Paul vs. James (Pt. 7)

By William Handschumacher

A Special Rock of Offence Bible Study


This is Part 7 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available

Part 1 ----- Part 2 ----- Part 3 ----- Part 4
Part 5 ----- Part 6 ----- Part 8 ----- Part 9
Part 10 ----- Part 11 ----- Part 12 ----- Part 13
Part 14


Why There is No Contradiction

An official warning that
reveals the unique context
of the Epistle of James is
found in his opening
salutation :

James, a servant of God and
of the Lord Jesus Christ,
to the twelve tribes
which are of the Dispersion,

greeting. (James 1:1)

Many times in the New Testament a particular book or letter contains a statment identifying the group to whom it was written. This is important, because the Bible consists of two major covenant programs ... and the groups ruled by them. Each covenant is governed by a different set of laws or tenants. One group is Israel - that operates under the Old Testament program of the Law. The other group is the Church - that operates under the New Covenant of Christ.

The Bible translators wanted to make sure that Paul's intended audience was understood. As a result, his writings are clearly identified as; "The Epistles of Saint Paul to the Church". These epistles (or letters) to the Church represent over half of the entire New Testament.

But in the salutation previously quoted, James is telling everyone that his writings are not addressed to the Church - but to the "Twelve Tribes of Israel". This means that if we accept this clear target audience for his epistle - many traditional Christian teachings which are based on the salvation doctrine of James are exposed as religious error. For example; Roman Catholicism establishes its works-based salvation doctrine on the Epistle of James (written to the "Twelve Tribes of Israel"); rather than on the Grace-based Epistles of Saint Paul written to the Church. Also, many Protestant churches that embrace various brands of Calvinism and Reformed theology do the same thing. This is why there is such an organized effort within Christendom to ignore or "explain away" the salutation - in order to make the works-based salvation doctrine of James appear to be legally binding upon the Church.

This results in making the
Grace-based Gospel of Christ
dependent upon both works and
Grace, which effectively
cancels the Grace by which we
(the Gentile Church) are

Both James and Paul are correct in what they say. This means that during any face-to-face meeting, James and Paul would never argue about who was right - since each one understood that their individual ministries are Divinely directed at two different groups; Israel and the Church.

The real issue here is one of Biblical context, where James is addressing one group (the Twelve Tribes of Israel) - and Paul is addressing a different group; the Church. The evangelistic messages (the salvation doctrines) are different because the target audiences and the covenant programs they are under ... are different. The problem is caused by those in the world-wide Christian Church who insist on either ignoring or abusing the context of Scripture in order to defend their doctrine. Unfortunately, treating Scripture in such a way, creates one of the most dangerous heresies discussed in the New Testament.

A High Degree of Discernment
is Necessary When Reading
the Epistle of James

As we stated at the beginning of this study, the Bible contains two primary categories of information.

FIRST CATEGORY: There are various types of information and universal truths that applies to everyone. Historical facts (such as the six days of creation - and the flood), genealogies and Bible prophecy fall into this category. For example, approximately one third of all Scripture deals with Bible Prophecy. The Ten Commandments are also included in this category and serves as a "moral code of conduct" that applies to everyone - with the understanding that failing to keep these rules does not revoke God's free gift of eternal life following the crucifixion of Christ. All of this information - and more - generally exists for educational purposes and instruction in Godly behavior and spiritual service. However, this category of information does not govern salvation - or have the ability to revoke it if ignored.

SECOND CATEGORY: The Bible consists of two major covenant programs. The Translators referred to these programs as; the Old Testament (or Old Covenant Law) - and the New Testament (or the New Covenant of Christ). Specific information is provided by Scriptures that reveal the radically different way each of these covenant programs operate ... and why God treats each group differently. Old Testament Law (based on works) and the New Covenant of Christ (based on Grace) are each governed by a different set of rules and principles. They are never to be mixed together because God provides salvation under the Old Testament program of the Law in a different way ... when compared with how He provides salvation under the New Covenant of Christ that started after the cross. This is why the New Testament warns that all Scripture must be "rightly divided" into these two primary covenant programs to avoid heresy and other forms of serious error (2 Timothy 2:15).

