The Church and Its Mission Today – Part 1

broken down pulpit

America is being led into a cesspool of deviancy and America’s pastors remain largely silent. For those of us who have been calling attention to the rank immorality that daily seems to increasingly encroach upon the shores of common sense and moral sensibleness, this is not surprising.

Few pastors said a word when contemplative prayer, labyrinth walking, yoga, word faith heresy, and many other misguided and unbiblical practices were introduced into the church by goats masquerading as sheep. While these things demonstrate a tragic departure from the faith once for all delivered to the saints, today we are facing a full on frontal assault from our politicians.

President Obama, who demonstrates a spirit of antichrist, lobbies for men utilizing women’s bathrooms and threatens our public schools with loss of funding if they do not allow boys to shower with girls. Attorney General Loretta Lynch throws around threats of fines and jail time in a blatant attempt to make sure Obama’s evil and unconstitutional demands appear legitimate.

Where are America’s pastors? The progressive Marxists among us aided by the progressive Marxist media have rendered most pastors deaf mutes for fear of being labeled as a hater or racist or homophobe. Friends it is time that Christians throw off the shackles of political correctness and stand strong in the power of God and deliver this message: “No more, no more, no more! We will not silently stand by and watch our nation be torn apart by people who hate America. We will not stand by and allow morally depraved people to have their way with our children. We will not be afraid of what this President or any other evil tyrant says or threatens to do. God will reign and He will rule in our hearts and minds and therefore we will not fear any man or the consequences of our stand!”

It is the “eleventh hour” in America friends. Will you don the spiritual armor of God and stand firm against the encroaching evil? Will you encourage your Christian brothers and sisters to join you in this battle? Please encourage other believers to find a church that is true to the gospel and is not compromised by an end times Babylonianism.  This means finding a church that is not characterized by compromise, pandering to the pagan culture, or that rejects the Bible as our guide for righteous and holy living, the very Word of God.

This article is the first in a five-part series looking at the subject of the Church and its mission today. The intent is to encourage you as well as to help you identify a body of believers who is being the church as God intended.

God bless you today as you seek Him.

You can reach Pastor Mike by email at ccpastormike@cclohio.org

The Heresy of Seed Faith Giving by Steve Lumbley

2 Peter 2:1

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

What do you think it means to deny the Lord? Many would say that any person or group that doesn’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God would be denying the Lord and that would be true enough. False religions like Islam and Hinduism would fall into this category. Most orthodox Christians would include the pseudo Christian cults like Jehovah’s Witness’, Mormons, and others of that ilk. And they would be correct but are these the false teachers Peter is referring to here? 

If you look closely you will see that Peter says these false teachers will be “among you”.  Since he was writing to a group of born again, Spirit filled believers we must conclude that he is not talking about the obvious false religions or even pseudo Christian cults. The false teachers he is speaking of will be found within the Body of Christ.

Now how do you suppose that false teachers will get away with denying the Lord among a group of believers?

The word denying as it is used here is the Greek word arneomai {ar-neh©-om-ahee}. It is the same word used in Titus 1:16  They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him….  Used in these contexts, the word means to contradict.

So a teacher that contradicts the Lord is in fact denying Him. He may say that Jesus is Lord. He may speak right sounding words claiming to be born again and he may have the biggest Bible you’ve ever seen but if his works or teaching contradicts the words of Jesus he is denying Him.

For example, when Benny Hinn claimed in 1999 that Jesus would physically appear at one of his upcoming crusades he was contradicting the specific words of the Lord Jesus.

Matthew 24:23 -26

“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.”

By making the claim that Jesus would physically appear at one of his crusades Hinn contradicted (denied) the words of the Lord and proved himself to be a false prophet and false teacher
according to 2 Peter 2:1

The so called principle of seed faith giving was first popularized by Oral Roberts almost 50 years ago. It proved to be so profitable to him that he essentially based his entire ministry on it.

As with any other profitable venture others soon followed. Today it is used by virtually every “Faith” preacher, the majority of Christian television networks, and almost all TV preachers in general. It has even found its way into many mainstream and denominational churches.

How does seed faith giving work. It is loosely based (very loosely as we will see) on the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8. Using the illustration of sowing seed, people are instructed that if they will give money to the church, the ministry, the TV network, the man of God, etc, God will multiply it back to them 30, 60, or 100 times more than they gave. In fact now days about all you ever hear about is the 100 fold return. The 30 and 60 fold returns
have pretty much been dropped altogether.

That’s a pretty good deal wouldn’t you say? Give God $1 and get back $100. Give God $100 and get back $10,000. Give God $10,000 and get back a cool million. And not only that, but you can also sow money and get back other things. Things like salvation for relatives, healing for incurable diseases, and deliverance from various demonic influences! That’s right, all you have to do is send your seed (meaning money) to the man of God!

Is this really what the parable of the sower is all about. What do you think? Let’s examine this important parable.

Luke 8:4-8 NASB

“When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Jesus explains the parable:

Luke 8:11 NASB

“Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.”

Now right here anybody with even a minimal level of reading comprehension should be able to see that this parable has nothing to do with money. The seed is the word of God. Even a brand new baby Christian should be able to look at this and say  “I don’t think these fellows are teaching this correctly”

Let’s continue with Jesus’ explanation

Luke 8:12-15 NASB

“Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.  Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.  The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.  But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”

This parable is about what happens when the word of God is sown or revealed in the heart of a person. It may be the most important parable Jesus taught. Why do I say that? Because Jesus said this:

Mark 4:13

“And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?”

Jesus is saying that if you don’t understand this parable you won’t understand any of the parables he taught. This is a foundational teaching!

By misapplying the parable of the sower these false teachers do great damage to Gods people. First, by falsely claiming that God works like some kind of cosmic slot machine. But the real damage is in the fact that believers are robbed of the true meaning of this teaching.

The parable of the sower is at work every time Gods word is revealed to you. In fact it is at work right now in many of you who are reading this.

I know that many of you will read this and say “I don’t believe that. I don’t believe that my favorite preacher would preach a false message” You’ll reject what I’m saying.  You’ll actually be rejecting the words of Jesus.

The devil has come already to steal this word from you.

Some of you will hear what I say and receive it gladly. “ Glory to God” you’ll say, “preach it brother…. Hallelujah ”  But you won’t take the time to really meditate on this word. You won’t really apply it.

And then a testing will come. Testing because of the word sown in your heart. A test to see if you really believe, trust in, rely on, adhere to what you claim to believe. You’ll be challenged. God Himself will allow that challenge, that test.

Will you pass the test? Or will you revert back to your traditional thinking?

And of course some of you will hear and believe but you won’t give this word the proper place in your life. You’ll think about it for a while. You’ll decide that it’s right but then you’ll get on with your life. You’ll get busy with your job, your family, your daily responsibilities and it will recede further and further into the recesses of your heart until it has no real value to you.

And the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches will have choked the truth out of your heart.

But I know too that some of you will hear this word and receive it. You’ll meditate on it. You’ll give it the proper priority in your life. When challenged you’ll stand and agree with it rather tha contradict!

And you will have proven yourself to be good soil. You’ll produce fruit, becoming more and more Christ like in your life. You’ll become a disciple indeed.

John 8:31-32

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

A little leaven leavens the whole lump

Paul said that evil men will wax worse and worse and so it is with false teaching. The false ideology behind the seed faith message has infected the church to such a degree that many never even question the idea that if you “have a need” you must “plant a seed.”

