Monday, November 03, 2008

On Chapter 1: Destined To Reign

Caution Point 1: Joseph Prince misunderstands St. Paul’s word (Rom 5.17: βασιλευσουσιν).

Joseph Prince (JP) unhesitatingly clarified right from the beginning of his book how he understands his often-used term “reign in life”,

You are called by the Lord to be a success, to enjoy wealth, to enjoy health, and to enjoy a life of victory. It is not the Lord’s desire that you live a life of defeat, poverty, and failure…When you reign in life, you reign over sin, you reign over the powers of darkness, you reign over depression, over poverty, over every curse, and over every sickness and disease…” (Italics mine, p.1)

JP then quoted Romans 5.17 as a Scriptural support for his understanding of the term “reign in life”. He did a word study on ‘Basileuo’ and found out that it means “a kingly, judicial rule…reign in life as a king…”

Then he concludes, “Based on the authority of God’s word, you are destined to ‘reign in life’ as a king, to have kingly dominion over all your challenges and circumstances.” (p.2)

2 interrelated issues surfaced.

First, it seems that either JP does not know that the author of the letter to the Romans, St. Paul, was someone who did not reign over depression, poverty, and every sickness and disease (2 Cor 11.23-12.11), or he just simply misunderstands St. Paul.

I do not think JP intends to mock St. Paul and his life-long struggles with “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities” (2 Cor 12.10), nor he is ignorant of such passages in the Bible; hence my guess would be that JP misunderstands St. Paul.

On the other hand, there are many Biblical God-loving characters that loved God but did not reign over every sin, powers of darkness, depression, poverty, every curse, and over every sickness and diseases during their lifetime. Here I am thinking not only of St. Paul and Jesus himself, but also of Hosea, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Moses, Jonah, Samson, and others.

Some of these people were crucified, some beheaded, some were repetitively being betrayed, some being ostracized, and some like Isaiah did not even had any followers in their ministering time on earth. These examples suggest that “reigning in life” does not mean having material, emotional, physical, and even psychological wellness in this lifetime.

Second, JP has rightly pointed out that the term ‘Basileuo’ by itself indeed carries the tone of a kingly dominion (p.2). However he is wrong to deduce from there that it means having dominion over depression, poverty, every curse, every sickness and disease in this life (p.1-2).

In JP’s book, he only examined the root word ‘Basileuo’ and neglect the way St. Paul used the word. In the Greek text, the word is in the future tense βασιλευσουσιν (Basileusousin). That means it is something that will happen in the future, not now.

To St. Paul, the kind of ‘reign in life’ as described by JP happens only in the age to come, at the time after the second coming of Christ; not at the present. This can be seen in one of St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he sarcastically ridiculed the Corinthian believers for having already ‘reigned like kings’ at the present time (1 Cor 4.8-14).

JP has entirely misunderstood this part of St. Paul’s theology by missing the word ‘will’ in Romans 5.17 that he quoted. This is especially notable in JP’s bolded emphases on those words that are before and after the tense. The ‘will’, which is in the center, is being neglected,

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who received abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. (Bolds are original, p.2)

Hence I think it is due to this missed-reading that prompted JP to think that upon the receiving of grace, we are enabled to reign over all our circumstances and challenges in our present life (p.3-4, 10). To draw an imperfect illustration, it is like claiming and announcing to the whole world that the biggest bungalow in town is yours even before you had your return from DBS High Notes investment. And it turns out that the Lehman Brothers flopped. Wrong timing and personal delusion.

Nonetheless at other part of this chapter, JP accurately highlighted two main teachings of Christianity that is being transmitted through the generations. He is right to emphasize the sufficiency atoning effect of Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice (p.8), and warn that the reception of God’s grace is not an excuse for “passiveness and laziness” (p.9). Both teachings are similar with that of many mainline or traditional churches.


Reference:

Dunn, James D. G. Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary.

15 comments:

peter said...

Joshua,
You wrote: "St. Paul, was someone who did not reign over depression, poverty, and every sickness and disease (2 Cor 11.23-12.11), or he just simply misunderstands St. Paul."
Paul may had problems, crisis, difficulties etc in his life but he reigned in that he overcame and was not pulled down by them.

You also wrote: "On the other hand, there are many Biblical God-loving characters that loved God but did not reign ...Hosea, Elijah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Moses, Jonah, Samson, and others."
Please read Rom 5:1 again: "reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." It is through Jesus; the OT characters were before Christ. It is Jesus and His new covenant that makes the difference!

Finally: the word ‘will’ and βασιλευσουσιν
I don't think JP misundestood the tenses involved.
As against your previous life without Jesus, now through Christ you will reign in life ("zoe" begins with regeneration); not in the sense of a far off future but in the sense of certainty of happening.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Peter,

If you read JP's book rightly, he sees Romans 5.17 as the foundation for When you reign in life, you reign over sin, you reign over the powers of darkness, you reign over depression, over poverty, over every curse, and over every sickness and disease (JP's words).

But Paul definitely didn't experience reign over depression, poverty, sickness, persecution etc.

Hence JP didn't mean Paul's 'reign in life' as how you watered it down, "he overcame and was not pulled down by them."

At least that's not what JP meant.

On Basileusousin, again, pls read carefully my critique. JP does not understand St. Paul's theology. In 1 Cor 4.8-14, it is obvious that he does not think 'reign in life' as how JP described it in the above.

Thanks for the comment.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi peter,

I have to write a separate reply to your comment, "It is through Jesus; the OT characters were before Christ. It is Jesus and His new covenant that makes the difference!" because it is quite long.

