Truth Matters Newsletters – April 2009 – Vol. 14 Issue 4 – The Word Of Faith Cult & the Atonement – by Rev. Bob Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
The Word of Faith Cult & the Atonement
The Easter Issue
Due to the faithful sacrificial giving of several individuals Discernment Ministries International is able to print another issue of Truth Matters. A dear couple has committed to help DMI get the website back online and with their (and others) help in a short time our web site will be back up on the Internet “Teaching Truth & Exposing Error.” We thank God for all our partners and especially give Him thanks for those individuals who heeded our recent plea for financial support. Truly Easter is a time of “resurrection.”
His servant and yours,
Rev. Bob Liichow
The Word of Faith Cult & the Atonement
By Bob Liichow & Moreno DeBallo
Since it is Easter time I thought it would be beneficial for us to study what is being preached, taught and unfortunately believed by millions of professing Christians around the world regarding the atonement of Jesus Christ.
There are some issues which we as Christians can disagree upon, things we Lutherans call “adiaphora” or “things indifferent,” such as the wearing of vestments, the exact age of communing a child, when Christmas is celebrated, length of a worship service, etc.
However, there are certain core beliefs which all Christians must agree about in order to be considered genuine believers. The atonement of Christ on our behalf is one of those central doctrines of the Church.
Unfortunately the Church has been deluged with a blasphemous heresy regarding the atonement for over forty years now. Many of the most prominent charismatic televangelists believe and teach what shall be shared in the rest of this article.
Lest anyone think that their favorite televangelist surely does not teach such error allow me to cite just a few of the most well know purveyors of this damnable poison: Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Kenneth Hagin Jr. , Fred Price, Benny Hinn, Marilyn Hickey, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Jessie Duplantis, Jerry Savelle, Norval Hayes and Charles Capps to name just a few.
On the cross the satanic nature entered Jesus at the point of spiritual death upon the cross. It was then that He literally became sin and was separated from God. The spiritual death of Jesus transformed Him from a man into a mortal and satanic creation. Kenneth Copeland ‘enlightens’ us, “See you have to realize that He (Jesus) died; you have to realize that He went into the pit of hell as a mortal man made sin. But He didn’t stay there, thank God. He was reborn in the pit of Hell and resurrected.” (54)
Furthermore, we are told by Copeland that while in hell Christ’s “…emaciated, poured out, little, wormy spirit…” (55) was tortured by Satan and every demon in hell without legal right. The reason given by Copeland as to why Jesus could not be detained in hell is that Jesus was not an actual sinner but was only made sin as the result of the sins of others, plus the fact that Satan had forgotten this detail Copeland says, “The Devil forgot to take into consideration that Jesus hadn’t sinned Himself but, rather had merely become sin as a result of the sin of others.” (56) I don’t know how stupid Copeland thinks Satan is, but it is very difficult to perceive how the wisest of God’s creature could simply forget such a truth. Where is the evidence to sustain all of this in Scripture anyway? Conveniently, what Copeland and others fail to find support for in the Bible is attributed to personal conversations with God or His Son, as has so often been the case with other espousers of ‘new truth’.
This apparently was the opening God had been awaiting. We are told that God spoke forth words of faith into hell, and as Copeland articulates: “…that Word of the Living God went down into the pit of destruction and charged the spirit of Jesus with resurrection power! Suddenly His twisted, death-wrack spirit began to fill out and come back to life. He began to look like something the Devil had never seen before. He began to flex his spiritual muscles…Jesus was born again–the first born from the dead.” (57)
This is nothing but sheer fantasy. Copeland twists the meaning of first born from the dead (Col. 1:18), from that of pre-eminence, to the false notion of Christ’s being born again. What possible need would Jesus, the sinless and Holy Son of the Holy God have to be born again? This teaching, perhaps more than others we have discussed, does away with the truth that Jesus is unchangeable, and strips Him of His eternal deity! (Heb. 13:8). This false teaching unveils Copeland’s ignorance and distinct lack of understanding of Biblical terminology, his total disregard for Bible scholars, the most eminent theologians and Church history. Not surprisingly, these sources are often ridiculed by Copeland and other Faith leaders.
The fable does not end here. Charles Capps teaches that the outcome of all this was the birth of the Church! Capps says, “Jesus was born again in the pit of hell. He was the firstborn, the first begotten, from the dead. He started the church of the firstborn in the gates of hell…He went down to the gates and started His Church there…The Church started when Jesus was born again in the gates of hell.” (58) Not only was the Incarnate Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ born again in hell, but according to Capps, the very Church of Christ can trace its roots to the gates of hell!
