The Case Against James Part 7 of 7

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

II Cor. 11:3. But [now] I am fearful lest that even as the Serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, so your minds (hearts) may be corrupted and seduced away from wholehearted and sincere and pure [and simple] devotion to Christ. [Gen. 3:4]

In light of what we’ve just reviewed in Acts, this verse is very enlightening. The passage begins by warning the Corinthians that the challenge to the truth is not blatant but subtle, and compares it to the beguiling of Eve by the serpent. Both II Corinthians and Genesis tell us that the Serpent entrapped Eve, not with a blatant confrontation, but through subtlety. And he continues to work that way.

Gen. 3:1. Now the Serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? [Rev. 12:9-11].

There are several layers of deceit and misdirection here. To see the first, we must take a look at the context of Genesis 3:1, which is indicated by the phrase “…than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” and which begins in Genesis 2:4.

Gen. 2:4. This is the history of the heavens and of the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

This verse introduces the title “Lord God”, which is subsequently used of each and every reference to God in the chapter. The phrase “Lord God” stresses God’s position as not only the Creator of the heavens and earth and its inhabitants, but the sovereign Lord thereof as well. It was the Lord God who breathed in Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. And it was the Lord God who formed the beasts out of the ground and brought them to Adam. More importantly, it was the Lord God who commanded Adam regarding the fruit of the trees of the garden.

the fruit of the trees of the garden.

Gen 2:16-17. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, You may freely eat of every tree of the garden, except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and of blessing a nd calamity you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

Genesis 3:1 continues that context with the statement that the Serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. But this verse also shows us the interruption of that trend. The Serpent’s question to Eve was couched in a subtle denial of the sovereignty of God. He did not ask her, “Yea, hath the Lord God said…”. The Serpent’s question, so slyly posed, was a temptation to consider the Lord God as less than the Lord. He invited her to partake in a purely intellectual discussion of God’s Word, stripped from its proper context as the Word of the Lord. This is familiar ground to most of us today. Many a collegiate discussion of religion and philosophy begins here and quickly spirals downward, for that is the only direction in which it can go.

The Serpent invited Eve to look at God from outside of man’s proper relationship as a subject of The Almighty’s just and absolute rule. Eve unwittingly succumbed to the first temptation by not responding with “Thus saith the Lord.” Lucifer, who had himself decided to abandon his position as one of God’s subjects, [Isaiah 14:13 & 14] invited Eve to share his perspective. Eve’s failure to recognize this sly attack on God’s kingdom was the first step down for mankind.

The second step downward, and a particularly relevant one in the context of Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian Church, is found in the Serpent’s twisting of God’s command. He asked Eve, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” The answer of course is NO. What the Lord God had said was, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.”(Genesis 2:16). The Lord God’s command to Adam was a blessing with an asterisk. The Lord God, in his abundant grace gave Adam permission to eat of every tree but one. The emphasis in what the Lord told Adam was abundant blessing and limitless provision. When the Serpent posed his question to Eve, he didn’t say, “…hath God said, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat”. He said “Hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Look again at those two statements and you will see a subtle but dramatic difference. The Serpent twisted the grace and abundance of God and presented it as a limiting, depriving commandment. The first “thou shalt not”, a phrase we rightly associate with Law, came not from

God, but from the Serpent, the Deceiver, the Father of Lies. Furthermore, the clause “of every tree” implies that the the Lord had deprived them of a great many blessings, when in fact the opposite is true. The Serpent drove a wedge between the Lord and mankind by magnifying and distorting the lone restriction and inventing legalism. The mind set that the Lord sets numerous limitations on mankind designed to deprive us from pleasure and good things is shown here to be a basic element of legalism. And it came from the mouth of Satan.

Note also the absence from the Serpent’s question of the word “freely”. The Lord said “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.” What does that mean? To see the meaning of this important adverb, let us compare that promise and blessing with the meaning of this important adverb, let us compare that promise and blessing with the judgment that followed the original sin.

Genesis 3:17 & 19. And to Adam He said, Because you have listened and given heed to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it, the ground is under a curse because of you; in sorrow and toil shall you eat [of the fruits] of it all the days of your life;………In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.

The word “sorrow” in verse 17 means pain, hardship or labor, just as it does in verse 16. Verse 19 adds that Adam would eat bread “in the sweat of [his] face.” This hardship and labor required to feed himself and his family is the result of sin, and is the opposite of the original blessing of the Lord. When he was in Eden Adam and Eve could eat of the fruit of every tree of the garden freely. It was theirs for the taking. They didn’t have to work for it. This is a pivotal concept. The Lord gave man an abundant supply of good things which he could freely receive, without works and regardless of merit. In this statement to the first man, we see the true heart of the Lord God for us. His primary will has always been to provide for us abundantly and graciously. The idea of earning God’s goodness, of providing for ourselves by our own effort, originated from the mouth of our Enemy, Satan, and was foisted upon us through wicked deceit. The same pernicious idea pervades the Church today, just as it did in Corinth and Galatia. This is why Paul advised the Corinthians to pay heed to the method in which Eve was beguiled by the Serpent. By subtilely twisting the words of the Lord, he clouded the abundant grace of God and brought mankind into the bondage of legalism.

Eve’s downfall was in her failure to recognize and challenge the subtle distortions in Satan’s question. She missed the omission of the title “Lord God”, the reversal of a blessing to a law, and the omission of freedom. She was unaware that grace was being stolen from her life. Likewise, the people of the First Century Church were largely unaware that the grace of Christ was being stolen from them by the subtle and wicked work of Satan. Furthermore, Eve’s response indicated that she had taken the bait for not only did she fail to challenge these lies and half-truths, she added to them

Genesis 3:2-3. And the woman said to the Serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, except of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.

Eve’s paraphrase of the words of the Lord is devoid of the words, “every” and “freely” indicating that she fell victim to the Serpent’s distortion. She lost sight of the abundant goodness of God and the grace in which she lived. The importance of this error cannot be overstated. Such a misstep is a descent into a state of mind from which almost all sin breeds; ingratitude. Romans chapter one speaks in depth of the depravity to which God’s people of old time fell. They are described as “…Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God,…” [See Gen.

6:5.] Where did such wicked depravity begin?

Rom 1:21. Because when they knew and recognized Him as the God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God, or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking – with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning and stupid speculations – and their senseless minds were darkened. (See Gen. 6:5.)

Those who knew God glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful. That is where the Serpent led Eve. She failed to glorify God for his abundant grace and so became unthankful for his provision, for the freedom and ease in which they lived, and her heart was darkened. This truth is underscored in the Greek New Testament by the translation of both “grace” and “thanks” from the same word charis. When we recognize God’s grace, we are thankful, and we will glorify Him for his goodness, magnifying Him in our hearts (minds).

But when that grace is obscured, thankfulness shrivels and dies. Then we magnify and glorify, not the Lord God, but ourselves, and our works. Then we become vain in our imaginations and our hearts (minds) are darkened. This is the work of legalism, it is the work of Satan, and it began with Eve in the garden, corrupted the First Century Church, and continues to this day.

Back to Eve and the Serpent. Once Eve took the bait and lost sight of God’s sovereignty, God’s abundant provision, and God’s grace, she succumbed to the Serpent’s supplanting of his lie for the original truth.

Gen 3:4. But the Serpent said to the woman, Ye shall not surely die, [II Cor. 11:3]

This is a direct contradiction of the Word of the Lord! The Lord told Adam that in the day he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would surely die. The Hebrew text reads, “dying, thou shalt die” Adam and Eve began dying the day they sinned and eventually died and were buried, none of which would have happened had they stayed under the Lordship of God and diligently remembered his abundance and grace. But they were taken down, not by an overt direct attack but by a covert assault on the truth. The Serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty before directly contradicting it and supplanting it with a false doctrine. He exchanged the truth for a lie. To sweeten the deal, the Serpent offered some appealing benefits.

Gen 3:5. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be as God, knowing the difference between good and evil, and blessing and calamity. (See Isaiah 14:14.)

What lured Eve into the devil’s bazaar where she made the exchange? Wisdom! Why is all this recalled in II Corinthians? Because in the verses that follow, the Corinthians are warned to beware of those who would sell them counterfeit wisdom that takes away their freedom in Christ and puts them under the law. With that in mind, let’s read on.

II Cor. 11:4. For [you seem readily to endure it] if a man comes and preaches another Jesus than the One we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the [Spirit] you [once] received, or a different gospel from the one you [then] received and welcomed. You tolerate [all that] well enough!

This is a serious charge. Paul is asserting that the Corinthians are not grounded in the gospel well enough to resist false doctrine. They are vulnerable to the wiles of the devil and are willing to accept a different gospel and a different Jesus. Why? The emphasis in the verse answers the question. “If he that cometh…ye might well bear with him.” As the context indicates, the Corinthians were not immune to the influence of esteemed persons. If he that cometh is a renowned Hebrew, a man of reputation who can quote the Old Testament fluently, they will be deceived. Their willingness to accept the word of such a man would lead them into a false gospel, a counterfeit Messiah, and the receiving of another spirit. The other spirit is of course a spirit from the other god –often called the Devil.

So what was the other gospel that was so subtly palmed off on people? The law of course. Just as the Serpent hid God’s grace and replaced it with a law, the other gospel robs us of our liberty in Christ and attempts to bring us into legalism. What’s the appeal? Just as with the serpent’s appeal to Eve, the other gospel tells us we will be better, wiser Christians if we only work a little harder. If we abstain from this and religiously do that, then we’ll be spiritually sharp! Most certainly this route will enable us to manifest a different spirit, but it’s not one from the true God and doesn’t magnify Christ. It is the spirit of bondage! It is a curse. Paul’s warning regarding these preachers of the other gospel continues

II Cor. 11:15. So it is not surprising if his servants also masquerade as ministers of righteousness.

Those who preached the other gospel are called “false apostles”. In order to be passed off as a false apostle, one must look and act like a real apostle. In other words, the guy who serves cookies at fellowship can’t be called a false apostle just because he preaches error. These were men of great renown, highly esteemed in the church. They are called false apostles not because they were unsaved, but because they preached another gospel, a false gospel. I know this is a rather radical idea, but the testimony of II Peter chapter 2 says that the term “false” does not necessarily mean what we have understood it to mean.

2 Peter 2:1. But also [in those days] there arose false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among yourselves, who will subtly and stealthily introduce heretical doctrines – destructive heresies – even denying and disowning the Master Who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

II Peter 2:20-22. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through (the full, personal) knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they again become entangled in them and are overcome, their last condition is worse [for them] than the first. For never to have obtained a (full, personal) knowledge of the Way of righteousness would have been better for them than, having obtained [such knowledge], to turn back from the holy commandment which was (verbally) delivered to them. There has befallen them the thing spoken of in the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow again in the mire. [Prov. 26:11.]

Again I say, Ladies and Gentlemen, could it be any plainer? False teachers are those ordained to teach in the church who abandon the way of the Lord and serve themselves and Satan at the expense of the church. Paul warned of the rise of such men in his last visit to Ephesus.

Acts 20:29-30. I know that after I am gone ferocious wolves will get in among you, not sparing the flock; even from among your own selves men will come to the front, who by saying perverse (distorted and corrupt) things will endeavor to draw away the disciples after them [to their own party].

These grievous wolves who spared not the flock and who divided the church in order to carve out their own followings were originally ordained as ministers of the gospel. So it is entirely possible that the false apostles of II Corinthians 11:4 were not unsaved Jews, but members of the Christian church who turned from the true gospel to preaching another gospel. It might appear on the surface that verses 22 and 23 indicate that these false apostles were unsaved Jews.

II Cor. 11:22. They are Hebrews? So am I! They are Israelites? So am I! They are descendants of Abraham? So am I!

Well, was Paul a Hebrew? Was Paul an Israelite? Was Paul saved? Yes. Paul had been a Hebrew and an Israelite, but he got saved and left all that behind. The others did not, but rather used those attributes as credentials to enable them to gain entry and influence in the churches Paul had founded. And if there was any doubt that these men were Christian leaders, the next verse dispels it completely.

II Cor. 11:23. Are they (ministering) servants of Christ, the Messiah? I am talking like one beside himself, [but] I am more,…..

So here we see in the epistles, evidence of the lingering division in the first century church. Some church leaders refused to follow Peter’s example and Paul’s gospel. Rather, they continued walking according to the law of Moses and tried, albeit dishonestly, to convince others to follow them. In this light, consider also the following verses:

Philippians 3:2. Look out for [Beware of] those dogs [the Judaizers], look out for those mischief-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.

