The anonymous bloggers at churchwatchcentral have reproduced a Facebook entry by critic Justin Peters in which Peters once again remodels the theology of Word of Faith teaching.
Peters is one of those critics who considers himself qualified to know how Word of Faith is taught, but really isn’t. In his critiques he teaches people wrong ideas about Word of Faith and is lauded for it amongst his peers. Of course, being co-polemicists, the pseudonyms at churchwatchcentral quote him and advance the error.
Justin Peters notes: “In WoF land, you will hear the word “activate” a lot. In WoF teachings, the object of our faith is our faith (really, us). We possess faith. Something we DO activates it, then God works within it. That’s why within WoF if something doesn’t happen the way we decreed it, (healing, prosperity) it means WE didn’t have enough faith. Things depend on us and our faith, not on God. You see the switch: in WoF teachings it’s switched from God being sovereign to us being sovereign. Word of Faith teachers need to read and re-read Job 38-41 to learn man’s place before a sovereign God.”
This is twisting reality. No Word of Faith teacher claims that any believer can operate outside of God’s Word or will.
Quite the contrary. They are very much Word people. They say that when we operate within God’s will, His Word will work on our behalf, based on God’s promises to His people.
The Word is alive and powerful. It has been compared to an order given to a servant. A Roman centurion in Jesus’ time on earth worked that out.
Matthew 8:5-10 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!
Speak the Word only. The Word spoken in faith has power. The centurion’s servant was healed within the hour, because of the centurion’s faith, and his understanding that the Word would go to work for the believer when it was uttered in faith.
Please pause and note, here, though, that, according to Jesus, it was the centurion’s faith and his own words that brought the power of the Word into effect.
Matthew 8:13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.
“As you have believed, let it be done for you.” It all starts and ends with faith in God, not faith in ourselves. The centurion understood that the Word works through faith, and Jesus commended him for it.
Notice, also, that Peters talks about God’s sovereign will measured against human sovereign will. “You see the switch: in WoF teachings it’s switched from God being sovereign to us being sovereign.”
This is a misrepresentation of Word of Faith teaching. The switch is actually in Peters’ appeal to sovereignty theology, not Word of Faith teaching. The root of this thinking is based in Reformed theology.
Everything in this theology is about God’s sovereignty, which is fine, but we have to understand what they mean by sovereignty. In the Reformed world, sovereignty is all about God’s independent will, not about God’s sovereign interaction with His creation via the Word and Spirit.
God is separate from His people in this sovereign theology. There is a vast gulf fixed, they imply, even from His own followers. In this separation it is hard to know what God will do in any given circumstance. We can have faith in God in this world, but we are not empowered to influence anything through faith, or by prayer, or through applying the Word of God to our situation. It may not be His will, they add, as if His will cannot be known from His Word.
Only God, in this viewpoint, can do anything about anything. We are mere nothings hoping good things will happen, not bad. Que sera sera dogmatism. What will be will be.
Of course, we can all recognise that God is sovereign. He is the Supreme Ruler over all things. If He weren’t sovereign He would not be God. There is only One God. He is the Lord God Almighty – the Sovereign, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
But rulers do not do everything. They delegate tasks to others. They rule, others do the work in their name. As the centurion pointed out, the ruler says, “do this” and the servant does it. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
It was always God’s will to work in and through those who believe in Him. That is His sovereignty at work. The Church has been granted delegated responsibility to act on His behalf in the earth through His Word and by His Spirit.
We are chosen and called to do His will, but He also empowers us to do His will. He sent us to make disciples of all nations, and to baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Delegated responsibility.
Called and sent in His name
Jesus told His disciples it was expedient that He go so that He could send the Holy Spirit to fill us and empower us so that the Church could operate in His name to reach the lost world.
John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
The Helper is the Holy Spirit, who is with us, and is in us when we receive Christ (John 14:16-18). He is upon us when we are endued with power from on High to be His witnesses – martyrs; evidence producers, bearing witness to the cross, the resurrection, and the living Christ (Acts 1:8).
For instance, He has empowered us to forgive others and preach forgiveness in His name. He has enabled us to preach the gospel on His behalf to a fallen world, alongside the Holy Spirit. He has told us we would do the same works as He did in His name.
He has released His sovereign power through the Church. That is why we pray in the name of Jesus. We do all things He commanded and taught, relating to the instructions given in the Word, in His name.
John 14:12-14 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
‘In His name’ literally means in His place, as representatives of the Sovereign God. Chosen, called and sent.
Faith in God
The action of faith is operated through our interaction with His Word and Spirit. His will makes it possible for us to believe His Word and act on it to see it come to pass. As James said, “Faith without works is dead.” In other words, he is calling on us to demonstrate our faith through our actions.
But Justin Peters says, “In WoF land, you will hear the word “activate” a lot. In WoF teachings, the object of our faith is our faith (really, us). We possess faith. Something we DO activates it, then God works within it.”
No. Faith begins with faith in God. When we have faith in God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will have faith in His Word, and in His promises.
It’s not about faith in ourselves, or faith in faith. If we only had faith in ourselves we would ultimately fail. Nor is the object of our faith merely faith. It all begins with faith in God. Word of Faith teaching more often than not begins with the words of Jesus in Mark 11:22.
Mark 11:22 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God.
Without faith in God there is no Word of Faith. Faith must have an object and an objective. We have to have faith in someone or something. For Biblical faith to work it must be through faith in God.
Faith comes directly from hearing the Word of God. Then faith is activated by applying the Word we believe. We were saved because we believed in our heart the Word that was preached, and confessed that Word with our lips. With the heart we believed unto righteousness, and with the mouth we confessed what we believed in our heart unto salvation.
Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
As scripture says, ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ’ (Romans 10:17). When we hear the Word, believe the Word and act on the Word it will come to pass in our lives, not because of who we are, but because of Who He is and what He has said. He put His Word in motion. He said it would not return to Him void, but accomplish all it was sent to do.
Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
He spoke the Word and the Promises. They must come to pass if He is truly God. He is not a man that He should lie.
Doers of the Word
And, yes, of course we have to activate faith. How else does faith work? If we believe something wholeheartedly we will act on it. Jesus told us this. He said we needed to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only. Doers of the Word build their lives on the Rock, the sure foundation of Christ.
This was reiterated by James. In fact, James tells us that those who hear the Word but do not do the Word are deceiving themselves.
James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
We have to do the Word as well as hear the Word. When we hear the Word, we believe the Word and we do the Word, which is the same as acting on the Word.
There are many examples of those who acted on their faith being commended by Jesus.
It’s not, as Justin Peters claims, that ‘something we do activates faith, then God works with it’. No, not at all. That is a wrong way of looking at it. God comes first, then faith in God through faith in His Word, then acting on what we believe. It is the Word that goes to work. God has already spoken it.
Faith is based on what God tells us and on trust in God Himself as the One who has put the Word into motion when we believe it. We do the Word because we believe the Word. He spoke the Word. We do the Word. We believe the Word because we heard the Word. We heard the Word because the Word was preached. But it was God who gave the Word. It begins with God.
We trust God, therefore we trust His Word. God doesn’t have to work within His Word. He has already spoken His Word. It is also alive and dynamic. It works because He spoke it into being. We simply act on the Word that He has spoken.
No drawing back
Peters goes on, “That’s why within WoF if something doesn’t happen the way we decreed it, (healing, prosperity) it means WE didn’t have enough faith. Things depend on us and our faith, not on God.”
Well, everything in the believer’s life is dependent on faith. The just shall live by faith (Hebrews 10:38). Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is the substance, or the reality, of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1).
Notice the warning God gives about failing to live by faith.
Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
Faithlessness is considered to be drawing back to perdition. Hypostellō – ‘to withdraw or shrink back, as a timid person’. God has no pleasure in the one who cowers or shrinks back from faith.
Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
Perdition – apōleia; utter destruction and loss of all things. Faith is extremely important to believers, which should be obvious to all. It must be true, then, that it is possible to allow faith to be diminished in our lives. We have to stay in faith to live by faith.
It is possible to have faith in God, but not faith in the things God tells us in His Word. How does this work?
A person can believe in God and have a healthy heavenly assurance as long as they continue in faith, but they may be weak in faith when it comes to some of the promises.
For instance, if you attend a church that teaches a cessationist perspective, you are not likely to have faith for healing or for the gifts of the Spirit. You may be teaching or being taught that healing and miracles have ended. If that is the case then you know that the hearers will have no faith for healing if they believe the teaching and decide in their own hearts that healing and miracles have ended.
This will not negate their faith in Christ. It will put them in position of not being able to have faith for healing. Faith is believing. That is why, on occasion, Jesus admonished His disciples for having little faith in certain situations. They had faith in Him, and in the Father, but they didn’t always have faith to perform the tasks He taught them about.
It is also why he admired those who had extraordinary faith in other situations.
Full gospel or part gospel?
That is why it is important for ministers to teach the full gospel and not leave out portions of scripture that require faith. It may be true that a person has faith for salvation, but if they doubt God when it comes to healing, then, yes, their lack of faith will interfere with receiving healing.
We do have a part to play in faith. God gives the Word. We receive it by faith.
Peters continues, “You see the switch: in WoF teachings it’s switched from God being sovereign to us being sovereign.”
Well, no. The switch was entirely Peters’. He introduced the notion that the believer’s faith was in their own sovereignty. God is sovereign, but in His sovereignty He gave us the Word and the Spirit, called us, sent us, empowered us, and admonished us to live by faith, which including being doers of the Word as well as hearers.
In reality, we are acting on His sovereignty when we believe what He says. We are rejecting His sovereignty when we ignore, doubt or oppose what He says.
Peters concludes, “Word of Faith teachers need to read and re-read Job 38-41 to learn man’s place before a sovereign God.”
Job is an Old Testament scripture, some say predating the Mosaic Law, and even the Abraham covenants, which has no direct bearing on New Testament principles. They add to the examples of the Old Testment as useful and even profitable to us, but they are not of the New Covenant.
Job was tested by Satan, the Opposer, in a situation where God allowed the devil to tempt Job to see whether he would reject God. Job did not reject God, no matter what the Opposer threw at him. Job’s faith was tested.
But we are told in the New Testament not to say that God tests us in anything.
James 1:134 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
Any testing comes against our faith. It comes from the work of the adversary, not from God. It is in the testing of our faith that it is made pure.
True humility is to believe God’s Word and act on it in faith. God came to Job and restored all he had lost and more. Job went through a great testing of his faith, but the end was a great restoration.
God’s will for Job was that he should remain in faith even through the testing period. Of course he recognised God’s sovereignty, and that is a great lesson to us. But we have to recognise that God has given us His Word, in words that Job did not hear or read or know, and He has given us His Spirit to lead and guide us. We have been given the benefit of the new birth. Job did not have the New Testament as his guide. Jesus had not yet shed His blood for Job or anyone of his era.
We live in different times with better promises and a better covenant.
Our main lesson and primary example is not the life of Job, useful though it is to help us through adversity at times. Our example is the life of Christ. He is our Lord and Saviour, and He has taught us how to live by faith in His Word.
The just shall live by faith. It all begins with God.