Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” (Matthew 21:21)
The Greater Works
A short time before he was arrested, Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). The statement is so clear that it should not need explanation, unless one wishes to explain it away. As expected, Christians regard what Jesus said as unimportant, because they would not allow God to teach something different from what they believe. Thus the consensus is that Jesus did not mean that his disciples would perform greater miracles, but he was referring to works like preaching and charity, not miracles, and he was referring to greater results in terms of quantity, not quality or degree of power.
Some Christians are eager to condemn what they call a “little gods” theology, often associated with the “faith teachers” of the “faith movement” or “word of faith” theology. These faith teachers are careless individuals whose doctrines are even more carelessly interpreted, often fraudulently twisted, so that the biblical but unwanted elements in their teachings might be condemned along with them. However, long before the movement appeared, Christians had regarded the apostles as “little gods,” not because of how Scripture describes them, but so that the Christians would not have to follow their model of faith. If we must attack a “little gods” theology, we should first aim straight at the Evangelicals, the Reformed, the Baptists, the Catholics, and those who have made the faith of Jesus Christ into the worship of apostles. They are the original “little gods” heretics, only that they dare not consider themselves little gods, but attribute the status to other men. It is like the Buddhist doctrine of the Eighteen Arhats, or Louhans.
Among other things, this heresy has produced a self-inflicted burden on an essential doctrine like biblical inspiration. If the apostles were unique in the way these people claim, and this enabled the apostles to write Scripture, then they have made all the portions of Scripture written and compiled by those who were not prophets and apostles vulnerable. So they add that it also counts if someone was closely related to a prophet or apostle. Why? Who made up this rule? And how closely related? They would make things up as they go along until they have everything covered, or until people stop asking. It is a patchwork approach to theology and apologetics, and they have never covered up all the holes.
They have made up a false theory that backed themselves into a corner, and then they could not find a way to get back out. They told one lie, and now they must tell another to cover the problem produced by the first one, then another, then another. These Christians self-destruct even before the unbelievers utter a word. They are the chief enemies of the inspiration of Scripture, and then they dare to correct other people. What a brood of self-righteous incompetent hypocrites. On the other hand, I say that God alone wrote and compiled Scripture. It was so much a direct production that we should say he breathed it out of himself (2 Timothy 3:16). Although he used people in the process, including prophets and apostles, he could have used anyone or anything to do it. Even now, he is the one who continues to preserve his word.
Portraying themselves as the best kind of Christians, these people claim that they are God-centered, and that other believers are self-centered, constantly talking about healing, prosperity, blessing, and happiness. They refuse to acknowledge that these self-centered Christians are also constantly talking about preaching to the lost and giving to the poor, much more than the critics, and they do these things, some of them daily. Pay attention to the kind of bias that influence the mainstream interpretation of Scripture. How do the people think? What are their assumptions such that they would mishandle Scripture in a particular way? They are much more self-centered than those they criticize. Their interpretation shows that they think that if you do something in ministry, the power comes from you, and the credit goes to you. They would complain that this is a misrepresentation, but this is because they are too stupid to know what their own teaching implies. Their use of Scripture betrays them. You see, to them the greater works can never mean greater quality or degree, because it would mean that the men have become greater than Jesus, since men are the ones who perform the works and receive the glory. Regardless of all their song and dance about God-centeredness, about seeing Christ on every page of Scripture, this is the true face of their theology and the true condition of their heart. It is a religion of men and a theology of self.
Although they regard the apostles as little gods, as a superior class of believers, utterly unique, they suppose that even these demigods could not have performed greater works than Jesus did in terms of quality or degree, but only in quantity and scope. Since even the apostles could not have wielded greater power, and Jesus was not only talking about the apostles, but “anyone who has faith in me,” it becomes even more certain that he meant greater in quantity and scope, and that he was mainly referring to preaching, charity, and the like, rather than miracles. This interpretation makes sense in a religion of men and a theology of self. If my religion concerns the glory of men, then my doctrine would not exceed how much glory I would ascribe to men. If my theology is centered on the self, then my interpretation would forbid anything that I would not ascribe to the self.
The Christian scholars tell you that one of the first principles of biblical interpretation is to read a passage in its context. Do not extract isolated words and phrases, and then infer what you want out of them. However, they follow this principle only when it is convenient for them, when the result does not contradict their theological tradition. Just before verse 12, Jesus said, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (v. 11). Even if we translate this as “works” instead of “miracles,” it remains that Jesus performed miracles, so his works would include miracles. In addition, the fact that he said they could “believe” due to these works suggests that he mainly referred to his miracles. And just after verse 12, Jesus said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (v. 13). Then he said it again: “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (v. 14).
