The grievous heresies of Joseph Prince

Although Prince teaches a form of the biblical gospel, this is the very thing that makes him so dangerous, using the gospel as the bait on the hook.

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Introduction

Joseph Prince has been a mystery to me for several years, largely due to the fact that if you listen to him you will hear a form of the biblical gospel. Although he is not quite as articulate as some theologians in teaching the substitutionary atonement, he does clearly preach a form of the true gospel. Yet the problem is, this is the very thing that makes Prince’s theology so dangerous, essentially an issue of how much arsenic you want in your water. If you listen to Prince, you will find that instead of teaching Christ-centered messages with a focus on calling believers to change their lifestyle to conform with Jesus, he teaches Gospel-centered messages; you will never hear the Law preached.

I recently exchanged a few texts with a friend whom I attended seminary with about Prince and he brought up that Prince is clearly an antinomian. This surprised me for a moment because typically present-day antinomianism discards the law completely, but he clarified that Prince espouses the historic antinomianism of Agricola. For those of you who may not know who that is, John Agricola was the one with whom Martin Luther contended against. This is part of what creates the enigma that surrounds Prince; something does not feel right to the Christian who listens to him but because it is not typical of what we think of as antinomianism, the error is veiled. However, Prince is not merely a genuine historic antinomian, but he also preaches a form of the word of faith/prosperity gospel, though in a very different manner than typical prosperity preachers. Joseph Prince’s theology is somewhat of a hybrid-theology which makes the error difficult to detect while being very dangerous to apply.

Extra-biblical Revelation

The first thing that should be pointed out about Joseph Prince’s theology is that it is largely based upon extra-biblical revelation. Prince states in the Foreword of his book Destined to Reign, before you get to page 1, that the theology he sets forth in the book is based upon a supposed direct revelation which he attributes to God. Prince states:

It all began in 1997, when I was on vacation with my wife Wendy. She was asleep in the passenger seat, breathing softly next to me as I drove through the dramatic landscapes of the Swiss Alps. Then, I distinctly heard the voice of the Lord on the inside. It wasn’t a witness of the Spirit. It was a voice, and I heard God say this clearly to me: “Son, you are not preaching grace.”

It wasn’t a witness of the Spirit, but it was a voice on the inside which he attributed to the Lord? What does that mean, and why would he attribute it to the Lord if it wasn’t a witness of the Spirit? Furthermore, why would the Lord tell a preacher this when He already given His Word in the Bible? This is contradictory and raises more questions than it answers; the ultimate problem with claiming such direct, extra-biblical revelation from God is that God has already given His full Word to us in the pages of the Bible. Although God certainly affirms things that Christians read in the Bible or are praying about, giving peace that they have accurately understood something that they have been wrestling with, that is a very different thing than claiming that God has personally given you a message apart from the Bible.

Prince was not exegeting a particular passage, wrestling with what it said, and praying about it before finally receiving a peace that he had accurately understood it. No, he was just driving through the Swiss Alps while on vacation, giving no indication that he was even thinking about any particular passage of Scripture. Therefore, right from the start of Prince’s book before chapter one, every Christian should have red flags going up in their minds because Prince essentially had an idea come to him, took his idea to the scriptures, and then began looking for proof-texts to support his idea; that is eisegesis, reading into the scriptures one’s own ideas.

Throughout the book Destined to Reign Joseph Prince continually says things like “God revealed this me,” or “God spoke to me saying this,” and then proof-texts such divine revelations rather than exegeting doctrine from Scripture. This is very similar to the story of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism; if you disagree with Joseph Prince’s theology then – since Jesus has apparently placed his imprimatur on the message – that would mean that one is also going against Jesus, not just Joseph Prince. This kind of theology right from the beginning of his book has terrifying implications; I have serious cause for refrain regarding any teaching in which to critique the teacher is to apparently critique Jesus himself.

A Prosperity Gospel

Before we examine Joseph Prince’s antinomian hermeneutic, it is important first to examine the form that his prosperity message takes because such is the foundation for the rest of his teaching. If one doubts that Prince teaches a message of prosperity, all that is necessary to bring this out is to read what he says from the outset of his book Destined to Reign. From the first paragraph Prince opens by saying:

You are destined to reign in life. You are called by the Lord to be a success, to enjoy wealth, to enjoy health and to enjoy a life of victory. It is not the Lord’s desire that you live a life of defeat, poverty and failure. He has called you to be the head and not the tail. If you are a businessman, God wants you to have a prosperous business. If you are a homemaker, you are anointed to bring up wonderful children in the Lord. If you are a student, God wants you to excel in all your examinations. And if you are trusting the Lord for a new career, He doesn’t just want you to have a job, He wants you to have a position of influence, so that you can be a blessing and an asset to your organization!

