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Claiming God’s Promises Today: Classic and Modern Word of Faith Views Compared and Contrasted, by Paul King


Only Believe

This chapter is from Paul L. King’s book Only Believe: Examining the Origins and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies.

Classic and Modern Word of Faith Views Compared and Contrasted

The classic faith leaders affirmed the reality of the supernatural, not just in the Bible and the early New Testament church, but for the entire church age. The Pentecostal, charismatic and contemporary faith movements embraced this classic faith position, but sometimes went beyond classic faith teaching and practice regarding the supernatural. Classic faith teaching often provides a balance, a moderation, in the practice of faith in relationship to the supernatural that is sometimes lacking today. Some classic faith leaders backed away from Pentecostalism and supernatural manifestations, over-reacting to excesses in the movement, whereas some Pentecostals acknowledged and warned of the problems of excesses and counterfeits, yet maintained the genuineness of the movement as a whole.

Practically speaking, I would conclude that if those in the Pentecostal, charismatic, and contemporary faith movements would exercise more discernment and be more self-critical as did some early Pentecostal leaders, they would be criticized less. While some like MacArthur criticize from a cessationist point of view, Hunt and Hanegraaff are purported not to be cessationists. McConnell comes from a solidly Pentecostal camp, as does Fee. So it should be noted that one can exercise faith in the supernatural realm and believe that God works supernaturally today without embracing all of the teachings, practices, and phenomena often associated with charismatic, Pentecostal, and contemporary faith practice.

The Extent and Limits of the Believer’s Inheritance.

Of prime practical-theological concern is the extent to which a believer can obtain inheritance in this life. One of the criticisms of contemporary faith teaching is that some give the impression that a Christian can receive all of his inheritance now. However, Simpson recognized that believers receive a “sample of the inheritance of glory which Christ has purchased for us and is in due time to convey in all its fullness.”1 He also indicated that God puts limits on His blessings: “He exercises a loving oversight in His blessings; and while He freely gives to all who ask and trust Him, and the only limitation in the measure of our blessings is our own faith and obedience, yet even when He gives most largely it is in the line which His wisdom and love see most consistent with our highest good and His supreme glory.”2

The classic faith leaders strike a balance between those who claim too little for the believer’s inheritance today and those who claim too much, maintaining the dynamic tension of truth.

Murray viewed reception of inheritance as dependent upon maturity: “The death of the testator gives the heir immediate right to the inheritance. And yet the heir, if he be a minor, does not enter into the possession. A term of years ends the stage of minority on earth, and he is no longer under guardians. In the spiritual life the state of pupilage ends, not with the expiry of years, but the moment the minor proves his fitness for being made free from the law, by accepting the liberty there is in Christ Jesus.”3 In similar fashion, A.J. Gordon aptly put it: “The promises of God are certain, but they do not all mature in ninety days.”4

Spurgeon gave fuller explanation, counseling that a believer can rightly claim a promise of inheritance when it is “in due season”:

Often you cannot get at a difficulty so as to deal with it aright and find your way to a happy result. You pray, but have not the liberty in prayer which you desire. A definite promise is what you want. You try one and another of the inspired words, but they do not fit. You try again, and in due season a promise presents itself which seems to have been made for the occasion; it fits exactly as a well-made key fits the lock for which it was prepared. Having found the identical word of the living God you hasten to plead it at the throne of grace, saying, ‘Oh Lord, Thou hast promised this good thing unto Thy servant; be pleased to grant it!’ The matter is ended; sorrow is turned to joy; prayer is heard.”5

impart — to share, to give a portion to.
impute — to ascribe, to attribute, to reckon or regard.

Some might recognize the validity of spiritual inheritance but question material and physical inheritance. While classic faith leaders believed that financial prosperity could be included in the believer’s inheritance, Simpson exemplified their attitude regarding material promises, avowing that Christ Himself is the believer’s supreme inheritance.6 He illustrated the point from the Old Testament incident of Abraham and Lot, perceiving that it is a matter of motivation and inner attitude: “He [Abraham] allowed Lot to have his choice of the land, and when he, full of his strong self-life, claimed the best, Abraham let him have it. When we believe God, we can let people have many things which really belong to us. If God has them for us, no one can possibly take them from us. So Lot took the rich plain of the Jordan. God had given it all to Abraham, and he knew he could not lose it.”7

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Category: Church History, Fall 2012, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Paul L. King holds a D.Min from Oral Roberts University and a D.Th. from the University of South Africa. He served for 16 years on the faculty of Oral Roberts University as Coordinator of Bible Institute programs and Adjunct Professor in the College of Theology and Ministry. Author of 12 books and more than 60 articles, he was ORU 2006 Scholar of the Year. He has also served as Scholar-at-Large for the D.Min. program at Alliance Theological Seminary, Doctor of Ministry Mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars program at United Theological Seminary and Global Awakening Theological Seminary, Leadership and Church Ministry Consultant and Trainer, an ordained pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Interim Consulting Pastor for the Plano (Texas) Chinese Alliance Church, and Faculty Director of Purdue Ratio Christi/Christian Faculty and Staff Network. His books include God's Healing Arsenal: A Divine Battle Plan for Overcoming Distress and Disease (2011), Anointed Women: The Rich Heritage of Women in Ministry in the Christian & Missionary Alliance (2009), Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies (2008), Genuine Gold: The Cautiously Charismatic Story of the Early Christian and Missionary Alliance (2006), Binding & Loosing: Exercising Authority over the Dark Powers (1999), and A Believer with Authority: The Life and Message of John A. MacMillan. Twitter: @PaulLKing.

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