The Message of Oral Roberts
THE SEVEN CONCEPTS THAT CHANGED ORAL ROBERTS' LIFE
In a Holy Spirit conference sponsored by the School of Theology and Missions, Roberts spoke of seven concepts that changed his life. To understand him and his ministry, you need to have an understanding of these seven concepts.
THE OFFICE OF THE EVANGELIST
Roberts believes God has set him in the church as an evangelist. Even though he has functioned in each of the major offices set in the church by Jesus Christ, as listed by Paul in Ephesians (Eph. 4:11), Roberts feels that God has called him to be an evangelist--to take God's healing power to this generation. In our discussion of the office of the evangelist, I pointed out that the message of the evangelist is "the good news," and that we must allow the evangelist to bring the good tidings. Some feel that when the evangelist preaches the goodness of God, or the blessings of God, or the prosperity of God, he is overemphasizing a part of the gospel. But remember, the office of the evangelist is to bring the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the emphasis of Roberts' evangelistic ministry is that "God is a good God." Roberts teaches that God is at the point of your need; God is the source of all blessings; a Christian should plant a seed out of his need and expect a miracle harvest; Jesus is a healing Jesus; and Jesus came to give life and that more abundantly. These are all concepts of blessing and prosperity.
THE GIFTS OF HEALINGS
In 1961, Oral Roberts published The Abundant Life Edition of the Bible (referred to as A.L.E.), a Lamsa translation of the Eastern Orthodox scriptures. It is a fascinating book because it includes a series of essays concerning the Abundant Life. In these essays, Roberts writes about healing, prosperity, the concept that God is a good God, the abundant life, the point of contact, the resurrection, and the first key of seed faith--God is your source.
It is interesting to compare what Oral Roberts preaches today with what he wrote in 1961, over 32 years ago. When Roberts talks today about joining prayer and medicine, about the gifts of healings, about the abundant life, it is interesting to go back and see what the evangelist preached years ago.
In his essay on, "The Bible Way to Health and Healing" (A.L.E., p. 17), he discusses four ways that God heals: 1) God heals through the forces of nature--sunshine, fresh air, climate, good food, nutrition; 2) God heals through love and understanding--to receive love and understanding from persons around you who care for you and support you; 3) God heals through the skill of physicians, of body and mind--by the skillful use of forces placed on earth by God, dedicated men and women are able to correct many disharmonies in the human system; and 4) God heals miraculously by his own supernatural power. These are the four ways that God heals: nature, love, physicians, and supernaturally.
Elaborating on the supernatural means of healing, he says that God has seven aids to health: 1) The laying on of hands--They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover, Mark 16:18; 2) Anointing with oil--Let them anoint him with oil, and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up, James 5:14; 3) Confess your faults one to another--Confess your faults one to another that you may be healed, James 5:15; 4) Pray one for another that you might be healed--As you pray for another person, expect the healing to come back to you, James 5:15; 5) The Word of God--God sent His Word and healed them, Psalms 107:20; 6) The joy of the Lord--A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, Prov. 17:22; and 7) Holy Communion, I Cor. 11:23-30. These are supernatural aids to health. These are the ways that God has set in the body of Christ in order to bring health to the body of Christ. These are the ways God has for ministering abundant life in the physical realm. These are God's means of healing.
GOD IS A GOOD GOD
The concept that "God is a good God" was controversial when Roberts started preaching it years ago. While it seems like a cliche to us today, when he began preaching that "God is a good God, and the devil is a bad devil," it was a challenging statement.
One day as he ran out the door to catch the bus going to Phillips University, he remembered that he had forgotten to read his Bible. He ran back in the house, grabbed his Bible, and it opened to III John 2:
Beloved, I wish above all things thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers (III John 2).
He called for Evelyn, read the verse to her, and asked her if she knew that it was in the Bible. She said that she didn't know that the scripture was in the Bible. He did not go to school that day but stayed home and discussed the scripture with her. That verse of scripture changed his concept of God and changed his life. After reading III John 2, He began to preach: "God is a good God." He also began to preach the abundant life:
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more
abundantly (John 10:10).
He emphasized that God desired to bless His people and to meet their needs.
Oral Roberts' theology begins with the concept that God is at the point of your need. You meet God at the point of your need, and, because God is a good God, He wants to meet your need. In "The Formula for Prosperity" (A.L.E., p. 25), Roberts provides a biblical formula for prosperity. The Christian's answer to any question concerning the true measure of prosperity is found in two scriptures: 1) The words of Agur (Proverbs 30:7-9) and 2) The words of Paul (I Cor. 9:8).
