Paul vs. James (Pt. 14)
By William Handschumacher
A Special Rock of Offence Bible Study
This is Part 14 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
Final Thoughts and Warnings
In the earlier section involving 'a spiritual checkup', we examine six popular Bible teachings. All six are important because they directly impact our understanding of Christ's salvation. The examination shows that Replacement theology teaches a salvation based on 'faith in Jesus plus good works' - or a mixture of "Jesus plus good works plus grace". However, this understanding, popular in most mainline denominations, is based on Scripture that has been removed from its Divinely ordained context. This is one reason the New Testament refers to teachings that corrupt our understanding of salvation as "a perverted gospel".
Exposing A Popular Misconception
One of the most common ways Christians reverence God is by referring to the Scriptures (the Bible) as "God's Word". This term is often used to emphasize that the Holy Scriptures is God's "final authority" concerning all doctrinal controversies and arguments. As a result, we often hear Christians say; "We should get back to teaching the Bible as God's Word", or - "If the Bible says it, I believe it ... and that settles it". On the surface, there is nothing wrong with these statements of faith. However, what is subtly communicated is that everything recorded in the Bible is what God is commanding the Church to do today ... after the cross. As a result, many think they can arbitrarily pull Scriptures from anywhere in the Bible to defend their beliefs - because it's all God's Word. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous half-truth that causes many to get the wrong idea that God treats sin and the sinner the same way today (after the cross) - as He did in the Old Testament (before the cross). The problem with this popular belief is that the cross of Christ established "A new and living way" (Hebrews 10:19-23) - which makes the old way He previously used before the cross ... obsolete (See Hebrews 8:6-13). In other words, what God previously said about how salvation is obtained 'before the cross' - is not what He is saying today after the cross. As a result, if you ignore Christ's "new and living way" and try to relate with God by using 'the Old Testament way' - He will reject your efforts regardless of how well-intentioned.
"You have become estranged (separated or cut-off) from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law (the Old Testament way); You have fallen from Grace." (Galatians 5:4 -- Emphasis Added)
This is why it's important to understand that God's Word operates according to a unique 'Divine context' that must be respected. The Apostle Paul called it; "rightly dividing the Word" (2 Timothy 2:15). As a result, if Scripture is used "out-of-context" - it ceases to be God's Word and becomes a false religious teaching of men that claims to be the Word of God - but isn't.
Nearly All Heresies Claim
to be God's Word
The contradictions produced by wrongly applying the salvation doctrine of James - to the Church - is the primary reason we now see some ministers leaving what they believe to be "the Christian faith" - in disillusionment. Yet, what they think is 'true Christianity' is actually a religious counterfeit designed around out-of-context Scripture (or what Paul would call a failure to "rightly divide God's Word").
Many church leaders and their followers eagerly tell us what Jesus taught during His earthly ministry before the cross. Yet, few teach about what Jesus is now saying after He purchased our blood-bought salvation and ascended back to heaven. (Hint: It's a radically different message.)
Why is this important part of Christ's Heavenly ministry often ignored?
One reason is that Jesus uses a 'proxy' - the Apostle Paul - to communicate His Divine message. During His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke to his audience 'in the flesh and in person'. But, after ascending back to heaven Jesus uses a special 'spokesman' that continued to live and speak on earth. In this amazing and unique situation, Jesus transports Paul to heaven and gives him the message that couldn't be revealed while He was present on earth (See John 16:12-14). Concerning this extraordinary event that theologians often refer to as "The Pauline Revelation" ... Paul states ;
"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (2 Corinthians 12:2-4 - Emphasis Added)
The inexpressible words Paul heard was the full revelation of "The New Covenant established on God's Grace", which was given to him by the resurrected and now ascended Lord Jesus Christ. Paul said that the words he heard from Christ was "unlawful". Why did Paul use this word? Because Grace removes the Law and its works from the requirements for salvation ... which is now called "The new and living way of Christ" (See Hebrews 10:19-23). Contrary to many popular yet wrong church teachings, the New Covenant was not fully revealed before Jesus gave Paul this revelation (referred to by Bible scholars as "the Pauline Revelation"). This is why the book of Hebrews warn that Jesus continues to speak to us from heaven after the cross and His ascension (See Hebrews 12:22-26).
The reason various church leaders and their followers subtly ignore the words Christ now speaks from heaven ... is because the message comes through 'a human spokesman' (Paul) - and not from Christ directly. They wrongly convince themselves that Paul, as a flawed human-being--along with his radical Gospel message of "salvation by Grace through faith in Christ apart from works" (See Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5-7 and Romans 4:4-8) - contradicts Christ's earthly teaching of "salvation through keeping the Commandments" GIVEN BEFORE THE CROSS (See Matthew 19:16-17). As far as these misguided ministers are concerned, this contradiction proves that Paul's teaching is 'flawed' and should generally be disregarded. They take this position despite the fact that God used Paul to write over half of the New Testament.
The error these ministers and their followers commit--is refusing to respect the Bible's context, which is commonly found in the many distorted teachings of Replacement theology. During His earthly ministry, Jesus correctly taught that salvation is obtained through "keeping the Commandments" ... because He had not yet gone to the cross to pay for our sins. But Paul's evangelistic message (or Gospel) reveals the new way salvation is received after Jesus paid the penalty for our sins at the cross. This "new and living way" (Hebrews 10:19-23) is the message Christ now preaches from heaven as revealed through the Pauline Revelation.
Important Note: There are many ministers and churches within Christendom that choose to disregard the Grace-based writings of Saint Paul for the reasons previously mentioned. This is not some kind of problem found only in "fringe churches or religious cults". It is also found in various main-line denominations that practice "liberal theology and Replacement theology". As a result, you will almost always hear a perverted gospel message from these groups.
To address the difference between the teachings of Jesus and those of Paul, one erring pastor said to his congregation; "Who are you going to believe; Jesus or Paul?"
To correctly answer that kind of misguided question ... you should believe both Jesus and Paul. First, you should believe Jesus, when He describes how salvation was obtained before the cross. But, you should also believe Paul when he tells you THE NEW AND LIVING WAY Jesus Christ (from His current position in heaven) now bestows salvation as God's free gift of eternal life ... after He paid for and then eternally removed our sins through His own blood at the cross.
This brings us to another reason
Christ's heavenly ministry is
often redefined or ignored.
The cross, the resurrection, the
ascension of Christ and the day
of Pentecost--ushered in the
THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING.
Unfortunately, many ministers quietly work to undermine or redefine the changes that expose the flaws in their ministry, which continues to be based on various elements of the previous (and now obsolete) Old Testament program. The changes represent "the new and living way of Christ" ... and it's called "new" for a very good reason. The disagreement is almost always caused by the error of Replacement theology, which its many supporters believe to be "the Word of God" ... but instead represents a spiritual counterfeit established on out-of-context Scripture. We should remember that counterfeits deceive their victims by looking 'nearly identical' to the original. When the gospel is corrupted by a spiritual counterfeit - the power of God, normally found in the authentic Gospel is cut-off. This is why the modern Christian Church is not only powerless, but also continues to slip deeper into apostasy each day as the end of the age approaches.
Real Christians Need to Embrace
the Warning Jesus Gave About
Future Opposition in the Church
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household.'" (Matthew 10: 34-36)
Generally speaking, those who embrace the Christian faith are uncomfortable with the idea that there is both an authentic Church and a false church. Yet, this is exactly what both Jesus and Saint Paul warned about in the New Testament. It means that there is both a real Jesus and counterfeit Jesus (Paul referred to the counterfeit as "another Jesus" in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Paul also referred to those who follow the counterfeit as; "false brethren" (or false Christians) - and said that he did not submit to their counterfeit teachings for even one hour - in order to preserve "the truth of the Gospel" (See Galatians 2:4-5). Later, in his letters to the Church, Paul reveals the reason for his refusal to "get along and compromise". The real Jesus of the authentic Church provides salvation according to Grace as "God's free gift" - but the Jesus of the false church teaches a conditional salvation based on human merit and good works. This means that your eternal destiny may depend upon which group you belong to.
We agree with a growing number of theologians who warn that Replacement theology represents "the religion of the false church and a counterfeit Jesus". However, the real disaster is the vast majority of Christians - and even major denominations - that have adopted this theology as its preferred way to interpret the Bible.
