Atonement in Word of Faith . . .|
-Written by Harold C. Felder
Traditional View of Atonement
Cultic Origins of Word-Faith
Word-Faith View of Atonement
Atonement Included Spiritual Death
Atonement Completed in Hell
Atonement Included Healing
Critical Analysis of Atonement in Word-Faith
Atonement Included Spiritual Death
Atonement Completed in Hell
Atonement Included Healing
One of the most visible movements of Christendom today is the Word of Faith movement. One can hardly turn on a television without coming into contact with one of its purveyors. Millions of Christians follow the charismatic leaders that are displayed on a number of Christian networks. Most are not aware of the origins or teachings of Faith theology, particularly as it relates to essential Christian doctrine.
At the heart of Christianity is the doctrine of atonement. In this doctrine we understand the work of Jesus and the love He and the Father shared for their creation. It is important for Christians to understand the nature of Christ's sacrifice and how we became reconciled to the creator of the universe.
The Faith movement has introduced cultic teaching about the sacrifice of Jesus and diminished His finished work. This article will first explore the orthodox view of atonement and then examine the origins of the Faith movement and its views on atonement. The article will conclude with an analysis of the Faith movement's theology on the atonement in light of the Bible and reason.
The traditional doctrine of substitutionary atonement is simple yet beautiful. It is steeped in Old Testament examples. Throughout the Old Testament, God accepted a substitute to atone for the sins of man. In the Levitical system, an animal without defect was chosen. We see this in the example of the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12: "The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats" (Exod. 12:5). The blood of the lamb provided protection from God's wrath. In fact, Paul said of Jesus "For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed" (1 Cor. 5:7). John the Baptist referred to Christ as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John. 1:29; emphasis added). Substitutionary atonement is also found in the example of God providing a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son Isaac (Gen. 22:13). Christ Himself obviously saw Himself as our substitute. He told the twelve "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28).
To put is simply, "Christ died in the place of sinners." (1) According to Charles Ryrie, Christ's atonement accomplished redemption from sin, provided both reconciliation and propitiation, and brought an end to the law. (2)
Regarding redemption of sin, Ryrie points out "because of the shedding of the blood of Christ, believers have been purchased, removed from bondage, and liberated." (3) Peter writes "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18).
Man is also reconciled to God by Christ's death. Man fell out of fellowship with the Almighty by his disobedience to God in the beginning in the Garden. Through Christ, we have been restored to a right relationship with our Heavenly Father. Paul writes "But we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation" (Rom. 5:11).
As a propitiation, God's wrath was diverted from us and directed to Jesus for our sakes and released us from the penalty of sin. Paul writes in Romans "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished" (Rom. 3:25).
The cross also released man from the burden of the Law. The Law was impossible to keep. It was a weight no man could carry. It revealed man's corruptness but did not provide a way to deal with this corruption. Paul writes, "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law" (Gal. 3:23-25). Thus, "the death of Christ opened the way for justification of faith in Him alone." (4)
The New Testament writers make it clear that Christ achieved atonement for us through His physical death. The author of Hebrews writes "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). Paul in his letter to the Colossians said "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation" (Col. 1:22). The apostle Peter as well makes this point apparent: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24). Hebrews 2:14-15 reads "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." The writer of Hebrews also revealed "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22).
Theses passages are all clear; we are made righteous by Jesus physical death on the cross.
D.R. McConnell is his book A Different Gospel, firmly established that E. W. Kenyon is the father of the Word of Faith movement. Kenyon derived his doctrine from such religious groups as Christian Science, New Thought, and the Unity School of Christianity. Ern Baxter, an associated of Kenyon states that Kenyon "undoubtedly was influence by Mary Baker Eddy." (5) It was in the metaphysics of these cults that the doctrines of the Word of Faith were born.
Kenneth Hagin took the teachings of Kenyon and brought them to the mainstream church. McConnell writes "Hagin unknowingly incorporated these cultic, metaphysical ideas into the contemporary Faith movement." (6) He also writes "Kenyon may have authored the teachings on which the Faith movement is based, but Hagin is the man who fashioned these teachings into the fastest growing movement in charismatic Christendom. All of the major ministers of the Faith movement readily admit Hagin's tutelage. He is universally recognized in the movement as both a teacher and a prophet." (7)
From Hagin we get Oral Roberts; from Oral Roberts we get Kenneth Copeland; and from Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, and Hagin, the followers and teachers of the Faith movement mushroomed into what we have today.
