Is the Prosperity Gospel Slipping into Your Life – What is the Gospel?

Andrew Rappaport’s Rapp Report 0089

Is the Prosperity Gospel Slipping into Your Life?

I.              What is the gospel?

  • The gospel has been under attack and will always remain under attack. It has been under attack by the redefinition of its meaning. People are always trying to change the gospel.
  • If someone gets everything else right about God, but the gospel wrong, they are damned to hell. God’s enemies do not care about attacking any doctrine more than the gospel. It is the most important thing to get right.

II.            Imputation

  • Definition:
    • charging to an account
    • The word imputation, according to the Scriptural usage, denotes an attributing of something to a person, or charging of one with anything, or a set of something to one’s account.
    • It is a legal term.
    • This is the Old Testament idea of the blood sacrifice. The sin was imputed to the animal sacrifice.
  • This is the one area that defines Christianity. If you have everything else right about Christianity and get this one doctrine wrong, you are not Christian.  This doctrine is the one defining doctrine of Christianity that you must not get wrong.  It is literally a matter of eternal life or death!
  • The Christian can be free from sin. Christ came to be the second Adam (Romans 5:12-19).

12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13(For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.  

  • This passage of Scripture explains how sin entered the world by the act of one man, Adam. This one act caused a sin nature in every man, even before there was a written law to explain the penalties.  The immediate result of that one act of sin was death— physical, spiritual, and ultimately eternal.  This death has been passed on to everyone from generation to generation.  Finally, with all that by one act of sin, there was also one act of righteousness by Christ that remedies the act of Adam.  This contrast is in view in this passage of Scripture.
  • The contrast parallels the sin of Adam and the salvation of Christ. It reveals the similarities and differences between the two events in history.  The sin of Adam was a real event and test in history, not a mythical account.
  • The parallels between Adam and Christ are seen in the “oneness.” The result of Adam’s sin was both physical and spiritual death.  The “oneness” is revealed in the one sinful act of Adam and the one righteous act of Christ.  The sin nature extends to all people— except Christ.  Sin was brought into the world by one sinful act, not multiple acts. Thus, Christ’s death was one act for one act, not one act for many acts.  Therefore, Christ died by one act for sin, not sins.
  • How is God’s grace by the act of Christ different from the one sinful act of Adam? Due to Adam, all men are rightly judged for imputed sin.  It is deserved and to all.  However, grace is not to all men and completely and totally unmerited by men.  Because of this, not all men are in Christ, but all men are born in Adam.  Being in Adam is condemnation; the imputation of righteousness by being in Christ is redemption.  Those in Adam have a certain death, both physical and spiritual.  However, those in Christ do not have a spiritual death any longer and may even avoid physical death.
  • Even more so, we can see that there is a superiority of Christ to Adam. There is a similarity in all being “in Adam” and those “in Christ,” the one act of Adam and one act of Christ, and the union with Adam and those in union with Christ.  However, the superiority is in the nature of the one act of Christ, which can impute His righteousness to those who are in Adam.  Christ’s one-act is the remedy for the result of Adam’s one-act.  The important note between the similarity in oneness between Adam and Christ is in a natural versus a spiritual oneness.  All men are in Adam (naturally), and some men are in Christ (spiritually).
  • The superiority can be seen in the contrast between Adam and Christ. Adam disobeyed; Christ obeyed.  Adam’s act was imputed to all men; Christ’s righteous act is imputed to a few men.  Adam’s act has the involvement and participation of each person; Christ’s act has the involvement and participation of only Christ, not any man.
  • As described earlier, there is a contrast in the union in that Adam’s is a natural union while Christ’s is a spiritual one. The union with Adam is immediate at conception while the union with Christ is conditional, based upon faith and regeneration.  All suffer through Adam because of his act while only Christ suffered by His act.
  • (Tupperware illustration)
  • We are justified, declared “not guilty,” in God’s sight because while we were sinners, God attributed our sin to Jesus and attributed Jesus’ righteousness to us.
  • Federal headship in Adam and in Christ: it is this federal headship that provides for our double imputation: 1) our sin imputed to Jesus and 2) Jesus’ righteousness imputed to us.
  • No one can escape the inherited sin, but few receive the imputation of righteousness. In other words, all men are deserving of the imputation of sin and its judgment, but none are deserving of the grace of God.    Thus, all sin is merited, and grace is completely unmerited.
  • The enemies of the gospel do not care how much time you spend serving in the church. The enemies of the gospel do not care how much time you spend in fellowship with one another. The enemies of the gospel do not care how much you give to the church. The enemies of the gospel do not care how much you read the Bible.  The enemies of the gospel only care that you get this one doctrine wrong!

