January 25th, 2020
A letter to the churches, especially to those in my home of the SF Bay area, regarding false teaching that is dangerously being taught to thousands of people actively and thousands more passively.
It is with great care and fear of God that I write this letter now. I want to caution the reader to move forward carefully and prayerfully, consulting God?s word and later, discussing this with a solid group of God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians. My primary fear is the fear of God and to that, I believe God?s word and the gospel to be so precious that I cannot stand by idly when it is being profaned. I also, admittedly, have some fear of the reactions for what I will do and say here in this letter. But I believe that greater than my fear of being wrong in what I am deeming to be heresy or my fears of losing respect, I am called to protect the Church. So, to that end, I will expose myself to opposition, ridicule, and correction. In this letter, I am only specifically calling out Bill Johnson, and subsequently Bethel Church, as ones propagating a false gospel. If I could, I would bring this letter straight to Bill and Bethel Church but because I am confident that Bill has already been approached and called out many times until now, I write this letter to the churches instead.
I?d like to briefly introduce myself, on the off chance that who I am may bring any more openness to what I will share here in this letter. My name is Paul Dub, I am a youth pastor at New Community Baptist Church in Mountain View, California. I became a born-again believer in the summer of 2001. I graduated from Gateway Seminary?s Mill Valley/Fremont location in the Bay area with a Master?s in Divinity. My seminary and my church are of the Southern Baptist Convention and I affirm the Baptist Faith & Message. Again, I only share these things to capture the attention of anyone who may need some small assurance that I am not writing as one inadequately trained or one who has less-than-Christian perspectives.
I will have a general list of sources at the end of this letter that I drew from. Please do not quickly judge based off the sources either. In some cases, I used a source because the person made some helpful points or did the work of gathering Bill Johnson?s quotes and teaching. I am not endorsing any person or group but I am purely using their material in an academic manner. [Edit: At the suggestion of a couple early readers, I have decided to more clearly show what I?m referencing with superscripts like this and this?? which will correspond to my source list.]
I also want to say that I am not going to address at any length what I believe to be manipulation happening within Bethel as well as the reports of false manifestations of the Holy Spirit. There is a myriad of articles and videos on that subject alone and I have nothing definitive to say on the matter currently. I might suggest considering the words and first-hand testimony of Lindsey Davis, one who was involved in the inner circles of Bethel, who has since left. Her testimony was both illuminating and a blessing to me.
Please allow me to prime you, the reader, with my biblical understanding of false teaching. I will first say that there is a difference between heresy and error. The difference between the two is that heresy is a blatant deviation from a foundational Christian belief while error is often a result of having a lack of spiritual maturity or a lack of respect for the authority of scripture, or both. In Galatians, Paul writes:
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (1:6?9)
What was the false gospel and heresy of these Galatians? Paul is addressing those called Judaizers who were teaching that in order to be saved, you must perform certain works like circumcision and ritual washings. This is not just error, but grave heresy. Salvation is in Christ and by faith alone. For the Judaizers to put a yoke, as Paul called it elsewhere, onto the new gentile believers like this was damning. They were teaching a false gospel and the tragedy of this situation, to me as a Christian pastor, was that there were genuine believers sitting idly by letting it happen. Those gentile believers that believed in this false gospel could not be true converts outside of having belief in this false gospel dismantled and thusly, rejecting it.
To make things plain, I want to make the point that when the gospel being preached is not true to the one that we have received in and through God?s word, this is heresy. I must also make the point that I do not believe it?s fair to judge a single gospel presentation as representative of one?s beliefs and dedication to the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ. If that were true, then some of my earliest preaching of the gospel may disqualify me and I?d be labeled a heretic. I mean to say that some of my earliest preaching of the gospel was quite unbalanced. I may have talked much of the love of God and less about the need for repentance. I may have stressed the fallenness of creation and preached less about the need to confess Jesus as Lord over one?s life. I have talked about receiving the loving embrace of the awaiting Father and less about realizing and confessing one?s depravity and need for One who is holy. My point is that some of my gospel presentations were, at times, unbalanced and incomplete and thus, were in error. Thankfully, over time as I received training, heard more balanced gospel presentations, and I spent more time in the scripture, I now know what a faithful gospel presentation is. I was not preaching heresy, but I was preaching error. I am very thankful for God?s grace over my ignorance and I have repented for allowing any fears or anything else in my own agenda to be what shaped my preaching of the gospel.
