"Wells Without Water" by Tricia Tillin
The Errors of the Word-of-Faith Movement (Part Three of Four)
This four-part study is designed to demonstrate, using verbatim transcripts of the tapes of Kenneth Copeland, some of the errors in the "Positive Confession" movement.
You may find it hard to believe some of the things Copeland is reported as saying! But trust me, there has been NO tampering with the tapes. Not only did Copeland say these things in the 1980's when this study was first created (as a tape set called "Wells Without Water" on the Banner Ministries tape list) but he continues to reiterate them up to this very moment.
So do many, many others in the Word of Faith leadership.
These teachers are totally unrepentant of their heresies, despite having been approached by countless brethren who tried to point out their unscriptural teachings. They continue to teach doctrines that are dishonest in their scriptural content, deceptive in their outcome, and destructive to the genuine faith of a Christian.
This is the third study in the series "WELLS WITHOUT WATER" which is looking at the Word of Faith or Positive Confession teachings. As I explained in part one, Kenneth Copeland's messages have been chosen as examples because he is the most well-known faith minister in this country and his teaching is representative of the whole movement. As I also explained, I don't intend to criticise or condemn every single thing the Copelands say or do. Some of their teaching is sound. In any case you wouldn't expect false teaching to be 100% error. If it were it would never be accepted in Christian circles at all.
Nevertheless, a significant proportion of all these messages is unscriptural and misleading and it only takes a little leaven to leaven the lump.
In Part One, we looked at the forces that Copeland said were implanted in the human spirit and available for our use. Part Two was about the "Jesus died spiritually" teaching which is perhaps the most controversial of all the faith doctrines. This says that Jesus became a lost soul in hell because he had received the sin nature of the devil and was literally recreated as the first born-again man.
Well, in this third part we're going to see how spiritual power is put into action by using certain laws in order to overcome sin and death.
The tape series from which these messages of Kenneth Copeland are taken was based on Romans chapter 8 which says 'there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit, for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death'.
Right away we can see two important features of living victoriously as a Christian. It says to those who are IN Christ Jesus, abiding in HIS life and victory, living in Him and also who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.
That is: those who are not following the dictates of their naturally selfish lives but who are obeying the voice of God and letting Him lead them.
This means the emphasis, as always, is on Jesus the victor and ourselves as His servants. We are simply living out of the victory of Jesus. I've said this by way of an introduction because the whole content of Copeland's message emphasises the law part of that scripture instead of the Jesus part. He seems to see the law of sin and death and the law of the spirit as universal spiritual laws that we can learn like scientific formulae. But the law of sin and death simply means as fallen human beings we inevitably sin and die and there is no help for us outside of God.
The law of the spirit of life-in-Christ means exactly the opposite. Once we're born again the Christ-life imparted to our spirits by the Holy Spirit will inevitably cause us to hate sin, and will inevitably preserve our souls from hell and death.
As Christians we're destined to glory but not by the action of scientific laws. What the Bible refers to above are statements of fact. The idea that the world and spiritual reality is run by universal cosmic laws is not a Christian one, because Christians know there is an almighty and personal Father existing outside the world system, One who is Lord of all, the Creator. However, the universal laws idea is a belief of many heretical cults.
For example one of the founders of a cult called Unity School of Christianity says "the mental and spiritual world or realms are governed by laws that are just as real and unfailing as the laws that govern the natural world. Certain conditions of mind are so connected with certain results that the two are inseparable".
In other words, the laws of the universe dictate that success is inevitable so long as you think and speak the right words.
This is precisely what Word of Faith teachers tell us. It's all a matter of learning about spiritual laws and then putting them into effect. Christian living becomes like using a light-switch e.g. if you press the right buttons you get a guaranteed result. If you do certain things and say certain things you cannot fail to dominate your circumstances, they say.
If this were so, you can see that our success could be unlimited. We could learn to change the universe. Even death could be overcome by this process and we shall see that the Word of Faith ministers are beginning to hint at it even now. The idea that certain spiritually advanced Christians will eventually overcome death has been around since the turn of the century and it is coming back into vogue but you have to listen carefully to get the drift of this teaching. It is there if you listen closely.
This first portion emphasises the importance of learning the spiritual laws and then using faith filled words to activate those laws.
Copeland: "Hear what the Spirit is saying to you tonight. If you will be attentive and listen carefully, what the Spirit of God is going to share with you tonight will change anything in the world order. It will change anything in your life. Now, if you will listen attentively to what I'm going to share with you, you can use it to receive from God and meet any need and change anything that is in your life. I like something, a phrase that brother Kenneth Hagin used that was in one of the first tapes of his that I ever heard and it really got my attention. He said, you can write your own ticket with God. Well, I'd never heard anything like that, nobody ever said that to me and it got my attention, boy, I mean, I can write my own ticket with God. I'd always heard that God wrote the ticket and I just got whatever was passed out you know.
Everything is governed by law. There is a law that governs sin and death and there is a law that governs the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, nothing happens by chance in this earth. Well if he broke his power over death then who's got the power of death? The Bible says the power or the authority of death is in the tongue. "What? The power of life and death is in the tongue. I just cannot accept that!" I know it. But we are the generation that's gonna have to start accepting that, coz some generation somewhere is gonna have to stand up before God and be responsible for preaching the message that puts the last enemy of God underfoot, which is death, Hallelujah! And you and I are that generation, so we might as well get at it.
Those things are governed by law and the thing that governs those laws are words, say it with me, we've been saying it in our daytime class 'faith filled words', say that, 'faith filled words dominate the laws of death', now say it again 'faith filled words dominate the laws of death'. Now why do faith filled words dominate the laws of death? Now analyse that just a moment. You remember what we read in Romans 8? 'For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death'. Faith filled words are the control factor of spiritual law. Hate filled words and fear filled words are the control factor of the law of sin and death. Fear activates the devil the way faith activates God".
You can see here the emphasis has shifted away from God's will over to MY will. The shift is made to sound so scriptural and acceptable that you'd hardly notice it. The idea of getting God to dance to our tune is all part of the system. Once we've reduced God to an impersonal force, and spiritual life to a set of laws that we can learn to manipulate (the force) then of course the game is all about writing your own ticket with God, not listening to and obeying Him.
Though Romans 8 tells us that the law of the spirit of life is just that, the law of the spirit, not our own, it's here turned into a spiritual law, one we can learn to operate for our own benefit.
And what is it that supposedly operates these spiritual laws? Words. The whole Word of Faith doctrine rests on the vital importance of words. The power is not God's but the power of words and God has to use words to utilise His own power they say. And we were saved by the power of the words too according to this next extract.
Copeland: "You picked words that lined up with the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, you believed in your heart that God had raised Him from the dead and you confessed Him as Lord with your mouth and when you did it set in motion a part of the law of the spirit of life called regeneration, it's called the new birth, it's called salvation, you were made a new creature in Christ Jesus by that law and when it did, that law then through those words, those words activated the law, and the law itself dominated the law of sin and death.
God said in verse three: "let there be light", or "light be" and there was light. So what happened? The earth had come through a time of being without form and void, darkness was on the face of the deep. If you'll keep reading you'll find out, most of you know, that there had been a flood, flooded this whole planet and killed everything on it. Now I'm not talking about the flood of Noah, this was before Noah's flood, Noah's flood was the second flood recorded in the bible and God separated those waters and put this firmament in there that we know now. Now notice this, light changed things. The force of light, the energy force of light, changed, it drove out the darkness and gave form and life, it was no longer void, it gave form and life to the earth, ain't that true?
Now look at the book of Hebrews chapter 11 and it explains how it was done. Verse 1 of chapter 11 of Hebrews, 'now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, for by it (or by faith) the elders obtained a good report... Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made out of things which do appear...' or in other words everything we see was not made out of something you could see, was made out of something you can't see, was made out of faith.
Faith, the force inside the words, that release the power, that brought matter into existence, was the word of God. Faith filled words dominated the law of death, or darkness, or being without form and void. Voidness - that's death isn't it?"
Notice that it wasn't God who brought you to new life in Christ but the law. The law that was activated by your words. It was an impersonal transaction. You just said the right words. Even worse, God himself has to do the same thing. It wasn't the Spirit who recreated the formless earth but the "energy force of light" and that force was put into operation by the faith in Gods' words: "let there be light".
The scripture in Hebrews 11:3 is then made to sound as if faith was the power of creation but if you read that verse for yourself you'll see that it says 'by faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God.' This means, it is BY FAITH that we understand it, not, as Copeland says, 'by faith the worlds were framed' = the worlds were framed by faith.
Also, it should be said that many other scriptures show Jesus Christ the pre-existent God as being the Creator of this world. Jesus Christ is the Word of God of course, and in the verse we refer to, the worlds are framed by the Word of God, that is, Jesus Christ.
You see how scriptures are twisted to make the doctrine sound biblical. We must always check up on the scriptures people use to support their beliefs because they may be using them wrongly. Even Satan used scripture to tempt Jesus, and he still uses scripture today to enhance his own lies.
It should be plain enough that God does not have to work by faith or to have faith in His own words. For a start, in what would He place His faith? There is nothing greater than God. What is God going to believe in? Secondly, God knows everything. All there is to know God knows, therefore, what need does God have of faith since He knows everything?
There was never any doubt in His mind that that universe would obey His word because He is God. So God is not using a spiritual law or a force of faith or any such technique. The power resides in God Himself and when He speaks, the universe obeys simply because He is God.
If we were to speak the anointed words given to us by God the Holy Spirit then what we said would also come to pass. But why? Not because we spoke, not even because we had faith, but because we spoke the words of God.
So if anyone is going to dominate the circumstances it is God - not me, not you. God has the power. God has the right motivation and God alone has the knowledge that enables Him to direct our lives. We don't have that.