Consider how worthless the scholars are. Jesus twice referred to something that you “ask,” leaving almost no room for something like preaching or charity. Then, he said that he was talking about something that “I will do,” making it impossible that he meant something like preaching or charity. Verse 11, 12, 13, and 14 all refer to miracles. So verse 12 means that Christians — not apostles, but “anyone who has faith in me” — would do the miracles that Jesus did, and that Christians would do even greater miracles than those Jesus did. You scream blasphemy: “How can men perform greater miracles than the Son of God?” And…I got you. If your response states or assumes anything like this, you are finished. You have a religion of men and a theology of self. The text says Jesus would do these things — not the apostles, and not you. Jesus said that he would do greater and greater works, only that he would do them through his people, through those who have faith in him. It was never about you, but in your fake humble theology, you have made it all about you, and only about you. Your scheme backfires, because it shows that you only have yourself in mind all along, and the necessary implication of your doctrine is that even God himself can never do greater works than those he performed under the ministry of Christ. This makes you a blasphemer.
Now instead of acting all intellectual, all stuck-up, pretending to be a defender of the faith, and anointing yourself to police the Christian world, when I speak, sit down and shut up. You cannot even read. You cannot even read one sentence before or one sentence after the verse under discussion. So shove those Latin phrases back up where they came from. You call people out for preaching faith, for preaching health and wealth, and for receiving blessings from God? You attack people for their motivational preaching, for their self-centered theology? Man, LOOK AT YOURSELF! You are a complete fraud. You are a Ph.D. that should be sent back to reading class, and you want to “contend for the faith.” You want to act so concerned, so engaged with culture. You bark out religious slogans that you do not believe. So pious. So zealous. And such an expert. I am laughing so hard at you.
The greater works in John 14 refer to greater miracles, and the meaning of greater must include quality and degree of power. Jesus would be the one performing these greater miracles. His disciples would do them in the sense that they would be the ones representing him and looking to him to perform the works. Thus the lamest thing that you can say to justify unbelief is to whine, “But you are not Jesus. You are not an apostle.” This tiresome excuse backfires. According to the Lord’s own statement, the fact that I am not Jesus is exactly what guarantees the possibility that I would do even greater miracles in his name. It is meaningless whether or not I am an apostle. It depends on who Jesus is, not who I am.
Nevertheless, for the moment, let us assume the false doctrine and pretend that Jesus meant that we would do greater works only in terms of quantity — more in number and scope. But there is no relief. Even then, he first said that those who have faith in him would do the same works that he did. Again, this exposes the anti-Christ and anti-gospel nature of the theology of unbelief, a theology that is common to almost all Christian schools of thought. Those who have faith would do the same works he did, and he did all kinds of miracles — miracles of healing, miracles of nature, miracles of prophecy and knowledge, among others. So even if we were to reject what Jesus said about stronger miracles, and permit only greater works in terms of number and scope, it would still mean that Christians should be doing more miracles of healing, more miracles of nature, more miracles of exorcism, more miracles of resurrection, more miracles of prophecy, more of everything he did.
This was Jesus’ idea of basic discipleship. Don’t forget we suspended the second half of this gospel doctrine for a moment, and we must put it back. Jesus said that believers would not only do the same works, but even greater works. Many charismatics would not admit to the greater works, and could barely believe him about the same works. This is why I do not identity with the charismatics. If you call me a charismatic, you underestimate how extreme my doctrine really is. It is as extreme as what Jesus said. What am I then? I am “anyone who has faith” (John 14:12). The designation is incalculably more powerful than all other labels combined, but only those who affirm the most extreme theology is worthy of it. In any case, as if to add insult to injury, human tradition has enshrined in the creeds their failure to have faith, and the cessationists make it a test of orthodoxy to spit even the “same” works back in God’s face. Satan weeps with gratitude.
Jesus said that those who have faith would do the same works he did. And he said that those who have faith would do even greater works. What should we do if our experience does not live up to this basic gospel doctrine, this basic gospel commission? The chief solution in church history has been to throw Jesus under the bus and make roadkill out of him. Just completely flatten the Lord and move on with our religion. Pretty theology, so dignified and satanic, steamrolling over Christ for five hundred years. This is not the way. The solution is not to condemn the doctrine, but to assert it even stronger, more and more and more.
Those Christians who claim to care so much about theology and orthodoxy, when they find themselves behind in knowledge, they do not say that the solution is to give up on knowledge. No, they turn the whole church experience into one big theology class. It is an excellent idea, if only their theology is correct! When they perceive that they are falling short of the biblical standard of holiness, they do not say that the fruit of the Spirit must have been reserved for the apostles. No, they preach about it even more, over and over again, in different ways, on the radio, on television, in books, and even make posters about it. What they care about, they talk about constantly, even when they do not yet live up to their doctrine. When it comes to education, capitalism, democracy, even film watching and beer drinking, you will never hear the end of it from these “God-centered” people. Oh! You cannot get them to stop. They are so interested. They keep on and on. They are such experts. They have such strong opinions. But when it comes to power from heaven, and when it comes to taking Christ’s healing to people, or his prophetic direction and encouragement, or his other benefits, they harden their hearts.