Agur desired two things of God:
Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain (Prov. 30:7-9).
In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, he writes what Oral Roberts calls the "clearest definition of prosperity ever written":
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.... Now he that ministereth seed to the sower [God gives you seed to plant] both minister bread for your food [God meets your needs], and multiply your seed sown [God multiplies what you sow], and increase the fruits of your righteousness [God gives you an increase]; Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness [God prospers you], which causeth through us thanksgiving to God (II Cor. 9:8-11).
I have added the basic concepts of SEED FAITH in italics to the above scripture. When Roberts wrote about prosperity in 1961, he had defined only the first concept of the "Three Keys to Seed Faith"--"God is your source."
The theme that ties these two scriptures together is "sufficiency in all things." Agur prayed neither for riches nor for poverty, but for sufficiency. Likewise, Paul promised neither wealth nor lack, but sufficiency in all things. Oral Roberts comments on Paul's writing:
It [prosperity] is the possession of everything that you need for yourself and your loved ones and enough left over to give to those who need help. It stands to reason that if you have only the bare necessities of life, you are not prosperous. And if you have all the sufficiencies of life, but no more, that is not prosperity, for you are still barely getting by. Your cup is not yet running over. You may still be subject to the temptations King Agur prayed to avoid. But if you have everything you need with something left over for the poor, that is prosperity. If, after you have paid the tithe of your normal income, you still have something with which you can send missionaries into the foreign field to preach the Word of God and to make it possible for Jesus of Nazareth to be taken, through his Word, to those who know him not, that is prosperity (A.L.E., p. 25).
This is the clearest statement that I have ever read of what Oral Roberts believes is prosperity. When you have enough for you and your family, and enough left over to give to the poor, and enough to support the work of God, you have Bible prosperity. That is the God that Oral Roberts preaches, a God who wants to meet your needs; a God who wants to give you all sufficiency in all things in order that you might have seed to sow (your needs are met), your seed will be multiplied (you will receive an increase), and you will be bountifully blessed (you will receive a harvest). God, who is a good God, makes all grace abound toward you.
POINT OF CONTACT
It is almost impossible to understand Oral Roberts' ministry without understanding a point of contact. A point of contact is something you do, and, when you do it, you release your faith. To Roberts, faith is an action. Faith is something you do. It is not passive. A point of contact is something you do, so that when you do it, you release your faith. Probably the best Biblical example is the woman with the issue of blood who said, "If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole" (Matt. 9:21). She had a point of contact. If I can touch, I will be healed. When she touched, she was made well. This is a point of contact. All through the scriptures, we find examples of people using a point of contact: washing in the pool of Siloam, showing themselves to the high priest, dipping in Jordan seven times, speaking the word, anointing with oil, laying hands on the sick, speaking to a rock, stretching out a rod, breaking their pitchers--all something they did. Over and over again, they used a point of contact to release their faith.
In almost every letter Roberts sends to his partners, he includes a point of contact: a piece of rope, a packet of water, a prayer cloth, an outline of his hand, a vial of oil, a ribbon. Many people believe that these are gimmicks. However, by using a point of contact Oral Roberts is in good company. One of the greatest prophets in the Old Testament used a similar point of contact to help the people remember God." God told Moses to have the people sew a piece of blue ribbon on the hem of their garments and expect a miracle:
Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue: And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember the commandments of the Lord, and do them (Num. 15:38-39).
What would the critics say if Oral Roberts told his partners to sew blue fringe on their blue jeans and expect a miracle? Yet, that is what God told Moses to tell the people. The fact that Moses gave the people a point of contact is accepted by the church as scriptural and proper; however, if a modern day prophet tells people to do something similar, they criticize him.
Be that as it may, in spite of the criticism, Roberts still uses a point of contact. In the big tent, he always asked the audience to touch the seat in front when someone was being prayed for. In his radio ministry, Roberts asked the listeners to lay hands on the radio when he prayed. And later, on television, he asked them to lay hands on the television set. Always he asked the people to do
something as a point of contact for the releasing of their faith. They had to act their faith.
In order to understand Oral Roberts and to understand his ministry to his partners, one must understand what he means by a point of contact. It is something he tells his partners to do, that when they do it, they turn their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ loose and receive the answer to their prayers.