He then in the following paragraphs explains that since Jesus is Lord of the believer’s life, he or she is destined to “reign in life…,” not merely “over sin,” but even “over every sickness and disease.” Prince bases this statement on Romans 5:17, “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ” (emphasis by Prince), then noting that the word “reign” is basileuo “where you get the English word ‘basilica.’ In ancient Rome, basilicas were used law courts. So it refers to a kingly, judicial rule… to reign in life as a king” (emphasis by Prince). Yet, the word translated “receive” in this verse is a present participle while the word for “reign” is a future indicative. That is, we are presently “receiving grace and righteousness,” but our reigning is yet future in heaven. We have been justified, saved by grace through the gospel, but we are presently being saved from the power of sin, transformed each day by God’s Law (His Ten Commandments and moral instructions) to look more like Christ. It is not until we reach heaven, however, that we will be finally saved from the presence of sin, reigning in life with Christ. This is evident in the fact that the word for “life” is the Greek word ζωη, zoe – not βιος, bios – pertaining not to mere temporal life but to the essence of who we are, our future life in heaven. Yet Prince claims that we have already been saved from the presence of sin and should reign even over “sickness and disease” in this life because of what Christ did in the gospel. Prince goes on to explain his view on the gospel further, saying in chapter 3 (author’s emphasis retained):

My friend, there is no such thing as a “prosperity gospel”. There is only one gospel in the Bible and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, when you believe the gospel of Jesus, which is based entirely on His grace, it will result in health and prosperity. In fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ leads to blessings, success, healing, restoration, protection, financial breakthroughs, security, peace, wholeness and MUCH MORE!

Really? The gospel leads to all of that? Joseph Prince is clearly a prosperity preacher, but a very different variety than one like Joel Osteen. Osteen preaches on the need to demonstrate to God that you have enough faith by declaring wonderful things about yourself. Prince, on the other hand, hooks a prosperity-result to one’s belief that Jesus has done it all, and this is so close to being true that it is far more dangerous of an error than that which Osteen preaches. Yet, to claim that belief in the gospel will result in one being healthy, prosperous in business, influential, etc., is to drastically expand the promise of the gospel. Jesus himself never once promises temporal things for believing in him; in the sermon on the mount Christ very clearly says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19). It seems as though Prince has an over-realized eschatology, pulling into this passing and fading world blessings that are promised regarding the New Heaven and New Earth.

The apostle Paul illustrates the dichotomy between the suffering that will happen in temporal life and the truth that God has not forsaken us. He says in 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” By virtue of being the body of Christ, true Christians always suffer in some manner, perpetually carrying a microcosm of the suffering that Jesus endured on the Cross. Jesus says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18), and also, he says, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). It is true that Jesus says, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30), but what most miss about that statement is that as believers Christ still has us on a yoke and we do have a burden to bear. We will still feel a tug from the Master’s reins as we read what God expects of us in his Law if we have begun to stray; it is not unbearable, but it is a weight that we must bear.

Yet, according to Prince, “If you are a businessman, God wants you to have a prosperous business,” a statement he makes from the outset of his book despite there being no such promise from Scripture. Consider for a moment the impact that such a statement would have on a Christian’s faith psychologically whose business is not prospering and is instead hemorrhaging money, on the brink of bankruptcy. What impact would this kind of theology have on a parent whose children have grown up to run off into paganism rather than being “wonderful… in the Lord” as Prince says? What about a student who, despite how much he or she studies and works, is stuck making Cs rather than As? What about the Christian who ends up stuck working in a cubicle maze in a large corporation with no influence at all? The first inclination to any of these situations for the one listening to Prince would be despair, thinking that he or she does not have enough faith or does not believe enough.

Prince argues, however, that struggles and hardships come into the Christian life as a result of looking at the Law and confessing sin too much. That is, according to Prince, the effect of one looking at their sin and seeing how problematic they are in the eyes of God because of the Law condemning them is what breeds discontentment, financial lack, and other temporal troubles. Prince supports this supposition with the claim in chapter 11 that once when he was preparing to preach “the Lord showed [him] an inner vision of a sickly plant.” So, we have more extra-biblical revelation; rather than exegeting this doctrine from a particular text, he supports himself with “an inner vision” that he says is from the Lord, and therefore, there is no hermeneutical process that his readers can use in interpretation except for taking Prince at his word. Prince claims that the roots of this plant that he saw are “stress, fear, and condemnation,” which breed “financial lack, sicknesses, and destructive habits.” He then says, “The Lord showed me that the deepest root is condemnation.” This “vision” of the plant is his authority for teaching that Christians should not look at the law for instruction and confession of sins.

Rather than starting with a Scripture passage and then exegeting the doctrine from that passage, he creates a doctrine (in this case based on a supposed “vision” the Lord gave him) and then he looks for prooftexts to support his new doctrine. Such is very unsound hermeneutics and the idea that the Lord gives Joseph Prince direct revelation – visions – is to place himself on an equal standing with the writers of the Bible. The canon is closed and to claim such direct revelation as the basis for doctrine is blatant heresy.

A Two-Covenant Approach to Scripture

Joseph Prince’s hermeneutic – that is, his way of interpreting Scripture – divides Scripture into two covenants and is classic, historic antinomianism as we will observe shortly. In Prince’s view, anything that occurs prior to the Cross of Christ is Law and Old Testament believers were only under Law, not Gospel. Therefore, if the Gospel is manifested in the Old Testament, it must be in a prophetic sense, applicable only for believers today rather than for believers then. For example, in chapter 5 of Destined to Reign Prince makes this distinction by describing the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah. It should be noted, however, that he does not actually exegete the text, but only gives a summary of the text in his own words; Joseph Prince is controlling the narrative in order to force a doctrine into the text. Prince writes (author’s emphasis retained, p. 57):

“But Pastor Prince, didn’t God punish King David for his sin and he lost his child?” Don’t forget that David, like Elijah, lived before the cross of Jesus. You will never find an example of God punishing a believer for his sins in the new covenant. Let’s study the Scriptures for ourselves and not just go by what people are saying. When David sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba and plotting the death of her husband, Uriah, sin was imputed to David and he was punished. Although the punishment was tempered with God’s mercy, David was punished nonetheless because he was under the covenant of law and not the covenant of grace. Do you know who David was describing when he said, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin”? Since it’s clear that sin was imputed to David, he could not have been describing himself as some scholars claim. No, he was looking prophetically into the covenant of grace. He was describing you and me — a new generation of people who are under the covenant of grace!

First of all, it should be noted that sin was not merely imputed to David; he committed and was guilty of the sins of adultery and murder. Sin was imputed to Christ on the Cross, but David actually committed sin. Second, by controlling the narrative in this fashion rather than exegeting the text, Prince is quite literally arguing that because David lived before the Cross and was under the covenant of the Law then neither the Gospel nor David’s own words in Psalms 32 or 51 personally applied to David himself.

Prince’s primary error is that he makes such a great distinction between Law and Gospel – any grace in the Old Testament being prophetic about believers today, not pertaining to believers then – that he does not properly address the Abrahamic Covenant which is the key covenant that the apostle Paul relied on in the book of Galatians. The Abrahamic Covenant is the covenant which is all by God’s grace, unilateral, God doing all the work imputing to Abraham righteousness because Abraham believed God. David and all the rest of the Old Testament saints were saved by grace just as believers in the New Testament, not by their law-keeping, trusting in the promised seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) and God’s promise to Abraham to make his seed – singular, Christ – a blessing to all the earth (Galatians 3:16).

If Joseph Prince is consistent in his theology that “condemnation is the deepest root” that causes sickness, financial lack, and destructive habits then he must conclude that all of the Old Testament saints must have been poor, had bad habits, and were only able to produce bad things in their lives. Such a theology is of course erroneous when one remembers that Solomon, living under the Law, was an extremely wealthy and prosperous man. It is also erroneous when one considers that a Buddhist like Tiger Woods who does not believe a word of the gospel is extremely wealthy, very skilled in what he does, and recently received the Medal of Freedom from President Trump which is the highest civilian award in the United States. Prince’s theology is not internally consistent, so much left on the table. For example, going back to Prince’s quote from page 57, he specifically says:

You will never find an example of God punishing a believer for his sins in the new covenant.

That is quite an assumption he makes that is absolutely wrong; I can name several instances without any forethought. The most obvious instance is the case of Ananias and Sapphira, who, after the cross, were punished by God for lying to the Holy Spirit. The text says (Acts 5:1-2):

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Nowhere does it say that Ananias and Sapphira were unbelievers; this is completely within the context of the early Christian Church after several thousand people had been baptized on Pentecost and having devoted themselves to the apostles’ preaching and teaching, to the breaking of bread, and the fellowship of believers. The church is growing at an incredible rate and, therefore, people are selling their properties to help meet the needs of the poor among them, and Ananias and Sapphira decide to do the same. The problem, of course, was that they set up a pretense that they were giving the entire property like Barnabas had done in the closing verses of chapter 4 while intending to keep a portion of it. The money for the property belonged to them; they could have kept it, but the point was, they lied and received capital punishment from God for lying to the Holy Spirit. That is an even harsher punishment than what happened to David; although the child that resulted from David’s union was killed, David himself was spared. Ananias and Sapphira were not given any chance to repent of that sin like in the case of Nathan confronting David; they were struck down immediately upon being confronted by Peter.

Another example of God punishing believers under the New Covenant is in the Corinthian Church in which believers were becoming sick and dying for taking the Lord’s Supper in a wrong manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). Then there is the example in the book of Revelation of the church in Thyatira to which Jesus himself says (Revelation 2:18-22):

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I  will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.

Yet, Joseph Prince says emphatically on page 57, “You will never find an example of God punishing a believer for his sins in the new covenant.” This is dishonest and quite arrogant, apparently saying that he reads the Bible better than anyone else and you do not even have to look for this because you will “never” find an example.

An Antinomian Hermeneutic

Joseph Prince reads the Bible through a two-covenant system that completely severs the Law from the Gospel. Quoting Hebrews 8:7 out-of-context, Prince says, “But please understand that it is not Joseph Prince who is finding fault with the old covenant of law. The Word of God says, ‘For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.’ God Himself found fault with the old covenant of law and the Ten Commandments” (Prince, Kindle Loc., 1860-1862). This is not what Scripture says, though, for the start of the next verse, Hebrews 8:8 says, “For faulting them he says…,” and quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34. The fault does not lie in some imperfection in the law but in the people for whom it was made. Although the law was good and holy, it was never intended by God to bring life to its recipients. The apostle says that the Law “was added because of trangressions” (Galatians 3:19) and that “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

The purpose of the Law is to show us objectively what God expects of us as believers who have been saved by his grace. Yet, Prince says emphatically, “[W]ith the advent of the new covenant of grace, the Ten Commandments have been made obsolete (1866-1867). Obsolete? The Ten Commandments have no bearing on the life of a believer? Prince would do well to read the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount again in which the Lord never once changes or abrogates the Law (Matthew 5-7). Instead, he unpacks the Law to explain its full moral scope for the lives of believers, saying, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). Later, Jesus quotes from the Ten Commandments saying, “You shall not commit murder” (Matthew 5:21), and then explains that that means you should not even become angry with another. Such is what the Lord calls all believers to strive for, continually laying one’s self on the altar each day into accord with his commandments (Romans 12:1-2).

