Paul vs. James (Pt. 6)

By William Handschumacher

A Special Rock of Offence Bible Study





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This is Part 6 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
below.

Part 1 ----- Part 2 ----- Part 3 ----- Part 4
Part 5 ----- Part 7 ----- Part 8 ----- Part 9
Part 10 ----- Part 11 ----- Part 12 ----- Part 13
Part 14

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In his Epistle to the Galatians,
Paul provides more details
concerning these two "programs
of salvation" described in Acts
chapter 15.




"....the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me (Paul), as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) And when James, Cephas (or Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen (uncircumcised), and they (meaning James, Peter and John) should go to the circumcision (or the Jews)." (Galatians 2:7-9 - Emphasis and Clarifications Added)



The first thing we should notice is the two versions of the gospel mentioned by Paul in this passage; The gospel of the uncircumcision (given to the mostly uncircumcised Gentile Church) ... and the gospel of the circumcision (given to the Jews or Israelites as the circumcision). We should then notice that God called Paul and Barnabas to preach the gospel of the uncircumcision - but called James, Peter and John to preach the gospel of the circumcision - which is designed only for Jewish people, who Jesus also referred to as "the House of Israel" living during that time.


This separation of apostolic teams
perfectly aligns with Christ's
original command (discussed earlier)
for His disciples to "only go to
the lost sheep of the House of
Israel" (See Matthew 10:5-6).
Our Lord's command included James,
John and Peter, who are the ones
Paul specifically singled-out in
Galatians 2:7-9.



Many good Bible teachers and church leaders believe that these two gospels mentioned in Galatians 2:7-9 are the same. Convincing explanations are then offered from Scripture to make it seem that this is true. As a result, we understand that this long-standing argument will never be resolved here. Yet, Paul was obviously taking great care to keep these gospels separated, which is a warning that they are indeed different. Additional evidence is created by the need for a unique ministry team to be assigned to each one. If both gospels were the same, it wouldn't be necessary to separate them in such a way ... and any of the leading apostles would be authorized to preach them to anyone. However, this was not the case. The gospel to the circumcision (or the Jews) taught a 'conditional salvation' that was obtained through obedience to the Law plus faith in Christ (the Messiah)...

While the gospel to the uncircumcision (or the Church) provides salvation by Grace - through faith in Christ alone (apart from works) with no dependence on the Law.

This 'removal of the Law' changed salvation from being "conditional" on obedience to the Law and its works ... to a benefit freely given to the Church according to Grace--without works ... also changing it into "the gift of God" as described in Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5-7.

This is why Paul made the
following statment to the
Church ...also called
"the uncircumcision".


"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)

"For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)




Why the Decision of the First
Jerusalem Council is Important




The core issue facing the Apostolic Council in Acts chapter 15 wasn't that the doctrine of these "believing Pharisees", which was designed to be taught only to the Jewish people - was wrong. The error was insisting that their Law-based Jewish doctrine (identified earlier in this study as Messianic Judaism) must also be applied to the Church living under Christ's New Covenant of Grace. Since this involved an act that effectively cancels the Grace on which the Church's salvation is established ... the Apostolic Council was correct to condemn their teaching.

The struggle between these two gospels outlined in Acts chapter 15, and later in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, continues within modern-day Christendom and poses the same threat to the authentic Gospel as it did in the first century.

The Gospel Paul preaches to the
Church (which includes all
Christians living today) is not
the same as the one James preaches
to the Jews living among the
twelve tribes of Israel in his
Epistle


In Galatians 2:7-9, it's important
to notice that James was part of
the group appointed by God to
preach the gospel of the
circumcision to the Jewish people;
which is a gospel that also
incorporates the works of the Law
into its requirements to obtain
salvation. James plainly stated
this requirement when he said...


What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself. (James 2:14-17)

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:21-24)

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:26)


On the other hand, we must also notice
that James was not part of the group
that was authorized to preach
the gospel of the uncircumcision
to the Church, which was "dead to
the Law" and "delivered from the
Law"...causing it to now be under
God's unmerited favor known as
Grace. (See Romans 7:4-6)

Paul made this important distinction
when he said...


"...not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7)

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

"And if by Grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6)


In his gospel message to the Twelve
Tribes of Israel, James clearly
states that works must accompany
faith to obtain salvation...

"...if a man say he hath faith,
but have not works? can that faith
save him?" (James 2:14)

And...

"Ye see then how that by works a man
is justified, and not by faith only
(James 2:24).



However, in his gospel message directed
at the Church (which includes all
Christians living today), Paul states
that it is now possible to possess a
faith that obtains salvation, yet is
not accompanied by works...


"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on him (or has faith in Jesus) who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." (Romans 4:4-8)

And...

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)



There is no way any honest church
leader can say that James and Paul
are saying the same thing. Yet,
for hundreds of years, theologians
have tried to reconcile this
apparent contradiction that
continues to divide Christendom
today.


The most common explanation is that James is only emphasizing that real faith should produce good works, which is certainly a truth that applies to all Christians living today. However, in most cases all discussion ends here. But, when a careful examination is performed on all of James chapter 2, we find that this popular explanation is designed to hide something important. James is not giving Christians a model for Christ-like living - but preaching a gospel (or doctrine of salvation) that requires both faith and works - for he said; "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:24).

[Important Note: As we discovered earlier in this study; Justification is a New Testament term directly connected to salvation (See Romans 3:24-26]


As a result, James is clearly saying that works is necessary for salvation - for he said; "...if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?" (James 2:14).

However, Paul stated the exact
opposite when he said...


"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on him (or has faith in Jesus) who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin." (Romans 4:4-8)

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)


The real issue here is Paul's Gospel of Grace vs the conditional salvation provided through the Law. Paul's Gospel is directed at the Church, while the conditional salvation of the Law (based on works) is always directed at the Jews - who are sometimes referred to as "The Twelve Tribes of Israel". Here's the problem: Grace and works cancel each other out when mixed together, which is why Paul gives this warning to the Church:

"And if by Grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6)


Paul's gospel message to the Church declares that salvation only comes "By Grace through faith" (Ephesians 2:8-9), which can never require any kind of works. If even one good work is added as a requirement, then the Grace by which we are saved is cancelled.

This is an important distinction
involving 'Biblical context'
that directly affects our
understanding of New Testament
salvation.





*****************************************************

This is Part 6 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
below.

Part 1 ----- Part 2 ----- Part 3 ----- Part 4
Part 5 ----- Part 7 ----- Part 8 ----- Part 9
Part 10 ----- Part 11 ----- Part 12 ----- Part 13
Part 14

*****************************************************




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