The ministry of Rock of Offence is 'biased' toward the unpopular area of "Christian Apologetics", which attempts to warn about various false teachings and doctrines that often label themselves as "Historical Christianity or Biblical Christianity" - yet are actually old heresies with new names. Our commentaries and Bible studies are never written to deliberately offend anyone. We understand that 'professing Christians' choose to believe the Bible in various different ways - and we want to remain sensitive and tolerant to their choices. But, we also know that they embrace various religious dogmas and traditions which are contrary to what God accepts--as revealed in His Word.
When these contrary doctrines
corrupt our understanding about
how salvation is received - it
can result in the unthinkable
tragedy of "missing heaven".
We certainly agree with the Biblical admonition to "walk in love" with fellow Christians. But, the New Testament also instructs us to "contend for the faith" when dealing with those who embrace and teach a corrupted view of Christ's salvation. Various church leaders, in an attempt to preserve a man-made unity in their congregations, are now attempting to make "walking in love" a Biblical absolute ... when its actually only half of a larger truth. Under this kind of mindset - often referred to as being "seeker sensitive" - it is considered a sin to offend other Christians holding different beliefs. As a result, offense is avoided at all costs and most any personal opinion concerning salvation becomes acceptable. Unfortunately, this "seeker-sensitive" mindset, if allowed to continue, eventually causes Christ's Grace-based salvation to be perverted into something God never intended.
God's solution to this problem is balancing the admonition to "walk in love" - with "contending earnestly for the faith" (or "contending for the truth of the Gospel" - See Jude 1:3-4 and Galatians 2:4-5). The New Testament calls it;
"speaking the truth in love"
This represents a strict "minstry mindset" - where the truth is uncompromisingly taught in a loving and compassionate way - with the full knowledge that it will offend others. This is the way our Lord Jesus Christ taught truth ... and it remains God's acceptable way of teaching Biblical truth today.
We are never to engage in the
practice of avoiding or
restricting truth to obtain
a false man-made "unity", which
is the way most of Christendom
Contrary to popular Christian
opinion; Martin Luther's
Reformation is not over
We started this study by providing some of the motivations behind Luther's Reformation - and will end the study the same way. Luther's main struggle was with the works-based salvation doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church to which he previously belonged. Luther's main "protest" involved the Church's use of the Epistle of James as its foundation for salvation--along with the teachings of what would later be called "Replacement theology" (also known as "Supersessionism")--taught by Augustine of Hippo (considered to be one of the founding fathers of Roman Catholicism). Luther's brand of "Protestantism" correctly embraces the Grace-based salvation doctrine of Saint Paul. This position effectively exposed these erroneous doctrines and greatly angered the Catholic leadership to which he previously belonged. As a result, many modern-day Catholics (but thankfully not all) despise Martin Luther, who re-established "salvation by Grace through faith in Christ" (Ephesians 2:8-9) ... and happened to be right.
Important Note: Readers should understand that our support of Martin Luther does not mean that we also support the doctrine of the modern-day Lutheran denomination that carries his name. In our opinion, this mainline denomination, along with various others, departed from Luther's original evangelical doctrine of being "justified freely by faith in Christ alone" (Romans 3:24-26) and embraced the misleading tenants of liberal theology--many years ago.
Sometime around 1958, Roman Catholicism experienced what is often called; "The Catholic Charismatic Renewal". Sweeping changes took place that caused many Catholics (including some of its more influential leaders) to question long held traditions and beliefs ... and embrace Saint Paul's Grace-based position on salvation from the New Testament. This revival, obviously sent from God, was so strong that it eventually found its way into the Vatican. However, the "Renewal movement" (that lasted more than 45 years) was not strong enough.
With the election of a new Pope, the Roman Catholic Church has now, for the most part, reversed course and returned to its original beliefs established by the Council of Trent of 1545. Even worse, its current Pope is now leading an ungodly effort (also embraced by various Protestant church leaders) to create a new "One World Religion" known as "Chrislam", which merges Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Various modern-day Bible scholars believe this is the corrupt "One World Religion" that rules during the Tribulation period--which starts 7 years before "The Second Coming of Christ" - according to Scripture. As a result, the latter (or current) state of the Roman Catholic Church is now worse than it was during Luther's day.
