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
Having examined in depth a great many facets of the relationship of James to the rest of the New Testament canon, let’s step back and take a look at the overall picture of what James says and how it compares with Paul’s gospel.
A. James in the Bible
What does the rest of God’s Word say about James the Lord’s brother? The gospels records do not present James as a member of the Church of the Bride of Christ.
1. James in the Gospels
Matt. 12: 46. Jesus was still speaking to the people when behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak to Him.
James and the rest of Jesus’ brethren were not among the crowds who sat at the Master’s feet to receive God’s Word. They “stood without” and tried to get Jesus away from His Father’s work. What was Jesus’ response?
Matt. 12:48-50. But He replied to the man who told Him, Who is My mother, and who are My brothers? And stretching out His hand toward [not only the twelve disciples but all] His adherents, He said, Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother!
Jesus responded to the call of James and the rest of his family by essentially disowning them in public. He went so far as to imply that his mother and his brethren weren’t doing the will of the Father! Their appearance at his fellowship meeting was not intended to enhance, but rather to disrupt it. One might think this is “reading in” a negative meaning that’s not there. The truth that Jesus’ brethren did not believe in him is plainly documented in the seventh chapter of the gospel of John.
John 7:1-4. After this Jesus went from place to place in Galilee; for He would not travel in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was drawing near. So His brothers said to Him, Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples [there] may also see the works that You do. [This is no place for You.] For no one does anything in secret, when he wishes to be conspicuous and secure publicity. If You [must] do these things – if You must act like this – show Yourself openly and make Yourself known to the world!
Why did Jesus brethren tempt him to show himself at the feast knowing that the Jews would kill him on sight? Verse 5 provides the answer.
John 7:5. For His brothers (kinsmen) did not believe in or adhere to or trust in or rely on Him either.
The reason James stood outside while Jesus taught his disciples and tempted Jesus to endanger his life was because James did not believe in Jesus. There is no other record in the four gospels that indicates a change of heart in James or any of the Lord’s brethren. So we may conclude from the gospels that James was not a member of the Church of the Bride of Christ and did not at that time receive salvation. Many ministers and preachers have observed that a man’s spirituality is determined first and foremost by his opinion of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself indicated this truth when he asked Peter, “who do you say I am?” Peter responded with his affirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. In contrast, Mark 3:21 says Jesus’ “friends” thought he was insane. From what we have read of James, we can only conclude that his opinion of Jesus Christ more closely resembled the latter.
2. James in Acts
There isn’t much about James the Lord’s brother in the book of Acts, but what is written is significant. Almost as significant is what is not written. What is not written of James is that he was an apostle. Acts doesn’t even credit him with being an “elder”, although he presided over a historic meeting at which both apostles and elders were present. Not only is James not called an “apostle” or an “elder” in Acts, he is not in any way singled out for his faith or any other virtue. This might seem insignificant but for the fact that James is the only major figure in the book of Acts presented thusly. Consider the following statements about Stephen, Phillip, Barnabus, Paul, and Cornelius.
Acts 6:5. And the suggestion pleased the whole assembly, and they selected Stephen, a man full of faith [that is, of a strong and welcome belief (trust) that Jesus is the Messiah], and full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit; and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicano, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte [convert] from Antioch.
Acts 6:8. Now Stephen, full of grace – divine blessing and favor – worked great wonders and signs (miracles) among the people.
Acts 8:5-6. Philip [the deacon, not the apostle] went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed the Christ, the Messiah, to [the people]; [Acts 6:5.] And great crowds of people with one accord listened to and heeded what was said by Philip, as they heard him and watched the miracles and wonders which he kept performing [from time to time].
Acts 11:22-24. The rumors of this came to the ears of the church (assembly) in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what grace (favor) God was bestowing upon them, he was full of Joy; and he continuously exhorted – warned, urged and encouraged – them all to cleave unto and remain faithful and devoted to the Lord with [resolute and steady] purpose of heart [mind]. For he was a good man [good in himself and also at once for the good and the advantage of other people], full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit and full of faith [that is, of his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation]. And a large company was added to the Lord.
Acts 9:22. But Saul increased all the more in strength, and continued to confound and put to confusion the Jews who lived in Damascus by comparing and examining evidence and proving that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah.
Acts 13:2. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.
Acts 10:1-2. Now [living] at Caesarea there was a man whose name was Cornelius, a Centurion of what was known as the Italian Regiment, a devout man who venerated God and treated Him with reverential obedience, as did all his household, and he gave much alms to the people, and prayed continually to God.
Does Acts say James was full of faith and holy spirit as it describes Stephen, Barnabas, and Philip? No. Does it record his ordination by the Holy Spirit, as Acts 13:2 does of Paul and Barnabas? No. James is not even described as a “devout man” as Cornelius is. Yet James became the ruler of the Church in Jerusalem! How this happened we do not know, but it clearly wasn’t because of his spiritual qualifications. But wait a minute, you say. How can we say James wasn’t qualified just because of what’s not written about him? Because it agrees with what is written.
Acts 21:18-19. On the next day Paul went in with us to [see] James, and all the elders of the church were present [also]. After saluting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
How did James respond to the news of Paul’s glorious ministry among the Gentiles? What did James think of the gospel Paul had received by revelation of Jesus Christ?
Acts 21:20-24. And upon hearing it, they adored and exalted and praised and thanked God. And they said to [Paul], You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and all of them are enthusiastic upholders of the [Mosaic] Law. Now they have been informed about you that you continually teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn back from and forsake Moses, advising them not to circumcise their children or pay any attention to the observance of the [Mosaic] customs. What then [is it best] should be done? A multitude will come together, for they will surely hear that you have arrived. Therefore do just what we tell you. With us are four men who have taken a vow upon themselves. Take these men and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses [for the temple offering], so that they may have their heads shaved. Thus everybody will know that there is no truth in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself walk in observance of the Law.
What is written of James in the book of Acts shows why he’s not credited with being full of holy spirit and faith. What is written shows that he did not understand what his brother Jesus Christ had done in fulfilling the law. He had no appreciation for the gospel of the grace of Christ that Paul had been given by revelation. What is written of James shows why he is the only Church leader in Acts whose ordination is not recorded in scripture. James’ ordination is not recorded in God’s Word because it was not of God.
B. James vs. The Gospel
As I did with the book of Acts, I’ll present the contradictions between Paul’s gospel and the book of James based both on what James does say and what it doesn’t say. This time, let’s start with what James does say. Since all of these points have been covered in some detail, I’ll just provide a brief overview here in an effort to give readers a summary of the conflicts between James and Paul.
James loves the Law According to Paul’s gospel, Jesus Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. (Romans 10:4)Furthermore, Paul refers to the law throughout his epistles in very strong terms leaving no doubt that the passing of the law is a great blessing in the lives of all mankind. He makes it clear in Galatians that those who wanted to perpetuate the law did so out of ignorance and malice (Romans 10:3, Galatians 4:21,6:12&13). James however, endorses it as the “the royal law” and “the perfect law of liberty”. More importantly, James implies that we are still under its authority.
* James 1:25. But he who looks carefully into the faultless Law, the [Law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets, but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing – in his life of obedience.
* Romans 3:20. For no person will be justified (made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable) in His sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law. For [the real function of] the Law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin [not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin which works toward repentance, faith and holy character].
* James 2:8-9. If indeed you [really] fulfill the royal Law, in accordance with the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as [you love] yourself, you do well. [Lev. 19:18.] But if you show servile regard (prejudice, favoritism) for people, you commit sin and are rebuked and convicted by the Law as violators and offenders. * Romans 6:14. For Sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law [as slaves], but under grace – as subjects of God’s favor and mercy.
* James 4:11. [My] brethren, do not speak evil about or accuse one another.
He that maligns a brother or judges his brother is maligning and criticizing the Law and judging the Law. But if you judge the Law, you are not a practicer of the Law but a censor and judge [of it].
* II Corinthians 3:6-9. [It is He] Who has qualified us (making us to be fit and worthy and sufficient) as ministers and dispensers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ], not [ministers of the letter – that is of legally written code – but of the Spirit; for the code [of the Law] kills, but the (Holy) Spirit makes alive. [Jer. 31:31.] Now if (the ministration of the Law,) the dispensation of death engraved in letters on stone, was inaugurated with such glory and splendor that the Israelites were not able to look steadily at the face of Moses because of its brilliance, (a glory) that was to fade and pass away, [Exod. 34:29-35.] Why should not the dispensation of the Spirit [that is, this spiritual ministry whose task it is to cause men to obtain and be governed by the Holy Spirit] be attended with much greater and more splendid glory? For if the service that condemns, (the ministration of doom,) had glory, how infinitely more abounding in splendor and glory must be the service that makes righteous – the ministry that produces and fosters righteous living and right standing with God!
James and Justification Paul’s Gospel is built on the foundation of faith. According to
Paul, we are not justified by the deeds of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. James takes a while to get around to it, but eventually contradicts this fundamental principle and reverts to justification by works.
* James 2:21. Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified – made acceptable to God – by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac? [Gen. 22:1-14.]
* Gal. 3:6. Thus Abraham believed and adhered to and trusted in and relied on God, and it was reckoned and placed to his account and accredited as righteousness – as conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought and action.
* James 2:24. You see that a man is justified (pronounced righteous before God) through what he does and not alone through faith – through works of obedience as well as by what he believes.
* Gal. 2:16. Yet we know that a man is justified or reckoned righteous and in right standing with God, not by works of Law but [only] through faith and [absolute] reliance on and adherence to and trust in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. [Therefore] even we [ourselves] have believed on Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law – for we cannot be justified by any observance of [the ritual of] the Law [given by Moses]; because by keeping legal rituals and by works no human being can ever be justified – declared righteous and put in right standing with God. [Ps. 143:2]
James the Faith Blaster Interwoven with the principle of justification is a proper understanding of faith. Paul’s Gospel reveals the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:17). Faith in the accomplished work of Jesus Christ is the avenue by which the works of the Law and our ‘filthy rags’ righteousness are replaced by God’s Own righteousness. James reduces the faith of Jesus Christ to a meaningless phrase and proceeds to reduce faith to a corpse.
* James 2:1. My brethren, pay no servile regard to people – show no prejudice, no partiality. Do not [attempt to] hold and practice the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Lord] of glory together with – snobbery!
* Rom. 3:21-22. But now the righteousness of God has been revealed independently and altogether apart from Law, although actually it is attested by the Law and the prophets, namely, the righteousness of God which comes by believing with personal trust and confident reliance on Jesus Christ, the Messiah. [And it is meant] for all who believe. For there is no distinction,
* James 2:17. So also faith if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power – inoperative, dead.
* Gal. 3:5. Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous (Holy) Spirit, and works powerfully and miraculously among you, [do so on the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard?
By the Law is the Knowledge of Sin James is chock full of sin and condemnation, demonstrating the truth of Romans 3:20. Whereas Paul thanks God for his followers and blesses them with invocations of God’s grace and peace, James refers to his as evil, lustful, double-minded sinners whose flesh will rot; presumably in hell.
* James 3:14-16. But if you have bitter jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry, selfish ambition) in your hearts [minds], do not pride yourselves on it and thus be in defiance of and false to the Truth. This [superficial] wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (animal), even devilish (demoniacal). For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition) there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.
* Col. 2:5. For though I am away from you in body, yet I am with you in Spirit, delighted at the sight of your [standing shoulder to shoulder in such] orderly array and the firmness and the solid front and steadfastness of your faith in Christ, [that leaning of the entire human personality on Him in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness].
* James 4:1-4, 8. What leads to strife (discord and feuds) and how do conflicts (quarrels and fightings) originate among you? Do they not arise from your sensual desires that are ever warring in your bodily members? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your desires go unfulfilled; [so] you become murderers. [To] hate is to murder as far as your hearts [minds] are concerned.] You burn with envy and anger and are not able to obtain [the gratification, the contentment and the happiness that you seek], so you fight and war. You do not have because you do not ask. [Or] you do ask [God for them] and yet fail to receive, because you ask with wrong purpose and evil, selfish motives. Your intention is, [when you get what you desire] to spend it in sensual pleasures. You [are like] unfaithful wives [having illicit love affairs with the world] and breaking your marriage vow to God! Do you not know that being the world’s friend is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world takes his stand as an enemy of God. Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts (minds) [of your spiritual adultery]. * II Cor. 3:17-18. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty – emancipation from bondage, freedom. [Isa. 61:1, 2.] And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is]] the Spirit. Rom. 12:1-2. I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies – presenting all your members and faculties – as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world – this age, fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs. But be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind – by its new ideals and its new attitude – so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].
* James 5:3, 20. Your gold and silver are completely rusted through, and their rust will be testimony against you and it will devour your flesh as if it were fire. You have heaped together treasure for the last days. Let the [latter] one be sure that whoever turns a sinner from his evil course will save [that one’s] soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins [that is, procure the pardon of the many sins committed by the convert].
C. What James Doesn’t Say: Sins of Omission
Finally, let’s take inventory of the notable doctrines of Paul’s gospel that are absent in the book of James. This is important not only in seeing the contrast in tone between the two, but in reassessing the theory that the reason for this contrast is that James was written before the revelation of the mystery. If we look at the things James omits, we will see that it doesn’t fit the character of the early church any better than it fits that of Paul’s gospel.
