But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God." When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. - Acts 5: 1-11 (ESV)
The Word of God is not meant to be handled carelessly. It is not meant to be approached as a means to prove something but rather to learn something. To hear God speak to us, through His Word, into our situations. Doctrine is formed carefully and methodically. It has been formed over the centuries. I am always grieved when I hear someone randomly dismiss such great interpretive tools such as the well respected commentaries we have. Not that we use sources outside of Biblical text to form doctrine, but rather to confirm, enlighten, and assist us in our Berean habits. I have also been rightly accused of sometimes writing as if everyone reading will understand the terms I throw around. So I start this devotional with a definition, taken from Wikipedia:
Eisegesis: is the process of interpreting a text or portion of text in such a way that it introduces one's own presuppositions, agendas, or biases into and onto the text. This is commonly referred to as reading into the text. The act is often used to "prove" a pre-held point of concern to the reader and to provide him or her with confirmation bias in accordance with his or her pre-held agenda.
Eisegesis is a very dangerous way to approach dividing the Word of God. Some people forget but the Bible was once used to defend slavery in this country. It was used to defend segregation. Today it is even used to defend sin. Such is the folly of the hyper-grace movement; of which Joseph Prince is king. Now, before the adherents of Prince fly into a tizzy realize that I am speaking about what he teaches. His sincerity is irrelevant. How nice a guy he might be is irrelevant. His charitable works are irrelevant. The only thing that should matter to us as Christians is his teaching. Paul warned Timothy to guard only two things closely - his life and his doctrine - because the salvation of his listeners was at stake. I will stand before God one day and answer for what I taught, as will Prince. None of me - all of Thee Lord.
I have consistently said that the teachings of Joseph Prince are some of the most dangerous heresies today. One should be able to look at the teachings of a Benny Hinn and realize they are false. One should be able to see through the Joel Osteens of the world. That is because so much of what they say and teach is so obviously wrong. Hyper grace however has quite a bit right. It is very Jesus focused. It speaks reverently about the unbelievable grace of God. But coursing through what is right is a sliver of leaven that will absolutely kill you.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. - 1Corinthians 5: 6-8 (ESV)
Joseph Prince claims a divine instruction to bring a new gospel to the people of God. As with many false teachers today, the divine instruction card insulates him from criticisms from many people. How can you argue with someone who is claiming God told him! According to Paul, any gospel different from the real Gospel should be considered anathema, but Prince coasts right by that because the core message tickles the ears so well. The essentials of hyper-grace is that Christians need not concern themselves with the Law anymore because Jesus work on the cross already paid for all of our sins - past, present and future. I have heard hyper grace preachers go as far as to say that Christians need not ever even bother with the Ten Commandments again! They are always sure to add that this does not mean we should sin at will but it is lip service at best because the core result of such preaching is to encourage sin!
At first this teaching is easy to support as there are plenty of Bible verses about the awesome grace of God. In fact, debating a hyper grace believer can be very frustrating because all they will do is throw every verse that has the word grace in it, while asking you why you don't believe it. The dilemma for Joseph Prince and hyper grace is you cannot preach week in and week out on it without rapidly running out of passages from which to preach. When I sit down to write a devotional I may have a topic in mind but God can always change my agenda through my reading His Word! I remember once I sat down to do a devotional on righteous anger because...I was angry. By the time God was done with me I had a fantastic devotional about how my flesh can convince my spirit that my carnal anger has something to do with God when it really doesn't.
This is not how hyper grace preaching works however. Prince has a pre-determined opinion about God and the Bible. He admits that he believes God verbally told him to bring this great revelation of grace to the masses. So instead of approaching the Word looking to hear from God; Prince approaches the Word to prove that his position is correct. As the definition of eisegesis states; he is looking for confirmation bias in accordance with his pre-held agenda. It has led to some scary interpretations from Prince in the past. One time he gave a sermon where he interpreted the verse about Jesus spewing the warm water from his mouth to be about law and grace. He dismissed the previous interpretations, which had stood the test of time over the centuries, for his new grace interpretations. He was of course ridiculously wrong but he had to find other passages to prop up his gospel. So we came to a recent sermon where he preached on the 99 and 1. As with so many of his sermons, there was a lot good but then he jumped off the theological cliff to prop up his gospel. His claim was that because the lost sheep never "repented" he was confused why the story concludes that there will be much rejoicing in heaven over one person who comes to repentance. Because he claimed, repentance means "to consent to be loved." Never mind that the story is an obvious allegory about how we, like the one sheep, can go astray. Never mind that it is an obvious story about the worth each one of us has to God. Prince had to bypass that to again prop up hyper grace theology and it is dangerous. How so? If you believe that repentance is merely consenting to be loved you will find out on the last day that Christ does not know you.
So we come to the story today, which again highlights the problems of approaching the Bible with an intent on eisegesis instead of sound biblical interpretation. Through an article by Dr. Michael Brown, I came across a sermon by Prince, from apparently a few years ago where he asserted that Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5 were obviously unbelievers. If you know the story and are confused you understand my reaction as well. We must understand that in order for hyper grace to stand, Ananias and Sapphira could not be believers because in the world of Joseph Prince, believers cannot be judged again by God due to the work of the cross. I included the entire story as the key verses and while I do not usually use this large a text I felt it was important to see what the Bible says about these two people. They are mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. What can we rightfully conclude from the text? The first interesting thing is that the chapter starts with the word "but", indicating it is a continuation. Remember the chapters and verses were not added to the Bible until many centuries after the text were written. When Luke wrote Acts it was one story; not 28 chapters. The previous section, which is precursor to the story of Ananias and Sapphira is this: