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I am posting this exhaustive, and quite unique work by an unknown author in the hopes that someone will be able to discover and advise me of who wrote it. I did not write this, but I will edit an update to it.

Since posting the above, I have located (via the wayback machine, the original (I think) document written by Jerry Barrax Jr and located here. All of my emails sent to the addresses of or have been returned undelivered and both his websites are now defunct with the last entries being made in 2016.

I will be editing the Bible references, standardise them to the Concordant Literal Version, except where another version is warranted in which case it will be duly noted. I will further edit passages where I feel the essay mey be less than accurate.


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

  1. Before we begin to examine the biblical evidence of the case against James, we must first etablish 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 ex–amine 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 having been called to proclaim the gospel is necessary to understanding Romans.  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 

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.

Eph. 3:6.  That the Gentiles are now to be fellow heirs [with the Jews], members of the same Body, and joint partakers (sharing) in the same Divine Promise in Christ through [their acceptance of] the glad tidings (the Gospel).

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

Rom. 1:17.  For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith – disclosed through the Way of faith that arouses to more faith.  As it is written, The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by faith.

In the gospel is the unveiling of the righteousness of God which is received by faith! This is the resounding message of the first four chapters, the bedrock, if you will, of the book of Romans. 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.

Deuteronomy 6: 25.  And it will be accounted as righteousness [conformity to God’s will in word, thought, and action] for us, if we are watchful to do ALL this commandment before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.

Unfortunately, since Adam’s sin left mankind inherently corrupt and depraved, “our righteousness” is pretty weak. As Isaiah 64:6 says, “and all our righteousnesses 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.

Phil. 3:9.  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 in (of) Christ, the Anointed One, the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by (saving) faith.

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 faith in Jesus Christ, as is boldly and plainly declared in Romans 3:21 & 22.

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 [trust in Him].  For there is no distinction, 

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 are God’s people limited to their own “filthy rags” righteousness, they can receive the righteousness of God. And the gospel reveals that the righteousness of God is received not by works, but by faith of Jesus Christ.

It may surprise you to learn that the gospel was first preached, not on the day of Pentecost, but several years later outside of Jerusalem! This is a surprising concept, but is attested to by Philippians 4:15

Phil. 4:15.  Now you Philippians yourselves well know that in the early days of the Gospel ministry, when I left Macedonia, no church (assembly) entered into partnership with me and opened up [a debit and credit] account in giving and receiving except 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.  Now  when [the apostles] had borne their testimony and preached the Message [Word] of the Lord,  they went back to Jerusalem, proclaiming the glad tidings (Gospel) to 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.  Presently when a woman of Samaria came along to draw water, Jesus said to her, Give Me a drink.  For His disciples had gone off into the town to buy food.  The Samaritan woman said to Him, How is it that You being a Jew ask me, a Samaritan [and a] woman, for a drink?  For the Jews have nothing to do with the 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.  And after there had been a long debate, Peter got up and said to them, Brethren, you know that quite a while ago God made a selection from among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the message of the Gospel [concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation in the kingdom of God] and believe – that is credit and place their confidence in it.

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.  I’m not speaking of the  “mystery of the Trinity”, but 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 fellowship of Jew and Gentile with each believer filled with the power and glory of the Living Christ. 

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.

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. By believing the gospel, 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. 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. 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.

Col. 1:25-28.  In it I became a minister in accordance with the divine stewardship which was entrusted to me for you – as its object and for your benefit – to make the Word of God [Christ] fully known [among you].  The Mystery of which was hidden for ages and generations (from angels and men), but is now revealed to His holy people (the saints, Believers, sons of God, children of God), to whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this Mystery, which is, Christ within and among you the hope of [realizing] the glory.  Him we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing every one and instructing every one in all wisdom, [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God], that we may present every person mature – full-grown, fully initiated, complete and perfect – in Christ, the Anointed One.

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.

I Cor. 2:7-8.  But rather what we are setting forth is a wisdom of God once hidden [from the human understanding] and now revealed to us by God; [that wisdom] which God devised and decreed before the ages for our glorification [that is, to lift us into the glory of His presence].  None of the rulers of this age or world (Satan and his minions (see 1 John 5:19.) <BG>) perceived and recognized and understood this; for if they had, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.

What’s a devil to do? He couldn’t undo the resurrection. He tried to kill Paul, but couldn’t pull it off. How could he undo the damage to his kingdom? He couldn’t erase the knowledge of the Mystery, once it had been revealed.  It was too late for that. But if he could get people to behave as if it had never been revealed, he could still rule! But how? Maybe he 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. Part Five: The Epistle of James.
  6. Part Six: Summary and Overview.
  7. Part Seven: Peter and John: Food for Thought.
  8. Return to top

 The common perception is that the First Century Church was a model group unified by sound doctrine and the power of the Holy Spirit, and that their enemies worked from the outside. Certainly, this was true for a while. Acts chapter two begins with the twelve apostles being of one accord and ends with all that believed having all things common. The enemies of the Church in the first few years were the Saduccees and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin who were chagrined because the apostles taught the resurrection of Christ. But this situation did not last. The exact time of the beginning of division in the church can be debated, but what is abundantly clear is that, as Acts progresses, two separate and distinctly different factions emerge.

These verses from Acts Chapter five characterize the power of the early Church. It was a Church whose leaders were united in their doctrine and who were unstoppable in their conviction to preach the resurrection of Christ. The Church was invincible, a spiritual juggernaut in Judaea, whose members stood together and repelled all attempts to hinder their collective ministry. 

Acts 5:15-16.  So that they [even] kept carrying out the sick into the streets and placing them on couches and sleeping pads, [in the hope] that as Peter passed by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.  And the people gathered also from the towns and hamlets around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those troubled with foul spirits, and they were all cured.

Acts 5:27-28.  So they brought them [and] set them before the council (Sanhedrin).  And the high priest examined them by questioning, saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name; yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us.

Consider the contrast between these verses from Acts 5 and  these  from Acts 20, written of circumstances in the same city a few years later.

Acts 20:22-23.  And now, you see, I am going to Jerusalem, bound by the (Holy) Spirit (Mind of Christ), and obligated and compelled by the [convictions of my own] spirit (mind), not knowing what will befall me there; except that the Holy Spirit clearly and emphatically affirms to me in city after city that imprisonment and suffering await me.

In the first passages, Jerusalem is so filled with the apostles’ doctrine and the power of God’s word that the mere shadow of Peter’s passing healed people, and multitudes were brought into Jerusalem to be delivered. The Sanhedrin was certainly appalled that the apostles had filled all Jerusalem with their doctrine, but were powerless to do anything about it. Jerusalem was a center of outreach and deliverance. But in the latter passage, God warns Paul repeatedly that Jerusalem isn’t even safe to visit! What a dramatic change! What had happened? Quite simply, what the adversary was unable to accomplish by intimidation, he did by infiltration. The church was divided.

The exact dates and circumstances of the beginning of the rift are debatable. But what is clear is that, by the beginning of chapter eleven, things were quite different than they had been in chapter five. I wonder if God had a girl in a skimpy outfit walk through the temple with a big sign to tell everybody what chapter they were in. That’s ridiculous I know. She would have to have worn a long dress and a veil.

But seriously, remember that in chapter 5, the church in Jerusalem was unified and Peter was so revered that people were healed by his shadow alone. Only the unsaved in the council dared question him. The only ones in the church who are recorded to have had a confrontation of any kind with Peter during that period were Ananias and Sapphira. They dropped dead at his feet. If there had been skate boarders in Jerusalem in those days, they surely would have greeted Peter with, “You RULE!” How does that compare with the beginning of chapter eleven?

Acts 11:1-3.  Now the apostles (special messengers) and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard [with astonishment] that the Gentiles (heathen) also had received and accepted and welcomed the Word of God [Christ] – that is, the doctrine concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation (from the Evil One and his fellow spirits) in/into the kingdom of God.  So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party [the Jewish Christians (supposed Believers)] found fault with him – separating themselves from him in a hostile spirit, opposing and disputing and contending with him – saying, Why do you go to uncircumcised men and [even] eat with them?

My what a change. People in the church contended with Peter. It must have been over some heinous crime for them to treat him with such an affront. Indeed it was. He had violated the Law! This was no light thing. Even a casual reading of chapter ten shows how deeply ingrained the law of Moses was in Peter himself. When God showed him the vision of the animals let down by the sheet, Peter’s response was “Not so Lord.” Think about that for a second. That’s an oxymoronic statement if ever there was one. Not so…Lord. ‘Yeah I know you’re God almighty and you created the heavens and the earth and all that, but I ain’t eatin’ those things! They’re unclean!’ We really should stop a moment and look at this issue. It’s pertinent to the overall picture of the eventual split of the church and it’s unfair to Peter’s memory to treat it lightly.

Peter had been trained by Jesus Christ himself. He was perhaps the boldest and brightest of the Jesus’ apostles. He had identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 16:16). He had walked on the water with Jesus Christ (Matthew 14:28 & 29). He had leapt to Jesus’ defense against overwhelming odds (John 18:10). And of course, he had delivered the sermon on the day of Pentecost that ushered in the age of grace and had lead the church into a time of unparalleled deliverance and glory. But he was a Jew. That is, he was raised in the Law. Even the teachings Jesus himself had delivered on the day of His ascension were not fully carried out because of the invisible shackles of the law in the apostles’ minds.

Acts 1:5.  For John baptized with water, but not many days from now you shall be baptized with – placed in, introduced into – the Holy Spirit.

Acts 1:8.  But you shall receive power – ability, efficiency and might – when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends – the very bounds – of the earth.

Well, here we are in chapter ten, about ten years removed from the utterance of those commandments of the Lord, and no apostle has yet witnessed to a Gentile, and they’ve spent ten years water baptizing people (Acts 8:36-39, 10:47 22:16). Why? Despite the fact that they’d spent at least a year with Jesus Christ and had been ordained by God, and filled with the power of holy spirit, and called as apostles, the Law was their natural environment and they had great difficulty seeing beyond it.

Now back to chapter ten. How many times did Peter say “Not so Lord”, before God got through to him? We don’t know. We know only that the vision was given three times, which is remarkable in itself.  What other revelation recorded in the Bible was given three times?  Because of the vision and of course, all of Peter’s training and godliness, he eventually obeyed God and went to the household of Cornelius. Even after all that God had done to show him this was okay, it was still a concern at the forefront of his mind when he set foot in the door.

Acts 10:28-29.  And he said to them, You yourselves are aware how it is not lawful or permissible for a Jew to keep company with or to visit or [even] to come near or to speak first to any one of another nationality, but God has shown and taught me by words that I should not call any human being common or unhallowed or

(ceremonially) unclean.  Therefore when I was sent for, I came without hesitation or objection or misgivings.  So now I ask for what reason you sent for me.

Notice also that he still had no idea why he was there! And this despite the commandment of Jesus Christ that they be his witnesses unto the uttermost part of the earth. Peter himself, on the day of Pentecost had proclaimed, “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Yet it had never dawned on him and even then, standing in the house of Cornelius. It was unthinkable that anyone should go preach to a Gentile.

So it was that he and they of the circumcision with him were astonished when the first Gentiles spoke in tongues. If this was astonishing to Peter, it was just as astonishing, if not downright scandalous to the rest of the brethren. So it was that the man who had been so revered that his shadow had healed multitudes was now being openly criticized in the church. Despite the Church’s seeming acceptance of God’s grace to the heathen, the contention over the Law and the Gentiles continued to grow.

Fast forward a few years into the ministry of Paul and Barnabus, both of whom were ordained in Antioch. In Acts 13 we have Paul’s first recorded sermon. Spoken to the Jews at Pisidian Antioch, it ended thus.

Acts 13:37-39.  But He Whom God raised up [to life] saw no corruption – did not experience putrefaction and dissolution [of the grave].  So let it be clearly known and understood by you, brethren, that through this Man forgiveness and removal of sins is now proclaimed to you; and that through Him every one who believes [trusts in, cleaves to, leans his entire personality on Jesus as his savior from the Evil One] is absolved (cleared and freed) from every charge from which you could not be justified and freed by the Law of Moses, and given right standing with God.

Notice that Paul preaches the resurrection of Christ and justification by believing, not works. This is the beginning of the gospel spoken of in Philippians. The only element missing is the invitation to the Gentiles to partake of the good tidings. That came the following week.

Acts 13:42-44.  As they [Paul and Barnabas] went out [of the synagogue], the people earnestly begged that these things might be told to them [further] the next Sabbath.  And when the congregation of the synagogue dispersed, many of the Jews and the devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked to them and urged them to continue [to entrust themselves to and stand fast] in the grace – that is, the unmerited favor and blessing – of God.  The next Sabbath almost the entire city gathered together to hear the Word of God – concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation (from the kingdom of Hell and its rulers and) in (into) the Kingdom of God.

Hallelujah! Now we see all the elements of the gospel at work. Paul has preached righteousness by faith as opposed to the works of the law, and now is prepared to lay out the same plan of salvation to the Gentiles. Surely the Jews who had received the Word would rejoice.

Acts 13:45-46.  But when the Jews saw the crowds , filled with envy and jealousy they contradicted what was said by Paul, and talked abusively – reviling and slandering him.  And Paul and Barnabas spoke out plainly and boldly, saying, It was necessary that God’s message (concerning salvation through Christ) should be spoken to you first.  But since you thrust it from you, you pass this judgment on yourselves  that you are self-worthy of eternal life, and out of your own mouth you shall be judged.  [Now] behold, we turn to the Gentiles – the heathen.

Maybe not. These were the same Jews who the week prior had gladly received Paul’s gospel. Now they were nothing but contentious. Why? These men had been raised in the law. A big part of the law was the ingrained idea of the inferiority of the Gentiles to “God’s chosen people”. Remember that this was such a big deal that the believers in Jerusalem had contended with Peter about it despite the magnitude of his ministry and reputation. Paul wasn’t afforded the respect Peter got. They rejected his words and turned on him, contradicting the gospel and doing their best to undermine Paul’s ministry.

It’s interesting to note that they didn’t immediately reject the idea that Christ had fulfilled the law of Moses. Like those of the circumcision in Jerusalem, they were ready to embrace the grace of God. They simply weren’t ready to embrace the Gentiles along with it. They were incensed. They were willing to tear down the walls the law had erected between them and God, but they were not willing to tear down the wall that separated them from the nations. And so it was that the church, which had begun in unity defending itself from enemies from without was now divided and generating strife from within. The same situation occurred in Iconium, as documented in Acts 14:1-4.

Acts 14: 1-2.  Now at Iconium [also Paul and Barnabas] went into the Jewish synagogue together and spoke with such power that a great number both of Jews and of Greeks believed – trusted in the Word of God [Christ].  But the unbelieving (non-trusting) Jews (who rejected their message) aroused the Gentiles and embittered their minds (spirits) against the brethren.

Here we have an ironic twist. The Jews were vehemently opposed to sharing grace with the Gentiles, but more than willing to join them in opposing the gospel which preached unity among Jews and Gentiles in Christ! Throughout this first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabus, we see that the Jews received the gospel until they found out that it meant sharing grace with the Gentiles. Then they vehemently opposed it and even allied themselves with unbelieving Gentiles in their opposition to God’s Word. One might think that these Jews were simply legalists of the kindred of the High Priest and had nothing in common with they of the circumcision back in Jerusalem. That would be a pleasant thought and would offer some solace that the born again Jews were much better adjusted to the idea of striding into the age of grace side by side with their new Gentile brethren. Such an idea would fill us with good cheer and optimism. Unfortunately, this idea is dispelled when we read chapter 15.

When we left Jerusalem, they of the circumcision were contending with Peter for having gone to the house of a Gentile. Peter persuaded them that, since the heathen had spoken in tongues, they should not be considered in any way inferior any longer, and the matter seemed to be settled. Meanwhile, Paul and Barnabus encountered vigorous opposition among Jews abroad when they preached the gospel to both Jew and Gentile. With the apparent appeasement of the circumcision in Chapter 11, one would think that things in Jerusalem were going swimmingly. Quite the contrary was true. Not only did the believers in Jerusalem still not understand that the law was passed and the church was one; not only were they failing to perceive and believe the grace of God, they were deliberately and zealously spreading their error.

The Council at Jerusalem

Acts 15:1.  But some men came down from Judea and were instructing the brethren,  Unless you are circumcised in accordance with the Mosaic custom, you cannot be saved.

Where did they get such an idea? Certainly not from Peter. He had told them plainly that God almighty had shown him by a vision not to call any man common or unclean. He had told them of the astonishing outpouring of the gift of holy spirit witnessed by six other brethren. Surely Peter did not fail to tell the brethren in Jerusalem that the Gentiles were saved by grace through believing in Jesus Christ. Yet men sent from Jerusalem were preaching a false gospel: salvation by works.

Acts 15:2.   And when Paul and Barnabas had no small disagreement and discussion with them, it was decided that Paul and Barnabas and some of the others of their number should go up to Jerusalem [and confer] with the apostles (special messengers) and the elders about this matter.

In response to the arrival of the false gospel in Antioch, Paul and Barnabus tried to settle the issue there, but were unable to convince the Jerusalem legalists. These must have been some pretty zealous men, perhaps not unlike Saul of Tarsus had been before he got born again of God’s spirit. So the division that started in Jerusalem with people contending with Peter had now been exported to Antioch. So logically, the elders in Antioch decided to track the problem to its source and try to fix it there.

Acts 15:3-4.  So, being fitted out and sent on their way by the church, they went through both Phoenicia and Samaria telling of the conversion of the Gentiles, and they caused great rejoicing among all the brethren.  When they arrived in Jerusalem they were heartily welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders and they told them all that God had accomplished through them.

The news of the conversion of the Gentiles; the preaching of the gospel and the news of its reception in the world caused great joy unto the brethren in the lands around Judaea. And, verse 4 says, they were received of the church in Jerusalem and told them the same news. Surely the Jerusalem church would also rejoice at the news as their Judean brethren had done.

Acts 15:5.  But some who believed [that is, who acknowledged Jesus as their Savior and devoted themselves to Him] belonged to the sect of the Pharisees and they rose up and said,  It is necessary to circumcise [the Gentile converts], and to charge them to obey the Law of Moses.

Rather than being received with joy, the news of the conversion of the Gentiles was immediately disputed by the Pharisees. They were too zealous for the law to rejoice in God’s work of grace among the nations.

Also in this verse we see clearly that the Church in Jerusalem was divided. We have now a sect within the church. “The sect of the Pharisees” had infiltrated the church. You might think the word infiltrated is too harsh, because they did believe and were saved. The problem was they brought their heavy-handed, hard-hearted oppressive ways with them and attempted to exert the same kind of control over the lives of the church of the body of Christ as they had wielded over Israel.

Matt 23:13.  But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders – hypocrites!  because you shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces; for you neither enter yourselves, nor do you allow those who are about to go in to do so.

They had received the new birth, but were walking according to the old man. And so the apostles and elders met to try to eliminate the division and agree on just what the truth regarding the Gentiles was.

Acts 15:6-11.  The apostles and the elders were assembled together to look into and consider this matter.  And after there had been a long debate, Peter got up and said to them, Brethren, you know that quite a while ago God made a selection from among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the message of the Gospel [concerning the attainment through Christ of salvation (from the Evil One) in (into) the kingdom of God] and believe – that is, credit and place their confidence in it.  And God, Who is acquainted with and understands the heart (mind), bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit as also He did to us; and He made no difference between us and them, but cleansed their hearts (minds) by faith [that is, by a strong and welcome conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation (from Satan and his minions by being brought) in (into) the kingdom of God].  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples, such as neither our forefathers nor we [ourselves] were able to endure?  But we believe that we are saved (from the Enemy) through the grace [the undeserved favor and mercy] of the Lord Jesus, just as they [are].

Peter is preaching the gospel. Notice again that the first use in Acts of the noun “gospel” is in verse 7 wherein Peter reminds them that he had been the one God chose to preach God’s Word (Jesus) to  Gentiles. He concludes his address to the gathered apostles and elders by summarizing the gospel itself: that salvation was not by works, but by grace and was available to both Jews and Gentiles. Surely this was not the first time Peter had said these things in Jerusalem. Why had they refused to believe him? And if not Peter, whom were they following?

Acts 15:12.  Then the whole assembly remained silent, and they listened [attentively] as Barnabas and Paul rehearsed what signs and wonders God had performed through them among the Gentiles.

Well one would think that this would be the nail in the coffin of legalism. But no. No one stood up and said, “Well now I see it!” The Pharisees were not swayed by the passionate and articulate testimony of Peter or Paul. They were not swayed, as they should have been, by the magnitude of what God had done among the nations with mighty signs and wonders. This is really not surprising when you consider the fact that these same men probably saw the miracles Jesus Christ himself did and waved them aside by accusing him of working the power of Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24). If not Peter or Paul, or the work of God himself, to whom then, would they relent?

Acts 15:13.  When they had finished talking, James replied, Brethren, listen to me.

James. Not to Peter, nor Paul, nor the works of God Almighty did the Pharisees relent. After all that Peter and Paul & Barnabus had said about the working of the Holy Spirit and the understanding they had of the grace of God, the Pharisees held their peace, but did not consent. They did not agree. They did not repent. Then James spoke with authority.

Acts 15:14-20.   Simeon [Peter] has rehearsed how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people [to bear and honor] His name.  And with this the predictions of the prophets agree, as it is written,  After this I will come back, and will rebuild the house of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its [very] ruins, and I will set it up again, so that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom My name has been invoked,  says the Lord Who has been making these things known from the beginning of the world.  [Amos 9:11-12; Jer. 12:15; Isa. 45:21.]  Therefore it is my opinion [sentence] that we should not put obstacles in the way and annoy and disturb those of the Gentiles who turn to God.  But we should send word to them in writing to abstain from and avoid anything that has been polluted by being offered to idols, and all sexual impurity, and [meat of animals] that have been strangled, and [tasting] of blood.

“Wherefore my sentence is…” He’s not making a suggestion. He’s making a ruling as authoritatively as a judge. The Pharisees did not argue with him. In fact, no one questioned anything he said, or his right to pronounce sentence and define doctrine for the church! Where did this man get such authority? Certainly God put him in this position because of his superior understanding of God’s Word and will. If so, we should be able to see it in his reasoning here before the council.

Acts 15:21.  For from ancient generations Moses has had in every town his preachers, for he is read [aloud] every Sabbath in the synagogues.

Then again, maybe not. Remember, God has a reason for everything He says, where He says it, ,how,  when,  and to whom He says it. We might also be wise to consider what God’s Word does not say, especially here. It does not say that James decided to send that letter to the Gentiles because he knew that His big brother Jesus of Nazareth had fulfilled the law. Peter had said that. James doesn’t reinforce Peter’s declaration that by grace the Jews would be saved even as the Gentiles. Instead, he says, Moses is still taught in the synagogues every Sabbath day. He is in effect saying, the Gentiles may be saved without circumcision, but we will keep the law! This is not the sentence of a superior spiritual leader. This is the reasoning of a man who did not understand what God was trying to accomplish in the church in which he was presiding. How did such a man rise to a position of greater prominence and influence than the apostle whom God chose to take the gospel to the world?

We’ll return to that question later. Now we continue to trace the cracks in the church and see where they head. The record in Acts seems to indicate that all was settled by James’ sentence at the council and that the church was reunified. The epistle of

Galatians shatters this illusion. Galatians chapter two talks of the council described in Acts 15. A detailed reading of this chapter, which we will get to later, reveals that all was not as it seemed at the Jerusalem council. Galatians summarizes the outcome of James’ sentence in verses 9 and 10.

Gal. 2:9-10.  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).  They only [made one stipulation], that we were to *remember the poor, which very thing I was also eager to do.

It appears that all was settled and the church was reunifed. An optimist would assume that Peter and company were going to go to the circumcision with the same gospel that Paul was going to preach to the “heathen”. A pessimist might observe that they were still divided and had simply agreed to teach two different doctrines; one to Jews and the other to Gentiles. At any rate, the following verse indicates that no matter what the mood and terms of the agreement were, neither its intent nor objective was preserved.

Gal. 2:11-13.  But when [Cephas] Peter came to Antioch I protested and opposed him to his face [concerning his conduct there], for he was blameable and stood condemned.  For up to the time that certain persons came from James, he ate meals with the Gentile [converts]; but when the men [from Jerusalem] arrived, he withdrew and held himself aloof from the Gentiles and [ate] separately for fear (dread) of those of the circumcision [party].  And the rest of the Jews along with him also concealed their true convictions and acted insincerely, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy – that is, by their example of insincerity and pretense.

The church was still divided; more now than ever. Before the Acts 15 council, Paul and Barnabas were at least united in their commitment to preaching the gospel of the grace of God. Afterward, because of James’ influence and Peter’s action, Barnabas was “carried away with their dissimulation”. The Acts 15 Council hadn’t healed the schism in the church. The schism was no smaller. Rather it had grown unto the separation of Paul and Barnabas. Using the principles prescribed in Isaiah, “line upon line, precept upon precept,”  we can see from Acts how deep this division described in Galatians was. Acts chapter 15 ends with this record.

Acts 15:36-38.  And after some time Paul said to Barnabas, Come, let us go back and again visit and help and minister to the brethren in every town where we made known the message of the Lord, and see how they are getting along.  Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark [his near relative].  But Paul did not think it best to have along with them the one who had quit and deserted them in Pamphylia, and had not gone on with them to the work.

On the surface, it appears that this argument has nothing to do with the confrontation between Peter and Paul. But remember that that confrontation took place in Antioch. Galatians told us that Barnabus was carried away with the hypocrisy of the men of the circumcision who came from James. The separation of the Jewish believers from the Gentile believers had a profound impact on Barnabus, who had been raised as a Levite. This record in Acts is in the exact same time and place, perhaps the very next day.

Acts 15:39.  And there followed a sharp disagreement between them, so that they separated [departed asunder] from each other, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.

They “departed asunder.” This was no casual parting of the ways. The Greek word translated “departed asunder” here is the word apochorizomai. It is only used twice in the entire New Testament. Its other use, in Revelation 6:14, sheds light on the sense of the word.

Rev. 6:14.  And the sky rolled up like a scroll and vanished, and every mountain and island was dislodged from its place.


Rev. 6:14.  And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

The separation of the apostles Paul and Barnabus, who together had carried out a powerful ministry preaching the grace of God among the Gentiles, was deep and permanent. In the aftermath of the Acts 15 council not only was the church still divided, the two chief ambassadors of the gospel of grace were divided as well.

Paul’s Return to Jerusalem

Scripture clearly declares that it was Paul’s will, not God’s to go back to Jerusalem.

Acts 20:22-23.  And now, you see, I am going to Jerusalem, bound by the (Holy) Spirit (the Mind of Christ), and obligated and compelled by the [convictions of my own] spirit (mind), not knowing what will befall me there; except that the Holy Spirit clearly and emphatically affirms to me in city after city that imprisonment and suffering await me.

As Paul progressed on his journey in the wrong direction, the warnings increased in frequency and intensity. What we need to consider in light of this study is why, with all of the experience Paul had in walking by revelation, he would deliberately and stubbornly disobey the will of God. Why did Paul risk his ministry and his life to return to Jerusalem? The only reasonable explanation is that he knew that his brethren in Jerusalem were still captive to the law and he was committed to try to help them to better understand the grace of God that was available to them. Perhaps the incident at Antioch and its effect on Barnabus and the other Judaeans there lingered in his heart and compelled him to make another attempt to correct their thinking. Romans 10:1-3 summarizes Paul’s feelings about his misguided brethren in Judaea.

Rom 10:1-3.  Brethren, [with all] my heart’s (mind’s) desire and  goodwill for (Israel) I long and pray to God that they may be saved.  I bear them witness that they have a [certain] zeal and enthusiasm for God, but it is not enlightened and according to [correct and vital] knowledge.  For being ignorant of the righteousness that God ascribes (which makes one acceptable to Him in word, thought and deed), and seeking to establish a righteousness (a means of salvation) of their own, they did not obey or submit themselves to God’s righteousness.

So the apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem despite the clear knowledge that such a trip was not God’s will and despite dire warnings of physical peril. What did he find in Jerusalem?

Acts 21:17.  When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received and welcomed us gladly.

So far, so good. This is in contrast to the contentious greeting Paul had received earlier. The issue of the circumcision of the Gentiles seems to have been settled. Paul’s former opposition was gone.

Acts 21:17.  When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received and welcomed us gladly.

Paul went in unto James. No other names are given. God has a reason for this. No other men were important. James was in charge of the church in Jerusalem. As it was James who had pronounced sentence at the end of the earlier council, it was James who now sat in charge of the ongoing affairs of the church in Jerusalem. The significant difference between this meeting and the council is that the apostles are not mentioned. Throughout the record of the earlier council, God’s Word specifically states that “the apostles and elders” met to discuss the issue. In this later meeting there are only James and the elders. Where were the apostles? Since the meeting took place a day after Paul’s arrival, and James and “all the elders” were present, surely the apostles would have known about the meeting. Were the apostles barred from the meeting, or were they no longer even in Jerusalem? We don’t know. But what we do know from the record of God’s Word here is significant. James was in charge of both the meeting and the church, and had even more power than he had wielded during the time of the council.

Acts 21:19.  After saluting them, Paul gave a detailed (declared particularly) account of the things God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

The phrase “declared particularly” means he enumerated them one by one.  It was not a casual catching up on old times.  Paul’s speech had an intended purpose; to relate again the validity of the Gospel he was preaching among the Gentiles; salvation by Grace; the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ imparted unto all and upon all them that believe (trust in, cleave to, adhere to, lean their entire human personality) on Jesus Christ for their salvation from the Evil One and his kingdom.

Acts 21:20.  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.

When they heard of God’s grace among the Gentiles, they didn’t contest it. Neither were they particularly interested in it. They responded by showing Paul how many thousands of Jews were born again and zealous for the law. Actually, they didn’t say that. The word translated “thousands” here is the Greek word muriad It means ‘tens of thousands’. Its first occurrence is in Luke 12:1 where it’s translated “innumerable multitude”. It is translated “ten thousands” in Jude 1:14 and Revelation 5:11, and “two hundred thousand” in Revelation 9:16. James and the elders responded to Paul’s deliberate declaration of his ministry among the Gentiles by showing Paul that there were tens of thousand of Jews who believed and they were Aaaall zealous for the law.

Please understand the tone of that statement. These men were not complaining. They were not bewailing their collective failure to steer God’s people in the right direction. They weren’t asking for Paul’s advice about how to convince these tens of thousands of born again Judaeans that the law had been fulfilled. They were excited about it, perhaps even proud. How do we know this? It is written.

Acts 21:21.  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.

They were informed correctly. Paul did teach that. It was the gospel which he had received by revelation.

Acts 21:22-24. 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 (oath) 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.

If James and the elders understood that they were no longer under the Law, why ask

Paul to undergo purification?  Why was he considered unclean?  Then consider what Jesus had to say concerning the taking of vows (oaths) in Matt 5:34 “But I tell you, do not bind yourselves by an oath (vow) at all,……..”  So James is telling Paul to do something that Jesus said not to do.

Ladies and Gentlemen, could it be any plainer? Scripture clearly shows that James and the elders believed that they were supposed to keep the law. They assumed that Paul was keeping the law and that what they’d heard about his teaching the Jews about salvation by grace was a lie! Verse 25 reiterates that they were no longer interested in bringing the Gentiles in line, but they clearly were blind to the truth that they themselves had been freed from the bondage of the Law.

Paul, as the passage shows, obeyed their wishes and attempted to purify himself with the designated brethren. This begs the question; why did Paul submit to their demands when it was obvious that they had no understanding of his ministry or of the will of God? Well, how else was he going to reach them? I Corinthians 9:20 states that Paul would behave as if he were under the law if it would help him to reach someone who was. He had even gone so far as to circumcise Timothy for the same reason. Apparently he figured that if he could spend enough time with James and these law-bound elders, he would be able, as his manner was, to reason with them out of the scriptures and convince them of their error. Unfortunately, he never got the chance. Before he could complete the purification, he was discovered by his archenemies; the Jews from Asia. They forcibly took him from the Temple and proceeded to gather a lynch mob. From this point on, throughout the rest of the book of Acts, there is no mention of James or the apostles. Considering how long Paul was held captive under the protection of the Roman guard, this omission is itself noteworthy.

Since James was obviously in charge of the church at this time, why is there no record in Acts of James interceding on Paul’s behalf? In considering that question, an equally pertinent one arises. What would James have done when he found out that those nasty rumors about Paul teaching the Jews to forsake Moses were true? Would he have left him to fend for himself? Perhaps he would have. Perhaps he did. What we do know unequivocally is that the rift in the church which Paul returned to Jerusalem to seal was left wide open. At the close of the book of Acts, there were two Christian churches; the church headed by James which ministered the law to the Jews in the name of Jesus Christ and the church lead by Paul which was founded on the revelation of the mystery of the gospel.

Since Acts closes with this rift in the church intact, it is not unreasonable to expect that we would see evidence of the divided church in the epistles. Rather, since several of Paul’s epistles were written during the period of time covered by Acts, we should expect to see something of this in his epistles and in other NT writing.

People tend to read the Bible in sections; without a sense of the flow of events from one age or book to another. We too often read Acts without considering that it takes place on the heels of the ministry of Jesus Christ. Likewise when we read the New Testament epistles, we tend to forget the environment in which Acts says they were written. This blinds us to underlying issues of the epistles. One of the principles of biblical research is we must understand the Bible, not only in terms of what it means to us today, but what it meant to the first people to read it; the primary group to whom it was addressed. With this in mind, let’s take a brief look at some of the scriptures in the New Testament epistles that address a church divided.

  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. Part Five: The Epistle of James.
  6. Part Six: Summary and Overview.
  7. Part Seven: Peter and John: Food for Thought.

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?


Concerning the evidence against James in the epistle of Galatians, we will study

Galatians in two sections. The two major topics in Galatians are the doctrine and people. The first part of Galatians deals primarily with the people involved in moving the Galatian believers from the true gospel to a false gospel. After the issue of these persons and reputations has been settled, the epistle goes on to focus on the doctrinal issues relating to the two gospels.


Galatians begins by addressing the issue of persons and reputations.

Gal. 1:1.  Paul, an apostle – special messenger appointed and commissioned and sent out – not from [any body of] men nor by or through any man, but by and through Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and God the Father Who raised Him from among the dead;

The parenthetical insertion, the figure of speech parembole, immediately calls our attention to this issue. Paul’s apostleship is presented as one of God as distinct from men. It is neither of (apo): from men, nor by (dia: through) man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father. This figure sets Paul’s apostleship equal with, if not above those of any other men with whom the Galatians may have been familiar. After having noted this, we must remind ourselves again that God does not waste words. Everything he says has a distinct purpose. Why does Paul’s epistle to the Galatians begin with such an emphatic endorsement of the divine authority of Paul’s ministry?

Verses 2-5 complete the greeting and salutation. Verse six begins the “meat” of the letter. It begins with an astonishing statement.

Gal. 1:6.  I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ, the Messiah, [and that you are transferring your allegiance] to a different, even an opposition gospel.

For some reason, the Galatian believers had moved from the truth Paul had taught them in a remarkably short period of time. As is the case in II Corinthians 11:4, Paul speaks here of another gospel. The major difference is the Galatians had already succumbed to that of which Paul warned the Corinthians. They had already been beguiled into accepting another gospel, another Jesus, and another spirit. Of this fact there can be no doubt for Galatians 3:1 asks, “Who hath bewitched you that you should not obey the truth…?” That is the central question of this epistle. It is a question we cannot afford to ignore, yet that is precisely what the Church has done, despite the fact that the answer is also here. But it is given to those of who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Paul marveled at the speed with which the Galatians were removed from the grace of  Christ unto another gospel. Why were they so quickly beguiled? What gospel was the other gospel? As we shall see, the reason they were so quickly removed from grace is that they were beguiled in the manner warned of in II Corinthians; by reputable Hebrews, false apostles. And the other gospel into which they were bewitched was the Law.  As the next verse boldly testifies, this was a perversion of the gospel of Christ.

Gal. 1:7.  Not that there is [or could be] any other [genuine Gospel], but there are [obviously] some who are troubling and disturbing and bewildering you (with a different kind of teaching which they offer as a gospel) and want to pervert and distort the Gospel of Christ, the Messiah [into something which it absolutely is not].

There be some that trouble you. These who troubled them are the reason they were so quickly removed unto another gospel. The verse further says that these troublesome people perverted the gospel of Christ. They changed it from the gospel of the grace of Christ into something perverse. How did they accomplish this in such a remarkably short period of time? Apparently through the influence of their reputations. Verse 8 indicates that this was the case.

Gal. 1:8.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to and different from that which we preached to you, let him be accursed – anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment!

God doesn’t waste words. Verse 8 clearly indicates that those who had troubled them and perverted the gospel of Christ  were quite well known and well respected men. Otherwise this verse is so much hot air. Why else would Paul say, though WE –even if he himself changed the gospel, it would be a grave sin – “or an angel from heaven”? What higher authority could another gospel come from? This tells us that the perverters of the gospel were men of great renown in the church.

If such a person, even an angel from heaven, were to come to us with the other gospel, what should we do? Offer them an easy chair so they can explain it fully in comfort? No! “Let him be accursed”! Considering the fact a curse in the biblical culture could be a deadly serious thing (Acts 23:12), this is the most emphatic condemnation possible. Those who change the gospel of grace into THE other gospel are not to be respected, heeded, or even tolerated. They are to be accursed. Is God encouraging us to pray for evil upon the heads of those who teach error? I don’t think so. I think this expression of intense disdain is intended to counteract the influence of personality. We often decry modern American culture as a “cult of personality” in which drug using felons walk the streets and even murderers go free because of the weight of their reputations. There is nothing new under the sun. In the biblical culture as well, people of good reputation could do much damage in the body of Christ. This emphatic warning in Galatians 1:8 screams at us to take note of who was perverting the gospel of the grace of Christ.

And as if that weren’t enough, it is immediately repeated! This is a figure of speech called a pleonasm; emphasis by redundance.

Gal. 1:9.  As we said before, so I now say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel different from or contrary to that which you received [from us], let him be accursed – anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment!

If there was any lingering doubt that God’s Word is calling our attention to the negative influence of respected people, verse 10 reiterates.

Gal. 1:10.  Now, am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God?  Do I seek to be a man-pleaser?  If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ, the Messiah.

The word “men” is used three times in this short verse. Again, we have a figure of speech, this time repetitio calling our attention to the damaging influence of men. The message here is that Paul’s apostleship is neither directed toward, nor limited by the approval of men. The truth of his gospel was not to be judged by its acceptance among his peers. Just to make sure we haven’t missed it, the scripture goes on to state plainly that what Paul taught was not learned from other church leaders.

Gal. 1:11-12.  For I want you to know, brethren, that the Gospel which was proclaimed and made known by me is not man’s gospel – a human invention, according to or patterned after any human standard.  For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it; [it came to me] through a [direct] revelation [given] by Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Since we know God has a reason for everything He says, we must acknowledge that this verse, especially in the context in which it is presented, differentiates the apostleship and gospel of Paul from those of other men. The background and mindset of the other men is alluded to in verses 13 and 14, in which Paul mentions his past experiences in “the Jews religion.”. The Jews religion is in these verses associated with vehement hatred and persecution of the church and with the traditions of the Patriarchs. Verses 15 – 17 reaffirm the truth of verse 12 about the divine source of Paul’s gospel.

Gal. 1:15-17.  But when He Who had chosen and set me apart [even] before I was born, and had called me by His grace (His undeserved favor and blessing), [Isa. 19:1; Jer. 1:5.] saw fit and was pleased to reveal (unveil, disclose) His Son within me so that I might proclaim Him among the Gentiles [the non-Jewish world] as the glad tidings, immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood – did not consult or counsel with any frail human being or communicate with any one.  Nor did I [even] go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles – special messengers of Christ – before I was;  but I went away and retired into Arabia, and afterward I came back again to Damascus.

The presentation of Paul’s credentials as being separate and independent from the other apostles is almost excruciatingly redundant. Again we must ask ourselves WHY God went to such lengths to drive this point into the minds of the Galatians. Why was it so important for these people to realize that Paul’s apostleship was not less than the others?

Gal. 1:18.  Then three years later, I did go up to Jerusalem to become (personally) acquainted with Cephas (Peter), and remained with him for fifteen days.

How much influence could Peter possibly have had on Paul in 15 days? Not much. That’s the point.

Gal. 1:19.  But I did not see any of the other apostles (of a different [heteros] kind) – the special messengers of Christ – except James the brother of our Lord.

“But” sets a contrast to the preceding verse indicating that while he was in Jerusalem he didn’t see anyone else of note and therefore, couldn’t have been trained or influenced by the other apostles. So again we are told that Paul’s gospel didn’t come from another man. This independence of Paul’s doctrine is yet again emphatically reinforced in verses 20-23 to close the introduction of this critically important epistle.

Gal. 1:20-24.  Now -[note carefully] what I am telling you, [for] it is the Truth;  I write it as if I were standing before the bar of God;  I do not lie.  Then I went into the districts (countries, regions) of Syria and Cilicia.  And so far I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea [the country surrounding Jerusalem].  They were only hearing it said, He who used to persecute us is now proclaiming the very faith he once reviled and which he set out to ruin and tried [with all his might] to destroy.  And they glorified God [as the Author and Source of what had taken place] in me.

Having exceedingly thoroughly established that Paul’s apostleship was divinely ordained and independent of any man’s influence, including that of the other apostles, chapter two goes to the heart of the matter. We must bear in mind all that we have just learned, especially with regard to the other gospel and the perversion of the gospel of Christ. Before we got into an extended resume of Paul’s divine qualifications, the topic was the marvelously short period of time in which the Galatian believers turned from the Grace of Christ unto the other gospel: the Law.

Chapter two begins with the story of Paul and Barnabus’ journey to Jerusalem to discuss the contentious issue of circumcising the Gentiles who had believed. We have already considered the testimony of Acts chapter 15 which gives a more detailed history of this council. The contention began in Antioch when believers from Jerusalem taught the ‘Gentiles’ there that they could not be saved without circumcision. You will no doubt recall that the issue was apparently settled to everyone’s satisfaction by James sentence and the letter to the ‘Gentiles’ which Paul and Barnabus delivered.

Galatians chapter two gives us another perspective on this pivotal time in church history.

Gal. 2:1-2.  Then after (an interval) of fourteen years I again went up to Jerusalem.  [This time I went] with Barnabas, taking Titus along with [me] also.  I went because it was specially and divinely revealed to me that I should go., and I put before them the Gospel, [declaring to them that] which I preach among the Gentiles.  However, [I presented the matter] privately before those of repute, [for I wanted to make certain, by thus at first confining my communication to this private conference] that I was not running or had not run in vain – guarding against being discredited either in what I was planning to do or had already done.

Note that, despite the factual statement that he went with Barnabus and Titus, he says he went by revelation to communicate that gospel that “I” preach; not “we”. He is distinguishing himself even from Barnabas. The reason for this distinction becomes clear as the narrative develops.

We are also told that Paul preached it privately to them who were of reputation lest he had run in vain. The indication is that it would have been unwise to openly declare his gospel to the church leaders. Why? Obviously, the church was so deeply divided over these issues regarding the law that it was unwise to publicly proclaim them. Now let’s take a close look at a fascinating and revealing passage regarding the tone and events of that meeting.

In Greek, there are two words that communicate negation; me, which indicates conditional negation such as ‘I could not go yesterday’ and oude, which connotes unconditional, full and absolute negation, such as’ I shall never go’. The word used here in Galatians 2:3 is oude.

Gal. 2:3.  But [all went well]; even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled [as some had anticipated] to be circumcised, although he was a Greek.

Oude is most often translated “not even” or “neither”. In the King James version the translation is “neither”, which makes for an awkward phrase. “But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised”. The insertion of the negative is obvious and inherently contradictory. The inherent conflict is clearly seen by removing the word “neither”.

Gal. 2:3.  But Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.

Some have said that if we simply translate oude as “not even”, the apparent contradiction is removed. Then, verse 3 would read;

Gal. 2:3.  But not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.

This eliminates the contradictory language from verse three, but it reappears when we move to verse four. Note that verse four begins with the conjunction “and.” “And” makes a logical connection between the verses, continuing the thought of the previous statement. If we translate oude as not even, that continuity of thought is lost when we get to the next verse.

Gal. 2:3.  But not even Titus, being a Greek, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised.

Gal. 2:4.  And that because of false brethren unawares brought in,…

You see, the combination of verses 3 and four just don’t make sense. The reason for the apparent problem is the figure of speech anaeresis which is a parenthetical insertion of a negative phrase. The parenthesis seems to mitigate or lessen the sense of the message, but actually adds to it. The word oude is inserted parenthetically to highlight the conflict at that meeting between the Pharisees who compelled Titus to be circumcised and Paul and his company who resisted.

Reading the passage with and without the word “neither” illustrates the impact of the figure. Read without the figure, verse three factually asserts that Titus, being a Greek at the council was compelled to be circumcised.

Gal. 2:3.  But Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.

Gal. 2:4.  And that because of  false brethren unawares brought in,…

The word “compelled” is the Greek word anagkazo, which Bullinger’s lexicon defines as “to necessitate or constrain, (by persuasion or force). ” Its first use is in Matthew 14:22 which says that Jesus constrained his disciples to get aboard a ship. Did he grab them and heave them into the boat? Did he affix them with a hypnotic stare under which they were unable to resist? No. He made it clear what he wanted them to do and they complied. They had a freewill choice whether to comply or not. He persuaded them. They of the circumcision tried to persuade Titus to be circumcised. After all, the whole reason the group had been convened was to decided whether or not Gentiles could be saved without cutting. Titus’ presence at the council put him under the gun personally. So Titus, who was with Paul in Jerusalem, being a Gentile, was compelled to be circumcised.

Remember, verse 4 begins with the word “and” which continues the thought from verse 3. Titus was compelled to be circumcised because of “false brethren unawares brought in who came in privily”. Such language! The phrase “unawares brought in” is translated from the Greek word pareisakto, meaning brought in beside, introduced privately. “Came in privily” is from the word pareiserchomai, which means to come in by stealth; to sneak or steal in. Bullinger defines it as “( “Come” No. 1[erchomai], with para beside \and eis, into prefixed,) to come or go in beside, so as to be present along with it. The idea of stealth being implied.”

The use of these two words together is the figure of speech alliteration; which is the use of two or more words in succession that begin with the same letter or syllable. If I were to say, James is just jealous, this would be a common form of alliteration using the repetition of the first letter. In this case, the first half of the words are shared. As always, God uses figures for emphasis. The literal meaning of the verse is that these false brethren snuck in and set themselves right beside the genuine. The use of the figure alliteration makes the same statement more loudly and reinforces the truth that this was not done in an open honest manner, but craftily. Just as the Serpent beguiled Eve with subtlety, these fellows were crafty and deceitful. Read it once again with the word “neither” and the figure alliteration highlighted in blue to illustrate the emphasis.

Gal. 2:3.  But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised;

Gal. 2:4.  And that because of false brethren unawares brought in (pareisakto), who came in privily (pareiserchomai) to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

There is a deeper truth here, revealed in part by the Biblical use of the word pareisakto; unawares brought in. This is the only biblical use of the word pareisakto. According to the Strong’s Concordance, it’s a derivative of pareisago, another word that’s only used once,  in II Peter 2:1

II Peter 2:1.  But there were false prophets  also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

The phrase ‘privily (shall) bring in’ is the translation of the word pareisago. Here again, the prefix pareis gives it the sense of sneaking something in and laying it beside the genuine. What was brought in? Damnable heresies! Remember that the only occurrence of the related word pareisakto refers to “false brethren unawares brought in.” Here in II Peter, we are reading about false prophets and false teachers! Do you see a correlation between these verses? Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so! Remember also that the false teachers mentioned here in II Peter are leaders in the church. These leaders snuck in damnable heresies and laid them right beside the truth of the gospel.

Putting these records together, I assert that the word “false brethren” used in Galatians 2:4 is itself a figure of speech (Metonymy) whereby the brethren are put for their false doctrine. The brethren did not sneak into the church. They got in the only way one can; by believing in Christ (Acts 15:5). It’s actually the false doctrine, the damnable heresies, that were snuck into the church. That’s why they were arguing in Jerusalem!

So these brethren tried to persuade or force poor  Titus to get circumcised in order to subject him to the false doctrine they were sneaking into the church. Fortunately for Titus, and for us, they did not give in. This is the loud testimony of verse 5.

Gal. 2:5.  To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

The phrase “gave place” is translated from eiko, meaning to yield. “By subjection” is from hupotage, which means submission. Verse 5 begins, “To whom we yielded by submission”, then immediately contradicts itself with, “No, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” Now ask yourself this question. Why doesn’t it simply say, “To whom we did not yield for a moment”?  Because it’s written using the figure of speech negatio which is God’s way of making the negation even more intense. Remember also that the passage began with the figure anaeresis with the insertion of a negative. Now it ends with another figure of speech of passionate negation.

Gal. 2:3.  But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised;

Gal. 2:4.  And that because of  false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage;

Gal. 2:5. To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the Truth of the gospel might continue with you.

The passage is in effect book ended by figures involving negation that highlight the intense conflict of this time. We dare not overlook the manner in which God inspired Paul to write this account. It’s not a casual account of a friendly get-together. This meeting in Jerusalem was an intense confrontation with born-again people who had craftily introduced a false doctrine in the church with the intent to torpedo the grace of Christ and pervert the gospel. Paul was passionate in his defense of the gospel he’d been given by revelation and had preached effectually among the Gentiles.

With that in mind, let us proceed.

Gal. 2:6.  Moreover, [no new requirements were made] by those who were reputed to be something, though what was their individual position and whether they really were of importance or not makes no difference to me;  God is not impressed with the positions that men hold and He is not partial and recognizes no external distinctions.  Those [I say] who were of repute imposed no new requirements upon me – had nothing to add to my Gospel and from them I received no new suggestions. [Deut. 10:17.]

Well here we are again looking at a parenthetical figure of speech. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Those at the council are described as those who “seemed to be somewhat”. Somewhat sounds archaic, but we understand it as the biblical equivalent of our term ‘be somebody’. It implies VIP status. But the verse doesn’t say “those who were somewhat”, it says But of those who seemed to be somewhat. The insertion of the word “seemed” into the equation puts the status of these men, or at least the validity of their stature, in doubt. The word “seemed” is the Greek word dokeo. It is often translated think or suppose and often indicates an erroneous assumption!


Matt 3:9.  And think (dokeo) not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto


Matt. 6:7.  But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think (dokeo) that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Matt. 24:44.  Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think (dokeo) not the Son of man cometh.

Luke 8:18.  …and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth (dokeo) to have.

So those who seemed to be somewhat are probably not what they seem. This might be a presumptuous statement if not for the false doctrine “unawares brought in” of the previous verse and the parenthetical figure that immediately follows.


Gal. 2:6.  But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person)…

Here we are reminded that no matter how highly esteemed someone may be, God, who knows the hearts, sees us all as equals. Ironically this is the same truth Peter had spoken in Jerusalem quite a while before this meeting after he facilitated and witnessed the salvation of the first Gentiles. Verse six closes by reiterating the phrase “seemed to be somewhat. This is probably a figure of speech as well, but we’ll simply note here that it is deliberately repeated. Obviously, the other apostles and leaders at that meeting  weren’t deserving of their exalted status in the Church.


Gal. 2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

Not only did they “seem” to be somewhat, they added nothing to Paul. This is actually the thirteenth statement in the epistle of Galatians that sets Paul’s ministry apart from those of the other apostles. The reason becomes crystal clear in the following verses. The outcome of the meeting was that the validity of Paul’s apostleship and the truth of Paul’s gospel were publicly recognized by the other apostles and the elders, but privately undermined by James and his associates, who continued to use their reputations and influence to subvert and pervert the gospel of the grace of Christ.

Gal. 2:7-8.  But on the contrary, when they [really] saw that I had been entrusted [to carry] the Gospel to the uncircumcised [Gentiles, just as definitely] as Peter had been entrusted [to proclaim] the Gospel to the circumcised [Jews, they were agreeable];  For He Who motivated and fitted Peter and worked effectively through him for the mission to the circumcised, motivated and fitted me and worked through me also for [the mission to] the Gentiles.

I find it interesting that Peter’s apostleship is singled out in contrast with Paul’s and that it is given equal weight here despite the fact that it was James’ sentence, not Peter’s testimony, that finally settled the matter at Jerusalem. Perhaps James saw himself as presiding over the outreach ministries of Peter and Paul as an administrator or manager of some sort. But the record here in Galatians clearly sets Peter’s ministry among the Judaeans as comparable to Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles.

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).

Here we have the first specific mention of anyone other than Peter, Paul and James. This is the only reference to John’s participation in the events of the council. The fact that he was still highly regarded is significant and raises the question of how he perceived all this. We have Peter’s testimony in Acts 15, but Acts says nothing of John after his visit with Peter to Samaria. I’ll discuss John’s role in this a little later.

So was everything settled? It would seem so. But remember; appearances can be deceiving.

Gal. 2:11-12.  But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch I protested and opposed him to his face [concerning his conduct there], for he was blameable and stood condemned.  For up to the time that certain persons came from James, he ate his meals with the Gentile [converts];  but when the men [from Jerusalem] arrived he withdrew and held himself aloof from the Gentiles and [ate] separately for fear of those of the circumcision [party]. 

Well now we know why the word “seemed” was sprinkled throughout the preceding verses. The appearance of unity and understanding at the council was not genuine. The evidence of this in verses 11 and 12 is abundant. First note that verse 11 begins with the preposition “but”. “But” sets a contrast to that which precedes it. (I love you Honey, but I’m not  going to  kiss your toes.) Peter, John, and James extended the right hand of fellowship to Barnabus and Paul and agreed that, as they ministered to the circumcision, Paul and Barnabus would be free to minister to the Gentiles; presumably without objection or interference from Jerusalem. But when Peter came to Antioch…the ruse was revealed. Was Peter himself deceitful? No, not at all. Paul withstood him to the face not because Peter denounced his former testimonials of the grace of Christ, not because he compelled the Gentiles to be circumcised. In fact, when Peter went to Antioch, he walked according to the revelation God had given him. Remember it was Peter who said God had shown him not to call any man common or unclean and it was Peter who pronounced that revelation to them of the circumcision in Jerusalem. So it was that, after the issue of the salvation of the Gentiles was seemingly settled, Peter was visiting and eating with them. So why did Paul confront him in front of God and everybody? Because Peter performed an abrupt and dramatic about-face.


Gal. 2:12.  For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

So the seeming doctrinal harmony, the acknowledging of Paul’s gospel, and the “right hand of fellowship” resulting from the Jerusalem council, were all false. When James’ emissaries arrived in Antioch, the appearance of Christian unity established at the council was dashed.

There are those who would have us believe that the reference to James here is purely coincidental and entirely irrelevant. They say that the fact that these men who brought division and hypocrisy to Antioch are identified as “certain…from James” doesn’t mean James had anything to do with their negative impact. In order for this statement to be true; in order to disconnect James from the impact of the “certain who came from James, we must assume one of the following;

  1. 1. Paul is by his own will and mind, slandering James, his brother in Christ and leader of the church in Jerusalem.
  2. 2. God inspired Paul to slander James, his brother in Christ and the leader of the church in Jerusalem.

Neither of these is a logical conclusion. Remember. God does not waste words, and he certainly does not slander innocent men; especially not innocent men of God. Why does it not say, “certain of the circumcision”? Why not, “certain of the Jews?” These men are called certain who came from James for a reason. They represented James’ interests, beliefs, agenda, and authority.

The authority of James is what is paramount here. Remember that at the council that had just been adjourned, it was not the apostles’ declarations, but James’ sentence that closed the matter and ended the meeting. Here in Antioch, when certain came from James, Peter removed himself from his gentile brethren because –he – was — afraid! Just think about that for a moment. This is the same man who stood up on the day of Pentecost and boldly proclaimed a new era of grace to the multitudes. The same man who stood before the Sanhedrin, that group of evil men who orchestrated the crucifixion of the Messiah, and charged them with murder. The same man who was held in prison awaiting a death sentence. Never in all these situations, did Peter withdraw in fear. Yet when certain came from James, Peter was afraid. Those who close their eyes to this scripture will never understand what was really going on in the Church at this time.

Why was Peter afraid of James? The  Word of the Lord  doesn’t specify. I have some ideas, but I won’t speculate about it in the body of this article. What we do know from Galatians is that the gospel was under siege. Men of renown had challenged, changed, and perverted it and had brought in unawares a false gospel of legalism. This false gospel was being driven into the minds and lives of believers. What power was behind all this? THE other gospel is from the other god. Just as the serpent beguiled Eve with his subtilty, the adversary was working overtime to steal the truth from these new Christians and drag them into the bondage of the law. Would he give up just because the apostles and elders called a meeting? Does Satan give up just because Christians declare that they’re no longer going to advocate sin? No. He is relentless. He was behind the drive toward legalism in the church, the ensuing division in the church, the decline of the apostles’ influence in the church and he did not roll over and die just because there was a meeting in Jerusalem. If he cannot get his doctrines publicly adopted, he will promote them some other way.

The reason the first chapter of Galatians goes to extreme lengths to establish Paul’s gospel as the one with God’s seal of approval is now evident. The reason the Acts 15 council and its leadership is presented with the repeated use of the word “seemed” is now clear. The adversary did not give in and his gospel was not dismissed at that meeting. Under his influence, James and his charges continued to advocate the other gospel; despite what Peter, Paul, and the Holy Spirit had testified about the grace of Christ. James and his associates did so with such vehemence and zeal that their very appearance in Antioch caused the Apostle Peter to withdraw in fear.

Gal. 2:13.  And the rest of the Jews along with him also concealed their true convictions and acted insincerely, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy – that is, by their example of insincerity and pretense.

This concludes the first part of the epistle to the Galatians. From here on, the main focus of the epistle is not the people and power behind the false gospel, but the clarification and resounding declaration of Paul’s gospel. Because of the scope of this material, the length of this article, and the work yet to come in the book of James, I will only touch on these issues as they pertain to James and his epistle. Once I’ve presented a clear sense of the doctrinal truths presented in the rest of Galatians, I’ll compare them to the content of the book of James.


Gal. 2:14.  But as soon as I saw that they were not straightforward and were not living up to the Truth of the Gospel,…..

The “truth of the gospel”. Thus begins the doctrinal section of Galatians. What follows is not only a summary of Paul’s reproof to Peter in Antioch, but an amazingly rich summary of Paul’s gospel. The remainder of chapter two undeniably establishes justification by faith as the central truth of our age.

Gal 2:14(cont’d)-16… I said to Cephas (Peter) before everybody present, If you, though born a Jew, can live [as you have been living] like a Gentile and not as a Jew, how do you dare now to urge and practically force the Gentiles to [comply with the ritual of Judaism and] live like Jews?  [I went on to say], Although we ourselves – you and I – are Jews by birth and not Gentile (heathen) sinners, yet we know that a man is justified or reckoned righteous and in right standing with God, not by works of Law/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 the faith of 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.]

This verse 16 is the central truth of this chapter; perhaps of the entire epistle. As I said earlier, God marks by figures of speech that which he wishes to call to our attention. This verse is marked by at least seven figures of speech! It’s like a trumpet blast in the pages of the Bible!


Gal. 2:16.  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed [trusted] in Jesus Christ, that we faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed [trusted] in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law: for by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified.

1. Structure: Biblical structure is the figure of speech Correspondence. E.W. Bullinger lists the structure of this verse on page 378 of his remarkable reference Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. The form of structure used here is Introversion.

  1. A – Knowing that a man is not justified
  2. B — by the works of the law,
  3. C – but by the faith of Jesus Christ,

C — even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ,

B – and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law

A – shall no flesh be justified.}

2-4. Repetitio There are three instances of repetitio in this verse! Each is there for emphasis, so the occurrence of three in one verse is remarkable. God has gone to great lengths to mark this verse to call it and its truths to our attention. The words “justified” is used three times.  The word “Christ” is used three times. And the entire phrase “works of the law” occurs three times.  God is driving home a point. We are not justified by works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. We are not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ. And by the way, did you know that our justification is by faith in Christ, not by the works of the law?

  1. 5. Polyptoton: Polyptoton is the repetition of a word in different cases or parts of speech. Not only is this figure used here, but it is at the very heart of the verse! “…but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ. The importance of this declaration is seen most in contrasting it with the false doctrine of justification by works in the preceding context. The “other gospel” was a retreat to the works of the law. Paul’s gospel was of justification, not by the works of the law, but purely by the faith of Jesus Christ; by believing in Christ’s accomplishments rather than relying on our own. If I could stand up right now and scream, “Look at this! Faith, not works, is the foundation of the gospel!” it would be woefully inadequate to communicate the power and beauty with which God is expressing this monumental truth.
  2. 6. Idiom or Hebraism: The verse ends with an idiom which is lost in the translation.

Using the adjective “every” or “all” with a negative to make an emphatic statement is a Hebrew idiom. “The Hebrews would say “everything is not”, and this is put instead of the ordinary Greek idiom, “nothing is”. Psalm 103:2 Forget not all his benefits: i.e. forget not any (Bullinger, pg. 836).” The phrase “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified” would read “not by the deeds of the law shall any flesh be justified.”

  1. 7. Synecdoche: Speaking of “flesh”, this too is a figure of speech. Synecdoche is the exchange of one idea for an associated idea. God doesn’t justify flesh. He justifies people. People need justification because of the sinful nature of our flesh. “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Romans 8:3 and 4 add depth to this truth. 

Rom. 8:3-4.  For God has done what the Law could not do, [its  power] being weakened by the flesh [that is, the entire nature of man without the Holy Spirit].  Sending His own Son in the guise of Sinful flesh and as an offering for Sin, [God] condemned Sin in the flesh – subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power [over all who accept that sacrifice].  [Lev. 7:37.]  So that the righteous and just requirement of the Law might be fully met in us, who live and move not in the ways of the flesh but in the Ways of the Spirit – our lives governed not by the standards and according to the dictates of the flesh, but controlled by the {Holy) Spirit.

The law was weak through the flesh because it set a standard of righteousness men of sinful flesh could not maintain. And because the works of the Law could not eradicate the sinful nature of man’s flesh. No matter how hard he tried, man under the Law was doomed to sin and sin again. Mercy was the only hope, as David testified, and as Paul reminds us in Romans 4:6-8. By God’s tender mercies and loving kindness man under the law was justified, but by the works of the law shall no flesh, no man, no person of sinful flesh,  be justified.

Having thus marked, highlighted, and electrified this verse, God has made it abundantly clear that the works of the law avail nothing in justification of mankind. We are justified only by believing on Christ and receiving the benefit of His perfect work and unfailing faith. The importance of this truth cannot be overstated.

Gal. 2:17-18.  But if, in our desire and endeavor to be justified in Christ – to be declared righteous and put in right standing with God wholly and solely through Christ – we have shown ourselves sinners also and convicted of sin, does that make Christ a minister (a party and contributor) to our sin?  Banish the thought!    Of course not!  For if I [or any other] – who have taught that the observance of the Law of Moses is not essential to being justified by God, should now by word or practice teach or intimate that it is essential – building up again what I tore down, I prove myself a transgressor.  [See Hebrews 6:1-6.]

This is a particularly interesting verse. It’s marked by the Figure ellipsis, which is a deliberate omission. With the missing phrase added, it reads, ‘For if I build again the thing which I destroyed, I make myself to have been a transgressor in destroying it’. In other words, if we go back and rebuild all the carnal, self-righteous works that we abandoned, we’re confessing that it was a sin to have discarded them in the first place. Paul is saying that for him to return to the works of the law, he’s confessing that it was a sin to have preached the gospel!


Gal. 2:19.  For I through the Law – under the operation [of the curse] of the Law – have [in Christ’s death for me] myself died to the Law and all the Law’s demands upon me, so that I may [henceforth] live to and for God.


Gal. 2:19.  For I through the Law am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God.

This statement is, on the surface, perplexing. It sounds contradictory. There is obviously a figure of speech here, but which one? Because of the contradictory language, most explanations I’ve heard on this verse interpret the two uses of the word law as meaning two different laws. The basic rule regarding figures of speech however is that God’s Word must be interpreted literally wherever and whenever possible. So I don’t believe we should interpret this as two different laws. If we interpret both these uses as references to the same law, we still have the figure polyptoton in the repetition of the word “law” in different cases. (Bullinger, page 282), but it’s a simpler and much deeper truth communicated and it fits in the context of what’s being presented regarding justification by faith in verse 16 and being crucified with Christ in verse 20. But if these are two references to the same law, how could Paul say I “through the law am dead to the law”?

Jesus’ crucifixion was the offering of The sacrifice for sin. Remember, Jesus Christ was our Passover; the Lamb of God. As such, as Jesus hung on the cross, he was the ultimate fulfillment of the law. In the final sin offering, Paul’s sins (and yours and mine, praise God) were atoned. Justification is the legal process of paying for your sins or crimes.

Once a felon has been released from prison, he is said to have “paid his debt to society”. He is justified because his sin is paid for. If he committed a capital offense, the only way to pay this debt, to be justified from that sin, is to be executed. Spiritually, we are all born as capital offenders, having inherited a death sentence from Adam. Once you die, you’re justified from the original sin. But that’s not much comfort is it?

Jesus Christ was offered as The Passover so he could pay the price for our sins in our place. So his crucifixion is our justification. Once we confess Jesus as our Lord and believe God raised him from the dead, we receive the benefit of Christ’s death and our “debt to society” is paid; we are justified. We are accounted as dead. Therefore, through (Christ’s fulfilling of) the law, we are dead to the law. Is the ultimate purpose of this is so we can walk around steeped in guilt and morosely confess our sins and shortcomings? No! So we can LIVE unto God. Verse 20 makes this abundantly clear.


Gal. 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.


Gal. 2:20.  I have been crucified with Christ – [in Him] I have shared His crucifixion;  it is no longer I who live, but Christ, the Messiah, lives in me;  and the life I now live in the body I live by [the] faith – by adherence to and reliance on and [complete] trust [in] – [of] [the] Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

The blue text illustrates the intent of the use of the figure polyptoton , seen here in the repetition of various forms of the word “Live”. The purpose of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross was so we could receive justification from Adam’s death sentence and yet live unto God. Because of Jesus’s death, we live anew!

The underlined words illustrate the emphasis provided by the figure “Correction (Epanorthosis)”. This is a figure in which a statement made is immediately denied and restated in order to say it more poignantly. “Yet not I, but CHRIST LIVETH in me.” The emphasis then, the focus of our lives should not be our works, but the grace and power of Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Following the declaration that he, through the law, was dead to the law, Paul expounds on this by specifying the means by which he died to the law. “I am (was) crucified with Christ”. Suffice to say this is not literally true and therefore must be a figure of speech. But Paul was identified with Christ on the cross (You are too!). Nevertheless I live. This is a powerful truth in and of itself for it testifies of the grace of God in providing justification by faith not by works. We live through HIS works, not ours!

This is the chewy caramel center of Christianity. (They were first called “Christians” at Antioch. Coincidence?) Christ liveth in me. So my witness is not what I did for God, not what I gave up, not who I witnessed to, not what I know! It’s what Christ did for me and what Christ does in me and can do in you too! Gee, it sounds like we’re back to the mystery and the preaching of the gospel. How did that happen? You see, the works of the law undercut outreach because no one has as powerful a testimony or as much zeal to witness when he supplants the saving power of grace with his own (filthy rags) righteousness.


Gal. 2:21.  I do not frustrate the Grace of God: for if righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.


Gal.2:21.  [Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose];  I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the Grace (unmerited favor) of God.  For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ, the Messiah, died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. – His death was then wholly superfluous.

“…then Christ is dead in vain.” My, that’s a pretty powerful statement. If we are justified by works, God put His only begotten Son through incredible shame, agony and death for nothing. Are you willing to charge God with such a heinous crime?

Galatians 3-5

And now, as Paul Harvey would say, it’s time for …the rest…. of the story.

Having established the gospel of justification by faith and the grace of living for God with Christ within, curiously enough, chapter three of Galatians goes right back to the ‘whodunit’ question. Perhaps this is just to remind the readers of the contrast between the false doctrine they’d been snookered into and the glory of the gospel. However, in following up on my somewhat controversial assertion earlier that Satan was behind James negative influence and the preaching of the false gospel, I must point out the unmistakably blunt language of verse one.

Gal. 3:1.  O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galations!  Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom – right before your very eyes – Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified?


Why did Paul ask this question? God wanted the Galatians to think hard about how they had come to the sorry state in which they found themselves. If they forgot how they got beguiled and bewitched, they would remain vulnerable to these same wicked people. To be sure, the first part of Galatians indicates clearly, as we have seen, that the influence of James was behind this witchcraft. It was James who presided over the meeting referred to in Galatians 2:1-10 and it was the arrival of emissaries from James that struck fear into the heart of Peter. It may not have been James himself who bewitched the Galatians, but they were exhorted to remember who had done this to them. 

God says they’d been bewitched. I say again, that meeting in Jerusalem was no friendly get-together. It was a confrontation between the forces of light and darkness and it raged at the uppermost levels of the church. Satan was pushed back at the council but he persisted in exporting legalism to the brethren. Having set the record straight in chapters one and two about who was right and who was wrong, and having reestablished the truth of the gospel, the gloves come off, so to speak, and Paul reveals just how wicked the legalists influence has been. We may want to close our eyes to this truth, and deny that James could ever have been responsible for bewitching believers. But I think if we look from James backward through the history of Israel and forward through that of the Christian church, we will see that he is not alone in this dubious distinction.

This is not to say that James or any of his Pharisee cohorts were consciously opposing

God. They were sincere. But they themselves were deceived by the adversary just as Eve was beguiled by the Serpent. And they in turn deceived others; including the Christians of Galatia.

Verses 2-5 reiterate that we were saved by grace and assert that it makes no sense to return to works. Verse 5 connects justification and walking by the spirit. They are both accomplished through faith not works.

Gal. 3:2-5.  Let me ask you this one question:  Did you receive the (Holy) Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing (trusting) [it]?    Was it from observing a Law of rituals or from a message of faith?  Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly?  Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the (Holy) Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?  Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing – to no purpose?  If it really is to no purpose and in vain, 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?

Verses 6-9 lay the foundation for this new gospel on the oldest of the Old Testament patriarchs; Abraham. As is the case in Romans 4, Abraham’s example, or rather God’s example in his dealings with Abraham set the foundation for our justification by faith.

Gal. 3:6-9.  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.  [Gen. 15:6.]  Know and understand that it is [really] the people [who live] by the faith of God who are [the true] sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify – declare righteous, put in right standing with Himself – the Gentiles in consequence of faith, proclaimed the Gospel [foretelling the glad tidings of a Savior long beforehand] to Abraham in the Promise, saying, In you shall all the nations [of the earth] be blessed. [Gen. 12:.]  So then, those who are people of faith are blessed and made happy and favored by God [as partners in fellowship] with the believing and trusting Abraham.

Notice again that the elements of the gospel are woven into this passage.  Verse six reiterates that, even before the day of Pentecost, righteousness came by faith.  Verse 8 makes it crystal clear. God “preached the gospel” unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations, including the Gentiles who were now at last hearing the word of the gospel, be blessed. Verses 10-13 speak further about the law. Part of the problem was that those who were zealous for the law didn’t really understand the law.  As Paul wrote in I Timothy 1:7, they were “Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.”.  So Paul summarizes the nature of the law in a way that makes its shortcomings and frustrations clear. The first and last verses in this passage are marked by a figure of repetition emphasizing the word “curse”.

Gal. 3:10-13.  And all who depend on the Law – who are seeking to be justified by obedience to the Law of rituals – are under a curse and doomed to disappointment and destruction;  for it is written in the Scriptures, Cursed (accursed, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment) be everyone who does not continue to abide (live and remain) by all the precepts and commands written in the book of the Law, and practice them. [Deut. 27:26]  Now it is evident that no person is justified – declared righteous and brought into right standing with God – through the Law;  for the Scripture says, The man in right standing with God (the just, the righteous) shall live by and out of faith, and he who through and by faith is declared righteous and in right standing with God shall live. [Hab. 2:4] But the Law does not rest on faith – does not require faith, has nothing to do with faith – for it itself says, He who does them (the things prescribed by the Law) shall live by them, [not by faith]. [Lev.

18:5]  Christ purchased our freedom (redeeming us) from the curse (doom) of the

Law’s (condemnation), by [Himself] becoming a curse for us, for it is written [in the Scriptures], Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (is crucified); [Deut. 21:23.]

The repetition of the word curse, (using the figure polyptoton in both instances) loudly proclaims that going back to the law is a deadly serious matter. Subjecting ourselves to circumcision or baptism or any single statute of the law obligates us to do the entire thing!! Churches who teach the Ten Commandments as essential to gaining entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven rarely require sin offerings. They obviously don’t understand what they’re doing any more than the Galatians did. The law is an all-or- nothing deal. Therefore, it is called repeatedly and emphatically a CURSE. Those who today believe that we are not saved without water baptism place themselves under a curse. Those who believe we must continue to observe the Sabbath place themselves under a curse. Those who ironically use the word “full gospel” to put people under all kinds of legalistic bondage  place themselves under a curse. The roots of all these accursed “Christian” doctrines are found here in the battle that raged in Galatia.

Nestled between these emphatic curses is a restating that the law and faith are diametrically opposed to one another. No man is justified by the law in the sight of God. The righteous (the just) shall live by faith. The law is not of faith. Redundant? Maybe so, but the point cannot be missed. Faith and the works of the law are on opposite ends of the spectrum and just as baptism in Holy Spirit replaced water baptism, [Acts 1:5] the former has replaced the latter.

Verses 16-18 contrast the giving of the law with the giving of the promise of God to Abraham. Both are covenants, but the second covenant cannot legally supplant or nullify the first covenant, which is distinguished from the second by referring to it (four times, using the figure repetitio) as the PROMISE.

Gal. 3:16-18.  Now the promises (covenants, agreements) were decreed and made to Abraham and his Seed (his Offspring, his Heir).  He (God) does not say, And to seeds (descendants, heirs), as if referring to many persons;  but, And to your Seed (your Descendant, your Heir), obviously referring to one individual, Who is [none other than] Christ, the Messiah.  [Gen. 13:15; 17:8.]  This is my argument:  The Law, which began four hundred and thirty years after the covenant [concerning the coming Messiah], does not and can not annul the covenant previously established (ratified) by God, so as to abolish the Promise and make it void.  [Exod. 12:40.]  For if the inheritance [of the Promise depends on observing] the Law [as these false teachers would like you to believe], it no longer [depends] on the Promise;  however, God gave it to Abraham [as a free gift solely] by virtue of His Promise.

Many people who study the Law refer to it as the Mosaic Covenant. Note please that verse 17 sets it in its proper perspective. It was the second, and lesser, covenant. The first covenant was the Promise of God to Abraham, which was confirmed  by faith. It was Abraham’s faith in this first covenant that brought him righteousness. The works of the later covenant do not overshadow the righteousness achieved by faith in the former. This is an important argument because the legalists considered themselves children of

Abraham, but they rarely looked past the law of Moses to see Abraham’s example of righteousness by faith. So setting Abraham as the foundation for God’s justification of Israel by faith and for God’s inclusion of the Gentiles is a powerful and persuasive argument. The law could not and did not supersede the precedent laid with Abraham, so to insist on keeping the law was really an affront to the memory of Abraham and violated their claim to be his children. When the Pharisees confronted Jesus with their claim to be Abraham’s seed, He challenged them to follow Abraham’s example. (John 8:39). Paul is doing the same thing here in Galatians. No doubt this is one of the truths Paul frequently preached in the synagogues during his travels.

Verses 19-21 put the law into perspective. It was added because of transgressions and could not therefore impart righteousness. If God could have provided righteousness by the law, He certainly would have done so. It just wasn’t possible. So why bother with the law in the first place? To preserve Israel until the promise made to Abraham could be fulfilled and justification by faith could be made available. Then the chapter closes with yet another emphatically constructed passage distinguishing the works of the law from justification by faith. One would think the message was quite thoroughly established by this point, but we have to remember that, like Peter who said “No so Lord”, the Jews had been raised with and in a wrong understanding of the law of Moses. So God spares no effort to correct their thinking so as to bring them into the fullness of His grace and goodness. We must also remember that these people had been bewitched and were therefore not seeing or thinking clearly. So God had to go to great lengths to awaken their minds.

Verses 22 – 26 are another example of the figure correspondence, or structure. Do you see it? It’s set not in Introversion, as Galatians 2:16, but Alternation, an A B A B pattern, illustrated here by blue text and italics.

Gal. 3:22. [A]  But the Scripture [pictures all mankind as sinners] shut up and imprisoned by Sin, so that [the inheritance, blessing] which was promised through [the] faith [of] in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, might be given (released, delivered and committed) to [all] those who believe – who adhere to and trust in and rely on Him. 

Gal. 3:23. [B]  Now before the faith came we were perpetually guarded under the Law,  [A] kept in custody in preparation for the faith that was destined to be revealed (unveiled, disclosed).

Gal. 3:24. [B] So that the Law served [to us Jews] as our trainer – our guardian, our guide to Christ, to lead us – until Christ [came], [A] that we might be justified (declared righteous, put in right standing with God) by and through [the] faith. Gal. 3:25.  But now that the faith has come, [B]we are no longer under a trainer – the guardian of our childhood.

Gal. 3:26.  [A] For in Christ Jesus you are all sons [children] of God through [the] faith.

The correspondence illustrates the transition from the limitations of the law to justification by faith and is bracketed in verses 22 and 26, by declarations of salvation and sonship and the receiving of the promise by faith in Jesus Christ.

Before we bid adieu to Galatians and move on the the conclusion of the matter, let’s take a brief look at the instruction on how to practically apply these great truths regarding faith, works, and righteousness.

Gal. 5:16-23.  But I say, walk and live habitually in the (Holy) Spirit – responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh – of human nature without God.  *For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the (Holy) Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (Godless human nature;  for these are antagonistic to each other – continually withstanding and in conflict with each other – so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.  But if you are guided (led) by the (Holy) Spirit you are not subject to the Law.  Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear – obvious.  They are: immorality, impurity, indecency, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.  I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit, [the work which His presence within accomplishes] – is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, (meekness, humility) gentleness, self-control (self-restraint, continence).  Against such things there is no Law [that can bring a charge].

The italics magnify the repetitive use of the word Spirit which occurs seven times in this passage. We are saved by grace and justified by faith so we can walk by the spirit. Verse 18 says if ye be led of the spirit, ye are not under the law. That’s because righteousness and eternal life couldn’t be given by the law, therefore the law could not bring anyone into the living relationship with God that we enjoy by holy spirit. This is why Romans 8:3 says the law was weak through the flesh. As we walk by the spirit, the old nature is nullified and the works of the flesh are overcome. The result of walking by the spirit is the fruit of the spirit, “against which there is no law.” The law cannot produce love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith. The fruit of the spirit comes not by keeping the law, or by any other stringent self-discipline designed to clean up the flesh or earn the blessings of God. The fruit of the spirit is only produced by walking in the spirit; heeding Our Father’s voice, living in light of God’s grace, and the indwelling power of holy spirit which we receive only by  faith in Jesus Christ.

  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. Part Five: The Epistle of James.
  6. Part Six: Summary and Overview.
  7. Part Seven: Peter and John: Food for Thought.


At long last, here we are, ready for a new perspective on the epistle of James. Before we look at how James’ epistle compares with Paul’s gospel and the rest of the New Testament, let’s take a moment to consider who James was, to whom his epistle was written, and when.

Who was James?

James was one of Jesus Christ’s half-brothers. After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had several children, one of whom was James who eventually came to be the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He is referred to as one of the other apostles in Galatians 1:19. If James was actually an apostle, he is the only apostle mentioned in the bible whose ordination is never recorded. He was not among the apostles chosen by Jesus Christ.

Rather when Jesus Christ was ministering in Israel, James and his siblings, along with Mary herself, distanced themselves from him. 

Matt. 12:46-50.  Jesus was still speaking to the people when behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak to Him.  Some one said to Him,  Listen!  Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.  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!

His mother and his brethren –including James – weren’t with Jesus and his disciples inside the house where Jesus was teaching. Jesus’ response to the information that his mother and brethren were outside indicates that they did not obey the word of God that he spoke. If you think this is not clearly stated in the Word, read John 7:3-5. James did not even  believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

John 7:3-5.  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!  For His brothers did not believe in or trust in or rely on Him either.

Well now we know why James wasn’t one of Jesus’ apostles. He failed the basic prerequisite of faith. After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared unto James. Some have said that this is proof that James was given a ministry in the church. Perhaps. But Jesus also appeared unto Judas Iscariot and promised him holy spirit and the new birth if he would tarry in Jerusalem with the other apostles. The fact that James saw his brother as the resurrected Messiah was just as likely a sign of forgiveness as it was a time of ordination.

Surely the book of Acts has something to say about the spiritual qualities of the man who presided over the council on circumcision. Actually it doesn’t. Barnabus, Phillip, and Stephen are all called men full of faith and/or holy spirit. Even Cornelius the Centurion is called “…A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house”. James is just called “James.” God in his Holy Word does not utter one word that indicates that James rose to his position at the head of the Church in Jerusalem because of faith or merit of any kind. He is the ONLY significant figure in the Church to carry such a distinction. So according to the scripture, all we know about James is that he was one of Jesus’ half-brothers, he did not believe that Jesus was God’s Son, and he was never called by God to any ministry in the church. He was never even recognized in God’s word as a good Christian, yet he rose to be the most powerful man in the hierarchy of the Jerusalem church. And he wrote the epistle that bears his name.

To Whom and When was James’ epistle written?

James l:1.  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered abroad (among the Gentiles, in the dispersion):  Greeting – rejoice!

There is little debate as to whom James was written. It’s quite plainly addressed to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”. Most scholars place the time of the writing of James early in the history of the first century church. However, it is of paramount importance to realize that one of the primary reasons for this theory is because of the content of James’ epistle. Bullinger, for example wrote “The distinctly Jewish character of the teaching marks off the epistle as having been written at an early period of the Acts history…”

I believe this tendency to date the epistle of James as an early writing is due to the fact that most scholars do not consider it likely or even possible that James could have written an epistle that seems so out of step with the Pauline epistles (and makes no mention of the Gentile believers) during the same time that Paul was ministering. The traditional concept of the apostles and elders being nearly infallible prohibits them from seeing this as an epistle that was written in opposition to Paul’s gospel. So rather than deal with the apparent conflicts, the date of the epistle is moved forward to sidestep the obvious  conflicts with the Pauline epistles and the elements of the Great Mystery and Paul’s gospel.

However, just as James is out of sync with the seven church epistles, it is also out of sync with the record in Acts that describes the character and concerns of the early church. A comparison of Acts and James leads me to believe that it’s illogical to think that God had this epistle written to the same church that’s described in the Acts chapters one through nine. Consider the following;

  • * Acts 5:28 says the apostles filled Jerusalem with their doctrine.
  • * James never mentions witnessing.
  • * Acts 4:2 says the Sadducees were grieved that the apostles preached the

resurrection of Christ. (See also 1:22, 2:24, 29, 31, 32, 3:15,26, 4:33) * James never mentions the resurrection.

  • * Acts says the apostles did signs, miracles, and wonders.
  • * James never mentions signs, miracles, or wonders.
  • * Acts says all that believed were together and had all things common.
  • * James makes no mention of sharing, but does mention rich and poor believers. There is no admonition for the rich to share of their abundance as was done in the early church. * Acts says the church continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine; that with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection; that the Apostles confronted the High Priest, were beaten, jailed, miraculously released from prison, and confronted the Sanhedrin again. that the Apostles oversaw all the functions of the early church. * James never even mentions the Apostles!

It just doesn’t make any sense to teach that this book was inspired by God to send to the same church that’s described in the early chapters of the book of Acts. However, if we look at the church that existed in the latter chapters of the book of Acts; the church that was divided over the role of the Law and the intrusion of the Gentiles, it makes a great deal of sense. James was written to the Jews who were scattered abroad in an attempt to counter the effect of Paul’s ministry.

  • * Acts 15:5 says that the drive to circumcise the “Gentile” believers came from “the sect of the Pharisees.”
  • * James’ stringent emphasis on works and caustic condemnation of material wealth echoes Pharisaic values
  • * Acts 13-20 declares again and again that the Jews refused to share grace with Gentiles.  The idea of being brethren with the “heathen” drove them to envy and blasphemy.  They wanted to discount the grace of God extended to Gentiles.
  • * James makes no mention of Gentiles. His epistle discounts them entirely.
  • * Acts 15 records that James presided at the first meeting regarding the circumcision of the Gentiles, despite the presence of  Peter, Barnabus, and Paul, all recognized Apostles. And at the second meeting with Paul, there were no Apostles present. James not only presided, he did so with no input from the Apostles or elders, who were by this time either irrelevant or absent.
  • * James is written as one who has authority over the Synagogues. There is no mention of the Apostles or any other authority figure in his epistle.
  • * Acts  21 shows clearly that James did not understand the gospel of Christ. He believed they were still under the law.
  • * James epistle expands on this theme and asserts that we can be “convinced under the law” as transgressors and that Abraham was justified, not by faith, but by works and even asserts that faith, without works, is dead. All of these statements reflect the thinking behind his statements to Paul recorded in Acts 21:18-24.

Remember Paul’s manner was to go first to the synagogues and preach there. Galatians

2 told us that, after the Acts 15 council, men sent from James struck fear in the heart of

Peter and caused division and dissimulation in Antioch. James was working against

Paul’s gospel at that time, and the record in Acts 21:24 clearly indicates that not only did James not believe Paul’s gospel of grace, he didn’t even believe Paul was actually preaching it! After he found out the horrible truth, he certainly wouldn’t have just changed his mind and assumed Paul knew more than he did. The reason for the Jewish tone of James and the absence of any reference to the Gentiles is because James was written to the Jewish faction of a divided church. And its purpose was to reinforce their zeal for the law.

So without further ado, let’s take a good look at what’s written. I hope that when we have gone through the epistle, you will see it in a very different light. You will see it as the tares sown among the wheat of God’s Word.  Let’s begin in Chapter 1 verse 5.

James l:1.  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered abroad (among the Gentiles, in the dispersion):  Greeting – rejoice!

The salutation of James addresses the epistle to the Diaspora Jews, the Jews of the dispersion. The fact that the epistle is not addressed to the entire Church is the first indicator that it picks up where Acts left off. James is written to the Judaean half of a divided church. There are no Gentiles mentioned anywhere in the epistle. Indeed, affinity with Gentiles is expressly discouraged in chapter four. James exclusion of the Gentiles and calls for levitical purity not only conflict with Paul’s gospel of the mystery of the One body of Christ, they defy the Great Commission given by his big brother, sibling Jesus Christ.

The exclusive salutation of James is the first of many indicators that its intent is to roll back the clock to the time before the revelation of the mystery and to close the doors on the invasion of the Gentiles and the age of grace.

James 1:2.  Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort, or fall into various temptations.

The epistle is off to an inauspicious beginning. The first thing students of the Pauline epistles will notice is not what’s here, but what’s missing.

Rom. 1:7.  To [you then,] all God’s beloved ones in Rome, called to be saints and designated for a consecrated life:  Grace and spiritual blessing and peace be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

  1. I Cor.1:3.  Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) be to you and (heart [mind <BG>]) peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  1. II Cor. 1:2.  Grace (favor and spiritual blessing) to you and (heart [mind <BG>]) peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One.

Every one of the Seven Church Epistles begins with Paul’s blessing of grace and peace to the churches. Since Paul’s knowledge of the mystery defines the dispensation of the grace of God, this is appropriate that each epistle begins with a blessing of grace and peace. James epistle begins with no blessing at all. He identifies himself and his intended audience and launches into a passage about temptation. The absence of grace and peace are not merely the signature of a different author, but the indication of an author with a very different mindset.

James 1:3-4.  Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.  But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed (with no defects), lacking in nothing.

We begin with an admonition to works and a drive to personal perfection, both of which are Pharisaic concepts that will be echoed throughout this epistle. A comparison to a similar passage in Romans reveals the first hint at the differences between the epistle of James and the gospel of grace.

Rom. 5:3-5.  Moreover – let us also be full of joy now!  Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.  And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character – that is, approved faith and tried integrity.  And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.  Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.

Both epistles declare that believers will undergo temptations and that we should do so with joy, knowing that enduring tribulation will produce patience. But where Paul’s epistle starts on the earthly plane where tribulations dwell and uses the figure of speech climax to build upward unto the heavenly realm from whence come hope, the love of God and the gift of holy spirit, James stays firmly in the earthly. Where Paul uses physical trials to point out spiritual blessings received by God’s love, James emphasizes human perfection and introduces us to one of his favorite words; work. Patience is said to produce perfect work.

The word “perfect” used twice in verse 4, is the Greek word teleios, meaning fully mature, or complete. James is saying that a man can be made completely mature by patiently enduring temptation. How does this statement compare with the standard of the Pauline epistles? According to Paul’s gospel, perfection comes by understanding the glory and grace given to mankind in the revelation of the Mystery.

I Cor. 2:6-7.  Yet when we are among the full grown – spiritually mature children of God who are ripe in understanding – we do impart a (higher) wisdom [that is, the knowledge of the divine plan previously hidden]; but it is indeed not a wisdom of this present age nor of this world or of the leaders and rulers of this age, who are being brought to nothing and are doomed to pass away.  But rather what we are setting forth is a wisdom of God once hidden [from the human understanding] and now revealed to us by God;  [that wisdom] which God devised and decreed before the ages for our glorification [that is, to lift us into the glory of His presence].

Col. 1:26-28.  The Mystery of which was hidden for ages and generations (from angels and men). but is now revealed to His holy people (the saints), to whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this Mystery, which is, Christ within and among you the hope of [realizing] the glory.  Him [the Word] we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing everyone and instructing everyone in all wisdom, [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God], that we may present every person mature – full-grown, fully initiated, complete and perfect – in Christ, the Anointed One.

According to the gospel of the mystery, perfection comes by understanding the grace of

Christ in you the hope of glory and justification by faith in the accomplished work of

Christ and the unity of the one Body of Christ. As was the case in the comparison of James’ and Paul’s words on the benefit of patience, James’ standard of perfection is decidedly lower. According to James, a man need not know of the unity of New Man Jesus Christ made out of Jews and Gentiles. He need not see himself as a recipient of previously unheard of grace and glory. All he needs to do is be patient in temptation; and, according to James 3:2, watch his language.

The phrase “perfect work” is a foreshadowing of the theme of James’ epistle. His goal is to guide the reader toward a belief and trust in perfection by works. He begins his effort toward “perfect work” in the absence of grace and along the way, will do his best to kill faith so that the works of the law will rule once again in the minds and lives of his readers.

James 1:5.  If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to every one liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.

Well, that sounds good and right, doesn’t it. This James fellow seems to know what he’s talking about. There is a pattern to this epistle that begins here. By pattern, I mean method, not structure. The method of James presentation of his beliefs is not direct. He often begins by stating a premise that is easily accepted by the reader. Sometimes he will open a paragraph with a question that challenges an opposing idea, but not directly. After having begun in such a benign manner, he will quickly draw a conclusion that is questionable if not downright false.

There are few verses in this epistle that directly attack Paul’s gospel and none that do so by name. The approach of James is much more subtle. Here, in the first such passage, James begins with a simple exhortation that cannot be denied. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. The word translated liberally here is haplos, meaning simply; or without ulterior motive or in this case without hesitation; without a second thought. God’s generous and benevolent nature are about to be forgotten in a blizzard of carnal qualifications.

James 1:6.  Only it must be in faith that he asks, with no wavering – no hesitating, no doubting,  for the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea, that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind.

What happened to giving liberally? Already we have a qualification. And note that the problem is not on God’s end, it’s on ours. Now we have to ask in faith, nothing wavering. As you will see often in this epistle, James changes the focus of the discussion. We’ve gone quickly form God’s grace and goodness to man’s works. Don’t waver brother. If you waver, you might not get it!

James 1:7.  For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord.

How quickly we’ve gone from God giving liberally and upbraiding not to a man who can’t receive anything of the Lord. Having begun with a simple assertion of God’s grace, James changes the readers’ focus to man’s works. In so doing, we lose grace, fall into a law (no wavering allowed) and end in failure (“let not that man think he shall receive anything of the Lord”). Not only is this carnal and wicked, it’s not true.

Remember where we started. We began with a cure for a man who lacks wisdom. We’re not talking about praying for a house, or a ministry, or even better health. Just wisdom; simple direction from God. James asserts that a man whose faith wavers will not hear from God at all.

The word translated “receive” in verse seven is the word lambano, which means to receive into manifestation or to receive and utilize. James says a man who does not have unwavering faith cannot expect to receive into manifestation anything from the Lord. According to the scripture, this is a falsehood. Consider the example of the Apostle Paul.

I Tim. 1:15-16.  The saying is sure and true and worthy of full and universal acceptance, that Christ Jesus, the Messiah, came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.  But I obtained mercy for the reason that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might show forth and display all His perfect long-suffering and patience for an example to [encourage] those who would thereafter believe [lean] on Him for [the gaining of] eternal life.

Note that Paul is a pattern for us exemplifying the grace of Jesus Christ in saving sinners. So since Paul was set forth by Christ as an example, we can look at what happened to him and conclude that the same principles apply to us. Did Paul have to “ask in faith nothing wavering” before he received the wisdom of God? Quite the contrary. I Timothy 1:13 says he was an ignorant, injurious unbeliever!

I Tim. 1:12-13.  I give thanks to Him Who has granted me (the needed) strength and made me able [for this], Christ Jesus our Lord, because He has judged and counted me faithful and trustworthy, appointing me to [this stewardship of] the ministry.  Though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and was shamefully and outrageously and aggressively insulting [to Him], nevertheless I obtained mercy because I had acted out of *ignorance in unbelief.

So we know from I Timothy that Paul was an ignorant unbeliever before he was saved. We also know that he is an example of God’s grace to all mankind. Now the operative question is, did Paul receive wisdom from God while he was in that state of ignorant unbelief. The answers can be found in Acts and Romans.

Acts 26:11-18.  And frequently I punished them in all the synagogues to make them blaspheme;  and in my bitter fury against them, I harassed (troubled, molested, persecuted) and pursued them even to foreign cities.  Thus engaged I proceeded to Damascus with the authority and orders of the chief priests.  When on the road at midday, O king, I saw a light from heaven surpassing the brightness of the sun, flashing about me and those who were traveling with me.  And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice in the Hebrew tongue saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you continue to persecute Me – to harass and trouble and molest Me?  It is dangerous and turns out badly for you to keep kicking against the goads – [that is,] to offer vain and perilous resistance.  And I said, Who are You Lord?  And the Lord said, I am Jesus Whom you are persecuting.  But arise and stand upon your feet;  for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you, choosing you out (selecting you for Myself) and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you, [Ezek. 2:1,  3.] to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me.[Isa. 42:7, 16.]

Rom. 1:5.  It is through Him that we have received (lambano) grace – God’s unmerited favor – and [our] apostleship to promote obedience to the faith and make disciples for His name’s sake among all the nations,

So according to Acts, Paul received wisdom from God by way of a dramatic personal appearance by Jesus Christ himself. He was not asking in unwavering faith, he was en route to Damascus to imprison those of the faith! He was an ignorant unbeliever, actively persecuting the Church. Yet Jesus Christ personally delivered to this man magnificent wisdom. Did Paul lambano grace that day? Most certainly he did. Of course, if James 1:5 and 6 are true, all of this regarding Paul must be false. Both cannot be true. Either God requires unwavering faith before his wisdom can be received, or Paul is a fraud and the books of Acts and I Timothy cannot be trusted. Conversely, if Acts and I Timothy are true accounts, given by inspiration of God, then the book of James is not. Before we jettison James, let’s look at the examples of others in the Bible who received wisdom from God.

Was it Moses’ unwavering faith that allowed God to give him wisdom? No. He just wanted to see why a burning bush wasn’t consumed. As he approached, God spoke to him.

Exodus 3:3-6.  And Moses said, I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.  And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush and said, Moses, Moses!  And he said, Here am I.  God said, Do not come near;  put your shoes off your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.   Also He said, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Did the people of Nineveh ask in unwavering faith to receive wisdom from God? No. They were simply going about their idolatrous business when a man washed up on the shore and said, “Thus saith the Lord. Thirty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Yet they definitely received benefits from the Lord as they responded to the unsolicited warning and were spared wrath and calamity.

James uses the figure simile to describe the state of a person who doubts. He likens him to a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed. The word translated “wave” is the Greek word kludon, meaning a raging wave; a violent agitation. It’s interesting that the only other use of this word in the New Testament is in Luke, in a passage that recounts an incident in which Jesus’ disciples found themselves literally driven by the wind and tossed. A comparison of the truths of that incident will be very enlightening.

Luke 8:23-25.  But as they were sailing, He fell off to sleep.  And a whirlwind revolving from below upwards swept down on the lake,and the boat was filling with water, and they were in great danger.  And the disciples came and woke Him, saying, Master, Master, we are perishing!  And He, being thoroughly awakened, censured and blamed and rebuked the wind and the raging waves;  and they ceased, and there came a calm.  And He said to them, (Why are you so fearful?)  Where is your faith – your trust, your confidence in Me, [in My veracity and My integrity]?  And they were seized with alarm and profound and reverent dread, and they marveled, saying to one another, Who then is this, that He commands even the wind and sea, and they obey Him?

Mark 4:40.  He said to them, Why are you so timid and fearful?  How is it that you have no faith – no firmly relying trust?

These men, Jesus’ disciples were literally driven by the wind. They were at sea in a lifethreatening storm. Did they respond with unwavering faith? No, they told Jesus they were about to die. Yet they awoke him to implore his help. But they were not asking in faith, they were pleading in fear. Just so that we will not miss it, God had it recorded exactly what state of mind the disciples were in. Luke’s account says Jesus asked “Where is your faith”. Mark’s is even more poignant and records Jesus’ question as “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” They did not ask in faith nothing wavering, they were faithless amid the waves. So, according to James, these men should not have received anything of the Lord. Yet they received nothing less than physical salvation as the Lord rebuked the storm with his word and a great calm ensued.

So James begins with a true statement; If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. James immediately adds a law; [But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering], magnifies the frailties of the flesh [for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven by the wind and tossed] and then proceeds to exchange truth of God for a lie. James’ false doctrine condemns and oppresses God’s people by discouraging them and retarding their ability to receive God’s wisdom or any other blessing [let not that man think he shall receive anything of the lord].

Having discovered that James’ statement here is false, we must ask ourselves, why would the writer go to such lengths? What is the real message under all this error? What kind of wavering was on James’ mind when he penned or uttered these words? A close look at the next verse will help us get to the real issue. Here at the beginning of the epistle, it lurks under the surface. As we read on, we will see it bubble up and reveal itself fully.

Verse eight reiterates and reinforces the erroneous conclusion of verse seven with a perplexing statement.

James 1:8.  [For being as he is] a man of two minds – hesitating, dubious, irresolute – [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything (he thinks, feels, decides).

What is a “double-minded” man? The word translated double-minded here is a Greek word unique to this verse; dipsuchos, which literally means, ‘two-souled’. Since no one has two souls, it’s a figure of speech. But what is the intended meaning? The verse itself offers little clues, because the word “unstable” akatastatos is also unique to this verse. It means, ‘inconstant, not established; unsteady’. In the context, one immediately thinks of the reference to one who wavers, being driven by the wind and tossed. So the wavering is akin to being two-souled and inconstant. As we read, we will have to ask ourselves concerning what does James want us to be single-minded?

James 1:9.  Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation [as a believer], called to the true riches and to be an heir of God;

Again, an agreeable sentiment is expressed.

James 1:10-11.  And the rich [person ought to glory] in being humbled [by being shown his human frailty], because like the flower of the grass he will pass away.  For the sun comes up with a scorching heat and parches the grass;  its flower falls off and its beauty fades away.  Even so will the rich man wither and die in the midst of his pursuits. [Isa. 40:6, 7.]

Verse ten is the first of many perplexing passages in James regarding rich men. It is really not problematic when considered in the confines of the epistle itself. The problem is that all of James references to rich men is that they are completely inconsistent with the book of Acts and the Church epistles. The dissimilarities fall into two categories; practical and spiritual.

The practical difference between James and Acts and Paul is in the directions to rich men about the sharing of wealth. I touched on this briefly at the beginning of this chapter. Let’s take a closer look at what the apostles doctrine toward wealth was.

Acts 2:44-45.  And all who believed – that is who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ – were united, and together they had everything in common.  And they sold their possessions [both their landed property and their movable goods] and distributed the price among all, according as any had need.

The first thing we must note is there was no division between the rich believers and the poor. They had all things common. “Common” is translated from the Greek word koinos, meaning fully shared or shared equally. This is not the case in James. Rich and poor are segregated throughout the epistle, the poor for consolation and praise and the rich for condemnation and vilification.

The second thing we need to recognize is that Acts 2:45 records that the rich believers; those who had an abundance of “possessions and goods”, sold them and distributed the funds so that everyone had his needs met. In other words, the rich divested themselves of their riches so that there were no poor. This is a little known practice in the annals of Church history and certainly a rare one in 20th Century America, but it is the example set by the first century church. And it is established by a more detailed record in Acts chapter four.

Acts 4:32-35.  Now the company of  believers was of one heart and soul, and not one of them claimed that anything which he possessed was [exclusively] his own, but everything they had was in common and for the use of all.  And with great strength and ability and power the apostles delivered their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace – loving kindness and favor and goodwill – rested richly upon them all.  Nor was there a destitute or needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses proceeded to sell them, and one by one they brought (gave back) the amount received from the sales and laid it at the feet of the apostles.  Then distribution was made according as any one had need.

Again, we see that there was a unified body of believers who “had all things common”. No good poor saints, no evil rich people. Verse 34 more clearly tells us that those who had more than they needed, sold the excess and gave the money to the apostles, and the apostles bought big houses and fancy chariots with “clergy” license plates. No, the apostles redistributed the funds to supply the needs of the poor, so that they were poor no more. My how things have changed.

One might say that the distinction between Acts and James is that the prosperous believers in Acts; that is to say, those in the early church that is of which Acts speaks, gave up their riches to eliminate poverty, and the rich men of James did not. This may be true. But the more important question is, with so much documentation that this was the apostles’ practice, why doesn’t James exhort the rich to do likewise? Despite repeated references to rich men and the folly of their ways, James never indicates that they should give to the poor. This contrast is one of the reason I don’t believe James was one of the first epistles written. Had it been written to the Church before the beginning of Paul’s ministry, as some have said, there should be more harmony between the precepts of James and the practices of Acts. In seeking a period in the Acts narrative in which James fits, one must take note that there are no references to the Church being so unified after the death of Stephen. The physical division of the Church that began with the scattering of the disciples foreshadowed the spiritual division that followed.

Could James have been written in the narrow window between the scattering of the disciples and the preaching of Paul’s gospel? Certainly. But if God were going to have an epistle written at such a crucial time in Church history, we should see some relevance to the issues of the day reflected in its words. James does not address the persecution that drove the disciples from Jerusalem, nor does he make any reference to the witnessing that characterized those who were scattered abroad (Acts 8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.) As I’ve said before, James fits best in the church described in Acts chapters 15 through 28. We will see more evidence of this as we make our way through his epistle.

Back to the question of giving. Such giving was not only the accepted practice in the early Jerusalem church, it was Paul’s charge to the Corinthian Church as well.

II Cor. 8:13-15.  For it is not [intended] that other people be eased and relieved (of their responsibility) and you be burdened and suffer (unfairly), but to have equality – share and share alike;  your surplus over necessity at the present time going to meet their want and to equalize the difference created by it, so that [at some other time] their surplus in turn may be given to supply your want.  Thus there may be equality.  As it is written, He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little did not lack. [Exod. 16:18.]

Paul’s direction to his charges is in agreement with the apostles’ doctrine. James is out of step with both. Rather than exhort the rich to help meet the needs of the poor, the poor are exhorted to be patient in their poverty and the rich are simply condemned. But that’s not the most perplexing or the most troubling aspect of James’ statements about riches. The most troublesome aspect of James’ condemnation of rich men is that he seems to be addressing unsaved sinners. This becomes more apparent later in the epistle, but can be seen in verses 10 and eleven.

James 1:10-11.  And the rich [person ought to glory] in being humbled [by being shown his human frailty], because like the flower of the grass he will pass away.  For the sun comes up with a scorching heat and parches the grass;  its flower falls off and its beauty fades away.  Even so will the rich man wither and die in the midst of his pursuits. [Isa. 40:6, 7.]

Some have observed that James reads like the Sermon on the Mount. That similarity is most evident in his comments about rich and poor. Verses ten and eleven bring to mind Jesus’ remark about the difficulty of a rich man inheriting the Kingdom of heaven surpassing that of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. (Matthew 19:24). The trouble with this is that no other Post Pentecost Scriptures make such sweeping condemnations of wealth. It is assumed that all who believe on Christ are saved and given eternal life. Believers are exhorted not to lust after money, (I Timothy 6:10) but there is never any indication that those who hold it, are incapable of receiving eternal life. James must be talking about rich brethren because verse nine says “the brother of low degree”. The phrase “But the rich…” which begins verse 10 puts it in the same category, namely a brother. Then he says this rich brother shall pass away as a flower. Paul’s gospel asserts that everyone receives the same salvation and that it is eternal life.

Gal. 3:28.  There is [now no distinction], neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female;  for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Rom. 6:23.  For the wages which Sin pays is death;  but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord.

The mitigating phrase “in his ways” at the end of James 1:11 might seem to lessen the harshness of this verse. However, it’s rather ambiguous. The word translated “ways” here it the Greek word poreia. It’s only used in one other verse in the New Testament (Luke 13:22) where it’s translated “toward”. The problem of interpretation is compounded by the phrase “fade away” which is translated form another of the many Greek words that appear nowhere else in the Bible. The word maraino means to extinguish, as a flame. In verse eleven, James says a rich man shall expire as a flame in his ways. Is he referring to journeying, as a merchant? There is a specific reference to such activity later in the epistle that draws severe condemnation, (4:13-16) so it would be in keeping with the context of James to interpret it as “journeyings” or “travels”.

But what does it mean to say the rich man shall be extinguished in his travels? And how does that fit with the more plain statement of verse ten that the rich man “shall pass away” as a flower? The logical conclusion is that these men have lost themselves in the acquisition of wealth and therefore, have gained riches, but not eternal life. The disturbing conclusion that can be drawn from this is that James is teaching salvation by works. Apparently, one of the “works” that precludes salvation in the gospel according to James, is wealth. The startling thought that James did not believe in salvation by grace sounds absurd at first. How could he not have known the most basic element of the apostles’ doctrine? Yet, this passage referring to rich men’s lives being as the flower of the grass is only the first of many indications that James idea of grace was extremely limiting. And, remembering Paul’s warning to the Galatians about those who had perverted the gospel of Christ and had “bewitched” them, such extreme conclusions have support in God’s Word. And, as we shall see, James’ condemnation of rich men and his affirmation of salvation by works become clearer as his treatise unfolds.

James 1:12-13.  Blessed, happy, to be envied is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved he will receive [the victor’s] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God;  for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one.

Here we are again with an edifying and agreeable statement.

James 1:14.  But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions).

And again we see an immediate change from God’s goodness to mans’ wicked ways. James always shifts quickly from the spiritual to the carnal. Not only is this depressing, the statement he makes here is not actually true! To say every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust indicates that all temptation is at least partly the fault of the one being tempted. This is not true. Consider the following;

Matt. 22:18.   But Jesus, aware of their malicious plot, asked, Why do you put Me to the test and try to entrap Me, you pretenders – hypocrites?

Matt. 4: 8-9.   Again the Devil took Him up on a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory – the splendor, magnificence, preeminence and excellence – of them;  and he said to Him, These things all taken together I will give You, if You will prostrate Yourself before me and do homage and worship me.

Luke 4:5-7.  Then the Devil took Him up to a high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the habitable world in a moment of time – in the twinkling of an eye;  and he said to Him, To You I will give all this power and authority and their glory, (that is, all their magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity and grace,) for it has been turned over to me, and I give it to whom I will;  therefore if You will do homage to and worship me (just once), it shall all be Yours.

What lust or desire of Jesus’ drew the Sadducees to tempt him? Did Jesus have a lust for power that drew the devil to offer him the kingdoms of the world? If it was Jesus’ own lusts that initiated these temptations, he must have been one ugly man on the inside for Hebrews 4:15 says he was “…in all points tempted, like as we are, yet without sin.” I don’t think Jesus Christ was that lusty. Okay so what if we disqualify him and say that James statement is true of everyone else. Are all of our temptations brought on by our lusts?

Gal. 4:13-14.  On the contrary, you know that it was on account of a bodily ailment that [I remained and] preached the Gospel to you the first time.  And [yet], although my physical condition was [such] a trial to you, you did not regard it with contempt, or scorn and loathe and reject me;  but you received me as an angel of God, [even] as Christ Jesus [Himself]!


Gal. 4:13-14.   Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.  And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

I Peter 4:12.  Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange – unusual and alien to you and your position – were befalling you.  But in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory (full of radiance and splendor) is revealed you may also rejoice with triumph – exultantly.

Paul’s temptation in Galatia was not lust, but physical infirmity. Likewise, Peter exhorts the believers to endure intense temptation that has nothing to do with lusts. The temptation in these situations came from Satan, who is called in I Thessalonians 3:5 “the tempter”. So here we have a church leader accusing the believers of being responsible for what their adversary does to them. This itself is the work of Satan, “the accuser of the brethren”. James is chock full of such accusation and condemnation as we will see. And speaking of the accuser, you might recall Paul’s admonition in II Corinthians 11:3 regarding the serpent’s beguiling of Eve. He did it through subtlety. He started with a simple question, and by the time the conversation was ended, he was boldly contradicting God’s Word. It was written to the Corinthian church not as esoteric knowledge, but because the false apostles –who were Hebrews – were using similar tactics in the church. We will see that in James as well.

James 1:17.  Every good gift and every perfect (free, large, full) gift is from above;  it comes down from the Father of all [that gives] light, in [the shining of] Whom there can be no variation [rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [as in an eclipse].


James 1:17.   Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Verse seventeen is one of the few bright spots in James. A positive statement of truth seemingly without qualification. There is however, an interesting nuance to this passage that, I think, helps put the rest of the book in context. God is described as “the Father of Lights in whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning.” One gets an image of a star without any variance in its luminance caused by sunspots or changes in its corona. This is a wonderful description of the unqualified glory of God which reminds us that He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. The term “Father of Lights” is a term used nowhere else in the Bible. Neither are the words “variableness” (parallage) or “shadow of turning” (aposkiasma trope). This does not mean that the passage is necessarily in conflict with the rest of God’s Word, but it limits the connections we can make with the entire body of scripture. We can however, look at the whole of what’s communicated here and put it together with the book of James for added insight into James’ perspective on the relationship of God and His people.

The Greek word pater, translated “father” has many meanings. It can of course mean a biological father. It is frequently used of ancestors or patriarchs, as in Acts 3:13 and 22. It is also used figuratively with the preposition “of” as a title that describes a unique contribution or influence, either positive or negative. The first New Testament use of this idiom is in John 8:44, in which Jesus says that the devil is the father of lies. What this means is that the devil was the inventor and is the chief propagator of lies and lying. It doesn’t mean that everyone who lies is a child of the devil, but children of the devil will certainly be liars. That meaning is illustrated in the context. The statement was not meant as an abstract declaration of a spiritual matter, but an explanation of the conflict between Jesus himself and his accusers. By using that idiom at that time, Jesus not only refuted the Pharisees’ charges, but explained them.

Romans 4:11 calls Abraham the “father of all them that believe”. The next verse adds depth to the idiom by also calling him the Father of circumcision. Abraham was indeed the first man to circumcise himself, and since He obeyed God’s commandment to circumcise his children and all the males in his household, he is called “the father of circumcision.” This contribution was overshadowed by his faith because he was made righteous not by circumcision, but by believing God’s Promise, as Paul declares in both Romans and Galatians. It is by his example of faith that he became the father of many nations (4:17 & 18).

II Corinthians 1:3 calls God the “Father of mercies”. This idiom shows us that God is inherently merciful. The context of the verse shows us how the idiom defines an aspect of our relationship with God.

II Cor. 1:3-4.  Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercies) and the God [Who is the Source] of every consolation and comfort and encouragement;  Who consoles and comforts and encourages us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to console (comfort and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the consolation (comfort and encouragement) with which we ourselves are consoled and comforted and encouraged by God.


II Cor. 1:3-4. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Because God is the Father of mercies, He comforts us in all our troubles and temptations and enables us to comfort one another. Ephesians 1:17 calls God the “Father of glory.” Again, the context illustrates the figure.

Eph. 1:17-19.  [For I always pray] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation – of insight into mysteries and secrets – in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, By having the eyes of your heart [mind] flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints – His set-apart ones.  And [so that you  can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe [trust], as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength,

As the Father of glory, God gives us spiritual light and wisdom, enlightens us to the riches of the glory of his inheritance in us, and gives us exceedingly great power! So the context illustrates the figure. So in what sense is God the Father of lights and what does the context of James 1:17 tell us about this idiom? Actually, very little.

James 1:18.  And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth (as sons) by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures – [a sample] of what He created to be consecrated to Himself.

The only apparent connection between the “Father of lights” idiom in verse seventeen and the following verse is the use of the word “creatures.” The description of God in astronomical terms depicts his power as the Creator of Genesis 1:1. The word “creatures” is translated from ktisma, meaning a thing founded or created. It is used in three other verses (I Timothy 4:4, Revelation 5:13, and 8:9) and in all of these, it refers to animals! So James is relating us to the “Father of lights in whom is no variableness neither shadow of turning”, not as recipients of spiritual light, not as inhabitants of heaven, but as God’s number one animal. We’re king of the critters! Hallelujah! This is a far cry from being children of God and joint heirs with Christ, as Paul’s gospel declares.

Rom. 8:14-17.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For [the Spirit which] you have now received [is] not a spirit of slavery to put you once more in bondage to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption – the Spirit producing son-ship – in [the bliss of] which we cry, Abba! [That is,] Father!  The Spirit Himself [thus] testifies together with our own spirit, [assuring us] that we are children of God.  And if we are [His] children, then we are [His] heirs also: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ – sharing His inheritance with Him;  only we must share His suffering if we are to share His glory.

When Jesus publicly declared that God was his father, the Jews sought to kill him (John 5:18 10:30-36). The Jews considered it blasphemy for any man to claim such an intimate relationship with God Almighty. Apparently James didn’t learn from his brother’s example. His presentation of sonship is much more in line with the traditions of Israel than it is with the revolutionary ministry of Jesus Christ or the revelation of the mystery.

The principle of scripture harmony […line upon line, precept upon precept…] dictates that we understand God’s Word in such a way that its harmony is preserved. We are not to read meanings into the scripture that cause apparent contradictions with the rest of the Word, especially regarding the same topic. It is my belief that one cannot interpret the book of James in such a way that preserves its harmony with Paul’s gospel. We can however, see that there is an inner harmony to James itself. Statements that do not necessarily conflict with the rest of God’s Word can nevertheless reinforce and shed light on the rest of James’ treatise. The principle of contextual harmony is one of the most widely recognized and most important in Biblical interpretation. Those who seek to apologize for James’ apparent legalism must resort to wresting his words out of their context to manipulate them into something less offensive. If we interpret James in a manner consistent with itself, that is if we look at the individual statements in the context of the entire treatise, it becomes apparent that he is advocating righteousness by works, and moreover, is repudiating the gospel of salvation and righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ. With that in mind, let us read on.

James 1:21.  So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word [Christ] which implanted and rooted [in your hearts (minds, spirits <BG>)] contains the power to save your souls.

At first glance, this looks like a true and wise statement. But on more careful examination, the theme of salvation by works is revealed. Salvation by the Word is indeed available according to James. But note the emphasis. Salvation is not presented as the result of the grace of God, nor the work of Jesus Christ, but that of the individual purging himself from sin. Paul’s gospel places the credit for the miracle of salvation not on the recipients thereof, but on God, whose mercy and grace laid the plan and on Jesus Christ, whose obedience and love fulfilled it.

Eph. 2:1-5.  And you [He made alive], when you were dead [slain] by [your] trespasses and sins in which at one time you walked habitually. (Gen 6:5.)   You were following the course and fashion of this world – were under the sway of the tendency of the present age – following the Prince of the Power of the Air.  (You were obedient to him and were under his control,) the [demon] spirit that still constantly works in the sons of disobedience – the careless, the rebellious and the unbelieving [untrusting], who go against the purposes of God.  Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh – our behavior governed by our corrupt and sensual nature [Satan in our flesh];  obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind – our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings.  We were then by nature children of [God’s] wrath and heirs of [His] indignation, like the rest of mankind.  But God!  So rich is He in His mercy!  Because of and in order to satisfy the great and wonderful and intense love with which He loved us, even when we were dead [slain] by [our own] shortcomings and trespasses, He made us alive together in fellowship and in union with Christ. – He gave us the very Life of Christ Himself, the same new life with which He quickened Him.  [For] it is by grace – by His favor and mercy which you did not deserve – that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation).

Dead men don’t work much. Ephesians makes it clear that we are dead in sin until we receive the riches of God’s mercy and grace of salvation. Therefore none of the credit for our salvation can be claimed by us. All of the “bragging rights” belong to God and Christ.

Rom. 5:6-9.  While we were yet in weakness – powerless to help ourselves – at the fitting time Christ died for (in behalf of) the ungodly.  Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die.  But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, died for us.  Therefore, since we are now justified – acquitted, made righteous and brought into right relationship with God – by Christ’s blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.

Here, in the context of salvation, man is depicted as “without strength”; spiritually impotent, and ungodly. Yet Christ sacrificed his might and righteousness for us. He didn’t do that after we had lain aside “all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness”, but before. Some would argue that, without receiving the indwelling and purifying power of holy spirit, one cannot lay aside sin because sin is the nature of man. The power of salvation enables us to become in Christ what we could not become on our own. This seems to be the message of Romans chapter six.

Rom. 6:1-4.  What shall we say [to all this]?  Are we to remain in Sin in order that God’s grace (favor and mercy) may multiply and overflow?  Certainly not!  How can we who died to Sin live in it any longer?  Are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might habitually live and behave in newness of life

Before we move on, let’s take a look at the key words of this verse. “Filthiness” is, in the Greek text, rupharia, which Bullinger describes as “dirt, filth, in the worst sense.” It is only used here. One might conclude from its scarcity that there’s not much God wants us to know about the worst kind of filth.

“Naughtiness” is a unique translation of the Greek word, kakia, usually translated

“malice”. One of the meanings of kakia is intent to do harm. Bullinger defines it as “badness, (nom. of kakos, bad, generically including every form of evil, physical and moral.) Kakia is evil habit flowing from poneria, (the wicked act of the mind malignity) vice generally, in all its forms.” It is used in ten other NT verses. With the exception of its use in Matthew, all of the other uses of kakia depict it as something with which a natural man; an unsaved person, is filled (Romans 1:29 and Titus 3:3) and which a born again person puts as his mind is renewed (I Corinthians 5:8, 14:20, Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8, and I Peter 2:1 & 16). There is no other verse in the New Testament that presents kakia as something one can put off before he is saved, as James exhorts. The difference is clearly seen in the context of I Peter 2:1, which actually begins in chapter one.

I Peter 1:21-25; 2:1-2.  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.  Since by your obedience to the Truth through  the [Holy] Spirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart.  You have been regenerated – born again – not from a mortal origin (seed, sperm) but from One that is immortal by the ever living and lasting Word of God.  Because all flesh [mankind] is like grass and all its glory (honor) like [the] flower of grass.  The grass withers, and the flower drops off, but the Word of the Lord [divine instruction, the Gospel] endures forever.  And this Word is the good news which was preached to you. [Isa. 40:6-9.]  So be done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy, jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind.  Like newborn babies you should crave – thirst for, earnestly desire – the pure (unadulterated) spiritual milk, that by it you may be nurtured and grow unto [completed] salvation;

Both I Peter and James talk of laying aside malice. In fact, the same Greek word apotithemi, is used. Both talk of receiving God’s Word. But Peter presents his exhortation in the context of the new birth as something that is done “through the Spirit”. James conversely neglects the new birth and the power of the holy spirit in the cleansing of a believer’s life and instead presents his exhortation as a work necessary to receive salvation itself. God doesn’t tell us to change so we can receive the Word of salvation, he gives us the word of salvation so we can change. By charging Israel to lay apart all filthiness before having received the word and salvation, James essentially puts the cart before the horse. This mindset lives today in the popular belief that we must first confess our sins in order to be saved. Perhaps it is no coincidence that James is the only New Testament writer who advises us to confess our sins to one another.

James 5:16.  Confess to one another therefore your faults – your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins;  and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored – to a spiritual tone of mind and heart.  The earnest (heart-felt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available – dynamic in its working.

The overwhelming majority of the uses of the word “confess” in the New Testament, speak of confessing Christ. In fact the only other use of the word “confess” dealing with sin is in the epistle of I John, James legalistic cohort (see chapter six, Peter and John: Food for Thought”). Our confession is that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that he saved us from the futility of our dead works. Once we are saved by grace, we are fit to work for our Lord according to the glory of the new birth alluded to in Romans 6:4 We draw upon the inner glory born within us to work according to the standard of God’s grace, not our worth. This too, is part of Paul’s example. “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” “Yet not I” says Paul. The spiritual reality of the new birth is the driving force that colors all of Paul’s exhortations to good works. A disciple of James, on the other hand, is more selfdirected and self-reliant,

James 1:22-25.  But – obey the message;  be doers of the Word, and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth].  For if any one only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror;  for he thoughtfully observes himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like.  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.

This is a subtle rebuttal of the doctrine of justification by faith that is central to the epistle of Galatians, and is the bedrock of the gospel. I think it’s ironic that James uses the analogy of a man looking at his “natural face” in a mirror. This is yet another indication of the carnal focus of his epistle and is in sharp contrast to a similar analogy in II Corinthians.

II Cor. 3:18.  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.

In the true gospel, when we ‘receive with meekness the engrafted word’, we behold, as in a mirror, “the glory of the Lord”. We see in God’s word the unveiling of the power and glory He has placed within us in Christ. In the false gospel, all we see in the mirror is flesh.


James 1:25.  But whoso looketh into the perfect Law of liberty…


James 1:25.  But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty…

Now, we’re getting down to the heart of the matter. The reason the focus shifted so quickly to works and carnal self-concern is clear. Now we see why the overriding emphasis on deeds keeps popping up. James is talking about the Law! Remember the admonitions against wavering and being “double-minded” at the beginning of the chapter. Here we see what it is James would have us to be single-minded and steadfast about. The word “looketh” is translated from parakupto, which means to stoop down to observe closely. It translated “stoop down” in its first three uses in the NT.


Luke 24:12. Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.


Luke 24:12.  But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, and stooping down and looking in, he saw the linen cloths alone by themselves, and he went away wondering about and marveling at what had happened.


John 20:5.  And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.

John 20:11.  But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping; and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,


John 20:5.  And stooping down he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not enter.

John 20:11.  But Mary remained standing outside the tomb sobbing.  As she wept, she stooped down [and looked] into the tomb.

James exhorts us to ‘stoop down’ and take a good long look at the “perfect law of liberty.” He wants us to be single-minded in our focus on it. Don’t be distracted by that Paul fellow and his ideas about justification by faith, just keep looking at the law. But notice again, there’s a bit of deceit here. He doesn’t say, “the law of Moses”. Being a “deceitful worker” (II Corinthians 11:13), he gives it an attractive new name. It’s not the law of Moses, it’s the law of liberty! A crate full of rattlesnakes labeled “Medical Supplies” is just as deadly. There are some of you who are strenuously objecting even as you read this because you assume he’s not talking about the Old Testament law. As I’ve stated above, James’ intentions become clearer as we read on. As clear as this passage is, it is made unquestionably plain in 2:10-12 that James’ law of liberty is in fact the same law which Paul’s gospel describes as the law of sin and death.


James 2:10-12.  For whosoever keeps the Law [as a whole, but stumbles and offends in one [single instance] has become guilty of [breaking] all of it.  For He Who said, You shall not commit adultery, also said, You shall not kill.  If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become guilty of transgressing the [whole] Law. [Exod. 20:13, 14;  Deut. 5:17, 18.]  So speak and so act as [people should] who are to be judged under the Law of liberty [the moral instruction given by Christ, especially about love].


James 2:10-12. For whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.  For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the Law.  So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the Law of liberty.

Verse 10 should fairly scream to us that James is speaking of the Mosaic Law. What verse in the Pauline epistles indicates that if we offend in one point, we are “guilty of all”? Conversely, Paul preaches that we are saved from all, that all our offenses have been blotted out in the blood of Christ and his sacrifice.(Hebrews 9:11-26, Romans 5:8-

10)  He sets himself as an example (I Timothy 1:13-16). A murderous, injurious, blasphemer was justified and forgiven of all by the grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ. His conversion and grace are set as an example to the Church of the breathtaking magnitude of God’s grace and the awesome completeness of the sacrificial and redemptive work of Christ. James’ statement here is the utter antithesis of Paul’s gospel.

Who was it that said “Do not commit adultery”? Moses. Where is it said, “Do not kill”? In the law of Moses. We’ve already noted that, according to Paul’s gospel, there is no transgression without the law (Romans 4:15 5:13). So James is unmistakably referring to the law of Moses and simply trying to take some of the sting out of it by calling it “the law of liberty”. This is of course in stark contrast to the references to the law in Acts and the church epistles.

Acts 15:10.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting a yoke on the necks of the disciples, such as neither our forefathers nor we [ourselves] were able to endure?

Can a yoke of bondage be called the law of liberty? Only by a deceitful worker.

II Cor. 3:6-7.  [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.]

The “ministration of death” is a familiar figure of speech called an oxymoron or contradiction in terms. Death is not a ministry. The point is, the Old Testament law was an extremely difficult period of time during which many a man lost his life for an infraction that we might consider menial. Yet James calls it “the perfect law of liberty”. Why the deceptive language? Well if the false gospel were bolder, it couldn’t have crept in unawares. Satan may be vicious; he may be relentless, but he’s not stupid. With that

in mind, let’s get back to 1:25.

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.

After adopting the deceptive new label, James uses the figure of speech polyptoton wherein two variations of the noun poiesis (doer/deed) are used. The effect is to make it unmistakably clear that James is advocating that his readers continue in the works of the law. The fact that James heard the great apostle Peter describe these works as a yoke of bondage doesn’t seem to have deterred his enthusiasm. On the contrary, James says a man who continues in the deeds of the law will be blessed! This is a blatant contradiction of everything written about the law in the Church epistles.

James 1:26.  If any one thinks himself to be religious – piously observant of the external duties of his faith – and does not bridle his tongue, but deludes his own heart, this person’s religious service is worthless (futile, barren).

The basic premise here is that religion is a wonderful thing. It’s not presented as such in the church epistles, particularly in Galatians 1:13 & 14. But that’s a light thing compared to what follows that basic premise. James asserts that a man who doesn’t control his tongue is not really religious at all, but deceives himself. If we look at this as a godliness issue we must assume that he’s saying a man who seems godly, but doesn’t bridle his tongue isn’t really godly at all. So in effect, the standard according to James for true godliness is control of what you say. Again, this seems to be a good thing. But despite the fact that controlling one’s speech is a universally recognized virtue, I don’t think it can rightly be singled out as THE standard of godliness. What of faith, love, and service? According to James, none of these is as important as cleaning up your vocabulary.

The verse ends with the statement that the religion of a man who fails to control his tongue is vain. The word ‘vain’ is translated from mataios which means ‘foolish, idle, or useless’. So according to James, it’s not lack of spiritual power, lack of love, selfishness, or lack of faith that makes a man’s religion useless. It’s his foul language! The lowered standards of godliness continue in the next verse.

James 1:27.  External religious worship (religion as it is expressed in outward acts) that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this:

To preach the gospel? To minister the grace of God to your fellow man? To teach God’s Word to His people? “Pure religion” in a Christian sense would be to zealously and strictly follow the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ, would it not? What did the Lord command?

Mark 16:15.  And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature (of the whole human race).

Acts 1:8.  But you shall receive power – ability, efficiency and might – when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My  witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends – the very bounds – of the earth.

If we obey the commandments of the Lord, we will preach the gospel to every creature, witnessing of the resurrection of Christ unto the uttermost part of the earth. But  James mentions neither being witnesses nor the Resurrection. Well what about just following the example, if not the express commandments of the Lord? What did Jesus do?

Matt. 11:4-5.  And Jesus replied to them, Go and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed (by healing), and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news (the Gospel) preached to them.  [Isa. 35:5-6;  61:1.]

Luke 4:18-19.  The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor;  He has sent Me to announce release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind;  to send forth delivered (from the power of the Evil One) those who are oppressed – who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed and broken down by calamity;  to proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord – the day when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound. [Isa. 61:1, 2.]

If we follow the Lord’s example, our definition of “pure religion” would have to include healing the blind, preaching the gospel, delivering the captives, and setting at liberty them that are bruised. The work of the Lord is heralding and ministering deliverance (from the power of the Evil One)! What is James’ definition of “pure religion”?

James 1:27:  …to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Pure religion according to James is to visit –not necessarily deliver, heal, or help, mind you, but visit–the afflicted. Jesus didn’t leave people in their suffering with an impotent ‘God bless you”!  He helped people with the limitless love and power of God Almighty that flowed through him. Incidentally, so did Peter, and so did Paul. James’s standards are quite a bit lower. He merely exhorts his followers to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction”. And to keep oneself “unspotted” from the world. The use of the word unspotted in this context is in keeping with James’ exhortation to continue in the works of the law. The Levitical traditions being abandoned in Jerusalem by Paul, Peter, and their followers weren’t regarding idolatry, or incest, but simply eating with Gentiles (Galatians 2:12) and relaxing their observation of the Sabbath (Romans 14:1-6). James and the saved Pharisees didn’t approve. They viewed this walk of faith as sin and Levitical impurity. Hence the exhortation here to keep oneself “unspotted” from the world.

The word “unspotted” is used in one other NT book. Paul himself uses this word in I

Timothy. As with the word “lay aside”, we can compare James’ use of this word with

Paul’s and see once again the difference in the perspectives of their writings and see that James is not in harmony with Paul, but his usage of words is consistent with the message of legalism.

I Tim. 6:11-14.  But as for you, O man of God, flee from all these things;  aim at and pursue righteousness – that is, right standing with God and true goodness;  godliness

(which is the loving fear [revering] of God and Christlikeness), faith, love, steadfastness (patience) and gentle-heartedness.  Fight the good fight of the faith;  lay hold of the eternal life to which you were summoned, and confessed the good confession [of faith] before many witnesses.  In the presence of God Who preserves alive all living things, and Christ Jesus Who in His testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I [solemnly] charge you to keep all His precepts unsullied and flawless, irreproachable until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Anointed One.

Paul’s commandment to Timothy was that he keep himself unspotted in his carrying of the ministry of righteousness, faith, and love. He was charged to be unspotted in his efforts to see that the gospel was preserved. James, apparently less concerned with such matters, exhorts his followers to be unspotted from the world in visiting orphans and avoiding foul language. This focus on a much lower standard of Christian living is consistent throughout James. It’s not necessarily wrong. But it shows us that James mindset was decidedly more carnal than Paul’s. Where Paul is concerned with the preaching of the gospel, with justification by faith, with the believers being united in love, James directs his followers to be concerned about bad language, wealth, and doing good deeds.

Chapter Two

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!

The great majority of Paul’s uses of the phrase “faith of Jesus Christ” deal with the contrast of the works of the law and justification by faith (Romans 3:22, Galatians 2:16 & 3:22, and Philippians 3:19). There is however, a passage in Romans which at first glance, seems similar in its context to James 2:1. A comparison of these passages will actually illuminate the depth of the contrast between James’s epistle and Paul’s gospel.

Rom. 12:3-10.  For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn every one among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought – not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance;  but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of *faith apportioned by God to him.  For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use, so we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ, the Messiah, and individually we are parts one of another – mutually dependent on one another.  Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them:  [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith;  [he whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving;  he who teaches, to his teaching;  [he who exhorts, encourages], to his exhortation;  he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality;  he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind;  he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.  [Let your] love be sincere – a real thing;  hate what is evil (loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness), but hold fast to that which is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection – as members of one family – giving precedence and showing honor to one another.

Paul presents the faith of Jesus Christ as the inner bond that brings the Church together. The Church is depicted as “one body in Christ” with every member equal in stature because he’s been given “the measure of faith”, the same measure of holy spirit by faith in  Christ. On the surface, James seems to be singing from the same page, by admonishing his followers not to show preference for wealth. But where Romans presents a church that is one body in Christ, James not only eschews such terminology, he actually divides the Diaspora by unequivocally condemning rich people. In Romans, we are all members one of another; in James the poor are rich in faith (2:5) while the rich are oppressors, blasphemers (2:6 & 7), contemptible, fraudulent, miserly, and murderous (5:1-6). The faith of Jesus Christ in Romans unifies; in James, it’s merely a springboard to division.

The absence of the doctrine of the one body of Christ in James is no wonder, allowing that James, like most Pharisees, rejected the notion that saved Gentiles were fellowheirs with Israel. James’s church is divided from the start. According to this epistle, saved Gentiles don’t exist. What is even more intriguing is the division within the division; the singling out of rich Judaeans for contempt. David Anderson, in his book, The Two Ways of the First Century Church, wrote at length about the division in the early church between the Hebrews and the Grecians (Acts 6:1). Not much is known about the Grecians; they are only mentioned in three verses in the Bible; Acts 6:1, 9:29, and 11:20. They are referred to in the Greek NT as the “Hellenistes”. There is little scholastic information and even less consensus about who they were, but Mr. Anderson makes a very good argument in favor of the idea that the Hellenists were Judaeans who were Hebrews by birth, but who had adopted Greek lifestyles and attitudes; similar to “nonobservant Jews” of our time.

James strident legalism puts him in the camp of the Pharisees. Indeed, the record in Galatians 2:12 indicates that his followers were among those who were zealous for the law. James then, would have been on the side of the Hebrews against the Grecians. There is no evidence that the dispute between the Grecians and Hebrews was ever resolved. Quite the contrary, the most outspoken of the men appointed to settle the matter was publicly executed. As David Anderson argues, it is likely that the reason for Stephens’s murder was his eloquent witness of the substitution of the work of Christ for the law of Moses. It was after all, the law that separated the Hebrews from their less legalistic brethren. By recalling the Old Testament records of Joseph and Moses, Stephen tried to persuade them that Jesus Christ had set aside the reason for their enmity. What followed was murder and mayhem, persecution and peril. This strife between Grecians and Hebrews is perhaps the reason the Grecians tried to kill Paul shortly after his conversion. Perhaps they remembered that he had been a witness at Stephen’s murder and wanted to even the score. At any rate, it seems that James, in his subdividing of his faction of the one body of Christ into rich and poor, was mining an old vein.

James was not content to divide the Jews from the Gentiles. He further divided the rich Jews, probably Hellenists, from the poor Jews. The question is why? The most likely answer is pride. Pride is never satisfied. After having elevated himself above the Gentiles, James and his ilk elevated themselves above their wealthy brethren. Division resulting from carnal pride is like a malignant tumor in the body of Christ. Once it gets started, it continues until what began as a body of believers unified by love and faith becomes an elite inner circle within a faction within a sect within a denomination. This disease in the Church is nurtured by the words of James.

James 2:2.  For if a person comes into your synagogue [congregation, assembly] whose hands are adorned with gold rings and who is wearing splendid apparel, and also a poor [man] in shabby clothes comes in,

Perhaps it’s just a linguistic coincidence, but the word sunagoge, here translated “assembly” makes its first appearance in the Post Pentecost  New Testament in the record of the conflict between the Hebrews and the Grecians.

Acts 6:9.  However, some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen [freed Jewish slaves], as it was called, and [of the synagogues] of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and the province of] Asia, arose [and undertook] to debate and dispute with Stephen.

Prior to this verse Acts speaks of the believers’ meeting places as houses. (2:46,5:42) This was during the time when the Church was unified. In the context of the contention between the Hebrews and the Grecians, synagogues are mentioned. Furthermore, they aren’t synagogues in Jerusalem which had been filled with the apostles’s doctrine, but rather synagogues from the surrounding area; beyond the impact of the witness and power of the apostles and the Church. The men from these synagogues raised the dispute with Stephen that eventually led to his execution.

Again, perhaps this seems to some to be an irrelevant connection, but noting James use of the phrases “goodly apparel” and “gay clothing” to describe the wealthy visitor adds credence to the idea that he was referring to Hellenists. The extremely caustic tones in which James presents them throughout his epistle certainly would have added to his stature and influence among the Pharisees and zealots who comprised his power base (Acts 21:20). Certainly this is an extremely cynical view, but I can think of no other reason for James judging them so harshly, even unto implying that they were doomed to hellfire and condemnation.

This passage also provides one of the contrasts with the character of the early Church that negates the idea that James was written before Paul’s ministry began. Despite his repeated condemnations of rich men, there is no notion anywhere in the epistle that wealthy believers are to share of their abundance so that the needs of the poor will be met. This was the practice of the early Church under the leadership of the apostles, who are also absent from James’s epistle.

James 2:5-6.   Listen, my beloved brethren.  Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and in their position as believers, and to inherit the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him?  But you [in contrast] have insulted – humiliated, dishonored and shown your contempt for – the poor.  Is it not the rich who domineer over you?  Is it not they who drag you into the law courts?

James praises the poor, which sounds pious enough, but doesn’t go so far as to admonish the church elders or the affluent brethren to actually give them anything! He is in effect saying “God bless you, poor person.” But is doing nothing within his considerable influence to move the others to supply their needs. This is not what God instituted in the first century church.

Acts 2:44-45.  And all who believed – that is, who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ – were united, and together they had everything in common;  and they sold their possessions [both their landed property and their movable goods] and distributed the price among all, according as any had need.

II Cor. 8:13-15.  For it is not [intended] that other people be eased and relieved (of their responsibility) and you be burdened and suffer (unfairly), but to have equality – share and share alike;  your surplus over necessity at the present time going to meet their want and to equalize the difference created by it, so that [at some other time] their surplus in turn may be given to supply your want.  Thus there may be equality.  As it is written, He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little did not lack. [Exod. 16:18.]

So this is another aspect of the epistle of James that is at odds with both the early Church depicted in the book of Acts and the corresponding standards of Paul’s gospel. Continuing in James chapter two, we see in verse eight yet another phrase that is unique to this epistle. “The royal law” is a phrase coined in an attempt to lessen the impact of the legalism James is advocating.

James 2:8.  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.


Most of us assume James’s phrase “the royal law” is a reference to Jesus’s statement recorded in Matthew 22:37 in which he condensed the Law to two Great

Commandments. So we make a distinction between “the royal law” and the Mosaic Law as if Jesus was saying that the need to keep the law of Moses had passed. Our Lord said no such thing. He was merely summarizing the 900 commandments contained in the Mosaic Law. He never said that the law had passed. In fact the opposite is true.

A review of some of Jesus’s statements to Israel reveals that while he ministered to the circumcision, the law of Moses was still in force. The Law didn’t pass until Jesus Christ fulfilled it HIMSELF, which fulfillment was completed on the cross when he became our Passover, the Lamb of God.

Jesus Christ told the people of Israel the way to eternal life was to keep the commandments Let us remember that Romans 15:8 clearly states that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision. As such, he ministered the Law while HE himself fulfilled it.

Matthew 5:17-22.  Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law and the prophets;  I have come not to do away with or undo, but to complete and fulfill them.  For truly, I tell you, until the sky and earth pass away and perish not one smallest letter nor one little hook [identifying certain Hebrew letters] will pass from the Law until all things [it foreshadows] have been accomplished.   Whoever then breaks or does away with or relaxes one of the least important of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least important in the kingdom of heaven;  but he who practices them and teaches others to do so shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  You have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable so that he cannot escape the punishment imposed by the court. [Exod. 20:13; Deut. 5:17; 16:18.]  But I say to you that every one who continues to be angry with his brother or harbors malice *[enmity of heart] against him shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You cursed fool! – You empty-headed idiot! shall be liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire.


Matt. 7:12.  So then whatever you desire that others would do to and for you, even so do you also to and for them, for this is [sums up,] the Law and the prophets.

Matt. 19:17-19.  And He said to him, Why do you ask Me about the perfectly and essentially good?    One only there is who is good – perfectly and essentially:  God.  If you would enter the Life, you must continually keep the commandments.  He said to Him, What sort of commandments? – Or,   which ones?  And Jesus answered, You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, [Exod. 20:12-16;  Deut. 5:16-20.]  Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall Love your neighbor as  yourself. [Lev. 19:18.]