But is that assumption theologically sound? Should we really plant a seed when we have a need?

During a recent telethon (beg-a-thon) Paul Crouch, founder of Trinity Broadcast Network explained that even God sowed a seed when He had a need.

That’s right God had a need. He’d lost His first family in Adam, Crouch explained, so God sowed His best seed, Jesus. Not only that, but God sowed in expectation. Just like we are taught to sow expecting a miracle, God sowed expecting a 100 fold return. He gave His son Jesus and got back many more sons and daughters. Proof positive that seed faith giving works!

Hogwash!

Does the Bible really teach that God had a need? Did God ever lose anything or anyone. Would you like God’s response to Mr. Crouch’s exhortation. Well look right here.

Psalm 50:9-12 NKJV

“I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you;  For the world is Mine, and all its fullness.”

Or how about this verse Mr. Crouch.

Matthew 3:9

“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

God is God.  He is not a man having needs. He didn’t lose anything. All is His. If He were hungry He wouldn’t tell us. Isn’t that incredible!

It is the height of arrogance (or perhaps apostasy) to claim that God is anything like us. He is in no way dependent on us. We are dependent on Him. And herein lies the real heresy of the seed faith message.

It turns the doctrine of grace into a doctrine of works and thereby denies the finished work of the cross.

The seed faith message is a message of works, not grace. It says God cannot or will not act until we do something.

Would you like to know how to have God meet all your needs, even financial needs every time? Go to the words of Jesus.

Matthew 6:31-33

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

What does Jesus say to do when you have a need? Does He say to sow a seed?

No, He says take no thought. He says don’t worry about material possessions. He says that the Father knows you have need of these things.

So, when a preacher says sow a seed after Jesus has said take no thought isn’t that preacher guilty of contradicting the Lord?  Isn’t he in fact denying the Lord?

Of course Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells us how to have our needs met. It’s simply, seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

How do we seek His kingdom and His righteousness? Well, Gods kingdom and His righteousness are revealed in the Gospel

Romans 1:16-17

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

The Gospel is defined in 1Cor 15:1-4.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

The Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this Gospel that is the power of God. It is in this Gospel that God’s righteousness is revealed. It is in this Gospel that your needs are met.

Ephesians 2:8-9

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Like many Christians you’ve probably read this scripture so many times you don’t even think about it any more. You’re probably saying “yes, praise God I know that I’m saved by grace, I know that I’m heaven bound but what’s that got to do with me paying my bills?”

The word saved in the Greek is the word sozo. It means literally to keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction, from injury or peril, to save a suffering one from perishing, to make well, heal, restore to health, to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue.

You see, to be saved means much more than just “go to heaven”. It means to be set at safety in the here and now. It means to be made safe in spirit, soul, and body.  That would certainly include material things as well as eternal things wouldn’t it?

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the free gift of God. It is salvation (all needs met) to everyone who believes. It requires no work on our part. It requires no vows, no pledges, no seeds of faith. What it requires is simply belief.

To believe means more than mere mental assent. It means that we trust in, rely on, adhere to the fact that God has provided for all our needs when He raised Jesus from the dead. In other words we must refuse to contradict (deny) the words of the Lord!

2 Peter 1:3

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”

Gods divine power, that same power that raised Christ from the dead has (past tense) given to us all things that pertain to life and Godliness. All things means all things! All things that pertain to life would include finances to pay your bills!

God doesn’t want your money He wants your life.

The faith teachers like to suggest that you must make an exchange or a trade with God in order for Him to move on your behalf. You know what? They are right in principle but wrong in practice. The exchange is not material for material. It’s not give something to get something.

The exchange is your life for His. It’s your will for His will. It’s your desires for His desires. That’s the exchange. And that’s the only exchange God desires. It’s the only exchange He will honor.

A rich man came to Jesus one day and asked what he should do to have eternal life. Jesus told him to obey Gods commandments. When the man answered that he had been doing that all his life, Jesus told him there was one thing he lacked.

Mark 10:21

“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

This passage is about seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. It’s about what has priority in our lives.

Mark 10:22

“And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”

The man chose material (temporal) wealth over eternal (true) life. He chose his will over Gods will.

What does it mean to “take up the cross”? It means to believe the gospel. To trust in, rely on, adhere to, the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our death, burial, and resurrection with Him!

That’s the exchange God is looking for!

Galatians 2:20

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Paul understood the exchange. He understood that to trust in, rely on, and adhere to the Gospel (the cross) he had to enter into it himself.

Romans 6:4

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Colossians 2:12

“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”

When we reckon ourselves dead to the world we are made alive in Christ Jesus. When we lose our lives, we gain real life!

Mark 8:35

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.”

Notice the next to last word in that scripture. That’s right, it’s the Greek word sozo again. To lose your life is to save it, to make it complete, to rescue it from destruction, injury, or peril. To be set at safety.

1 Corinthians 15:1

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;”

The seed you sow is yourself.

John 12:24

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

When you enter into the death burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ you sow your life. And you sow it 100%. Not a tenth, not a seed, all of your life must be sown.

New Testament Giving

The New Testament model for giving is found in 2 Corinthians chapter 9. Paul here is exhorting the church in Corinth to fulfill an obligation to which they had earlier committed. The offering was being taken for the believers in Macedonia who were suffering great privation and affliction.

Notice if you will that the offering was to go to needy people, not to Pauls ministry . Paul was not taking up an offering for himself, or so that he could “reach the world for Christ” or build an orphanage, or stay on the air, or for any of the other reasons modern preachers give to extort
money from Gods people.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.”

This passage of scripture clearly equates financial giving with sowing seed but it does not validate the “principle” of seed faith giving.

First of all our giving should be directed primarily toward the poor and needy. Here’s an interesting scripture you’ll never hear from these seed faith preachers

Proverbs 22:16

“He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.”

Aren’t you giving to the rich when you send “seed” to these money preachers? They all live in million dollar homes, drive high dollar cars, wear expensive suits. That sounds pretty rich to me. This scripture says that by the very thing you are doing, you’re perpetuating your own lack!

Secondly we should give as we purpose in our hearts. Third we should give cheerfully, not out of need (or just because there is a need), and not because we feel we must give (out of necessity).

Here is the place where the doctrine of seed faith giving contradicts the word of God. Every preacher practicing seed faith giving first of all makes you feel that you must give (of necessity) before God can move on your behalf.  But look again at what Paul said:

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity.”

Now think about it. Think about how these preachers put pressure on you to give. They make emotional appeals. They make extravagant claims.  They tell you that you must give in order to receive from God. If you don’t give (and I mean right now!) you’ll miss God, etc, etc, on and on, ad infinitum.

Aren’t they contradicting the clear word of God? Aren’t they in fact denying the Lord who bought them?

The result of this model of giving is that we are promised that we will always have enough (always having all sufficiency in all things) for all the things that God asks us to do (to every good work).

This is in no way a promise or guarantee of worldly wealth. It is a promise that God will provide regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Philippians 4:11-12

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”

Now let’s look again at the proper object of our giving. This is important because wherever Jesus spoke of giving finances He spoke of giving alms. The word alms always means a gift of charity. This is giving specifically for the benefit of the poor.

When Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler what did he tell him to do?