In the epistle of James, we have:
* No Resurrection
* No Witnessing
* No Apostles
* No holy spirit
* No New man
* No Renewed mind
* No Gentiles
* No “Abundant sharing” of plurality
* No Love of God
* No Eternal Life
Some scholars have tried to resolve the apparent conflicts between James and the Pauline epistles by dating James before Paul’s conversion. Because of these glaring omissions, I do not believe it’s biblically reasonable to say that James was written early in the Church’s history. The Early church was receiving salvation, manifesting holy spirit, and living God’s Word in ways previously unheard of. Multitudes were healed and Jerusalem was filled with the Apostles’ doctrine. With so many new realities turning the world upside down, would God inspire someone to write an epistle to that church and make not one reference to any of these new realities?
I Thessalonians, for example, deals with the issues we read about in Acts 17:1-10. Acts tells us that the Jews raised such active persecution in Thessalonica against Paul and his followers that the converts sent him away by stealth to Berea. I Thessalonians talks at length that persecution and I Thessalonians 2:14-17 speak specifically of that raised by the Jews against Paul and his forced departure from the city. Paul’s epistles to the Corinthians reveal the deepest familiarity with the people and indicate that Paul felt especially close to them. [I Cor. 9:1 & 2, II Corinthians 12:12-15]. This makes perfect sense when compared with the record in Acts because Acts 18:1-11 tell us that Paul spent more time in Corinth than any other city, with the possible exception of Ephesus, where he founded the School of Tyrannus. The fact that Acts places Paul’s school in Ephesus lends understanding to the revelation of the mystery and the pinnacle of Paul’s revelation to the Churches being in the epistle to the Ephesians.
Therefore, It is unlikely that God would inspire someone to write an epistle to the early Church that mentions not one of the major issues of that time that we find chronicled in the book of Acts. It is much more likely that James was written after the revealing of the mystery as a rebuttal to Paul’s gospel. James was chief among those mentioned in II Corinthians 11 who were inspired by the god of this world to pervert the gospel of
Christ. The tone and content of James don’t represent the Jerusalem which was filled with the apostles’ doctrine. But it fits very well with the Jerusalem to which Paul was warned by God not to return; the Jerusalem of which James said…
“….You see brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and all of them are enthusiastic upholders of the [Mosaic] Law.”[Acts 21:20.]
D. James the Superfluous
James 1:21 admonishes us to lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness. Superfluity means overabundance or uneccessary supply. In other words, James advises us to rid ourselves of all unnecessary naughtiness or malice. If we take his advice, we will delete his epistle for if not malicious, it is, at best, superfluous. Many of James advocates contend that it is a stern and needful reminder that we are to be diligent in maintaining good works. They see James as a necessary addendum to Paul’s gospel of grace highlighting the need to continue in good works after we are saved. Those who are familiar with Paul’s epistles recognize that this idea is based on two false assumptions; the first being that Paul advocates licentiousness in the name of grace, the second being that Paul forgot to tell his followers that they were to work for the Lord despite having been justified by faith and therefore promoted laziness. A casual perusal of the Pauline church epistles reveals the error in this thinking.
The charge that Paul’s gospel is a license to sin is not new. The opponents of grace leveled that charge at Paul many times in a futile effort to thwart the growth of God’s Word among the Gentiles.
Rom. 3:1-8. Then what advantage remains to the Jew? – How is he favored? Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God. [Ps. 147:19.] What if some did not believe and were without faith? Does their lack of faith and their faithlessness nullify and make ineffective and void the faithfulness of God and His fidelity [to His Word]? By no means! Let God be found true though every human being be false and a liar, as it is written, That You may be justified and shown to be upright in what You say, and prevail when You are judged [by sinful men]. [Ps. 51:4.] But if our unrighteousness thus establishes and exhibits the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unjust and wrong to inflict His wrath upon us [Jews]? I speak in a [purely] human way. By no means! Otherwise, how could God judge the world? But [you say,] if through my falsehood God’s integrity is magnified and advertised and abounds to His glory, why am I still being judged as a sinner? And why should we not do evil that good may come? as some slanderously charge us with teaching. Such [false teaching] is justly condemned by them.
Many of the proponents of works have been deceived into thinking that if we are not prodded by the switch of the law we will do nothing for the Lord. Au contraire! It is because of the bountiful blessings we receive from Him, because of the limitless and amazing grace with which he holds us in the hollow of His mighty hands, that we push ourselves to be pleasing to Him and to bless His people and share of His grace and love. And it is the hope of our eventual reunion, a blessed certain event that may be only a day away that we”press toward the mark” for the prize of the upward calling of Christ. His love and grace and the promise and hope of his return keep us moving forward, striving to be our best for our Lord. No switch is needed for “the love of Christ constraineth us.”
I Cor. 15:58. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord – that is, always being superior (excelling, doing more than enough) in the service of the Lord, knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile – never wasted or to no purpose.
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