The theology of Joseph Prince

Joseph-PrinceJust today The Gospel Coalition Australia posted a blog from Bishop Paul Barker. It was written in 2016 and originally published in the Journal of the Anglican Church of Myanmar. The Hypergrace of Joseph Prince: A Review of ‘Destined to Reign’ is clearly written and helpful as a warning to TGC Australian readers, but I think it would fail to reach those who ascribe to ‘hyper-grace’ theology because of its tone.

In my last year of my degree at Ridley College, I wrote my Masters of Divinity on Joseph Prince’s theology. I heard Joseph Prince speak at Hillsong Conference many years ago, and a family member bought me his book. I have various friends and family ascribe to hyper-grace theology and I was interested in understanding it more deeply. My intention in writing this paper was to try to comprehend the roots of this theology (which goes beyond Joseph Prince and the 21st Century) and place it in the wider context of theological discussions around grace, law, and sanctification.  I tried carefully not to impugn the motives of those who teach it.

I would love to hear your thoughts… but I’m warning you… it’s a long read!

Outline and evaluate Joseph Prince’s understanding of grace and law in relation to sanctification.


With over 2.5 million social media followers, Joseph Prince is the most popular and influential hyper-grace preacher. He teaches that ‘the power to overcome sin is knowing that you are righteous’[1], and promises that this process will be effortless. Prince writes like he is divorced from church history, even though this view is part of an ongoing theological battle between law and grace. Prince believes, ‘[the moment] you balance grace, you neutralize it…you cannot put grace and law together’ (2).

Joseph Prince unconstructively conflates justification and sanctification. As Christians, mental assent to our justification does not automate sanctification; sanctification is progressive and it requires some effort. This is grounded in God’s justifying act(s) and done in the power of the Holy Spirit – this is not legalism.

There are three underlying issues in Prince’s conflation. (a) Prince’s enlightenment thinking both divorces him from the wider theological conversation and frames the gospel in salvific terms only, making the gospel completely individualistic. (b) Prince’s dispensationalist view divides law and grace into old covenant and new covenant terms, making the law only useful as a mirror to lead us to Christ. (c) Prince’s Word of Faith theology puts an emphasis the benefits one receives from the legal transaction of the cross, and makes our effort as Christians an affront to the finished work of Christ. These three issues inherently undermine the quest to live holy before God.

This paper will look at how helpful Prince’s theology is for the believer’s sanctification. The practical results of this will be critiqued, but the process will also be addressed. What is this ‘hyper-grace movement’? What does Prince mean when he uses the words law, grace, righteousness and justification, and the concept of sanctification. What is Prince’s theology and how has it been influenced, if at all, by the larger frameworks of Dispensationalism, Word of Faith theology and Enlightenment thinking? Before critiquing Joseph Prince, a Biblical defense will be provided, followed by a set of systematic propositions.


Hyper-Grace Movement

The hyper-grace movement[2] is not new. The grace and law dichotomy has been argued about since Romans 6, from Marcion versus Tertullian in the early church, through to Martin Luther versus Roman Catholicism during the Reformation. There are currently two notable streams of the movement today: Pentecostal, led by Prince, and Reformed, led by Tullian Tchividjian.[3] There is no interaction between the Pentecostal hyper-grace leaders and their Reformed counterparts, although a few adherents on social media have pointed out their similarities.[4] While there is a plethora of academics writing about the debate in Reformed circles, the Pentecostal movement is virtually ignored. The one exception is Michael L. Brown, a Messianic Jewish and Pentecostal scholar who wrote a book titled Hyper-Grace[5], assessing the writings of several popular Pentecostals, all published after Prince’s book.[6] Although Brown does make some good observations in his critique, there are deficiencies, one of which will be mentioned later.[7]

Defining Prince’s Terms

In order to adequately critique Prince, it is important to understand how he uses certain terms. Prince uses the terms law and grace frequently because Paul’s letters are the primary source for his theology. Even though Biblical scholarship commonly uses the language of law and gospel, Prince uses law and grace, stating, ‘grace is the gospel’ (24).[8] He interprets grace not as a ‘teaching or doctrine’ but grace as a person, i.e. ‘the person of Jesus Christ’ (12). He describes grace as ‘undeserved favor’ (23), seen both before the law was given, and in Jesus’ death for our sins.

Prince’s use of law refers to the commandments given to Moses, and often uses the terms interchangeably, as seen here: ‘For generations, the church has believed that by preaching the Ten Commandments, we will produce holiness. When we see sin on the increase, we start to preach more of the law’ (34). Prince never equates law with civil and ceremonial laws, possibly because most of his audience would have been taught to divide the law into three separate categories: moral, civil, and ceremonial, and then only follow the moral laws. Prince’s unique message is that the moral law is no longer valid.

When Prince uses righteousness in the positive sense, he means the status granted to believers: ‘…righteousness is a gift, and that it is about “right standing”’ [with God]’, then imparted to believers (34, 119). In his book, Prince establishes early on that conventional theology teaches two forms of righteousness, positional and practical, but concludes that only positional righteousness is Biblical (27). He contrasts positional righteousness with self-righteousness, any attempt to follow the law to earn salvation. Prince also uses the term justification, though not as often as righteousness, to indicate legal status before God.

Although this is a critique of Prince’s understanding of sanctification, he does not use this term throughout his book; Word of Faith teachers often use the term victory over sin (39, 44-45, 167, 248). We will use sanctification here because it is used in scripture, it implies growth, and the goal here is to bring Prince into the wider theological discussion. Sanctification is the call to holiness, to be separate from sin and consecrated to God.[9] ‘Victory over sin’ only gives the idea of being free from something and not to something.



Xenonamandar Jegahusiee Singh was born in Singapore in 1963 to a Chinese mother and an Indian father, who was a priest.[10] Upon becoming a Christian, he changed his birth name to Joseph Prince.[11] Prince has been the senior pastor of New Creation Church since 1990, growing the church from 150 members to 31,000. Prince credits the explosive growth of the church to, ‘[his 1997] commission from God to preach the Gospel of grace without compromise’.[12] It is now the largest church in Singapore. In 2007, Prince wrote the book Destined to Reign, which is also the name of his Television Program broadcast to 150 countries. Prince wants to bring grace back to the church, and ‘preach grace the way the Apostle Paul preached grace’ (vii).

Joseph Prince is part of the larger Pentecostal movement, though his church itself is non-denominational. Prince preaches on healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues as the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.[13] He ascribes to the Word of Faith movement, mentioning that as a youth he learned a lot about faith from Kenneth E. Hagin (a major leader of the Word of Faith movement), and has a deep ‘honor and respect’ for Hagin’s teachings (271). In an interview on Trinity Broadcasting Network, Prince aligns himself with Joel Osteen, one of the most popular Word of Faith teachers at present.[14] Prince’s emphasis on grace uncontaminated by law, combined with Word of Faith theology, makes his message unique.