Mark 10:21

“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

Jesus told him to give to the poor. He didn’t say give to my ministry. He didn’t say give at the temple. He said give to the poor. Jesus spoke may times of giving alms.

Matthew 6:1

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”

Luke 11:41

“But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.”

Luke 12:33

“Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.”

In the book of Acts we see the spiritual and physical benefits of giving alms.

Acts 10:1-2

“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.”

Acts 10:4

“And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.”

God rewarded Cornelius (a gentile Roman soldier) with salvation for himself and his household because of his prayers and his alms (gifts to the poor).

How often are we taught today to give alms to the poor?

Now I know that these seed faith preachers make a pretense of giving to the poor. But how much of what they receive really go to the poorest among us? I can tell you that it is precious little. Many of the largest ministries take in millions of dollars each year and send a few thousand dollars per month to missionaries in third world countries.

Do you realize how few dollars it takes to feed and cloth the poor in the poorest nations, Many missionaries are thrilled to have a $2,000 or $3,000 per month donation from a major ministry. These missionaries are to be commended. For the most part they are doing a great work and doing it unto the “least of these” (Matthew 25:45).

But the seed faith preachers who make a show out of giving a relative pittance, that’s another matter. In fact the reason most of them give to missions at all is so that they can go to the mission once a year with their cameras to show their “partners” how they are feeding starving kids. This is a pure business decision. By showing pictures of them hugging poor third world kids they are able to deceive even more people into sending them money. It’s all a scam, a charade.

Jesus tells us we shall know them by their fruit. Or by the results of their lives

Matthew 7:16

“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

Here are some of the fruits of these seed faith preachers

Oral Roberts

“Here is a portrait of the real Oral Roberts, the man not too many of his admirers know. He dresses in Brioni suits that cost $500 to $1000; walks in $100 shoes; lives in a $250,000 house in Tulsa and has a million dollar home in Palm Springs; wears diamond rings and solid gold bracelets employees `airbrush©out of his publicity photos; drives $25,000 automobiles which are replaced every 6 months; flies around the country in a $2 million fanjet falcon; has membership, as does his son Richard, in `the most prestigious and elite country club in Tulsa, the Southern Hills (the membership fee alone was $18,000 for each, with $130 monthly dues) and in `the ultra-posh Thunderbird Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California (both father and son joined when memberships were $20,000 each – they are now $25,000); and plays games of financial hanky-panky that have made him and his family members independently wealthy (millionaires) for life. (When his daughter and son-in-law were killed, they left a $10 million estate; Evangelist E.L. Sumner review of “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” by Jerry Sholes; editor’s note – numbers quoted here are from the mid to late 70’s).

Paul and Jan Crouch

TBN Televangelists Buy $5,000,000 Home

LOS ANGELES TIMES, Nov.4,2001, page K15

Televangelists JAN and PAUL CROUCH of the Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting Network have purchased a Newport Beach house for close to $5 million, Orange County Realtors say.

The home was described as “a palatial estate with ocean and city views.” The Crouches had been living in a smaller house in the same neighborhood.

The house they bought has six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a billiard room, a climate-controlled wine cellar, a sweeping staircase and a crystal chandelier.

The three-story, nearly 9,500-square-foot house, which has an elevator, also has a six-car garage, a tennis court and a pool with a fountain.

The house is on slightly more than an acre. Jan Crouch had been wanting a bigger yard for her dogs, sources said.  Trinity Broadcasting, established in 1973, has more than 768 TV stations on the air worldwide. The Crouches oversee a $100-million-plus-a-year enterprise. Even so, faithful viewers are said to consider the couple, who are in their 60′s and have been married since the 50’s, as everyday folk.

Creflo Dollar

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mar. 9, 2000

http://www.accessatlanta.com/partners/ajc/newsatlanta/dollar/main.html

The Rev. Creflo Dollar Jr. has unabashedly embraced his name by building a
religious empire on the message that his brand of piety leads to prosperity.

He drives a black Rolls-Royce, flies to speaking engagements across the nation and Europe in a $5 million private jet and lives in a $1 million home behind iron gates in an upscale Atlanta neighborhood.

Joel Osteen

The younger Osteen lives the life of prosperity that he preaches. A 2001 Real Estate Guide (http://north-valley.com/realestate_board/messages/157.html ) valued his home at $1,265,500.

Benny Hinn

What happened to Hinn’s promised healing center?

06/23/2002

By STEVE McGONIGLE / The Dallas Morning News

Evangelist Benny Hinn dazzled an overflowing Reunion Arena three years ago with plans to bring a touch of Lourdes to Las Colinas.

The flamboyant Pentecostal preacher offered the crowd a multimedia tour of his proposed $30 million shrine to faith healing and solicited donations to pay for it. The start of construction was imminent, he told followers. Mr. Hinn’s “World Healing Center” never materialized. After a few months, he stopped talking about the project. His tax-exempt ministry did not have to give a public accounting of how much money he raised or how it was spent, and it didn’t.

Last year, a subsidiary led by Mr. Hinn began work on a $3 million “parsonage” overlooking the Pacific Ocean south of Los Angeles.

Paula White

http://www.cephasministry.com/news_pulse_9.2003.html#anchor760

Supporters of Randy and Paula White say they have no problem with their displays of wealth. Tampa – When preachers Randy and Paula White bought the $2.2 million red-brick house on Bayshore Boulevard last month, they were already thinking ahead to November.  “We always do a Table in the Wilderness Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless,” says Randy White, senior pastor at Without Walls International Church.  “Now that we have the space to do it on our own we’d like to find a way to bus them here for the party.” A spacious yard is attached to the 8,000-spare-foot, five-bedroom English manor home. And the White’s church has its own buses. IN HIS SERMON “PROSPERITY OR POVERTY,” White announced he and his wife had bought this house. Their taste in cars reflects their substantial income. She drives a Mercedes sedan, he a Cadillac Escalade. The side of Randy White’s car is emblazoned with “Big Daddy” – a nickname bestowed by inner-city kids served by the church’s many missions. Randy and Paula White married in 1988 and in 14 years they claim 15,000 members and offer 250 ministries from job training for welfare recipients to a teen rock club. Randy is a fifth generation preacher. Much of their money comes from tax dollars through the faith-based initiative.

Joyce Meyer

From Fenton to fortune in the name of God
Carolyn Tuft and Bill Smith

©2003, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
11/15/2003

Joyce Meyer says God has made her rich.

Everything she has has come from him: the $10 million corporate jet, her husband’s $107,000 silver-gray Mercedes sedan, her $2 million home and houses worth another $2 million for her four children — all blessings, she says, straight from the hand of God……

A penchant for nice things

Meyer is fond of nice things and is willing to spend for them. From an $11,000 French clock in the ministry’s Fenton Headquarters to a $105,000 Crownline boat docked behind her vacation home at Lake of the Ozarks, its clear her tastes run more to Perrier than to tap water. ….

The ministry’s headquarters is a three story jewel of red brick and emerald colored glass that, from the outside, has the look and feel of a luxury resort hotel.

Built two years ago for $20 million, the building and grounds are postcard perfect, from manicured flower beds and walkways to a five-story lighted cross.

The building is decorated with religious paintings and sculptures, and quality furniture. Much of it, Meyer says, she selected herself.

A Jefferson County assessor’s list offers a glimpse into the value of many of the items: a $19,000 pair of Dresden vases, six French crystal vases bought for $18,500, an $8,000 Dresden porcelain depicting the Nativity, two $5,800 curio cabinets, a $5,700 porcelain of the Crucifixion, a pair of German porcelain vases bought for $5,200.

The decor includes a $30,000 malachite round table, a $23,000 marble-topped antique commode, a $14,000 custom office bookcase, a $7,000 Stations of the Cross in Dresden porcelain, a $6,300 eagle sculpture on a pedestal, another eagle made of silver bought for $5,000, and numerous paintings purchased for $1,000 to $4,000 each.

Inside Meyer’s private office suite sit a conference table and 18 chairs bought for $49,000. The woodwork in the offices of Meyer and her husband cost the ministry $44,000.

In all, assessor’s records of the ministry’s personal property show that nearly $5.7 million worth of furniture, artwork, glassware, and the latest equipment and machinery fill the 158,000-square-foot building.

As of this summer, the ministry also owned a fleet of vehicles with an estimated value of $440,000. The Jefferson County assessor has been trying to get the complex and its contents added to the tax rolls but has failed.

Stylish sports cars and a plane

Meyer drives the ministry’s 2002 Lexus SC sports car with a retractable top, valued at $53,000. Her son Dan, 25, drives the ministry’s 2001 Lexus sedan, with a value of $46,000. Meyer’s husband drives his Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG sedan.

“My husband just likes cars,” Meyer said.

The Meyer’s keep the ministry’s Canadair CL-600 Challenger jet, which Joyce Meyer says is worth $10 million, at Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield. The ministry employs two full-time pilots to fly the Meyers to conferences around the world.

These are just a few of the most prominent seed faith preachers. Now I ask you do you honestly believe these people are living the crucified life. Have they forsaken all to follow Jesus. Have they forsaken the world or do they love the things of this world?

Joyce Meyer says her husband drives a $100,000 Mercedes because he “just likes cars”. But the Apostle John says:

1 John 2:15-16

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Do you think that a $100,000 Mercedes qualifies as a thing that is “of the world”?  How about that $30,000 malachite table Joyce bought for the office, or the $11,000 French clock, or the $105,000 boat at the $500,000 lake house, or the …. well, you get the idea.

Look again at the words of John. He says that if any man (person) love the world (and by extension the things of the world ) the love of the Father is not in him.

Do you believe the Bible? Do you believe the Bible is contradictory? Do you believe that what God says applies to some people but not to others? Do you believe that Joyce Meyer and her husband have the love of God in their hearts?

Paula and Randy White need an 8,000 square foot, $2 million home so that they can bus poor people in once a year and feed them. Feeding the poor is a commendable thing to do. But Jesus says:

Matthew 6:1-2

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

When the Whites announce that they will be feeding the homeless at Thanksgiving are they not “sounding a trumpet” Are they not doing their alms “to be seen of men”.  According to Jesus doesn’t this make them hypocrites?

We could continue with this exercise but I think you get the point. Are these peoples lives and words in agreement with the words of Jesus and the apostles or are they contradicting (denying) Him?

You’ll know them by their fruit

Now I know that many of you will now accuse me of  judging.  Well, you’re correct, I am judging these hypocrites and false teachers. I am judging them the way we as Christians are instructed to judge.

Matthew 7:15-16

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

Matthew 7:20

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Matthew 7:21-23

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

Jesus says we will know them “by their fruits” In other words we will know them by what their lives produce. Not by what they say but by what they do . Talk is cheap. Don’t tell me, show me!

Tell me this.  Who do you think Jesus was talking about when he said these words “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.

He certainly wasn’t talking about the unsaved. He wasn’t talking about the cults and false religions. Hindus don’t prophesy in Jesus name and Muslims don’t cast out devils.

If you are honest with yourself (and if you haven’t let the devil steal the word that this teaching has been sowing in your heart) you must acknowledge that the people He is talking about are the very teachers and preachers we see on TBN and Daystar every day. These wolves in sheeps clothing that tell us that if we have a need we must sow a seed. These false prophets who deny (contradict) the Lord who bought them. These so called great men and women of God (and their followers) who “through covetousness..  with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2Peter 2:3).

These are the ones Jesus says shall not enter in. Why? Because only those who do the will of the Father shall enter.

Obey God not man

Have you been a follower of any of these false prophets? Have you been “sowing your seed” faithfully. Have you been giving sacrificially to the man or woman of God? |

Have you received your hundred fold return?

I don’t mean have you had some occasional victories here and there. I want to know have you received your hundred fold return. Has it worked for you like it seems to work for them? Are you living in a $2 million dollar home? Do you have a $100,000 Mercedes. Do you fly around the country in a private jet?

Well, why not? I hear these people all the time say that God is no respecter of persons (Rom 2:11) They say that what He did for one He will do for another. So again I ask, where is your Mercedes, and your $5 million estate?

Are you honest enough to ask yourself and your heavenly Father why you’re still following these people when it’s obviously not working in your life?

Do you really want the answer? Now before you go any further you should know that once you receive the truth you are responsible for it.

2 Peter 2:1-3

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.  And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”

And so we are back to the scripture with which we started. False teachers are among us. They are bringing in damnable heresies like seed faith giving. In doing so they deny or contradict the Lord who bought them. They are destined for swift destruction.

And many of you are following their pernicious (destroying) ways. And because of this the true Gospel is ridiculed throughout our society.

It is by using the sin of covetousness that they make merchandise (exploit or use) of you.

This covetousness is in your heart. You follow them because you desire the things they promise. Even when you see the scriptures that condemn them you ignore them , you evade them, you rationalize in your mind that the scripture doesn’t really mean what it say.  You have itching ears and are heaping up to yourself teachers after your own lusts.

You are guilty before God and you will share in the swift destruction reserved for these false prophets if you don’t repent.

Matthew 10:41

“He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.”

Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. If you receive (take hold of, take up with) a false prophet you will share in that false prophets reward.

If you are convicted by this word you need to repent. Repent means to change your mind. It means to change direction. It is an act of will.

Ask your heavenly Father to deliver you from the covetousness in your heart. Ask Him to deliver you from the love of worldly things. Ask Him to show you the truth as it is written in the word without adding to it the traditions of men.

Take up your cross today. Deny yourself. Deny your fleshly desires and humble yourself before the Most High God. Enter into the death burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Reckon yourself dead. Lay your life on the altar. Present yourself as a living sacrifice.

Don’t wait. Now is the acceptable time. Repent and believe the Gospel before it is too late.

Revelation 18:4

“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”

Steve Lumbley 2003

www.apostasywatch.com

This article may be reproduced and distributed free of charge as long as it remains in its original form.

Understanding “If Anyone Says to This Mountain…” (Mark 11:20-25) in Its Religio-Historical Context by Kirk R. MacGregor

Originally published in the Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics 2.1 (2009): 23-39.

To obtain the definitive version see http://www.isca-apologetics.org.

Used by permission of the author.  Posted here in its entirety. Edited for format only.

Mark 11:20-25 stands among those texts most misunderstood by Christians in general and most exploited by New Religious Movements in particular, perhaps most notoriously by the Word-Faith Movement. The passage is best known for its promise that “if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him” (v. 23). Traditionally most Christians have taken this text to mean that if they ask for something in prayer and harbor no doubts, then God will necessarily grant their request. Not only does such a reading contravene divine freedom, but it also inverts the divine-human relationship by turning God into the servant of humanity rather than the sovereign over humanity. However, presupposing the truth of this misreading, the Faith Movement proceeds to retranslate echete pistin theou as “have the faith of God” or “have the God-kind of faith” and places a quasi-magical emphasis upon the function of speech.

Consequently, Faith leaders both historically and presently find warrant in this text for the metaphysical concept that words constitute unstoppable containers for the force of faith, enabling all who infuse their words with the God-kind of faith to “write their own ticket with God” and so have whatever they say. As Gloria Copeland explained the passage quite recently on the nationally televised Believer’s Voice of Victory:

“I can’t think of anything that changed my life more after I was born again and filled with the Spirit than learning how to release faith, because this is the way you get anything – healing, money, the salvation of your children, the salvation of your husband or your wife – anything you’re believing for, it takes faith . . . to cause heaven to go into action. . . . It says in Mark 11 . . . remember, now, the message was you can have what you say. You can have what you say. . . . Here’s the Scripture. . . . For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith. I say – look at that, say, say, saith, saith, say I say unto you, what things soever you desire when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them. Man!”1

Appropriately, much attention has been paid by Christian scholars to showing that the text cannot substantiate its Faith exegesis. The standard response correctly points out that echete pistin theou is not a subjective genitive but an objective genitive, thereby depicting God as the object of faith and necessitating the translation “have faith in God.” Less frequent but equally incisive is the observation that even if echete pistin theou were a subjective genitive, the lack of a definite article before pistin would connote “faithfulness” not “faith,” thus precluding the translation “have the faith of God” and instead exhorting believers to “have God’s faithfulness.” While this negative task of showing what the text does not mean has proven successful, the positive task of explaining what precisely the text does mean should be judged insufficient at best. For the prevailing scholarly interpretation largely concurs with the prima facie reading of lay Christians but simply qualifies the alleged promise of receiving whatever one prays for by God’s will, often via the proviso in 1 John 5:14-15 that “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us . . . and we have what we have asked of him.”

This interpretation is plagued by problems along three lines: pastoral, procedural, and hermeneutical. While the first two lines are comparatively minor and require only brief rejoinders, the hermeneutical issues are critical and will occupy the bulk of this study. Pastorally, this interpretation has led some Christians to doubt the truth of God’s Word when requests ostensibly consistent with the divine will fail to materialize. Procedurally, the prevailing view confuses the task of the systematic theologian (allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture in order to deduce valid doctrine) with the task of the exegete (grammatico-historically determining the meaning of the particular text intended by the original author and understood by the original recipients). It goes without saying that at the respective times when the pertinent statement was made and was recorded, Jesus and Mark could not have expected their audiences to draw upon an insight from an epistle not yet composed. But even more, given the Markan context and Johannine independence from the Synoptic tradition, it is far from obvious that Mark 11:20-25 and 1 John 5:14-15 are indeed discussing the same topic. Nor, it should be noted, is there any statement comparable to 1 John 5:14-15 from the Hebrew Bible that would have functioned as a limiter in the minds of the original hearers.

Hermeneutically, the prevailing reading grants the crucial presupposition of the identified misinterpreters that “this mountain” is a figurative expression for any obstacle because it fails to take into account both Jesus’ first-century Jewish religio-historical context and the function of the pericope in the larger literary framework here utilized by Mark. This hermeneutical flaw, I will argue, is fatal and can only be positively remedied by a contextually grounded interpretation based upon precisely those historical and literary factors which the misreading overlooks. Turning to the historical Jesus research of N. T. Wright and the monograph on this passage by William R. Telford, it is precisely such an interpretation that this study endeavors to provide. In addition to exegetical accuracy, this interpretation will garnish the added pastoral benefits of upholding Scriptural reliability and the added procedural benefits of enhancing our apologetic against the pericope’s abuses.

A Grammatical and Structural Analysis

Our investigation shall appropriately begin with a careful examination of the pericope’s grammar and its larger function in Mark’s Gospel. We note at the outset that Jesus does not say “if anyone says to a mountain” but “whoever says to this mountain (tō orei toutō),” literally “to the mountain – this one,” where Mark uses both the definite article tō and the demonstrative pronoun toutō. Since either of these alone plus orei would indicate a specific mountain, Mark’s striking combination of the definite article with the demonstrative pronoun serves to intensify the identification and so permits no doubt that one particular mountain is in view. While some commentators have, as a result, associated the mountain with the Mount of Olives, this identification depends upon the dubious assumption that Mark has redistricted the saying from a pre-Markan Olivet Discourse tradition to its present location. This hypothesis will not stand because, as E. J. Pryke has meticulously demonstrated, the characteristically Markan grammatical and syntactical features of both chapters 11 and 13 indicate that neither derives from a pre-Markan Urtext.2  So what mountain are Jesus and Mark designating? In his cataloging of the Synoptic sayings of Jesus containing the term “mountain” (oros), N. T. Wright observes, “Though the existence of more than one saying in this group suggests that Jesus used to say this sort of thing quite frequently, ‘this mountain,’ spoken in Jerusalem, would naturally refer to the Temple mount.”3 Telford concurs, noting that in Jesus’ day theTemple“was known to the Jewish people as ‘the mountain of the house’ or ‘this mountain.’”4 This high initial probability for a Temple referent is reinforced by the fact that Mark 11:20-25 concludes an intercalation or ABA “sandwich-like” structure where A begins, is interrupted by B, and then finishes. Such a stylistic device renders the frame A sections (the two “slices of bread”) and the center B section (the “meat”) as mutually interactive, portraying A and B as indispensable for the interpretation of one another.5 The intercalation focuses on Jesus’ controversial Temple actions precipitating his crucifixion and runs as follows:

A begins: On the next day, after they had set out from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Having seen a fig tree in leaf from a distance, he came to see whether he might find something on it. But when he came to it, he found nothing except leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples were listening (Mk. 11:12-14).

B begins and ends: Then they came to Jerusalem, and having entered theTemple, Jesus began to drive out the ones selling and the ones buying in the Temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. He was not allowing anyone to carry things through the Temple, but he was teaching and saying to them, “Has it not been written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you yourselves have made it a den of robbers.” The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and they were seeking how they might destroy him; for they were afraid of him, as all the crowd were amazed at his teaching. And when it became late, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city (Mk. 11:15-19).

A ends: And passing by early in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has been withered.” Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, if anyone says to the mountain – this one – ‘Be lifted up and be thrown into the sea,’ and does not waver in his heart but believes that what he says is happening, it will be so for him. For this reason I say to you, everything which you pray and plead for, believe that you received it, and it will be so for you. And when you stand praying, forgive if you have something against someone, in order that your Father in the heavens may also forgive you your transgressions” (Mk. 11:20-25).6

