The Prosperity Gospel and Two Covenants

The Prosperity Gospel gets its knocks. Deservedly so.

Too often, though, our answer is merely to throw verses at it, and we miss the main point, a point that is crucial to our understanding of many facets of the Christian life.

It’s not like throwing verses isn’t intellectually effective. Jesus told a parable against storing up treasures on earth (Luke 12:16-21). He told us that the only way to be his disciple is to forsake all our possessions (Luke 14:33). He told us specifically not to store up treasure on earth (Matt. 6:19). Paul tells us that those who want to be rich are laying a trap for themselves (1 Tim. 6:9).

Those aren’t the only such passages. I’m sure some of my readers are chomping at the bit, wanting to add more verses to that list.

There’s something more, though, and it has to do with the verses prosperity teachers would give us in retort.

The Carnal Old Covenant and the Spiritual New Covenant

Verses that Prosperity preachers use include things like:

  • Length of days is in her [Wisdom] right hand, and in her left hand riches and honor. (Prov. 3:16)
  • The crown of the wise is their riches. (Prov. 14:24)
  • You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he that gives you the power to get wealth. (Deut. 8:18)

There are so many more such verses that we need to stop there.

The difference between these “prosperity” verses and the “anti-prosperity” ones that we’ve looked at is that all these prosperity verses are in the old covenant.

It is important for us to know the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. It affects everything.

The old covenant and the Law of Moses, which are the same thing (Ex. 34:28; Deut. 4:13), were given to a fleshly nation. The new covenant is the old covenant “filled up” or “expanded” for a spiritual people.

That is why Moses could prescribe food laws, but Jesus and Paul could say that food cannot defile (Mk. 7:15; 1 Cor. 6:13). That is why Moses could prescribe a law about oxen, but Paul could say that God doesn’t care about oxen (1 Cor. 9:9-10).

More controversially, that is why a weekly physical rest on the Sabbath, one of the ten commandments, could be called a shadow by Paul (Col. 2:16-17) and replaced by a spiritual rest in Hebrews (ch. 4).

It is also why earthly riches can be a fruit of wisdom under the old covenant, while the new covenant warns that our riches are to be in heaven.

Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the Law but to bring it to fullness (Matt. 5:17—”fulfill” is a mistranslation of the Greek πλεροο). The Law took into account the hardness of the hearts of fleshly Israel (Matt. 19:8). One cannot put new wine into old wineskins, Jesus said (Matt. 9:17).

So Jesus both made the wine new, by expanding or bringing to fullness the Law of Moses, and also by making fresh wineskins out of us. We who are spiritual Israel can handle the bubbling, expanding wine of the new covenant. The unregenerate Jewish nation could not.

  • He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, whose circumcision is of the heart and of the spirit, and whose praise is from God. (Rom. 2:28-29)
  • We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh. (Php. 3:3)
  • In him you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands by putting off the body of sins by the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism, in which you are also risen with him by faith in the working of God who has raised him from the dead. (Col. 2:11-12)
  • Are you so foolish? Having begin in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Gal. 3:3)
  • Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy, and where thieves do not break in or steal. For where you treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6:19-21)
  • Pay attention and beware of greed! A man’s life does not consist of the abundance of things he possesses. (Luke 12:15)

About paulfpavao

I am a church historian and pastor, but I do occasionally play APBA baseball for fun.
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