Why there were no “prosperity churches” in the early Church

A particular stream of Christianity today is marked by its focus on seeking God’s blessings in this life, especially material blessing. Its proponents teach that it is God’s will for every believer to prosper materially; some even go as far as to insist that every believer can be a millionaire (in US dollars). The scriptures used as a basis for prosperity are taken overwhelmingly from the Old Testament—with but a mere smattering taken here and there from the New Testament.

In the early Church as seen in the New Testament, in particular the epistles, we do not see such an emphasis on material prosperity. Rather the emphasis there is living a life on earth worthy of the holy calling we have received in obedience to the Lord and in view of his soon Coming.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:1-5)

Verses relating to material prosperity in the New Testament are few and far between and are but incidental to the context of the passages in which they appear.

Why is it that today we see prosperity churches exploding and multiplying in both developed as well as under-developed countries around the world, but they are conspicuously absent from the world of the New Testament as evidenced by the lack of prosperity teaching in churches of that period?

In the early Church, in particular in Acts, we see powerful miracles confirming the truth of the gospel with great harvests of souls taking place as a result. As just one of several instances recorded in Acts (and of course the gospels), a large crowd of Jews repented on the day that the beggar lame since birth was miraculously healed at the temple gate called Beautiful (Acts 3 and 4). In Acts 8 we read also that crowds of Samaritans accepted the Messiah when they heard the gospel from Philip and saw demons being expelled and the paralyzed and lame being healed in the name of Jesus. The incomparably powerful miracles being done in the name of Jesus Christ convinced the crowds that our Father in heaven is the One True God and that Jesus Christ is the only way to Him. In the early Church, the draw was undeniably the miracles.

Healing from sickness of course is a universal need common to human beings. But in the evangelism of the Church today, miraculous healing is generally not done or seen.

Therefore there must be something else to draw the lost to the Church. What other basic need is common among people? One obvious answer is money with which we can buy life’s basic necessities and live. And Jesus does promise to provide for our basic needs.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

But prosperity teaching has taken this one huge step further to capitalize on our sin nature—in which greed speaks very loudly indeed. It tells us that God loves us and wants to bless us materially and make us rich like Abraham, David, and Solomon. (The purpose of this of course is so that we can be generous and a blessing to others.)

Such marketing is very difficult to resist if we are not properly grounded in Scripture. And judging from the explosion of prosperity churches around the world today, many of us are not.

We see therefore that the disappearance of miraculous healing in the evangelism of the Church today has effectively resulted in the proliferation of prosperity churches, some of which are engaging in very unscriptural practices. Souls are coming to Christ not through sincere repentance from their sins for forgiveness and eternal life, but rather for material blessings. This motive is not very different from people believing in Buddhism or in witchcraft. The pastor of a huge prosperity church in Indonesia’s second largest city compared Jesus to a Buddhist idol.

But during these last days when the Great Commission must be fulfilled, the Lord is responding by restoring miraculous healing in the evangelism of the Church to the lost, especially those peoples resistant to the gospel. We are now able to preach the gospel as did the disciples in the early Church. And we are seeing similar results.

We do not need to use worldly marketing methods to lure the lost to our churches. Today the Lord is restoring to us the understanding of His supernatural power and authority over disease and demons for proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost—understanding given to the early disciples but for some reason lost following the close of Acts.

 

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Parody on Prosperity Teaching from the Babylon Bee

 

 

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