Unlike the traditional view of atonement, the Word of Faith view is neither simple nor beautiful. Many Word of Faith teaches teach that Jesus had to die spiritually on the cross, that our redemption was not secured on the cross but in hell, and that Jesus had to be reborn in hell. (8)
According to Faith Theology, the work on the cross by Jesus was insufficient to atone for our sins. Jesus had to die spiritually and become sin. That is, He had to take on the nature of Satan. Benny Hinn says "Jesus Christ knew the only way He would stop Satan is by becoming one in nature with him. You say, 'What did you say? What blasphemy is this?' No, you hear this! He did not take my sin; He became my sin. Sin is the nature of hell. Sin is what made Satan . . . Jesus said, 'I'll be sin! I'll go to the lowest place! I'll go to the origin of it!' . . . Think about this: He became death, so dying man can live. He became sin, so sinners can be righteous in Him. He became one with the nature of Satan, so all those who had the nature of Satan can partake of the nature of God." (9)
Kenneth Hagin concurred with Hinn: "Spiritual death means something more than separation from God. Spiritual death also means having Satan's nature." (10) Hagin also writes "Jesus tasted death-spiritual death-for every man. Sin is more than a physical act; it is a spiritual act. He became what we were, then we become what He is. Jesus became sin. His spirit was separated from God. And He went down into hell in our place." (11)
Faith teachers claim scriptural support for Christ's spiritual death in 2 Cor. 5:21, which reads "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." This allegedly proves that Jesus did in fact become sin on our behalf. Kenyon supports the physical and spiritual deaths of Christ by using Isa. 53:9 which states "He was assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death." According to Kenyon, the Hebrew word for "death" here is plural, thus Jesus must have died more than one death. 1 Peter 3:18 is also used as support of this spiritual death doctrine. The phrase "He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit" is interpreted to mean that Christ must have been spiritually dead in order for Him be "made alive."
According to Faith teachers, the atoning work of Christ had to be completed in hell. The suffering and broken body on the cross was insufficient to reconcile us to God. Frederick K.C. Price writes: "Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on the cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid your price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God . . . . Satan and all the demons of hell thought that they had Him bound and they threw a net over Jesus and they dragged Him down to the very pit of hell itself to serve our sentence." (12)
Price is by no means alone. He represents the consensus among Word-Faith teachers. Kenneth Hagin writes "Down in the prison house of suffering-down in hell itself-Jesus satisfied the claims of Justice on the behalf of each one of us, because He died as our substitute." (13)
According to Kenneth Copeland "When Jesus cried, 'It is finished!' He was not speaking of the plan of redemption. There were still three days and nights to go through before He went to the throne . . . Jesus' death on the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption." (14)
The support this doctrine Biblically, Kenneth Hagin uses Acts 13:13. The passage reads "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second Psalm:'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You'" (KJV; emphasis mine). Of this passage Hagin writes "God in Heaven said, 'It is enough.' Then he raised Him up. He brought His spirit and soul up out of hell-He raised His body up from the grave-and He said, 'Thou are my son, THIS DAY have I begotten thee.'" (15) So according to Hagin, Acts 13:33 proves that Jesus was not God's son until after God raised Him from hell.
Hagin also uses Acts 2:27 to bolster his claim about Jesus entering hell. This passage is a quote from Ps. 16:10 and reads "For You will not leave my soul in Hades, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption" (KJV; emphasis mine). This allegedly, is evidence that Jesus' soul must have been in hell at some point and that God promised to not leave Him there.
Faith teachers also use Matthew 12:40 and Ephesians 4:9-10 to support the fact that Jesus went to hell. Matthew 12:40 states "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." According to Faith teachers interpretation of this passage, the phrase "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" is a reference to hell. Ephesians 4:9-10 reads "What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? ?He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe." Faith teachers would point to this as clear evidence that Christ went to hell between His death and resurrection.
Word-Faith teachers not only teach that Jesus had to go to hell to atone for own sins, but also that He won our sins based on a technicality. In hell, Satan and every demon tortured Christ's "emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit." (16) Since Jesus had not sinned, He did not belong in hell. By Satan taking Jesus to hell illegally, God seized the moment based on this technicality. Copeland describes what took place in hell: "that Word of the living God went down into that pit of destruction and charged the spirit of Jesus with resurrection power! Suddenly His twisted, death-wracked spirit began to fill out and come back to life. He began to look like something the devil had never seen before. He was literally being reborn before the devil's eyes. He began to flex His spiritual muscles . . . . Jesus was born again-the first-born from the dead." (17) It was at this point that Jesus whipped Satan in his own back yard and snatched Satan's keys and emerged from hell.
