By Mark W. Swarbrick
So Swaggart is off on some things. What does it hurt? Is he not still preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are not people being saved through his ministry? What are the effects upon a person who becomes a follower and fan of Swaggart? What is the harm to someone who is caught up in Swaggartism?
Having a close family member caught up into Swaggartism and having studied the doctrine and reviewed testimonies of those coming out of Swaggartism, I believe I have identified five areas that are adversely affected in a person’s life if they embrace Swaggart’s teaching.
They become a fanatic. Not for Jesus. That would be Ok. They become a fanatic for Jimmy Swaggart and his teaching; for his “Message of the Cross.” The level of fanaticism will vary depending upon one’s personality, but typically you will find that they harangue others over Swaggart’s “Crosstianity,” trying to get Christian friends and family to “convert” and “come to the cross.”
Consider the words of Swaggart and you can see how they will affect an impressionable mind. Swaggart says:
“The answer which you seek is found in the Cross! The solution which you seek is found only in the Cross! And that’s the problem with the modern Church; it is building doctrines on other foundations. You must come to the Cross! You must constantly make the Cross the object of your faith. The Cross will set you free. There is nothing before the cross and nothing after because there doesn’t need to be. The churches are in darkness because they don’t understand the cross like I do. I am of God.”
These are the words of Swaggart. Consequently you find Swaggarites saying things like: “The Cross has made all the difference in my life. The Cross has saved me and set me free. I love the Cross.” Instead of being fanatically in love with Jesus it’s all about the cross, with a capital C. The love and enthusiasm that they should have placed in Jesus, is placed in the cross. And by “cross,” they claim to mean the act of what Jesus did on the cross, not the wooden cross itself. That being the case, they are putting their faith in an action that was done, rather than in the one (Jesus) who did the act.
If you confront them on this, they deny it, saying that by the cross they simply mean Jesus and what he did on the cross. A pretty weak excuse for misplaced love. Words mean things, whether they like it or not. For you see Swaggart claims his message of the cross is different from what the average Christian believes and is different than what all the churches teach, thus, it is not possible for it to mean simply “Jesus and what he did on the cross.” The Church has always understood what Christ did on the cross, so they must mean something entirely different.
What they really mean is what Swaggart says, “The believer is ever to make the Cross the object of his faith,” and “There is nothing before the Cross and nothing after because there doesn’t need to be.” So in practice, they put an unhealthy and unbalanced emphasis on the cross which detracts from Christ and the resurrection and they want every Christian they meet to become a cookie-cutter copy of Swaggart like they are. Confront them with the emphasis on the “cross alone” and they will deny it and try to say they simply mean Jesus. Clearly that is not the case or they would not be trying to convert Christians.
Integral to Swaggart’s teaching of the cross is his insistence that all (or nearly all) churches are wrong and he alone has the truth. His Commentary is full of attacks upon the Church, saying it is evil, of the devil and reprobate while at the same time lifting up his ministry as the only one truly anointed of God. Rev. Swaggart writes:
“This Ministry is of God. Accordingly, we have a mandate from the Lord. That mandate is World Evangelism and, as well, the proclamation of the True Gospel, the “Message of the Cross.” In other words, the Church must be brought back to the Cross. The Lord has mandated this Ministry to help carry this out. In fact, that’s at least one of the reasons that the Lord gave me this great Revelation of the Cross in 1997.”
“This generation of Christians knows almost nothing about the cross…these Christians can be set free only by the Cross being preached to them.”
“The answer which you seek is found in the Cross! The solution which you seek is found only in the Cross! And that’s the problem with the modern Church; it is building doctrines on other foundations.”
So you see the mindset: Swaggarites have the truth and all other Christians are miserable dupes drowning in sin and need to be delivered by Swaggart’s gospel. Watch their television program and you can see that daily they viciously attack and malign other ministries. They ooze with arrogance.
This arrogance and cultic mentality is empowered by demonic hatred for the Church and Swaggarites become infected with it as they lecture every Christian they can about their supposed need to come to the cross. This of course leads to alienation and kills any effective witness they may have otherwise had to unbelievers.
The natural result is a backlash and rejection of the perverted Swaggart gospel, and this is interpreted for them by Swaggart, who tells them that it is hate for the cross, the offense of the cross and they go on and on about how all the ministers and Christians today reject the cross. Of course, they do not. They simply reject Swaggart’s perversion of the Bible’s true teaching of the cross.
So the result: Arrogance, resulting in sinful disrespectful behavior that can separate friends and family.
Stunted Spiritual Growth
Swaggarites are fond of quoting 1 Corinthians 2:2 where the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians,
“I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified,”
This is their proof text and excuse for magnifying the importance of the cross beyond its scriptural place. However by so doing they totally ignore the context of the passage and the reason Paul says that. And that reason is that they were too immature for anything more. The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians,
“I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.”
The doctrine of substitutionary atonement is milk. That’s what the Apostle Paul said. It is what a baby Christian needs. When you get saved, either just before or just after someone accepts Christ, then they are taught that Jesus’ shed blood washes away their sins. This is basic first teaching, what the apostle calls “milk, not solid food.” Paul explained he had to give them milk for a little longer than normal because they were behaving as immature Christians, but he was eager for them to grow and move on to solid food. The writer of Hebrews explains the same thing. Look here what he says:
“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
So the Bible’s preaching of the cross is milk. Milk is great you when you are baby. You die without it. The Bible’s preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation. Please note: I speak of the Bible’s preaching of the cross, not Swaggart’s “message of the cross,” which (by Swaggart’s own words) is different from what Paul understood and what the Church has taught for two thousand years. The Bible’s preaching of the cross tells us that we can’t earn our salvation by works of the law, but rather it is a free gift, purchased by Christ’s shed blood on the cross at Calvary.