What then is the gospel I?m speaking of? It is the good news of Jesus Christ as written throughout the the majority of the New Testament but laid out as simply as possible here:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you ? unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Cor. 15:1?4)
This is the simple good news of Jesus Christ. To say anything else needs to be added into this gospel, is wrong. When preaching and presenting the gospel, we also tend to address things like: God?s original design for creation and humanity (Gen. 1:31), mankind?s falling away from God into sin (Rom. 1:23, 3:23, 6:23a), God?s plan of redemption through the person and work of Jesus Christ (who is God Himself) (John 3:16, Col. 2:14), and the person?s confession and commitment to follow Christ (Rom. 10:9). These are all important parts of our gospel preaching or presentations and these other points serve as the backdrop and bring a fuller understanding of the gospel.
Bill Johnson is guilty of the error of omitting crucial portions in his gospel presentation which is at least very disheartening and troubling, but he is also guilty of outright heresy. The heresy I?m calling us all to evaluate is the heretical teaching that manifestations of [the Holy Spirit?s] power must accompany a believer?s conversion for it to be true. If there is no showing of power, outside of the power of God regenerating a heart, then Bill Johnson deems that gospel to be untrue. That is not the true gospel! The showings of power that I mean here are chiefly, healings, but can, I?m assuming, be other supernatural signs and wonders. I myself am not a cessationist, one who believes the signs and wonders died with the apostles, and I believe God can do everything but sin or do evil. So, while I do take issue with Bill Johnson?s and Bethel?s version of what signs and wonders are, how to pursue them, and how to teach people to use spiritual gifts, I believe in a supernatural God who does supernatural things. Bill Johnson?s and Bethel?s teachings on the supernatural, I believe, are in error and dangerously so, but these are nowhere near as dangerous as the heresy of a false gospel. If Bethel was only guilty of these other errors, I wouldn?t be writing this letter. It is their false gospel that is so very concerning because any hearers of this gospel may not be true converts outside of some special grace of God; the grace that He gives to all for us to believe, that is. The only converts in Bethel would then be to Bill Johnson?s gospel, making them followers of Bill and Bethel and not followers of Christ.
Why is Bill?s gospel false and not just in error? Let me point us to one more of Paul?s letters, this time to the Romans:
30 What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 as it is written,
?Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.? (9:30?33)
Here, Paul is talking about how the Gentiles were now receiving the gospel and salvation by faith while Israel had sought righteousness through their works. The law, to Israel, and adherence to it was what earned their righteousness which is vastly different than obedience to the law being counted to Abraham or anyone else, as righteousness. This is not only an important but a crucial distinction. The Judaizers were engaging in the same heretical practices as some of their forefathers and were leading Gentiles into this same ancient heresy! The core of this heretical teaching is that one can earn what can only be given by God. What Bill Johnson is doing when he preaches that ??an absolute essential part of the gospel is the delivering of torment and the healing of disease.? is just his variation of this ancient heresy. This is what grieves my heart as it should yours! To place people under this yoke of needing to heal disease or see healing from disease to consider it the true gospel, is so very false! If this were so, and because I was not healed of my allergy syndrome at the time of conversion, then I am still accursed and I am cut off from God. If this were so, every person who had any pre-existing medical conditions that remained after conversion were not truly saved. I must stress that Bill isn?t talking about healing being a possibility or a hope but that it is absolutely necessary as it is ?a part of the true gospel.??
It is no wonder then that Bethel focuses so much on gifts like healing and it is at the forefront of all their ?witnessing?. Again, please don?t hear that I?m against the teaching of the gift of healing or the practice of it. It has been reported by many, though I have not been an eyewitness of this, that Bethel disciples do not preach the gospel but primarily pray for such healings as it is the sign of true conversion to them. It grieves my heart to know and see so many who may be truly seeking the true and living Christ being deceived in this way. A false gospel begets false belief which begets false praxis and that?s what we?re seeing with Bethel church. What beautiful things could be done for the Lord and God?s Kingdom today if they were to be free of this heresy!