We often quote the following Scripture that clearly illustrates these two programs and why they must be "rightly divided".

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (the New Covenant) has made me free from the law of sin and death (Old Covenant Law). For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us (or imputed to us) who do not walk according to the flesh (or trying to earn salvation through works and religious merit) but according to the Spirit (or our faith in the finished work of Christ that does not require our works)." (Romans 8:1-4--Emphasis and Comments Added)

Why do we go into such detail
concerning these issues?

Some accuse us of "throwing out"
the Epistle of James because
it wasn't addressed to the
Christian Church.

This accusation is false for
the following reason :

The Epistle of James also contains
information and universal truths
that can benefit all Christians
living today.

The problem becomes evident when we: Fail to "rightly divide" the works-based salvation message of James directed at the Jews living among the "Twelve Tribes" ... with the Grace-based salvation message given to the Church through Saint Paul. In this situation, Grace involves a unique type of faith, initiated by the finished work of Christ at the cross. As a result no accompanying works to obtain salvation are required - because Jesus completed all the work for us. This now makes His salvation ... the gift of God (Once again, see Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:4-8 and Titus 3:5-7). In Romans 10:8-13, Saint Paul calls this kind of gospel message; "the word of faith which we preach" - which activates salvation through the confession of our mouth ... when we confess Jesus as Lord.

(Important Note: What Paul refers to as "the word of faith" should not be confused with the modern-day "Word of Faith" movement.)

Concerning the subject of salvation and the time frame during which the Epistle was written ... the works-based salvation doctrine of James is right for the Jews to whom he is speaking - but wrong for Christian believers to whom he is not speaking. This is why Paul was careful to point out that Peter, James and John was appointed by God to preach "the gospel of the circumcision" ... where the word circumcision is a term that only applies to the Jews (Israel) and never the Church (Galatians 2:7-9).

It's important to remember that everything in the Bible is there for the education of Christian believers, which includes the Epistle of James. But, not everything in the Bible is "legally binding" concerning the salvation of the Christian.

Discerning the Times

Many within Orthodox Christianity are offended when anyone claims that there is more than one way to obtain salvation. However, a correct discussion of this subject is directly connected to its time frame - or place in history.

If we are only talking about
"today" - then it is correct
to say that there is only
one valid gospel.

However, this was not the
case in the first century
during the time the New
Testament Scriptures were

Any honest minister or student of the Bible can easily see that the Holy Scriptures contains two major systems of faith ... where each one provides salvation according to a different set of rules. Each set of rules is known as a "covenant". It was so important to keep these covenants separated that the Bible translators wisely divided the Scriptures into two parts; The Old Testament (or Old Covenant) and the New Testament (or New Covenant). Generally speaking, the Old Testament consisted of the time before the cross and was governed by the Law given to Israel through Moses at Mount Sinai. The earthly ministry of Jesus Christ took place during this "Old Covenant of the Law" - where much of His teaching (especially on the subject of salvation) was performed according to its work-based tenants (See Galatians 4:4-5). The New Testament (or New Covenant) was initiated at the cross through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son. The new covenant couldn't officially begin to govern until the Holy Spirit arrived on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Once again, each of these "systems of faith" provide salvation according to a different set of covenant rules, making it illegal to mix them together.

Today, God only honors the program that His Son established at the cross; the New Covenant of Christ. Saint Paul's "Epistles to the Church" reveals the full details of this covenant. Yet, during the time of the first century church, two valid systems existed ... which are recorded in the pages of the New Testament. God had a good reason to allow these two programs to temporarily overlap.


This is Part 7 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available

Part 1 ----- Part 2 ----- Part 3 ----- Part 4
Part 5 ----- Part 6 ----- Part 8 ----- Part 9
Part 10 ----- Part 11 ----- Part 12 ----- Part 13
Part 14


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