We welcome another new contributor, Edward Benitez, as he biblically critiques a sermon given by Steven Furtick…
“In a recent sermon given by Steven Furtick of Elevation Church around Christmas 2016, Furtick continues to demonstrate that John Macarthur is right in his assessment that Furtick is indeed ‘unqualified to be a pastor by not properly handling God’s word’ (2 Timothy 2:15).
In a sermon titled “By Invitation Only,” Furtick focuses on John 2:1-11, which relates the story of Jesus turning water into wine. Furtick gave this sermon to talk on (to quote Furtick) “What to do when your joy is running low” and to show that “God has something special in store for you, but it’s by invitation only.”
This interpretation, it appears, comes from Furtick’s understanding that wine represents joy in the Bible as well as the word ‘invitation’, found in John 2:2.
“On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and His disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to Him, “They have no more wine.”…”
Since the wine ran out, apparently joy ran out. Also, since Jesus was invited to a wedding, God will show up anywhere he is invited, says Furtick. “You’ll be surprised where God will show up when he’s invited,” and that God “shows up wherever [he’s] welcome,” Furtick says. Did their joy truly run out? It doesn’t appear from the narrative that anyone was frantic or distraught that the wine had run out. And Jesus was indeed invited to the wedding according to the narrative, along with his apostles. However, joy nor invitation is the focus of the narrative. Rather, the punch line can be found in verses 11 and 12. According to these verses, the purpose was to reveal His glory, to get his disciples to believe in him, and to gain followers/disciples. Jesus was not there to invite or fill with joy, He was there to reveal who He is. Furthermore, the purpose was/is to relate Jesus’ first miracle.
As a narrative, it is not meant to be taken allegorically as Furtick does.
Furtick further focuses on the word involved from the NIV translation of John 2:4 (“Why do you involve me?”). Per Furtick, Mary tries to get Jesus involved by telling him that the wine had run out. Furtick says Mary knew that to get Jesus involved, she had to get the servants involved, referring to John 2:5. Since she knew that, she told the servants to do as Jesus asked so that she could get Jesus involved, since Jesus did not want to get involved (per Furtick). Thus, to get God to act, you have to get involved, Furtick says.
It is interesting that Furtick would say this, since if Mary knew, it is curious that she would tell Jesus about the wine first, and not the servants. Furthermore, his interpretation fails under other translations of the Bible, such as the ESV, which has Jesus saying “What does this have to do with me?” instead of “Why do you involve me?” Therefore, this passage of Scripture has a different meaning than Furtick portrays, and shows that he is not properly handling God’s word.
The sermon ends with Furtick focusing on the six jars (John 2:6). Furtick mentions that six is the number of man and that it also represents incompletion.
“His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Now six stone water jars had been set there for the Jewish rites of purification. Each could hold from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim.…”
Furtick then states God told him that he “was the seventh jar. You are the place where I want to reveal my glory.” He then tells his audience to say, “I am a miracle waiting to happen. I am a place of God to pour his glory. I am a miracle in progress. Now I know! Now I know! Now I know! Now I know….It’s you God wants to fill…to use…Welcome to my World Jesus! Welcome to my life! Welcome to my heart! Fill me to overflowing!”
There are plenty of things wrong with this interpretation. Firstly, if anyone is the “seventh jar” that God wants to fill, that would mean that there are more than seven jars with so many people used. Secondly, not only is Furtick interpreting this verse eisegetically, he is also teaching the congregation to understand Scripture in a similar fashion, making Scripture about us, and not about God. Thirdly, this takes away glory from God and puts it on us by taking the focus away from God and placing it on our own desires. As Jesus Christ said, “you search the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39 ESV, emphasis mine) Scripture is about Christ, and Furtick is not pointing anyone to the Jesus of Scripture but rather a Jesus of prosperity.
Not only does Furtick keep substantiating John Macarthur’s claims that he is unqualified, he is teaching others self-importance and not self denial, as Jesus Christ asks of all believers (Matthew 16:24). A pastor “must have a firm grasp of the word (the Bible) that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).” By improperly handling and making the story of John 2:1-11 about us and himself and not about the glory and revealing of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is failing this Biblical guideline and remains unqualified for the role of pastor.”