3 John 1:2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
3 John 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
The Guardian posting "The Prosperity Gospel makes a mockery of Christianity" on 29 May 13 makes the pertinent point that it is a con job of pastors getting rich at the expense of the congregation using God's name.
Prosperity Theology is certainly subject to abuse, yet there are some truths in the blessings and favor of God as Christians who walk in the light of the truth.
The Guardian said that the Prosperity Gospel makes a mockery of Christianity, yet it fails to examine the Christian biblical roots of the theology, and the arguments against this theology from a bible persepctive. ie it cannot be making a mockery of Christianity if Christianity is about prosperity according to the scriptures.
It is ironic that that the highly conservative evangelicals (eg those against C3 churches) who criticised the prosperity theology of the mega churches are not poor, but very well of. The liberals in their elite cooridors of academic institutions are voicing out their displeasure less vehemently, but are not often heard and are also not poor.
Once upon a time, there were the rich evangelical conservatives, with the poor hillbilly charismatic/pentecostals who are uneducated, simple, poor, and with few ordained clergy. These weren't the "thinking" type of Christians many would say and were into supernatural manifestations and tongues to the dismay of the intellectual evangelicals who called them Christian cults.
These "Christian cults" became the mega churches of today, with a background of simple communal living and sharing of resources of the Jesus People and YWAM, totally overturned in the 70s, 80s, and 90s with tele-evangelists often abusing prosperity. There is a call from God to return back to the simplicity of the original Pentecostal/Charismatic movements in the dawn of the 20th century.
Jesus offers us prosperity of our soul, not having the physical belongings that so marked mainline christianity, but the inward prosperity within of a soul connected to God, walking in the truth that it is by grace and not the religious faith laws. That grace is found in Jesus death and resurrection.
In 3 John 1:3, walking in the truth reflects a faith journey of being keenly aware of the presence of God in our lives through Jesus Christ giving us the wisdom to know how to walk this life, and the favor with one and all. Walking in truth is walking in grace realising that it is all of Jesus and not of the law or our own righteousness, intellect, or even love.
Our soul prospers (3 John 1:2) because we can apply the bread and the blood in our lives:-
a. Blood - signifying the necessity of Jesus death whose blood washes us clean and makes us righteous, not that we deserved it or follow the religious laws whether in commandments or to love others. Because Jesus is righteous, so are we when we are in Christ.
b. Bread - signifying the body of Christ broken for us, with the beatings and nailed to the Cross at Calvary. Jesus bored our pain, and infirminities and sicknesses, that as we called upon that bronze snake lifted high signifying the grace of God at the Cross, we receive healing. Hence, we place all our sickness, upon the body of Christ because He has already borne for it all.
Jesus was not rich (2 Cor 8:9) when He came down to earth (contrary to what Pastor Kong of CHC preached!), but He chose to become poor so that we can receive blessings.
If Jesus had come taking His righteful position in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem with all glory and power, He will be worshipped by the Jews and the Roman Empire will be easily defeated by the thousands of angels, but it wouldn't prosper our soul in the 21st century.
Jesus ultimately had to die, totally naked, and made Himself of nothing so that in Him our redemption and payment for sin due to the demands of the law is fulfilled!. The love commandments are nothing more than the summary of the religious law, and in loving God, the religious pharisees killed Jesus. They thought that they were loving God whole heartedly.
John extended the prosperity of our soul by walking in the truth, to being prosperous in all things, and in the Jewish context we are reminded of
a. the Mosaic Covenant, that the blessings of God came as we fulfilled the law. The law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ by grace. So let us walk keenly aware of the grace of God, and not in the law.
b. the Abrahamic Covenant, an unconditional convenant of God blessings as descendents of Abraham, and in Christ we are grafted into the line of Abraham.
Therefore, we are to prosper in all things because of the Cross of Calvary when we are aware of God's Grace in our lives, and apply the finished work of Calvary into our lives.
Yet, Prosperity theology is subject to abuse.
Prosperity doesn't come by the law whether in the ten commandments or the love commandments, because we are unable to fulfil it. Yet, some are insisting on the law.
When the mega church pastors insist by religous law eg of tithing, that the money be given to them as God's favor so that they can be seen to be prosperous with a huge pay check, and glorify themselves, they are not wrong.
However, they will be striving hard, with so much legalistic demands, houndings of the members, accounting for every penny that the members will be giving, and constant reminders if pledges are not met for whatever reasons. God's name will be invoked over and over again, and judgement if money is not given. If you love God, give more to the church which is to the leaders. This is the law and not grace, and not the truth that John asked Christians to live in.
In essence, when we invoke God's name so many times, when the money actually flows to the leaders for their own use, it makes a mockery of God's grace at the Cross of Calvary. We become gods! and soon we see no wrong even if the money donated to the household of God is used for personal gain of a few leaders rather than the extension of the Kingdom of God.
The money to the church is actually meant for a common pool (Acts 4:32) so that there is no barrier between the rich and the poor in the Kingdom of God.
Therefore, let us not walk by the law, but by truth in the Grace of God at the Cross of Calvary. For the Law causes us to sin when we are exalted, but grace opens the door to God blessings in an effortless manner.
Each day is walking in truth that the Grace of God suffices, giving us wisdom to know the way, and favor to receive blessings when all our earthly efforts are so inadequate. Each day is remembering grace in the communion of the bread and the wine, connecting us to Jesus Christ in one body and blood. Let us be keenly aware of the presence of God daily in our lives.
We end with Acts 3:6 when Peter and John healed the lame person at the temple gate not offering him silver or gold that he had asked for, but giving him the measure of grace from God's throne itself. People come to church to seek after silver or gold as God's favor, but they actually need God's grace who is personified in Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom Peter and John called upon to heal the lame.
Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.