This literary device inextricably links the Temple with Jesus’ mountain saying, as Wright declares: “Someone speaking of ‘this mountain’ being cast into the sea, in the context of a dramatic action of judgment in the Temple, would inevitably be heard to refer to Mount Zion.”7 Hence the intercalation verifies that “this mountain” indeed refers to the Temple mount. According to Telford, such usage harmonizes well with the meaning of the phrase “uprooter of mountains” in Rabbinic literature, where the phrase connoted either “a Rabbi with an exceptional dialectic skill . . . [who] was able to resolve by his wits and ingenuity extremely difficult hermeneutical problems within the Law” or someone who destroys the Temple.8 An example of the latter is found in the Babylonian Talmud, in which Baba ben Buta advises Herod the Great to pull down the Temple and rebuild it. When Herod asks Baba ben Buta if such an action is licit in light of the halakhah that a synagogue should not be pulled down before another is built to take its place, Baba ben Buta replies: “If you like I can say that the rule does not apply to Royalty, since a king does not go back on his word. For so said Samuel: If Royalty says, I will uproot mountains, it will uproot them and not go back on its word.”9 Hence Herod can pull down the Temple mount immune from any charge of illegal procedure. Since the context of the Jesuanic statement is clearly not exegetical, Telford maintains that consistency with expected connotation demands that Mark 11:20-25 is a Temple statement: “The double entendre . . . in B.B.B.3b . . . is a suggestive parallel to our Markan passage, for there too Mark has employed the mountain-moving image in its capacity to suggest in its context the removal of the Temple mount.”10

But what type of statement is directed at Mount Zion? In his magisterial commentary on Mark, Robert H. Gundry points out that this statement represents a curse analogous in meaning to Jesus’ curse on the fig tree: “[B]eing lifted up and thrown into the sea makes the mountain-moving a destructive act. Its destructiveness makes the speaking to the mountain a curse, as much a curse as Jesus’ speaking to the fig tree that no one should ever again eat fruit from it.”11 However, the passive verbs arthētai (be lifted up) and blēthētai (be thrown) indicate that the denouncer lacks the power to personally carry out the curse but is invoking someone else to execute it. As Gundry reveals, this fact explains Jesus’ faith directive: “Because of the command to have faith in God, the passive voice in ‘be lifted up and be thrown into the sea’ means, ‘May God lift you up and throw you into the sea’ . . . The element of faith comes into this mountain-cursing because in themselves the disciples . . . lack the power to speak a mountain into the sea.”12

We already see a major dissimilarity between the Word-Faith reading and the true significance of this pericope: its central promise has nothing to do with blessings for the speaker but instead pertains to curses proclaimed against external things.

A Historical and Canonical Analysis

In order to understand the passage in its historical context, we must now inquire as to the nature of Jesus’ actions in the Temple. Although understood by previous generations of commentators as simply a cleansing, a virtual consensus has surfaced among Third Quest historical Jesus researchers across the liberal-conservative theological spectrum that, regardless of whether or not cleansing comprised part of Jesus’ agenda, the major thrust of Jesus’ action was to enact a symbolic destruction of the Temple.13  In the summation of Craig A. Evans, “[A]t the time of his action in the temple Jesus spoke of the temple’s destruction . . . not simply . . . calling for modification of the sacrificial pragmata or, having failed to bring about such modification, for sacrifice outside of the auspices of the temple priesthood.”14  Foremost among the evidence supporting this conclusion is Jesus’ intentional evocation and deliberate performance of Jeremiah 7-8, a trenchant condemnation of corruption within Jewish society and unmistakable warning that the Temple must be destroyed as a result:

“Thus says Yahweh Almighty, the God of Israel . . . do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the Temple of Yahweh, the Temple of Yahweh, the Temple of Yahweh’ . . . But here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are safe’ – safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? But I have been watching, declares Yahweh. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. . . . Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that is called by my name, theTempleyou trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers. I will thrust you from my presence, just as I thrust all of your brethren, the people of Ephraim. So you, neither pray on behalf of this people nor offer plea or petition on their behalf . . . for . . . my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place . . . it will burn and not be quenched. . . . But are the people ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all . . . at the time when I punish, they shall be overthrown, says Yahweh. When I wanted to gather them, says Yahweh, there are no grapes on the vine; there are no figs on the fig tree, and their leaves are withered (7:3-4, 8-12, 14-16, 20; 8:12-13).”

Jeremiah’s coincidence of theTemplecondemnation with the portrayal of its worshipers as a fruitless fig tree overtly furnishes the meaning of Jesus seeking fruit on the barren fig tree, subsequently cursing it, and finally cursing “this mountain.” As Wright elucidates,

“The cursing of the fig tree is part of his sorrowful Jeremianic demonstration that Israel, and theTemple, are under judgment. The word about the mountain being cast into the sea also belongs exactly here. . . . It is a very specific word of judgment: the Temple mountain is, figuratively speaking, to be taken up and cast into the sea.”15

Viewing Jesus’ actions against this prophetic backdrop, three features emerge as prominent:

(1) Jesus militates against theTemplenot as the place where robbery occurs but as the den of robbers, namely, the robbers’ lair where they return for safe haven after committing acts of robbery in the outside world. Moreover, both Mark’s Greek word for “robbers” (lēstēs) and its Hebrew cognate parisim from Jeremiah refer not to “swindlers” but to “brigands” or “bandits” in the sense of “revolutionaries.”16 Barabbas, the leader of a murderous uprising in Jerusalem, was a lēstēs, as were the two crucified alongside Jesus and scores of “holy rebels” described by Josephus.17 Thus, economic impropriety is not in view here; in fact, no evidence exists from late antique Judaism of such exploitation transpiring in the Temple.18  For the Temple required pure animals and birds for sacrifice, which were most safely purchased at a place near the sacrifice and where the priests could guarantee their suitability.

Moreover, the money changers were indispensable for turning all the many currencies offered into the single official coinage. Hence the text supplies no hint that anyone was committing financial or sacrificial misconduct.19 Rather, as in the sixth century B.C. against the Babylonians, the Temple had become the talisman of nationalist violence housing those religio-political leaders who propagated a violent messianic scenario as the solution to the Roman problem. Since the Romans had made the Jewish people slaves in their own homeland and progressively enacted sanctions robbing them of their religious liberties bit by bit, the Sanhedrin, or “Men of the Great Assembly,” popularized an interpretation of the Hebrew Bible concept of mashiach, or messiah, along the lines of previous national deliverers. Like Moses, this messiah would be a compelling religious leader, but even greater than Moses, he would successfully enforce Torah upon all who dwelt in Palestine. Like Cyrus, he would be king of an empire who conquered his enemies with the sword, but surpassing Cyrus’ governance of a pagan empire, the Messiah would, after violently ridding the Holy Land of all Roman and other pagan influences, turn Israel into the superpower of the Ancient Near East, restore Israel’s borders to at least their original expanse following Joshua’s Conquest of Canaan (if not militarily extending these boundaries), and employ the new Israelite empire’s political influence to spread Israelite justice and the Jewish way of life throughout the Mediterranean world.20

Such a messianic “job description” stood in diametric opposition to the type of Messiah Jesus claimed to be. By embracing the Sanhedrin’s violent messianic aspirations, Jesus proposed that the Jewish people found themselves in a far deeper slavery than simply to Rome: they had voluntarily become slaves to the Kingdom of the World, the philosophical system of domination and oppression ruled by Satan according to which the world operates.21  In Jesus’ assessment, the Sanhedrin, backed by popular opinion, were chillingly attempting to become the people of God by capitulating to the worldly kingdom, aiming to employ political zeal and military wrath to usher in God’s great and final redemption and perpetuate it throughout the globe. But Jesus saw that any attempt to win the victory of God through the devices of Satan is to lose the battle.22  For by trying to beat Rome at its own game, the Jewish religious aristocracy had unwittingly become “slaves” and even “sons” of the devil, “a murderer from the beginning,” whose violent tendencies they longed to accomplish (Jn. 8:34-44) and who were blindly leading the people of Israel to certain destruction (Mt. 15:14; 23:15; Lk. 6:39). Hence the Sanhedrin comprised the “robbers” fomenting revolution in the synagogues, streets, and rabbinic schools who holed themselves up in the Temple. By uncritically accepting their program, Jesus contended that Israel had abandoned its original vocation to be the light of the world which would reach out with open arms to foreign nations and actively display to them God’s love.23