This teaching is so preposterous that I will give only the briefest response by answering with the truth that the birth of the Church, as any Christian knows, began on the day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2.
Best-selling author Benny Hinn gives this piece of ‘revelation knowledge’ to his hearers: “My, you know, whoosh! The Holy Ghost is just showing me some stuff. I’m getting dizzy! I’m telling you the truth–it’s, it’s just heavy right now on me…He’s (referring to Jesus) in the underworld now. God isn’t there, the Holy Ghost isn’t there, and the Bible says He was begotten. Do you know what the word begotten means? It means reborn. Do you want another shocker? Have you been begotten? So was he. Don’t let anyone deceive you. Jesus was reborn. You say, ‘What are you talking about?’…He was reborn. He had to be reborn…if He was not reborn, I would never be reborn. How can I face Jesus and say, ‘Jesus you went through everything I’ve gone through, except the new birth?” (59)
Despite Hinn’s claims to divine revelation, the word begotten does not mean reborn. The true meaning of the word begotten is simply born, or to be born. It has nothing to do with being reborn. A moment of basic Bible study will reveal that Jesus is referred to as the only begotten from the Father (NASB), or, the one and only Son who came from the Father (NIV) (John 1:14; cf. John 1:18; 3:16), which stresses the unique nature of our Lord, Hebrews 1:5, “Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee,” is a reference to Christ’s resurrection. God raised up Christ from the dead and imparted life to His body, and, as Albert Barnes notes, “By His own power restored Him; and hence is said figuratively to have begotten Him from the dead.” (60) (cf. Psa. 2:7; Acts 13:33). The resurrection was a type of begetting to life, or its beginning (Rev. 1:5).
Copeland accentuates the issue (note his subtle changing of the word firstborn to reborn), by saying “It is important for us to realize that a born again man defeated Satan…Colossians 1:18 refers to Jesus as the firstborn from the dead…He was the first man to be reborn under the new covenant.” (61)
The original Greek word for firstborn (prototokos), speaks not of being born again, but of primacy; headship and pre-eminence. Colossians 1:18 (cf. Rom. 8:29), simply denotes Christ’s supremacy over all creation, as the context of Colossians 1 will bare out (cf. Col. 1:15). The remainder of v. 18, …among the dead, is a reference to Christ’s bodily resurrection, not of a mythical spiritual death from which He needed to be reborn. Michael Moriarty expounds: “Scripture is clear that the term ‘firstborn’ is used to refer to the physical birth of the first child born into a family, but also speaks of a person’s position, rank or status. For example, in Israel the firstborn son has special birthrights and privileges. He succeeded his father as head of the house and received a larger portion of the inheritance; these were his birthrights. The nation of Israel is also called God’s ‘firstborn’ and received special blessings and privileges as compared with the heathen nations (Ex. 4:22). In this same way Jesus is called the firstborn (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:6). The term has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus being born again; such an option is completely foreign to the Biblical text and is much closer to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ understanding of this word (firstborn = first created), than it is to orthodox Christianity’s. Jesus Christ is the Pre-eminent One, the first Heir to all creation. The N.T. calls Jesus the firstborn in reference to His exalted position and firstborn right of inheritance. He is first in rank and has first place in everything. ‘ And He is the Head of the body, the Church; who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence.” (Col.1:18). (62)
Kenneth Hagin, who on occasion has denied that he has ever taught such things, clearly does so in this statement, “Why did He (Jesus) need to be begotten, or born? Because He became like we were; separated from God. Because He tasted spiritual death for every man….Jesus was the first person that was ever born again.” (63)
Gloria Copeland, in her book God’s Will, says, “After Jesus was made sin, He had to be born again…(Therefore) Jesus is a born again man. This is the same new birth that the Good News of the Gospel still offers to any man who will accept it.” To teach that Jesus needed to undergo a new birth is to teach that He at one time had an unregenerate and sinful nature, which is precisely what these Faith teachers would have us believe. It is to deny the indisputable fact that Jesus is the eternal God and has always been God. According to Hebrews 13:8, Jesus cannot change in essence. He is eternal. There is no beginning, no end and NO INTERRUPTION to His Godhood! (cf. Mal. 3:6; John 5:26; Phil. 2:6).