When we study and teach, we find that our knowledge indeed increases. When we declare God’s word in the face of contrary circumstances, we find that we indeed make progress. What should we do then, if our experience falls short of what Jesus promised? I will throw the theologians under the bus and make roadkill out of them. I will completely flatten them and move on in faith. I will talk about faith, healing, miracles, and all that Jesus said about these things more and more, over and over again, in different ways, and all over the place. Commit to Jesus’ doctrine even more. Invest everything into it. This is the way. Many preachers and theologians should dedicate their lives to offer extraordinary prominence to this aspect of Jesus’ teachings, in order to combat centuries of anti-Christ orthodoxy, and its denial of this aspect of the gospel. Then God’s people can move forward in truth and power. We should exercise a comprehensive ministry, but no ministry is complete, and no theology is authentically Christian, unless it teaches something so basic to the gospel that it applies to “anyone who has faith.”
If You Have Faith!
We are discussing John 14:12 and Matthew 21:21 together because they can clarify and reinforce each other.
Jesus had said to a fig tree, “May you never bear fruit again!” (Matthew 21:19), and the tree died. When his disciples asked about this, he replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”
John 14:12 refers to miracles, and it teaches that “anyone who has faith” can do the same miracles and even greater miracles than those that Jesus performed, because “anyone who has faith” can ask Jesus to do them, and he would do them. Matthew 21:21 offers a complementary teaching. John 14:12 states a broad principle that implicates all of Jesus’ miracles, and Matthew 21:21 states a concrete example that implicates the same principle. The principle is that anyone who has faith can do the same miracles, and greater miracles.
Here we are clearly talking about a miracle. Jesus said that “if you have faith,” you can do the same miracle, and “if you have faith,” you can do a greater miracle. He was not talking about preaching. He was not talking about charity. He was not talking about greater quantity. He was not talking about wider scope. He was not talking about longer duration. He was not talking about more advanced technology. Christians have used all these excuses, but they cannot apply in John 14:12 and Matthew 21:21.
He said the one who has faith can do the same miracle of commanding a tree, and a greater miracle of commanding a mountain. The context is miracles, and only miracles. The miracles are done by faith, and only by faith. The Bible shoves this in your face. There is no place for you to turn. You will either take it and like it, or you must renounce Jesus Christ, and renounce the Christian faith, and confess that you reject the gospel. Do it now. Take a side. Commit yourself to Christ or Satan. Commit yourself to heaven or hellfire. You have no other choice.
Stop using this or that doctrine to excuse your lack of faith, such as the sovereignty of God or the completion of the Bible. God sovereignly tells you in his completed Bible that, if you have faith, you can do the same miracles that Jesus did, and even greater miracles. Jesus told the disciples to cast out demons. When they failed, he did not say that it was not God’s will to heal and to deliver. Jesus himself commissioned them, but he said they failed because of their lack of faith (Matthew 17:19-20). Jesus told Peter to walk on the water. Peter could do it at first, but then he started to sink. Jesus did not say that it was not God’s will to grant the miracle, but he said it was because Peter doubted (Matthew 14:31). He consistently reduced these things to a matter of faith, and not a matter of God’s will, or calling, or dispensation. He was so irritated when people did not have a strong and steady faith for miracles. God is absolutely sovereign, but he teaches us to think about these things in terms of faith.
You who love to complain how modern preaching focuses too much on comfort, healing, achievement, instead of sin, you feel really good about yourself, don’t you? You feel so righteous. Good, let us talk about YOUR sin. Let us talk about your sin of unbelief. How much do you think we should talk about sin in our preaching? That much? Good, then let us spend that much time talking about your sin of unbelief. You claim to believe and preach God’s word, but you do it only when it is convenient for you, and only when God happens to say something that agrees with your church tradition. Let us talk about that for the next twenty, thirty, forty years, as long as it takes. Let us blast you in every sermon, in every book, in every prayer, and in every song. We will not relent, until you repent. I feel more righteous already.
There are numerous places in the Bible that talk about the power we possess through faith, and about all the possibilities that open up when we have faith. Over and over again, the Bible talks about the miraculous powers that we can exercise through faith, and about the wonderful things that are possible to those who have faith. These things are plain to those who call themselves Christians, because God has made it plain to them since Genesis, and has stressed it with increasing force all the way to Revelation, so that they are without excuse. But Christians suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Like the unbelievers, they do not magnify the God of miracles or have faith in him to work miracles. They have exchanged the glory of faith in Christ for creeds and traditions made to look like pious doctrines. They not only continue to do these things, but also approve of those who practice them. They follow the pattern of reprobates. Indeed, cessationism and other doctrines of unbelief are nothing other than different forms of religious atheism. They formally acknowledge God, but they refuse to deal with him beyond the point of their unbelief and wickedness.