III.          One dangerous threat to the gospel is external.

  • The threat to the doctrine of imputation comes from those that water it down. They remove any talk of sin. Thus, they focus only on the righteousness of Jesus imputed to them. However, they still sit in their self-righteousness because they never dealt with the sin being imputed to Christ.
  • Imputation is both our sin on Christ and His righteousness on us.
  • The gospel has been attacked by people that redefine it.
  • Very often, people water down the gospel because they want the person with whom they are talking to like them more than God.
  • Romans 5:6-11

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6–11)

  • A Roman Catholic says that if anyone believes that we are justified by faith alone, we are anathema, i.e. cursed. As a Roman Catholic, you cannot believe in the doctrine of imputation.  The Roman Catholic Church goes so far as to say that someone would be cursed in hell to believe in the doctrine of imputation.
  • The new perspective on Paul has been redefining the gospel and specifically this doctrine for years. The new perspective on Paul rejects the doctrine of justification by grace alone.  It is an attempt by evangelical Christians to be liked and get along with Roman Catholics by adopting their doctrine and rejecting the central doctrine to salvation.
  • This blurring of the issues of justification and sanctification has the net effect of making Christianity like every other world religion: a salvation-by-works gospel. Every world religion has works-based salvation because it is inherent to human pride to want to earn eternal life.  Grace-Based salvation is distinctively Christian.  To confuse or deny the doctrine of imputation by grace alone through faith alone and in Christ alone is to deny Christianity itself.
  • People redefine the gospel not because they are concerned about others wanting to have eternal life. They do not do it because they fear God. They do it because they love themselves more than wanting others to love God.

IV.          The more dangerous threat to the gospel is internal.

  • The internal threat to the gospel is more dangerous because it is more subtle. It is often overlooked, and when pointed out, it is often denied and even justified.  This greater threat to the gospel is so subtle that people ignore it even with the threat in front of them.  This threat to the gospel is internal.  It is all of us!
  • We talk as if salvation is by grace alone, but we live our lives in such a way that we actually teach that it is by works. We give lip service to imputation and live based on performance.  We live as if our works are necessary for our salvation.
  • Many would disagree with this because intellectually and theologically, they understand justification and the doctrine of imputation, but we are not talking about our intellect. We are talking about how we practically live it out.  Theologically, we understand justification and imputation rightly.  However, practically, with regard to our sanctification, we act as if we must rely on works to be accepted by God.  I am not addressing what we profess we believe.  I am addressing the very way we live.
  • How we threaten imputation in our own lives:
  1. We think we need to make up for the things we have done wrong.
  2. We think we deserve it, i.e. we are too casual with the grace of Christ.
  3. We think we are not good enough for Christ.

A.           We think we need to make up things for we have done wrong.

  • There are so many of us that live in such a way that says that we are doing works to attempt to get God on our side— as if our works will keep us in good favor with God.
  • How do we respond when we have a bad day? Do you ever feel guilty when things go well for you?  As though you do not deserve it, and you should not have it because you have not earned it?  And if things go bad for us on a bad day, do we act as if we had earned the bad things and deserve them?
  • How about when you have a really good day with God? You had your devotions.  You had a good time of prayer.  Maybe you had the opportunity to share the gospel with someone, and the conversation went really well.  Things are going well for the rest of that day. Do you feel you deserve the good things? Do you think they are owed to you? Do you expect that you should have a good day because you had your devotions and did your good works?
  • When you are doing good works for God, do you expect good things to happen? When you are being disobedient to God, do you expect bad things to happen?  When you are being disobedient to God and good things happen, do you feel guilty?  Are you doing good works for God, and when things do not happen well, you ask why?
  • The problem with this view is that we are using our works or performance to gauge God’s satisfaction with us as if God would only be happy if we are “good.” Maybe some of us grew up hearing this all the time, and now we think this way.  We act as if our sanctification is performance-based.  If we do not keep performing for God, we’re going to be out of His favor.
  • Paul learned the mistake of this as he stated in Philippians 3:3-10:

3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (Philippians 3:3–10)

  • We live as if we have works-based sanctification. Our works did not save us.  Our works will not keep us, either.  God saved us by grace.  We can never be so good that we do not need to rely on God’s grace, and we can never be so bad that we are beyond God’s reach with His grace.
  • We threaten the doctrine of imputation when we live in such a way that we feel the need to make up for the sins we have done against God. When I first became a Christian, I did not know any other Christians.  I used to struggle as any other 16-year-old boy would with lust and pornography.  When I sinned, I would have a day of fasting to make up for that sin.  That threatens the doctrine of imputation.
  • When we do this, we do not live as if we believe in the doctrine of imputation. Imputation is both our sin on Christ and His righteousness on us. The irony is that when we leave this performance-based model of sanctification, we still do not make up for our sin.  In fact, we add to whatever sin we have committed the sin of self-righteousness, thinking that somehow our works can do more than Christ’s work on the cross.
  • When Jesus Christ hung on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” There is absolutely nothing more that we human beings can ever do that can add to that finished work.  It is finished— yet we continue to sin and continue to feel guilty.  It is finished.  We try to make up for our sins by doing good works.  It is finished.  We come to expect that we will have a good day if we do good things for God.  It is finished.  It is finished!  There is nothing more we can add.  There is nothing more we can do.  It is finished.  Christ did it all.
  • We do not want God’s grace. Does that shock you?  Do you really want God’s grace?  When we try to establish our own performance-based sanctification, we do not want God’s grace.  We want our own merit, just like the followers of all other world religions that want to earn.  It is prideful to think that our works earn more than what God did.
  • If we are in Christ, we have been crucified in Christ. Gal 2:20 – who is doing our sanctifying?  We are dead.  We are crucified.  We cannot sanctify ourselves.  It is Christ who lives through us.  So, our role in sanctification is through Christ.  That is imputation.  Christ took our sin, and we have His righteousness.
  • The source of our relationship with God is the gospel. We cannot rest on our own righteousness because we do not have any.  The righteousness we have comes from Christ, and we must rest on His righteousness.
  • It is God who reconciled us to Himself that we may become His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:16-21).

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:16–21)

  • It is only because God, Who had no sin, became sin for us that we become the righteousness of God. We do not get God’s righteousness by our works.  We did not save ourselves by works, and we will not keep ourselves saved by works.

B.           We think we deserve it and are too casual with the grace of Christ.

  • Look at the parable that Jesus told to the Pharisees (Luke 18: 9-14).

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

  • This is the case for people who trust in their own achievements and their own works. They come to think that they deserve God’s grace.  In fact, they look down on others who do not live up to their standard.
  • You will see these people usually becoming legalistic, like the Pharisees. They may have an air of spirituality, but they base it on their performance.  They may even give God the credit as this Pharisee does; however, when they are trusting in their own self-righteousness, they even have contempt for others.
  • What makes the Pharisee so self-righteous is that he thinks he is not like everyone else. He thinks he has achieved some level of performance that sets him apart from everyone else.  He is blind to his own self-righteousness.
  • One clear sign that you have come to the point that you believe you deserve God’s grace and have become too casual about it is when you feel that you are better than others. You are trusting in your own self-righteousness when you have a view of superiority over other people.
  • We act as if we deserve God’s grace. We become too casual with God’s grace.  We find and perch on some theological issue from which we are going to look down on others.  For example, one popular issue these days is the theological discussion about Calvinism and Arminianism.  We will not even talk to people that claim to be one or the other because we think we are better than they are.
  • The issue is that if you are talking with another person that has the doctrine of imputation correct, he is a brother in Christ. We see this self-righteous, works-based sanctification in people that will not talk to someone because they disagree with some theological position.  They even claim to know that others are not saved because they claim the other view is of the devil. Usually, they build straw-man arguments so that in their pride, they can tear others down and feel superior. They have set their theological system and their sanctification above another person for whom Christ died.
  • This pride of self-righteousness deceives the person into thinking they are right and spiritual when actually they are sinful and threatening the doctrine of imputation. Like the Pharisee, they come to expect God’s righteousness— not because of what Christ did, but because of what they do and believe.
  • There are plenty of other issues and things that many of us can be self-righteous and look down on others regarding, including unbelievers. Do we look down on homosexuals?  Do we look at the drug addict on the street who is homeless and think he deserves it?  Do we ignore the atheist who denies God and not shares the gospel with him because we think he is a fool and does not deserve it?
  • Do we look down at those very people we mentioned that externally threaten the doctrine of imputation? Do we look down on those Roman Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.?  We actually look down on those people who threaten the doctrine of imputation while we ourselves are threatening the doctrine of imputation by the way we live.

