Trump, the Prosperity Gospel and Truth

We are warned on the one hand that many will be deceived by those who come with power and signs and wonders. On the other hand, we are warned not to speak against the Holy Spirit who moves with power and performs signs and wonders.

(c) Can Stock Photo / jkraft5

I posted an article about the dangers of the prosperity gospel and the spiritual advisers to Donald Trump who preach it.[1] Somebody responded that we can’t understand them unless we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. This got me thinking.

I can understand where my friend is coming from.

I came to Christ in the living room of a charismatic Methodist insurance salesman. It was a sense of the miraculous that drew me to God, along with the message itself. I went to a charismatic church for two (2) years in college and (6) six years after college. I attended charismatic and Pentecostal churches for years after moving to Illinois. I am familiar with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.[2]

But we need to be careful here.

I was once intrigued by the prosperity gospel and spent some time listening to Kenneth Copeland and others who preached it. I loved my church in New Hampshire and have not found a church that comes close to comparing to it since I left. That church and the charismatic church I attended during college were instrumental in my growth as a Christian.

Not that the churches I have attended have bent to the prosperity gospel, but the prosperity gospel is a strong temptation in those circles.

I believe that God still works today through His people in performing signs and wonders, miracles and healing. I believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I believe there is such thing as being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

I also believe that people are people. People are flawed, and the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour. Only the devil doesn’t show himself as a lion. He comes as a prince of light.

We are warned about this going back to the 1st Century church:

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

There is also a double warning here. It comes directly from Jesus, who was accused of casting out demons by the prince of demons by the Pharisees. Jesus asked the Pharisees who accused Him how Satan could cast out Satan? “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”[3] In this context, Jesus also spoke this ominous warning:

“I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”[4]

Jesus spoke with power and performed signs and miracles, and He said His followers would do greater things because He was going to the Father[5] (and leaving the Holy Spirit)[6]. The Holy Spirit showed up on the day of Pentecost with power by which the disciples spoke in tongues[7] (a common sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit)[8], and the disciples and other followers of Jesus did perform miracles and signs and wonders[9], even raising people from the dead.[10]

In fact, the signs and wonders that were performed by Jesus and His followers just in the New Testament would fill a book by themselves.

All of this got me thinking about the dichotomy between the signs and wonders performed by Jesus and His followers and the reports of signs and wonders claimed to be performed by the preachers of the prosperity gospel across our country today.

We are warned on the one hand that many will be deceived by those who come with power and signs and wonders. On the other hand, we are warned not to speak against the Holy Spirit who moves with power and performs signs and wonders.

What is the difference?

The difference is this: the love of truth. (Going back to that 1st Century warning noted above.)

Those who are deceived will be deceived because they “refused to love the truth”.

Truth is what makes the difference.

The so-called prosperity gospel is man-focused, man-centered and reduces God to a kind of puppet who satisfies our desires if we pull the right strings. “Name it and claim it” is a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus told us all we need to know about a desire for wealth when He sent the rich young ruler away saddened that he would have to give all he had to the poor.

The prosperity gospel twists the word of God for our own fulfillment, while the Gospel Jesus preached is about the fulfillment of God’s purpose.[11] The characteristics of believers in Christ are that they deny themselves, pick up the cross and follow[12]; they keep His commandments[13]; and they love one another[14].

Jesus focused on doing the will of the Father. Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me”; and he instructs us to do likewise:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

In fact, in this very context Jesus also said:

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:22-23)

We need to be wise as serpents, just as we are gentle as doves.[15] Jesus told us plainly to be on our guard against false prophets.[16] Therefore, we should do as John instructed and “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”.[17] Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; and the Gospel He preached is the truth.

If anyone comes preaching a different gospel, they are not from God.[18] The gospel message, the truth of Jesus that is of most importance, is this: that Jesus died, He was buried and He rose from the dead.[19] The Gospel is that Jesus gave His life for us, and He calls us to follow Him in giving our lives to God and to our neighbors. He calls us into fellowship with Him.

The focus is Him, not us, and that is the heresy of a prosperity gospel: it turns the focus on us. The danger in following a prosperity gospel is that we will learn on that day when we face Jesus that we did not know Him, and He did not know us.

The baptism in the Holy Spirit is real, but only if it draws us closer to God and closer to being like Jesus. If it propels us to desire prosperity, we should see red flags. Not that prosperity is bad in itself, but the love of money is the root of all evil.[20] Man cannot serve two masters.


[1] Evangelicals Should Be Deeply Troubled by Donald Trump’s Attempt to Mainstream Heresy, Michael Horton, Wall Street Journal, Opinion January 3, 2017.

[2] 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12

[3] Matthew 12:27

[4] Matthew 12:31-32

[5] John 14:12 (“[W]hoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”)

[6] John 14:25-26

[7] Acts 2

[8] The phrase comes from 1 Corinthians 12:13 – “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

[9] See Mark 6:13; Mark 16:20; Luke 9:6; Luke 10:17; Acts 3:6-8; Acts 4:16; Acts 5:12-16; Acts 6:5-8; Acts 8:26-40;  Acts 9:33-35; Acts 14:8-10; Acts 13:8-11; Acts 16:16-18; Acts 19-11-12; and Acts 28:7-9.

[10] See Acts 9:36-41 and Acts 20:9-10

[11] John 6:38

[12] Matthew 16:24 (“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”)

[13] John 15:10 (“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”) This is not a works based system of religion, but a loving relationship with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in which we allow Him to sanctify us and perfect us.

[14] John 13:35 (“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”)

[15] Matthew 10:16

[16] Matthew 7:15 (“Be on your guard against false prophets; they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves.”)

[17] 1 John 4:1 (“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”)

[18] Galatians 1:8 (“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”) (See also 2 Corinthians 11:4; and 2 John 1:10 (“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (Speaking of teaching that Jesus is not coming in the flesh))

[19] 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

[20] 1 Timothy 6:10 (“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith….”)

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