Copeland's teaching, however, describes a God who is forced to submit to certain laws once they're set into motion - laws as fixed as the law of physics:
Copeland: Faith will move God because certain laws are in motion. It looks like God is a respector of persons but He isn't. He's a respector of faith which operates in law. He respects the law. He respects the law of physics. Now, I don't--- there are a few occupations that in order to live you have to respect certain laws, but I don't know any occupation, any order, that has to respect the law of physics any more than the electrician. He's got to respect those laws or, you know, we're gonna send his saddle home someday if he don't. Another profession that has to respect certain laws is a pilot. Boy, I mean there's certain things you do and certain things you don't do. You have to respect the laws that govern what you're doing, because you've got one set of laws superseding another set of laws, and any time there is any power involved, when power is released, governed by law, it is a blessing. When power is released when it is not governed by law, or another way to say it is without proper demand being made on it, it destroys. Electricity released without law is lightning. It'll kill you."
So you see God is governed by law according to this teaching. That means if we say the right words with enough faith in them God must obey. He's obliged to respect the laws of faith.
Copeland now goes on to illustrate this with three bible stories. He says David slew Goliath with his words, because "he said he would defeat him". Once he confessed his victory there was no way David could fail to kill Goliath.
In the same way the woman with the issue of blood said she would be healed and Jairus' father said Jesus would heal his daughter.
In each case it was the fact of their having made a positive confession of faith that supposedly brought about the healing. But was God forced to kill Goliath? Was Jesus forced to do healings by mans words? Wasn't it rather that they responded to the heartfelt plea and the faith that accompanied it? Though God is not obliged to hear anyone, no matter how much he asks, He will respond to faith because He is a loving, giving Father, but making God subject to a law means He is obliged to do miracles to order whether He wants to or not.
God would have to heal the most blasphemous sinner so long as he said the right words in faith. This reduces God to a push button robot. It takes the control out of His hands and makes man the master of his own destiny.
Anyone, however irreligious or sinful could learn this method of getting God to dance to his tune. What a mockery of the gospel. The illustrations Copeland uses, electricity, gravity and later he uses water as an example, all show the same thing, that God's power is supposed to be as fixed as a natural law and we only need to learn these laws to know how to operate the power.
It also means that Satan's power is the same power but wrongly directed. Just as electricity can harm as well as heal, so Copeland says, God's power without law will destroy. So, you see, even evil and sin and disease and death is God's power, this force that they believe in. And the only problem is that through ignorance of the spiritual laws we have failed to control our circumstances.
Copeland: "What they're talking about, so their minds were not running in line with the laws that govern their environment, so the environment always governed them, they never governed the environment at all. Now this is the way Satan's been getting away with what he's been getting away with in the church. He's been governing the body of Christ when he don't even have any right to it and doesn't have any power to because of our ignorance. But we build up all these ideas in our religions trying to answer certain things not knowing what the laws were that governed it or how they worked if we did know what they were. We never dreamed that it was words, yet we knew it was words that governed everything else. You got outside the church door you didn't have any trouble with it anywhere else, you get inside that church and words all of a sudden meant a different thing, because of religion, and so the devil governed us because we didn't know the laws and by not knowing the laws we were governed by our surroundings, instead of governing our surroundings and doing what Jesus said, cast him out. "
If adverse circumstances are the result of ignorance then what do we need in order to dominate the circumstances? Do we need a deliverance out of the kingdom of darkness? Do we need the power of God to reach down and bring us out? No, it seems what we most need here is revelation knowledge.
We apparently need knowledge to enlighten our minds and show us the spiritual laws of the universe so we can change everything around us. It's not a deliverance out of the world but a domination of the world that Copeland is preaching. It's not God's power that delivers us but we find a way to use power to dominate all that threatens us. As a method it's as reliable as using any other mechanical device, he says.
Copeland: "I realise that's easier said than done but I'm fixing to give you some things in a moment --- I told you already it'll overcome anything in your life, it'll overcome grief, it'll overcome sorrow, it'll overcome financial trouble, it'll overcome anything there is, because there is no law bigger than any of us.
I'm gonna show you how to put your faith on it like putting your hand on the gear shift in your car. When somebody starts teaching you how to drive, I don't know how they taught you, but they probably took your hand and put it on and said "now this is the wheel you know, this is the gear shift and this is the ignition key", and go through all of that, and you started touching things and knowing what they were. And I'm gonna show you some things you can begin to reach out with your spirit and lay hold on them like a mechanic uses a tool.
I saw Oral Roberts twenty years ago, and I went to Oral Roberts university nineteen years ago. I saw him using his faith and it impressed me. The thought I had was that man uses his faith the way a mechanic uses a wrench. He uses it on purpose, and I didn't know you could do that, and it impressed me. So I asked God, I said, "I gotta know how to do that, man, I mean he don't shoot a scatter shot." And he'd say to me "don't lay your hands on somebody till you're ready to release your faith." I thought, why certainly, you don't want to shoot a scatter shot, shoot it all in that one direction, but I wasn't too sure how to shoot it. Now, begin to believe in your words, begin to have faith in your faith".