C.           We think we are not good enough for Christ.

  • Some have fallen into the downward spiral of shame. We have some life-dominating sin that we go back to over and over again, and we are sick and tired of asking God for forgiveness.  We get to the point that we think that we are not good enough for Christ.  We do not deserve His righteousness.  “Might as well give up on the whole Christian thing and give me over to the flesh,” we say to ourselves.
  • Our flesh is happy to convince us of these things. Our flesh is happy to tell us, “You are not good enough. God’s not going to listen to you after you do that again.” We tell ourselves that God cannot forgive us.  We have done it too many times.
  • The downward spiral of shame begins when we think that God cannot forgive us. We feel shame for asking for forgiveness again.  We pull away from prayer because we feel like a hypocrite.  We stopped doing our devotions and reading the Bible because it no longer gives us joy but makes us feel guilty.  We pull away from church because those joyful people make us feel miserable like we cannot have what they have.
  • We were saved by God’s grace— He took all our sin upon Himself on the cross and gave us His righteousness! He knew what we would do.  He knows our sin better than we do.  And He forgave us!  If you are in Christ, you are forgiven!  You are free.  Are you in Christ?  Then, there is no shame.  Stop beating yourself up.  If you are in Christ, then He has already forgiven you.  Forgive yourself. Repent, and ask forgiveness.
  • It is time to move on. It is time to serve Christ.  This is clearly not making an excuse for sin. Romans 6:1-2 makes it clear: should we sin that grace may abound?  Absolutely not!  The person who wants to use God’s grace as an excuse for vice is not the person we are talking about here.
  • I am talking to the person who feels unworthy of God’s righteousness and who feels “not good enough.” They look at their works and feel ashamed.  To you, I say it is finished.  It is finished!  He who knew no sin became sin that you may become the righteousness of Christ.  The God of the universe did that for you.  The One who created you and gives you life and breath in your lungs died for you.  He died for you that you might live and live more abundantly.
  • This form of shame is actually another form of self-righteousness. It is also another threat to the doctrine of imputation because it focuses on performance-based sanctification, but it is masked in false humility.  It is hidden in the deception of guilt. We must repent of this self-righteousness.
  • Another way that we feel we are not good enough for Christ is by comparing ourselves to other people that God has sanctified and expected that they can be used by God but that we cannot. “Well, I cannot handle the Word of God like Pastor So-and-so,” or “I cannot go out and evangelize on the street like that guy on the street— all I can do is hand out this gospel tract.”
  • All you can do is hand out a gospel tract? Like that is some meaningless thing?  Do you remember 2 Corinthians 5?  You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ.  You represent the King— the King who adopted you into His family. Christ died that you may become His righteousness. You are an ambassador for Christ. Serve your King!

II.            Conclusion

  • The solution to the problem of the external threat is to proclaim rightly the accurate gospel. We must not water it down.  We must proclaim it.  It must be the gospel of imputation.
  • The solution to the internal threat to the doctrine of imputation is that we must preach the gospel to ourselves every day. It is not enough to know the gospel intellectually and theologically.  We must live out the gospel and sanctification process daily.  We must live in such a way that we have no sin because Christ took it, and we received His righteousness.


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