The Jesus of Kenneth Copeland

Introduction

2 Corinthians 11:4 refers to another Jesus; the Greek word for another is allos, meaning another of the same kind.

“For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached,oryou receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” (NASB)

Paul has already indicated in this letter that those in the Corinth church were indeed saved, but that many of them had not grown in Christ and they were still ‘fleshly’ Christians (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). They did accept salvation through grace alone in Christ, but after that, they started following ‘another’ gospel, which added the need of works to grow in their salvation.

This gospel was preached by the Judaizers (Greek Ioudaizo, meaning, “to adopt Jewish customs”). They were a group of Jewish Christians in the Early Church, who held that initial salvation was by faith but growth was by works; circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law were necessary for growing in salvation. Consequently they felt that Gentile converts needed to accept these Jewish customs.

Are we in danger of following a similar message today? Are there groups or individual teachers that, although acknowledging, in words, that salvation is by faith, they have added to this and are preaching ‘another’ Jesus, which, with a cursory glance, may appear the same but actually it is another?

This is not the message of the Messiah that Paul preached. We believe there are such teachers today and if we follow their message, we may know salvation, but we are in danger of being led astray from the truth as revealed in the Scriptures.

Copeland’s Jesus

We have written at length about Kenneth Copeland, and his prosperity gospel, elsewhere, but here we want to concentrate on, who he believes Jesus to be. Does he present the true Jesus as recorded in the gospel or is it ‘another’ Jesus?

To show his belief, firsthand and in the clearest way, I am going to use the ‘Question and Answer’ section from the magazine Believer’s Voice of Victory, April 1996, p.17. However, this is still his current teaching, as can be seen from at least two messages available for free download from his web site.

These were originally aired on his TV programme and can now be found in the archive. The two specific messages are the one on 18 April 2004 entitled, The Manifestations of Jesus in the Earth and 27 March 2005 entitled, Jesus Triumphed Over All of Hell. There are probably others listed, but these are two that I have listened to, and know these doctrines are still being taught today.

In the article, the question Copeland is asked to answer is:

“… some time ago I read an article in your magazine in which you said Jesus didn’t claim He was God, but rather claimed He walked with God and that God was in Him. I’m confused. Does that mean you question the deity of Jesus?”

The two-word answer “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”(capital letters in the original), would be terrific if it was not followed by a page of qualification.

Jesus didn’t claim to be God

Copeland affirms the deity of Christ with a clear Biblical quotation from John 1:1, but then goes on:

“The phrasing of the statement you referred to is very important. I didn’t say Jesus wasn’t God, I said He didn’t claim to be God when He lived on the earth. Search the Gospels for yourself. You’ll find what I say is true.”

I am not sure which gospels Copeland is reading, and I wonder if he has searched them in any depth, because what about John 20:28, 29? Here Thomas clearly calls Jesus, God, and this is not rebuked by the Lord at all. Indeed, He then says that blessed are all those that have not seen Him, face to face, but believe. Believe what? That He is God.

What about John 5:18, where the Jews, and please remember that Jesus was a Jew and would know how their minds worked, clearly heard Jesus claim to be equal with God. Also note verse 16 where they were ‘persecuting’ Jesus because of breaking the Sabbath, but in verse 18, they are trying to ‘kill’ Him, because He was claiming equality with God

Add to this John 10, where again the Jews knew that He was making Himself out to be God.

Also, we would need to take into account many other incidents, such as the fact that Jesus freely forgave sin and gave the dead back their life, attributes that can only come from God.

Referring to such incidents Copeland says:

“During His earthly ministry, Jesus acknowledged that He was the Son of God, the Messiah. He referred to God as His Father (which enraged the Pharisees), but He never said He was the most high God. In fact, He told His disciples that the Father God was greater and mightier than He (John 14:28).”

Let’s sum up what this teaching is saying:

1. Jesus is the Son of God, but He is just a man.

2. Jesus is not the most high God, but God is His father.

3. God the Father is greater and mightier than God the Son.

There are some major problems with these statements, and indeed some very serious implications, not to say contradictions. As the following quote shows, the phrase, ‘the Son of God’ is not possible to apply to a man.

“The noted theologian and Bible teacher Charles Ryrie writes concerning the title ‘Son of God’: ‘What does it mean? Though the phrase “son of” can mean “offspring of;” it also carries the meaning, “of the order of?” Thus in the Old Testament “sons of the prophets” meant of the order of prophets (1 Kings 20:35), and “sons of the singers” meant of the order of the singers (Neh. 12:28). The designation “Son of God” when used of our Lord means of the order of God and is a strong and clear claim to full Deity.’ (Ryrie, BT, 248)

“H. F. Stevenson comments that ‘it is true that the term “sons of God” is used of men (Hosea 1:10) and of angels, in the Old Testament (Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; 38:7). But in the New Testament, the title “Son of God” is used of, and by, our Lord in quite a different way. In every instance the term implies that He is the one, only-begotten Son; co-equal, co-eternal with the Father’ (Stevenson, TTG, 123)”. – The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell, p.152

The relationship between Father and Son is described as a unique relationship with the phrase, ‘only-begotten’. This is something that can ‘only’ be for Christ, and no one else can have such a relationship – it is unique. He cannot be one among many, because there can be no one else like this. If we can be the same as Christ on this earth – a man filled with the Holy Spirit – this Scriptural title would be shown as false.