They delight in debating this forever. As long as they are talking about it, they appear to have an interest in arriving at the truth and doing what is right. But it is a scam. It is religious theater. This is an excuse to endlessly postpone faith, to put off committing to what Jesus said and doing what he taught. The Bible is clear. It leaves no room for debate, and no room for excuse. If anyone does not actively affirm what Jesus said in John 14:12 and Matthew 21:21, just as he said it, then he denies that Jesus Christ is God and that Scripture is inspired. He should be removed from every position, and kicked out of every fellowship. Decide now. Any delay is rebellion. We can discuss it as much as we want after we agree, so that we may become stronger, but not discuss it until we agree, so that we may never begin.
You Will Have What You Say
When the disciples asked him about the tree, Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” Let’s not rush this. He talked to a tree. He was not talking to God. He was not talking to a man or a demon, but a tree. He practically told it to die, and it died. You say, “Of course, that was Jesus. He was the Son of God!” You didn’t read it. Let’s try that again. He talked to a tree. He told a tree to die, and the tree died. Then he said that “if you have faith,” you can do the same thing — you can talk to a tree and tell it what to do. And then he said that “if you have faith,” you can do even more — you can talk to a mountain and tell it what to do, and the mountain would do it. You can do this “if you have faith,” not if you are an apostle, not if you live in the first century.
He was not using figurative language. He did not say that if you have faith, you can overcome a difficult situation by tremendous effort and determination. He killed an actual tree, a physical tree, and he did it by speaking to it. He used that to teach you what you can do. If you have faith, you can also kill a physical tree, move a literal mountain, and you will do it by speaking to it. In this operation of faith, you will do it by talking directly to the tree or the mountain, or some such thing, and not by talking to God about the tree or the mountain. You say, “But that was Jesus!” Good, so you know who it was that said, “If you have faith…you will have what you say” (Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23). Yes, that was Jesus, but you are a Christian, aren’t you? You have faith, don’t you? Or is this the real problem, that you are not really a Christian, and that you have no faith? This is one of the most clearly stated, widely attested, and commonly demonstrated principle in the whole Bible. If you reject it, you also reject Jesus Christ and the Scripture. You should be excommunicated.
Jesus Christ is the founder of the faith movement. He is the author of the “word of faith” theology (Romans 10:8). This is a faith that speaks what you want and receives what you want. The Bible shoves this doctrine in your face. You will take it and like it, or shut up and GET OUT!!! Stop calling yourself a Christian. You attack the “word of faith” preachers to excuse yourself. Perhaps you can bully them theologically, because they are indeed wrong on a number of issues, but you cannot bully Jesus Christ, and this doctrine came from him. To deny the doctrine makes you worse than the faith teachers. You use them as a pretext to attack the chief theologian of “faith confessions,” Jesus Christ. The faith teachers deserve criticism, but not from you, because you do not even believe in Jesus. And if you do not believe in Jesus, you are not even good enough to wash their cars with your tongue, let alone correct them on anything. Make sure you are a Christian first before you open that stupid mouth.
Most Christians find this basic gospel doctrine very strange. Just weird. In fact, except for those associated with the “faith movement” or “word of faith” theology, it seems almost all Christians would consider this biblical doctrine outright wrong. In other words, it appears almost every person who calls himself a Christian also considers Jesus Christ a false teacher. From the intellectual perspective, and when it comes to concern for orthodoxy, the teaching is highly revealing. The controversy shows that the critics affirm an essentially non-Christian worldview. Any worldview that disagrees with the “faith confession” doctrine is not a Christ-view, and contradicts Christ’s view of reality. Thus it in fact qualifies as one test of orthodoxy.
Jesus did not think it was strange to tell a tree to die, or to rebuke a fever or a storm. This was his view of reality, and it makes perfect sense to me. It is normal for me to tell a sickness to get out or to tell a body part to change a certain way. And if someone is willing to accept it, I can do it for him. It seems rather funny to me, in fact, that a person could call himself a Christian and not live this way. This is an ordinary aspect of the Christian worldview, and anyone who calls himself a Christian should take this for granted.
If I do not experience perfect results, I do not discard Jesus’ doctrine to make myself feel better. I would assume that I need to improve. I would invest in this doctrine of faith even more. Suppose you say to Jesus, “I told this sickness to leave, but it didn’t.” Given what he said in the Gospels, how do you think he would respond? He would not say, “Don’t be a fanatic. Don’t be weird. How can you cure sickness by talking to it? Just accept the will of God.” Instead, we are sure that he would say, “What’s the matter with you? How long have you been a Christian? Don’t you have any faith? Stop messing around and tell that thing to get out!” He behaved this way with his disciples.
We know what Jesus was like. The issue is which Jesus you want. Will you take the Jesus in the Bible, the one who talks to things and tells you to do the same? Or will you take the Jesus from your theological heritage, or from your denomination? Will you take the real Jesus in history, or the fake Jesus in tradition? Does your favorite theologian believe that you can have what you say by faith, or does he attack the doctrine? If he does not teach it or if he criticizes it, then he does not even have a Christian view of reality. And he is your idol. What does that make you?