In addition to these scriptural references, Faith teachers also claim to find historical support in the fact that statements about Jesus in the Apostle's and Athanasian creeds use the phrase "descended into hell." (18)
So our salvation was not won on the cross, but in hell. It was in hell that Christ was tortured for our transgression by Satan and his horde of demons. However, God the Father tricked Satan based on a legal technicality. As a result, God used this violation by Satan as a means to redeem mankind and raised Christ up from hell to be reborn the Son of God.
In Faith theology, healing is just as much of the purpose of atonement as forgiveness of sin. (19) Jesus had to die first spiritually before He died physically because the source of sickness, sin, and poverty is spiritual and not physical. So the atonement does not only include doing away with sin but also doing away with sickness. Jesus not only took sin upon Himself but sickness. (20)
E. W. Kenyon talks about this healing "He [Jesus] was made sick for us and bore our sicknesses; when He rose, the sickness had been put away and He rose in resurrection life; free from the dominion of sickness.
Now, sickness hasn't any right to impose itself upon us and Satan hasn't any right to impose any disease upon us" (21) This is echoed by Kenneth Hagin. In his book The Name of Jesus, Hagin constantly refers to E. W. Kenyon and holds him up as an authority on the atonement. Hagin writes "We need to know that healing for our physical bodies is part and parcel of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He not only took our sins; He also took our infirmities and bore our sickness." (22)
Word-Faith teacher Frederick K.C. Price writes "Jesus became sick for you. The Bible says in Isaiah that on Calvary He was so disfigured, His body was so bent out of shape, His Spirit was so twisted, that He didn't even look like a man any more. Sin had crushed Him in His spirit, sickness and disease had taken hold of His body. He had cancer, tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, and everything else all at one time. All of it from the whole world, came on Him, and He took everybody's sickness, everybody's disease upon His own body, and the Bible says, He didn't even look like a human being anymore. He was totally disfigured." (23)
Copeland reiterates the fact that healing was provided at the Atonement "The basic principle of the Christian life is to know that God put our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief, and poverty on Jesus at Calvary. For Him to put any of this on us now would be a miscarriage of justice. Jesus was made a curse for us so that we can receive the blessing of Abraham." (24)
Benny Hinn writes, "The Bible declares that the work was done 2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now-He healed you 2,000 years ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith." (25)
The main proof text for the doctrine of healing provided at the atonement is Isa. 53:5 where Isaiah writes "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (KJV). In the words of Kenneth Hagin "I know that I am healed because the Word says that by His stripes I am healed."
Another proof text is Isa. 53:4. Kenyon uses this passage to support his position which he translates "He bore our sicknesses and carried our pains" (26) His reasoning is that just as our sins were done away with at the cross, so were our sickness since Isaiah prophesies here that Christ would take our infirmities.
Faith teachers have distorted the teaching of Scripture. They have turned the atonement of Christ into something that Scripture never allows. They have made a holy God into a demoniac, and Satan into a caretaker of hell. The clear teachings of Scripture have been traded in for a mystical, metaphysical salvation from the world of the cults.
There is simply no evidence to support the fact that Jesus had to die spiritually. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that our righteousness is imputed to us because of what Jesus did on the cross. Faith teachers take passages such as 2 Cor. 5:21 and pour their own esoteric meaning into them while ignoring passages of Scripture which clearly teach that we are made righteous by Christ's physical death.
In response to Benny Hinn that "He did not take away my sin; He became my sin," Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus did in fact take away our sins. John writes "Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin" (1 John. 3:4-5). John also writes "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John. 1:29). The writer of Hebrews added this: "so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people" (Heb. 9:28). Hinn is simply wrong. His view is opposed to the obvious teaching of Scripture.
In response to 1 Peter 3:18 being used to prove that Christ died spiritually, the text says absolutely nothing about a spiritual death. In fact it clearly says "put to death in the body," indicating that Jesus' sacrifice was physical. The passage is communicating the fact that His spirit departed at His death on the cross and returned and gave life back to His body at the resurrection, hence the term "made alive by the Spirit."
