This is a very familiar story, but colored in some profound ways in this excellent teaching. Please consider:
All Christians should affirm the Bible as God’s living, truthful, and authoritative word. But can God also use it to speak directly to present day situations, even in ways different from its original context?
For instance, a persecuted Christian believed God spoke Matthew 2:13 (“take the child and his mother and escape”) to tell him to flee with his wife and child to avoid impending persecution. He didn’t heed this word, and then, shortly after, the police caught up with him, and sent him to prison (for his faith). Undoubtedly, he understood Matthew 2:13 is about Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, but believed God also simultaneously spoke it concerning a personal situation in his life.
So…is such a concept a valid use of Scripture?
Warnings and Clarifications
First, I 100% understand why people guard against looking for Bible passages to speak to present-day/personal situations. I think they are nervous of people subjectively reading the Bible and/or seeing things that God never said. To illustrate this point, consider the oft-repeated story of a man asking God what he should do, then flipping open his Bible to Matthew 27:5 (“Judas…hanged himself,”). In dismay he thinks, That can’t be right, so he asks again, “What should I do?” this time he flips open Luke 10:37 (“Go and do likewise,”). And we can immediately see the problems:
- God never told him to kill himself,
- Those Scriptures were ripped out of the context they were intended to be used for,
- We are likely to read the Bible according to our subjective whims when we do this, instead of looking for God’s objective interpretation and meaning.
This is a true warning that we should always heed and teach others to do the same.
Thus, when I see people taking Scriptures as personal words to personal situations, I’d stress that doing this is, to me, akin to receiving a present day prophetic word.
In other words, yes, I believe God does speak in such ways today, but we are told to “test” such things (1 Thes. 5:19-21), look for confirmation (1 Cor. 14:29), and vehemently reject any such “words” that contradict the clear interpretations and principles of Scripture.
Further, sometimes it might be helpful to speak of such situations (where a Bible verse seems to relate to a present-day event) as times where the Lord highlights principles in Scripture at a specific time/place for us to apply them. When viewed this way, it’s not so much that we are reading the Bible as meant specifically for our situation, but as recording eternal principles that God highlighted at just the right time for us to apply in our own life. But maybe that’s more a matter of semantics on the issue.
Does the Bible Say Anything about This?
In terms of Scriptures I’d use to justify that God can and does speak such personal words through established Scripture, I’d point to the following:
- First, in 1 Samuel 21, I see a sort of picture of the essence of what is explained above. Not that this proves it is good to use Scripture this way (see below for that), but it does give an image that sort of helps us picture what I’m talking about. In the story, David is on the run from Saul and seeking provisions. He asks for a weapon (v. 8) and the priest offers “the sword of Goliath” (v. 9). This particular sword had been memorialized in a sense. It was laid up there as a sign of what God had done at the event of David slewing Goliath. Thus, the sword had a very fixed use and was remembered chiefly for that use. However, David says it could be of use to him in a different way now. This does not take away the memory it served in Goliath. In fact, that sword would always chiefly be remembered for being part of the victory of Goliath. In that sense it had a very fixed and honorable use. But, on a specific occasion in 1 Samuel 21, David saw use for it in a different (less “special”, less “fixed”) way. In a similar manner, I see how God can “re-issue” his Scripture (compared to a sword – Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17; etc.) to speak to specific events we may face today. So long as we do not remove the “fixed” and “memorialized” meaning of the text, and we continue esteeming that meaning as higher and more authoritative than any new thing God may be speaking in the text, I think we can legitimately use Scripture in this way (again, as subservient to the ultimate interpretation and meaning of the original intent of the Scripture).