What is really strange, what is really weird, is that the Christian critics want to make this into a teaching from the cults. But if this is true, then these critics must be worse than the cults, because the doctrine came from Jesus. They want to make the faith teachers into scapegoats for their unbelief. The faith teachers indeed say some things that are wrong, and if the critics can pin this doctrine on the faith teachers, then they can destroy Jesus along with the faith teachers, and appear heroes while doing it. But not everyone is deceived by a scheme like this. I really don’t care about the faith teachers, or the eastern religions, or anything else that you want to associate with Jesus’ doctrine. I look at Matthew 21:21 — “if you have faith” — and then I look at you. I look at Mark 11:23 — “he shall have whatever he says” — and then I look at you.
These are just several passages that state the doctrine this way (Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23, Luke 17:6, among others). There are others that teach or demonstrate the doctrine, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, in different ways. Together, they show that it is the uniform and pervasive testimony of Scripture, and a basic tenet of the Christian faith that, if you have faith, you will have what you say. I don’t care what false religions and cults teach. I am looking at the Bible. Perhaps they teach a counterfeit, but so what? The Bible still teaches it. If you disagree with the doctrine, it just means that you are worse than a counterfeit. You are worse than the cults. So the more you put down the faith teachers, the more you put down yourself.
Don’t look at them. We are not talking about what the faith teachers believe. We are not talking about what the cults believe. We are talking about what YOU believe. Throw them all to hell, and you still need to answer for what you believe. The doctrine might indeed sound like “strange fire” to someone from a non-Christian religion or worldview. But this is not the faith teachers’ fault. It is not the cults’ fault. It is YOUR fault! You! YOU are the problem. Your worldview is non-Christian. You are the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
This is a worldview issue. What kind of world or reality is this? Is it one in which, if you have faith, under Christ, you can speak to something by faith — something like a bonsai, or a river, or a cancer — and it would do what you say? Jesus said this is exactly that kind of world or reality. If you do not agree to this, exactly this, then your worldview is non-Christian at the metaphysical level, at the level of basic reality.
Let me say a little more about “faith confession.” There are other terms that we can use, but this one is more commonly associated with the faith teachers, so we will keep using it just to annoy the Christian critics of Jesus’ doctrine. A confession is an affirmation, a declaration, or a statement. A faith confession is a declaration or statement that comes from faith in God, in his word, or something along this line. It can take the form of a command, like “Peace, be still,” or “Come out of him!” It can take the form of an affirmation, like “The girl is not dead, but sleeping,” or “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” The Bible is full of faith confessions. They are so pervasive that the religious hypocrites would sing out faith confessions from the Psalms in the same service that they blast the doctrine: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” They sing it, but they do not believe any of it. And then they criticize the charismatic songs for making vain repetitions. What a brood of oblivious self-righteous morons.
After Jesus said that if you have faith, you can command a tree like he did, and even a mountain (Matthew 21:21), he added, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22). And after he said that if you believe that whatever you say will happen, and it will happen (Mark 11:23), he added, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). Thus the teaching comes under the category of prayer. Then, after he said that “anyone who has faith” will perform the same miracles he did, and even greater miracles (John 14:12), he added, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). In his own ministry of miracles, before he commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” he looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me” (John 11:41). He said that he did not have to mention this (John 11:42). He did not have to address the Father right then, but he said it for the benefit of the people there. He could have made the command only, and he usually did it that way, but the connection to the Father was assumed (John 14:10-11).
Faith confession is a form of prayer. Confessing in faith is praying without hedging. That’s all it is. To hedge is to make room for failure. It is to prepare for the possibility that what you pray for will not happen, probably so that you will not look bad or feel bad when it results in failure, which is really what you expect anyway. Most Christians hedge more than they believe when they pray. They do not assume that God has heard them, and then command that thing to come about by force. They have no faith, and so they fail. They hedge even more next time. And they hedge even more after that, until prayer is more about submitting to circumstances, or what they call the will of God, than it is about receiving what you pray for in the first place. Prayer is now more about changing yourself, when Jesus showed that it could be about healing the sick, casting out demons, stopping a storm, or moving a mountain. Christian prayer has become Buddhist meditation. Then someone who does not hedge comes along, and these people cannot wait to crucify him in the name of Christ!
Faith confession is a form of prayer, practiced by God’s people throughout the Bible. It is a definite expression of faith in God’s mercy and power, of faith in our covenant with him, of faith in our place in Christ. This is when you have such confidence that you take command of the situation. It is not because you have faith in your words, but because you have faith in God. By faith, you affirm a certain state of affairs or command a certain set of results because you believe that God has answered you, that the thing is as good as done. Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still. “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped” (Joshua 10:13). He said this “to the LORD in the presence of Israel” (v. 12). Even though he addressed the objects directly, he was looking to God’s power to make it happen, and he said it in a definite manner, in the presence of the people. He was praying without hedging. He spoke by faith, and performed greater works than Moses did. The Bible says that nothing like this had happened before, and nothing like this had happened after, at least up to the time the event was recorded. It was “a day when the LORD listened to a man” (v. 14).
