Devotional - Joseph Prince Mangles Another Bible Story To Prop Up Hyper-grace Deception

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Apr 23, 2014.

  1. But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether yousold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. - Acts 5: 1-11 (ESV)

    The Word of God is not meant to be handled carelessly. It is not meant to be approached as a means to prove something but rather to learn something. To hear God speak to us, through His Word, into our situations. Doctrine is formed carefully and methodically. It has been formed over the centuries. I am always grieved when I hear someone randomly dismiss such great interpretive tools such as the well respected commentaries we have. Not that we use sources outside of Biblical text to form doctrine, but rather to confirm, enlighten, and assist us in our Berean habits. I have also been rightly accused of sometimes writing as if everyone reading will understand the terms I throw around. So I start this devotional with a definition, taken from Wikipedia:

    Eisegesis: is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. This is commonly referred to as reading into the text. The act is often used to "prove" a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda.

    Eisegesis is a very dangerous way to approach dividing the Word of God. Some people forget but the Bible was once used to defend slavery in this country. It was used to defend segregation. Today it is even used to defend sin. Such is the folly of the hyper-grace movement; of which Joseph Prince is king. Now, before the adherents of Prince fly into a tizzy realize that I am speaking about what he teaches. His sincerity is irrelevant. How nice a guy he might be is irrelevant. His charitable works are irrelevant. The only thing that should matter to us as Christians is his teaching. Paul warned Timothy to guard only two things closely - his life and his doctrine - because the salvation of his listeners was at stake. I will stand before God one day and answer for what I taught, as will Prince. None of me - all of Thee Lord.

    I have consistently said that the teachings of Joseph Prince are some of the most dangerous heresies today. One should be able to look at the teachings of a Benny Hinn and realize they are false. One should be able to see through the Joel Osteens of the world. That is because so much of what they say and teach is so obviously wrong. Hyper grace however has quite a bit right. It is very Jesus focused. It speaks reverently about the unbelievable grace of God. But coursing through what is right is a sliver of leaven that will absolutely kill you.

    Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. - 1Corinthians 5: 6-8 (ESV)

    Joseph Prince claims a divine instruction to bring a new gospel to the people of God. As with many false teachers today, the divine instruction card insulates him from criticisms from many people. How can you argue with someone who is claiming God told him! According to Paul, any gospel different from the real Gospel should be considered anathema, but Prince coasts right by that because the core message tickles the ears so well. The essentials of hyper-grace is that Christians need not concern themselves with the Law anymore because Jesus work on the cross already paid for all of our sins - past, present and future. I have heard hyper grace preachers go as far as to say that Christians need not ever even bother with the Ten Commandments again! They are always sure to add that this does not mean we should sin at will but it is lip service at best because the core result of such preaching is to encourage sin!

    At first this teaching is easy to support as there are plenty of Bible verses about the awesome grace of God. In fact, debating a hyper grace believer can be very frustrating because all they will do is throw every verse that has the word grace in it, while asking you why you don't believe it. The dilemma for Joseph Prince and hyper grace is you cannot preach week in and week out on it without rapidly running out of passages from which to preach. When I sit down to write a devotional I may have a topic in mind but God can always change my agenda through my reading His Word! I remember once I sat down to do a devotional on righteous anger because...I was angry. By the time God was done with me I had a fantastic devotional about how my flesh can convince my spirit that my carnal anger has something to do with God when it really doesn't.

    This is not how hyper grace preaching works however. Prince has a pre-determined opinion about God and the Bible. He admits that he believes God verbally told him to bring this great revelation of grace to the masses. So instead of approaching the Word looking to hear from God; Prince approaches the Word to prove that his position is correct. As the definition of eisegesis states; he is looking for confirmation bias in accordance with his pre-held agenda. It has led to some scary interpretations from Prince in the past. One time he gave a sermon where he interpreted the verse about Jesus spewing the warm water from his mouth to be about law and grace. He dismissed the previous interpretations, which had stood the test of time over the centuries, for his new grace interpretations. He was of course ridiculously wrong but he had to find other passages to prop up his gospel. So we came to a recent sermon where he preached on the 99 and 1. As with so many of his sermons, there was a lot good but then he jumped off the theological cliff to prop up his gospel. His claim was that because the lost sheep never "repented" he was confused why the story concludes that there will be much rejoicing in heaven over one person who comes to repentance. Because he claimed, repentance means "to consent to be loved." Never mind that the story is an obvious allegory about how we, like the one sheep, can go astray. Never mind that it is an obvious story about the worth each one of us has to God. Prince had to bypass that to again prop up hyper grace theology and it is dangerous. How so? If you believe that repentance is merely consenting to be loved you will find out on the last day that Christ does not know you.

