrine doctrine of imputation is what actually occurred. The two concepts are vastly different. In the doctrine of imputation we learn that sin or righteousness can be imputed or charged to another’s account in a legal sense. (Imputation is the act of something being granted or credited to someone.)
When applied to Jesus and His sacrifice as a sin-offering, this indicates that He did not become a sinner, but remained sinless that He might be able to bear the punishment for our guilt that was imputed to Him. In other words, Jesus did not bear the wickedness and the filth of our sinful nature, but He did bear the penalty for that wickedness and filth of our sinful nature, that should have been poured out on us. Our punishment was imputed to Him. Our sins, with regard to their moral character, are our own. They could not by imputation become the sins of someone else. However, Jesus Christ could take upon Himself the punishment for the guilt of our sins, which has reference to the legal liabilities that Christ assumed on our behalf.
The emphasis of scripture over and over again is that Jesus offered up His body as a sacrifice for our sins and that He was put to death in the flesh. In other words, Jesus died physically but not spiritually. Nowhere in the Word of God does it tell us that Jesus died in His spirit. I invite the reader to look up, read, and study the following list of scriptures for yourself: 1 Pet. 2:21 – 24; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Pet. 4:1; Col. 1:21, 22; Heb. 10:10; Eph. 2:15. You will see that everyone of these scriptures stress that Jesus offered up His body and His flesh as a sacrifice for sin, not once do they say He died in His spirit.
There is so much more that could be said. The two main doctrines that we have examined, Jesus emptying Himself of His divinity (Kenotic theology), and the Jesus died spiritually doctrine really only scratch the service of the deception that is hyper-faith, or Word-Faith theology. This movement, in my opinion, is the most dangerous force confronting the Church of our day. The faith teachers are to the modern Church what the gnostics were to the early Church. I close with a few quotes from some prominent leaders on our responsibility in teaching the truth and exposing error. Remember that Jesus said, 15″Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. [Matt. 7:15 NASB]
Excessive aversion to controversy may be an indication that a church has no keen sense of possessing truth which is of any great worth, and that it has lost appreciation for the infinite difference in value between truth and error. – James Stalker
While tolerance in personal relationships may be a virtue, tolerance when it comes to truth is a travesty. – Hank Hanegraaff
It has often been said that a person who does not know both sides of a question really does not know either side. Not until he knows what his own doctrinal system sets forth, and what can be said against it, does he know what he believes and why. – L. Boettner
It is a strange curiosity that those Christians who are most adamant that our is the generation that will see the lord’s return–and the end-time deception and apostasy associated with His return–look for signs of this deception outside the Church, in such conspiracies as the New Age movement, and in such cults as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Science. Admittedly, these movements pose potential threats to the Church, but perhaps we would do better to look for the deception of the end-times where Jesus and the New Testament predicted it would occur: within the church, within groups that call themselves ‘Christian’ but which actually preach a different gospel. – D.R. McConnell
False or heretical doctrine must always remain a matter of public evaluation in the Church. The Church cannot (must not) abdicate its duty to examine the doctrine of those who claim to be in its ranks. – D.R. McConnell
Today’s Church is being swept by a revival of New Thought, now called Positive Thinking, Possibility Thinking, Positive Confession, Positive Mental Attitude and Inner Healing. We are very concerned that this time New Thought, which represents inside the church what New Age is in the secular world, will not be forced out, but will remain within the evangelical to contribute to the growing confusion and seduction. – D. Hunt & T.A. McMahon
The study of the kingdom of the cults has taught me many profitable lessons, and this is one of them–error begets error; heresy begets heresy and always in the name of truth, always in the name of the Gospel. – Walter Martin
The Weekly Word is found in Matthew 7:15 – 20. Here the Bible says,
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. [Matt. 7:15 – 20 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson