The Case Against James Part 1 of 7

Revised and edited for the GR – your comments welcome.

1. Paul’s Gospel.
2. The Book of Acts; Division in the Church.
3 . Epistles to A Church Divided.
4. Galatians: Justification by Faith.
5. The Epistle of James.
6. Summary and Overview.
7. Peter and John: Food for Thought.
8. Return to Index (Intro)
9. Return to Top

Ps 119:162 (CLV) I am elated over Your promise Like one finding much loot.

Before we begin to examine the biblical evidence of the case against James, we must first establish an overview of the other areas of scripture that shed the most light on this topic. Those are Paul’s gospel, the history of the division of the first century church presented in the book of Acts, and Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. I’ll handle those subjects in that order and then examine the book of James as it relates to those scriptures. Hopefully all honest questions will be answered. I don’t hope to persuade all readers to change their minds regarding James, but I do hope to explain fully why I believe such a stance is justified.

Let’s start in Romans. Romans begins by identifying Paul as an ” apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” Paul’s calling to proclaim the gospel, his claims of apostleship (supported by the other Apostles) and the essentials of the gospel preached by Paul, are necessary to understanding Paul’s theology. Romans 1:16 summarizes the importance of the gospel.

Rom 1:16 (CLV) For not ashamed am I of the evangel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who is believing – to the Jew first, and to the Greek as well.”

This is a good time to establish exactly what “salvation” is. There are two words used in the New Testament and referenced exhaustively within Christianity, and are generally quite confused.
I have often asked groups of people, if they would tell me the difference between the two words “redemption” and “salvation”. You may try this for yourself and you will probably find your results are the same as mine. 80% of the people will tell you they are the same. 10% of the people will tell you they don’t know. And the last 10% of the people will tell you they are different. This exemplifies very simply, that within Christianity, these two words which in the Greek are worlds apart, have morphed into the same meaning in English. For the purposes of this book redemption is that which happened at the cross for all of humanity. Salvation is our gradual assimilation of all that entails and its application to our lives. Salvation in the New Testament, is consistently portrayed as something affecting our minds and souls more than anything else.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes; Jews and Gentiles. The gospel is by definition, the preaching of the saving power of God to both Jew and Gentile. This unifying power of the gospel is echoed throughout Paul’s epistles and is an essential part of the understanding of the mystery. This part of the mystery, cannot be over emphasised, that is to say, that the gospel of Paul without the inclusion of Jew and Gentile being made one, falls apart. It is, in fact, an, if not the core of his gospel.

Eph. 3:6 (MNirror Bible) The essence of what I see reveals the fact that the multitude of humanity are joint participants in the same inheritance (together with Israel). We are all part of one and the same body in Christ. The Good news is that God’s promise is equally relevant and applicable to all. 

What else does Romans tell us about the gospel? Look at 1:17

Rom 1:17 (CLV) For in it God’s righteousness is being revealed, out of faith for faith, according as it is written: “Now the just one by faith shall be living.”

The “righteous one” mentioned here is not you and I, but Christ alone – the only righteous one who had ever lived before the cross, in perfect alignment with His Father. In fact Habakkuk prophesied exactly this BUT … added the Word “HIS”  Hab 2:4 (KJV) Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

In the gospel is the unveiling of the righteousness of God which is received by faith! The important distinction of the “righteousness of God” is another truth that cannot be overstated. This was a revolutionary concept. Throughout all of the history of Israel, they had striven for righteousness. But all their efforts were aimed at attaining man’s righteousness, not God’s. There is of course a world of difference. The Old Testament law was limited. It could only provide a way for man to work out his righteousness.

Deut 6:25 (KJV) And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us.

Unfortunately, as the Bible points out, “our righteousness” is pretty weak. Isaiah 64:6 says, “and all our righteousness’s are as filthy rags;”. What Paul’s gospel –or rather, the gospel of God – revealed was not man’s righteousness, but God’s Own righteousness given freely to man.

Phillipians 3:9 (Mirror Bible) So here I am; found in Christ! I was looking in the wrong place all along! My own duty- and guilt-driven religious endeavor snared me in the cul-de-sac maze of self-righteousness, sponsored by the law of works! The faith of Christ reveals my identity; righteousness defines who God believes that I really am. This righteousness is sourced in God and endorses the authority of faith. (Faith is a fairy tale if Jesus is not the substance of it!)

The law had limited man to his own “filthy rags” righteousness. The gospel reveals God’s righteousness to us. Furthermore, it is not achieved or received by the works of the law, but by the faith in Jesus Christ, as is boldly and plainly declared of Romans 3:21-24.

Rom 3:21-24 (KJVA) But now the righteousness of God without (apart from) the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 (And are) being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

So the gospel reveals that no longer are God’s blessings reserved for the Jews, they are given freely to both Jews and Gentiles. The gospel reveals that no longer is humanity limited to its own “filthy rags” righteousness, but it has been imputed with the righteousness of God.
Note also that the gospel reveals that the righteousness of God is accomplished not by works, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. (Rom 3:22 above)

It was the work of Christ and Christ alone that secured the redemption and righteousness of all humanity.

Romans 5:18 (Mirror Bible) The conclusion is clear: it took just one offense to condemn mankind; one act of righteousness declares the same mankind innocent. (Phillips translation: “We see then, that as one act of sin expsed the whole race of men to condemnation, so one act of perfect righteousness presents all men freely acquitted in the sight of God!”)

When was the Gospel first preached?

It may surprise you to learn that the gospel was first preached, not on the day of Pentecost, but quite a few years later, and nowhere near Jerusalem, where the mother church resided! This is a surprising concept, but is attested to by Philippians 4:15

Phil 4:15 (KJV) Now you Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but you only.

Please note that Philippians places the beginning of the gospel at the time of Paul’s departure from Macedonia. Paul’s first visit to Macedonia is mentioned in Acts chapter 16. If we take into account Galatians 1:16 where Paul says that after his conversion, “immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” but went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia, the earliest possible time for “the beginning of the gospel is about ten years AFTER the day of Pentecost! So according to Paul, the gospel began to be preached around that time. So what was going on during all those years in Jerusalem when the “apostles doctrine” was being preached? Wasn’t that the gospel? Not according to God’s Word.

Surely, you say, the apostles preached the gospel on the day of Pentecost and to the multitudes who believed. Surely the gospel was the apostles doctrine of Acts 2:42. Apparently not. The word “gospel” used in Philippians 4:15 is the Greek word evangellion. The word evangellion is a noun and it is not used once during this period in Acts.

There is a similar word used in Acts 8 which we should consider.

Acts 8:25 (KJVA) And they, when they (the Apostles) had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans (on the way).

The phrase “preached the gospel” is the verb form, evangellizo which is transliterated into English as “evangelize”. Being the verb form of the word gospel, it is very similar to the word in Philippians 4:15. I believe God had this written to show a very significant step in the direction of the gospel. Phillip was one of the seven appointed to settle a dispute among the Hebrews and the Grecians. For a thorough discussion of this topic please refer to David A. Anderson’s book, The Two Ways of the First Century Church, pp 55-75. Phillip was a man full of the holy spirit and faith (Acts 6:3-5) who, after the murder of Stephen, went to Samaria and ministered great deliverance and joy to that city by speaking the word of Christ and demonstrating the power and kingdom of God. Phillip was harvesting the crop Jesus Christ had planted himself and spoken of in Samaria. There is a remarkable statement in the record of Jesus’ visit to Samaria that becomes quite relevant to the understanding of the gospel.

John 4:7-9 (MSG) A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” 8(His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.) 9The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. And yet, Phillip went to Samaria to preach the Word of Christ. This is the first step taken toward God’s goal of heralding the power of God unto salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek. The first use of the noun “gospel” (evangellion) in Acts is in 15:7.

Acts 15:7 (CLV) Now, there coming to be much questioning, rising, Peter said to them, “Men! Brethren! You are versed in the fact that from the days at the beginning God chooses among you, that through my mouth the nations are to hear the word of the evangel and believe.”

Notice that the first use of the word “gospel” in Acts refers to Peter’s preaching to the gentiles! In light of the inclusion of the Gentiles in Romans 1:16, the significance of this cannot be overstated. All of these truths are essential to the understanding of the mystery that was revealed to Paul by revelation of Jesus Christ, of which Paul wrote in Romans 16:25 & 26, I Corinthians 2:7-10, Ephesians 3:1-9, and Colossians 1:25-29. God revealed something to Paul that He had kept a secret for ages. That the Church of Christ was One body, a perfect unity of all humanity, both with each other and with God Himself. Perfect Unity – no more Dualism.

Romans says the Mystery was made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. I Corinthians states boldly that if “the princes of this world”, Satan’s kingdom, had known of the glory that would be revealed in us, they would never have crucified the Lord! That is one of the most breathtaking statements in the New Testament. Satan would rather have the Lord himself still alive and ministering on the earth than fight against the Church of the Body of Christ, the New Creation.

Ephesians says that, in this outpouring of God’s grace, the Gentiles are fellowheirs and of the same body, partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel. Now, Gentiles were given a full share of God’s promise in Christ. That promise was originally given to Abraham the father of faith, and was thought to have been made only to Israel. No one throughout the ages of the reign of David and his heirs even imagined that the Lord would invite the heathen to share fully with Israel of his grace and goodness. And yet that is exactly what the prophets of old foresaw when they said, Ps 2:7-8 (KJV) I will declare the decree: the LORD has said unto me, You are my Son; this day have I begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.

No one foresaw the day when there would be no more Court of the Gentiles, no more Wall of partition. That was God’s secret, hidden from before the foundation of he world. That was the Great Mystery. And its revelation and dissemination “turned the world upside down.” [Acts 17:6]

This “hidden wisdom” of God, once revealed to Paul, was shared with the world through the “foolishness of preaching”. In Colossians 1:27, the mystery is summarized as “Christ in You” the hope of glory. The believers of the first century Church were first called “Christians” in Antioch and it was from Antioch that Paul’s ministry began. This news thrilled the Gentiles. Furthermore, since the preaching of the mystery and the understanding of it completes the Word of God [Col 1:25], all other doctrines should be evaluated in light of the Mystery.

Colosians1:25-28 (Mirror Bible) I am an administrator in God’s economy; my mission is to make his word known to you with utmost clarity. 26 The element of prophetic mystery was concealed for ages and generations but is now fully realized in our redeemed innocence. 27 In us God desires to exhibit the priceless treasure of Christ’s indwelling; every nation will recognize him as in a mirror! The unveiling of Christ in human life completes man’s every expectation. 28 This is the essence and focus of our message; we awaken every man’s mind, instructing every individual by bringing them into full understanding (flawless clarity) in order that we may prove (present) everyone perfect in Christ.

The preaching of this gospel was glorious news to the Gentiles. For The adversary it was a catastrophe. If he’d had a choice, he would rather have left Jesus Christ alone than crucify him and set in motion the chain of events by which the entire world has access to the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ.

1 Cor 2:7-8 (Mirror Bible) We voice words of wisdom that was hidden in silence for timeless ages; a mystery unfolding God’s Masterful plan whereby he would redeem his glory in man. 8 Neither the politicians nor the theologians of the day had a clue about this mystery (of mankind’s association in Christ); if they did, they would never have crucified the Lord whose death redeemed our glory!

What is the Church Industrial Complex to do? It couldn’t undo the resurrection. It tried to kill Paul, but couldn’t pull it off. How could it undo the damage to his kingdom? It couldn’t erase the knowledge of the Mystery, once it had been revealed. It was too late for that. But if it could get people to behave as if it had never been revealed, it could still rule! But how? Maybe it could get them to fall for an appealing counterfeit. Maybe the old divide and conquer strategy would work. Maybe both?

 

1. Paul’s Gospel.
2. The Book of Acts; Division in the Church.
3 . Epistles to A Church Divided.
4. Galatians: Justification by Faith.
5. The Epistle of James.
6. Summary and Overview.
7. Peter and John: Food for Thought.
8. Return to Index (Intro)
9. Return to Top

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