Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Month: April, 2015

THE WORD OF FAITH TEACHING

Review:

Sharper than a Two-Edged Sword

Andrew Wommack

Harrison House, 2010

163 pp., pb

Andrew Wommack is a Charismatic televangelist, Word of Faith teacher, and faith healer. His book, Sharper than a Two-Edged Sword, is a summary of sixteen of his messages or “revelations,” as he calls them. As such the book purports to give a very good overview of Wommack’s teaching.

Wommack describes his theology as “the message of God’s unconditional love and grace.” And so it seems to be. Wommack stresses throughout the importance of accepting by faith what God has already given us. It is a message that is bound to appeal to countless multitudes who feel depressed and discouraged, and are desperately looking for some glimmer of hope in life.

Like most Charismatics Wommack is basically an Arminian in his theology – he believes that man has a free will and that his destiny has not been predetermined by God. What is distinctive about his theology, however, is his view of the atonement and his view of the human personality.

On the atonement he sees the death of Christ as an atoning sacrifice, which by itself is perfectly biblical and orthodox. What is distinctive about Wommack’s view is that he sees the death of Christ as effectively atoning for the sins of the entire human race. “God’s anger against sin fell upon Jesus, and He forever satisfied the wrath of God against the sin of the human race. Jesus has paid for all sin for all time, and because of that, you and I can have eternal life” (p. 8). “Every single sin – past, present, and future – was satisfied. . . As a result, God isn’t mad anymore. Jesus bore our punishment, and the war is over” (p. 59).

The practical conclusion that Wommack draws from this is that “You have to receive salvation – but instead of begging God for forgiveness, it’s more accurate to say that you need to acknowledge that He has already paid for your sins. God has already dealt with every sin you have ever committed or will commit in the future. Forgiveness has already been provided” (p. 37). So much for repentance and confession of sin!

Wommack also holds to the traditional “full gospel” Pentecostal idea that physical healing is included in the atonement – that when it says in Isa. 53:5 “and with His stripes we are healed,” it should be taken literally to mean physical healing as well as spiritual.

The other distinctive feature of Wommack’s theology is his view of the human personality. Here he says that a human being is made up of three parts: body, soul and spirit. Here too there is nothing new about this – theologians have debated the question for centuries. What is distinctive, however, is what Wommack does with this. He says that while we can feel bodily pain and emotional distress (the body and soul), “unlike the body and soul, we can’t sense the spirit part of us” (p. 28). The practical lesson that he draws from this is nothing less than astonishing. “. . . I now understood that I didn’t have to feel something for it to be real in my spirit. The spirit can’t be discerned by emotions.” But “the spirit is the real life-giving part of you . . . The spirit is the part of you that has been completely changed” in salvation (pp. 28-29). In other words, you can be born again and not feel it or sense it at all. Wommack than goes on to say that “God isn’t looking at you based on your body and your soul. The real you isn’t how you look, feel, or perform in this world. God is seeing us in the spirit . . .” (p. 29). Thus the change in regeneration “cannot be observed in your body or soul (the mental, emotional part of you). In fact, it can’t be outwardly observed at all because the transformation takes place in your spirit, where you can’t feel a thing” (pp. 29-30). The body and soul undergo a gradual change, but the spirit is perfectly righteous at the moment of regeneration. It’s just that you cannot see it – you just have to take it by faith that it has happened.

The practical conclusion that Wommack draws from all of this teaching is that God has already given us all that we need. All that we have to do is to make it a reality in our experience through faith. “Faith acts like a bridge that runs from the spirit realm over into the physical realm, allowing what is in the spirit to cross over into manifestation . . . it isn’t that God hasn’t given; it’s that your lack of faith is shutting off the flow of His power” (pp. 43-44).

Wommack then makes the point of saying that “God wants you well,” to cite the title of the chapter that he devotes to the subject. He criticizes the view that “God causes sickness, or allows it, in order to accomplish His will or to teach you something” (p. 132). “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he says, “God is not the author of sickness, and He doesn’t use sickness – or any other kind of evil – to accomplish His will. God has nothing whatsoever to do with sickness” (p. 135). Wommack actually went so far as to say that believing that God causes or uses sickness, pain and suffering in our lives is “propaganda from the enemy” (p. 135).

What, then, shall we say about all of this? Much of what Wommack has to say is undoubtedly biblical and true. God does love us and has our best interests at heart. But Wommack’s theology gives us a dangerously one-sided and distorted view of the Christian life.

First of all, it is simply not true that the sins of the entire human race of been atoned for and that God is no longer angry with sinners because of their sins. Paul begins his exposition of the gospel by saying, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness . . .” (Rom. 1:18; NKJV). And Wommack’s position overlooks the obvious fact that Christ will return “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints . . . “ (II Thess. 1:8-10).