Joseph Prince uses the Apostle Paul’s contrast between law and grace as the main basis for his reasoning. Prince agrees with Paul that the law is “holy just and good” (Rom 7:12) but believes that law cannot make you “holy, just and good”. Prince describes the law as ‘hard, cold and impersonal’ (12), a ‘hard and heavy’ yoke (33). He states, ‘[the Law]… always condemns and keeps man away from God’ (14), and ‘[was]…designed to expose your weaknesses’, and holds that the preaching of the Law strengthens sin (26). He contrasts this with grace, which ‘is gentle and warm’ (12), a yoke that is ‘easy and light…[and]…makes one Christ-conscious’ (33), and ‘gives us the power to overcome sin’ (44-45). ‘[Grace is]…God’s ‘undeserved, unearned and unmerited favor’ (36), and division should be expected when grace is preached (85).

Prince believes that throughout history, the true message of grace has been watered down to balance it with law. Prince recounts hearing much wrong teaching while growing up, about God’s anger, God creating negative circumstances, and God punishing believers. All this left him with sin consciousness: ‘I tried with all my might, all my strength and all my vigor to keep the law. I was confessing all my sins almost every waking minute, until my mind nearly snapped’ (269). Then through hearing God’s voice and reading scripture, Prince began to believe that being righteous-conscious is the key to having victory over sin.

The finished work of the cross is a strong theme in Prince’s writings. He believes that we need to receive all that Jesus accomplished for us on the cross (3). Because of the cross, we will never be punished for our sins again (58), and God is no longer angry with us, ‘…because His anger and wrath have already been exhausted on the body of Jesus on the cross’ (39). That one definitive grace-act of God, in the cross, defines our status before God as both forgiven and imputed with His righteousness. Therefore, he argues, the moment we place the law of Moses between us and God, we are ‘negating the finished work of Jesus, for if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died in vain’ (13).

To Prince, the sole purpose of the law was, ‘to bring man to the end of himself so that in his despair, he would see his need for Jesus’ (17). Now that we have Jesus, the law only brings forth unnecessary condemnation.

‘Let me give you a practical tip on how you can grow in this revelation of “no condemnation”: Learn to see the Ten Commandments (the law of God) and condemnation as the same thing. Whenever you read or think about the law, think “condemnation”’ (151).

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount also has this same purpose, to bring us to the end of ourselves and remind us of our need for Jesus (93). Prince believes that condemnation is the root cause of sin, and it comes from the devil (133-134). This means that preaching the law will only bring forth more condemnation, this condemnation will lead us to sin, and we will be stuck in our sin-consciousness. Alternatively, the power to overcome sin is in knowing you are righteous (138-139).

Prince argues, because Jesus died for our sins past, present and future, when we sin, we do not need to ask for forgiveness, as this would negate the finished work of Christ. So confession is about being ‘open with God’, not ‘begging for forgiveness’ (104) as God’s forgiveness perpetually cleanses us, like a waterfall. As interpreted by Prince, 1 John’s statement, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (vs. 1:9), is written to Gnostics, not believers (106). Confession of sins is only for the unbeliever, and only required once upon conversion.

If confession of sins is unbiblical, then what does a believer do when they sin? How does one overcome sin? Contrary to traditional Christian beliefs, Prince believes that the Holy Spirit does not convict us of our sin; our conscience does it for us (133-124). When a believer sins, they are convicted by the Holy Spirit of their righteousness: ‘The power to overcoming sin is found in knowing that you are righteous’ (138). Prince encourages his readers to commit the following to memory, and say out loud, “Right believing always leads to right living” (139). Mental assent to the cross and its achievements (i.e. our forgiveness and imputed righteousness) results in victory over sin. Prince teaches that t his victory is effortless, and any exertion of works on our behalf is self-righteousness and legalism.

Old Testament Narrative of Scripture

Prince has a unique understanding of how the Old Testament unfolds, and why the law was given. In the garden of Eden, when Adam ate of the fruit, humankind developed a conscience (120); ’ [the] tree is a picture of God’s law or the Ten Commandments’ (120). Prince then speaks of the covenant of Abraham as a covenant of grace (222), and their rescue from Egypt until Mount Sinai, God’s people were ‘dependent God’s goodness and faithfulness to the Abrahamic covenant’ (221-222).

This all changed when, in Exodus 19:8, the people cried out to Moses saying, “Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do”. Prince argues, ‘in the original Hebrew text, this is actually a statement of pride’ (222). Prince teaches that the Israelites were essentially saying “God, stop assessing, judging and blessing us based on our obedience”, concluding ‘since the people wanted to be judged based on their performance, in the very next chapter, God gave them the Ten Commandments’ (221). That was the moment it all changed from grace to law. Prince sees a strong contrast between the two covenants, he states: ‘The old covenant was based on justification by works (obedience to the Ten Commandments). You had to perform to be forgiven. But the new covenant of grace is based entirely on justification by faith (believing in Jesus Christ)’ (77).


Because Prince rarely refers to other sources, it can seem like his theology is created completely unanchored from church history and the wider theological conversation. However, we can clearly see three influences in relation to his understanding of sanctification.

  1. Enlightenment

Prince is captured by enlightenment thinking, which highly values individualism.[15] This affects the way Prince addresses salvation – ‘grace is the gospel’ (24). The gospel being the sum-total of the grace-event of the cross and what it means for humanity. This is part of a wider issue within Evangelicalism[16], but is especially heightened in Pentecostalism and in Prince’s theology, and has important implications for Prince’s view on sanctification.

Prince’s enlightenment thinking also effects how he sees tradition and scripture as authority. Known in theological circles as either Christian primitivism or restorationism, the birth of Pentecostalism came out of a desire to go back to the book of Acts (among other things).[17] Prince approaches tradition with great suspicion. He often refutes teachings ‘based on man’s traditions and not the Scriptures’ (105), believes many Christians are ‘robbed by traditional teachings’ (109). He writes: ‘As I grew and matured to the things of God, I realized that the idea that you had to be “right” before you could worship Jesus is man’s tradition’ (170). Prince faults the traditions of man for his ‘bad’ theology. His ‘good’ theology has developed outside of tradition, and within the bounds of scripture; he encourages his readers to follow suit.

‘The best way to understand the gospel, therefore, is not to base it on what you have heard from various sources, but to go back to what the apostles preached in the early church. Let’s examine what Apostle Paul, the apostle of the new covenant, preached’ (73-74).

Sola scriptura is not unique to Pentecostalism.[18] It is reminiscent of Martin Luther and the Reformers, in their attempt to return to source material, in tandem with Renaissance Humanism. This was heavily influenced by enlightenment thinking, which valued individualism and was suspicious of church doctrine. But the question remains, if Prince throws off the shackles of tradition, how does he then interpret scripture?

Because of Prince’s restorationist theology, he has a very high view of Scripture. Comparing erroneous teachings to the Bible is a large part of his book, though he does not have an obvious interpretative lens. He believes the Bible has a plain meaning if you search with an open heart.

‘Don’t just take my word for it. Search the Bible for yourself and see if the revelation that I received from the Lord is scriptural. It is right there in the Bible. I did not learn it from man. Neither did I read it in any book’ (281).

In an interview on Trinity Broadcasting Network, he says ‘The Bible is very clear, I mean, I wonder sometimes if people can read’.[19]

Studying the scriptures is not an academic or intellectual exercise for Prince, and in some Pentecostal circles it can be cast as a hindrance to faith and sometimes Pharisaical.

‘Some people think that if they knew Hebrew and Greek, they would understand the Bible better. Well, the Pharisee knew Hebrew and that did nothing for them. What we need is for the Holy Spirit to unveil to us revelation and hidden gems about Jesus and His finished work’ (196-197).

Prince comments on a truth he discovered in the Word: ‘I had never heard anyone preach that before and neither had I read it in any book’ (221). Prince will talk of his interpretations being ‘new’ but also as ‘what the Bible really means’, casting himself as a true interpreter.[20]

  1. Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism comes in different forms and has many different theological implications. However, regarding the relationship between grace and law, Dispensationalists generally believe ‘We are now in the church age, which is fundamentally the dispensation of grace, in contrast to the age of Israel, rule by the dispensation of the law’.[21] As previously substantiated, this negative view of the law for Israel is seen strongly in Prince’s writings. While most dispensationalists see the major transition occurring from the OT to the NT, Prince does not do this.

‘There is a lot of confusion and wrong believing in the church today because many Christians read their Bibles without rightly dividing the old and new covenants. They don’t realize that even some of the words which Jesus spoke in the four gospels are part of the old covenant. They were spoken before the cross and He had not yet died. The new covenant only begins after the cross, when the Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost’. (92)

Prince makes it clear that the writings between the Sinaitic Covenant (Ten Commandments) and the New Covenant (the birth of the church) have less authority to the believer in comparison to the writings of Paul and the epistles. Contrasted with the words of Jesus, Prince states: ‘Paul’s letters were written to the church and are thus for our benefit today… when it comes to reading the Bible,

I always encourage new believers in our church to begin with the letters of Paul’ (94). He does however, believe in preaching and teaching from the Old Testament, as long as it is ‘filtered through the new covenant of grace and Jesus’ finished work’ (75).

  1. Word of Faith

The Word of Faith movement is often conflated with Pentecostalism, yet is really a separate movement.[22] Kate Bowler describes its composition as ‘three distinct though intersecting streams: Pentecostalism; New Thought; and an American gospel of pragmatism, individualism, and upward mobility’.[23] New Thought was a movement in the 20th century, and combined metaphysics (mind-power, mental magic) with Protestant Christianity. E.W. Kenyon (1867-1948), the founding father of the Word of Faith movement, wrote about using ‘divine principals…[to] unlock God’s blessings’.[24] Kenyon’s emphasis was on activating the benefits of Christ’s substitutionary atonement in the cross – a legal transaction. The main benefit early on was health; this grew to include wealth and victorious living.

Victorious living is an umbrella term that covers promotion, increase, and favour, as well as spiritual dominion over the demonic, and triumph over circumstance.[25] In early Word of Faith theology, victorious living included victory over sin. This was influenced by the Wesleyan Holiness movement and Keswick Higher Life movement[26]. Though each had different views on sanctification, both of these groups believed sanctification was separate from salvation, and both emphasized how believers could defeat sin. However, a shift occurred in early Pentecostalism, with the teachings of William H. Durham (1873-1912) who preached a more Reformed understanding of sanctification. This was named ‘The Finished Work’, and stated that sanctification happens at conversion and the believer consequently progresses in grace until death.[27]

At this time some Pentecostal groups still believed sanctification was a separate experience to salvation, however, Foursquare and Assemblies of God churches followed Durham. Although Prince’s church is non-denominational, he predominantly speaks at conferences run by Pentecostal Word of Faith denominations that believe in progressive sanctification and do not view sanctification as a benefit, like healing and prosperity. Prince has extended these benefits to include victory over sin (i.e. sanctification), so for many hearing him preach and reading his book, this is vastly different to what they learned in their Pentecostal churches. This is one reason why the message is so attractive, it is new. Prince teaches these Pentecostal Word of Faith members that just like sickness and poverty are rejected in light of the cross, so is the law.


The Old Covenant was not Salvation by Works

The Israelites’ obedience to the law was a response to God rescuing them from slavery in Egypt. Not only did the Mosaic law directly follow their rescue, but the preface to the Ten Commandments reminded the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt’ (Deut 5:6). When children asked about the meaning of the laws, their parents were to respond with the story of their rescue from Egypt and the promise of land (Deut 6:20-26). The old covenant was not based on earning salvation by works; their works followed salvation. Schreiner argues that this is one commonality between the old and new covenants: our good works are a response to God’s gracious acts.[28]

Paul does not write of new covenant’s ‘justification by faith’ in contrast to the old covenant. He uses OT scripture to show Jewish Christians that in the old covenant, salvation was also by faith. In Romans 4:1-3, he quotes Genesis 15:6:

‘What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter?  If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.  What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”’

Paul then uses David as an example of someone who knew that God credits righteousness separate from works (Rom 4:6-8). Paul is highlighting the continuity of his message with the OT. Schreiner stresses, ‘virtually all scholars agree that there is no warrant’, for the idea that salvation was gained through works in the OT.[29] This is important to establish if we are to see the law as more than just ‘our disciplinarian until Christ came’ (Gal 3:24).

The Law in a Positive Light

It is clear that Paul had some negative things to say about the law. Through the law, ‘we became conscious of our sin’ (Rom 3:20), the law ‘brings wrath’ (Rom 4:20) the law was created ‘so that the trespass might increase’ (Rom 5:20), sinful passions are ‘aroused by the law’ (Rom 7:5). We are not justified, ‘by the works of the law’ (Gal 2:16), ‘[the] power of sin is the law’ (1 Corinthians 15:56), and ‘[the] law was our disciplinarian until Christ came’ (Gal 3:24). There is much disagreement as to what Paul meant by ‘works of the law’.[30] Is he is talking about Jews relying on the law for salvation[31], or salvation by belonging to the people of God (clinging to the boundary markers of the law; circumcision, Sabbath and dietary regulations).[32] Brian Rosner argues that we can see throughout his letters that Paul both repudiates the law (it is no longer valid as a legal code), and replaces the law with Christ.[33] However, this does not mean that the law’s original purpose was to justify the sinner by their works, and upon establishing this, we have broader scope to see some positive use for the law.