In respond to using Isa. 53:9 and the plurality of the Hebrew word for death as a proof text of Christ dying twice, it should first be noted that the whole second death theory is based on a single one word in a single text. D. R. McConnell communicates the sentiments of at least one scholar "any doctrine that can claim only one proof-text probably can claim none." (27) Furthermore, in Hebrew plural nouns express majesty, rank, excellence, magnitude, and intensity. Thus in this case the plural form of the noun was used to communicate the fact that the death was a particularly violent one. (28)
Word-Faith teacher's use of 2 Cor. 5:21 to support the fact that Jesus was transformed on the cross is just as unconvincing. When Paul said "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us," he does not mean that Jesus literally became sin. In the words of Dr. Norman Geisler "Jesus was always without sin actually, but he was made to be sin for us judicially. That is, by his death on the cross, he paid the penalty for our sins and thereby canceled the debt of sin against us. So, while Jesus never committed a sin personally, he was made to be sin for us substitutionally." (29) Hank Hanegraaff puts it this way "While practically He was perfect and sinless, positionally He was accounted as sinful in that all of our sin was laid to His account. Conversely, while we are practically sinners, all of His righteousness is imputed to those who believe. Thus, through Christ's atoning sacrifice, we are accounted as positionally righteous before God" (emphasis Hank Hanegraaff). (30) Furthermore, the word "sin" in this instance is used as a metonym (a word or phrase substituted for another word of phrase). Expositor T.J. Crawford writes "there can be no doubt that the expression is metonymical, since it is impossible that Christ, or any other person, could be literally sin." (31) Moreover, Christ as God is immutable. We know this from Heb. 13:8 "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." For Christ to become sin would be for Him to change in His very nature-contrary to Scripture. Finally, to read this as Faith teachers would contradict clear teachings of Scripture: such as "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). Col. 1:22 says "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." The teaching in this passage could not be clearer. We are made righteous by the perfect physical sacrifice of Christ.
Faith teachers fail to understand the Levitical backdrop of the sacrificial system and the Old Testament concept of substitutionary atonement. In the Levitical concept of substitionary atonement, the sacrifice had to be perfect and holy. Any blemish would disqualify the animal. The animals chosen for sin offering were to be bull "without defect" (Lev. 4:3), a goat "without defect" (Lev. 4:23), and a lamb "without defect" (Lev. 4:32). This transference was symbolic, not literal. In Faith theology, the sacrifice became unholy. In the Levitical system the opposite happened. It became holy and anyone who touched or ate it also became holy. In the words of D. R. McConnell "The sacrificial animal did not become sin; sin was symbolically imputed to it. It was a substitute for sin: a holy offering that atoned for sin by virtue of its perfection and consecration to the Lord" (32) (emphasis D.R. McConnell). Scripture teaches that Jesus' sacrifice was a fit substitutionary offering because it was a sinless offering. Peter draws his inference from the Levitical system when he writes "with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ."
In response to Hagin's comment that Jesus did not become the Son of God until after His stay in hell; we see at the transfiguration that Peter, James, and John heard God say "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." (Luke 9:35). Again at the baptism of Christ "And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased'" (Mark 1:11). Both of these incidents are before the cross. Hagin's assertion that Jesus did not become the Son of God until after being raised from hell is simply not true.
Hagin's attempt to use Acts 2:27 to support his view that Jesus went to hell also fails. Although the KJV reads "you will not leave my soul in Hades," this need not be the proper translation. As noted by The Bible Knowledge Commentary, "The word translated grave in verses 27 and 31 is hades, which means either the grave (as here) or the underworld of departed spirits." (33) In fact, the NIV reads "because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay." Translating the word "grave" is more consistent with the immediate context as well as Scripture as a whole.
When Faith teachers use Jesus' saying in Matthew 12:40 that He will be in the "heart of the earth for three days and three nights," they read into the text something it simply does not say. Heart of the earth merely refers to the time of Jesus' burial in the grave. (34)
In regard to Ephesians 4:9-10 as proof that Jesus went to hell, the verse proves no such thing. In the words of Dr. Geisler "Descending into the lower parts of the earth" is not a reference to hell, but to the grave. Even a woman's womb is described as 'lowest parts of the earth' (Ps. 139:15). The phrase simply means caves, graves, or enclosures on the earth, as opposed to higher parts, like mountains. Besides, hell itself is not in the lower parts of the earth-it is 'under the earth'" (Phil. 2:10)." (35)
Although it is true, as Faith teachers contend, that the phrase "descended into hell" does appear in the Apostles and Athanasian Creeds, this phrase was not in the original creeds. They did not become a part of the creeds until the forth century.(36) Furthermore, it is the Word of God that is inspired, not the creeds which are merely human invention.
