When Lucky James and I decided to co-launch the blog, www.textandpublishing.com, I was still not sure how I would begin. There were hundreds of things I could write about on a blog-site but as I prayed about it, I became convinced that there was no better place to start than by talking about gospel themes. I also felt that I could begin by telling people how I became a Christian.
I am thankful for all the reactions that the article The Gospel 1: My Conversion has received and I appreciate everybody who visited the site to see what it’s all about. In this post, a slight deviation from my continuing series on the gospel, I want to respond to questions that have been raised about the article. A dear friend, who is a lecturer at ABU and who attended CTC with me and is quite acquainted with the things I discussed in the article, sent me a suggestion from Zaria. Another person left a question on the blog and there were numerous other questions on the Facebook post.
I realized that there was no way I could bring those questions directly into the series, which I have already outlined and am still writing. So, I have decided to answer them here in a separate post. There may be other questions after this one but I think I should be able to respond to those in whatever medium they come from. So I will enumerate the questions below and provide answers:
- State clearly the inherent falsehood in the messages that are preached in our churches that crowds out the gospel emphasis.
This is a paraphrase of the suggestion my brother sent in from Zaria and I will just go straight at it. In “The Gospel 2”, I mention briefly the matter of the Word of Faith doctrines that has invaded Christian Churches in Nigeria. I also provided a link for further studies on this heresy. To answer this question, I would try to shed light on what is wrong with the Word of Faith “gospel”.
The gospel of Jesus Christ states in simplicity that Christ redeemed humanity from sin (alone) – Matthew 1:21, Luke 24:46-47, Colossians 1:13-14. The Word of Faith “gospel”, which is altogether another gospel and a heresy, teaches that Jesus Christ died to redeem us from sin AND sickness and poverty. While their advocates provide hundreds of scriptures to support this heresy, a careful examination of those texts reveals a twisting of biblical truths to reach these unhealthy positions.
The Word of Faith purveyors are also called health and wealth preachers, or more appropriately, Prosperity Gospellers. If these preachers were even preaching the theme that they believe, which is redemption from sin, sickness, and poverty, the churches would have at least benefited from some gospel. But the moment the gospel of prosperity is imbibed, most purveyors very quickly jettison the “redemption from sin” aspect and lapse into full blown prosperity preaching – redemption from sickness and poverty. The five themes that are often preached in their churches are Faith in faith, Positive confessions, Health and healing, Prosperity, and Suffering is sin(1).
Friends, if this is the summary of what your pastor preaches to you every week, you are being taught heresy. I dare say that the gospel content is not in your church and both your pastor and you are likely not to be Christians. We only need to check the New Testament, the life of Christ and his apostles, to see whether any of them laid such emphasis in their preaching. The Word of Faith gospel is decidedly unbiblical. It is heresy and those whose ‘salvation’ is based on it will not have a place in the kingdom of God and his Christ.
- How do you reconcile your “Cessationism” with the prophecy that was given to you that you would excel in school and which eventually happened? Don’t you think your own experience nullifies your so called theology?
The primary definition for Cessationism is the cessation of revelation. The canon of scriptures is complete. God is no longer giving new revelations to the Church. All he needs to say to us is already encapsulated in the 66 books of scriptures. To be opened to continued revelation is to be opened to falsehood. This is the primary definition of Cessationism.
There are no Cessationists today that do not believe in miracles. We believe that God still works miracles – particularly the miracle of converting sinners. We also pray and trust God to intervene in our lives – to bring about miraculous interventions. What happened to me, that afternoon in Suleiman Hall, was a miracle. God reached me through a supernatural means to awaken me to the gospel. In my opinion, what that brother told me was not a prophecy. It is what one will call an instant inspiration for that moment. God still does these things but unfortunately many people have upgraded them to the level of prophesies. Prophesies were those that Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel gave. Nobody in the whole world gives such prophesies today because there are no such prophets on earth today.
Similarly, God may work a miracle today. God can heal cancer. God healed my son of asthma. I believe God works miracles today. But I do not believe that there is any apostle anywhere anointed by God for healing. Those men are charlatans and their judgement lingers not. One of the greatest hindrances to people accepting sufficient scripture is their so called experiences. God’s word is greater than our experiences. And while I am thankful to God for what awaken me to the gospel, I will never for that reason become a slave to such experiences. My argument in that article is that people have jettisoned the pursuit of genuine salvation through comprehending the gospel and are pursuing after miracles and silly experiences.
We should also not forget those damning words of Jesus in Matthew 7:22-23. This passage says that some people will come to Jesus in the last day claiming to have done a lot of miracles and so on, but our Lord will say he never knew them. My emphasis in that blog post was that the miracle awakened me to the gospel. But it was the gospel itself that changed my heart. I see a lot of miracles and claims to them, but I do not hear a lot of gospel preaching because a false gospel has drowned the message of the cross in our churches.
- How can one have Pentecostal experiences and not be saved?
The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:22-23 should be greatly heeded by this generation. One can prophesy, work miracles and do many great signs and wonders, and never have been a Christian. It is the gospel that converts sinners.
I have been vilified in many instances for upholding the reformed tradition above Pentecostalism. But having tasted the better of the two worlds, I can say that though these reformed people do not work miracles, there are converted persons among them. In fact, the matter of conversion is at the heart of everything that they do in church. One reformed pastor who has served in Lagos for many years is known for this practice: when you meet him for the first time and you need to talk privately with him, the first thing he would ask is “are you a Christian? When and how did you become born-again?” Chris Arzen, a radio host I listen to a lot, has a standing tradition to ask all his guests how they came to Christ. It doesn’t matter who you are, his association with you must begin with your conversion story.
On the other hand, in Pentecostal churches everyone is born-again. The emphasis is not on your conversion but on whether you speak in tongues and so on.
So, yes and sadly too, a person can have wonderful experiences and never have been saved. You are saved by hearing the gospel preached to you and in these series, I hope to have the gospel clearly delineated.
- Why are you so critical?
For the sake of those who become unduly offended when I mention their favorite pastors in the negative, I will endeavor not to mention anybody’s names in these series. I would do this only for the sake of the gospel. However, the scriptures are replete with examples of Christ and his apostles mentioning names while pointing out what was true or false. Christ never masked his disdain for the religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In Matthew 23 he directed his criticism squarely at them. The glorified Christ in Revelation will also mention the Nicolaitans as a sect he hated. It is believed that this was a group named after the leader of a heretic sect – Nicholas. Paul mentioned Alexander the Coppersmith as a man who did him great evil. He called out Peter in Galatians 2 for his hypocrisy. John mentioned Diotrephes as one who opposed the ministry of the Apostle. And many others.
There is no way you can preach what is right and overlook what is false. True distinction makes the differing lines clear and not blurred.
Let me end by saying that many pastors and preachers in Nigeria are not Christians. They and their followers are heading to an eternity without God and without Christ. They do not preach a gospel; they preach a message that satisfies their belly. I have called many of them out on Facebook in the past. I would not be a servant of Jesus Christ and keep quiet when his course is being maligned.
Written By Deji Yesufu
(1) For more on the Word of Faith movement, kindly download my book Half a Millennium from the Book section of this website.