Since there has been a wave of articles against "hypergrace" preaching and churches in the past year, I decided to read a key book authored by Joseph Prince, who is considered by many to be the main progenitor of this genre of teaching.
I read Prince's book Destined to Reign last week with the idea that I would find out for myself what he really teaches. Half of the Christians I know who read this book loved it, and the other half thought it was heresy, so I was quite interested in the content because I've never seen mature Christians who know the Word of God be so divided on any author since the beginning of the Word of Faith teachings by Hagin and Copeland in the 1970s and '80s.
I must admit I started the book with a suspicious view because for the last 35 years, I have seen some of the catastrophic results of various types of "hypergrace" Christianity. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the book, and as a result I will make some adjustments in how I present the gospel.
This is not to say there were not some theological issues I was concerned with. Prince makes the same mistake thousands before him have made: They come up with some kind of theological system they are comfortable with (he is a "once saved always saved" classical dispensationalist) and then deductively read every passage of Scripture with their biased lens, resulting in forcing the Scriptures to fit their interpretation. Many people make the mistake of wanting to fit God into a concise theological box, resulting in blanket statements that are not always easily proven or true.
The greatest thing about Destined to Reign and Prince's theology is that it is Christ-exalting and Christ-centered. Prince's main passion is not grace but Jesus, which is the place the whole church needs to be but often is not. (Prince believes grace and the person of Christ are synonymous.)
In spite of its flaws, I will actually recommend the book to certain Christians suffering from a performance trap in which they try to earn God's favor and love by the things they do instead of through the merit of Christ's finished work. There is enough good stuff in the book for new believers and those struggling with guilt to get them on a good foundation--if it is coupled with other books and teachings to bring it balance.
What is probably happening with Prince is what happens with many popular preachers who start trends. Other preachers read their stuff and take it to an extreme, teaching things the founder never intended. I do not get the impression Princebelieves in cheap grace or that a person who really understands Prince's heart and teaching will dive into sin--but there are certain places where it is easy for the theologically untrained to take his teaching too far and preach a cheap grace or hypergrace message. Prince makes it clear he hates sin and also preaches from the Old Testament to exalt Christ.
The following are some of my concerns with the book. (Since this is not an academic treatise, I am not citing the exact page numbers of Prince's statements--you just have to read the whole book.)
1. Prince Makes Blanket Statements and Tries to Fit All Scripture Within His System
For example, he says it is not necessary to confess our sins and that Paul's epistles never give an example of a believer confessing sin. He says this because he believes all of our sins, both past and future, have already been forgiven (something I agree with in principle) and that we should just be honest with God and speak to Him about our failures. ButPrince says this is not the same as confession of sin for forgiveness. I say this is a merely a cute play on words because speaking to God about our sins is going to lead to confession anyway.
The challenge I have with this teaching is that in 1 John 1:9, John teaches us to confess our sins. Although Princeacknowledges that this passage refutes his teaching on radical grace, he tries to get around it by saying this passage was written to the gnostics in the church--something he states without citing any commentaries, sources or historical evidence. I counter that the context of 1 John shows that John was writing to believers. He calls them his "dear children" in 1 John 2:1 (NIV). Also, remember that originally the book had no chapters or verses; thus, the "children" in 1 John 2:1 are connected to the first chapter of the book.
Although the apostle John was dealing with gnosticism in this epistle when he spoke about the humanity of Christ in 1 John 1:1 and 4:2-3 and the fact Jesus came in the flesh--a fact gnostics refute because they believe Jesus only came as a spirit because they believed the realm of the flesh was evil--the recipients of this letter were not gnostics but true believers who were being warned against gnosticism.
Furthermore, if 1 John 1:9 was written to unbelievers, why would John tell them to confess their sins? Its impossible for an unbeliever to recount and confess all the sins they ever committed. When I came to Christ, I did not confess each and every individual sin of my past 19 years. I just surrendered my heart to Christ and asked Him to forgive me for being a sinner. When a person comes to Christ, they are not commanded to confess their sins but to receive Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 16:31). Only a Christian can remember and confess individual sins as they are committed.
Furthermore, James 5:16 also teaches believers to confess their sins. Lastly, Paul actually implies confession of sin in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 when he encourages the Corinthian church to repent and have "godly sorrow."
2. Prince Bases His Theology Only on the Writings of Paul
I find it interesting that Prince says he only preaches the gospel Paul preaches. Although I admire Paul, Prince has to be careful with statements like this because he can give the impression that the other writings of the New Testament are not inspired or even canonical. (Even the gnostics only cited Paul and disregarded the other epistles as well as the Old Testament.)
Prince seems to quote the Gospels only occasionally, which gives me the impression he probably believes much of the teaching is not relevant to the church age because the Gospels were written before the Resurrection. This enables Prince(and typical hyperdispensationalists) to avoid dealing with the command for believers to take up their cross (Mark 8:34-36) and other such passages that demand high commitment.
I believe any teacher who is called to preach like Paul the apostle must preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), which means they need to include equally the Gospels and the epistles of John, Jude, Peter and James as well as the book of Hebrews and the Old Testament.
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SOURCE: Charisma News
Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can read more on josephmattera.org or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.