When I was young and “on fire” for God, I was enticed by churches that were alive with enthusiasm and praised God with energy and emotion. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but unfortunately, my enthusiasm led me to the Word of Faith movement.
I learned a lot about the Bible during those years. Sadly, much of what I learned was false, very false. I just didn’t know it. God rescued me from this false teaching about 25 years ago. I am so thankful for His mercy and faithfulness.
Today, I want to talk about a subject that is crucial for us to understand correctly. That is the subject of faith. Because I was taught the wrong definition of faith, it was very difficult to “unlearn” in later years when I realized I had been deceived.
So let’s start with the Biblical definition of faith.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
The rest of Hebrews 11 goes on to explain this in more detail by giving examples of people who were commended for their faith (Noah, Abraham, Sarah, etc.) Verse 13 says,
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.”
They trusted God. When we study Hebrews chapter 11, it becomes clear that faith is trusting God to do what He has promised. Period. This is where the Word of Faith doctrine of faith differs from the Biblical definition.
They say that Hebrews 11:1, (“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”) is referring to a force that we can use to gain prosperity and health. This verse is taken out of context and is clearly in conflict with the rest of the chapter.
The supporters of this movement believe that faith works like a mighty power or force. Through faith, we can obtain anything we want — health, wealth, success, whatever. However, this force is only released through the spoken word. As we speak the words of faith, power is discharged to accomplish our desires.”BereanResearch.org
This is contrary to God’s Word and is rooted in New Age teaching. Hebrews 11:1 is taken out of context and used by Word of Faith preachers to propagate a New Age belief.
The word faith appears 458 times in the New International Version (NIV). So when I realized I had to unlearn my wrong definition of faith and reread the Bible with the correct definition, I faced a monumental task!
My first response upon realizing the deception I had embraced was to reread the New Testament three times. Every time I saw the word faith, I substituted the words trust in God. I based this on the meaning of the Greek word for faith used throughout Hebrews 11.
That word is pistis. It means “firm persuasion … used in the New Testament of faith in God or Christ”. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary)
The relearning process was long and arduous because in all the 458 times I read the word faith in my Bible, the verse now took on a completely different meaning.
This is why discernment is so important. New believers can be easily swept away if sound doctrine is not preached. Why am I writing this? What is the call to action?
#1 Study your Bible so you won’t be deceived by false teachers. The Bible warns us many times about the danger of false teachers.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4
“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
#2 Examine the Scriptures to see if what is taught is true. Check everything. There are many times when I have heard a popular “Bible teacher” teach something and I thought, Where does the Bible say that? Many Christians are too trusting, especially when the teacher is popular, well-known, and entertaining.
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. 18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Romans 16:17-18
The Greek word translated as naive is akakos. It means unsuspecting. We don’t like to think of ourselves as naive, but are we unsuspecting? Everyone who claims to be a Christian isn’t automatically teaching Truth! The fact that they draw huge crowds means nothing. The fact that they have written popular books means nothing.
The important thing is, are they teaching Truth? There is only one way to know. Jesus prayed,
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17 (emphasis mine)
In His Love, Cindy
Do you want to know more about Jesus? See my page Who Is Jesus?
All Scripture references are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.