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The Word-Faith Movement

Are We As Christ?

Edited and expanded extracts from the book by Dusty Peterson & Elizabeth McDonald,
Alpha - the Unofficial Guide: Church, (2005), Part Four, Chapter 20


Word-Faith: Index of Articles

 

Introduction

Following from their teachings that God created Adam as a "little god", and that the Lord Jesus was re-born in hell, Word-Faith teachers go on to assert that the born-again believer is not "in" Christ, but actually "is" Christ:
 

"If you believe that man is divine, and that he lost his divinity at the Fall, then it is but a short step to reclaiming that divinity at salvation.  If Jesus Christ was re-born as a man anointed with the Spirit, then we all as Spirit-filled, re-born men and women share the very same divine power, authority, and attributes as Jesus Christ - we are literally re-born as a god, on an equal footing with Jesus" [source].

I apologise that there are quite a lot of quotes from the Word-Faith teachers below, but it is necessary to be sure that what we are considering here is indeed a standard Word-Faith doctrine and not just one or two stray comments from one or two teachers which may simply have been misunderstood or taken out of context.


Kenneth E. Hagin:

"Jesus is the first person that was ever born again" [How Jesus Obtained His Name, (No Date), audiotape #44H01],

"There is a real incarnation in the new birth" [Zoe: The God-Kind of Life, (1982), p.42],

"In the new birth God imparts His very nature, substance and being into our human spirits" ['The Virgin Birth', Word of Faith, (Dec 1977), p.8  /  'Walking in the Light of Life', Word of Faith, (Jan1978), p.3],

"Every born-again man is an incarnation, as much an incarnation of God as was Jesus of Nazareth" ['The Incarnation', Word of Faith, (12 Dec 1980), p.14],

"The believer is called Christ ... that's who we are ; we're Christ" [Zoe: The God-Kind of Life, (1989), p.41],

"The church hasn't realized yet that they are Christ.  That's who they are.  They are Christ" [As Christ Is - So Are We, (No Date), audiotape #44H06],

"The Church is Christ.  It is the incarnation of Christ, and we need to realise that in order to save the world" [quoted at source].


Kenneth Copeland:

"Jesus was born again - the first-born from the dead the Word calls Him" ['The Price Of It All', Believer's Voice of Victory, (Sept 1991), p.4],

"It is important for us to realise that a born-again man defeated Satan" ['Jesus: Our Lord of Glory', Believer's Voice of Victory, (April 1982), p.3],

"Jesus is no longer the only begotten Son of God ... Jesus is known as the first begotten from the dead.  If there is a firstborn, then there has to be a secondborn, a thirdborn, a fourthborn, etc" [Now We Are In Christ Jesus, (1980), p24],

"And the whole New Testament calls Him the firstborn ... The word 'born' began to ring in my spirit ... the Spirit of God spoke to me.  And He said, 'Son, realize this: Now follow me in this, don't let your tradition trip you up ... A born-again man defeated Satan.  The firstborn of many brethren defeated him.  You are the very image and the very copy of that one. ... If you'd had the knowledge of the Word of God that He did, you could have done the same thing 'cause you're a reborn man too" [Substitution and Identification, (1989), audiotape #00-0202, side 2  /  What Happened From the Cross to the Throne, (1990), audiotape #02-0017],

"Jesus was the first man to ever be born from sin to righteousness" [What Happened From the Cross to the Throne, (1990), audiotape #02-0017],

"I say this with all respect so that it don't upset you too bad, but I say it anyway.  When I read in the Bible where [Jesus] says, 'I AM', I just smile and say, 'Yes, I AM too!'." [Believer's Voice of Victory, broadcast on TBN, (9 July 1987)].


Benny Hinn:

"When you were born again the Word was made flesh in you.  And you became flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone.  Don't tell me you have Jesus.  You are everything He was and everything He is and ever He shall be. ... [The new man] says, 'I am as He is.'  That's what it says.  As He is, so are we in this world. ... Don't say, 'I have.'  Say, 'I am, I am, I am, I am, I am'." [Our Position in Christ #2: The Word Made Flesh, (1991), audiotape #A031190-2, side 2, emphasis in original],

"I am a 'little messiah' walking on earth" [Praise-a-Thon, TBN, (6 Nov 1990)].


Paul Crouch:

"That new creation that comes into new birth is created in His image. ... It is joined, then, with Jesus Christ.  Is that correct?  And so in that sense - I saw this many years ago - whatever that union is that unites Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, He [Jesus] says, 'Father, I want them to be one with Me even as You and I are one in Us.'  So apparently, what He does, He opens up that union of the very godhead, and brings us into it!" [Praise the Lord, TBN, (15 Nov 1990)].

The statements above are from some of the more prominent Word-Faith teachers.  We now need to consider what the Bible says about them...

 

The Only Begotten Son

The Bible tells us that we are merely the adopted sons into God's family.  Christ is the only begotten Son of God.  We are mortal; only the begotten Son is Divine:

"...the glory of the only begotten of the Father, ... the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father" (John 1:14b,18b),

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, ... in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:16a,18b),

"...ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15),

"God sent forth His Son, ... that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:14-15),

"Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself" (Ephesians 1:5).

The word "begotten" in Greek is monogenes:

"Monogenes (3439) comes from monos = only, and geno = to form, to make.  The genos from which genes in monogenes is derived means race, stock, family, and comes from ginomai = became ("and the Word became flesh").  This is in distinction from gennao = to beget, engender, create, which is the result of birth. ... Monogenes means the only one of the family, as in Luke 7:12 referring to the only son of his mother; and in Luke 8:42, the daughter of Jairus. ... John uses monogenes to describe the relation of Jesus to God the Father, presenting Him as the unique One, the only One (monos) of the family (genos). ... Jesus is never called 'child' of God as the believers are.  Jesus called God His very own Father.  He was not a Father to Him as He is to us.  He never spoke of God as the common Father of Himself and of believers. ... In monogenes we have genos: Jesus Christ designated as the only One of the same stock in the relationship of the Son to the Father" [Spiros Zodhiates, Lexical Aids to the New Testament, (1991)],

"The relationship between Father and Son is described as a unique relationship with the phrase 'only begotten'.  This is something that can 'only' be for Christ; no-one else can have such a relationship - it is unique.  He cannot be one among many, because there can be no-one else like this.  If we can be the same as Christ on this earth - [i.e. if Jesus were simply] a man filled with the Holy Spirit - this Scriptural title would be shown as false.  This is the 'only begotten'; ... and it is a relationship that the Son has had with the Father since before time began" [source].

 

The Church is Christ or the Church is Christ's?

The Church is continuing part of Christ's earthly ministry, but that does not mean we are Christ.  We are merely representing Him before the world; we're acting on His behalf.  If someone is a servant of a master who goes away for a time, the servant may temporarily be made his master's representative; the servant may even have use of some of his master's tools, or be in touch with the master, but the servant is not the master in any real sense!

Though we are "one body in Christ" (Romans 5:12), we are not His actual body any more than we are actual stones or actual sheep or actual olive (or vine) branches.  Christ still has His own body:

"For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9).

 

Jesus the Pattern Son and the Way Show-er

Resulting from this belief that we are no less Christ than is He Himself, is the teaching that the Lord Jesus was the 'Pattern Son':

"I had to have that copy and that pattern ... so that I could recreate a child and a family and whole new race of mankind.  You are in his likeness" [Kenneth Copeland, Substitution and Identification, (1989), audiotape #00-0202, side 2  /  What Happened From the Cross to the Throne, (1990), audiotape #02-0017],

"Jesus ... was the pattern of a new race of men to come" [Kenneth Copeland, What Happened From the Cross to the Throne, (1990), audiotape #02-0017],

Copeland is saying that Jesus is our example who shows us how to become the Perfect Man that He is and how to get to heaven and obtain eternal life if we will just learn the 'Revelation Knowledge' (the "faith" or 'Sense Knowledge') that He had.  Thus, Jesus is not 'The Way', but the 'Way Show-er' in the same sense as the Buddha is, or as the practice of Yoga take us into Brahman.