Scripture does not allow us to make black and white divisions of law and grace. Jesus told his followers that whoever follows and teaches the commandments, ‘will be called great in the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 5:19), and he commanded his followers to abide by the Law and the Prophets (Mt 7:12). Paul was not entirely negative about the Law; he describes it as ‘holy, just and good’ (Rom 7:12), it is one of the gifts from God (Rom 9:4) and he gives the imperative for children to obey their parents, quoting the Law (Eph 6:1-2).[34] In Romans 3, Paul emphasizes, ‘[though we are]…justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law’, it does not mean we ‘overthrow the law’, but rather we ‘uphold the law’ (vs. 28, 31). Rosner argues that Paul reappropriates the law as wisdom.[35] Although Paul is no longer bound by the law in the legal sense, he never veers from the Law’s ethical system, but internalizes it as Jeremiah prophesies (31:31).[36] For example, Paul’s sexual ethics, views on stealing, murder and divorce do not contradict the law.[37] He tells Timothy, ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’ (1 Tim 3:16)

We are Called to Holiness to Imitate Jesus

It is clear in both Testaments that God’s people are called to holiness. The Old Testament emphasizes God’s holiness (Ps 22:3, 71:22, Is 43:15, 1 Sam 2:2) and the purpose of the law was to create relationship between God and God’s people. God desired to dwell among his people (Ex 25:8) and the gulf between God’s holiness and sinful humanity was bridged by the formation of the sacrificial system. The laws reflected God’s holiness and the standard he expected of his people. However, Israel continually failed to live up to God’s standard of holiness.

Jesus succeeded where Israel failed. He lived a perfect life, demonstrating to humanity how to live. Griffin writes: ‘Christ’s life constitutes that which is proper and normative to holy, that is, sanctified, humanity. God has given this life as the model for our moral life’.[38] Not only do we look at Jesus’ life to imitate him, but we are compelled to listen to his words. The Sermon on the Mount is, ‘the greatest moral document of all time’[39] and sets out a vision for righteousness, ‘behaviors that conform to God’s will’.[40] The Sermon on the Mount, like the law, is not just a list of impossible demands that lead us to wholeheartedly trust Christ. This is demonstrated by the parable at the end of the sermon, that indicts the foolish person who hears the words and does not act on them (Matt 7:24-27). McKnight argues, ‘[the] fundamental aim of the Sermon is to present Jesus and his kingdom vision for his kingdom people, and their only acceptable response to this Sermon is to embrace him, to accept the challenge; that means to do what he says’.[41]

The call to holiness is continued throughout the Epistles. 1 Peter states, ‘as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (1:15-16). Paul implores us, ‘[to clothe ourselves]…with the new self, creating according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’ (Eph 4:24) and states that we are being transformed into God’s likeness (2 Cor 3:17-18). Holiness means the transformation of the whole person[42]; ‘May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thess 5:23).

Sanctification is not effortless, but it is by the Spirit

Scripture confirms that sanctification both requires effort, and is by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said:

  • ‘For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it’ (Matt 7:14)
  • ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’ (Lk 9:23)
  • ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able (Lk 13:24)

Jesus’s words warn that the lives of his followers will not be easy, and the epistles confirm this. As believers, we ‘toil and struggle’ (1 Tim 4:10) and we are to work out our own salvation, ‘with fear and trembling’ (Phil 2:12). Scripture is used, to ‘train in righteousness’ (1 Tim 3:16) and Paul uses sporting metaphors: ‘I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified’ (1 Cor 9:26-27). Krish Kandiah writes that ‘[these]… forceful metaphors… implies the continual need for discipline, exertion and stamina to live lives of worship to God’.[43]

While it requires effort, scripture confirms, ‘The Spirit is the main agent in the process of moral transformation’.[44] Our transformation into Christ’s reflection comes from the Spirit (2 Cor 3:12:17-18), we are to walk by the Spirit, be led by the Spirit, live by the Spirit and be guided by the Spirit (Gal 5:15-26). The Spirit bears witness that we are children of God’, and ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness’, even helping us pray (Rom 8:16, 26). Philippians sums up this dual nature of sanctification and its goal: ‘God is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (2:12-23).


Justification and sanctification: Distinct but inseparable

The conflation of justification and sanctification in Medieval Roman Catholicism led Martin Luther to pendulum swing and conflate it in the opposite sense. Medieval Roman Catholicism taught that sanctification assures justification; Martin Luther countered with justification assuring sanctification. Bayer writes: ‘Luther himself did not raise the question (of sanctification), since for him, justification by faith alone meant that everything was said and done – living by faith is already the new life’.[45] It is important to articulate the distinction between justification and sanctification, while at the same time seeing them as closely linked. The two extremes of legalism and antinomianism are avoided when sanctification springs from justification and ‘sanctification is grounded in justification’.[46]

Sanctification can be understood in two ways: Our sanctification is definitive, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, which is why Paul continually addresses the church as saints in his letters, ‘to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus’. In Acts, the people of God are described, by Jesus to Paul as, ‘those who are sanctified by faith in me’ (Acts 26:18). So, in this sense, sanctification is similar to justification; both are our status before God, wrought by the cross and applied at conversion. For those who only believe in this status of sanctification, critics describe it as legal fiction, because being legally sanctified and righteous does not stop us from continuing to sin. This is why sanctification has to be progressive.

God wants us to become in reality our true status.[47] The believer progresses from conversion to death, transformed into God’s likeness. The believer should have, to use Strobel and Eiler’s term, ‘outward practices fitting to justified existence’.[48] This is where sanctification and justification differ: ‘justification allows no degrees, whereas sanctification admits degrees’.[49] Our status of sanctification and our lingering sinful desires create a struggle in the Christian life. Kandiah describes the conflict: ‘We know both joy and pain, faith and doubt, peace and frustration. We are declared holy, but we struggle to be holy. Our sin and guilt are washed away, but we fall for temptation time and time again’.[50] The cross is not the single grace event we aspire to; God’s grace helps us continually in our sanctification through the power of the Spirit.

Consequence: Undermining the Holy Spirit’s Work

When we conflate justification and sanctification, we undermine the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in our lives. It is true that our sanctification is grounded in our justification, so in one aspect we go back to the cross and see that we have been made righteous. However, if we point only to legal categories, we weaken the concept of transformation. Yes, it is necessary to look back, but the Holy Spirit also moves us forward. We progress, as Strobel and Eilers write, ‘in the movement of the Spirit within the sphere of grace’.[51] We are empowered by the Spirit to obey the imperatives of scripture. When we sin, if we only mentally assent to our justification, this bypasses the role of the Holy Spirit in our transformation.

