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

Gal. 2:9. And when they knew (perceived, recognized, understood and acknowledged) the grace (God’s unmerited favor and spiritual blessing) that had been bestowed upon me, James and Cephas (Peter) and John, who were reputed to be pillars of the Jerusalem church, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, with the understanding that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised (Jews).

By now it is evident that there was a rift in the Paul and James, and therefore, a rift in the Church itself. We have also noted that the last meeting between Paul and James was held without any input from the other Apostles. Since the Church was divided with Paul and James leading divergent factions, a troublesome but nagging question arises. With whom did the other Apostles ally themselves? More importantly, of which mindset are the other writers of the New Testament, and can we discern this mindset in the pages of Scripture without falling headlong into the faithless carnality of Source Criticism?

It is beyond the scope of this essay to examine all of the New Testament, but, since Peter, and John are specifically mentioned in Galatians as “they who seemed to be somewhat” an examination of their writings may shed further light on how these men responded to the battle between grace and legalism.

PETER

Since it was Peter who, by revelation, began the outreach to the Gentiles, one would expect that, if anyone was able to receive Paul’s gospel, he would be the one. Despite the confrontation at Antioch where Paul “withstood him to the face”, a careful reading of Peter’s epistles indicates that Paul’s reproof did not go unheeded. Some time after that incident, Peter righted himself and returned to walking by the spirit. His epistle is, not to the Diaspora, but to the Gentile churches Paul had founded. There is nothing in I or II Peter that contradicts the seven church epistles. Rather, II Peter begins and ends by reinforcing the validity of Paul’s gospel despite the fact that Paul himself was not one of the original apostles.

I Peter 1:16-21

I Peter 1:16-21. For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy. [Lev. 11:44-45.] And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short]. You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold, but [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ, the Messiah, like that of a [sacrificial] lamb without blemish or spot. It is true that He was chosen and foreordained (destined and foreknown for it) before the foundation of the world, but He was brought out to public view (made manifest) in these last days – at the end of the times – for the sake of you. Through Him you believe – adhere to, rely on – God, Who raised Him up from the dead and gave Him honor and glory, so that your faith and hope are [centered and rest] in God.
As powerful a witness as Peter having been with Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration was, his testimony was not as powerful as that of the scriptures. Therefore, no other apostle could challenge the testimony of the scripture just because he had been with Jesus. Therefore, no other Apostle could claim to have a superior understanding of the Lord’s will just because he was with Jesus. So the Scriptures of the Apostle Paul are just as valid–no, more valid than the personal testimony of Peter, John, James, Bartholomew, and company. This is not such an obvious factor to us now, but in the early Church, this would have been a crucial point of logic as debates raged among the faithful about whose doctrine to follow.

If there is any doubt that Peter considered Paul’s epistles as “prophecy of the scripture” and deserving of due reverence, it is dispelled in the close of II Peter, which ends with this ringing endorsement of Paul’s gospel and denouncement of those who opposed it.

II Peter 3:15-16. And consider that the long-suffering of our Lord [His slowness in avenging wrongs and judging the world] is salvation, [that which conduces to the soul’s safety]; even as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the spiritual insight given him, speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures.
In verse 15, Peter refers to the writings of Paul as divine wisdom. Also note that since he calls these scriptures to remembrance, he is addressing the very same Churches to whom Paul had ministered–perhaps those in Galatia, Corinth, and Philippi. It is likely that

Peter’s epistles followed Paul’s death and were intended to reassure the Sons of God that

Paul’s doctrine was sound. It is just as likely that Paul’s demise would have been used by Satan and the legalists to try to discredit Paul anew and see to it that his gospel died with him. God intervened by inspiring Peter to pick up the baton.

JOHN

John presents an enormous challenge due to the volume of his writings. Let me say first that I have not studied all of John’s writings in this light. That is, I haven’t specifically compared them all with Paul’s epistles. I have however, studied I John and Revelation, and have discussed them with others who have been doing so for years. What I have found is that I John is not in harmony with Paul’s epistles. To some extent, neither are the first three chapters of Revelation.

I don’t advocate discarding these writings, but I think they can be much more clearly understood if we view them as having been written to the Judaean faction of the divided church. Although, as I said, I am not able or willing to go into great depth on this right now, here are some points to consider regarding I John.

That which ye have heard form the beginning; I John makes repeated references to that which was heard from the beginning. The question is, “from the beginning of what?” It can’t be the same beginning referenced in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1, because it’s called “that which we have heard” from the beginning. There has not been one consistent message or gospel that’s been unchanged since Adam and Eve were created. The expulsion from the garden brought new commandments, as did the giving of the Law. So “that which we have heard from the beginning’ must be interpreted as a gospel or message of fairly recent origin.

Amplified

I John 1:1. [We are writing] about the Word of Life [in] Him Who existed from the beginning, Whom we have heard, Whom we have seen with our [own] eyes, Whom we have gazed upon [for ourselves] and have touched with our [own] hands.

KJV

I John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life;

The language here puts the emphasis on the personal experiences with Jesus Christ. Ironically, this is in contrast to what Peter declares at the beginning of his epistle. Peter says we have a more sure word of prophecy than that of the eyewitnesses who heard God’s voice on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Scriptures, received by holy men of God who were moved by the Holy Spirit are a more sure word of prophecy than “that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled…” Peter’s emphasis on the Scripture, a category that includes Paul’s epistles. John’s is on his personal experiences with the Lord. Note also that by using the phrase “from the beginning” in this context, it sets the doctrinal foundation of John’s epistle way back in the days before Christ was crucified and resurrected and ascended; before the day of Pentecost and Peter’s inspired declaration that the Promise is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

That which was from the beginning does not include the ministry of God’s grace to the Gentiles. [Matthew 10:6]. That which “we have seen with our eyes” was seen before the outpouring of holy spirit on the Gentiles in the household of Cornelius. Have you ever wondered why John wasn’t present when the Lord sent Peter to Cornelius’ house?

Amplified

I John 2:7. Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the message which you have heard – the doctrine [of salvation through Christ].

KJV

I John 2:7. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the Word which ye have heard from the beginning.

This is the first use of the word “commandment [entole in the Greek]” in this epistle. It is used 14 times in I John. John obviously thought commmandments and the keeping of them were very important. His first use of the word, in 2:3 is very enlightening. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” Whereas Paul says we know that we know him because we have received his spirit and become children of God with his spirit bearing witness [Romans 8:16], John asserts that we know we know him if we keep his commandments. The next verse reinforces and strengthens the point by saying that he who claims to know Christ, but doesn’t keep his commandments is a liar. This verse has caused me some confusion for a great many years, and has lead to the belief among many legalistic Christians that if a person is saved, he will never sin again. The idea that a real Christian will never “backslide” comes from John’s assertions in this very epistle.

Because of what legalists have done with these verses, we must look carefully at them in the context of the divisions in the First Century Church and ask ourselves what side John took. Verse 2:7 says “I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning”. Just to make sure the reader doesn’t miss it, John repeats the statement using the figure of speech pleonasm for emphasis. Again, the use of this phrase “from the beginning” indicates a commandment that predates Pentecost, and certainly the conversion of the Gentiles. This may well be John’s assertion that the new commandments of Paul’s gospel were not to be believed and that the old standards of righteousness [another word that appears frequently in I John, often with an emphasis on our works, contrary to the doctrine of Galatians 2:16] were not to be discarded.

On the heels of John’s assertion that he wrote no new commandment, comes the apparently contrary declaration, “Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” Here, the context relates it to John chapter 13, in which he tells of Jesus having given his disciples the new commandment to love one another as He had loved them. These two apparently contradictory statements are juxtaposed in order to make it clear to the reader that the only new commandment John is advocating is the one Jesus gave his apostles before he ascended. This also serves to discount the validity of any new commandments that have followed, specifically those associated with Paul’s gospel of righteousness by faith. This concept of eschewing anything declared since Pentecost is underscored by John’s admonition to the fathers in verses 13 and 14.

I John 2:13-14. I am writing to you, fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be aware of and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have been victorious over the wicked [one] (Satan). I write to you, boys (lads), because you have come to know and recognize and be aware of the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have come to know (recognize, be conscious of and understand) Him Who [has existed] from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong and vigorous, and the Word of God is (always in your hearts [minds] abiding in you, and you have been victorious over the wicked one (Satan).

In order for John to be able to say that the fathers have known him from the beginning, we must conclude that all of these fathers were Judaean. Certainly the Gentiles to whom Paul witnessed in Berea, Athens, and Corinth could not make such a claim. In Athens

Paul declared the Unknown God unto them. In Lystra, the people to whom Paul and Barnabus preached the gospel mistook them for the gods Jupiter and Mercury. These were not fathers who had “known him from the beginning”. This assertion in I John indicates that his audience is predominantly, if not entirely Judaean.

I John 2: 24. As for you, keep in your hearts [minds] what you have heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the first dwells and remains in you, then you will dwell in the Son and in the Father (always).

Verse 24 is especially interesting. In light of the split in the Church over the Gentiles and the law, we must consider the importance of John’s use of the words “remain” and “continue”. He is clearly admonishing them to stay the course. The implication here is that if that which they heard from the beginning doesn’t remain in them, they won’t remain in the Son and the Father. What happens if you don’t continue in the Son and in the Father? Do you retain eternal life? Is John teaching a conditional salvation? This sounds a little like James exhortation to continue in the perfect law of liberty [James 1:25]

From the beginning can be interpreted as the beginning of Jesus Christ’s ministry or the beginning of the First Century Church which was born on Pentecost. Either way, if we strictly adhere to John’s admonition to stick with that which was preached from the beginning, that which Acts 2:42 calls “the Apostles’ Doctrine”, we must reject Paul’s gospel, which was not introduced until over 10 years later. It is interesting to compare John’s repeated use of this phrase with Paul’s reference to the beginning of the gospel in Philippians 3: According to Paul, the beginning of the gospel was about the time he and Silas began preaching among the Gentiles; several years after his conversion and about 15 years after Pentecost. Considering the tumult the advent of Paul’s gospel caused in Jerusalem, I think John is admonishing his followers to stay away from it.

Amplified

I John 3:7. Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness – who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought and action, living a consistently conscientious life – is righteous, even as He is righteous.

KJV

I John 3:7. He who doeth righteousness is righteous.

I John has a lot to say about righteousness and much of it indicates righteousness by works. I think John speaks of “doing righteousness” as keeping the law. John uses the word “righteousness” three times in this epistle. Each time it refers to or implies that righteousness is by our deeds or works. Righteousness by faith is never mentioned.

I John 2:29. If you know (perceive and are sure) that He [Christ] is absolutely righteous (conforming to the Father’s will in purpose, thought and action), you may also know (be sure) that every one who does righteously [and is therefore in like manner conformed to the divine will] is born (begotten) of Him [God].

I John 3:6-7. No one who abides in Him – who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him, [deliberately and knowingly] habitually commits (practices) sin. No one who habitually sins has either seen or known Him – recognized, perceived or understood Him, or has had an experimental acquaintance with Him. Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness – who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought and action, living a consistently conscientious life – is righteous, even as He is righteous.

Notice that 3:6 declares that a man who sins is not saved. “whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” This fits doctrinally with James’ works laden treatise. The phrase “Little children let no man deceive you” at the beginning of the following verse not only makes the logical connection to his statement that he who doeth righteousness is righteous, but the phrase implies that there were deceivers around who were preaching that there was some way of becoming righteous without works. The sum of these verses indicates that John counted the Apostle Paul among these deceivers. He is asserting righteousness, not by faith, but by works. This is reinforced in his third reference to righteousness.

I John 3:10. By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children, and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness – who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought and action – is of God; neither is any one who does not love his brother [his fellow believer (truster) in Christ].

Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God. What can be plainer? This statement contradicts the gospel of salvation by grace alone. We might want to excuse the Apostle’s statement by reasoning that he is simply stating that a Christian will show his faith by a change in his deeds. That is a charitable reading into what is written. He is not saying a saved person will change his ways. He is saying the opposite; that someone who lacks righteous deeds IS NOT SAVED. This is a legalistic, works-based salvation that denies the impact of the work of Christ as our complete substitute, our complete redeemer, our sole path to salvation and eternal life. Clearly, John did not rise beyond the shadow of James to receive the fullness of the gospel of grace preached by the Apostle Paul. Now one begins to see why Jesus Christ had to give that gospel to Paul, one “born out of due time”. His chosen Apostles didn’t rise above the suffocating omnipresence of Jewish tradition to see the stunning reality of what He had called them to do.

SIN and the Law There’s a lot about sin in I John as well, including a plain statement that sin is the transgression of the law. I never knew how to interpret that before. Now I think I do.

I John 5:4. Every one who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness [the breaking,violating of God’s Law by transgression or neglect; being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will].

I think if you read I John’s writing about “sin” as transgression of the Law, it reveals itself more fully.

I John 3:6. No one who abides in Him – who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him, [deliberately and knowingly] habitually commits (practices) sin. No one who habitually sins has either seen or known Him – recognized, perceived or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him.

This is a refuting of the concept that a man could be born again and not keep the Law.

I John 3:8. [But] he who commits sin (who practices evil doing) is of the Devil – takes his character from the Evil One; for the Devil has sinned (has violated the divine Law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen and dissolve) the works the Devil [has done].

This is a refuting of Paul’s claim that Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Law. John says He came to destroy the works of the Devil, and in 3:5, that He was manifested to take away our sin; not to take away the Law.

1 John 5:18. We know [absolutely] that any one born of God does not [deliberately and knowingly] practice committing sin, but the One Who was begotten of God carefully watches over and protects him – Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against the Evil One – and the Wicked One does not lay hold (get a grip) on him or touch him.

KJV

1 John 5:18. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

“Keepeth himself” here means keep himself levitically pure.

Amplified

1 John 2:19. They went out from our number…

KJV

I John 2:19. They went out from us…

This verse is not a reference to men of Belial leaving the human race, as some have taught. It’s a reference to the split in the apostles’ fellowship caused by some of them, like Peter, rising up to believe the gospel of the grace of Christ, and others refusing to accept it. Those who left are considered by John to be deceivers. That’s why he admonishes them to try the spirits. The deceivers were walking by the spirit!

Revelation Revelation is a puzzle. If, as we’ve been taught, all of it is written to churches that won’t exist until after the gathering together, there’s no need to compare it with the seven church epistles because they speak to different administrations. However, many are beginning to teach, that the churches mentioned in the first three chapters of Revelation are contemporaries of the churches in the seven church epistles. If this is so, the tone fits perfectly with I John, and further illustrates the division in the church, what side John was on, and how intense it was. Consider the following;

Rev. 2:1-2. To the angel (messenger) of the assembly (church) in Ephesus write: These are the words of Him Who holds the seven stars [which are the messengers of the seven churches] in His right hand, Who goes about among the seven golden lampstands [which are the seven churches]. I know your industry and activities, laborious toil and trouble, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot tolerate wicked [men] and have tested and critically appraised those who call [themselves] apostles (special messengers [of Christ]) and yet are not, and have found them to be impostors and liars.

Rev. 2:9. I know your affliction and distress and pressing trouble, and your poverty; but you are rich! and how you are abused and reviled and slandered by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

Rev. 3:9. Take note! I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie, behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn and acknowledge that I have loved you. [Isa. 60:14; 49:23; 43:4].

Seems to me John had a big problem with Paul’s gospel and considered its adherents counterfeit Jews and considered Paul to be a fraud.; at least at the time of the writing of Revelation. But remember, Peter was on he wrong side once too and corrected himself. Perhaps John did the same before he wrote his gospel.

 

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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