"If the incarnate Christ is now present in this world, saving the world, defeating the powers of evil and ruling on behalf of God [then] what is the point of Jesus Christ returning in the flesh?  None!  The work of restoring the glories of Eden is in our hands, and Jesus is a mere figure-head in this task.  God has become an 'icon' of belief, a beloved 'father figure' in OUR fight to overthrow Satan and take the nations for Christ.  Jesus Christ has become a Type, a Pattern, the one who went on ahead to show us how to achieve godhood" [source].

We see this idea reflected in some of the songs sung in the church today.  For example, in the song Lord, I Lift Your Name on High, the words: "You came from heaven to earth / to show the way" promote Word-Faith (also Manifest-Sons-of-God) thinking.  If we are to eschew false doctrine, we cannot sing this song as it stands.  The Lord Jesus Christ does not merely "show" the way; He IS the Way.  Thus, we can make the song accord with Scripture by changing these unbiblical words to biblical ones: "You came from heaven to earth / to be the Way" or "You came from heaven to earth / You are the Way".

 

Identification

What the Word-Faith quotes at the beginning of this article are teaching is the concept of 'Identification'.  It is true that this concept was first popularised by the Deeper Life conventions of the Keswick Movement in the later 19th century, but the Word-Faith movement interprets 'Identification with Christ' differently.  Whereas

"the Keswick movement teaches that to be identified through faith with Christ's redemptive work is to be 'in' Christ ... [Word-Faith] denies the physical nature of the atonement, asserts that Christ became a demoniac and was 'born-again' in hell, and teaches that believes can be transformed into incarnations of God (i.e. deification).  ... Through his Identification with Jesus' 'spiritual atonement', the believer is deified ... transformed into gods" [Dan Connell, The Promise of Health and Wealth: A Historical and Biblical Analysis of the Modern Faith Movement, (1990), pp.117,121].

For E.W. Kenyon, from whom every subsequent Word-Faith teacher has effectually learnt his doctrine, 'Identification' meant not simply salvation and sanctification - as it did for the Keswick Movement - but rather "To be born again" is to receive "the nature and life of God in one's spirit" [E.W. Kenyon, The Hidden Man, (1970), p.26].

If Kenyon did not get his idea of Identification from the Bible, or from the Keswick Movement, then whence did it come?  We have perhaps already seen the answer in our consideration of the roots and history of the Word-Faith Movement:

"Christian Science, Theosophy, New Thought and Modern Unitarianism teach, consciously or unconsciously, the Incarnation of the human family, that is, they teach that every man has a God in him.  If a man has God in him then he and God are in union, and if united, Incarnated" [E.W. Kenyon, 'Incarnation', Reality, (Dec 1911), p.49].

Word-Faith teachers take this doctrine extremely seriously, as can be gauged from the reaction of Kenneth Copeland to the death of someone who questioned it:

"That fellow is dead today.  Now I said that to warn you.  Don't criticise people for preaching [Identification].  If you don't understand it, keep your mouth shut and pray" [Kenneth Copeland, How to Receive Revealed Knowledge, audiotape].

 

The Plug and the Socket

Christ abides in us, if we abide in Him, but this does not make us Christ - any more than a plug abiding in a socket becomes the socket (or vice versa).  He said,

"...without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5),

And Paul said,

"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves" (2 Corinthians 3:5a).

Neither do the gifts which the Holy Spirit gives make us Christ.  And, it goes without saying that we should seek to become Christ-like in character, having our minds and hearts transformed to be more like His.  But none of this makes us Christ.

 

For Many Shall Come in My Name...

The Lord Himself warned us:

"Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I Am ... [G]o ye not therefore after them" (Luke 21:8).

 

Elizabeth McDonald
March 2016

 

 

 

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