This is a review I wrote in 2016, but never published it…until now. Hope it’s helpful! It addresses popular word-of-faith and prosperity teachings.
My Review of Andrew Wommack’s Living in the Balance of Grace and Faith
Though I agree with some statements in this book, and appreciate Wommack’s zeal and convictions to pursue God relentlessly, I believe there are some dangerously unbiblical teachings and understandings in this book…so dangerous that I felt compelled to write this fairly thorough critical review.
First, here are some of the things that I did like and appreciate:
- Wommack emphasizes that it’s God, not us, who works and has power within us. So you must rest in Him and His work, and not try to “make” things happen in your own strength.
- He writes that feelings and emotions must bow to truth.
- He unapologetically challenges people to take responsibility for their own sins and actions, instead of pointing the finger elsewhere.
- He refreshingly presses for the exaltation of Christ over self, encouraging “Christ-esteem” instead of “self-esteem”.
- Throughout the book, Wommack emphasizes that grace and faith are meant to work together in God’s economy, and not stand alone.
Other things could be listed under the things I liked. And if these were the only things said, I would have given it a great review. However, as Scripture, history, and experience tell us, the most deceptive and dangerous teachings are those that have elements of truth mixed in with their errors. After all, even Satan himself comes as “an angel of light” to deceive (2 Cor. 11:14).
Specifically, here are some of my biggest concerns in the book:
Wommack thoroughly berates the idea that God has control over the world, especially where there is suffering. According to him, God has nothing to do with death, old age, sickness, disease, natural disasters, tragedies, poverty, and everything else that is painful and causes suffering–instead, such events are attributed 100% to Satan and human beings (see pp. 13-17, 27-30, 43, 75, 119, 165). Even more, God should not be seen as sovereignly working these things together for His good, or allowing these things to happen to make people better (pp. 13-15, 23-26, 29-30, 38); such a view of God’s sovereignty, he contends, is, “the worst doctrine in the body of Christ today” (pp. 47-48).
HOWEVER, the Bible says things like:
- “The LORD kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up. The LORD makes poor and makes rich…” (Exod. 4:11)
- “Who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?” (1 Sam. 2:6-8)
- “I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
- “It was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10)
- “The Lord God will slay you,” (Is. 65:15)
- “If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?” (Amos 3:6)
- “Not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matt. 11:29)
- “An angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:23)
- “The hand of the Lord is against you…to be blind” (Acts 13:11)
- “God sends upon them a strong delusion,” (2 Thes. 2:11)
- “I [Jesus] will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation…I [Jesus] will kill her children with death,” (Rev. 2:22-23)
Truly these are just a very few examples among hundreds (even thousands) that show unambiguously that God is involved–at least at some level–with suffering, death, sickness, tragedy, etc., despite Wommack’s claims to the contrary.
Even with Christians, we read that they are “disciplined” (1 Cor. 11:32; 2 Cor. 6:9; Heb. 12:6) during this lifetime by suffering, and that suffering included persecution, weakness, sickness, tribulations, needs, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, sleeplessness, evil reports, sorrows, poverty, and even death (see Mark 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 11:30-32; 2 Cor. 6:4-10; Heb. 12:3-13; 2 Tim. 3:12). Even Jesus Himself, “learned obedience by the things which He suffered,” (Heb. 5:8)!
Furthermore, in contrast to Wommack, the early church viewed such afflictions as part of God’s will (1 Pet. 4:19), and an honor to rejoice in (Acts 5:41; Rom. 5:3; James 1:2). Suffering is a sign of God’s love (Rev. 3:19) that produces holiness in us (Heb. 12:11; James 1:2-4), refines our faith (1 Pet. 1:6-7), draws us closer to Christ (Phil. 3:10-11), and is necessary for our eternal inheritance (Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17). This doesn’t mean it is pleasant to go through (Heb. 12:11), or that we don’t pray for God to give us some relief in the midst of it (Habakkuk 3:2; Rev. 6:10). No. We grieve the effects of sin that came through God’s curse on the world (Romans 8), and recognize that suffering is not what God ultimately desires (Rev. 22:3). Nor does it mean we seek out suffering on its own, or that we don’t recognize human responsibility and guilt (Matt. 18:7; Luke 17:1), as well as Satanic influence involved with suffering (Job 1-2). Instead, we can seek God’s discernment and wisdom when we suffer (James 1:5), pray against suffering that is not God’s will for us (Acts 12:5), and persevere (James 5:10-11) while praising God for what He is producing in the suffering He sovereignly brings/allows for our refinement (1 Pet. 4:16; Heb. 12:3-11; etc.), all the while leaning on His word that His grace is sufficient and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (all of 2 Cor., especially 12:9-10).
