Paul vs. James (Pt. 10)
By William Handschumacher
A Special Rock of Offence Bible Study
This is Part 10 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
Where the Scriptural Evidence Leads Us
The very first thing all serious students of the Bible must embrace is as follows: Contrary to popular Christian thinking - the teachings of Church leaders and mainstream denominational doctrines, which includes Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Charismatic and Independent - do not necessarily represent the official principles and rules by which God operates. Only the Holy Scriptures hold this place in God's overall redemptive program. This is why we must look at two Scriptural perspectives when considering the controversy of Paul vs. James.
The Perspective of the First Century Church...
Involves the conditions that existed during the time the New Testament was written. We should remember that this was a time of transition from Old Testament Law - to New Testament Grace (also known as Christ's New Covenant) ... where the writings (especially those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James - and partially Acts) continue its ties to the law-based program. This transitional time period ran from approximately 3 B.C. (Christ's birth) to sometime after 100 A.D. (or 30 years after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish temple). Exact dates are not known.
As we previously discovered, Paul
reveals (in Galatians 2:7-9) the
existence of two major programs
of salvation (or gospels) that
existed during his ministry.
The gospel of the circumcision
The gospel of the uncircumcision
Important Reminder: the word 'circumcision' is a Biblical term that applies exclusively to the Jews (Israel) who continue to live under the conditional salvation of Old Testament Law. The word 'uncircumcision' is a term that applies exclusively to the new Gentile Chruch (now consisting of both Jews and Gentiles), which is no longer subject to Old Testament Law--but is now under Grace (See Romans 6:14). Obedience to Old Testament Law must be removed from the requirments for the salvation of the Church ... because it is illegal to apply the Law (or make the Law binding) upon Gentiles. Saint Paul emphasized this truth by saying:
"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." (Words of Saint Paul from Romans 7:4-6)
Earlier in this study we learned that these two gospels are not the same because they are each governed by a different set of rules (known as 'a covenant') - and are directed at two different groups of people. We also learned that God was "phasing out" the one established on the Law, which was directed exclusively at the circumcision. This "phasing out" of the law-based program is also described as something that is "growing old and vanishing away" in Hebrews 8:13. God was allowing this temporary overlap to give Israel (the circumcision) a chance to repent from their rejection of Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach); their true Messiah. However, they did not repent and God moved ahead with His New Covenant program under the authority of Saint Paul as it's chief apostle.
It's important to understand that Israel is not being "phased out" (or permanently excluded) from God's New Covenant program; as some ministers falsely teach. The New Covenant is now designed to bring all uncircumcised races of the earth (known as the Gentiles) into Christ's salvation. When the New Covenant was first made available to the Gentiles at the household of Cornelius in Acts chapter 10 ... we later discover that it also includes anyone belonging to the circumcision (Israel) who wanted to participate with the Gentiles in "Christ's new and living way".
However, this 'joint participation' with the Gentiles had a stumbling block that the Jews (as the circumcision) had to overcome. They needed to accept the new rules that removes (or 'abolishes' - according to Ephesians 2:11-22 or 'annuls' - according to Hebrews Hebrews 7:11-22) the previous program of the Law that was now vanishing away; according to Hebrews 8:6-13). To benefit from Christ's Grace-based salvation there could be no dependence upon the Law. The New Testament defines Grace as; God's favor expressed in His free gift of eternal life - given without any requirement for human merit or any 'work' demanded by "Law-keeping". On the subject of salvation - this means that Grace and Law are mutually exclusive according to the New Covenant. Where Grace exists, Law cannot exist - and where Law exists, the Grace by which we are saved cannot exist. This is why the New Testament states:
"For sin shall not have dominion over you: FOR YE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW, BUT UNDER GRACE." (Romans 6:14)
"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)
"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)
Here's the problem:
Most traditional Jews, who continue to respect the Law, find it nearly impossible (and certainly offensive) to submit to this New Covenant requirement. Yet, God's invitation to all members of the Jewish race remains open ... if they will accept their Messiah's new rules now established upon His finished redemptive work at the cross. Thankfully, some accepted this invitation--and joined a new program that is now governed by the resurrected Yeshua HaMashiach - who is both the Jewish Messiah and Lord of the Church. They have found that Messiah's new program (also known as the New Covenant) is far better than the one they previously lived under. (Note: Yeshua HaMashiach is the Hebrew name for Jesus Christ)
Since the New Covenant focuses primarily on the Gentiles, it seems as if the Jews are being reduced to a subordinate position. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
In Jeremiah chapter 31, we learn that God's original intention was to offer the New Covenant to Israel ... first. This is why the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah (also quoted in the 8th chapter of Hebrews) seems to indicate that it is only meant for Israel "and the house of Judah". Yet, Israel rejected Yeshua's New Covenant salvation (See Acts 13:44-52). As a result, God “went around” their disobedience and extended these incredible New Covenant benefits (including God's gift of eternal life) directly to all Gentile races. But, Paul was always careful to preserve God's original intentions, by making it clear that the Jew must always be "first".