As we approach the next chapter, one may be thinking, ‘where are all these extraordinary teachings leading to? The following statement made by Kenneth Copeland will show exactly where. It will take us to the precipice and then plunge us head first into an age old lie. The Serpent’s lie!! Copeland declares: The Spirit of God spoke to me and He said, “Son realize this. Now follow me in this and don’t let your tradition trip you up.’ He said, ‘Think this way–a twice born man whipped Satan in his own domain.’ And I threw my Bible down…like that. I said, ‘What? He said ‘A born again man defeated Satan, the firstborn of many brethren defeated him.’ He said ‘You are the very image, the very copy of that one.’ I said, ‘Goodness, gracious sakes alive!’ And I began to see what had gone on in there, and I said, ‘Well now you don’t mean, you couldn’t dare mean, that I could have done the same thing?’ He said, ‘Oh yeah, if you’d had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could’ve done the same thing, cause you’re a reborn man too.” (64)
If ever there was an absolute departure from the Word of God, from the most basic understanding of what the Bible teaches, this is it. Kenneth Copeland, a mere man, not only claims that he could have redeemed mankind by defeating Satan in hell, but he dares attribute this nonsense as being communicated to him directly by the Holy Spirit!!
If Copeland could have redeemed us, then we also could have done the same thing. We could all have been our own saviours were it not for our lack of knowledge! The Christian is to be on guard against false doctrine, especially when it is presented to him with a smile and in an authoritative manner, Oftentimes, such ‘new truth’ is presented to the eager listener as God’s very own Words.
Thus far, we have investigated the Faith movement’s claims that Christ’s death on the cross was not enough to atone for our sins; that Christ had to die spiritually for every man; that He took upon Himself the satanic nature; and that He needed to suffer the agonies of hell and become born again in order to acquire the redemption of mankind. And the outcome of all this, so Kenneth Copeland believes, is that, “He (Jesus) was the pattern of a new race of men.” (65)
One always needs to be aware of the origins of a doctrine and where it leads. Perhaps the underlying reason for this massive straying from Scriptural soundness on the part of Faith leaders, has been to lead us to the subject at hand: The Deification of Men!
No words can better illustrate what the Faith leaders teach concerning the rebirth and what it means for us, than the following statement made by Benny Hinn:
“When you were born again the Word was made flesh in you. And you became flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. Don’t tell me you have Jesus. You are everything He was and everything He is and ever shall be…It (the new man) says, ‘I am as He is.’ That’s what is says…As He is, so are we in this world. Jesus said, ‘Go in My name go in My stead.’ Don’t say, ‘I have.’ Say, ‘I am, I am, I am, I am, I am.!” (66)
Most recently, Hinn has declared, “When you say, ‘I am a Christian,’ you are saying, ‘I am mashiach’ in the Hebrew. I am a little messiah walking on earth, in other words. That is a shocking revelation….May I say it like this? You are a little god on earth running around.” (67)
The Faith movement and certain charismatics hold that upon being born again, Jesus’ divine nature returned to Him, and subsequently every born again person has also been infused with God’s own nature. 2 Peter 1:4 is the verse that is quoted to prove that we have the nature of God,”…that by these (promises) you might be partakers of the divine nature…” Note that Peter here has said that we might be partakers of His divine nature not essence. The verse is simply saying that we may become partakers of God’s attributes, His divine qualities not His divinity for God has said,” …I am He: before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me” (Isa. 43:10).
In order to better understand who Copeland says we are, we need to grasp just who he believes Adam was. Copeland believes that:
“God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself. I mean a reproduction of Himself and in the Garden of Eden He did just that (Adam) was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even…Adam is as much like God as you could get, just the same as Jesus…Adam, in the Garden of Eden, was God manifested in the flesh.” (68)
The Faith movement does not adhere to the Biblical teaching of Adam and what happened at the Fall. They believe that Adam inherited Satan’s nature at the Fall and that this was our condition before becoming born again partakers of the divine nature. Kenneth Hagin expounds on this concept and believes that not only was Adam God manifest in the flesh, but that we are all just as much incarnations of God as Jesus was!! Hagin states, “Every man who has been born again is an incarnation and Christianity is a miracle. The believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth.” (69) It would appear from this statement that Satan’s lie in the Garden of Eden, “ye shall be as gods” (Gen 3:5), has taken on yet another façade. Hagin’s claim divests the word incarnation of its unique reference to Jesus Christ (John 1:14), and turns a one time act into a daily occurrence!
