Paul vs. James (Pt. 1)

By William Handschumacher

A Special Rock of Offence Bible Study


This is Part 1 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available

Part 2 ----- Part 3 ----- Part 4 ----- Part 5
Part 6 ----- Part 7 ----- Part 8 ----- Part 9
Part 10 ----- Part 11 ----- Part 12 ----- Part 13
Part 14


Laying a Foundation
Before We Begin

There are few Bible teachings that generate more criticism than the one comparing Paul's salvation doctrine ... with the one presented in the Epistle of James. Even among ministers who respect the context of the Bible, a study such as this is sometimes labeled as "Hyper-dispensational" ... which is their way of saying that it's either wrong - or shouldn't be discussed because it divides Christians. However, when we examine all the Scriptural facts, using the "hyper" prefix is a common way of avoiding the difficult and divisive task of defending "the truth of the Gospel". Contrary to popular 'Christian unity teachings', one area where God approves of division--is in "earnestly contending for the faith" (Jude 1:3-4) ... or defending the truth of the Gospel of His Son ... from those who seek to distort it.

To illustrate the importance of this study, Martin Luther, considered by many to be "the Father of the Protestant Reformation", revealed his concern about the Epistle of James by referring to it as; "an epistle of straw". Luther made this statement because he knew that inexperienced Christians would misinterpret and misapply the salvation doctrine of James, which would lead them dangerously astray. Luther, a former Catholic priest (who also held a Doctorate of Divinity degree) - was painfully familiar with this kind of religious error. He generally left the Roman Catholic Church because it was established upon these same misconceptions, which continue today. Unfortunately, through the corrupting influence of "Ecumenicalism", this problem has now spread to the Protestant side of isle - and carries disastrous spiritual consequences.

Luther correctly structured his ministry and salvation doctrine according to the "Epistles of Saint Paul to the Church". In this study, we will attempt to address some of the misconceptions that continue to lead many professing Christians astray.

Exposing the Popular Practice
of Mixing Everything in the
Bible Together

As we approach the end of the age, society has moved into an unimaginable state of ungodliness and wickedness. Lifestyles considered sin a generation ago are now taught to our children in public school - and even in some churches. In America, society has generally moved from "in God we trust" to ... "I'm good without God". Church leaders are watching this transformation take place at an accelerated pace and choose to confront the problem in various ways.

In order to combat this tidal wave of sin, a majority choose a popular 'historic theology' that makes salvation dependent upon a self-reinforcing system of righteous works and sinless living. In other words, you can't be saved (or you will lose salvation if already saved) if you allow sin to exist in your life. However, the New Testament reveals that even the most devoted and consecrated Christian has some sin in their life (often referred to as 'sins of omission'). This is a condition that continues until the end of our earthly life. Even the Apostle Paul, who wrote over half of the New Testament Scriptures, admitted that he struggled with some kind of reoccurring sin - and later made the following statement to his disciple Timothy - and to all Christians living today:

"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Timothy 1:15)

It's important to notice that Paul
didn't say that he "used to be the
chief of sinners", but that "I am
the chief of sinners". We should
also remember that God used this
same man to write over half of the
New Testament.

This unavoidable and continual
existence of sin reveals the
following serious error with
some popular church teachings:

If sinless living and performing good works are conditions to be saved - then few, if any, can be saved. And, if you think salvation comes through good works; how will you know when you've done enough to satisfy God's requirements? These are all common yet erroneous beliefs that prevent a majority of Christians from having any assurance of salvation. Yet, many are surprised to learn that God rejects this kind of popular Christian doctrine (and the gospel message connected to it) that travels under countless names.

Why the Popular Belief that;
'You Must Live a Sinless Life
to be Saved' Contradicts New
Testament Salvation

First of all, the Bible warns that living in a state of "sinlessness" through your own strength and piety is impossible - because all have sinned - and will continue to sin in some degree. This also includes all Christians. (Romans 3:23).

The Apostle Paul uses his own
life to explain this unavoidable
and continual existence of sin
that all Christians must deal
with, whether they admit it or

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:18-25)

This is the problem:

When we examine how God operated
before His Son's sacrificial
death at the cross;

we discover that sin disqualified
us from obtaining and keeping
salvation, because ...