This is why Paul made statements such as ...
"For I am not ashamed of the
Gospel of Christ: for it is
the power of God unto
salvation to every one that
To the Jew first,
and also to the Greek."
As previously noted, Paul
often treated the words
'Greek and Gentile' as
being equal and
More information is available on
this subject in the following
Why Did Saint Paul Use The
Phrase "To the Jew First"
in His Epistles?
The annulling of the old covenant program
of the Law is a Divine act that we refer
to as, "Heaven's Royal Proclamation" and
is covered in more detail HERE
The Perspective of the Modern-Day Church...
Involves the conditions that exist - Today. The transition from Old Testament Law - to New Testament Grace ended over 1900 years ago. As a result, the mostly Gentile Church is now under New Testament Grace - and is ruled by only one covenant; The New Covenant of Christ and its Gospel of Grace...as taught by the chief Apostle of the Church--Saint Paul. There is now only one true Gospel, which causes Paul to proclaim this warning to all church leaders and Christians living today:
"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed."
Both this perspective and the one previously mentioned involving the first century church are necessary for any serious study of the Scriptures.
Clarifying Some Misunderstood
Terminology and Truths
Throughout history, one of the major problems plaguing the Christian Church continues to be an unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of two major covenant programs in the Bible ... where God 'replaces' the older program and its imperfect 'conditional salvation', with a newer and better program established on the precious blood of His Son. Many Church leaders and denominations (but thankfully not all) do not like to admit, especially to their congregations, that Christ's finished work at the cross fulfills and then cancels the older program of the Bible that operated before the cross.
However, if the previous program
is canceled or annulled it must
then be 'replaced'...and in this
case it is replaced with something
This is why Hebrews chapter 8 now refers to the previous program as being "obsolete". One clear example (but not the only one) involves the offering of animal sacrifices to atone for sin - as required by Old Testament Law. However, this practice and the program it represents is "replaced" following the final sacrifice of Jesus as "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world". As a result, God now warns that this imperfect law-based practice (and the program it is connected to) - does not apply to Christians living during the Church Age. How is this possible? Jesus Christ, God's Son, replaced it with His blood-bought "new and living way" (also known as the New Covenant) established on Grace. As a result, God declares His previous Old Testament law-based program to now be "annulled" when the new program (or New Covenant) begins to govern. (See Hebrews 7:18-19 quoted below).
This means that God now rejects
anyone who attempts to relate with
Him using the now obsolete rules
and principles of the old program.
"For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment (the law) because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope (the New Covenant), through which we draw near to God." (Hebrews 7:18-19 Note: Annul means to make legally invalid or void)
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." (Hebrews 8:6-7)
"In that He (Jesus Christ) says, "a new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13)
"Therefore by the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight". (Romans 3:20)
"You have become estranged (separated or cut-off) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; You have falledn from Grace." (Galatians 5:4)
It's important to understand that God Himself established the old law-based program ... and it was the same God Who then replaced it with the New Covenant program of His Son following the cross. Various ministers, who are on the wrong side of this argument like to respond by saying; "No one changes God's Laws!". This may sound good in a sermon on Sunday morning, but it's actually a dangerous half-truth--because...
Man isn't the one changing
God's Law - God is changing
His own Law.
In the previous paragraphs, we deliberately use the word "replace" to illustrate an important truth. The cross of Christ caused many of the laws governing salvation under the Old Testament Program - 'to be replaced' by a set of new and better laws, where God now offers His salvation as a free gift. We see this act of "replacing" in Romans 8:1-4 :
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son..."
This is why we correctly use the words "replace or replacing" to describe this radical change initiated by Christ. However, there is a popular theology that dominates a majority of churches - and uses this idea of "replacing" to literally rewrite and redefine the entire body of Scripture. As a result, it also redefines (Saint Paul uses the word "perverts" in Galatians 1:6-8) Christ's salvation into something God never intended.
This is Part 10 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
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