Touch not God’s Anointed: What it really Means

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This post is a quote from the appendix of a book I am currently reading, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century authored by Hank Hanegraaff in 2009 (published by Thomas Nelson).

Hendrik “Hank” Hanegraaff, before his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy in 2017, was the president of the Christian Research Institute, an apologetic ministry founded by one of the brightest Evangelical minds in the 20th century, Dr. Martin Walter. For decades, Mr Hank was the anchor of “The Bible Answer Man.”

The first edition of Christianity in Crisis was published in 1993. It systematically unmasked the Word-Faith movement – a movement which threatens to undermine the foundations of the faith delivered to the saints.

The book was a bestseller and it won the Medallion Book Award for excellence in evangelical Christian literature. The new volume has been “augmented with a ‘Cast of Characters’ section that provides comprehensive information as well as biblical evaluation of the newest and most prolific stars in the faith galaxy—virtual rock stars who command the attention of presidential candidates and media moguls” (from the Introduction).

The following is an excerpt from Appendix A: Are “God’s Anointed” Beyond Criticism?

“During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ exhorted His followers to not judge self-righteously or hypocritically. Is this necessarily what Christians do when they question the teachings of “God’s anointed” preachers and evangelists?

Many teachers who claim such anointing would say so, and many more of their followers commonly reply to all manner of criticism: “Touch not God’s anointed.”

Some of these teachers even add that such actions carry literally grave consequences. Consider what prominent Faith teacher Kenneth Copeland affirmed in his taped message Why All Are Not Healed (#01-4001):

“There are people attempting to sit in judgment right today over the ministry that I’m responsible for, and the ministry that Kenneth E. Hagin is responsible for . . . Several people that I know had criticized and called that Faith bunch out of Tulsa a cult. And some of ’em are dead right today in an early grave because of it, and there’s more than one of them got cancer.

In addition to certain Faith teachers, such sentiments may be found among various groups involved with shepherding and other forms of authoritarian rule (from diverse “fivefold” ministries to a host of large and small “fringe churches”).

The leaders of these groups are commonly regarded by their followers as having a unique gift and calling that entitles them to unconditional authority—sort of a heavenly carte blanche. To dispute any of their teachings or practices is not distinguished from questioning God Himself.

Advocates of such unquestionable authority assume that Scripture supports their view. Their key biblical proof text is Psalm 105:15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm” (KJV). But a close examination of this passage reveals that it has nothing to do with challenging the teachings and practices of church leaders.

First, it needs to be noted that the Old Testament phrase “the Lord’s anointed” is typically used to refer to the kings of Israel (1 Samuel 12:3,5; 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Samuel 1:14, 16; 19:21; Psalm 20:6; Lamentations 4:20), at times specifically to the royal line descended from David (Psalms 2:2; 18:50; 89:38, 51), and not to especially mighty prophets and teachers.

While the text does also mention prophets, in the context of Psalm 105 the reference is undoubtedly to the patriarchs in general (vv. 8–15; cf. 1 Chronicles 16:15–22), and to Abraham (whom God called a prophet) in particular (Genesis 20:7). It is therefore debatable whether this passage can be applied to select leaders within the body of Christ.

Even if the text can be applied to certain church leaders today, in the context of this passage the words “touch” and “harm” have to do with inflicting physical harm upon someone. Psalm 105:15 is therefore wholly irrelevant to the issue of questioning the teachings of any self-proclaimed man or woman of God.

Moreover, even if we accepted this misinterpretation of Psalm 105:15, how are we to know who not to “touch”—that is, who God’s anointed and prophets are? Because they and their followers say they are? On such a basis we would have to accept the claims of Sun Myung Moon, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, and virtually all cult leaders to be prophets.

Because they reputedly perform miracles? The Antichrist and False Prophet will possess that credential (Revelation 13:13–15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9)! No, God’s representatives are known above all by their purity of character and doctrine (Titus 1:7–9; 2:7–8; 2 Corinthians 4:2; cf. 1 Timothy 6:3–4).

If a would-be spokesperson for God cannot pass the biblical tests of character and doctrine, we have no basis for accepting his or her claim, and no reason to fear that in criticizing his or her teaching, we might also be rejecting God.

Finally, if any individual Christian is to be considered anointed, then every single Christian must be considered anointed as well. For this is the only sense in which the term is used (apart from Christ) in the New Testament:

“You [referring to all believers] have an anointing from the Holy One” (1 John 2:20). Thus no believer can justifiably claim any sort of special status as God’s “untouchable anointed” over other believers.

With this in mind, it is significant that the apostle John does not use this term with reference to inspired or dynamic preaching or teaching, but to the ability and responsibility of each believer to discern between true and false teachers (vv. 18–24). Nobody’s teachings or practices are beyond biblical evaluation—especially influential leaders.

According to the Bible, authority and accountability go hand in hand (e.g., Luke 12:48). The greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability one has before God and His people.

Teachers and other leaders of the Christian community should be extremely careful to not mislead any believer, for their calling carries with it a strict judgment (James 3:1). They should therefore be grateful when sincere Christians take the time and effort to correct whatever erroneous doctrine they may be holding and preaching to the masses.

And if the criticisms are unfounded or unbiblical, they should respond in the manner prescribed by Scripture, which tells them to correct misguided doctrinal opposition with gentle instruction (2 Timothy 2:25).

There is, of course, another side to this issue: criticism often can be sinful, leading to rebellion and unnecessary division. Christians should respect the leaders that God has given them (Hebrews 13:17). Theirs is the task of assisting the church in its spiritual growth and doctrinal understanding (Ephesians 4:11–16).

At the same time, believers should be aware that false teachers will arise among the Christian fold (Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2:1). This makes it imperative for us to test all things by Scripture, as the Bereans were commended for doing when they examined the words of even the apostle Paul (Acts 17:11).

Not only is the Bible useful for preaching, teaching, and encouragement, but it is equally valuable for correcting and rebuking (2 Timothy 4:2). In fact, we as Christians are held accountable for proclaiming the whole will of God and warning others of false teachings and those responsible for them (Acts 20:26–28; cf. Ezekiel 33:7–9; 34:1–10).”

[Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis: 21st Century, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 2009, pp. 382-386]

A Balanced View of Wealth

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We as Christians need not suffer financial setbacks… The Lord spoke to me and said ‘Don’t pray for money anymore. You have authority through my Name to claim prosperity.’… Our lips can make us millionaires or keep us paupers” – Kenneth E. Hagin

Being poor is a sin when God promises prosperity” – Robert Tilton

The above quotes – called “Prosperity theology” – is a crucial aspect of Word of Faith teachings which found a niche in many African churches in the 1990s. It emphasizes material wealth as God’s will for every Believer.

To provoke a divine release of this great wealth, Christians are taught to give Faith seed, visualize prosperity with their mind’s eye and claim their prosperity through positive confession.

Some of the richest pastors in Africa adhere to this teaching. For instance, a popular Nigerian preacher is estimated to have a total net worth of $150 million with property including four private jets.

Those on the other side of the spectrum, however, believe pastors and Christians in general should be poor because there is something intrinsically wrong with wealth.

Thus, wealthy Nigerian pastors are targets of increasing attacks and ridicule by the media. The economic situation in the country has geared up many social media denizens to seize on these Christian preachers at the jugular.

The way I see it, we are faced with two dangerous extremes: one tending towards idolizing wealth and the other, towards glorifying poverty.

Heresy is often an outgrowth of either an exaggeration or suppression of Bible truth. Therefore we need to carefully examine prosperity and try to maintain a Biblical balance.

Granted, under the Law, God’s blessing was often associated with material prosperity:

“You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deut. 8:18 ESV).

Individuals such as Job were ultimately blessed with wealth:

After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).

Abraham was “very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold” (Gen. 13:2).

The same goes for Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and others. Does this imply that every Christian today must be wealthy? Not exactly.

While the Bible doesn’t condemn wealth in itself, it condemns “those who put their trust in riches” (Prov. 11:28) “and boast of their great wealth” (Ps. 46:6).

It doesn’t say money is the root of all evil , but “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

The Bible also commands wealthy believers, among other things, not to be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth, which is uncertain, but to put their hope in God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” and be generous and willing to share (1 Tim. 6:10, 17, 18).

From this, it can be inferred that not every believer will be physically rich but God generously provides for His people. We see this expressed in 2 Cor. 9:8

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

God doesn’t inflict poverty as a blessing upon believers but promises His abundance. Where many “Word faith” teachers have missed it is that, they interpret abundance and poverty by the materialistic standards of contemporary Western civilization.

Like Christ, our primary purpose as Christians is “not to do [our] own will, but the will of Him who sent” us (Jn. 6:38). It’s from this perspective that “poverty” or “abundance” should be defined.

Poverty, therefore, is having less than all one needs to do God’s will in one’s life, while abundance, is having all one needs to do God’s will and something over to give others.

Godly prosperity is not provided for us to squander on our carnal desires, but for every good work (helping others, supporting the preaching of the gospel, etc.). And the standard for each believer differs in relation to God’s will for his or her life.

The Bible furnishes us with several examples of Godly people who weren’t materially rich even though they followed God’s will. During the period of famine, prophet Elijah depended on a poor widow whose miraculous supply of flour and oil sustained him. Neither Elijah nor the widow became rich, but God met their needs (1Kgs. 17:8-16).

Amos was a shepherd and humble labourer (Amos 7:14); Naomi and Ruth were poor widows, yet they had God’s blessing (Ruth 2:12).

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was “highly favoured” by God, yet she was not wealthy, as evidenced by the Temple offerings she gave (Lk. 2:24; Lev. 12:8).