Likewise, when you tell a crippled man, “Get out of that wheelchair, we are going for a walk,” you are not thinking that you have some power in yourself to heal him. In yourself, you have nothing to offer. You are not going to make a miracle happen. You are not going to make anything happen (John 15:5). But you have faith: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me, because you always hear Jesus, and I pray in his name.” You are counting on God to work a miracle, and you are praying without hedging. This is what Jesus taught at the entry level of discipleship. But we train up theologians to chase this nonsense right off the cliff! Jesus repeated the teaching over and over again until the time of his arrest. But we write books and hold seminars to exterminate the faith heretics! Then, as if faith to move mountains was not enough, Jesus promised “power from heaven” on top of everything (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8). This is only a small indication of the frightening level of miracle power he would unleash through his people. The Bible teaches much more. How do we repay him? We call his doctrine the counterfeit gospel! “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Um…maybe?
Update the Maps!
You whine, “But what about the abuse?” What abuse? I am not aware of any excessive supernatural deforestation or terraforming of the planet. If you know people who have been yelling at forests and killing all the trees, or moving mountains into places where they should not go, perhaps destroying marine life and even causing tsunamis, let me know. Tell me right away. I will give them a stern scolding! Let us do some of your “apologetics” on them! Come to think of it, even if we stick to the things Jesus usually did, I am not aware of anyone who has been performing too many miracles of healing so that he is single-handedly threatening to eradicate the very idea of sickness for generations to come, thus rendering a whole aspect of the gospel irrelevant. Imagine preaching on a text and the listeners think, “Sickness? What is that? Can you eat it? Or is it something people wear?”
If this is not the kind of abuse you have in mind, then what are you talking about? If you have a problem with the doctrine itself, then why are you speaking to me? Go challenge Jesus directly. Go condemn him. Go call him a cult leader. He is the one who said, “If you have faith, you will have what you say.” The main source of abuse so far is you. You pretend to be so righteous. You pretend to worry about abuse and heresy. What about your unbelief? You have been a Christian long enough that by now you should be a teacher and defender of this doctrine, but somehow you need to hear this most elementary point of faith again.
When you put up an objection like this, do you really agree that you can speak to a cancer and make it leave, or tell broken bones to repair themselves? Do you agree that, if you have faith, you can command food to increase? This is Jesus’ doctrine. If you believe it, start teaching it and start doing it. And then we can talk about how some people have contaminated it. If there is abuse, then why don’t you teach it correctly? Why don’t you use it correctly? The truth is that it is irrelevant whether there is any abuse, because you do not believe the doctrine at all. The truth is that you reject Jesus. To cover this up, you take it upon yourself to talk about the abuse of a doctrine that you do not even believe. You are the problem. You are a religious charlatan, worse than any televangelist that you criticize.
You do not care about abuse. You care about your feeling and your image. And even though you criticize me, you do not really care about me either. The one you hate is Jesus Christ, because this doctrine came from him. He is the one you cannot tolerate. He is the one you want to destroy. He is the one you want to tear limb from limb. Isn’t that right? Admit it. If you love him, you would agree with him, that if you have faith, you can have what you say. But you hate him, so you hate anyone who teaches anything that resembles his doctrine.
You say, “But what if someone believes he will get five hundred mansions?” It is remarkable that I hear about mansions and such things mostly from those who reject the doctrine. They jump to this right away. Those who believe what Jesus said usually apply it first to healing the sick, prosperity to provide for themselves and to give to the poor, including supernaturally restoring barren lands in destitute areas, and things like these to benefit themselves and other people, and to advance the kingdom of God. Then they might think about having faith for other things. Nevertheless, so what if someone has faith that he will get five hundred mansions? If he really has this faith, then he will get five hundred mansions. So what? Where is the abuse? Since you do not even have faith for a cardboard box, maybe he will give you one of his mansions.
Why are we talking about mansions, when you do not even believe the doctrine? If you want to correct abuse, do you at least believe that the doctrine of faith applies to healing the sick, raising the dead, walking on water, the transmutation and the multiplication of material substance? Jesus himself did these things, and he said that those who have faith could do the same works, and even greater works. So these must be proper applications of faith. This is what Jesus said. If you do not agree with this, how are you even a Christian? But if you agree, then why don’t you start doing these things before you criticize how other people use their faith? You are not qualified to talk about abuse, because you do not believe any of this. You are an outsider to faith. You do not want to “balance” what people do with Jesus’ teaching. You want to erase what Jesus said. You claim to fight for truth and correct error, but more than anyone else, you are the enemy of the gospel.