- In Matthew 2:15, we see Hosea 11:1 being applied to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus’ brief journey to Egypt. If you flip to Hosea 11, you’ll see that the reference is clearly to the nation of Israel being delivered from Egypt in the book of Exodus. Now I think part of what is happening is that Jesus came as a fulfillment of, and “new version” of, Israel. But the journey to Egypt clearly has a double meaning. In Hosea it referred to a 1,500 BC journey from Egypt by a nation. But in Matt. 2:15 it refers to a 0 AD journey to/from Egypt by a family. In other words Hosea 11:1 is recast to have an added meaning in light of Jesus (Messianic prophecies often work this way).
- Hebrews 12:5-6 quotes from Proverbs 3:11-12. But notice Hebrews 12:5 – “have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son”. Of course, Proverbs was written 1,000 years prior, to a completely different audience. But the writer seizes on the word “son” and sees it applying to the people of that day as a personal word of exhortation to them. Of course, this doesn’t invalidate the original context of Proverbs being written for a different audience at a different time. It just helps to show the Scriptures are living and continue speaking to us today.
- In Isaiah 6:9-10, God tells Isaiah to: “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding…'” The people here referred to were the Jews who lived ~700 BC. But 700 years later, Jesus says, “In them [the people of Galilee in 30AD he is talking to] is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing, but never understanding…'” (Matt. 13:14). Then, 30 years later, while Paul was in Rome, he says, “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: ‘Go to this people and say, You will be ever hearing but never understanding…'” (Acts 28:25-26). So Paul recognizes the original context was ~700BC, but sees it continually fulfilled even to the place of Rome 700 years after Isaiah wrote. Thus, this same passage is applied to 3 different situations.
- Further, throughout the book of Revelation you see an intense amount of “fixed” Old Testament Scriptures and images being “recast” to speak of future events.
- In the gospels, there are multiple examples of Jesus teaching the same (or similar) things at different occasions to different audiences, sometimes with slightly different meaning or emphasis (e.g. compare Matt. 9:13 with 12:7 — in Mt 9:13, Jesus is using Hosea 6:6 to emphasize his forgiving sinners, whereas in Mt 12:7, He uses the same passage to justify Him not obeying their sabbath regulations). If God did it there, I don’t see why He can’t similarly take a fixed Bible passage and “recast” it to our own situations with different emphases. I think He does do this, though it must remain under the authority and discipline of Scripture’s fixed meaning and interpretation (if that distinction makes sense).
Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis.
I’m struck that prayer here is equated with “struggling” and “working hard”. I really wonder as a nation how much it has been prayerlessness that has plunged us into rejecting Christ so much…
We have work to do along these lines, family.
For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?
1 Thessalonians 2:19
I find this profound. Out of so much Paul, Sylvanus, and Timothy could potentially boast of before the Lord, the MAIN thing is those they discipled and raised in the faith. Like a father with his children (spiritual children in this case). If that is the barometer of what we have to boast of, what does our boasting look like? That is, what is the spiritual condition of those we’ve raised in the faith? Takes a lot of time and energy to raise kids. Same with children in the Lord. But our children (spiritual and physical) will be a main thing we point to for Jesus (and He points to for us) to determine how well we’ve been faithful to our mission before Him.
A poem inspired by 2 Sam. 23:10; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 19:15; and similar Scriptures
It glistens silver-- Unrelentingly sharp, Double-edged, Forged in God's fire (Fire prepared for victory-- Every single time), Never losing its edge Battle after battle. Some soldiers talk of its power; But few take it to combat, Excusing why it's not ready, "It doesn't apply here." They claim. And all the while The church keeps losing, While the sword made to win Is memorialized and discussed, But left in its sheath-- Largely untried, Though it'd win every time. Lord help us For reticence to pick up And use The sword of Your Spirit-- God's very word-- While we defeatedly watch The enemy continue To Taunt and rage on.