This is the ‘only begotten’; no one else can have such a relationship, and it is a relationship that the Son has had with the Father since before time began.

What does John 14:28 actually say?

“You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced b
ecause I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”

It certainly does not say mightier, just greater. As Robertson’s Word Pictures states of this verse,

“Greater than I (meizon mou). Ablative case mou after the comparative meizon (from positive megas). The filial relation makes this necessary. Not a distinction in nature or essence (cf. Joh.10:30), but in rank in the Trinity. No Arianism or Unitarianism here. The very explanation here is proof of the deity of the Son.”

If Jesus was a man and His Father God, the difference would be in character, but here there is the comparison of two of the same ‘species’, and one is greater in ‘quantity’ but not in ‘quality’. This is evident when all the gospels are compared with each other, and not just this one verse taken out of context.

At this point in time Jesus had restricted Himself to living on the same plane as man. Note that these verses in John 14 are in the context of Him going back to the Father. He was saying that if the disciples really understood what that meant, they would have rejoiced. Once back in His heavenly home, the relationship of Father and Son, with no separation in between, there would be no restrictions and when He came to them again it would be in power and authority without any restrictions.

Could Jesus stop being God?

We have another problem, presented to us from John 1:1; if He was always the eternal God – never being created but always in existence – could He ever stop being this eternal God?

Later in the article Copeland will quote Philippians to say yes to this:

“He was not born with the sin nature of Adam. But, in all other respects, He became a man and called Himself the Son of Man.”

 

What other respects? The very nature of man was sinful; he has need of redemption and could never be the sacrifice for sin. To use this phrase just does not make sense. He goes on to quote Scripture,

“The Apostle Paul verifies that in Philippians 2:5-7:

“Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus….Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God…did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained; But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity] so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being (The Amplified Bible).”

Where, in these verses, does it say that He left His divinity behind? Where does it say He became a man? It doesn’t, it says He became like a man – very different. Note carefully the order and explanation of the events here. First, though, we need to quote verses 5-8 in a different version that is closer to the original text:

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” – NASB

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” – KJV

1. Jesus was already being – existed (Greek huparcho) – in the form (Greek morphe) – of God.

The Greek word huparcho is found 17 times in the New Testament and is used in the sense of describing what you are by your character and your actions. For instance:

Luke 11:13 – you BEING evil

Acts 2:30 – BEING a prophet

Acts 7:55 – BEING full of the Holy Spirit

Acts 14:8 – BEING a cripple

Acts 16:20 – BEING Jews

Used in these verses it clearly describes what Jesus is, not just ‘essentially one’, as the Amplified puts it, but being the ‘form of God.’ This must lead us to ask what the phrase the ‘form of God’ means.

The Greek word morphe only appears three times in the New Testament. Twice here in Philippians and once in Mark 16:12, where it is again used of Jesus, appearing to the two on the road to Emmaus. Notice that this was still Jesus but His outward appearance, the way others saw Him, was different. Inwardly, He was still the resurrected Jesus; He still had the same character.

This is the same in Philippians; He was essentially God. The form is not talking about some hybrid or something not quite there, but actually the outward appearance, how those looking on saw Him.

2. Jesus did not think that being equal (Greek isos) to God was something to be grasped (thought it not robbery) (Greek harpagmos).

The Greek word isos appears 8 times in the New Testament and is used of two things being equal or just like each other. For instance:

Matthew 20:12 – the labourers in the vineyard were treated exactly the same.

Acts 11:17 – the same gift of the Holy Spirit.

Luke 6:34 – receive the same amount back.

Jesus was equal to God. Just as you get the fact that 4+4=8 so you get the same fact, Jesus=God. What is even more interesting is that the word is in the plural and so we have ‘equalities’. It surely is no accident that Jesus can be equal with God in more than one state; in other words, whether in heaven or whether on earth.

The Greek word harpagmos only appears here in the whole of the New Testament. Vincent’s Word Studies tell us:

“Taking the word… to mean a highly prized possession, we understand Paul to say that Christ, being, before His incarnation, in the form of God, did not regard His divine equality as a prize which was to be grasped at and retained at all hazards, but, on the contrary, laid aside the form of God, and took upon Himself the nature of man.”

3. Emptied Himself

Copeland says in the article:

“Jesus, the divine Son of God, set aside the privileges and powers of deity for a time and lived as a man on earth. Once you grasp that, it will absolutely thrill your soul!”