We could perhaps go on to say 'begin to worship yourself' because if you've found a power this reliable to use to dominate your circumstances, so that even God Almighty cannot resist, then you've become a god.
You can decide what to do, you can call the shots; you can choose your environment - why would you need a Father in heaven? You might just as well dispense with Him and worship yourself.
Isn't that just what Satan wanted Adam and Eve to do, to believe in themselves and their own power and ability? Isn't that just what the New Age is all about, man can save himself and transform his environment?
Copeland then gives us a technique for putting your faith in words to work to get what you want. He says
Find out your needs and your desires
Find a promise in scripture that fits them
Confess that word over and over until you get what you want.
This means that no matter what your relationship with God is like, or even if you don't know God, you can browbeat Him into giving you what you need.
Unfortunately this method sometimes works. The Rosacrucians have been using it for years - not using the Bible of course. Pagans know all about this method because it's the one they've always used to cast spells and to cause various things to happen - to get riches for example. It's called the exercise of the self will and it's nothing to do with God.
Returning to the text of Romans 8, Copeland now gives us a novel way of transforming that chapter into a positive confession manual by making the spirit mean the word, and the flesh to mean the five physical senses.
Copeland: "We need to know some more about the Bible folks, we've been fooled. Amen. So I want to show you something here from the eighth chapter of Romans that'll help you know what the Bible's talking about. We know from the gospel of John it says 'in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God', amen. We know that the Bible tells us in first John, that the Spirit of God and the word of God totally and completely agree, so for study purposes and illustration purposes here in this eighth chapter of Romans let's substitute the word 'word' w, o, r, d, the word of God for the word 'spirit'. Biblically the Bible says we can do that because they agree.
'In the beginning was the word, the word was with God, the word was God, the word became flesh and dwelt among men', see. All right. Everywhere it says 'flesh' it is talking about anything that operates, lives in, is perceptible to the five physical sense gates. Anything that enters into the mind of man through the five physical sense gates is referred to as being in the natural, or being in the carnal, which means the same thing, that comes from the word carnivorous, which just simply means meat. So it comes through the five physical sense gates.
Alright, now lets read that like that. We're going to call it, every time it says flesh we're gonna say 'five senses' or 'five physical senses'. Verse one again, 'there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the five senses but after the word. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the senses, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the sense realm that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the sense realm but after the word of God, for they that are after the senses do mind the things of the sense realm but they that are after the word, the things of the word realm."
This is a very neat trick. Copeland has, at a stroke, transformed a gospel of faith in the work of Jesus on the cross into faith in words operating in the spirit realm as opposed to anything operating in the sense realm.
Though the word and the spirit do agree they're NOT THE SAME THING and we therefore cannot substitute one for the other like this. Even less are Jesus Christ (the Word) and the Holy Spirit interchangeable. We cannot change the text of the scriptures to suit our own interpretation, as Copeland does here.
One could equally argue that Jesus and the Father agree, so everywhere the Bible speaks of Jesus we can substitute the Father. The Father was crucified on the cross, for example. But that's not what the Bible said is it?
So here in Romans 8, the Spirit of God is not "words", and the flesh actually isn't the five senses either. In the Bible the term 'the flesh' is used in several ways but mainly and certainly in this passage, it means the whole human nature without God, fallen human nature. That would include the body, the soul and the dead spirit of an unbeliever. His whole earthly nature without God.
It's the flesh that opposes God and drags us away from God, not our five senses. Our senses, sight, hearing, taste and so on are purely neutral and given to us by God as a way of finding our way round the earth. Our senses can be used for good or evil - they are not in opposition to God in themselves, indeed we can utilise our senses in our Christian walk without committing sin.
Let me illustrate that point: you may have been out to a restaurant recently. There, you exercised your senses. You looked around you and saw the other diners; you heard them chattering, you saw and smelt and tasted your food. None of this is evil in itself. Yet Copeland seems to denigrate whatever is of the five senses as being in opposition to God..
What resists God is the fallen nature of the flesh, and our evil desires that impel us away from holiness and sanctification. But it is perfectly possible to be guided by the flesh in something natural, without sin. For instance, when we smell dinner cooking, we salivate and desire to eat!
But if you read this passage the way Copeland suggests, you end up with two opposing realms. One is the word realm and the other is the five senses. So the word of God becomes some kind of mystical, esoteric revelation knowledge that's on a spiritual plane above the natural world.
Reality and truth, for Copeland and the Gnostic heresies and many cults today, is on a spiritual plane, and to have victory over the earthly plane we have to deny the evidence of our senses they would say.
Read the passage for yourself, trying it both ways and just see the difference it makes. Sinners walk in the sense realm Copeland says - but don't we all do that? When's the last time you used your senses? You are using them all now - the sound of the rain on the window perhaps, the smell and taste of your coffee, the sight of your computer screen, the touch of the keyboard --- are you condemned for these? According to Copeland, YES, because you are "living in the sense realm".