"all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)

(God is speaking) "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4)

This places everyone, without
exception, under the death
sentence of sin. It was from
this perspective that Paul made
the following observation about
his own life and the lives of
all Christians living today:

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Since sin is continually in everyone (including all Christians) during their entire time on earth (regardless of how hard they try to remove it)--and sin causes "a Divine death sentence" that disqualifies them from obtaining and keeping salvation ... then it appears that nobody can be saved. This irreconcilable situation caused Paul to ask the following question ;

"O wretched man that I am! Who
will deliver me from this body
of death?"

Paul's very next statement reveals
the solution to this seemingly
impossible problem;

"I thank God--through Jesus Christ
our Lord!"

How the Sacrificial Death of
Christ Legally Deals with
this Impossible Sin Problem

In this situation we will
allow Scripture to speak
for itself before making
additional comments:

"For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, because the law brings about wrath; FOR WHERE THERE IS NO LAW THERE IS NO TRANSGRESSION (SIN). Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace..." (Romans Chapter 4)

"But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. FOR APART FROM THE LAW SIN WAS DEAD. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.

The sting of death is sin, AND THE STRENGTH OF SIN IS THE LAW. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56)

"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, HAVING WIPED OUT THE HANDWRITING OF THE REQUIREMENTS THAT WAS AGAINST US (THE LAW), WHICH WAS CONTRARY TO US. AND HE HAS TAKEN IT OUT OF THE WAY, HAVING NAILED IT TO THE CROSS." (Colossians 2:13-14 - Emphasis Added)

"THEREFORE, MY BRETHREN, YOU ALSO HAVE BECOME DEAD TO THE LAW THROUGH THE BODY OF CHRIST, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. BUT NOW WE HAVE BEEN DELIVERED FROM THE LAW, HAVING DIED TO WHAT WE WERE HELD BY, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." (Romans 7:4-6)

(ROMANS 6:14)

One of the first principles we discover from the Scriptures quoted above ... is that sin gets its power to place us under an eternal death sentence from Old Testament Law--also known as the Law of Moses. So, if the Law is removed or taken out of the way ... all sin - past, present and future - loses its power to condemn (or to send us to hell). As a result, if the Law is taken out of the way, God can no longer legally charge sin to the believer's account. This includes the sin that Paul said continually dwells in us - as previously stated in Romans 7:18-25. This is why authentic New Testament salvation now teaches ...

Where there is no Law there
is no transgression (sin)
(See Romans Chapter 4)

According to the New Testament,
the sacrificial death of Christ
accomplished the following:

  • The law is "taken out of the way and nailed to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14)

  • The Law is abolished (Ephesians 2:11-22)

  • The Law is annulled (Hebrews 7:11-22)

  • The Law becomes obsolete (Hebrews 8:6-13)

  • The Old Testament program of the Law is "taken away" so that God can establish His Son's New Covenant program (Hebrews 10:1-14)

  • The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set all believers in Christ free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-4).

  • As a result, the New Covenant - also called "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus" - is now declared to be "The new and living way of Christ" (Hebrews 10:19-23)

We can now understand why Paul made the following statement concerning his continual state of sin;

"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

By removing Old Testament Law (Judaism calls it "the Law of the Torah") and nailing it to His cross, Jesus sets Paul - and all Christian believers living today - free from the sin they could never get totally free from despite their best efforts. This provides a message of great hope and comfort for everyone struggling with besetting sins and the lie from the devil (and from false Christian religion) that God will "revoke their salvation and send them to hell" for their unresolved sin. Assigning a death sentence to all those who sin is the way God operated before the cross - BUT WE NOW LIVE AFTER THE CROSS. This is why - if God were to hold a Christian's sin against them today - He would have to deny His Son's redemptive work that destroys the power of sin by "taking the Law out of the way" (See Colossians 2:13-14).

And, this is something
He will never do.

The Divine act of 'taking away our sins through the removal of Law' was performed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Acting as "The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world", Jesus became the final blood sacrifice that fulfilled - and then ended the Old Testament program of the Law (which also ended sin's authority to condemn us). This cleared the way for the New Covenant (or "New and Living Way of Christ") to begin. The Apostle John said it this way...

"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, AND THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN." (1 John 1:7)

When the power of sin is removed in such a way, the condemnation and guilt for 'all sin' (past, present and future) ends forever - which then allows God to assign righteousness to the believer despite their continual and irreconcilable sinful state. When condemnation (judgment for sin) is removed - only righteousness remains. We can now understand what Paul meant when He said ...

