Evaluation of Biblical Texts
The most referenced verse cited in support of Positive Confession is Prov 18:21a. Positive confession teaches that a person’s words are determinative. Although he cites a different passage of Scripture, Kenneth Hagin takes this doctrine to heart and writes
I wouldn’t tell anybody if I had a doubt-thought, or a fear-thought. I wouldn’t accept it. I wouldn’t tell somebody if the thought came to me—and you know the devil can put all kinds of thoughts in your mind.
We are a product of WORDS. Did you ever stop to think that the Bible teaches that there is health and healing in your tongue? Did you notice that he said here, [Prov. 12:18] “the tongue of the wise is health”?
I never talk sickness. I don’t believe in sickness. I talk health . . . . I believe in healing. I believe in health. I never talk sickness. I never talk disease. I talk healing.
I never talk failure. I don’t believe in failure. I believe in success. I never talk defeat. I don’t believe in defeat. I believe in winning, hallelujah to Jesus!
Rather than using Scripture to form a biblical basis, Hagin provides his followers with nothing more than a magical formula that he believes God must follow.
As noted previously, Prov 18:21a states, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Upon first glance of this passage it would seem that what Hagin, Kenyon, and other Word Faith teachers propose is legitimate. The Scripture, through their eyes, clearly state that one has the power to speak either wealth or sorrow into existence. There is power and strength in the ability of man to speak of things and cause them to become a reality.
Conveniently, those who adhere to Positive Confession ignore the second part of the verse. In its fullness, Prov 18:21 reads, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Only when the Scripture is fully disclosed for one to see, will the correct implications come to light. As it turns out, there is not one hint of Positive Confession found within the verse, only a skewed interpretation meant to fulfill a purpose filled agenda.
Commenting on this verse, Duane A. Garrett believes Prov 18:20–21 to be a type of thematic and catchword found throughout the book of Proverbs. He bases this belief on the common theme of “fruit found therein.” He believes the verses deal with airing one’s opinion without giving much thought to the consequences. “The purpose of these verses is to warn against being too much in love with one’s own words. One should recognize the power of words and use them with restraint.”
Roland E. Murphy agrees with Garrett concerning the connection of vv 20–21. He believes that “love it” refers back to the tongue, “and so would refer to the possibility of talking foolishly or wisely.” Bruce K. Waltke believes the tongue is tied to the theme of community and interprets it as such. “[It] disrupts community and by its lethal power isolates its owner from community and kills him. The life-giving tongue creates community and by its vitality gives its possessor the full enjoyment of the abundant life within the community.” According to Waltke, what one says has dire effects on his companionship with other believers. Those who are unable to control their tongue must take heed, for removal from a community follows close behind.
From the commentators examined, none mention anything remotely close to speaking things into existence. All three men understand this verse to be in relation to one’s character, since character and speech are so closely connected to one another. A simple contextual reading of the verse is evidence that what the Word Faith teachers espouse is not orthodox Christianity, but heretical teachings by nature.
Another prominent verse Word Faith teachers rely upon is Matt 21:21, “And Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.’” Commenting on this text Joel Osteen writes
Everyone goes through seasons when the challenges of life feel overwhelming. During these times, it’s easy to be tempted to talk about how bad things are. Maybe you are facing a situation right now that looks impossible. Don’t get discouraged and give up because God wants to do something awesome in your life. Instead of talking to God about how big your problems are, talk to your problems about how big your God is. Be bold and start speaking favor to that situation. Every day say, “Father, thank You that Your favor is turning this around. Thank You that Your favor is making a way even though I don’t see a way. Lord, thank You that Your favor is doing remarkable, astounding, overwhelming things.” When you release your faith like that, you’ll see God show up and do amazing things that you’ve never seen happen before!
Remember, even if you don’t see how things could ever work out, God does. Just do your part and keep speaking to those mountains in your life. Declare favor over those situations and get ready to move forward in the victory and blessing God has prepared for you!
Clearly, that which Osteen suggests here is a type of Positive Confession or Positive Thought. In typical Word Faith style however, Osteen neglects the present context of Matt 21:21 for his interpretation.
The section of Matt 18–22 can be divided into two separate sections, vv 18–19 and vv 20–22. The teaching comes immediately after Jesus cleanses the temple (12–17) because of unlawful selling within. As Jesus was returning to the city, he saw a fig tree and was hungry. He went to the tree, found it to be fruitless, and cursed it, saying “May no fruit ever come from you again” (19). Craig Blomberg notes, “the withering of a fig tree shows that God distinguishes between those made in his image (humans) and all other life forms.” But what is the exact meaning of v 21?
It should be noted that Jesus is speaking figuratively, not literally, in v 21. In Matt 12:38 the Pharisees and unbelieving scribes demanded a sign from Him, despite the fact that Jesus had already performed countless miracles. Still yet, they desired more. John MacArthur believes that the sign the Pharisees and unbelieving scribes desired was one in which fire would come from heaven. If one were able to cast a mountain into the sea, those who did not believe would be convinced.
The phrase “if you have faith and do not doubt,” indicates the disciples can do what is otherwise impossible. Carson believes it is a hyperbolic example of a miracle and writes concerning the importance of belief in prayer: “But belief in the NT is never reduced to forcing oneself to ‘believe’ what he does not really believe. Instead, it is related to genuine trust in God and obedience to and discernment of his will.” Therefore, it is apparent that the meaning of this verse is not a “name and claim it,” type theology, but one that is to increase our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is dangerous to interpret this passage literally, for in so doing, none would have enough faith to sufficiently move a mountain.
Kenneth E. Hagin, Words (Tulsa: Faith Library, 1979), 20–21. Ironically, Hagin died of heart disease in 2003.
Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Broadman: Nashville, 1993), 166.
Roland E. Murphy, Proverbs (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1998), 138.
Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15–31 (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2005), 86.
Joel Osteen, “Today’s Word With Joel Osteen–March 21, 2012” [on-line]; accessed 24 March 2012; available from http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2861768/posts; Internet.
Craig Blomberg, Matthew (Broadman: Nashville, 1992), 318.
John MacArthur, Matthew 16–23 (Moody: Chicago, 1988), 281.
Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14–28 (Word: Dallas, 1995), 606.
D.A. Carson, Matthew, in vol. 8 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein and J.D. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, Regency Reference Library, 1984), 446.