And godly people walk in the word, Copeland says. But, can't we do both at the same time? Spiritual people acknowledge their natural senses, and the world around them, but they recognise at the same time a higher reality. The two work together. Only a Gnostic doctrine condemns "the sense realm" as "the flesh" and denies its contribution to our Christian lives.
This teaching, of course, leads up to the vital importance of words, of governing what you say in order to gain control of this spiritual realm.
Copeland: "We need to understand more concerning the secret of words. We talked about it some already in this meeting, I want to talk about it a little more. Jesus raised the dead with words. He healed the sick with words. He cast out the devil with words. When you were reborn your spirit was reborn with that glory, that glory is in there. Now what God is wanting us to do is get out of this physical sense realm, and quit being bound up by it, and stop letting your flesh rule and dominate you, and get the word of God into your spirit until it gets into your mouth - and the word is where the glory is. He said it is the glorious gospel that gives you the light of the knowledge of the glory that is in you, which is the power of God that created the heavens."
What we have to realise in order to understand this teaching is this: Copeland says that Jesus died in Hell and was reborn as a regenerated man filled with the glorious power of God which in several places, by the way, he identifies as light.
Now because Jesus did this, so can you. You also, he says, have a power source inside you and that power is released by words. Jesus did miracles by words and that is how you do miracles. Both you and Jesus draw on the same energy source of light that originally created the heavens and earth.
With this sort of power available to man, it's no wonder some Christians believe we can take dominion of the world, defeat sin and death and transform ourselves and our environment completely. But the problem is this, we'd be doing all that outside of God's will, because in fact the glory of God is the glory of God, not of man. He will give His glory to no other it says in Isa.42:8.
How are we glorified then? Just by being united with the glorified Son of God, not by ourselves. Jesus has the glory, and we only share it in unity with Him. For instance, a piece of coal is a dead chunk of dirty rock until you put it on a fire, then it takes the glow and the flame and the heat of the fire and it becomes changed, it becomes part of the fire. But if it falls out onto the hearth it's no good to anyone, it's just a chunk of coal again.
You are only able to have power or to be glorified so long as you stay in the fire of God, and abide in Christ.
But here we have a teaching which encourages bits of coal to join together and try to generate enough flame to cleanse the hearth rug. It's senseless and totally unscriptural but it does appeal to some who want power outside of God's will.
Copeland: "Come on, it don't work for me cause I'm a preacher, it didn't work for the apostle Paul cause he was an apostle, it don't work for Oral Roberts cause he's an evangelist, it don't work for Kenneth Hagin cause he's a prophet, it works because we're Christians. And it works cause we believe it and it works because we stood on it and it works because we've studied it and developed it and found out how it works, what makes it work. So if that's the same faith in us that's in God, and it is, and God used His faith to create the heavens and the earth, how come I can't create a planet?"
Well, the logical answer is "YOU CAN", in this scheme of things, if only you could develop as much faith and understanding as God.
The way to become a god in all the cults is through secret wisdom, the knowledge of the cosmic laws that will enable you to control your environment and even to overcome death.
Unnatural Life Expectancy
Next, Copeland uses the story of Abraham and Sarah at great length to show how their ageing process was halted and they were able to conceive a child in old age. How? By faith, because they exercised the power of faith and confessed the promises of God until it came to pass. So, logically every Christian ought to be able to overcome the ageing process and even eventually overcome death itself if he will become advanced enough in the knowledge of spiritual laws.
Copeland: "Now, God did as He had spoken at the set time she [Sarah] nursed. How did it come to pass? I'll show you it came, go back over there to the fourth chapter of the book of Romans. It came to pass by being fully persuaded that what God had promised He was able to perform. It came by faith, so that it might be by grace, it came by calling things that be not as though they were, it came by believing the covenant that they had with God, and confessing it and acting as though with God that they had never seen and God acting with them like they'd never seen.
"Well brother Copeland do you think I could have a baby and me eighty years old?" No, probably not. God hadn't promised you to be the father of many nations, though some of them run around thinking that He did, but He didn't. But the same faith that changed her that much, and stopped that ageing process in its tracks, will work in the life of a believer today.
There's all kinds of stuff that you've been blaming off on age, now there's, of course, there's things about your body that are going to change over a period of time, but at the same time, you hadn't got any business going around confessing how old you are and how you can't do anything and how nobody wants to listen to you -"we're just on a fixed income" - well who fixed it? Unfix it with the power of almighty God. You're just now old enough to know a little something and we need you, we need your wisdom, we don't need you griping and you bellyaching 'bout how old you are.
Let me talk to you young kids a minute, don't let anybody put you down cause you're young, don't let anybody put you down cause you think you're middle aged. I'm not middle aged, well yeah I am too, I was middle age when I was forty six, the Lord told me I was gonna live till I was ninety two so I was middle age at forty six but that don't mean nothing to me, that just don't mean a thing to me, I fight this body of mine, I mean I fight this thing.
The apostle Paul said "I buffet my body and I put it under control". I fight this thing all the time, I mean I slap it --- I don't need to slap it around, I let the devil slap it around. I fight the thing, I grab it and jerk it up and say "now you get in there, you get yourself on that floor and do your exercises." "I don't want to." - "You get in there and do it anyhow. We're not through, we're not through". You say, how'd ya lose all that weight? A lot of prayer, regular exercise and precious little food. You can't do it without all three. A lot of prayer, a lot of the word of God, regular exercise and not much to eat."
we have another aspect of the struggle to gain dominion and it's really the
that we see with the New Agers - to change the world.
The fear of pollution and chemical additives and fertilisers, and all the other threats we appear to face today is forcing many people today to set up campaigns to change our lifestyle. Some will even exaggerate the dangers to scare us into giving up certain foods, scare us by talking about heart disease, cancer, allergies and so forth until we feel guilty if we are not making strenuous efforts to improve our health and fitness levels.
And Copeland's desire to overcome the ageing process is really in the same category because he sees age and death as a threat to his faith. Also, as we saw earlier, it's the spiritual realm that is important in this teaching, not the material, so it must be possible, they believe, to develop to such an extent spiritually that we can dominate the material realm. And Copeland stresses that not only prayer but diet and exercise are essential to achieve this domination. (Again, gnostic overtones in this belief!)
Now, of course, there's nothing wrong with being fit and healthy. We should take care of our bodies. But when the Apostle Paul spoke of "disciplining his body" did he mean getting up early to jog around the block? Did Paul force himself to do press-ups every morning? Is that what he meant? Was Paul seeking to develop dominion over the natural realm so that he could have victory over the ageing process?
Let's look at the scripture Copeland used (from the New King James): [And By the way, Copeland quotes this scripture incorrectly. He obviously quoted from memory, but his memory is faulty, and he ends up forcing the scripture to fit in with his own philosophy. But note the correct reading.]
1 Cor 9:16-27
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! ---
to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.
But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
OK, then, what from that scripture do we learn about Paul's attitude to his physical flesh? And what did he hope to gain? Did he undergo rigorous physical exercises in order to defeat the ageing process and to gain dominion over the sense realm? NO! It is clearly shown that Paul kept his flesh in subjection so that he would not fall into sin, thereby forfeiting his "imperishable crown". This passage has nothing whatever to do with diet and health issues.
A similar mention of the flesh/body is found in Rom 6:12-14
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (NKJ)
Now returning to Abraham and the covenant of promise to Abraham, we can see an illustration of Copeland's confusing treatment of this whole subject. Instead of teaching on the blessings of God in the seed of Abraham, (that is, in Christ) Copeland turns it into a personal and individual blessing for yourself alone.
You, Copeland says, are entitled to claim all the blessings of Abraham because the promise is individual for you.
Copeland: "Now anything that was promised to Abraham belongs to you. I'm talking about the promises of Abraham that were spiritual, that were mental, that were physical and that were social.
The blessing of Abraham, Abraham's blessing is ours, by faith. We are the seed it says. D'ya notice the word seed is singular, one seed. Back over now in that third chapter of Galatians verse 14, the last part of it, "...the promise of the spirit through faith, brethren, and I speak after the manner of men though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed no man disannuleth or addeth thereto, now to Abraham and his seed..."
You notice it's singular there, where the promise is made. He said "not unto seeds as of many or plural but as of one to thy seed, which is Christ, and if you be Christ's then are you Abraham's seed...", it's still singular.
When it's talking about the promise it is just as singular talking about you and about me, the children of God that belong to Jesus, we are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the same promise. In other words when you stand on the promises of God, they work just as good for you as they do Jesus as long as you're standing on them in Jesus name."
You see, Copeland is telling us that what was promised to us 'in Christ', the Seed, is now ours on an individual basis. He stresses that the "seed" is singular. Of course it is - as the Bible itself says in that passage, the "seed" IS CHRIST. But the real focus of blessing for Copeland in this passage is YOU AND ME, not just Christ.
The implication in what Copeland says is that the promise of God to Abraham (which on the previous tape he told us were the blessings of the Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 28!) are promised to us as Christians, not just to Christ and thus ourselves as members of Christ.
Please consider the important difference in the two concepts. If I take your credit card and take money out of your account in your name, that's robbery folks. The money doesn't belong to me.
Even if you gave me permission to draw out money it would still come from your account, not mine. It's your money, not mine.
The blessing God made to Abraham was made to The Seed, which is Jesus Christ. Every bit of glory or blessing or favour or power belongs to Jesus Christ. It's His. He was the one who died for our sins and rose again to be Lord over all the Church and we're complete 'in Him' not in ourselves. The blessings are in Him not in us. We receive them by His grace as we walk in Jesus.