"For He made Him who knew no sin
to be sin for us, that we might
become the righteousness of God
in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Some Bible teachers describe this
unique relationship with God in
the following way:

Real Christians always desire to
'sin less' in their life, while
understanding that they can never
be "sinlesss" through their own
religious efforts.

The removal of our sins through the cross of Christ, where He fulfilled and then ended the rule of Old Testament Law ... is a core truth of the authentic Gospel of Christ and the New Covenant. In our various commentaries and studies we often refer to it as "Heaven's Royal Proclamation". Unfortunately, many modern-day Christians (but thankfully not all) reject this truth because it comes from the New Testament Epistles of Saint Paul - which exposes the error in their law-based doctrines. This is why various ministers quietly avoid Paul's Epistles when teaching about salvation. (Note: We should remember that over 50% of the New Testament consists of Paul's writings that fully reveal Christ's New Covenant.) In this section, we provide some of the more important points of this 'core truth'. However, for a more in-depth study, additional information is available at the following link :

Heaven's Royal Proclamation

The Removal of the Law that Results
in the Destruction of Sin's Authority
to Condemn - Places the Christian
in a Whole New Relationship with God
that Couldn't Exist Under the Old
Testament Law-Based program

The New Testament refers to it as "Justification by Faith" - which is one of the most exciting benefits of Christ's salvation. In the original Greek language of the New Testament; "justification" is defined as; "Having a relationship with God - where He treats the Christian as if they had never sinned - even when they do sin". What's amazing is that this condition, which is directly tied to eternal life - is given freely and remains permanently in force (meaning that it's eternal).

"...Being justified freely by His Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation BY HIS BLOOD, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26)

Contrary to popular church teachings, justification under Christ's New Covenant isn't revoked when you sin - and then 'given back' when you repent. If this were true, God would have to also "re-establish the Law" when you sin - and then take it away again when you repent.

However, the New Testament reveals that the Law that gives sin its power to condemn was "taken out of the way and nailed to the cross". This was done ONLY ONCE at the crucifixion of Christ. (Colossians 2:13-14 Also See Hebrews 10:1-14)

How is all of this possible? The Law that required God to condemn us for every sin we commit - is now removed through the cross of Christ. When sin's authority to condemn us is removed, God can now treat us "as if we had never sinned" ... despite the fact that we will continually sin in some measure (as a result of our ever-abiding sin nature) for the remainder of our earthly life. Once again, this includes all our sin; past, present and future. Contrary to popular brands of "Holiness teachings and Fundamentalism", we can never achieve a state of sinlessness through our own religious efforts. But God now treats every born-again believer "as if they had never sinned - even when they do sin" - as a result of the finished work of Jesus Christ at the cross.

The liberating New Testament truth of "Justification by faith", as described in this section, is taught by few churches today. But, thank God ... some churches are teaching it because it represents the core truth of the authentic Gospel of Christ. Most of the criticism comes from church leaders and their followers who continue to embrace a salvation doctrine that is based on various kinds of Old Testament Law-keeping ... despite the fact that the Law was "taken out of the way" by Christ at the cross. This error is usually found within "Replacement theology" discussed later in this study.

Does "Justification by faith" release us from confessing our sins to God? Absolutely not. But we should also keep the following truth firmly in mind: The cross of Christ - through the New Covenant - made a major change in the way God treats sin and the sinner. Justification by faith, as described in this section, is one of these changes. When sin occurs, we should confess (or acknowledge) it in order to keep our relationship with the Lord clear and unobstructed. But, we should also understand that our sin was forgiven long before we committed or confessed it ...

Because the Law that gave sin
its power to condemn was taken
away by Christ at the cross,
which then released God's

Under the New Covenant - and contrary to popular church teachings - our confession does not somehow cause God to forgive our sin. Only the blood of Christ brings this kind of forgiveness.

"In Him (Jesus Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His Grace which he made abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him." (Ephesians 1:7-10)

"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, AND THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSES US FROM ALL SIN." (1 John 1:7)

When sin is already forgiven before we even commit or confess it - this can mean only one thing - that God is not charging (imputing) sin to our account. Saint Paul describes it this way ...

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, NOT IMPUTING THEIR TRESPASSES (SINS) TO THEM, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

This should give all Christians
great encouragment and hope.