Prince maintains, however, that he is not an antinomian, saying that he has “the highest regard for the law.” He says (Kindle Loc., 1873-1879, 1886-1887):

One of the things which I have been accused of is being an antinomian (someone who is against the law of Moses). The truth is that I have the highest regard for the law. And it is precisely because I have the highest regard for the law that I know that no man can keep the law. We have to depend totally on God’s grace! Those who accuse me and other grace preachers of being antinomian are the same ones who pick and choose the laws that are convenient for them to keep. They claim that they have a high regard for the law, but they are actually lowering the standard of God’s law to a place where man thinks that he can actually keep the law. So they choose the laws which are convenient for their personalities or which are in line with their denominations. Come on, it is us grace preachers who have the highest regard for the law! We recognize that it is impossible for man to keep the law perfectly. … I am for the law, for the purpose for which God gave the law (and you can quote me on this). You see, God did not give the law for us to keep. He gave the law to bring man to the end of himself, so that he would see his need for a Savior.

Prince’s view, therefore, is that the Law’s only purpose is for the unbeliever, to show them that they cannot save themselves. Yet, that is only one of three functions of the Law as described in Scripture; Prince boils the entire Law down to just the one purpose: “to bring man to the end of himself, so that he would see his need for a Savior.” The first use of the Law, however, is the civil use (Deuteronomy 13:6-11; 19:16-21; Romans 13:3-4); every person, whether Christian or not, must live under the Law in some sense to prevent chaos and such is enforced by the government who is God’s minister in such matters, punishing thieves, murderers, and other evildoers to maintain societal peace. The second use of the Law is as a perfect standard that cannot be kept to bring us to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:20; 4:15; 5:13; 7:7-11; Galatians 3:19-24). The third use of the Law is to instruct the Christian in holiness (Ephesians 2:10), as a “family code” showing what a believer’s heavenly Father expects of them. Christ spoke of the third use of the Law in the latter part of the Great Commission, saying that believers must be taught to do all he has commanded (Matthew 28:20) and that obedience to the Law proves the reality of a believer’s love for the Lord (John 14:15). Although it is true that under the New Covenant we are no longer bound to the ceremonial and sacrificial practices contained in the Law, the moral foundation of the Law (even within the ceremonial practices) continues to stand, and the New Testament describes three functions for that Law. The Christian is free from the law as a system of salvation (Romans 6:14; 7:4, 6; 1 Corinthians 9:20; Galatians 2:15-19, 3:25), but remains under the Law as a rule of conduct (1 Corinthians 9:21; Galatians 6:2).

Prince would most likely affirm, at least in part, the civil use of the Law, though he does not explicitly mention it. The second use, however, is the use that Prince becomes stuck on, that because the Law does condemn us and reveal our sin, then, according to Prince, the Christian must not look to the Law at all. On the one hand, Prince says that the Law is holy, just, and good, but its only function is prior to conversion – the Law convicts us of our sin, we repent (turn from sin), and place our faith in Christ, such being a person’s final usage of the Law.

In the same way as Agricola, Prince completely throws out the third use of the Law and in the same chapter as the above quote, he goes into an analysis of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as a parallel to the Law. Now, there is much truth to this, but what Prince fails to understand is that nothing will ever get us back to that blissful state of innocence apart from a sin nature. Now that the fruit has been partaken of, we will always retain a knowledge of some kind as to right and wrong, but without having God’s Law, that knowledge eventually becomes very subjective. God desired first, before humanity fell, to have relationship with us, gently guiding us to grow in knowledge. Yet, humanity wanted to have the knowledge all at once, and consequently, it became necessary for God to give humanity his Law – what he expects. If you doubt this necessity, simply look to Genesis 4 after the Fall in which Adam’s and Eve’s firstborn son murdered his own brother; the Law became necessary simply from a civil standpoint. Yet, it also became necessary to instruct believers in holiness. Why did Cain kill his brother? It was jealousy, but jealousy over what? Hebrews 11:4 tells us:

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying [by receiving] his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.

It had nothing to do with the giving of a salad offering rather than blood. What made the difference was Abel’s faith and Cain’s lack thereof. Abel was declared righteous by his faith while Cain was rejected for lacking faith. Therefore, all three purposes of the Law became necessary very early on after sin entered human nature. The Law not only is necessary civilly or to bring us to the Savior, but to instruct believers in how to live and what God expects.

According to Prince, “a high regard for the law” is for the Christian to throw it out completely since the Christian knows he or she cannot keep it anyhow. This is an odd view because it is essentially the equivalent of a parent giving their teenager a list of chores to do one summer day, such mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, and a few other tasks. Yet, the teenager soon finds that the lawnmower is broken down and he cannot get it to start; therefore, he decides that since he cannot keep all the chores on the list then he will simply go back to his room and play video games, not doing any of the chores. The “list” in the story is the equivalent of God’s written word while the broken-down lawnmower represents man’s inability to perfectly keep the law. It is not a perfect analogy since the lawnmower is an outside influence rather than inner problem, but every human analogy eventually breaks down. Essentially, the Christian is one who has trusted in Christ’s finished work on the Cross and then reads what God expects of him in the Bible, doing his best to keep God’s moral precepts while relying on grace for his failings.