The Bible’s cross is what you teach baby Christians or people you are leading to Christ. It is important for them to know what Jesus did for them. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the foundation and chief cornerstone (not the cross, but Jesus) and the Bible’s teaching on the cross is basic doctrine which you are first taught. It is milk. The writer of Hebrews chided them saying, “you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.” He was not commending them, but scolding them! He was saying, “You have to go back to grade school again!”
Milk is powerful. It gives life to a baby. But what would happen if you fed a baby nothing but milk all of its life and never ever gave him solid food? He would be a sickly child. His growth would be stunted. He could die early. You have to proceed to solid food. You might extend the milk for a little while, but at some point you have to move on. Swaggartism teaches that all you ever need is milk. That’s’ what Swaggart says – “nothing before the cross, nothing after because there doesn’t have to be anything after.” That is his exact quote.
So his followers don’t mature. They stay on milk. Doctrine alone does not give life. Only Jesus can do that. Dead dry dogmatic doctrine alone does not save anyone. Swaggart takes a peculiar doctrine he found in some old dusty book, twists it into something different, then lies and says his new revelation is from God and is the real foundation, instead of Jesus Christ, and then he teaches his followers to “constantly make the cross the object of your faith.” Nowhere does the Bible say that. It teaches Jesus is the foundation and object of our faith. Swaggart’s message is a deceitful doctrine, so close to the truth to be undetected by the unsuspecting, but wrong nevertheless.
Swaggart’s twisted message is not even real milk; its spoiled milk. Constantly thinking about the cross, the cross, the cross is not going to make anyone more kind and loving. Swaggart’s twisted theology does not give anyone victory over sin. It will only delude and blind to one’s real self, so that the log in thine own eye is unseen, only the splinter in someone else’s.
And no matter what one does, without love, even if you suffer for Christ and deliver your body up to be burned – it amounts to nothing if you have not love. That is what the Bible says. Love from a pure heart. That is the aim of the Bible’s teaching.
The Bible’s real teaching on the cross is a beautiful and magnificent thing that center’s on Jesus and the love of the Father for us in sending his only unique son to die and shed his blood for us, and that precious sinless blood washes away our sins. The cross exemplifies Jesus self-denial and sacrifice of Himself because He loves us. But an overemphasis on the cross, to the exclusion of Christ’s loving reality in our lives, detracts from devotion to Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith. We mature in Christ only as we grow in closeness to our Savior. Anything that detracts from that emphasis will impede spiritual growth.
The result: Swaggart’s teaching will leave a Christian weak and anemic.
Swaggart teaches that by thinking the cross, the cross, the cross, that somehow a person is magically set free from temptation and sin and one rises above it all, operating on a higher Christian plane. Of course this is nothing but brainwashing and mental gymnastics. But because they are told repeatedly that this works and this delivers them, they come to believe it. Instead of seeing their sin and dealing with it. They are numbed into thinking their sin doesn’t exist at all. It is all washed away by the cross. They become blind to their own shortcomings.
Sanctification is the process of a believer gradually and continually growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and more and more overcoming old habits and defeating the temptations of the deeds of the flesh and ever more producing the fruit of the Spirit in their life; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, etc.
This is a process. It is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our old nature is dealt a death blow when we get saved, but the old man keeps trying to come back. That is why Paul called it fighting the good fight. He said he pummeled his body and brought it into subjection. The Bible clearly teaches that though it is God who sanctifies us, we must cooperate in that process.
God will use many things to sanctify us. The Word of God, for one. Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3) David said, “I have hid Thy word in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” God uses many things to work out our sanctification: Other Christians, our church fellowship, the counsel of others, prayer, fasting, and sometimes, he uses pain: “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” As we make an effort to draw near to God he draws near to us and sin begins to evaporate from our lives, burned away by the presence of the Son of God.
There is much that can and should be said about sanctification, how it works and how we can take steps to become more sanctified. But the point to be made here is that Swaggart’s teaching short circuits all of these vital things which God wants to use to sanctify us. By focusing entirely upon the mental trickery of meditating on the cross alone perpetually, the important teaching of how sanctification really works is ignored.
So the result: Swaggarites do not grow in grace and in sanctification as they should.
Swaggart emphasizes strongly that nearly all churches are of the devil, teach false doctrine, and that Christians should leave those churches and only go where Swaggart’s message of the cross is taught. Since places (fortunately) are few and far between that teach Swaggartism, Jimmy Swaggart Ministries (JSM) has launched an online church. You can sign up and send your tithes to JSM.
Once Swaggartism has run its course, the individual may leave their local church and just watch Swaggart on TV and send their tithe to him. This is of course the main goal of JSM, for in the end, they are about money, not ministry. Swaggart’s fleet of Mercedes, his multi-million dollar mansions, and his $30,000 Rolex watch speak for that, but for more evidence see John Camp’s Video on our video page.
So the result: A Swaggarite loses the vital contacts with other believers in a local church, misses out on working together with others and the resultant growth that comes from rubbing elbows with other Christians. The local church is God’s plan for the believer and Swaggartism may ultimately lead one out of the church.
The effects of Swaggartism are that a person becomes fanatical over a false doctrine, rather than in love with Jesus. They become arrogant and mean-spirited towards other Christians. They are stunted in their spiritual growth, being immature in their knowledge of God, taking in only milk, and not solid spiritual food. Their sanctification is slowed as they become anemic in their growth, failing to practice those things necessary to overcome sin. Finally, they drop out of church all together, imaging they are above all that and have come to the one true church.
 The Evangelist, January 2004, From Me to You