In any case, if you want to be a good Christian apologist and refute Jesus himself, you need to be smarter. Joshua spoke to planets, and they stopped for him. Jesus spoke to a tree, and it died. Then he said that Christians could even speak to a mountain and command it to move. So…why are we making a big deal out of mansions and such things? Do you mean that it is more outrageous to have faith for five hundred mansions than to have faith to raise the dead or stop the sun? There are already more than five hundred mansions in this world, and it is a matter of economic arrangement to transfer ownership to someone. You do not even need to build new ones. There is nothing logically absurd about it. You want to make up an outrageous example, but you cannot even do that properly. Lack of faith makes you stupid.
We draw attention to what Jesus said about prayer, like “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22) and “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). Right away, you smirk and say sarcastically, “Lord, give me a sports car.” But this is not a refutation. Do you have faith for a sports car? You think you are exposing a false interpretation by making fun of it, but you are making fun of Christ, and exposing your own irreverence and unbelief. You are not interested in abuse. You want to sidestep the doctrine by making up something that seems to be absurd. But you are too stupid to do it properly. If there is something too absurd for faith, it must be at least greater than stopping planets, killing trees, moving mountains, and raising the dead. Even then, it might be within the realm of faith. The issue is not what we demand, but whether we have faith for it. Do you have faith for five hundred mansions? Then why are we talking about this? Let’s first talk about whether you have faith to heal the sick and raise the dead. Do you have faith for anything we see in the Bible at all? Can you do anything, besides wasting my time?
You whine again: “But what if it doesn’t work?” It is remarkable that this is the first thing that many Christians say when we mention Jesus’ promises about faith, prayer, healing, and such things. I first heard it from a man who had been a Christian probably two to three times as long as I had been alive. I mentioned something about laying hands on the sick, and that was the first thing that he said: “What if it doesn’t work?” I had not met many Christians, so I was surprised at the unbelief. At the time, I did not know that most Christians did not have faith, that most Christians did not believe Jesus. It would be nice to hear, “Then there is hope for my friend,” or “This will lead many people to Christ.” But instead we get, “Watch out!” and “What if it doesn’t work?”
“What if it doesn’t work?” What if your mother is a hippo? Or, what if the spine straightens and the pelvis rotates back into place right in front of you? What if the X-rays show that your friend has received a new heart? What if the cancer dies at the roots like the tree that Jesus cursed? But so what if it doesn’t happen? Examine your faith, then do it again. Don’t hedge. When Jesus ministered to a blind man, and he was not completely healed, Jesus did it again, and then the man could see clearly. When nothing happened after Elijah prayed six times, he prayed again, and there came a heavy rain. One farmer liked to go hunting sometimes, but he would come back with rashes all over his body because of contact with poison ivy. So he confessed by faith that Jesus Christ had set him free from the law of sin and death, and that his body would no longer react that way. The next time he came back with rashes all over his body again. And again. And again. But then one time he came back with clear skin. No rashes. He became immune to poison ivy. From then on, he could use poison ivy for toilet paper if he wanted. He could eat it like spinach if he wanted. This is the Christian worldview.
And now what if your mother is not a hippo? What if you have some faith? What if all of this works?
Jesus to the Max
Jesus was the most extreme faith teacher. He said extreme things, and he did them. Then he said that his disciples could do even more extreme things, if they would have faith. And they would make these things happen by speaking what they wish. This is gospel. This is orthodoxy. Miracle faith is normal faith, and extreme miracle faith is the only orthodoxy. Mainstream Christianity rejects these points. In other words, mainstream Christianity rejects Jesus Christ. And then they dare call those who at least try to teach what Jesus said heretics, gnostics, false teachers. This makes them worse than heretics, gnostics, and false teachers.
They want to blame it all on the charismatics, and especially the faith teachers. But the charismatics, the faith teachers, and the “word of faith” movement are not the most relevant. Jesus Christ is their problem. The only reason the faith teachers seem to be a problem is because they bring attention to what Jesus said about faith, healing, prosperity, miracles, the Holy Spirit, and such things, although admittedly with impurity. This makes traditional believers look very bad, because it exposes their defiance against Christ and their rejection of the gospel. To them, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not the unpardonable sin. Making them look bad is the unpardonable sin.
Throw all the faith teachers to hell, and you still need to deal with Jesus. Throw all the charismatics to hell, and you will need to deal with someone even more extreme than all of them put together. Throw all the “word of faith” teachers to hell, and you still need to come up with something better. Given what the Bible teaches, the only way to come up with a better doctrine is to come up with a more extreme doctrine. If your theology of faith is not as extreme as Jesus stated it, then it is by definition not a Christian theology of faith. The critics of faith theology, the heresy hunters, should be hunting down their own kind. They should spend all their time ruining their own lives.