Hank Hanegraaff makes the observation that the whole idea of an incarnation only makes sense if a person existed prior to having a physical body, He explains: “….while the bible clearly declares Christ to be pre-existent (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5), nowhere in Scripture do we find the concept of human pre-existence. In fact, human pre-existence remains a concept relegated largely to such cults as Mormonism. The fact that Christians are indwelt by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (John 14:17,23) in no way implies that the Bible endorses the concept of incarnation for Christians.” (70)
It is unsettling enough that many such claims are coming out of the Faith movement. What is of greater concern however, is the fact that they are being all too readily accepted as Christian teaching, which should make the disciple of Christ wonder just what is happening in Christianity today. One has commented that the Faith movement has infiltrated Christianity, not unlike the New Age invasion of the world’s affairs. If there are any who doubt that the Faith leaders are proclaiming that all Christians are gods, please read on.
Kenneth Copeland makes the bold announcement that, “You don’t have a God living in you, you are one!” (71) And again, “God has been reproduced on the inside of you.” (72) Kenneth Hagin also promotes this tenet when he says, “This eternal life He came to give us is the nature of God.” He then adds, “It is in reality, God imparting His very nature, substance, and being to one human spirit…Zoe, then, means eternal life, or God’s life. This new kind of life is God’s nature…Even many in the great body of Full Gospel people do not know that the new birth is a real incarnation…Jesus was first divine, and then He was human. So He was in the flesh a divine-human being. I was first human, and so were you, but I was born of God, and so I became a human-divine being!” (73)
Hagin here elevates himself to the rank of a god. His view is that we are all god-men as was God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. The view is similar to Nestorianism, a 5th century heresy which was condemned by Church leaders at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. Michael Moriarty explains: “This view, developed by the scholarly monk Nestorius (ca. 381 – ca 452), taught that the Word did not actually become flesh (John 1:14) but only united Himself to a human being. Christ was in effect a God-bearer rather than the God-man. Nestorius ended up making Christ out to be a man in whom, in Siamese twin fashion, the divine and human natures were combined in a mechanical union rather than in an organic union of natures, Hagin’s view of the incarnation is very similar to the fifth-century Nestorian heresy.” (74)
The concept which teaches that, at conversion, we become spirit-gods who merely reside in human bodies is Gnostic in origin and is also touted by Gloria Copeland. She states in her article ‘A Fast Brings New Direction’, in Christian Life magazine, “When we are born again we become a spirit being in a flesh body.”
Gnostic belief held that material creation is evil, but the sparks of divinity have been encapsulated in the bodies of certain ‘spiritual’ individuals who have been destined for salvation.
Kenneth Copeland makes his views quite clear when he says, “You need to realize that you are not a spiritual schizophrenic—half God and half Satan–you are all God.” (75) One can easily identify whose fingerprints are impressed upon this teaching and others that we have mentioned specifically in this chapter, for they all promote the Devil’s lie to Eve in the Garden”…ye shall be as gods…” (Gen 3:5).
There has not been much analysis of these teachings in this issue of Truth Matters because they are self-damning. However, we will take a closer look at the most poplar passage from Scripture applied by Faith teachers to support their ‘little-gods’ theory, John 10:31 – 39. In v. 34 we see Jesus addressing the Jews and saying, “Is it not written in your law, I said ye are gods?” Jesus is here responding to his opponents with an ironical use of Psalm 82:6, where God condemns the unrighteous judges of Israel for their self-righteous attitude and pride. These judges sinned by showing partiality towards the wicked rather than defending the weak. Psalm 82:7 is one verse you will never hear from the mouth of Faith leaders. After calling these judges gods, God says in the next verse, “But ye shall die like men…”
Jesus was reminding the Jews that the Scriptures called Israel’s judges gods, not because they were in any way divine, but because of their roles as representatives of divine justice. Moses and the judges in Exodus were also referred to as gods because they, like God, held the power of life and death (Ex. 4:15, 16; 6:28 – 7:2; 21:6; 22:8,9). The word gods is used symbolically to show that the judges were the representatives of God. God told Moses in Exodus 1, “I have made thee a god to Pharaoh”, an obvious reference to Moses’ being as a god, not literally divine. Walter Martin comments on John 10:34, “Jesus mocks the people as if to say, ‘You all think you’re gods yourselves. What’s one more god among you? Irony is used to provoke us, not to inform us. It is not a basis for building a theology.” (76)
The idea that we, or any created being can be like God is a lie of Satan’s. It was this very desire–to be like God– that brought the fall of Lucifer (Isa. 14:14). There is only one God– there shall only ever be one God (Deut. 5:35,39; 32:39; 2 Sam. 7:22; Isa. 43:10; 44:6; 45:5,6; 21:22; 1 Cor. 8:4,6; Gal. 4:8). No one is as God is, neither is anyone even remotely like God.