According to Prince’s teaching, however, the only way for a Christian to know what is a good work is in how he or she subjectively feels about something. Although Prince does not explicitly say this, he gives numerous examples of people overcoming sin and one particular example he shares is the story of a man in his church who, even after receiving Jesus as his Lord and Savior, was still “struggling with a smoking habit.” Prince explains, “He had been smoking for many years and not a day passed without him going through at least one pack of cigarettes. He shared with me [with Prince] that he felt really lousy every time he smoked. He felt condemned and constantly heard the voice of the accuser bombarding him with accusations” (Chapter 11, Kindle Loc., 2121-2123). Prince then goes on to relate how the man heard him preach and was enabled to quit cold-turkey by simply declaring himself as righteous in the eyes of God instead of confessing his sins. Yet, nowhere in the Bible does it say smoking cigarettes is sinful; Prince is not objectively getting this from the moral Law or the Ten Commandments. Rather than having an objective standard for what is sin, the knowledge of sin becomes a subjective matter of whether a particular act makes you feel bad or feel condemned. This is the orthopraxy of Satanism, Alistair Crowley’s mantra being “Do what thou wilt,” and the serpent in Eden saying “thou shalt be like God” (Genesis 3:5). To be clear, I am not saying that Prince is a Satanist, but in practice this is Satanism. This was the terrible lifestyle of Israel during the time of the Judges, a time when every man “did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25). For more information on the 3rd use of the law which Prince and Agricola reject, please see this video by the Fuel Project (watch video).

The Spirit’s Conviction of the World

The most damnable heresy that Joseph Prince espouses, however, is the doctrine that the Holy Spirit never convicts a believer of sins. Prince says in chapter 11 (Kindle Loc., 2037-2042):

“But Pastor Prince, how can I differentiate between the Holy Spirit convicting me of sin and the accuser hurling condemnation at me?” That is a very good question and the answer is really simple. Now, pay attention to this because it will liberate you. The bottom line is that the Holy Spirit never convicts you of your sins. He NEVER comes to point out your faults. I challenge you to find a scripture in the Bible that tells you that the Holy Spirit has come to convict you of your sins. You won’t find any!

Yet, the Lord clearly says to his disciples concerning the Holy Spirit, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Of course, Prince attempts to explain away this verse by saying (Kindle Loc., 2066-2072):

One way to read Bible verses in their context (and this is a key Bible interpretation principle) is to identify who the verses are talking about. So who was Jesus talking about in John 16:8? Was He talking about believers or unbelievers? When He said that the Holy Spirit would come to “convict the world of sin” because they do not believe in Him, it is clear that He was referring to unbelievers because they are of “the world”. And notice that the Holy Spirit does not convict the world of “sins” (plural). It is only one “sin” (singular) that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of, and that is the sin of unbelief, the sin of rejecting Jesus and not believing in His finished work.

If Prince read the verse in context, however, he would see that the Lord is speaking of both believers and unbelievers whom the Holy Spirit convicts. The Lord in the later verses brings in all three functions of the Law, saying that the Spirit will convict, “concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:9-11). That is, he will convict unbelievers of their sin, he will convict believers of their failing to live righteously according to how God expects them to live in the Law, and he will convict governments concerning how they have administered justice, Satan no longer being in control of human government.

Although Prince rightly notes that “sin” is singular rather than plural, he wrongly attributes the sin to be merely “unbelief,” or “rejecting Jesus.” Yet, it is not speaking of a particular sin at all; humans are not sinners because they sin but humans sin because they are sinners. The singular use of the word brings out that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of their sin nature in Adam; his conviction begins on the basis of people being sinners in Adam, not on the basis of particular sins they have personally committed. The apostle Paul says in Romans 5:12-14, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.” That is, those who had not personally violated a commandment of God because they did not have the Law were still reckoned guilty as sinners because of original sin, and the evidence for that was that they died.

The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of their status in Adam before God while he convicts believers of their particular sins, failing to live as he would have them live as enumerated by his Law. When the text says that the Spirit will “convict the world,” it truly means “the world,” every person, believers or unbelievers, convicted by the Spirit in accordance with God’s Law.

Conclusion

Although Joseph Prince acknowledges that the Law is necessary to show unbelievers that nothing they do can make them right with God, he nevertheless asserts the historic antinomianism of John Agricola. Prince argues against any ongoing use of the Law for the believer and therefore, cannot point to anything objective to tell a Christian that something he or she may be doing is sinful. Thus, church discipline becomes impossible.

According to Prince, looking at the Law only makes one sin-conscious, leading to bad results in life. The apostle Paul, however, apparently did not get the memo that the Law has become totally obsolete for believers. Paul, almost obnoxiously, informs us consistently what a good work is and he always views good works as the imperatives of the Law coming off of the indicatives of the Gospel. The back-end of the Ephesians, Philippians, and even Galatians are full of the third use of the Law instructing believers in holiness.

There are numerous problems with Joseph Prince’s theology, his book Destined to Reign the manifesto of his antinomian theology. He preaches grace to the exclusion of the Law, he denies that the Holy Spirit convicts believers of their sins, and that the confession of sins is what is responsible for bad results in the believer’s life including financial lack nd bad habits. On top of all this, he teaches that health and wealth are to be expected by Christians for their belief in the gospel. All of this is the result of a bad hermeneutic that looks at Scripture through a diametrical two-covenant lens in which everything breaks down and changes at the Cross and is based on a direct revelation he had while driving through the Swiss Alps. The gospel in Joseph Prince’s theology is the half-truth that serves as the bait on the hook for the rest of his deceptive teachings.