Consequence: Thinking Effort equals Self-righteousness

There are many paradoxes within Christianity, and this is one: Sanctification is God’s work and our cooperation; our fear of legalism should not leave us idle. J. C. Ryle offers this helpful distinction of justification and sanctification: ‘Justifying faith is a grace that “worketh not,” but simply trusts, rests, and leans on Christ. Sanctifying faith is a grace of which the very life in action : it “worketh by love,” and like a main-spring, moves the whole inward man’ (J.C. Ryle Holiness – ix). When we describe justification and sanctification to both be outworked by belief, the danger is we become lax in our Christian growth. As we have already explored Biblically, effort does not equal self-righteousness when we strive in the power of the Spirit. God’s grace is not threatened because our actions flow from our justified state.

The law is more than a mirror

Though we reject the Law as a means of obtaining salvation, and as a legal code, the Law is still useful for Christians today. This is what is known as the third use of the law. The first and second uses (sometimes reversed) are to order civil society and as a mirror for people to see their sin and drive them to Christ. The third use of the law is as a guide for Christians.[52] Historically this has been rejected by Lutherans, who sharply distinguish law and grace. Today, there are Christians in Lutheran, Reformed, and Pentecostal circles, ‘[who]…hesitate to refer to the law in their quest for holiness, suspecting that considering the law will compromise their dependence on God’s grace’.[53] This view has adverse effects on sanctification. It is important to know God’s standard of holiness and to meditate on his law (Ps 1:2). Without God’s laws, our ethical system becomes subjective. We would not be able to determine God’s standard of holiness.

Consequence: We turn story into soteriology

When we reduce the law to a mirror, the story of Israel becomes an object lesson for Christians. Old Testament preaching becomes little more than demonstrating how good us Christians have it with Jesus. This is the equivalent of Western parents sending their children to Africa for the sole purpose of helping them see how privileged they are back home. The Bible is not seen as one story, but God’s failed attempt (the Law) followed by Jesus, who makes everything better. This is the result of a Dispensationalist view, focusing on the discontinuities between covenants. If we isolate Paul’s theology and read it into the Old Testament and the Gospels, we make the word gospel equal salvation. In King Jesus and the Gospel, Scot McKnight writes, ‘the gospel is all about the Story of Israel coming to its resolution in the Story of Jesus and our letting that story become our story’.[54]

McKnight argues that since the Reformation, story has become soteriology. I argue that Enlightenment’s emphasis on the individual and personal experience was also a strong impetus for this transition. Dallas Willard has titled this ‘the Gospel of Sin Management’ and famously quips that it fosters ‘“vampire Christians”, who only want a little blood for their sins but nothing more to do with Jesus until heaven’.[55] Ironically, although much effort is made to focus on the work of God in contrast to our works, individualism is still the result – this is because the cross is talked about only in relation to us as individuals and what we benefit. Tim Foster argues that we need to shift our focus to make God’s purposes the centre, rather than ourselves.[56] The project of theology is to live faithfully in a worshipful existence before the Lord of glory, and that to become part of God’s purpose in restoring creation. We are not just saved from something (i.e. sin) we are saved to something (i.e. a life for God). When we frame the gospel purely in forensic terms, fearful that pushing discipleship and ethics we will compromise salvation by faith, we create a gospel of sin management not transformation.


In writings against the hyper-grace movement, I have noticed the common accusation of antinomianism, the charge of being against the law – it is a large part of Michael L. Brown’s critique. This is unhelpful for two reasons. Firstly, it is an attack on intentions. Hyper-grace teachers like Prince believe that the only way to have a high view of the law is to have a high view on grace. They aren’t trying to teach lawlessness – they truly believe that obedience to Christ will more likely happen by focusing on what Christ has done on the cross. Secondly, Paul was accused of being against the law, and many see the same accusation as an indication they are on the right track.[57]

In this critique, we try to see the process behind how Prince’s hyper-grace theology has been developed. His three key influences; Enlightenment thinking, Dispensationalism, and Word of Faith theology, are unhelpful in the believer’s quest for sanctification.

  1. a) Consequences of Enlightenment thinking

Enlightenment thinking is shaped by the subjective,[58] and this is how Prince reads scripture. He reads the Bible seemingly unanchored from church history and the development of theology, leading him to write a book on a new grace reformation that doesn’t even mention the Reformation. There is serious danger in reading the Bible on your own; the Bible was written to the community of Faith. Not only should we consider the Bible together with other believers, we are also to read the Bible as part of history (which serves as a warning of the consequences of erring from good doctrine). Prince is unable to see cultural influences or notice non-Biblical paradigms that have crept into his theology. Although he uses Christian terms, he is ideologically captive to enlightenment thinking.

Prince has demonstrated that he is unwilling to listen to critique. Throughout his book, he defends himself against attackers, warning his readers to ‘expect division when you preach the gospel of grace’ (85). Prince recounts how he has received persecution, ‘mainly from religious people who believe in justification through the law and man’s self-efforts’ (82). He says that those who hate him ‘are actually hating the gospel’ (252) and he is in good company with Paul who was accused of being against the law: ‘The more controversial you find around the truth of God, the more powerful that truth must be’ (17). This bolsters his argument, putting everyone who disagrees in the “other” camp, making real dialogue difficult, and modeling an unhelpful attitude towards sanctification. As iron sharpens iron, we need the body of Christ; we need to be able to rebuke each another (Prov 19:20, 2 Tim 4:2, Titus 1:9). If his followers emulate this pattern, they risk pride and a hardening towards believers who differ on this message of grace.[59]

The other consequence of Prince’s enlightenment thinking is that he frames the gospel in salvation terms only, making the gospel individualistic. As previously noted, this is part of a wider critique of Evangelicalism; however, Prince’s extreme view heightens the consequences. This is exemplified in his definition of grace. For Prince, ‘grace is the gospel’ (23) and the enemy to this grace is sin-consciousness. His focus is on our freedom from guilt rather than our use as instruments to God’s glory. A culture of discipleship and ethical practice is swallowed up by salvation culture.[60] McKnight observes, ‘salvation cultures have struggled, are struggling, and will continue to struggle to move those who are saved into those who are discipled’.[61] The mark of whether one is progressing in sanctification is not how guilt-free they feel, but in how they are becoming more like Jesus.

  1. b) Consequences of a Dispensationalist view

Joseph Prince has a dispensationalist view of scripture and divides law and grace into the old covenant and the new covenant. Paul’s doctrine of justification by grace is made central, and read back into the Old Testament and the Gospels. Prince rightly sees grace present in the Israelites journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai (221). However, the law is not God’s response to the arrogance of his people (222); the law was born out of their rescue from Egypt. Contrary to Prince’s belief, God did not change his demeanor and distance himself at Sinai (223) but actually revealed his presence with a theophany and his voice. Prince has reworked the OT narrative to fit this law and grace divide.