Faith teachers ignore the clear Biblical evidence that Jesus did not go to hell at all, much less to secure our salvation. Jesus told the thief on the cross "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Jesus did not say "in three days you will be with me in paradise." Paul writes in 2 Cor. 12:2-3 that paradise is in the third heaven, certainly not in the bowels or center of the earth. Luke 23:46 says "Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last." Jesus commits His spirit to His Father, not to Satan. In John 19:30, Jesus said "it is finished." The Greek word used here is tetelestai which means "paid in full." When Jesus uttered these words "He meant His redemptive work was completed. He had been made sin for people (2 Cor. 5:21) and had suffered the penalty of God's justice which sin deserved." (37) There is simply no way for us to exegete from this passage that "the cross was only the beginning of the complete work of redemption" as Kenneth Copeland would have us to believe. Finished means finished and this is consistent with Scripture. Hank Hanegraaff put it this way "It is at the cross-not in hell-that your salvation is either won or lost . . . . These teachings have transferred the saving work of Christ from the cross to the deepest dungeons of hell" (emphasis Hank Hanegraaff). (38)
Faith teachers also have an unbiblical view of hell. Copeland interprets the phrase in Matthew 25:42 "into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" to indicate that hell is a place being run by Satan and his demons. This is simply a misinterpretation of the text. It is true that hell was created for Satan and his demons but as a place of torment for them. Satan, his demons, and all the unsaved will suffer the same fate-the lake of fire. Hell is not a place that Satan and his demons torment people; it is a place where they themselves are tormented at the appropriate time at the end of the age. Hell is no more run by demons then it is unsaved humans. God rules heaven and hell.
Christ achieved the forgiveness of all on the cross through the suffering of His body. Hell played no role in our redemption
While ultimate physical healing is in the atonement (a healing we will enjoy in our resurrection bodies), healing of our bodies prior to our death and resurrection is not guaranteed in the atonement. (39)
Using Isa. 53:5 to demonstrate that the atonement includes healing fails. First, the Hebrew word for healed (raphah) often refers to spiritual healing as can be demonstrated in Jer. 3:22 "Return, O faithless sons, I will heal [raphah] your faithlessness." "Behold, we come to You; For You are the Lord our God" (NASB). Here God is clearly talking about spiritual healing. Second, the context points to spiritual healing. Isaiah says in this passage "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;" all point to a spiritual context. Word-Faith teachers have simply taken this passage out of context and improperly made it a pre-text. The best way to interpret Scripture is to let Scripture interpret itself. Peter did just that when he wrote "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24, emphasis added). Peter makes it obvious that the wounds that are healed are spiritual not physical. (40)
Third, since salvation and healing are both included in this passage, it stands to reason that they are both accessed the same way. And since Faith teachers maintain that faith is required to access healing, if one cannot exercise enough faith to be healed then it is just as likely that one cannot exercise enough faith to be saved from their sins. And if one cannot exercise enough faith to be saved then he is destined for hell. (41)
Finally, the verse preceding Isa. 53:5 does speak of physical healing. Isa. 53:4 says "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows." However, this prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled by Jesus during His earthly ministry. In another example of Scripture interpreting Scripture, Matthew writes "When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: 'He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases'" (Matt. 8:17). Thus, the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled.
The Bible contains a number of examples of righteous people who were not healed. Paul admits that "Trophimus I left sick at Miletus" (2 Tim. 4:20). Paul had to rely on God's mercy that his friend Epaphroditus' deathly illness had run its course sparing his life (Phil. 3:25-26). It appears that Paul was unable to help Epaproditus himself. Moreover, Paul was unable to heal himself. In Gal. 4:13-14, he writes "As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself." Paul also suffered from a "thorn in the flesh" which he unsuccessfully petitioned to have the Lord remove (2 Cor. 12:7-9).
Neither the example of Paul nor anyone else indicated that they were under the impression that healing here now was guaranteed to all or that it was in any way associated with Christ's work on the cross. They simply accepted their situations and trusted in God's grace for sustenance. (42)
Although God does not guarantee healing for all believers, at least not in this life, all believers will eventually be healed of all physical aliments as well as spiritual aliments. But just as we still possess a sinful nature, we also possess a body still in bondage to decay. The perfection of all things was brought about the work on the cross; it just has not yet manifested itself and will not until the return of our Lord.
The history of man is the history of redemption. In the beginning, man was in perfect fellowship with God. Man sinned and that fellowship was broken. The Bible gives the account of man's journey back into perfect relationship with his creator. This is the story of atonement. Under the Mosaic Law, man tried to earn that relationship with God through the sacrifice of animals. The sacrifice had to be perfect and without defect. When done correctly, the sacrifice atoned for the sins of men. This was only a shadow of the true Atonement God had prepared before the creation of the world. That atonement manifested itself through the life and death of Christ Jesus upon the cross on Calvary.