(2) In the underlying prophetic text, Jeremiah chastised the Temple for the inextricable combination of social injustice and idolatry committed by its worshipers. So what comparable idolatry linked with Israel’s false messianic hopes led Jesus to stage his Temple demonstration? Jesus held that implicit idolatry proved far more damning than explicit idolatry, since the second is just as easily avoidable as the first is alluring with its subtlety and façade of godliness. After all, from the darkened perspective of the world, what could make more sense than a politically conquering and dominating Messiah? It would be far easier for a professed monotheist to steer clear of falling down to worship idols than it would be to steer clear of the even more unholy  with the World’s “might makes right” methods of oppression, abuse, and discrimination in hopes of effecting God’s victory over the World.24

(3) We call attention to Jesus’ distinctive phrase “pray and plead for” (proseuchesthe kai aiteisthe) in the promise “everything which you pray and plead for, believe that you received it, and it will be so for you.” While proseuchomai and aiteō are common Koinē Greek verbs found regularly throughout the New Testament, their conjunction is hapax legomena and so cries out for an explanation. Stumbling at the clause, most translators have paraphrased proseuchesthe kai aiteisthe as “ask for in prayer,” despite its lack of grammatical warrant and the fact that either proseuchesthe or aiteisthe alone would carry the proposed meaning, thereby doing nothing to explain the conjunction.25 Hence this paraphrase should be rejected as lacking both plausibility and explanatory power. But once Jesus’ intentional evocation of Jeremiah 7-8 is disclosed, then the meaning of proseuchesthe kai aiteisthe comes into sharp focus. It immediately becomes apparent that Jesus is here employing metalepsis, or allusion “to an earlier text in a way that evokes resonances of the earlier text beyond those explicitly cited,”26 with God’s command to Jeremiah, “So you, neither pray (titepalēl) on behalf of this people nor offer plea or petition (tiśā’ . . . rināh ûtepilāh) on their behalf” (7:16). For the second-person Hebrew verb titepalēl and the second-person Greek proseuchesthe are exact cognates meaning “to pray,” and the Hebrew clause tiśā’ . . . rināh ûtepilāh (to offer plea or petition) is the virtual definition of aiteō, namely, “to ask for with urgency, even to the point of demanding – ‘to ask for, to demand, to plead for.’”27 Putting himself in God’s place, moreover, Jesus commands his disciples to act in consequence of his pronounced judgment (“For this reason I say to you . . .”) in the same way that God commanded Jeremiah to act in consequence of his pronounced judgment (“So you . . .”).

Thus we have established that Jesus is recalling Jeremiah 7:16 in such a way that he isexpecting his hearers to take the next logical step. But if the Temple administration in the first century A.D. is functionally equivalent to its corrupt sixth-century B.C. predecessor, and if God ordered the faithful not to pray or plead in behalf of the predecessor, then in what sense can Jesus exhort the faithful to pray and plead concerning the existing administration? Well, if the faithful cannot pray and plead for the Temple regime, it follows logically that they can only pray and plead against the Temple regime if they are to offer petitions concerning it at all. Just as Jeremiah responded to God’s exhortation not to intercede for the religio-political system of his day by declaring God’s destructive verdict against it, so in its context “to pray and plead for” means “under God’s Kingdom authorization, to pronounce a divine judgment of destruction upon.” Again we emphasize that if Jesus had intended for this to be a general word about prayer or how to pray for blessings, he would have used either proseuchesthe or aitesthe, not both; their unparalleled joint usage strongly indicates that a radically different theme is in play, an inference certified by Jesus’ undisputed outworking of Jeremiah 7-8. Moreover, such fits perfectly with Jesus’ “mountain-uprooting” exhortation to invoke God’s judgment upon the Temple: the fate befalling theTemple will also befall all other systems of religiously legitimated sin. For these historical and intertextual reasons, the phrase “everything which you pray and plead for” means “every unjust system operating in the name of religion which you, as God’s ambassadors, proclaim divine judgment upon” and cannot plausibly be interpreted as “everything you ask for in prayer,” thus precluding the fallacious inference that we will receive whatever we ask with sufficient faith.

Positive Hermeneutical Solution: Piecing Together What the Text Actually Means

Armed with the necessary background, we are now in a position to spell out precisely what Jesus meant in Mark 11:20-25 by his carefully crafted synthesis of word and deed as well as the passage’s contemporary significance. Following his symbolic destruction of the Temple and Peter’s observation that the fig tree he “had cursed” (katērasō) had withered, Jesus was poised to explain his acted parable to his disciples. When faced with exploitative systems claiming religious support that oppress and persecute God’s people and deceive those whom God desires to save, his followers must have faith in their all-just and all-powerful God to vindicate them by overthrowing these systems.28 God’s justice, as corroborated by Jesus’ actions, ensures a divine verdict of condemnation against these systems, and God’s power guarantees that the verdict will be fully executed at the Day of Yahweh if not before. Knowing the mind and power of God on this score, Jesus therefore gives his followers the right to pronounce a sentence of divine judgment against both the Temple (the mountain – this one) and all other prima facie religious but de facto worldly institutions (everything which you pray and plead for). Further, notice Jesus’ indication that the judgment is currently taking place (what he says is happening; ginetai, present tense) and actually has already happened (you received it; elabete, aorist tense).

Here an illustration from modern jurisprudence is instructive. When a judge pronounces an irrevocable sentence, such as life without the possibility of parole, by the authority of the legal system, we consider the sentence as accomplished as soon as it is spoken due to its inevitability, even though the sentence is not immediately carried out in its entirety. Similarly, as representatives of God, our verdict is currently being carried out and has in fact already been accomplished, since we are merely proclaiming an inevitable sentence previously reached in the divine court. Thus we find another example of the “now but not yet” motif that runs throughout the fabric of Jesus’ Kingdom proclamation and the rest of the New Testament. While Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God with his first coming, it arrived only in part but in such a way as to guarantee its later coming in full; the final victory over evil has been won but not yet implemented. So we who live between Jesus’ first and second comings experience our triumph over the worldly kingdom as here in principle, which will be completely actualized when Jesus gloriously returns.