The second point is this: once again as in Part Two of this series, Copeland has confused the blessings of Abraham with the covenant blessings of Moses. He talks about social, material and physical blessings.
This will ring alarm bells for anybody who believes in the promised blessing of Israel in the endtimes, or anyone who has encountered "replacement theology" where the Church is supposed to replace Israel in the Old Testament blessings.
Copeland is here talking about the blessings promised to the tribes of Israel under the law of Moses in Deuteronomy 28. These were national blessings and they were conditional on the people obeying the law. They included prosperity, fertility, victory over enemies, and personal and national dominion over others.
Now I'm not saying we can't receive physical or material blessings from God - of course we can. The word of God says that we can expect God to provide for our physical as well as our spiritual needs. ( Rom 8:32 /1 Cor 3:21-23 /Phil 4:19 ). So we should confidently ask for whatever we need. But that promise is not based upon the covenant of Moses, it's based on the new covenant or new testament sealed in the blood of Jesus.
If you have needs, you have a greater covenant in Jesus than the Jews had in Moses. Jesus has fulfilled the law in Himself and brought us to greater blessing by His life. So you see, Copeland is deceiving his followers by telling them that they, individually, are the seed of Abraham. We're only the seed if we're united to the seed, and even then the blessings are still HIS not ours.
Now, what is the method that we have to use to receive these blessings, according to the Word-of-Faith doctrine? Well, one of the main methods that Copeland suggests we use is visualisation.
Copeland: "The whole world is flowing in a death bound negative direction. You watch it on television, it's programmed into your thinking, you see it in the newspapers, you see it in magazines, you hear it from people's mouths, it's around you all the time, that's been built in there. Now you need to go to the word of God and begin to build God-based, word-based hope which is an inner vision, an inner image painted by the word of God, and then when you put faith in that, faith becomes the substance of things hoped for.
Now listen to me cause I'm about to tell you something that'll change your entire life if you'll just listen to me. I know, the Bible is full of it, it's based on it, the Bible said Abraham received Isaac raised from the dead in a figure. He saw it in his heart and in his mind before he ever saw it with his eye.
I was praying and I asked the Lord, I said "I'm asking you to help me, help me to draw from the word of God, help me paint pictures from the word on the tablet of my heart and my mind". I know it's available cause I do it in the negative and in the natural all the time. "Oh, but that might not be God, maybe I just dreamed that up". Not if you dreamed it out of the Bible. Now if you just dreamed up some wild something on your own that's different but when you go to the word and you find God's promise in His word and then you fit that promise to you, and you begin to paint a picture of what you would be like if that promise had already been manifest in your life. You keep doing that, every moment or so during the day, close your eyes and say "I see myself recovering, I see myself recovering".
You see, Abraham heard with his ears like brother Capps was talking to us today about. Dear Lord those services were good today. And he said everytime somebody said Abraham, his name means 'father of a nation' or 'father of great multitudes' and God affected his vision by taking him outside in a star-bright night and said "Abraham, see all those stars"? He said "yeah". God said "I'm going to give you that many children". Now from then on when somebody said "Abraham", he saw the heavens. See what he did? God marked his mind forever. That's the way you get it. You go to the word of God, you find the promise concerning the situation and you start confessing that promise and you start seeing it. I don't care if you have to walk up and down your bedroom floor, you wear a hole in the floor."
Here we have, then, the core of the Positive Confession teaching which is really a technique of applying Bible promises to yourself by visualising them and confessing them until they come to pass.
Abraham is supposed to have used this technique when he believed God's promises. But did he? No doubt the illustration of the number of stars in the sky and the sand underneath him impressed on Abraham the immensity and scope of God's promise to him - yet would this have made him MORE inclined to believe, or LESS?
This also misses the point of the blessing, for it was based upon Abraham's total OBEDIENCE, and not upon his mental capabilities, much less upon techniques of visualisation. Abraham did not bring the promise to pass through visualising the night sky, but by being obedient to God, and believing the promise.
Gen 22:15-18 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
However, Copeland says "That's the way you get it. You go to the word of God, you find the promise concerning the situation and you start confessing that promise and you start seeing it."
This is a technique that's now being used by thousands of deluded Christians to achieve success, prosperity and spiritual power in order to change themselves and this world. Instead of submitting themselves to God's will for their lives, they set out to make every Bible promise come true for themselves, in their own wisdom, regardless of their circumstances. They've strayed off the path of gospel truth and are following myths and fables in the pursuit of personal advancement.
is a religion governed by self. Let's pray that God will deal with every
aspect of selfishness
in our lives so that we can avoid falling into this sort of error.
Another worrying aspect of this technique is that it will work (as Yonggi Cho states) whether you are a Christian or not. MANY people in the world are practising visualising and receiving the end-result of their desires. This is undoubtedly a psychic technique which - if perfected - will bring results. But should a born-again Christian have anything to do with it?