18 comments on “The grievous heresies of Joseph Prince”

  1. Excellent commentary but too much time looking in dictionary to follow your logic Jesus preaching to all inclusive of fishermen the poor etc.said hidden from the wise and interlectual. Leaving school at15 yrs would have enjoyed item written without such time looking up time and again your
    no doubt wise and interlectual logic. Iam new to all electronic communication so in and out of tablet extremely weary and tiresome
    Ido hope you can at least see my perhaps somewhat illiterate point

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    1. I’m sorry you had some trouble, but I also commend you for taking the time to look through your dictionary. While it is true that Jesus chose unlearned fishermen, he did not leave them unlearned. In Acts 4:13 where it says the disciples were “unlearned and ignorant fishermen,” it also says, “they took note that they had been with Jesus.” Jesus spent the duration of his ministry teaching them; even Paul spent three years in Arabia after his conversion learning. The Word of God has the power to make the unwise wise. Even though you left school at 15, you can become wise and intellectual through study of the Scriptures, moving from the milk of the word as a babe in Christ to the meat of the word. I will gladly answer any questions you may have and help you become a scholar of the Word whose wisdom will confound the wisdom of secular society!

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  2. I do not agree with your opening assessment on extra-biblical revelation that the fact Prince received a voice inside of him, that it is some kind of red flag when a person claims God personally gave him/her a message apart from the Bible – and I am not saying a message that itself DEPARTS from the Bible, but a message simply received OUTSIDE of the physical Bible itself, i.e. internally in one self as Prince claimed – and that because it arises spontaneously – in Prince’s case that is to say without Prince having been struggling to interpret any particular passage – spells trouble, as that is dismissing Acts 2:17 where God plainly states in the last days he is imparting dreams and visions to all his servants, and that is a pro-active imparting on God’s end, not one that is responsive to any servant struggling over a biblical issue.

    And along that line, we are not to despise prophesies, etc, however we are to test all things. So to call that kind of revelation alone as a red flag is itself coming from a biblically unsound place because Scripture does make grounds for such kind of unsought after revelation imparted by God by outside biblical means – however when that information departs from the word, which you then went on to make excellent case after case using further examples, then then gives the evidence, that in this particular case, i.e. the case of Joseph Prince and his claims in his book, to be heretical.

    In addition, to also state that going to the Bible in order to check if the ‘revelations’ he was getting were found in the Bible, in itself is some kind of wrong, is to call the Berean wrong in Acts 17 who went daily to the Bible to check if what Paul was telling them was true, yet the Berean were named as noble for doing this very thing. Please note that the Berean went DAILY to the Bible, so that implies Paul was imparting continued information that went beyond just the handful of prophesies in the Old Testament, that could imply the Berean were checking all things said to see if everything he said matched biblical teachings. It is not specified that the Berean were only checking Scriptures/prophesies, but that they went daily to see if what Paul was telling them was true. So going of and by itself to the Scriptures to see if either one’s own, or someone else’s vision/dream/audible voice is lining up with the Bible is not in and of itself a wrong (for we are told by Paul that the revelations he received were not taught to him by any man!), even if appears to be eisegesis in the concept, it only becomes eisegesis if it involves adding what is not confirmed in the Scriptures, but projected to be there and is just one’s ideas that fall flat when held up to the entire context of Scriptures.

    These two things are my only contentions, but they are valid contentions, for we mustn’t make shame what is in the word of God, nor what may be the process of arriving at the truth of God’s word. Please note I am only contending about your initial statements about these things, and not the further, well-detailed and presented evidence you provided to back up in his case that Joseph Prince’s theology is heretical.

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    1. Vivian, first, Acts 2:17ff is a quote from Joel 2:28-32, and Peter plainly says in Acts 2:16 in response to the accusations of being drunk that what was occurring was the fulfillment of Joel’s words. The Holy Spirit had just empowered Christ’s church for the Commission that the Lord had given her, the dreams and visions the prophetic evidence from Joel that the long-awaited Kingdom Age had been inaugurated and the gospel was to go to the nations. It’s not a continual thing, but has already taken place, showing us that the Holy Spirit has empowered the church to take the gospel to all peoples.

      Furthermore, Paul was an Apostle, used by God to give the Bible to the church. Yet, not everything Paul wrote was inspired; we know, for example from several mentions in 1 Corinthians that he actually wrote a letter before 1 Corinthians to the church at Corinth. Yet, such a letter was recognized by the early churches as not inspired and therefore, was not included in any canonical list. The Bereans were noble because they didn’t just take a letter from Paul and assume it was inspired; they tested it with the Old Testament and any other New Testament books that had already been written. Conversely, those in Thessalonica were not as noble as the believers in Berea, and therefore, Paul had to write 2 Thessalonians telling them not to be disturbed by any letter “as though from us,” admonishing them to test any letter they received to make sure it was inspired. Today, there are no living apostles and the biblical canon is complete, so we live in a different situation than believers then faced. The NT was still in the process of being written and they needed discernment to know what was to be included in the canon and what was not to be included. We also know from the end of Colossians that Paul wrote a letter to the Laodicean church which we don’t have and was not included in any canonical list. The Bereans and other churches went daily to the Scriptures they had and made sure which of Paul’s writings, which of Peter’s writings, which gospel writings, etc., were Scripture and which were not.

      The only kind of prophesying today is the proclamation of the written word of God. Unless prophesying is founded within the context and exposition of Scripture, it is false and of the Devil.