While scripture affirms that the law is, ‘our disciplinarian until Christ came’ (Gal 3:24), it has other uses. The law shows us God’s standard for holiness, it is not our legal code but a wise guide. Prince minimizes the usefulness of the Old Testament for believers today, only preaching it ‘filtered through the new covenant of grace and Jesus’ finished work’ (75). Similarly, Prince holds Sermon on the Mount in low esteem, reminding his readers that often Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, and we need to be aware that this was before the cross (92).[62] In McKnight’s commentary on the Sermon, he writes of those who minimize Jesus’ prescriptive words, ‘What many such readings of the Sermon really want is Paul, and since they can’t find Paul in the Sermon, they reinterpret the Sermon and give us Paul instead’.[63] As we demonstrated biblically, Jesus words are to be followed, and they are useful for our sanctification. As we are called to imitate Christ, Jesus actions and words are both essential.

  1. Consequences of Word of Faith theology

Finally, Joseph Prince’s Word of Faith theology creates an over-realised view of the benefits of the cross. The mind becomes a powerful weapon that applies the advantages of the cross in a black-and-white manner. These advantages are health, wealth and victorious living. Prince has expanded these advantages to include victory over sin, which is a consequence of conflating sanctification with justification. Sanctification is seen solely as a forensic declaration, rather than a progressive moving target. Prince interprets it this way: ‘Today, conventional theology teaches you that not only is there such a thing as “positional righteousness”, there is also something known as “practical righteousness”’(27). Prince argues against this saying, ‘Paul is against any teaching that says that you have to earn and merit your own righteousness. You are either righteous or you are not’. However, this teaching does not promote meriting righteousness by works. It teaches that God desires us to be righteous in actuality, not just in status.

Prince makes any effort on our behalf an affront to the finished work of Christ. It is true that without grace, moral striving can sink into the despair Prince feels: ‘I tried with all my might, all my strength and all my vigor to keep the law’ (269). However God’s grace cannot be condensed into the definitive moment of the cross; God’s grace helps us throughout our lives. Our progression, ‘[is]…in the movement of the Spirit within the sphere of grace’[64] so it does not become legalism. Biblically we see that effort is required in the Christian walk; the notion of ‘effortless success’ is not biblical. There is a clear difference between works of legalism and striving that is grounded in justification and by the Spirit. The role of the Holy Spirit and our efforts in progressive sanctification are both undermined when sanctification is conflated with justification.

Prince writes, ‘I don’t believe for one moment that a believer who has truly encountered the complete forgiveness of Jesus and the perfection of His finished work would desire to live a life of sin’ (44-45). Prince holds that the experience of forgiveness upon salvation, and our subsequent imputed righteousness, should motivate us for sanctification. In one sense this is true, but the idea is overplayed. This is the direct result of Word of Faith’s emphasis on believing and confessing. I would argue that our participation in sanctification is more than just mental. Is not that Jesus isn’t powerful enough, but intellectual assent is too weak a concept to actively eradicate sin. As we have explored, the Bible arms us with so much more than just the mind to fight sin.


In an effort not to undermine the grace of God, Prince has conflated sanctification with justification. It is an error that has been frequented throughout history to varying degrees, and has come to light recently through two streams of the hyper-grace movement, Pentecostal and Reformed. Though this paper has only focused on Prince and his particular influences, the critique has some overlap.

We explored three streams of thought. Firstly, Prince does theology under enlightenment conditions, in a vacuum. The enlightenment’s emphasis on individualism has shaped the way Prince frames the gospel: in salvation terms only – the gospel is about the forgiveness of my sins. This is unhelpful for a believer’s sanctification – it creates a culture of sin-management rather than discipleship.

Secondly, Prince’s dispensationalist view of scripture divides law and grace in sharp contrast. This results in reinterpreting the Old Testament and the Gospels in light of an isolated reading of Paul’s theology, and undermines their usefulness in our Christian walk. Both the law and the Sermon on the Mount are seen as only a mirror that exposes our sin and leads us to Christ. This is unhelpful for a believer’s sanctification, as both the law and Jesus’ words show us God’s holiness, and we should be compelled to uphold them.

Thirdly, Prince’s Word of Faith theology puts a strong emphasis on the forensic legal nature of the atoning work of Christ and its benefits for believers. This is so strong that any effort or striving on our behalf becomes legalism and is an affront to the finished work of Christ. There is only one form of righteousness and it is positional. This is unhelpful for a believer’s sanctification as it undermines the role of the Holy Spirit and the need for our own efforts.

While the truth of our justification and subsequent imputed righteousness leads us to marvel at God’s grace, it does not equate to effortless sanctification.

‘We are living between two realities – who we used to be, and what God is making us into. God has done the work that was needed: he has rescued, redeemed, liberated and accepted us. Now he calls us to work out the implications of what he has done in the day-to-day reality of our lives, and empowers us to do so by his Spirit’.[65] – Krish Kandiah


[1] Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness and Victorious Living (Singapore: 22 Media, 2007), 138. From henceforth, all references to this book will be bracketed.

[2] Although it may seem pejorative, hyper-grace is what is now used to describe believers who have this particular belief about grace. The term grace reformation is sometimes used by adherents to describe their own movement, identifying with the Reformation of the 16th Century.

[3] Tullian Tchividijian, was a part of the Gospel Coalition, a Reformed network of churches which promotes ‘gospel-centered principals and practices’ (The Gospel Coalition: About. Citied 18 Oct 2014. Online: and is led by Don Carson and Tim Keller. Tchividijian was asked to leave in early 2014, because of ‘significant doctrinal principles’ that relate to his understanding of law and grace in relation to sanctification. Jeremy Webber, ‘Tim Keller, Don Caron Explain Why Tullian Tchividijian Was Asked to Leave Gospel Coalition’, Christianity Today (May 21, 2014): Online.

[4] Increasingly, debates of this nature are played out on social media. One blog post or tweet can activate a flurry of responses from academics to pastors to the pew-sitter.

[5] Michael. L Brown, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message (Lake Mary, Florida: Charisma House, 2014).

[6] The following writers in Brown’s book are also give much attention apart from Prince’s work: Clark Whitten, Pure Grace: The Life Changing Power of Uncontaminated Grace (2012), John Crowder, Mystical Union (2010), Andre Van de Merwe, GRACE, the Forbidden Gospel: Jesus Tore the Veil. Religion Sewed It Back Up (2011) Rob Rufus, Living in the Grace of God, (2007) and sermons by his son, Ryan Rufus.

[7] Some general critiques of Brown’s book are as follows: Brown (1) includes polemical comments from Prince’s followers to discredit them, (2) uses his own experience to counteract theirs, (3) fights scripture with scripture rather than looking at what undergirds their interpretation, and (4) does not distinguish between Pentecostal hyper-grace teachers who have a Word of Faith theology and those who do not.

[8] All quotes from Prince’s book, the emphasis will be his.

[9] Joel R. Beeke, Holiness: God’s Call to Sanctification (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 6.

[10] In this interview, Prince doesn’t mention which religion his father was a priest in ‘because he found no reality in it’. Dawn Wei Tan, ‘From Stutter to Charisma’, Sunday Times (Singapore, 2008).