Despite Wommack’s teachings, God is very much in control, even in the midst of our suffering (Rom. 8:28).
Wommack teaches that physical healing has already happened for everyone on the cross (64-66, 85), therefore, he writes, “It’s an insult to God to pray, ‘Oh God, heal me.’” (88). Instead we should “believe and receive” this healing (85), command (not pray for) sickness to leave (112), and reach out and take our healing (133).
There are a few problems with this.
First, we have multiple examples of people praying and asking for healing AFTER Jesus’ death and resurrection:
- “They [Peter, John, and other Christians] raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord…grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to HEAL…’” (Acts 4:24-31)
- “She became sick and died…[Peter] knelt down and prayed…” (Acts 9:37-40)
- “the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and dysentery. Paul went in to him and prayed, and he laid his hands on him and healed him,” (Acts 28:8)
- “I pray that you may…be in health” (3 John 1:2).
Even more, the clearest instructions we have on HOW to heal the sick are given in James 5: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him PRAY…Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them PRAY over him…And the PRAYER of faith will save the sick…PRAY for one another, that you may be healed,” (vv. 13-16). It is unmistakable that God desires us to pray for healing. Though there are examples of people commanding sickness to leave (Acts 3:6), and commanding the dead to be raised (Acts 9:40), there are plenty of examples of people praying for God to heal (as shown above), and the clearest teaching on how to handle sickness is found in James 5, where we are told 4 times to pray, and no times to command. Thus, it seems that we should, by default, pray for sickness (James 5:13-16), generally with laying our hands (Mark 16:18), as appropriate (1 Tim. 5:22), but we also must be Spirit-led and command sickness to leave on the occasions when we know God has given us authority (Matt. 10:1; Act 3:6) and faith (Rom. 14:23; 1 Cor. 12:9) to do so.
Additionally, though Jesus’ death on the cross does bring an end to the curse of sickness, it also brings an end to the curse of death (John 3:16; Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15; Heb. 2:9; etc.). Yet all Christians still physically die (Heb. 9:27; 1 Cor. 15)! This is because the full effects of Christ’s work on the cross will not be realized until He returns (Rev. 22:3). In other words, “we do not yet see [in this lifetime] all things put under Him,” (Heb. 2:8; see also 1 Cor. 15:25-27). And just as Adam and Eve first died spiritually (Gen. 2:17; 3:9), and THEN died physically (Gen. 5:5), so we first receive spiritual resurrection in this lifetime (John 5:25), but then later, in the next lifetime, receive physical resurrection (John 5:28-29). This does not mean people never physically resurrect in this lifetime (Acts 9:36-42; 20:9-12), but even those who do, still presumably die. In fact, the most faith-filled saints are still subject to the curse of death (1 Kings 14:12-13; Acts 7:59-60; 12:2; 13:36), and will be so until Jesus returns, even though Jesus died for us to be freed from death (both spiritual and physical).
In like manner, there is no scriptural guarantee that all Christians should be physically healed in this lifetime. In fact, we have numerous N.T. teachings and examples where the sick are not healed (Matt. 11:4-6 cf. 14:10; 25:36; Luke 14:13-14; Gal. 4:13; Phil. 2:25-30; 1 Tim. 5:23; 2 Tim. 4:20), and we know that in this lifetime our outer man (that is, the body) is wasting away, while the inner man is being healed and renewed (2 Cor. 4:15). As the death of Adam and Eve was first spiritual, and later physical, and the resurrection of the Christian is first spiritual and later physical, it would be consistent to believe that the healing of the Christian is also first spiritual, and later physical (that is, the healing of sins that is given at the cross–see 1 Pet. 2:22-25–is secured in this lifetime, while the healing of our bodies is reserved, ultimately for the next life). So total bodily healing happens when Jesus returns (Rev. 22:3). This does not mean that we should not expectantly pray for healing in this lifetime (we are commanded to in James 5!), or even for physical resurrection (Acts 9:40). We should expectantly pray for both of these things on the grounds that God loves to heal (as seen in Jesus’ ministry and the book of Acts) and supplies the believer with faith for healing in many situations (James 5:15 cf. 1 Cor. 12:9). But we must realize that there are not biblical grounds to believe physical healing is promised for all in this lifetime, despite all the passionate claims Mr. Wommack may make to the contrary.