PRAYING WITH THE SPIRIT and PRAYING WITH THE UNDERSTANDING
The insight into the value of praying with the Spirit and praying with the understanding came out of building the University. As Roberts walked over these grounds praying, trying to understand how to build a university, he began to pray in the Spirit and he began to pray in English. There seemed to be a correlation between the two. As he continued, he was given a word of knowledge. He began to see how to bring ORU into existence. As a result of those experiences, he began to teach the therapeutic value of praying in tongues, of praying in the Spirit. Out of that came the concept of what we call the prayer language. The first time I ever heard anyone discuss the value of speaking in tongues--praying with the Spirit and praying with the understanding--was in 1963 at the First International Ministers Seminar held in Timko-Barton Hall of ORU.
Oral Roberts addressed two problem areas: the value of speaking in tongues and the emotionalism associated with speaking in tongues. He began to teach that speaking in tongues illuminated the intellect as one prayed with the Spirit and prayed with the understanding. The Spirit of God would heighten the understanding through the interpretation of the tongues in which one spoke.
One of the major criticisms of the Pentecostal movement had always been its emotionalism. Many of the commentaries on the Bible spoke of speaking in tongues as an ecstatic experience, the result of one's being in a trance-like state. However, Oral Roberts began to teach that speaking in tongues was under the control of the will of the individual--the spirit of the prophet was subject to the prophet--and speaking in tongues was controlled by the will of the speaker. This teaching had a profound influence upon the spread of the Charismatic Movement among professors, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and businessmen The reason that many of the intellectuals and professionals had not accepted speaking with tongues was the exaggerated emphasis on the emotional quality of the experience. Oral Roberts took speaking with tongues out of the emotions and put it under the will, and they accepted it.
The forerunner of the concept of Seed Faith was the "Blessing Pact" that Roberts developed in 1954. In the essay "The Bible Formula for Prosperity" (A.L.E., p. 26), we find the outlines of Seed Faith with the first Key defined, "God is the Source," and the scripture reference for the second Key:
Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom
By 1961, the seeds of Seed Faith were germinating: the way to prosperity was to recognize God is the Source, follow the Word, and honor God with your substance.
Later, as he was being persecuted in a crusade in Florida, God told him to expect a miracle and to tell his partners to expect a miracle. That was how the last key of seed faith--EXPECT A MIRACLE--came into being.
These are the three Keys of Seed Faith: 1) God is your source, 2) Give as a seed out of your need that it might be given to you, and 3) expect a miracle. As with many of Roberts' teachings, Seed Faith is controversial, even though the principle of sowing and reaping, seed time and harvest, is built into the universe. One objection to Seed Faith is that we are trying to manipulate God by giving in order to receive. My answer is that it is impossible to manipulate God, even though we may try. If I understand the Bible, God has given to us "all things that pertain to life and godliness" in Jesus Christ. If this is true, then how can I manipulate God into doing something for me that He has already done? He has already given to me all that He has in Christ Jesus, so how can I manipulate Him? He is more willing to give, than I am to receive. May I say that again? God is more willing to give, than I am to receive. In fact, I believe God has many blessings that He would like to give me, if I would earnestly desire them.
The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt. 12:12).
In our halfhearted efforts in prayer, we may try to manipulate God, but God is more than ready to answer "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man" (James 5:16).
Many critics do not understand the foundation of Seed Faith. Roberts teaches that you must first give yourself as a seed to God in love. Out of the planting of the self in love will come the planting of your seeds in the lives of others in love. This complete consecration of your will to God will destroy any ulterior motive in your service to God.
Another question that is raised is "How can Oral Roberts teach that we give to get, if love asks for nothing except the privilege of loving?" To answer this question the Spirit directed my mind to the Key verse in Luke 6:38 and told me to read the context:
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil....Give, and it shall be
given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom (Luke 6:27-38).
As you read this, you may wonder if the same person was speaking. The first part of the teaching informs us that we are to give to our enemies, we are to lend without expecting any return, we are to offer our coat to those who take our cloak, especially to our enemies and those who hate us, and from those who take our goods, we do not ask them back again. That is giving in love without expectation. Then, the same Jesus told us to give and it would be given back unto us by men, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Many of us were taught the first part; a few of us were taught the second part. However, the same Christ taught it all in the same lesson. We see here the two sides of giving: the commandment and the promise. Jesus commands us to give in love even to our enemies without expecting anything from the ones to whom we give; however, if we give in love as Jesus commanded us, He has promised that He will cause men to give to us, and we will receive an abundant harvest. Some ministers emphasize the commandment; Oral Roberts emphasizes the promise.