The story of atonement in Scripture is simple and beautiful. The wages of sin is death. All men sin and deserve death. God in His infinite mercy provided the sacrifice, perfect and without blemish. Jesus died on the cross in place of us. He was our substitute. He died upon the cross that we may have eternal life.
Under Word of Faith theology, the beautiful doctrine and expression of ultimate love has been marred and made ugly. In Faith theology, Christ was not the perfect sacrifice. He was transformed into a demoniac. He was not God incarnate, creator of the universe; He was a weak man with a weak spirit tortured and made fun of by the devil and the demons of hell.
Fortunately, the Word Faith view of the Atonement is wrong. The entire concept is based on cultic influences. The attempts to twist Scripture are obvious and without weight. The interpretations of Scriptures are feeble and without foundation. Christ being God never took on a sin nature. How could the unchangeable God change in His very nature? Christ never went to hell. How could the very creator of all things, including the angelic beings, subject Himself to their torture when the demons who saw Him during His earthly ministry begged him not to torment them before their time? Christ did not guarantee physical healing for all. We are still living inside our sinful body with our sinful natures and are still subject to the laws of decay.
The cross was a triumph over Satan because Christ reversed the curse of death. However, this triumph had nothing to do with some mythological battle in hell. Satan rules nothing. He has no kingdom of hell over which he is sovereign. He exists solely at the pleasure of God.
Through the cross God has brought all things back to Himself. He has reconciled those who love Him and given them eternal life. Those who reject Him will be banished from His presence forever. This includes both people and demons. All this was accomplished with the finished work which was finished on the cross. In the words of our Lord, "It is finished."
1. Charles Caldwell Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine [electronic ed.] (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995).
5. D.R McConnell, A Different Gospel, updated ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 25.
6. Ibid., 24.
7. Ibid., 55.
8. Hank Hanegraff, Christianity In Crisis (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 153.
9. Benny Hinn, "Benny Hinn" program on TBN (15 December 1990); quoted in Hanegraaff, 155-6.
10. Kenneth E Hagin, The Name of Jesus (Tulsa: RHEMA Bible Church, 1979), 31.
11. Ibid., 31-2.
12. Frederick K.C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith Messenger (June 1980); quoted in Hanegraaff, 163.
13. Hagin, 33.
14. Kenneth Copeland, "Jesus-Our Lord of Glory," Believer's Voice of Victory 10, 4 (April 1982):3; quoted in Hanegraaff, 164.
15. Hagin, 33.
16. Kenneth Copeland, "Believers Voice of Victory" program (21 April 1991); quoted in Hanegraaff, 170.
17. Kenneth Copeland, "The Price of it All," Believer's Voice of Victory 19, 9 (September 1991):4-6 ;quoted in Hanegraaff, 170.
18. Hanegraaff, 165.
19. McConnell, 149.
20. Tom Smail, Andrew Walker, and Nigel Wright, The Love of Power or The Power of Love (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1994), 81.
21. E.W. Kenyon, The Wonderful Name of Jesus, 20th ed. (Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society, 1964), 29.
22. Hagin, 122.
23. Frederick K.C. Price, Is Healing For All (Tulsa: Harrison House, 1976), 119.
24. Kenneth Copeland, The Troublemaker (Fort Worth: Kenneth Copeland Publications, n.d. [ca. 1970]),6; quoted in Hanegraaff, 241.
25. Benny Hinn, Rise & Be Healed! (Orlando: Celebration Publishers, 1991),44; quoted in Hanegraaff, 242.
26. Kenyon, 29.
29. Norman L. Geisler and Ron Rhodes, When Cultists Ask : A Popular Handbook on Cultic Misinterpretations (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1997), 244.
30. Hanegraaff, 152.
31. Thomas J. Crawford, The Doctrine of Holy Spirit Scripture Respecting the Atonement (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1954); quoted Hanegraaff, 159.
32. McConnell, 125.
33. Stanley D. Toussaint, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary [electronic ed.] (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983-c1985).
34. Hanegraaff, 166.
35. Geisler, Rhodes, 253.
36. Hanegraaff, 165.
37. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary [electronic ed.] (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983-c1985).
38. Hanegraaff, 152.
39. Geisler and Rhodes, 81.
40. Hanegraaff, 250.
42. Geisler and Rhodes, 81.