See also Part 1: Jesus, The Bible, & Homosexuality
Job 3-42 is a dialogue between:
- Job – rebuked at the end by God
- Eliphaz (Job’s older friend) – rebuked at the end by God
- Bildad (Job’s older friend) – rebuked at the end by God
- Zophar (Job’s older friend) – rebuked at the end by God
- Elihu (Job’s younger friend) – NEVER rebuked at the end by God
Here is my overly simplistic paraphrase of that dialogue:
Job: I wish I was never born. (ch. 3)
Eliphaz: Repent and be restored (ch. 4-5)
Job: My sin didn’t cause this (ch. 6-7)
Bildad: Repent and be restored (ch. 8)
Job: God hurts the innocent, like me (ch. 9-10)
Zophar: Repent and be restored (ch. 11)
Job: God caused this, not me (ch. 12-14)
Eliphaz: God judges the wicked (ch. 15)
Job: God caused this, not me (ch. 16-17)
Bildad: God judges the wicked (ch. 18)
Job: God did this, not me (ch. 19)
Zophar: God judges the wicked (ch. 20)
Job: God deals with people the same regardless of their righteousness (ch. 21)
Eliphaz: Repent and be restored (ch. 22)
Job: If I could get a hearing with God, he’d say I’m not guilty. My sin didn’t cause this. (ch. 23-24)
Bildad: Compared to God, all people are sinful (ch. 25)
Job: Man is clueless about God’s ways; fearing Him is the wisest thing to do. I wish He would respond when I called to Him (ch. 26-31)
Elihu, “burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong.” (32:2-3)
Elihu: Job, why do you claim God doesn’t speak to you? God speaks all the time–especially to save souls. God has done no wrong here, despite what Job sinfully claims. God is not changed by man’s righteousness or wickedness. Look at God’s ways and be in awe. He is far above us, to make him understandable to us is foolish. (ch. 32-37)
God: Look around you, Job. Who holds all things together? Do you really claim I’m at fault here? (ch. 38-40:2)
Job: I’m small compared to you; I won’t answer anymore. (40:3-5)
God: Doesn’t it seem foolish to condemn Me when I am the one who overthrows the proud and strong in the world? (40:6-41)
Job: Seeing and hearing you directly makes me realize my foolishness. I repent. (42:1-6)
God: And Eliphaz, I’m upset with you and your friends for speaking wrongly of me in ways Job didn’t. Offer sacrifices and have Job pray for you that your sins would be forgiven.
“So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.” (42:9)
God is 3-in-1
That is, 3 persons yet 1 God.
The fancy word for that is tri-unity, where tri = 3 and unity = 1 (or more technically, we say God is a Trinity). It’s a mystery in many ways, yet is nevertheless affirmed as true. Consider passages such as:
- “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Here Paul is preparing the church to understand they are many members yet 1 body. He does this by looking first at God, who has 3 members, yet 1 God. His body reflects this in our unity and diversity.
- Father-Son-Spirit fill the church: “the church, which is his body, the fullness of him [Christ] who fills everything in every way” “be filled to…all the fullness of God” “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 1:22-23; 3:19; 5:18). Father-Son-Spirit dwell inside the believer: “you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Eph. 2:22; 3:17). Notice in the small, early letter of Ephesians how effortlessly Paul speaks of the 3-in-1 nature of God.
Many more could be added (see Jesus & God).
Consider also in nature how the equilateral triangle is the strongest architectural shape to build upon. I believe God is speaking something in this. He, as a 3-in-1 (Triune) God is the sturdiest foundation.
As such, we see that major stages and foundations of Christianity are similarly defined in 3-in-1 ways.
God reconciled sinners to himself via:
- Living a righteous life in the flesh.
- Dying for our sins.
See 1 Cor. 15:1-4.
Share the Gospel
In 1 Thes. 1:5, Paul says that the gospel came via 3 means:
- Our words
- The Spirit’s convicting power
- Our transformed life
Receive the Gospel
We are called to receive this gospel via 3 immediate actions:
- Be baptized
See Acts 2:38; 16:31
After receiving this gospel, we see a devotion to 3 things grew the church unto maturity:
- God’s Word / Teaching of God’s Word
- Fellowship (especially shared meals)
See Acts 2:42.