Secondly, it is simply not true that God does not want His children to suffer sickness or hardship. Wommack’s theology overlooks the fact that many of the New Testament letters were written from jail cells to persecuted churches. If Wommack is correct on this point the apostles were abysmal spiritual failures who were lacking in faith or else they would not have landed in the predicaments in which they found themselves. Paul could recite a whole litany of hardships he had suffered, including everything from floggings to shipwrecks (II Cor. 11:23-28). And yet he could say “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

God is sovereign, and “works all things according to His will” (Eph. 1:11). While God is not the author of sin, He can use the actions of sinful men to use own purposes. In the Old Testament Joseph could tell his brothers, who had horribly mistreated him, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it si this day , to save many people alive” (Gn. 50:20). And didn’t Paul have the gift of healing? Yet he “pleaded with the Lord three times” to have is thorn in the flesh removed, but God’s answer was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Cor. 12:7-10). Tribulation works patience (Rom. 5:3; Jas. 1:3,4) and teaches us to have sympathy for others (II Cor. 1:3-7). Sometimes God brings pain and suffering into our lives to chasten us (Heb. 12:3-13). I am reminded of a line in the well-known hymn by William Cowper:

“Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.”

The Word of Faith teaching has a strong appeal – but it is an appeal to some of the worst instincts of American culture – the desire for comfort and success. But that mentality was utterly foreign to the New Testament church. The early church was the church militant – the church that was prepared to suffer in this present life in order to gain life eternal. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17; cf. Rom. 8:18).

What is even worse, we think that Wommack may be giving a false assurance of salvation to many people who may not in fact be converted at all. At the back of his book there is what purports to be an invitation to “Receive Jesus as Your Savior.” Significantly there is not a word there about repenting of sin or asking for forgiveness. Instead, Wommack tells his readers to pray this prayer: “Jesus, I confess that You are my Lord and Savior. I believe in my heart that God raised You from the dead. By faith in Your Word, I receive salvation now. Thank You for saving me!” Presumably at this point the person’s spirit is instantly renewed, but there would not necessarily be any visible change in his life. The convert is simply to take it by faith, in the absence of any evidence, that he is saved. But Jesus said, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lu. 13:3,5). There is a crucial element missing in Wommack’s invitation – the element of repentance. And without it no one can be saved.

It is easy for Americans to imagine that God wants us to live carefree lives. But that is about to change dramatically. The specter of religious persecution is just around the corner. Jesus said, “”Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you . . . “ (John 15:20). Are we prepared to suffer with Christ?

WHY CHRIST DIED

Today, of course, is the day when we mark the turning point in human history, the death of Christ on the cross. Ironically, this Good Friday comes at a time when the United States, along with much of the rest of the Western world, finds itself in turmoil over the issue of homosexuality. Last week one of the major “mainline” denominations, the Presbyterian Church (USA), changed its definition of marriage to include homosexuals who wish to marry each other. And this week the State of Indiana is in a state of uproar over that state’s recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. At issue there is whether or not a baker or a florist can refuse service to gay couples on grounds of conscience.

Perhaps the politicians in Indianapolis can be excused if they are perplexed over how to respond to changing social currents. They are, after all, accountable in some measure to the voters who elected them. It is much harder, however, to excuse the PCUSA, for they claim to be a Christian church, and a church is supposed to be accountable to God. By endorsing same-sex marriage the PCUSA has, in fact, missed the whole point of Christianity.

Which brings us back to the question, why did Christ die on the cross? What was the purpose of his death?

Some people seem to imagine that because God is a God of love, that therefore it is an easy thing for Him to excuse or overlook sin. God is supposedly like a human parent Who knows our weakness and loves us just the same. And when it comes to homosexuality, presumably God “knows” that some people are just born that way and God accepts them just as they are.

The Bible, however, presents a radically different view of the situation. God is, in fact, a God of love; but He expresses His love in a far different way than that imagined by the liberal theologians of the PCUSA. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; NKJV). God does not pretend that we are basically good, decent people. We were “sinners.” The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

But we cannot help being the way we are, right? How, then, can God condemn us? The answer is the right and wrong are not determined by what we can do, but by what God is. It is a matter of what is just and humane. Morality is based not on our sinful nature, but on God’s own righteous character. And if we cannot keep His law and do what is right, that is a reflection on us, not on Him. We are the ones who need to change, not God.

What hope is there then for us? We are guilty, and God is just. Our doom seems like a foregone conclusion. It is at this point that God did something most extraordinary. “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The idea here is not simply to excuse or overlook sin, for that would sacrifice justice in the name of tolerance. Rather, the solution is to atone for sin. We are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood. . .” (Rom. 3:24,25). Redemption involves the payment of a price that secures the release of someone from bondage or captivity. Propitiation is an atoning sacrifice that turns away the wrath of an offended Deity. In this way God can “demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (v. 26). By sending His Son into the world to pay the penalty for our sin on the cross, sin is both punished and forgiven simultaneously. God is both merciful and just at the same time.

But at what a horrific price! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . .” (John 3:16). There was only one person who was qualified to serve as our substitute and atone for our sin, and that was the God-man Jesus Christ. But Christ was God’s own Son, His only begotten Son. And He was perfectly innocent, the last person in the entire universe who deserved to be punished for anything. And yet He came into this sin-cursed world, went through the mockery of a “trial,” and died an agonizing death on the cross. Perhaps the most heart rending moment of all came when cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46; quoting Ps. 22:1).

Yes, God loves us. In a very real sense he loves all of us human beings. But He loves us enough to save us from or sin, not leave us in our sin. What we need is the forgiveness of our sins, and to receive that we must come to Christ in repentance and faith.

And that is why Christ died on the cross, and that, in a nutshell, is the Christian gospel. And when a denomination ceases to preach the gospel it ceases to be a Christian church. The days to come will surely reveal who is willing to follow Christ and who is simply following the world. May we all be found faithful to Him!