The Faith movement doctrine which purports that being born again means we become as Christ was–a God-bearing people–a new race of men, was also presented to the Church during the 4th century, and is known as the Appolinarian heresy. John 1:12,13 is used as a proof text that we share God’s divinity. The fundamental difference between Jesus as the Son of God and the Christian as a son of God, is that He is the only begotten of God, and we are adopted sons. Contrary to Copeland’s claim that “Jesus is no longer the only begotten Son of God”, the Bible tells us that Jesus is God’s only begotten Son (John 3:18; 1 Jn. 4:9). Jesus remained the second Person of the Trinity when He became flesh. We are not an incarnation we are not gods in the flesh. We are never spoken of in Scripture as being incarnations of God. The notion that man is, or ever will be, a god is only ever spoken of in Scripture as idolatry and blasphemy.
These declarations of men are more at home with the ravings of Orange People guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who once exclaimed, “When you call Jesus, really you have called me. When you call me, really you have called Jesus.” (78) Or that of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi of Transcendental Meditation fame, “Be still and know that you are God.” (79) Faith teachers have yet another infamous comrade in Jim Jones, who taught, “It is written that ye are gods. I’m a god and you’re a god…until I see all of you knowing who you are, I’m gonna be very much what I am—God, Almighty God.”
As this article has shown the Word of Faith cult is teaching another Jesus and another non-biblical view of the atonement of Jesus Christ. As Christians we can disagree about many things, but when it comes to the Person and Work of Christ we can not accept any divergent view that deviates one iota from the Apostolic teachings held by the Church for the last two thousand years. Mr. Copeland and his ilk have placed themselves outside the boundaries of the Church and must not be considered genuine Christians until they repent and recant their heretical teachings concerning Jesus Christ and especially His work on the cross. ♦
Copyright © 2009 Robert S. Liichow
54. K. Copeland, audiotape #00-0303, op, cit.
55. K. Copeland, “Believer’s Voice of Victory” program 21 April 1991. This massage was originally delivered at the Full Gospel Motorcycle Rally Association 1990. Rally at Eagle Mountain Lake, Texas.
56. K. Copeland, audiotape #00-0303, op. cit. Side B
57. K. Copeland, “The Price of It All”, Believer’s Voice of Victory 19, 9 Sept. 1991; 4-6
58. C. Capps, Authority in Three Worlds, op. cit p. 212-213.
59. B. Hinn, “Our Position in Christ, Part 1”, Orlando, FL: Orlando Christian Centre, 1991, videotape # TV – 254
60. A. Barnes, op. cit. p. 461
61. K. Copeland :Jesus our Lord of Glory”, 3 op. cit.
62. M. Moriarty, op. cit. p. 375
63. K. Hagin, How Jesus Obtained His Name, Tulsa: Rhema audiotape #44H01.
64. K. Copeland, Substitution and identification, K. Copeland Ministries, 1989, audiotape #00-0203, Side B
65. K. Copeland, audiotape #00-303, op. cit.
66. B. Hinn, “Our Position in Christ” #2 The Word Made Flesh”, Orlando, FL. Orland Christian Centre, 1991 audiotape #A031190-2 Side B.
67. B. Hinn, “Praise-a-Thon” program on TBN, 6 November 1990.
68. K. Copeland “Following the Faith of Abraham 1” , Side A, Fort Worth, Texas K Copeland Ministries, 1989, audiotape #01-3001.
69. K. Hagin, “The Incarnation”, The Word of Faith magazine, 13, 12 (Dec. 1980); 14
70. H. Hanegraaff. Op. cit. p. 176.
71. K. Copeland, “The Force of Love”, Fort Worth, Texas, K. Copeland Ministries, n.d. audiotape BCC-56.
72. K. Copeland, “the Force of Righteousness”, Fort Worth, Texas, K. Copeland Minstries, 1984, p 12.
73. K. Hagin, Zoe: The god-Kind of Life, Tulsa, OK Faith Library, 1981 p. 40.
74. M. Moriarty, op. cit p. 332
75. K. Copeland, Believer’s Voice of Victory, march 1982, p. 2
76. W. Martin, “Ye Shall Be As Gods” The Agony of Deceit, ed. M.A. Horton, Chicago: Moody, 1990. P. 97.
77. K. Copeland, How We Are in Christ Jesus, fort Worth, Texas, K. Copeland Ministries, n.d. p. 24.