It’s wrong to always conclude that someone is poor because he/she lacks God’s favour. There is a higher level of wealth than the material.

There may be times when a believer will be temporary tested with insufficiency and there are some Christians who deliberately renounce material wealth that poses an encumbrance to their faith, like those who leave their wealthy backgrounds to serve Christ.

This is what Proverbs 13:7 talks about:

There is one that makes himself rich, yet has nothing: there is one that makes himself poor, yet has great riches.”

Moses turned his back on wealth and luxury because he “esteemed the reproaches of Christ than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb. 11:26). Jesus said to the church in Smyrna:

I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich!” (Rev. 2:9) Though they were materially poor, they had riches far more valuable than silver and gold.

Today, many Christians enduring persecution and affliction for Christ’s sake may not be materially rich, but they are heirs to wealth of a higher order.

God’s people are never “forsaken or their children begging bread” (Ps. 37:25). Knowing God personally is itself, a treasure. It may not bring material wealth, but it brings an inner peace, joy, contentment and good health that all the money in the world can’t buy.

Another error in the Word-Faith’s prosperity theology is how certain Bible verses are remotely interpreted to unduly emphasise material wealth.

For instance, a verse oft quoted is: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11)

The Hebrew word translated as prosper here is “shalom.” Normally this word is translated “peace”, but it has a much wider range of meanings than the word “peace.”

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes it as: “Completeness, wholeness, harmony, fulfillment . . .  Unimpaired relationships with others and with God.” So the prosperity God is speaking of here is not merely material wealth but complete wholeness.

Another bible verse used is: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 2)

The Greek word rendered as prosper is euodou which means to “succeed in reaching” or “to succeed in business affairs.” This is not strictly referring to prosperity of a financial nature, but success “in all things.” God’s blessings are not limited to money.

Granted, Jesus for our sake “became poor, that [we] through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus didn’t carry a lot of cash, but at no time did He lack anything. He regularly gave to the poor (Jn. 12:4-8); paid taxes (Mt. 17:27) and fed thousands of people (Mt. 14:15-21).

Though the methods were unconventional, He exemplified abundance – not poverty – but in the context of God’s will. He became poor for our sake at the cross. It was there he suffered hunger, thirst, nakedness and He was even buried in a borrowed tomb.

But this does not directly imply that every Christian will be materially rich.

Peter, for example wasn’t wealthy. He told a lame man:

I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”” (Acts 3:6 Holman).

From the statement of apostle James, it’s clear that there were poor people in the first century church (see Jas. 2:-5). Evidently, they didn’t understand 2 Cor. 8:9 to mean that every Christian must have great wealth as some teach it today.

Some questions might be ringing in some of my readers: “What could be wrong if I believe in the mandate God gave our father in the Lord to liberate men from the shackles of poverty? What could be harmful if I key into the wealth transfer agenda and claim my money by faith? What of the many testimonies of those who sowed a ‘faith seed’ and then became millionaires after one week?” I’ll say:

1. Both the bible and church history furnish us with examples of people who started out well but later deviated from their divine mandate.

They switched from grace to man-made methods; they displaced the cross from the centre of their lives; they made their stomachs their gods and diluted their teachings with ear-tickling lies that appealed to fleshy hearts.

We are not to hang our truth on any man’s mandate, but “examine the scriptures” carefully and apply our God-given reason in what we believe (Acts 17:11).

2. It’s an error to believe that we can somehow “force” God to answer our prayers by slotting in the right positive confession to gratify our carnal desires. God is not a heavenly vending machine.

Our giving to God should be in love, willingly from our hearts and for His glory, not for Him to make us millionaires in return. God doesn’t operate NaijaBet or Mobgidi Lottery.

3. To believe that being poor is a sin fuels arrogance towards the poor that causes one to unfairly blame them for their own unfavourable circumstances.

If you are poor, they believe it’s because of your negative lips; you ought to wield the right words and follow the requirements set by the Faith teachers and boom, you’d become wealthy! This is presumptuous (see Prov. 23:4-5).

4. Prosperity theology breeds modern day Gehazis rather than Elishas.

Many Word Faith teachers and their followers have been known to be overtly consumed by an overwhelming desire to be rich at all cost; evade taxes; exploit people financially; place members under burdensome financial obligations; ridicule the poor and needy; steal and resort to fraudulent Ponzi schemes all in a bid to meet up with their pet beliefs (Matt. 16:26)

5. Because material wealth is perceived as a vital sign of God’s favour, many who subscribe to prosperity theology tend to easily backslide and doubt God whenever they are in a financial difficulty and they’ve followed through their “kingdom regimen” but their condition isn’t improving.

We are not to hang our faith on material things (exotic cars, mansions, yachts, private jets etc.). Material wealth is not always a sign of God’s blessing and lack of it is not always a curse. The point is, “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possession” (Lk. 12:15).

Finally, we shouldn’t serve God for what He gives, rather for Who He is. He will meet our needs if we are faithful to Him.