The real tragedy is what happened to the original Reformation movement of the 1500's. Many Protestants tend to forget that the Reformation actually had two leaders; Martin Luther and John Calvin. But, Calvin was a devout disciple of Augustine of Hippo (some like to refer to him as "Saint Augustine") - who is considered to be the founding father of Roman Catholicism. Augustine embraced the works-based salvation of James. As a result of his devout commitment, Calvin simply took Augustine's Catholic doctrine (or what is now referred to as "Replacement theology") and reworded it to sound "Protestant".
Some church historians see this as an infiltration (designed by the Catholic leadership of that day) to destroy Luther's movement from within. Whether this is true or not - the result is the same. Today, there are more so called "Protestants" who follow the works-based salvation doctrine of Calvin--than the Grace-based teachings of "savlation by Grace through faith alone" ... as taught by Luther and Saint Paul.
This means that the apostasy
that now dominates the so called
"Christian Church" demands the
continuation of the effort
started by Marin Luther over
500 years ago. That effort is
to defend the Grace-based
salvation doctrine of Saint
Paul, which also means...
Is Not Over
More information about Martin Luther
and John Calvin is available at the
John Calvin vs. Martin Luther
The method of interpretation used by Replacement theology (injected into Christian doctrine by Augustine of Hippo around 400 A.D.) tends to treat Israel and the Church as being 'interchangeable'. This is where the Church, as "the new Israel", is now said to "replace original Israel" in Scripture. This belief creates many unbiblical doctrines that continues to lead Christians astray. We could cite countless examples. This is why our original intention for this study is to address the popular error, empowered by Replacement theology, of mixing the works-based salvation doctrine of James - with the Grace-based salvation doctrine of the Apostle Paul.
Why is it called error?
The New Testament warns that "Works and Grace" (also referred to as "Law and Grace") are mutually exclusive--where one cancels out the other. If "salvation by works" is preached--then it automatically eliminates Grace. But, if "salvation by Grace" is preached--then it automatically eliminates all works (See Romans 11:6 and Romans 4:4-8). However, when works and grace are mixed together (as a vast majority of professing Christians attempt to do) a "perverted gospel" is created that God ultimately rejects (see Paul's warning in Galatians 1:6-8). This "mixing" occurs when churches use the works-based salvation doctrine of James (specifically addressed in the salutation to: "the Twelve tribes of Israel") ... and wrongly applies it to the Church.
Why is this gross violation of context allowed to exist?
Because Replacement theology falsely teaches that the Church is now "the new Israel".
Once again, the perverted gospel created by this belief is the one most (but thankfully not all) Christian churches embrace today. Yet, here is the danger: This type of gospel continues to sound like it is based on Scripture--but the Scripture used in its defense has been lifted from its Divinely intended context.
In his "Epistles to the Church"
Saint Paul warns that this mixed
works plus grace gospel
Important Note: God often used the experiences of Old Testament Israel as a "type and shadow" of what the Church will experience in the future. Israel's exodus from Egypt, made possible by "the blood of a lamb painted on the doorposts of their house", was a picture of Jesus as the Christian's "Passover Lamb" whose blood made their exodus from the 'bondage of sin' (a type of Egypt) possible. Many important "types and shadows" exist in the Old Testament. However, the mistake made by those who embrace Replacement theology is thinking that these "types and shadows" prove that Israel and the Church should be treated the same (or treated as being "interchangeable" in Scripture). Israel and the Church can never be "interchangeable" because God related with Israel through "the Mosaic Covenant of the Law" - but relates with the Church in a radically different way through the Grace-based "New Covenant of Christ."
Once again, God continues to require all Christians to perform good works and 'conform their conduct' to what is often referred to as "the Bible's moral code" (or Ten Commandments). But, He also warns that the works and obedience connected to these efforts are never to be used as requirements or preconditions to obtain His gift of eternal life. This means that salvation (eternal life) is 'uniquely isolated' from the rest of Christian life and character. What causes this isolation? If even one 'work' is added as a requirement it makes God's gift of eternal life - nonsensical. Yet, all Christians should pursue good works and moral conduct for reasons other than obtaining eternal life.
There is so much that needs to be said about this controversial topic of 'Paul vs James'. Yet, we feel this study has already exceeded its intended length ... and will leave the reader with the following Scriptural admonition :
"Stand fast therefore in
the liberty by which Christ has
made us free (the New Covenant),
and do not be entangled again
with a yoke of bondage."
This is Part 14 of a fourteen-part Bible study.
The other parts of this study are available
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