For example, the new-age article I referred to earlier in this series, on "Spiritual Healing of All Things" has almost exactly the same sequence of events - affirmation, confession and visualisation - for producing the desired result:
"Spiritual Healing of all Things - From the Inside Out" by Michael Connolly.
Most of us have heard and a few of us practice the idea that "as we think so we are," and that our thoughts affect reality and indeed magnetize and give life to those thoughts, feelings, and experiences we hold in consciousness. It's part of the standard education curriculum for the new world. ...From a healing perspective, the restoration of health, balance, and life is a function of using the creative potential we all have to project an image of restoration into the out-of-balance condition. While simple in concept, it takes practice to discipline the mind to look past appearances and hold a vision of wholeness. This is where Faith comes in. As long as you doubt the effectiveness of your visualization in bringing the healing you desire, you will have thoughts that are at cross-purpose with your healing purpose and you will have mixed results. Any attempt to bless and heal through the spirit is positive and will do more than believing in the appearances you see. Faith in healing is the certainty that the image you project is a reality over any other appearance that may be present. It is more than belief. Belief doesn't mean knowing. Faith comes from knowing with certainty. The more certain you are of your healing, the faster the results will manifest in the reality around you.
So as we see a condition we want to heal, here are a few possible steps we can use to get into the frame of mind to put this energy to work for us.
1. Acknowledge what is. Start from what appears to be. All healing starts from where things are right now. But at the same time, know that there is no condition or appearance that is stronger than the the power of the All-That-Is.
2. Acknowledge with a statement, the qualities of God you want to have expressed in this condition. Something like: The Healing Energy of the All-That-Is is all powerful, all loving, and all knowing. There is no thing It cannot do, no condition It cannot heal, and It knows how to restore perfection to every situation.
3. Acknowledge with a statement, your link to, and oneness with, these qualities. Say, "The healing power of God is present in this situation. I am one with that energy and call it forth to heal, bless, and bring perfection to this situation.
4. State your desired result as if it is already so. Say, for instance, "In this situation there is only perfection, in this situation there is only God expressing. In this circumstance, the energy of God is flooding the cells of this body, the heart of this soul, and the mind of this being to accomplish a complete healing of this condition."
5 Give thanks that it is done.
6. Release it to God. "I know that I am one with God. I know that my prayers are answered. I know the highest and best outcome is coming forth in this condition. I now release it for fulfillment."
The process becomes integrated and you begin to pray without ceasing. If your friend's friend has to go into the hospital for an operation -- it becomes and automatic thing to invoke this energy. You can visualize white light energy filling their body, pouring forth from their cells, and filling their aura like a cloud of bright potent light.
You now have a consciousness that can work miracles and all you do in service, in healing, in creating abundance, will be so much more effective! There are many situations that will present themselves in the next few years that will call for miracles and healing. We are all apt to become aware of much suffering as the old world begins to disintegrate at a more rapid pace. At the same, I believe the miracles that will be possible for many of us will become commonplace. But we have to get into right mindedness in order to call forth those miracles. So remember... We create each other; How you see someone else is how you contribute to their self-image and circumstances; You can do miracles by calling forth the All-That-Is in every situation; Pray without ceasing.
I want you to consider in what way this occultic practise above differs from the Word-of-Faith doctrines of Ken Copeland? Does he not teach the same things? Is their god one and the same?
Visualisation is not only a psychic/mental and occultic device for obtaining things for our own selfish needs, but it makes God a slot-machine in the sky. We hold Him to ransom by demanding that He perform for us every promise in the Book. But where is God's will in all this? It is overruled! God - they say - has no choice! God's will is not considered, and it is an error even to pray "if it be Thy will" since God has already promised us everything. All we need to do is activate the promises by seeing them, speaking them and claiming them.
God turned into an Energy or Source
As in the above quote, "god" become an Energy, a Force, that can be manipulated to cause certain miracles to occur. But this is not biblical Christianity or biblical faith.
Is your God a robot who is required to answer your every desire? Is your Bible just a source-book of goodies, a chocolate box of things that God wants you to claim? Is prayer a matter of Name-it and Claim-it? of Blab-it-and-Grab-it? Or is it an interaction of TWO minds and hearts - both yours and God's?
If seeing a picture of yourself healed, blessed, prosperous (or whatever) is the key to answered prayer, then what becomes of those devoid of imagination, or slow, or uneducated, or with a damaged mind? This is a technique that only some can follow, and which penalises the Christian who has never learned the process, or who is unable to make it work properly!
But what does the Bible say about prayer? It is something we do "boldly" and without fear, but "in His will" and "believing" that He is a God who cares and who knows our every need. And we can be confident of an answer to prayer IF we are walking IN HIS WILL and doing what is pleasing to God:
I Jn 5:14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
I Jn 3:22-23 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
Matt 6:7-10 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask
In Part Four we will expose some of the more extreme teachings that are a direct result of these errors. Is Copeland heading right into the New Age? Move on to Part Four by clicking the link below.
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.