Here:

Is the grace of those people of God who were before Christ different from the grace of those who believes in Christ?

St. Paul himself argued that actually there is no difference between those who are justified by their faith in Christ and those who were justified by their faith in God before that. In Romans 4:

Rom 4.3
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness...

Rom 4.9
Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.

Rom 4.16-18
For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, "A father of many nations have I made you") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "So shall your descendants be."


Abraham's descendants are all the Jews and non-Jews; not only those who believes in Christ but also those who were of the Law (v.16, 23-24). Hence to St. Paul the grace received by those who were before Jesus is the same as those who believe in Christ.

peter said...

You quoted: "When you reign in life, you reign over sin, you reign over the powers of darkness, you reign over depression, over poverty, over every curse, and over every sickness and disease (JP's words)."

You reiterated: "But Paul definitely didn't experience reign over depression, poverty, sickness, persecution etc."

Did Paul suffer depression?
Did Paul suffer poverty? (He was in want and also in plenty but He was able to declare that His Jesus will supply his every need according to His riches in glory.)
Did Paul suffer sickness? (His thorn is open for debate.)

Also JP didn't say anything about "persecution". He fully understands that Christians will be persecuted for His sake. Infact JP will probably classify your writings as part of the persecution he will face.

peter said...

Joshua,
I do not wish to enter into a discussion on the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Hence I won't go on to comment about your references to Abraham etc.

Suffice for me to say that Rom 5:17speaks of "will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ."
The whole import of Rom 5:17 is that it is only through the deat of Jesus that there the abundation provision of grace and the gift of righteousness.

If we miss this, we miss the whole essence of the gospel and the Christian faith.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Peter,

Passages such as 2 Cor 2.4, 6.1-10, 7.4-6 point to all kind of struggles, including depression, facing St. Paul.

Whether was St. Paul in poverty or not depends on our understanding of poverty in the context of 1st century Palestine.

I added 'persecution' into the list because St. Paul went through it, not so much because of JP.

Sze Zeng said...

I don't think we miss the whole essence of the gospel and the Christian faith even if we don't import Rom 5.17 into our understanding. The essence of the gospel is not so obvious in Paul's letters. It is more explicit in the gospels themselves.

If you change your mind about discussing the old and new covenant, mail me @ joshuawoo@gmail.com

Israel Lee said...

“You are called by the Lord to be a success, to enjoy wealth, to enjoy health, and to enjoy a life of victory. It is not the Lord’s desire that you live a life of defeat, poverty, and failure…When you reign in life, you reign over sin, you reign over the powers of darkness, you reign over depression, over poverty, over every curse, and over every sickness and disease…”

Peter, I think my disagreement with JP would be over these phrases regardless on how he understood Roman 5.

I presume JP is referring to enjoying wealth, health and victory in the current life. It is really difficult to match the Lord's teachings in the gospels with JP's vision if the measurement of wealth, health and victory in his sense is merely material and physical. I think by these human standards that JP relies on, even the life of our Lord Jesus Christ would be considered an utter failure!

JP's explicit mention of reigning over sin and thus having power and control over poverty and diseases is again a form of 'theology' that is very difficult to find support in the bible and in the history of the lives of those faithful first century disciples. Again, the execution of James (John's brother), Peter and Paul, and those burned by Nero and those who suffered horrific torture and death under a few cruel Roman emperors certainly do not display the kind of victory in life according to the normal human standards.

I think using the term depression on the lives of first century Christians would be anachronistic. If you asked whether Paul was sad, horrified, deeply troubled, suffered intense mental stress, physical weakness and sickness, I would definitely say 'Yes'. Now, whether this is counted as depression in the modern sense is still an open debate. But, I do not think JP, judging by his words, would equate these conditions that Paul endured and lived faithfully all in the name of Christ, as his sense of reigning in life, enjoying wealth, health and free from every disease. Between JP and Paul, I choose the latter.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Israel,

I'll chose the latter too.

Don said...

Well said, Israel and Sze Sze

Anthea said...

I think 1 John 2:15 is not in JP's bible.

1 John 2:15 Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.

JP is one of the privileged pastors living a lavish heaven-like lifestyle -- thanks to his supporters!

Anthea said...

JP uses this book to reign over the life of his zombies so that he could live a lavish heaven-like lifestyle.

buggud said...

i cant understand why the children of the King are fighting to be 'BROKE ,BUSTED AND DISGUSTED' I adopt a little girl and that help me to see the Fathers heart. What ever is mine is for that little girl, she now have my name.God adopt us and now we are joint heirs with Christ. In order to know what we are all searching for, we have to know what we lost. We are all searching for power in some way or the other, go back to Genesis and we will see what mankind lost. Mankind lost reigning power over the Earth, in other words mankind lose the governing power over Earth. This power came back to Earth in the person of our Lord and Saviuor Jesus Christ as prophesied in Isaiah 9:6> the government shall be on his shoulders.A King embodies and personified the Kingdom, so wherever the King is the Kingdom and all that entails the Kingdom is present. So if the King's Spirit is within us, then the Kingdom is present. So reigning in in life should be simple matters and nothing to cause a debate.

blessedgirl said...

I keep wondering where knowing Christ and the fellowship of his sufferings comes in......

leonil said...

2Ti 2:12 " If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us."

The prerequisite of 'reigning' which is "hardship" is opposite the feel-good message of jp. and 'to reign with christ' obviously points to a period beyond death, considering Paul was already a dead man walking (in prison nearing execution writing 2 Tim.)