And as we seek to be a disciple who makes disciples, we are given 3 charges by the Lord:
- Know his Word
- Obey his Word
- Share/Teach his Word
See Ezra 7:10; Matt. 28:18-19.
Be the Church
Then, as we seek to grow corporately, we see the church called to 3 main duties:
- Love God
- Love each other
- Multiply / Make new disciples
See Matt. 22:37-40; Matt. 28:18-19; Acts 2:47; 9:31
We need God
- God the Father – to seek and pray his sovereign will (Matt. 6:9-10; Acts 4:24-30)
- God the Son – as an example; being covered in His righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30; 1 John 2:6)
- God the Spirit – His indwelling life and fruits; His power (1 Cor. 12-14; Gal. 3:5; 5:22-25)
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?
A certain military conquest of David seems to be spoken of in at least 5 different places in the Bible:
- 2 Sam. 8:3-14
- 2 Sam. 10
- 1 Chronicles 18:3-13
- 1 Chronicles 19
- Psalm 60 (at least the introduction).
At first blush, it is difficult to see how 2 Sam 10 and 1 Chron 19 can be reconciled:
- 2 Sam. 10:18 says: “And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there.” (ESV)
- 1 Chron. 19:18 says: “And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 7,000 chariots and 40,000 foot soldiers, and put to death also Shophach the commander of their army.” (ESV)
So did David kill men of 700 chariots or 7,000 chariots? And was it 40,000 horsemen or foot soliders?
Comparing these accounts has led me to a reconciliation that is plausible, though I’m not insisting it is THE right one:
David killed 40,000 people in this battle (2 Sam. 10:18; 1 Chr. 19:18). I think these 40,000 people consisted of 22,000 Syrians killed in the general battle (2 Sam. 8:5; 1 Chr. 18:5) plus 18,000 Syrians/Edomites* killed at the Valley of Salt**.
*Comparing 2 Sam. 8:13, 1 Chr. 18:12, and the introduction to Psalm 60 has led me to believe that the Syrians and Edomites partnered together in this battle, so that there were many of both peoples present.
**Psalm 60 says there were 12,000 killed, but this was probably written as an initial conservative guess of the numbers, before the bodies were counted, whereas the 18,000 number given in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles is more accurate as it was written much after the fact, when all the bodies could have been counted.
The men killed in the Valley of Salt could have been foot soldiers, while the other Syrians killed in battle were horsemen (or vice-versa). Therefore, when 2 Samuel 10:18 says “40,000 horsemen” were killed, and 1 Chronicles 10:18 says “40,000 foot soldiers” were killed, it reflects that there were many horsemen and many foot soldiers among the 40,000 killed. Therefore, it would be like us saying, “40,000 people were killed, many of them were horsemen” AND, “40,000 people were killed, many of them were foot soldiers”. I think the Hebrew is flexible enough to allow for this interpretation. There is also the possibility that they were trained foot soldiers who fought as horsemen, or trained horsemen who fought as foot soldiers. Both would be accurate according to the wording.
It says in 2 Sam. 10:18 that David killed men of 700 chariots, and in 1 Chronicles 19:18 that David killed 7,000 charioteers. However, there is also a similar variation in 2 Samuel 8:4 and 1 Chronicles 18:4, which seemingly speaks of the same battle—
“David took from him…seven hundred horsemen” (2 Sam. 8:4),
“David took from him…seven thousand horsemen” (1 Chron. 18:4).
Thus, it seems plausible that there was a subset of 700 charioteers that David killed at one stage in the battle (as 2 Sam. tells us), while he killed 7,000 charioteers overall (as 1 Chron. tells us). Or, a variation on this idea is that the 700 chariots mentioned in 2 Samuel were notable chariots, while 7,000 chariots was the total number (this is akin to Exodus 14:7 – “He took 600 choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them.”).