How Wrong Teachings Get a
Foothold in the Church

The Bible is divided into two programs; the Old Testament and the New Testament. Each is governed by a different set of covenant laws - with the crucifixion of Christ separating the two. Our Lord Jesus Christ conducted His earthly ministry under the Old Testament program that operated before the cross ... where possessing salvation required keeping the commandments of the Law, performing righteous works and other forms of "law-keeping".

When we examine Christ's teachings, especially His instructions to the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-17 - this is exactly what He taught during that period of time.

However, the cross changed
all the rules governing
salvation by establishing
a Grace-based "New Covenant";
also known as "The new and
living way of Christ"
(See Hebrews 10:19-23 and
Hebrews 8:6-13)

Following the cross and the arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts chapter 2 - instead of salvation being earned the Old Testament way - through keeping the commandments and doing righteous works ... it now becomes "the free gift of God" given with no dependency upon works or merit (See Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-7, Romans 4:4-8). Salvation (or eternal life) changes from 'a conditional and earned benefit' into 'God's free gift' - because Jesus fully paid the purchase price through His blood at the cross.

Contrary to popular church doctrine, any preacher or evangelist that reinserts good works or obedience to the Commandments (generally thought to be "The Ten Commandments") into the requirements to obtain God's gift ... is teaching a false gospel--because it makes His gift nonsensical. Yet, this is the gospel a vast majority of professing Christians now embrace.

Obviously, this major Divine change, initiated by Jesus at the cross, causes problems for church leaders, who want salvation to continue to be dependent (as it was under the Old Testament program) upon Christian conduct and holy living. They want this dependency to continue in order to combat the tidal wave of sin that is currently hitting society and the church. Unfortunately, instead of embracing the change, these ministers illegally mix both Old and New covenant programs together. As a result of this act of 'mixing everything together' - salvation now becomes dependent upon faith in Christ, obedience to the commandments, sinless living (also called holiness) and doing good works. This also means that a deficiency in any one of these categories can result in the loss of salvation. It is commonly believed that using the threat of losing salvation to motivate church members to 'live right' - is a rock-solid Biblical doctrine. But, God warns that it's actually a false gospel that leads Christians dangerously astray.

To support their doctrine, the
teachings of Jesus, given
during His earthly ministry
before the cross, are quoted
to validate their works-based
gospel message. They use these
teachings because Jesus taught
a similar salvation message
before He had paid the price
as; "The Lamb of God that takes
away the sin of the world."

However...we are no longer living
before the cross ... we are living
after the cross. As a result,
the resurrected Jesus Christ is
speaking from heaven about the
new way salvation is received (as
God's gift) which has now been
purchased by His sacrificial
blood. (Hebrews 12:22-26)

This is why salvation is currently
referred to in Hebrews 10:19-23


This also explains why God condemns the popular practice of mixing or 'intermingling' the Old Testament and New Testament programs together - along with the corrupt and misleading gospel message produced by this practice. The "New and living way of Christ" was not available during the Old Testament program.

It doesn't matter who the preacher is - their seminary credentials - their love for God - or their good intentions.

If they preach this "mixed message" and refuse to embrace the Grace-based changes brought about by the cross - they're preaching a false gospel that carries tragic unintended consequences that may cause its followers to miss heaven. How can this happen? It tricks religious people into placing their faith in their own ability (by doing righteous works) to earn salvation. The New Testament refers to this kind of counterfeit faith as; "walking according to the flesh". Unfortunately, a vast majority of Christians choose this path ... rather than placing their faith solely in the finished work of Jesus Christ that purchased salvation for them as "God's gift". All of this provides a fresh perspective on the Biblical warning ...

"There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12)

Paul also sounds a clear warning
about those who practice this
kind of counterfeit faith ...

"FOR MANY WALK, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame--who set their mind on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-19)

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (or the spiritually inexperienced)." (Romans 16:18)

After the cross, salvation only comes by Grace through faith in Christ alone - without any dependency on works or human merit (Ephesians 2:8-9).


This is Part 1 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available

Part 2 ----- Part 3 ----- Part 4 ----- Part 5
Part 6 ----- Part 7 ----- Part 8 ----- Part 9
Part 10 ----- Part 11 ----- Part 12 ----- Part 13
Part 14


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