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  3. Thank you so much for the clarity and thought that goes in to preparing this article. It will help so many who have been influenced much by his teachings especially in Singapore where I am from.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joseph Prince is one of the most biblically accurate teachers I have ever listened to. To have someone else decide who you should listen to basically says you are too immature to listen and decide for yourself. He uses plenty of scripture to back up his teachings, more than most preachers I have seen.
    As a Christian who was born again when I was enjoying a sinful lifestyle, the preaching of the law just made things worse. Only people who think they are holy enough to keep the law are the ones who defend it the most.
    They will find everything to beat you over the head when you don’t meet their expectations of what they think the law says. They will find every way with taking scripture out of context to find disobedience in your life when going thru things ( it’s disobedience when you’re in the congregation, it’s a special attack on you due to your calling when you are a leader, ) A lot of preachers basically present God as the mafia Godfather who uses extortion to get you into obedience. Obedience in the New Testament is by faith, or right believing, not by deeds or works. More preachers have more confidence in Satan’s influence on their congregation than the do if the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the people’s lives. In scripture, context is king.
    All I can say, is listen to Joseph Prince for yourself and do it for awhile, give it at least a month. Don’t let some person who thinks he’s some sort of expert do your thinking for you, just because they got a degree in Divinity. The apostles were simple unlearned men who God could work thru due to their simplicity of faith.

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    1. First, the apostle *began* as unlearned fishermen; they did not remain that way. In fact, in the context of that verse in Acts, it says that when they saw they were unlearned fishermen, they took note that they had been with Jesus. Jesus spent 3 years instructing and training the disciples before they became apostles, and even Paul spent 3 years in Arabia learning before he taught anyone as he mentions to the Galatians. Theological training is essential to understanding Scripture and theologically trained pastors have the duty to protect their flocks from false teaching.

      Second, Prince is not biblically accurate. If you compare Prince’s messages with true biblical expositors, you would see that Prince essentially uses Scripture as a launching pad into what he wants to talk about, hopscotching through the Bible rather than exegeting a particular text. A good video by “What Shall I Cry Ministries” is available on YouTube that compares a sermon by Prince with a sermon by John Piper on the same text. I suggest you look it up.

      Third, Prince throws out the 3rd use of the Law (as I show in the article) which nullifies church discipline. Prince’s theology makes church discipline essentially a subjective matter of how something makes someone “feel.” The purpose of the church IS to beat both Christians and unbelievers over the head with the Law. If someone like you described you used to be is *enjoying a sinful lifestyle*, then going to church SHOULD feel like hell; the true church is not a welcoming place for unrepentant sinners. The Holy Spirit convicts through the Law to get a Christian to repent (turn from sin), hating what you have been doing and going to the Lord to ask forgiveness for the same things over and over (Luke 17:4). For the unbeliever, the Law brings them to Christ; for the Christian, it shows how God expects him or her to live (John 16:8-11). You’re wrong about obedience; nowhere in Scripture is obedience by faith. True faith produces obedience/works; if there are no works then there is no faith.

      Lastly, you said, “in scripture, context is king.” I couldn’t agree more, and I showed very plainly in the article above this comment section how Joseph Prince took John 16:8 out of context, twisting it to suit his false teaching.

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  5. I will pray that someday I can be as perfect as you! You sound like every legalistic person I’ve ever known. If you think that God does not speak to us today, than you have missed the entire reason for the cross in the first place! A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM!! Instead of finding fault in other pastors , who truly are spreading the gospel.. Try loving them and praying for them! You’re so busy finding discrepancies with other people that have a heart for Jesus that you miss sharing His love to people in your life! What wasted time and energy.
    Not only does God work through Joseph Prince, but I believe his teaching is instrumental today to get out of the legalistic crap that keeps the world from knowing, hearing and having an intimate relationship with Jesus!

    I guess I’ll go smoke a cigarette now… Since the Bible didn’t call it a sin.. Maybe some heroin toooo, the Bible never mentions that☺

    My heart was transformed after listening to Pastor Prince… It makes me want to draw near to Jesus instead of hide from Him.

    We should all support other believers, even if we don’t see eye to eye and most importantly he is getting the world to see Jesus as He is… ALIVE,WORKING,CHANGING LIVES AND DOING MIRACLES TODAY!I

    Feel free to criticize me, because it looks like that’s what you do to other believers

    Changed by the gospel of grace,

    Joann Codori

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    1. I never said God does not speak to us today. He does speak to us… THROUGH HIS WORD, the Bible. There are no “new” or “fresh” extra-biblical revelations. Also, you contradicted yourself; you claim I’m legalistic, but then you sarcastically said that smoking a cigarette was sinful. Yet, your only justification for saying that smoking is sinful is because Prince says it is sinful. I’m afraid you and Prince are the legalistic ones, making your own laws based on how something makes you feel rather than based on what Scripture says. If I want to smoke a cigar on New Year’s Eve, or drink a bottle of Port to celebrate some great event, I will gladly do so. I don’t believe such to be wrong at all, though I would certainly abstain if it might make someone I was with uncomfortable as I wouldn’t want to be a stumbling block. The apostle Paul says all things are lawful though not all are profitable. Yet, Prince who is a true legalist considers all such things that make one feel bad to be sinful. Legalists add their own traditions and laws to Scripture; Bible believers though stick with ONLY what God has said in the Bible.

      As for heroin, that is against US Law which we are bound to abide by in accordance with the First Use of the Law (Romans 13).