The greatest example of Seed Faith is found in God's giving His Son Jesus Christ. All of the principles of Seed Faith are exhibited in this act of God: God is the source; He planted His Son in the earth as a seed; He focused his giving on the nation of Israel (Jesus came to the Jews), He gave out of a need to redeem His creation, He gave to receive a harvest of believers (called the firstfruits); He has not fully received from those to whom the gift of His Son was given (the Jews); but He will reap in due season (all Israel will be saved); and He expects this miracle to happen according to His Word.
One of the most provocative statements that I have heard on seed faith is "Your seed is someone's harvest." We ought to meditate on that. The seed that you plant is someone's harvest. If we all were in the rhythm of Seed Faith giving, our sowing and our reaping would complete a cycle. When you had a need, I would plant my seed to meet your need, and you would have your harvest. In turn, you would give, and your giving would meet someone else's need, and they would have their harvest. The planting of their seed would result in another person's needs being met. The result would be that each member of the body of Christ would minister to each member of the body and the body would have no lack. Paul had this in mind when he wrote:
[We] may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Eph. 4:15-16).
If every member of the body of Christ, properly placed and firmly knitted together in love, worked effectually at giving the measure of supply that God had provided for it to every other member of the body, the church of Jesus Christ would have no lack. This would make an increase in every area of the life of the members of the church, and the body would edify itself in love. Notice that God did not say He would increase and edify; He said each member of the body by being joined to another member and giving its measure would cause the increase and edify the body. Two members of the body must come together and make a joint; it is the joint that supplies the increase. The rhythmic cycle of Seed Faith would supply the fulness and take away the lack in the body of Christ.
Oral Roberts teaches Seed Faith as an act and Seed Faith as a process: Seed Faith giving and Seed Faith living. Seed Faith giving is an act, an act of planting of a seed for a desired result. In Seed Faith living, however, one must first give himself to God in love. When one gives himself to God, then all that he does becomes a seed. Everything he does is an act of love towards the Father, and everything he gives is a seed that he plants to honor and glorify Him. Seed Faith becomes a life style, a way of living in sowing and reaping.
You probably have not heard Oral Roberts preach much about the resurrection, but in the Holy Bible with Personal Commentary (referred to as H.B.C.), he reveals the central place that the teaching of the resurrection has in his ministry. In commenting on Jesus' statement, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19), Roberts writes, "Our whole expectation for miracles is based upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
And again, he writes,
Through the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God gave Jesus a name above everything that is named in this world and in the world to come, putting ALL things under His feet. When I began to see this in 1947, and now see it greater and greater, I know we as Christians must take time to FOCUS our faith on Jesus' NAME and see it as being ABOVE any name (H.B.C.: Commentary on Eph. 1:17-22).
At the resurrection, God gave Jesus Christ a name which is above every name, and, by the power of Jesus' resurrection, we are made alive unto God. In 1947, when Roberts began to realize this, he recognized that God has given the believer power and authority over all the powers of the devil. He writes,
Paul reminds every Christian that we have been raised UP from the death "of sins and trespasses"...and MADE to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is our divine right in the new covenant (H.B.C., comment on Eph. 2:1-6).
As Christians we not only believe in immortality, but we believe in the resurrection of the body. This is the "earnest expectation of every creature." Paul writes,
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God...Be-cause the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God...For we know the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now...even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for, to wit, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8:16-23).
Every created thing is waiting with expectancy the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the saints. Paul calls this the "manifestation of the sons of God" (verse. 16). John calls this the hope of the Christian:
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure (I John 3:2-3).
Our hope is not only that Jesus will come and deliver us from bondage, but that when we see Him as He is, we shall be changed into His likeness. If we have such a hope "in him," we purify ourselves as He is pure. This is the "manifestation of the sons of God." And Paul reminds the Ephesians that it is "by the church" that God will make all principalities and powers know what His eternal purpose was in Christ Jesus:
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph. 3:10-11).
That purpose was to "bring many sons and daughters unto glory" (Heb. 2:10), each one transformed into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). The resurrection will complete the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming the child of God into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
These are the seven concepts that have changed Oral Roberts' life: the ministry of the evangelist, the gifts of healings, God is a good God, a point of contact, praying with the Spirit and praying with the understanding, Seed Faith, and the resurrection.
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