The Greek word for emptied is kenoo and it occurs 8 times in the New Testament. But just what did He empty Himself of? I think the answer to this can be seen clearly if we look at the rest of the verses and see what He had left.

4. Took the form of a servant

The word here again is morphe. This is how people were to see Him and this is what He was. He certainly was not a servant – Greek doulos, the common word for a bond-servant – in heaven and so He was going to lay down His rank and privilege and serve those who He had created. Although laying down His rank, there is nothing here that would indicate that He laid down His deity.

5. Made in the likeness (Greek – homoioma) of men

The Greek word homoioma appears 6 times in the New Testament. It literally means resembling or made like something. What it does not mean is become! Here the Amplified Version is heretical! He was not born a human being because if He was, He would have been sinful.

The word is used in the following ways:

Romans 6:5 – we were planted together in the LIKENESS of His death – we were not literally there and we did not suffer literally, but spiritually we have now been made just like that.

Romans 8:3 – Jesus was in the LIKENESS of sinful flesh – He was not full of sin but His appearance was just like the flesh of others.

Revelation 9:7 – describe the SHAPES of the locusts – they looked just like horses but they were NOT horses.

Romans 5:14 uses it of a ‘type’. Something that is one thing but it clearly teaches us and shows us about something else.

Jesus, being in the likeness of man, means that He could not be just man, but being something else – God – He was made to look like man.

This phrase, therefore, shows clearly that Jesus could not empty Himself of deity and just become man.

6. Found in fashion or appearance (Greek schema) of a man.

The Greek word schema is only used in one other place, 1 Corinthians 7:31, and it is clear that again it is used of outward form, not inward being. The fact that Jesus only appeared to be a man means clearly that He was not just man.

7. He humbled Himself…

Now in this position as God-man, He brings Himself low, He humbles Himself to the point that He is willing to accept death, something that is outside the character of God, and such a death for you and me.

When we look at the Scripture in context, and in its true meaning, these verses show clearly that God DID NOT empty Himself of deity, but rather kept His deity and came to earth in the likeness of a man.

Further on in the article, we are told,

“He ministered as a man anointed by the Holy Spirit. You can take Jesus’ personal witness in Luke 4:18-19”

I want us to see exactly what is being said here by quoting some statements made in the Manifestation broadcast mentioned above. Copeland starts this tape with the claim that he was:

“Assigned by the Lord… to bring an in depth revelation”

The part that is relevant to us here is as follows. Speaking of the Lord Jesus, Copeland says that He,

“Did not do one miracle as the Son of God… He did it as the son of man. He ministered as a prophet under the Abrahamic Covenant.”

So Jesus, who was the Eternal God in heaven, left His deity behind and just became man and a prophet like other prophets under the Old Covenant. However, we have an interesting twist:

“In His ministry when He went to the Cross he did so not as the son of man but as the Son of God.”

So the Eternal God becomes man, and ministers as a man filled with the Holy Spirit, but before He dies He changes back into God! When and how we are not told, but one thing we can be sure of, this is definitely ‘another’ Jesus that is not seen within the Scriptures.

What Happened at Calvary?

What did Calvary do according to Copeland in this article?

“You, as a reborn child of God, filled with the same Holy Spirit as Jesus was, have the opportunity to live as He lived on earth. And that is exactly what He intends. In John 17:18, He said to the Father. “Just as You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them…” (The Amplified Bible).

“Jesus has sent you into the world to live as He lived. Through the new birth, He’s enabled you to exchange the sinful nature of Adam for the sinless nature of God. He’s made available to you the anointing and the in filling of the Holy Spirit, thereby giving you access to the same power He relied on when He walked the earth.” (Emphasis added)

Copeland teaches that Adam and Eve were, “just like Him (God) in every respect.”Believer’s Voice of Victory, April 1994, p.4. Therefore, we can get back what Adam lost in Christ.

The problem with this teaching is, it is not Scriptural. God is uncreated but man is created. Creation is different from Creator and so we are not just like God in every respect – Christ is in us but we are redeemed creatures, not just like the Creator.

Why is Jesus downgraded?

The reason Copeland wants to downgrade Jesus, and upgrade man, becomes evident when he says:

“The truth of this verse hasn’t dawned on most believers. They mistakenly think Jesus was able to work wonders, perform miracles and live above sin because He had divine powers that we don’t have. Thus, they’ve never really aspired to live like He lived.

“‘I could never live like Jesus did,’ they say with great humility.’ After all, He had an advantage. He’s God!’

“They don’t realize that when Jesus came to earth, He voluntarily gave up that advantage, living His life here not as God but as a man. He had no innate supernatural powers. He had no ability to perform miracles until after He was anointed by the Holy Spirit (see Luke 3:22).

It’s so we can do these and greater works than Jesus. The only way man can be exalted to be able to do greater works than Jesus is to downgrade Jesus. This truly is a false gospel, another Jesus.

Categories: Apologetics

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