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  6. And this is why people don’t want to have ANYTHING to do with “Christian s” ! We are going back and forth on issues instead of encouraging and loving each other. We should all have the same purpose…. Sharing Christ with the world! That’s what Joseph Prince does, that’s what I want to do.

    You kinda remind me of an arrogant Pharisee… And we know what Jesus said about them!

    Quit worrying about other people’s way of sharing Christ and get out there and do it yourself!

    Beloved, let us love one another

    If you’re going to takes so much time attacking people who don’t do it your way… Go after the leaders of the satanic world, not Joseph Prince!

    Here’s the MIRACLES that have happened in my life since I started believing that God is for me and listening to Joseph Prince

    My son was saved from a massive car accident..he should have died
    My kidneys and liver shut down and were made whole again
    I began praying in tounges.. Acts 2
    I was delivered from a 20 year alcohol addiction!!

    There’s just a few of many!

    Praise God for the MIRACLES in my life!

    Go out and live the gospel, my friend!! Sitting at a computer tearing apart another believer that is different than you is unproductive!!

    May God bless you and Joseph Prince!

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    1. You’re sitting behind a computer accusing me – someone you don’t even know – of not living out the gospel but just sitting behind a computer tearing people down. Oh the irony, especially since Prince is the epitome of an arrogant Pharisee, basing much of his theology on things God has supposedly revealed to him extra-biblically. Jesus says to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, that is, beware those who go beyond Scripture like Prince, adding their own teachings, visions, dreams, etc., rather than sticking solely with the Bible.

      I’m not tearing fellow Christians down. My article was rational, level-headed criticism based on scriptural exegesis which you have not even attempted to address. You’re responding entirely out of emotion, not from scriptural exegesis. Prince plainly states that the Holy Spirit never convicts a believer of sin, a damnable heresy which he seeks to defend by taking John 16:8 out-of-context, never mentioning verses 9-11, which I explain in the tail-end of the article.

      The apparent miracles which have happened in your life I praise God for; I’m happy that God spared you and your son, but such are no defense of Prince’s heresies. As for “tongues,” there’s no such gift of “praying in tongues.” Tongues in Scripture is the gift of either speaking or understanding an ordinary human language. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul contrasts the true gift of prophecy (proclaiming and expositing Scripture) with the pagan practice of glosolalia, spewing gibberish. Speak Scripture to yourself and others, not gibberish. I suggest you read my article, “What is the Gift of Speaking in Tongues?” https://glorywaters.org/2019/08/22/what-is-the-gift-of-speaking-in-tongues/

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  7. I will pray that you receive the gift of tongues so that you can understand what it is.. Not only does it edify your spirit, glorify God and as studies have proven uses a part of the brain that is not used for anything else! It’s scientifically proven that while speaking of praying in the spirit it boosts your immune system. It’s also evidence that you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit!
    My friend, you are missing out on so much that God has for you. I pray that He will soften your heart and open your mind to the gifts that are readily available to those who love Him and seek after Him

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    1. Scientifically proven? I don’t suppose you can cite a study that has been done or an academic journal? Can you cite a medical journal for the claim about the immune system? Oh, and you are “praying that I receive the gift of tongues”? So, are you saying that someone who receives the gift has no choice in the matter but to use the gift? That is totally contradictory to the words of the apostle Paul who says, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32). If you cannot control a so-called gift of tongues that comes on you, it’s not from God. It’s either from yourself after you have convinced yourself it is from God, or in an extreme situation, it’s from the devil. When you speak gibberish, you’re not glorifying God; you’re putting the attention on yourself.

      Also, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was the empowering of the church at Pentecost, in Acts 2 and later a definitive statement for the inclusion of Gentiles in Acts 10. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an ongoing thing. No one has been baptized with the Holy Spirit since the book of Acts. The church was empowered then to take the gospel to the nations, and that empowering has never been withdrawn. Neither you not me nor any other Christian alive today has been baptized with the Holy Spirit. You’re trying to make yourself feel more special than you are. The truth is we are all worthless sinner who will never have victory over any of our sins until we pass from this world to be with the Lord.

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  8. Sounds like you are saying we are under law. But when under law, sin has dominion over you. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.” You cannot have both. Its either law or grace.

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    1. You quoted Romans 6:14 out of context; please note that the verse begins with “For,” or “because of this.” Go back and read Romans 6:11-14. We’re commanded not to offer any part of ourselves as an instrument of wickedness, but to offer every part of ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness. IF we do that, which is done by the Ten Commandments and Sermon on the Mount, then verse 14, “FOR sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” That is, we are still keeping God’s moral instructions in Scripture, offering every part of ourselves as instruments of righteousness to God, and because we do that, sin will no longer be our master because even when we fail, it’s okay because we’re under grace. Paul is not saying we no longer obey the law; he says we’re not under it, that is, in the sense of a means of salvation. The Lord did not redeem us from the Law; he redeemed us from “the curse of the Law” (Gal. 3:13). There’s a big difference. We are still accountable to God to live in accordance with his moral instructions in the Ten Commandments (expounded on in Matthew 5-7), but because of his substitutionary atonement for sin, our failure to live accordingly no longer brings us under his condemnation. We’re no longer under any of the law’s curses because Jesus became a curse for us. The true Christian will gladly follow God’s moral instructions in Scripture and anyone who doesn’t do so, has not been newly created by the Spirit’s regeneration (Eph. 2:10).

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