[11] Tan, ‘From Stutter to Charisma’, 8.

[12] New Creation Church: About. Cited 2 Oct 2014. Online:

[13] Only a small percentage of Pentecostals believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues is a prerequisite to salvation. For Prince, salvation is all about Jesus and his finished work on the cross; therefore salvation is conditional upon belief only.

[14] TBN: Joseph Prince in New York – Exclusive Interview by Trinity Broadcasting Network. Cited 17 Aug 2014. Online:

[15] Beginning in the late 17th Century, the Age of Enlightenment has dramatically impacted the way humans think. Vanhoozer writes: ‘The Enlightenment viewed society as the voluntary contract between autonomous individuals’. He later states: ‘Individualism is a distinctly modern ideology that promotes the sacred value of the self…’ Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ‘Evangelicalism and the Church’, in The Futures of Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, Mich: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 57.

[16] See: Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2011). For implications in a particularly Australian context, see Tim Foster, The Suburban Captivity of the Church: Contextualising the Gospel for Post-Christian Australia (Moreland, Australia: Acorn Press, 2014). This point is not covered in this paper, but in this individualistic gospel outline, Jesus’ resurrection is inconsequential.

[17] B.F. Lawrence writes: ‘The Pentecostal Movement has no… (church tradition)… history; it leaps the intervening years crying, “Back to Pentecost!’ As quoted in: Aaron T. Friesen, ‘Pentecostal Antitraditionalism and the Pursuit of Holiness’, Journal of Pentecostal Theology 23/2 (2014): 205.

[18] Sola scriptura is a Latin phrase meaning “by Scripture alone”. For important issues surrounding Sola Scriptura and tradition or creeds, see Keith A. Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2001). and Creedal Imperative

[19] TBN: Joseph Prince in New York – Exclusive Interview by Trinity Broadcasting Network.

[20] Friesen writes that historically ‘The idea that God was gradually shedding new light on Scripture in the last days also led a culture of Pentecostal ministers that expected new and fresh insights into scripture. Such new revelations were even implicitly used among laity as a litmus test for the spirituality and anointing of ministers during the time’. Friesen, ‘Pentecostal Antitraditionalism and the Pursuit of Holiness’ 206.

[21] Daniel L. Block, The Gospel According to Moses: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Book of Deuteronomy (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2012), 105–106.

[22] Kate Bowler, Blessed: A History of the America Prosperity Gospel (New York, USA: Oxford University Press, 2013), 4.

[23] Bowler, Blessed, 11.

[24] Bowler, Blessed, 15.

[25] Bowler, Blessed, 179.

[26] Bowler, Blessed, 179.

[27] Russell P. Spittler, ‘The Pentecostal View’, in Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification (Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 136.

[28] Thomas R. Schreiner, 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law (Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel Publications, 2010), 27.

[29] Schreiner, 40 Questions, 27.

[30] Paul’s use of the Law is a largely contested area of New Testament scholarship – it affects how we view salvation history, Israel, justification, sanctification, ethics, and more (Rosner, Paul and the Law). However, this is not the place for a direct engagement with the New Perspective – doing so would only lead us astray. Our aim is to demonstrate that the strong divide between grace and law has been contested throughout history – ‘law as a mirror’ was not Paul’s only use of the term.

[31] The predominate Protestant understanding came from the Reformation where Luther interpreted the word law, ‘as a cipher for God’s righteous demands and all human attempts to be saved by them’. M. J. Selman, ‘Law’, Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch (Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003), 530. Similar to how both the prophets of the OT and Jesus protested against ritual over true piety, they believe Paul was arguing that salvation is not by external works but by faith.

[32] Scholars such as Montefiore, Sanders and Dunn point to rabbinic theology at the time, to counteract the perception that the Rabbis taught their followers to merit salvation by works.

[33] Rosner, Paul and the Law, 45–134.

[34] Rosner, Paul and the Law, 24–25.

[35] Rosner, Paul and the Law, 159–205.

[36] Rosner, Paul and the Law, 182.

[37] Rosner, Paul and the Law, 204.

[38] David Griffin, ‘Imitatio Christi: On easing some concerns’, LTJ 47/1 (2013): 27.

[39] Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Commentary; Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2013), 3.

[40] McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 276.

[41] McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 276.

[42] Beeke, Holiness: God’s Call to Sanctification, 9.

[43] Krish Kandiah, Paradoxology: Why Christianity Was Never Meant to be Simple (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014), 278.

[44] Griffin, ‘Imitatio Christi’, 29.

[45] Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification (Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003), 58–59.

[46] Gordan R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest, ‘Integrative Theology: Volume III’, in Integrative Theology: Three Volumes in One (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994), 184.

[47] Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson, Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2009), 113.

[48] Kyle Strobel and Kent Eilers, ‘Introduction: The Christian life in dogmatic key’, in Sanctified by Grace: A Theology of the Christian Life (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 4.

[49] Lewis and Demarest, ‘Integrative Theology: Volume III’, 184.

[50] Kandiah, Paradoxology, 267.

[51] Strobel and Eilers, ‘Introduction: The Christian life in dogmatic key’, 7.

[52] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2013), 990.

[53] Frame, Systematic Theology, 990.

[54] McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel, 153.

[55] As quoted in: McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel, 76.

[56] Foster, The Suburban Captivity of the Church, 14.

[57] The most oft quoted to have made this claim (and referred to by Joseph Prince, p. 252) was Martyn Lloyd Jones who said: ‘The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you; you can go on sinning as much has you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace.’ Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Romans: An Exposition on Chapter 6 (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 8. This concept was also read in R. Michael Allen, Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2013), 141.

[58] Bayer, Living by Faith, 58.

[59] While it is more implicit in Prince’s writings, unfortunately, in the wider Pentecostal hyper-grace movement, insults abound for those who disagree with the adherents: Legalist, Pharisee, Grace-hater and much worse. See Brown, Hyper-grace.

[60] McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel, 76.

[61] McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel, 32.

[62] I am reminded of McKnight’s satirical comment of Jesus being born on the wrong side of the cross! McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel, 26.

[63] McKnight, Sermon on the Mount, 2.

[64] Strobel & Eilers, ‘Introduction: The Christian life in dogmatic key’, 7.

[65] Kandiah, Paradoxology, 282.


Allen, R. Michael. Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2013.

Archer, Kenneth J. ‘Pentecostal Hermeneutics: Retrospect and Prospect’. Pages 131–48 in Pentecostal Hermeneutics: A Reader. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Bayer, Oswald. Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification. Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2003.

Beeke, Joel R. Holiness: God’s Call to Sanctification. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008.

Block, Daniel L. The Gospel According to Moses: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Book of Deuteronomy. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2012.

Bowler, Kate. Blessed: A History of the America Prosperity Gospel. New York, USA: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Brown, Michael. L. Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message. Lake Mary, Florida: Charisma House, 2014.