“Beware of dogs” is a figure of speech called hypocatastasis. It’s an implied comparison and a very emphatic figure. It is further emphasized by the figure anaphora seen here in the repetition of the word ” beware” at the beginning of three successive sentences. The implication here is that there were people in the church who behaved like dogs, attacking viciously from the rear. They are further called evil workers and finally their specific brand of evil work is revealed; the concision. The word “concision ” is translated from katatome, meaning mutilation. E.W. Bullinger’s lexicon offers this definition.“Used contemptuously for the Jewish circumcision, in contrast with the true spiritual circumcision”

This emphatic warning describes as evil workers and vicious dogs those who preached circumcision. The most important thing to note here is that this verse is addressed to the Philippians. Paul’s ministry in Philippi (Acts 16:12) did not begin until after the

Jerusalem council of Acts 15. The issue of circumcision was supposedly settled before Paul went to Philippi. According to this emphatic God-breathed warning issued to the Philippians quite a while later, the issue of circumcision hadn’t really been settled at all. Although James and the elders ceased to press Paul about it directly, the drive to circumcise the Gentiles continued unabated. Paul’s continued exhortation to the Philippians puts it in perspective and reasserts the essential truths of the gospel.

Philippians 3:3-9. For we [sons and children of God] are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit and by the Spirit of God, and exult and glory and pride ourselves in Jesus Christ, and put no confidence or dependence [on what we are] in the flesh and on outward privileges and physical advantages and external appearances. Though for myself I have [at least grounds] to rely on the flesh. If any other man considers that he has or seems to have reason to rely on the flesh and his physical and outward advantages, still more have I! Circumcised when I was eight days old, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew [and the son] of Hebrews; as to the observance of the Law I was of [the party of] the Pharisees, as to my zeal I was a persecutor of the Church, and by the Law’s standard of righteousness – [supposed] justice, uprightness and right standing with God – I was proven to be blameless and no fault was found with me. But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as (one combined) loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege – the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth and supreme advantage – of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ, the Anointed One, and that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any (self-achieved) righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands – ritualistic uprightness and [supposed] right standing with God thus acquired – but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through the faith of Christ, the Anointed One, the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by (saving) faith.

And finally, let’s take a look at I John 2:18 &19.

1 John 2:18. Boys (lads), it is the last time – hour [the end of this age]. And as you have heard that Antichrist [he who will oppose Christ in the guise of Christ] is coming, even now many antichrists (Judaizers, circumcision party, James and party=Christians) have arisen, which confirms our belief that it is the final (the end) time. [Matt. 23:13-15; Matt. 24:4-5; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8; Ode 38 of The Odes of Solomon]

Some have taught that that these antichrists are men of Belial, children of the Devil. I no longer believe that is correct. An antichrist is someone whose work is contrary to Christ, perhaps one who has succumbed to a spirit of antichrist Paul, in Philippians 3:18 calls those who walk carnally “enemies of the cross of Christ”. An enemy of Christ is an antichrist, whether he is saved or not. John’s reference to “Antichrists” reflects this truth, although in an ironic manner.

1 John 2:19. They went out from our number, but they did not [really] belong to us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us. But [they withdrew] that it might be plain that they all are not of us.

The word “us” means the same thing in this verse as it does in 1:2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us). The “us” of I John is John and the apostles who were with him. So when 2:19 says, they went out from us…” he is referring to people who went out from the apostles and were subsequently labeled as antichrists. The word “from” here is the Greek preposition ek, meaning, from the center outward. These antichrists were once among the fellowship of the apostles; or at the very least that of John and his fellows. So this passage indicates that there was a rift among the apostles and those who left the group went abroad teaching a different doctrine. This is why John admonishes his readers to try every spirit (4:1) and continually admonishes them to stick with that which they have heard from the beginning.

In this light, it is fascinating to note that the word “beginning” is used in this context 8 times. (1:1, 2:7, 13, 14, 24, and 3:11) The number 8 of course represents a new beginning. The dominant message of I John is that the readers not follow the seducing teachings of the apostate antichrists but stick with that which they had heard from the beginning. So who were these “antichrists” who left the apostles’ fellowship with a new doctrine? Wouldn’t you like to know?

 

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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