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“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Five hundred years ago, reportedly on October 31st, 1517, a 33 year-old monk, priest, and professor named Martin Luther posted what came to be known as the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The door was used as a sort of church bulletin board for church and academic announcements, and Luther used it to call into question the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. Indulgences were essentially orders given by the pope that forgave sins in exchange for financial donations, which were used to build St. Peter’s in Rome. As Luther read the Bible, he rightly concluded that this practice was not only an egregious scam, but completely against the teaching of Scripture, that forgiveness of sins comes by repentance and faith in Jesus’ death on the cross.
This past week, Christianity Today published an article written by Costi Hinn, the nephew of the modern-day prosperity preacher Benny Hinn, about his experience working with his uncle. Costi described his family as a cross between the royal family and the mafia. They taught that faith in God resulted in spiritual and material blessing, and so they saw no contradiction between preaching the “gospel” and living a lavish lifestyle that includes mansions, Gulfstream jets, Mercedes Benzes, and only staying in the most expensive resorts, buying the most expensive clothing, and eating the most expensive food. As he put it, Jesus “was more of a magic genie than the King of Kings. Rubbing him the right way – by giving money and having enough faith – would unlock your spiritual inheritance… His grace was not to set us free from sin but to make us rich.”
His perspective began to change when he fell in love with a woman who, although a believer, did not speak in tongues. The Hinns taught that speaking in tongues was a mark of salvation, and so he did not think she was a believer. But then one day his girlfriend pointed out 1 Corinthians 12:30, which says, “Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” and he realized that not every believer speaks in tongues. Soon after that, his church asked him to preach on John 5:1-17, the healing at the pool of Bethesda. As he prepared, he realized that Jesus only healed one man out of the multitude who were sick, that the man didn’t even know who Jesus was, and that the man was healed instantly. These all contradicted what he had been taught, that God’s will is always to heal, that He only heals people who have enough faith, and that healing only happens in the presence of an anointed healer with special music and an offering collection.
What is the connection between Martin Luther and Costi Hinn? In both cases, these men had been taught to believe false things about God. But when they read the Bible, and compared what they had been taught to what God’s Word actually says, their eyes were opened and they realized that they had been deceived. This is why I try to teach a course on “How to Read the Bible” once every year at NewLife. There are many people out there who claim to be teaching what the Bible teaches. But often, when you take the time to compare what they are saying to what God’s Word actually says, you find out that they are either making things up or misinterpreting the Bible.
I do not teach this course because I alone have the perfect interpretation of the Bible, but because I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and if we want to know the truth about who God is and how we are to live, we should make sure we know how to read and interpret it. The course will run for four weeks, beginning on Wednesday, October 11th. If you are interested, please let me know!
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