Fitzpatrick, Elyse M., and Dennis E. Johnson. Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2009.

Foster, Tim. The Suburban Captivity of the Church: Contextualising the Gospel for Post-Christian Australia. Moreland, Australia: Acorn Press, 2014.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2013.

Friesen, Aaron T. ‘Pentecostal Antitraditionalism and the Pursuit of Holiness’. Journal of Pentecostal Theology 23/2 (2014): 191–215.

Griffin, David. ‘Imitatio Christi: on easing some concerns’. Lutheran Theological Journal 47/1 (2013): 22–30.

Jones, Martyn-Lloyd. Romans: An Exposition on Chapter 6. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973.

Kandiah, Krish. Paradoxology: Why Christianity Was Never Meant to be Simple. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014.

Lewis, Gordan R., and Bruce A. Demarest. ‘Integrative Theology: Volume III’. Integrative Theology: Three Volumes in One. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 1994.

Mathison, Keith A. The Shape of Sola Scriptura. Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 2001.

McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. The Story of God Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2013.

——-. The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2011.

Prince, Joseph. Destined to Reign: The Secret to Effortless Success, Wholeness and Victorious Living. Singapore: 22 Media, 2007.

Rosner, Brian S. Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 2013.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law. Grand Rapids, Mich: Kregel Publications, 2010.

Selman, M. J. ‘Law’. Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003.

Spittler, Russell P. ‘The Pentecostal View’. Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification. Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988.

Stendahl, Krister. ‘The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Concious of the West’. Pages 78–96 in Paul Among Jews and Gentiles. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.

Strobel, Kyle, and Kent Eilers. ‘Introduction: The Christian life in dogmatic key’. Pages 1–17 in Sanctified by Grace: A Theology of the Christian Life. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

Tan, Dawn Wei. ‘From Stutter to Charisma’. Sunday Times. Singapore, 2008.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. ‘Evangelicalism and the Church’. The Futures of Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids, Mich: Inter-Varsity Press, 2003.

Webber, Jeremy. ‘Tim Keller, Don Caron Explain Why Tullian Tchividijian Was Asked to Leave Gospel Coalition’, Christianity Today (May 21, 2014): Online.

Webster, John. ‘Communion with Christ: Mortification and vivication’. Pages 121–38 in Sanctified by Grace: A Theology of the Christian Life. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.


New Creation Church: About. Cited 2 Oct 2014. Online:

TBN: Joseph Prince in New York – Exclusive Interview by Trinity Broadcasting Network. Cited 17 Aug 2014. Online:

The Gospel Coalition: About. Citied 18 Oct 2014. Online:

7 thoughts on “The theology of Joseph Prince

  1. Thank you so much for this great and detailed breakdown of Joseph Princes book, I am so glad i came across this article!!
    I so needed to understand many of the concepts that i feel extremely uneasy about with his books and teachings and this essay really helped me to crystallize my own thoughts on his definitions, core teachings and biblical interpretation and how they don’t actually align to scripture in many places.


    1. Hi David, I’m glad you found the essay helpful! I spent several months working on it, and in the end it’s a pretty long read. It’s actually opened many times a day all over the world, but I’m not sure how many people reach the end of the 9000 words!


  2. Thanks for the article. Yesterday we visited New Creation Church which motivated me to investigate a bit. Regarding your article and the controversy over the right place and use of the term / entity of LAW it would be helpful to se that 1. LAW is used in very diverse ways in the NT. Hence there is the need of proper clarification of the term and the use. And 2. that LAW not only denotes content but function / purpose. For example, if you take away the threat of punishment, a commandment is not LAW any more. Under the LAW does not mean being without commandments but being free of the the threat of punishment / fear. If the commandment is no condition, then it is not “LAW” anymore. – Just a few thoughts that would need further elaboration.


    1. I thank God for coming across your article! Finally there’s a page that concisely puts together the main theological errors of JP while backing it up with sound research and evidence. This will be bookmarked, shared and referred to frequently. Thank you again Rachael! God bless you.


  3. Thank you for this!

    How saddened God must be by those who throw away his word and their own history. We do not do good works to make us righteous but because we are righteous and love the one who made us so.


  4. There is a lot of reading of the above essay, thank God I finished it all generally. Over the 18 years journey of becoming a Christ-followers, I have been watching and listening to many sermons especially on Tv about the WORD . One of them happens to be Joseph Prince’s so I think I know what are his theme concepts. Obviously this writer is very knowledgable about the bible and familiar with many streams of theology and spend plenty of time on observing the several speakers as quoted in this essay. I appreciate highly the big effort of compiling all the information, insights and comments.

    The fact is: it is apparent to me that several main concepts of Joseph Prince preaching are being TWISTED and MiSUSED to fit into the making of the criticism towards him. I cannot quote all , but just these 2 alone:
    1. Joseph Prince advocates on confession and forgiveness of sins as a constant ‘ sanctification’ process of a saved Christ- follower. He always brings out this as an element of getting transformed and strengthened, to become like more like Christ (his holiness). I like that he present grace – conscious instead of sin- concours to motivate us to live a righteous and holy life. It is a better way for all sinners, right . He particularly warns about the misinterpretation of ‘ freedom to sin’!

    2. He always encourages every Christ-follower to walk in Jesus, the light by beginning well, ie. not be bound by fear towards condemnation of sin but by the counsel and leading of the Holy Spirit. In his sermons, he always condemns self- righteousness but promotes our interaction with God, as God is love, grace and goodness….. He always emphasises how the Trinity God works together to achieve His purpose for people. I have not found Him ever playing down Jesus or the Holy Spirit at all.

    So I have to ask the readers that apart from getting the exhaustive information above, what could we young Christians benefit from this easy to help our walk with Christ ? To me sadly, it created loads of question, uncertainty and heaviness of heart ; the most of all, a putting-down of others, a sense of denial to fellow teachers for God’s kingdom.

    All preachers each has an individual way to reach out to the public. Hopefully they all based on scriptures and Christ – cantered messages. I have studied and meditate on the bible often and I can testify that Joseph Prince is true to the WORD, though his preaching is not perfect. Indeed, no one was and is . Yet many of my friends rate him one of the best in the world of recent time.

    The modernised (out-of-the-norm) style of Christianity preaching may not be very pleasing to the traditional or conservative experts but it is what the present world desires – easy to understand and act on, know clearly where one stands ( forgiven and heir with Christ ) and what God is (who graciously cares ). 🙏🙏🙏🙏 What the world needs now is inclusion not division, so as to bring more people to Christ and for God’s children to hang-in till the end.

    May God bless and guide all the preachers and Christ – followers in this difficult world. I lift up all
    humble and sincere servants of Christ.

    In Christ,
    Rennie Burton
    ( Very sorry, I didn’t spent 6 months to research and write this, just less than an hour. Pardon my mistakes please. )


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