However, Jesus makes three important caveats regarding his followers’ vindication. All three concern essential attributes or, in Pauline terms, “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22) that one evinces if one belongs to the Kingdom of God. First, the speaker will be vindicated against the pertinent evil if “he does not waver in his heart,” namely, if the speaker makes no attempt to have one foot in the Kingdom of God, so to speak, while having the other foot in the Kingdom of the World, of which the evil is a part. In that case, the speaker is a hypocrite guilty of the very crime he is denouncing and thus will certainly not be among the company of the redeemed.29 Second, the speaker will be vindicated if he “believes what he says is happening” and that “he received it,” which would naturally occur given the speaker’s faith in an all-just and all-powerful God. However, if the speaker has faith in a different kind of god or no god at all, then such confidence will obviously not materialize, showing the speaker’s separation from the true God. The third caveat, in addition to its admonitory function, simultaneously prohibits a possible misunderstanding of the Jeremiah subtext. A close reading of Jeremiah 7-8 reveals that God condemned the Temple leadership as a collectivity (hāām haōzeh, “this people” singular not ’anāsîm ha’ēl, “these persons” plural) – namely the institution or system they comprised – and not the concomitant individuals themselves; in fact, the subsequent chapters plead with those very individuals to repent and be saved. Hence Jesus’ disciples may only announce judgment against unjust religious institutions or systems and never the individuals who belong to them, as the latter act militates against the raison d’être of the Kingdom of God – being the forgiveness-of-sins of people. Rather, believers must always forgive tinos, or “any individual,” who has wronged them, even (and especially) as they denounce the worldly institutions which unsuspectingly enslave those forgiven persons. But condemning individuals to destruction is to cut off the branch of grace one is sitting on, thereby illustrating one’s own spiritually lost state. In short, each of the three caveats is a different way of expressing the same point: “Only if you really are part of God’s Kingdom will your announced vindication against the systems of evil be ultimately realized; otherwise, you’ll unwittingly be found within the worldly kingdom and so face condemnation yourself.”

In conclusion, far from promising that a person can possess whatever they pray for with sufficient faith, Mark 11:20-25 encourages believers to exhibit sufficient faith in God to stand up against religiously legitimated sin. Believers should expose such affairs resting secure in Jesus’ promise that, if they resist compromise while maintaining lives of forgiveness, they will be vindicated against the wickedness on the Day of Yahweh. Instead of a stumbling block that incites doubt in biblical authority following unanswered prayer, the message of this text is both plausible in light of and consistent with the broad canonical panorama once understood contextually.30 Examples of individuals who understood and embodied its message include the apostles before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:29-32), Stephen (Acts 7:46-53), and Paul (Rom. 9:31-33), who remarkably knew the relevant pericope as part of the oral Jesus traditions that would later be enscripturated.31 But, as we follow their example, we would do well to heed Paul’s poignant abstract of and admonition from this passage: “If I have all the faith so as to remove mountains but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2).32

NOTES

1 Gloria Copeland, Believer’s Voice of Victory, 10 May 2007, emphasis hers.

2 E. J. Pryke, Redactional Style in the Marcan Gospel: A Study of Syntax and Vocabulary as Guides to Redaction in Mark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 19-21, 145-46, 167-68, 170-71.

3 N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, vol. 2 of Christian Origins and the Question of God (Fortress: Minneapolis, 1996), 422.

4 William R. Telford, The Barren Temple and the Withered Tree, JSNTSup 1 (Sheffield: JSOT, 1980), 119.

5 John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996), 62-63.

6 For the sake of analysis, I have directly translated all biblical passages in this article from the Greek (UBS 4th / Nestle-Aland 27th) and Hebrew (Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia) primary texts in a woodenly literal fashion.

7 Wright, Jesus, 334-35.

8 Telford, Barren Temple, 110, 115, 118.

9 Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 3b.

10 Telford, Barren Temple, 112.

11 Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids,Mich.: Eerdmans, 1993), 653.

12 Ibid.

13 For verification see John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 357; Marcus J. Borg, Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1984), 174, 384; E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (New York: Penguin, 1993), 257-69; Jacob Neusner, “Money-Changers in the Temple: The Mishnah’s Explanation,” New Testament Studies 35 (1989): 287-90; Ben F. Meyer, Christus Faber: The Master-Builder and the House of God (Allison Park, PA: Pickwick, 1992), 262-64; Craig A. Evans, “Jesus’ Action in the Temple: Cleansing or Portent of Destruction,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51 (1989): 237-70; C. K. Barrett, “The House of Prayer and the Den of Thieves,” in Jesus und Paulus: Festschrift für Werner Georg Kümmel zum 70. Geburtstag, eds. E. Earle Ellis and E. Grässer (Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 1975), 13-20; Wright, Jesus, 413-28; Richard J. Bauckham, “Jesus’ Demonstration in the Temple,” in Law and Religion: Essays on the Place of the Law in Israel and Early Christianity, ed. B. Lindars (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1988), 72-89; Scot McKnight, “Who is Jesus? An Introduction to Jesus Studies,” in Jesus Under Fire, gen. eds. Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), 65; Ben Witherington III, New Testament History (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 137.

14 Craig A. Evans, “Jesus and the ‘CaveofRobbers’: Toward a Jewish Context for the Temple Action.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 3 (1993): 109-10.

15 Wright, Jesus, 422.

16 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2 vols. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), 1:497-48; Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd rev. ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 473; Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown- Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, rep. ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 829.

17 Josephus, War of the Jews, 2.125, 228, 253-54; 4.504; Antiquities of the Jews, 14.159-60; 20.160-61, 67.

18 Wright, Jesus, 419-20.

19 Crossan, Who Killed Jesus, 64.

20 Kirk R. MacGregor, A Molinist-Anabaptist Systematic Theology (Lanham,MD: University Press of America, 2007), 269-70.

21 Jesus reinforces this point by thrice acknowledging Satan as the “archē of this world” (Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), where archē semantically comes from the domain of politics and denotes the highest ruling authority in a given region. The followers of the Way would later echo the acknowledgment of their Master in 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2; 6:12, 1 John 5:19, and Revelation 9:11; 11:15; 13:14; 18:23; 20:3, 8.

22 Wright, Jesus, 595.

23 Telfordsummarizes: “For Mark, it is Jerusalem and its Temple that have fallen under this curse. Their raison d’être has been removed. . . . An eschatological judgement has been pronounced upon the city and its exalted shrine. For Mark and his community, Jesus himself was the agent of that judgement. Had he not after all cursed the barren fig-tree? . . . ‘[T]he moving of mountains’ expected . . . in the eschatological era . . . was now taking place. Indeed, about to be removed was the mountain par excellence, the Temple Mount” (Barren Temple, 231, 119; emphasis his).

24 MacGregor, Systematic Theology, 271-73.

25 A representative sample of instances where proseuchomai means “to ask for in prayer” includes Matthew 5:44; 6:5-6, 9; 24:20, Luke 6:28; 18:1; 22:40, Acts 8:24, and Rom. 8:26, and an analogous representative sample for aiteō includes Matthew 6:8; 7:7, Luke 11:9, 13, and John 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23-24, 26.

26 Richard B. Hays, The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 2, emphasis his.

27 Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, 1:407.

28 Cf. Luke 18:7-8: “But will not God by all means bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I say to you, he will bring about their justice with speed.”

29 Cf. Luke 16:13/Matthew 6:24: “No servant is able to serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and he will despise the other.” Also note Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of the heavens, but only the one who does the will of my Father, the one in the heavens.”

30 As review editor David Cramer pointed out, the usage by the Word-Faith Movement, then, seems to be an ironic example of “religiously legitimated sin,” keeping the poor and oppressed in bondage to the false hopes of their “prosperity gospel.”

31 Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NIGTC (Grand Rapids,MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 1041. Further, as Robert M. Grant illustrates (“The Coming of the Kingdom,” Journal of Biblical Literature 67 [1948]: 301-2), our exegesis is consistent with the way Mark 11:20-25 was read by the Church Fathers, which cannot be said for the typical contemporary reading.

32 I.e., “If I have all the faith in God necessary to courageously and confidently proclaim God’s judgment against the most powerful injustices masquerading in the name of religion but do not have love, I am nothing.”