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.
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.
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.