Wommack argues that because God has provided everything, “technically you don’t have to ask for it,” (115). In fact, Wommack states that he spends virtually no time asking God for anything because He’s already provided it (97). If we do ask, it is more like a demand that must be met, because we know it’s already ours (116-117), and we should not be like the friend who pleads for bread (Luke 11:5-8). Instead, we should realize that God has given us everything already (69-71), so every time you “feel the need to start praying, fasting, or doing something else to try to make God come through,” Wommack writes, “you’ve stepped out of faith,” and, in effect, act as though “Jesus isn’t enough,” (p. 139).
There are multiple problems with this.
Problem #1: It is blatantly anti-biblical. Not only does Jesus repeatedly teach us to “ask” for things (Mt. 7:7-11; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:1-13; 18:1-8; John 14:13-14; 15:7; 15:16; etc.), but we also are explicitly told to ask for things BECAUSE we lack them: “If any of you LACKS wisdom, let him ASK of God,” “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss,” (James 1:5; 4:2-3). Further, we see that various gifts and facets of the Holy Spirit must be imparted to people AFTER they already are Christians…they are not things they possess in Christ immediately (Acts 8:18; 19:6; Rom. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:6). In fact, healing itself generally comes to believers through laying hands and anointing with oil (Mark 16:18; James 5:14), which seems strange to do if all believers ALREADY possessed full healing in Jesus, and simply needed to believe and declare their healing. Further still, Jesus taught that His followers should persistently ask God for things that they do not currently possess (Luke 11:5-9; 18:1-7).
Problem #2: If this teaching is accepted, people will lose perspective of our position as “unprofitable servants” (Luke 17:10), and those who must seek God for His grace in this lifetime, NOT currently possessing the full inheritance God has promised for those who remain faithful to the end (Luke 19:11-27; Acts 14:22; Romans 8:17; 2 Tim. 2:12; etc.). The “downpayment” of the Holy Spirit we have in this lifetime (Eph. 1:14; 2 Cor. 1:22), and the gifts He gives us, are “childish” and only a “taste” compared to what we will later experience (1 Cor. 13:11; Heb. 6:4-5). Yes, God calls us “sons,” but what son does not still need to ask his father for things? And no decent father gives everything a child asks (or “declares”/”demands”, as Wommack says). Even things that we know God provides (e.g. Matt. 6:26), we are still told to ask for (e.g. Matt. 6:11), and may even be called to go without for seasons as God deems fit (e.g. 1 Cor. 4:11; 2 Cor. 11:27).
Other things could be listed that are of concern, but I hope this is enough to show that in some major areas Wommack is tragically unbiblical, contradicting hundreds and even thousands of Scriptures that disagree with his conclusions. Nor are these small issues (as Wommack recognizes himself). These teachings fundamentally deny core aspects of the nature of God and nature of believers, as taught by Scripture. Thus, they lead people who embrace such teachings to deny/embrace a God and a Christian experience that (at least in some areas) is considerably different than the one portrayed in Scripture. When accepted, it will inevitably disappoint, and could lead to tragic consequences.
I do not say this as mere theory. I have seen firsthand how such beliefs have shipwrecked (or severely damaged) people’s faith when they were faced with real suffering. They became like the seed sown in rocky places: “they hear the word,” and, “immediately receive it with gladness,” but, “afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.” (Mark 4:16-17). These are no small matters.
So, with all this said, here is my challenge for Wommack and all of us: Are we worshipping a “god” of our own design, a “god” that looks and acts a lot 21st Century Americans? Do we change the Bible when we read it, so that God conforms more and more to our own image of what He “should” be? Or does the Bible change us when we read it, so that we bow more and more to God as He really is revealed?