The theology of Christ is a theology of extreme power. Anything else is not a Christian theology. Jesus not only taught it, but he also did it. If Jesus said I can have the moon, I am not going to say that a preacher is too extreme for teaching that I can have a marble. What excess? What heresy? The error is that his teaching promises too little. And yours is even worse.
Some people can endure only so much Jesus. Too much Jesus and they start to cry. They get angry. They want Jesus to be their religious mascot. They want a Jesus that is smaller than what they can believe, not bigger. They want a Jesus that they can exploit to impress people with their scholarship, but not a Jesus that is more impressive to people than their scholarship. They want a Jesus that can give them materials to make funny images and sarcastic comments on social media posts. That’s all he is good for. They do not want a Jesus who will rebuke them for having too little faith. They do not want a Jesus who tells them to talk to trees and mountains, to rebuke sickness to remove suffering, to proclaim prosperity to feed the people. They do not want a Jesus who tells them that they can have what they say, so that it is their fault when they experience defeat.
You think I am talking about someone else? I am talking about you, the Calvinists, the Presbyterians, the Reformed. I am talking about you, the Baptists, Methodists, the Anglicans. I am talking about you, the Pentecostals and the Charismatics. I do not care about your label, or the venerable history of your corrupt tradition. The test is, if you do not believe that you should talk to a tree, or a cancer, or a demon, and tell it what to do, then I am talking about you, because you have a non-Christian worldview. You are intellectually delusional. You want to test people with your stupid creed? I will test you by Matthew 21:21 and crush your creed. You want to cite your idol theologian? I will slap his head off with Mark 11:23. Change your creed to agree with Jesus. Throw your theologian into the dumpster if he does not teach this kind of faith. If Jesus is not your Lord but just your mascot, you will die in your sins and burn in hell. Your church will not save you. Your seminary and denomination are themselves under judgment. And you will die in your sins. Unless you have faith, you will die in your sins.
Most Christians hate Jesus with a passion. The Jesus of the Bible is not the Jesus they want. They do not want to face him. They do not want him in their church or in their theology. They have itching ears for unbelief, for sickness, for suffering, for defeat, and they refuse to hear about God’s promises for life, for victory, for power, and for blessing. They want a Jesus who talks about sin, but not about faith, about suffering, but not about healing, about sacrifice, but not about victory. Jesus indeed talked about sin, suffering, and sacrifice, but not in the way they think about these things. And Jesus also talked about faith, power, healing, and miracles, but they do not want to hear about these at all.
It is impossible to be too extreme about faith. It is possible to be wrong about it. It is possible to mistake presumption for faith, which is dangerous. The proper way to combat presumption is to teach about faith correctly, so that people can develop genuine faith in God. But it is impossible to be too extreme about it, because Jesus said everything is possible for someone who has faith (Matthew 17:20, Mark 9:23). Theologically, the most realistic pitfall is the apparent inevitability that our doctrine of miracle faith would never become extreme enough.
Those who want “balance” are liars. There is no reason that you can offer, and no verse or doctrine that you can produce, that can balance out Matthew 21:21 in a way that overturns what it says. This is because Jesus actually did what he described. He talked to a tree, and the tree died. It is too late to neutralize it, because it already happened. And then he said that, if you have faith, you can do the same thing and more. You cannot balance it out because he spoke to an actual tree and it died. You cannot balance it out in a way such that Jesus did not mean you can talk to a tree and make it do what you want, because he did it himself and said you can do the same.
These people are not interested in balance, whatever that could mean in this context, but they want the total denial of the doctrine. They never say, “Jesus did not really mean you can command a mountain, but it was just a dramatic way to tell you that you can heal the sick, walk on water, transmute and multiply material substance, and things like that.” This would be wrong, because Jesus indeed said that you can command a mountain, but these people would not even accept this weaker version. They never say, “Stop that fanatical talk about moving mountains. Why can’t you stick to raising the dead like everybody else?” They never say this. When they are through, they always leave you with nothing. To them, faith is trust in God that becomes a mindset to endure suffering or to attempt difficult tasks. That’s supposed to be faith. They say that by faith you can have a little peace, a little holiness, and that’s it. Can’t you see that the extremists are much more biblical and orthodox? And even they are never as extreme as Jesus was.
The only correct doctrine of faith is an extreme doctrine of faith. An orthodox doctrine of miracle faith must be more extreme than any heresy. Let us become more extreme in faith, both in the formulation of doctrine and in the demonstration of power. Let us become obsessed with faith. Jesus obviously thought about it more than we do. We need to think about it day and night. We need to constantly talk about this faith that can move mountains, that can offer relief to the sick and the poor, and that can perform the same works Jesus did, and even greater works. As for the “Christian” critics of the doctrine, they affirm an essentially anti-Christ worldview. Their view of reality is contrary to the Christian faith. Their gospel assumes another kind of universe altogether. We must address them, therefore, with the kind of preaching designed for pagans, such as the approach Paul demonstrated in Acts 17.