I do not condemn Bill Johnson or Bethel, I believe I can do no such thing. That will be the job of our Lord when the Day has come. I do choose to heed God?s word to do what is instructed here:
14 Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:14?18)
17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:17?18)
19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Tim. 5:19?20)
Please do not worry yourself with being compelled by my words, that is not my intention in writing. I am not an apostle, nor do I consider anything I?ve said here as a new revelation from God. I have no authority over anyone outside of my flock. I only appeal to you to consider what I have said and if you find it to be true and in accordance with the scriptures, then there needs to be a faithful response to God?s word and His truth as He has illuminated this to you.
Personally, in my obedience to the instruction to ?be on guard?, ?watch out for?, ?avoid?, and even ?rebuking? such false and heretical teachings and teachers, I will not associate any longer with Bethel. This includes not listening to or using any Bethel music; that which was written by someone from their church. As a shepherd of Christian youth, I must work even harder to protect them from things they lack the maturity to be on guard from. In other words, I believe there is a higher alertness and sense of responsibility one ought to have when we are shepherding those who may be more easily swayed. It is up to the mature believer to determine if they have the discernment and wisdom to decide if they should have any association with people or songs from a group that propagates a false gospel. In my efforts to make it known to myself and to any around me that I will not tolerate false teachings and will call them out wherever appropriate, I will not leave any doubt as to where I stand on this matter. So yes, I may be called extreme for choosing not to tolerate or use songs written by people who?ve been under Bethel and Bill Johnson?s teachings, but I?d rather be called extreme than actually be tolerant of things that will lead people astray. As a pastor, I do feel strongly that these songs have no place in the corporate setting.
Finally, may it be known that I am praying for Bethel and Bill Johnson and may God be my witness of that. I do want, especially Bill Johnson, to repent of this false teaching and if he?s not a true believer, to repent and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If he is a believer, then I have hope that the Holy Spirit will guide him into truth. I just pray that it would be very soon as many exposed to and believing in this false gospel will be led astray and so that Bill may keep in step with the Spirit.
I pray that this letter edifies the churches and any who read it. Please stay alert and be sober-minded. If you are convinced that what I have said is true, then please join me in protecting and guarding those who have little ability to do so themselves. Any and every false gospel and false teacher needs to be identified and called out. Let us humbly but unapologetically expose and in doing so, snatch beloved brothers and sisters out of the fire. Please sound the alarm and let it be known that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be preached faithfully and preserved at all costs, both now and until the end of this age.
With Love in Christ Jesus,
 Lindsey Davis? testimony about leaving Bethel and what went on there. It is a two-part interview. I do not endorse Apologia Studios. Start watching from around the 11:00 mark. Listen to what Bill says about healing and the gospel here. It is error to say: ?God heals everyone every time if you have faith.? (Bill Johnson preaches this) but it is heresy to say: ?Healing isn?t the whole gospel but neither is the gospel whole without it.? Feel free to listen the whole sermon and more of his teachings to see that he?s not talking about forgiveness of sin as healing but rather physical/emotional/mental healing. The link should bring you directly to [21:03]. Pay attention to what Bill does here. He first preaches on Galatians 1 as I shared here in this letter about false gospels. He then goes on to illustrate that what he considers a false gospel is the teaching that Paul?s thorn in the flesh was a physical malady. The only logical conclusion is that Bill?s ?true gospel? is the inverse of this which is no gospel at all. This video put out by Bethel itself is titled: ?The Full Gospel?. It?s telling that this is the video they think is representative of the good news of Jesus Christ. This is a faithful representation of how Bill Johnson preaches his false gospel at Bethel. Everything right up until the end may sound correct but note that this ?power? he?s talking about, and especially at the end, is the power of the Holy Spirit displayed chiefly through healing. So, without that, it is not good news, according to Bill.