    So we come to the story today, which again highlights the problems of approaching the Bible with an intent on eisegesis instead of sound biblical interpretation. Through an article by Dr. Michael Brown, I came across a sermon by Prince, from apparently a few years ago where he asserted that Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5 were obviously unbelievers. If you know the story and are confused you understand my reaction as well. We must understand that in order for hyper grace to stand, Ananias and Sapphira could not be believers because in the world of Joseph Prince, believers cannot be judged again by God due to the work of the cross. I included the entire story as the key verses and while I do not usually use this large a text I felt it was important to see what the Bible says about these two people. They are mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. What can we rightfully conclude from the text? The first interesting thing is that the chapter starts with the word "but", indicating it is a continuation. Remember the chapters and verses were not added to the Bible until many centuries after the text were written. When Luke wrote Acts it was one story; not 28 chapters. The previous section, which is precursor to the story of Ananias and Sapphira is this:

    Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. - Acts 4: 32-37 (ESV)

    "Now the full number of those who believed" is how this section starts. It then proceeds to tell how they all sacrificed what they owned personally for the common good of all believers. Luke then gives a comparison of believers. One is Barnabas who sold a field and brought the money to the apostles. How do we know it is a comparison? Because of the word BUT, starting chapter five and the account of Ananias and Sapphira. There is no question they were part of the full number who believed because they are discussed within the same train of thought. There is no question Luke uses a comparison of an honest believer giving the proceeds of a sale and a dishonest one. Barnabas contrasted with Ananias and Sapphira. If Luke wanted to make a point about unbelievers infiltrating the new church and pretending to be in Christ he certainly would not have included this story attached to such a vivid description of obvious believers! But there is more evidence.

    Peter says to Ananias - how is it that Satan has so filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. Who has the Holy Spirit? Believers of course! Unbelievers do not lie to the Holy Spirit. They do not believe in the Holy Spirit. Then there is the moment of death. The text reads that Ananias fell down and died when he "heard these words." What words? The immediately proceedings words were - "You have not lied to man but to God." Once again, an unbeliever does not lie to God because he does not even believe in the one true God to begin with! Yet he hears these words, is confronted by his egregious sin, and dies instantly. Some say that this seems extreme or harsh but the truth is that it is just. It is what Ananias deserved. The real miracle is that God does not step in every time we lie to Him and render judgment right there and then. But the writer Luke does not leave it there. He shows us why he made the contrast to begin with when he concludes the story:

    And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. - Acts 5: 11 (ESV)

    I know fearing the Lord does not fit well into hyper-grace teaching where everything is puppies and rainbows. But that only serves as another reminder to the dangers of this teaching. It is not always puppies and rainbows. God takes this very seriously. The message He was sending through these events was that the people need to take Him very seriously. The Bible says to work out our salvation with fear and trembling not kittens and unicorns. The real problem with hyper grace is it takes a core element of our faith, the awesome grace of God and it cheapens it. It reduces it to propping man up at the expense of God's glory. Prince gave himself away in his sermon however. When he was mocking a traveling preacher who was warning people that the days of Ananias and Sapphira would come back one day he laughingly said this:

    "That's some way to grow a church...come to our church - you just might drop dead."

    This is the point lost on the seeker friendly, purpose driven, hyper grace heresies. It is not about building a church. It is about building the Kingdom. It is not about you - it is about God. In all of His grace and in all of His wrath. What Prince reveals here is not so much that there is a problem with the true Gospel because there is none. The problem is that he can't sell it. What he fails to realize is that he does not have to sell it. He just has to preach it. All of it. Even the parts where a just God acts justly. Even the parts that may make people take a serious look at themselves and what they are holding back from God.

    Because the story of Ananias is rich with theology for the believer. It is a reminder of the awesome power of God. It is a hard lesson teaching us that we cannot always put off repentance. That sometimes, our life will be required of us and we will give an account. I personally have written before how I believe Ananias and Sapphira were the first true religious spirits in the church. Always wanting to appear more pious than they really were. Always wanting to appear super-spiritual. It is easy to see that the religious spirits of Ananias and Sapphira are still quite active today in the church. When you consider their story and go back into Acts 4, there's no doubt that'll preach! But you cannot approach this story or any part of the Bible looking for confirmation bias to support your pre-determined opinions or pet theologies. Because not only do you change what God is saying but you prevent your listeners from hearing what God intended. I wouldn't want to answer for that.

    Prince is not the only one. I have seen charlatan prosperity preachers dare to use the story of Ananias and Sapphira to promote tithing! This story has nothing to do with money or tithing. It has equally nothing to do with God punishing unbelievers and protecting the church. In his sermon Prince actually said this story "consoles me" because it shows that God protects His church and that in "this age of grace" that God will deal with anyone who tries to harm the church. Apparently Pastor Prince does not own a television or computer. Churches across this world are being destroyed and the Christians martyred for their faith. I guess that doesn't fit in well with the pie in the sky hyper grace theology so better to turn a blind eye to it and pretend it doesn't exist. Better to take a biblical story that has withstood centuries of examination and have the gall to say that you know better than everyone who has ever come before you. I have news for Mr. Prince. Even though God still deals with the sins of man either through His decretive will or His permissive will, He does still protect His church; His bride. That however should not be a point of consolation to Joseph Prince. It should be a point of fear.

    Reverend Anthony Wade - April 23, 2014

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