Matt. 23:23.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders – hypocrites!  for you give a tenth of your mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected and omitted the weightier (more important) matters of the Law, right and justice and mercy and fidelity.  These you ought [particularly] to have done, without neglecting the others.

Luke 10:25-28.  And then a certain lawyer arose to try (test, tempt) Him, saying, Teacher, what am I to do to inherit everlasting life – [that is,] to partake of eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom?  Jesus said to him, What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?  And he replied, You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all  your strength, and with all your mind;  and your neighbor as yourself.  [Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18.]  And Jesus said to him, You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live – enjoy active, blessed, endless life in the kingdom of God.

John 8:4-7.  Teacher, they said, this woman has been caught in the very act of adultery.  Now Moses in the Law commanded us that such [women, offenders] shall be stoned to death.  But what do You say[to do with her]? – What is Your sentence? [Deut. 22:22-24.]  This they said to try (test) Him, hoping they might find a charge for which to accuse Him.  *But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger.  However, when they persisted with their question, He raised Himself up and said, Let him who is without Sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.

This is a particularly significant passage. Not only for what Jesus said, but for what He did not say. He did not say that the law was passed. He did not say that the grace of God was here and that the woman should not be judged by the law of Moses. He invited execution according to the law, but merely stipulated that the executioners be innocent! Thus, by the wisdom of God in Christ, mercy prevailed over judgment. But if the law had already passed, surely this would have been the time for Jesus to announce it. A life was at stake. But he did not, because the law was still in effect; He was still in the process of fulfilling it, and therefore, the law still held sway over Israel.

So when we read in James about “the royal law”, we should not assume that this is a distinction from the Mosaic Law. No such distinction exists. They are one and the same. James’s use of the phrase “the royal law” is simply another attempt to present the law of Moses in a positive light. If he were doing this in today’s culture, we would call him a “spin doctor”. There’s nothing new under the sun.

James 2:9.  But if you show servile regard (prejudice, favoritism) for people, you commit sin and are rebuked and convicted [of (KJV)] by [under] the Law as violators and offenders.

If we look at the Greek words from which this verse is translated, it becomes even more obvious that James in contradicting the gospel. The Greek word translated “of” is the word hupo. It is used here in the Genitive case and so should be translated “under”. James is literally saying if ye have respect of persons, ye commit (work) sin and are convinced (rebuked) under the law as transgressors.

Having eased into legalism with the new label of the royal law, James proceeds to serve up the resulting condemnation. For by the law is the knowledge of sin. Not only is the idea of a born again Judaean being convinced under the law as a transgressor a blatant contradiction of the gospel of the grace of Christ, the offense James cites is not found in the law of Moses. James is not only advocating a return to the law, he’s adding to it! Such is the nature of legalism. We can never find enough ways to pass judgment and accuse our brethren of sin. According to Paul’s gospel, it is abundantly clear that James’ reasoning is flawed, for we are no longer under the law!

Rom. 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. 

Rom. 7:4-6.  Likewise, my brethren, you have undergone death as to the Law through the [crucified] body of Christ, so that now you may belong to Another, to Him Who was raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.  When we were living in the flesh (mere physical lives) the sinful passions that were awakened and aroused up by [what] the Law [makes sin] were constantly operating in our natural powers – in our bodily organs, in the sensitive appetites and wills of the flesh – so that we bore fruit for death.  But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive.  So now we serve not under [obedience to] the old code of written regulations, but [under obedience to the promptings] of the Spirit in newness [of Life].

Romans 8:2. For the Law of the Spirit of Life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the Law of our new being] has freed me from the Law of Sin and of Death.

Rom. 10:4.  For Christ is the end of the Law – the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. – That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him – as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him.

Romans 7:14 says clearly we are not under the law. James 2:9 says the opposite. Both cannot be true. Romans 7: 4 says we are become dead to the law. If we are dead to the law we cannot be ruled by it. Therefore, we are not under the law. Romans 7:6 says we are now delivered from the law. Therefore, we are not under the law. Romans 8:2 says we are freed from the law and Romans 10:4 tells us why; because Christ ended the law. Therefore, we are not under the law and cannot be convinced “under the law” as transgressors.

James 2:10-11.  For whosoever keeps the Law [as a] whole, but stumbles and offends in one [single instance] has become guilty of [breaking] all of it.  For He Who said, You shall not commit adultery, also said, You shall not kill.  If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become guilty of transgressing the [whole] Law. [Exod. 20:13, 14; Deut. 5:17, 18.]

Here we have an ironic moment of agreement in the midst of conflict. This truth is echoed in Galatians 3:10 and 5:2-4

Gal. 3:10.  And all who depend on the Law – who are seeking to be justified by obedience to the Law of rituals – are under a curse and doomed to disappointment and destruction;  for it is written in the Scriptures, Cursed (accursed, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment) be everyone who does not continue to abide (live and remain) by ALL the precepts and commands written in the book of the Law, and practice them. [Deut. 27:26.]

Gal. 5:2-4.  Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no profit (advantage, avail) to you, [for if you distrust Him, you can gain nothing from Him].  I once more protest and testify to every man who receives circumcision that he is under obligation and bound to practice the whole of the Law and its ordinances.  If you seek to be justified and declared righteous and to be given a right standing with God through the Law, you are brought to nothing and so separated (severed) from Christ.  You have fallen away from grace – from God’s gracious favor and unmerited blessing.

This is a stringent warning to the Galatians whom James and his emissaries had deceived. Submitting to circumcision was not a little step backward, it was a giant leap backward into sin and death.

Of course, we should give ol’ James the benefit of the doubt shouldn’t we? (That is, if there’s any doubt left at this point) Maybe he’s really in full agreement with Paul and is doing his best to persuade the law zealots to abandon the law and walk in grace so as to avoid judgment.

James 2:12.  So speak and so act as [people should] who are to be judged under the Law of liberty [the moral instruction given by Christ, especially about love].

No, he’s still pushing the law. Knowing full well that those who submitted to any part of the law had to keep the entire thing, James still advocates the law of Moses by deceptively referring to it as “the law of liberty. James had some pretty good marketing consultants in his day. Actually, this is an old tactic of the adversary. Changing the name of an evil practice gives it new life. It’s not an idol, it’s a “patron saint!” It’s not giving by compulsion, it’s “abundant sharing.” It’s not the ministration of death, it’s the “perfect law of liberty”.

James 2:14.  What is the use (profit), my brethren, for any one to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]?  Can [such] faith save [his soul]?

“Yea, hath God said ye shall not eat of every tree of the Garden”? James’ question here is every bit as deceitful as that of the serpent in the garden. Rather than directly attack the gospel, he slides in sideways and nonchalantly, but with obvious concern and sincerity, says, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith and have not works? Can faith save him?” Actually, there are several layers of subtlety here. The first is the deliberate mixing of carnal and spiritual. Paul’s gospel of justification by the faith of Jesus Christ is a matter of spiritual benefits to natural man. James begins his attack with a carnal concern. “What doth it profit…” The implication here is that if a man is not practically successful, he is not spiritually sound. This logic has wide appeal, but is flawed for putting the earthly above the heavenly. It’s like saying there are more Muslims than Christians in the world, therefore, Mohammed was right about Jesus.

The second layer of deceit lies in the subtle discrediting of the gospel of justification by faith. Do you see it? “…though a man say he have faith…” James reduces the gospel to human hearsay. Paul blasted this deceitful attack at the very outset of Galatians.

Gal. 1:11-12.  For I want you to know, brethren, that the Gospel which was proclaimed and made known by me is not man’s gospel – a human invention, according to or patterned after any human standard.  For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it;  [it came to me] through a [direct] revelation [given] by Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

James statement though a man say he have faith is a sly attempt to discredit the doctrine of salvation by faith not works. The next is more obvious. Just as the serpent tempted and deceived Eve with a question, James attacks the gospel of justification by faith with a question. “Can faith save him?” Before we go any further, we must stop and consider this question carefully. These four words are the crux of the issue that divided James from Paul, Peter from John, and the Gentiles from the Judaeans. These four words are a figure of speech called heterois, which we call a rhetorical question; a question asked for which the answer is implied or obvious. The immediate context implies that the answer to James’ rhetorical question is “no”. With that in mind, carefully reread these four words.


The most important word of these four is “Can”. The word “can” is translated from dunamai, which Bullinger defines as “to be able, capable, strong enough.” This is a very significant question. James isn’t asking “might” faith save him. He’s not saying “Will” faith save him, but “CAN faith save him?”. The fact that these four words found their way into the canon of the New Testament is mind-boggling. The implication of this rhetorical question is that faith is not capable of saving. James is in effect saying that it is impossible for a man to be saved by faith. Consider the following verses and the meaning and usage of the word dunamai

Matt. 6:24.  No one can serve two masters;  for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon [that is, deceitful riches, money, possessions or what is trusted in].

Matt. 6:27.  And which of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure [cubit] to his stature or to the span of his life? [Ps. 39:5-7.]

Matt. 7:18.  A good (healthy) tree cannot bear bad (worthless) fruit;  nor can a bad (diseased) tree bear excellent fruit – worthy of admiration.

Matt. 8:2.  And behold, a leper came up to Him and prostrating himself, worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if You will, You are able to cleanse me by curing me.

Matt. 12:29.  Or how can a person go into a strong man’s house and carry off his goods – the entire equipment of his house – without first binding the strong man?  Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Matt. 12:34.  You offspring of vipers!  How can you speak good things when you are evil – wicked?  For out of the fullness – the overflow, the superabundance – of the heart the mouth speaks.

You may have noticed that most of these uses are actually in the negative. That is, rather than stating what is possible, they state or imply what is not. It is perhaps fitting then that it is used in James to imply that faith cannot save a man who confesses it. “Can faith save him?” The answer is YES! Absolutely, unequivocally, undeniably, and irrevocably, Yes! We are saved by faith not works. On this point, God’s Word is crystal clear.

Eph. 2:8-9.  For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved

(delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your (Holy Spirit given)] faith.  And this [salvation] is not of yourselves – of your own doing, it came not through your own striving – but it is the gift of God.  Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. – It is not the result of what any one can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.

Rom. 9:30-32.  What shall we say then?  That Gentiles who did not follow after righteousness – who did not seek salvation by right relationship to God – have attained it by faith (that is, righteousness imputed by God, based on and produced by (the) faith (of Jesus Christ, a Gift of the Holy Spirit).  Whereas Israel, though ever in pursuit of a Law [for the securing] of righteousness (right standing with God), actually did not succeed in fulfilling the Law.  For what reason?  Because [they pursued it] not through faith – they did not depend on faith but on what they could do – relying on the merit of their works.  They have stumbled over the Stumbling Stone. [Isa. 28:16, 8:14.]

II Tim. 1:9.  [For it is He] Who delivered [Matt. 6:13; Luke 11:4.] and saved us

(from the Evil One) and called us with a calling in itself holy and leading to holiness – that is, to a Life of consecration, a vocation of holiness;  [He did it] not because of anything of merit that we have done, but because of and to further His own purpose and grace (unmerited favor) which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began – eternal ages ago.

Rom. 4:3-7.  For what does the Scripture say?  Abraham believed (trusted in) God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness – right living and right standing with God. [Gen. 15:6.]  Now to a laborer, his wages are not counted as a favor or a gift, but as an obligation – something owed to him.  But to one who not working [by Law] trusts (believes fully) in Him Who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited to him as righteousness – the standing acceptable to God.  Thus David congratulates the man and pronounces a blessing on him to whom God credits righteousness apart from the works he does:  Blessed and happy and to be envied are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered up and completely buried.

Even under the law, the answer was YES! As Abraham was made righteous without works, and as David praised God for his mercy to those who recognized their inability to keep the law and relied on faith in his goodness, we today are saved by faith without works. The denial of this monumental truth is the heart of the epistle of James. James’ treatise against righteousness without works is central to his epistle, just as Paul’s declaration of justification by faith without the works of the law is central to Galatians.

One of the arguments in favor of James in this passage is that he’s not questioning salvation by faith. They say he’s not talking about getting born again. That observation is partially correct; the question about the possibility of salvation by faith is interjected slyly, but it’s not the real issue

The real issue at the heart of James’ question regarding a brother who says he has faith without works is the continued adherence to the confining standards of the law in the life of a Judaean believer. This is the subject of Paul’s reproof in Roman chapter 14.

Rom. 14:1-6.  As for the man who is a weak believer, welcome him [into your fellowship], but not to criticize his opinions or pass judgment on his scruples or perplex him with discussions.  One [man’s faith permits him] to believe he may eat anything, while a weaker one [limits his] eating to vegetables.  Let not him who eats look down on or despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains criticize and pass judgment on him who eats;  for God has accepted and welcomed him.  Who are you to pass judgment on and censure another’s household servant?  It is before his own Master that he stands or falls.  And he shall stand and be upheld, for the Master – the Lord – is mighty to support him and make him stand.  One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike [sacred].  Let every one be fully convinced (satisfied) in his own mind.  He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord.  He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God;  while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 

Rom. 14:13-15.  Then let us no more criticize and blame and pass judgment on one another, but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance in the way of a brother.  I know and am convinced (persuaded) as one in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is [forbidden as] essentially unclean – that is, defiled and unholy in itself.  But [none the less] it is unclean (defiled and unholy) to any one who thinks it is unclean.  But if your brother is being pained or his feelings hurt or if he is being injured by what you eat, [then] you are no longer walking in love. – That is, you have ceased to be living and conducting yourself  by the standard of love toward him.  Do not let what you eat hurt or cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died! 

Rom. 14:22-23.  Your personal convictions [on such matters] exercise as in God’s presence, keeping them to yourself – striving only to know the truth and obey His will.  Blessed, happy, to be envied is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves – who does not convict himself  by what he chooses to do.  But the man who has doubts – misgivings, an uneasy conscience- about eating, and then eats [perhaps because of you], stands condemned [before God], because he is not true to his convictions and he does not act from faith.  For whatever does not originate and proceed from faith is sin – that is, whatever is done without a conviction of its approval by God is sinful.

He that doubteth is damned if he eat. Why? Because he has transgressed the law? No. Because his motivation is not trust in the accomplished work of Christ on our behalf, but self-willed licentiousness. Volumes could be written about this issue, but it’s summarized by God Himself in I Samuel 16:7

I Samuel 16:7.   But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

God looks on the heart. God knows if we are acting in faith and rejoicing in the accomplished work of Christ or acting in selfishness and rejoicing in ‘forbidden fruit’. A believer who walks in faith will not flaunt his freedom in Christ in the company of a brother who does not yet understand it. This is why verse 23 says whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Since the Judaeans were now justified by faith without the deeds of the law, they cannot be convinced under the law as sinners. But since the new standard of righteousness is faith, if one acted as if he had faith; that is, if he did things believers were suddenly free to do [such as eat pork or work on the sabbath] without actually believing in the justification of Christ, he was simply seizing formerly forbidden fruit. And to do so in the company of one who still believed himself to be under the law was a great offense that only made it more difficult for the weak believer to grow in grace.

Likewise if a Christian who believes he is free to drink wine in moderation is in the company of one who believes all alcohol is forbidden, he is obligated by love to eschew the fleeting pleasure of a glass of wine to preserve the the precious conscience and fellowship of his brother in Christ. So an act can be a demonstration of faith or it can be sin depending on the motivation and mindset behind it. Thus Paul wrote to the Judaean believers, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Notice however, he did not use the word “transgression” as James does. A transgression can only occur under the law.

This chapter begins and ends with references to faith. The bolder Judaean believers received the gospel and its tenet of justification by faith by releasing themselves from the Law’s restrictions on diet and observance of the Sabbath. Others were not so comfortable in their newfound freedom and were in fact offended by the casting off of the works of the law. Paul dealt with this not by pushing people back to the law, but by encouraging them to add love to their newfound faith and walk “charitably” so as to edify their ‘weaker’ brethren. This was the heart of the faith without works issue and, as we saw in Galatians 2:11, it was a deadly serious issue. It was over this that Peter withdrew in fear when the emissaries of James went to Antioch and found him eating with the Gentiles.  With this understanding, let’s see what else James has to say about the issue.

James 2:15-16.  If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, and one of you says to him, Goodbye!  Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?

Not surprisingly, we see another immediate shift from spiritual matters to carnal. It’s also an attempt to change the subject. This is doubly deceitful because, the issue isn’t food to hungry people. Neither is it salvation, although salvation by faith was questioned in the previous verse. James never addresses the underlying issue head-on. The divisions in the church had nothing to do with food for hungry people. As we just saw, Romans devotes an entire chapter to the issue of faith and the works of the law, and the divisive chaos in Antioch that resulted in a face-to-face confrontation between Peter and Paul was not about feeding the hungry, but about justification by faith rather than by the works of

the law. When the people of that day spoke of these matters, these are the terms (actually, their Aramaic equivalents) they would have used. James broaches the subject and immediately confuses the issue by questioning salvation itself, which was not debated, then using a series of unrelated and irrelevant analogies to get to his point in a very deceitful and misleading manner.

I may be wrong, but I believe this type of reasoning is what Galatians 3:3 addresses when it says, “Who hath bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth..”  So, having confused the issue of faith and works with salvation and starvation, where does he end up?

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.

This verse has the subject of some discussion  Let’s take a close look at it for this is the crux of James. The word “faith” is pistis. The key words in this verse are works and dead. “Works” is translated from the Greek word ergon, and dead from nekros. Works is used many times in the New Testament and does not always refer to levitical commandments or works of the law. It can be translated “deeds” or actions.

Matt. 11:2.  Now when John in prison heard about the activities (ergon) of Christ, he sent a message by his disciples.

Matt. 26:10.  But Jesus, fully aware of this, said to them, Why do you bother the woman?  She has done a noble (praiseworthy and beautiful) thing (ergon) to Me.

Luke 11:48.  So you bear witness, and give your full approval and consent to the deeds (ergon) of your fathers;  for they actually killed them, and you rebuild and repair monuments to them.

The word ‘dead’ is almost always used in reference to dead souls.

Matt. 10:8.  Cure the sick;  raise the dead (nekros);  cleanse the lepers;  drive out demons.  Freely (without pay) you have received;  freely (without charge) give.

Matt. 11:5.  The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed (by healing), and the deaf hear, and the dead (nekros) are raised up, and the poor have good news (the Gospel) preached to them. [Isa. 35:5, 6;  61:1.]

Acts 17:3.  Explaining [them] and [quoting passages] setting forth and proving that it was necessary for Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead (nekros), and saying, This Jesus, Whom I proclaim to you is the Christ, the Messiah.

Acts 17:32.  Now when they had heard [that there had been] a resurrection from the dead (nekros), some scoffed; but others said, We will hear you again about this matter.

Rom. 6:4.  We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead (nekros) by the glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might habitually live and behave in newness of life.

However, it is sometimes used figuratively to communicate separation or loss. This is the case in Luke chapter 15, in the parable of the prodigal son.

Luke 15:24.  Because this my son was dead (nekros), and is alive again;  he was lost, and is found!  And they began to revel and feast and make merry.

Obviously, the prodigal son was not dead. He had been separated from his father who never expected to see him again. He was, for all practical purposes, dead. We have a similar idiom referring to sleep. If one is “dead to the world”, he is in a sound sleep or unconscious. So we could interpret the word nekros in James 2:17 as separated. This meaning is reinforced by the descriptive phrase, “being alone” which ends the verse. The meaning is that if faith and works are separated, faith is of absolutely no profit. Translating the word “works” as actions, we arrive at the meaning of James’s bold declaration; Faith, separated from action is barren and useless. If we understand this verse in this light, we remove the apparent contradiction between James and Paul regarding justification. But if we rest there, we will not see that James’s statement about faith being dead without deeds is at odds with the rest of the New Testament.

James’ assertion that “faith without works is dead, being alone” contradicts not only Paul’s gospel, but the book of Hebrews, and the gospel of Luke. In order to see this more fully, let us look again at what James says regarding faith and words.

James 2:15-16.  If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, and one of you says to him, Goodbye!  Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?

James presents a hypothetical situation in which a believer says to a needy person, “be ye warmed and filled.” In other words, a blessing is spoken. James discounts the value of these words. This creed is reinforced in verse 18.

James 2:18.  But some one will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith and I have [good] works.  Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith.

In James’ equation, deeds, not words, are the proof of faith. This is certainly a popular credo. “Deeds, not Words!” is a familiar rallying cry. A famous Christian poem contains the line “We say that we are his and He is ours. Deeds are the proof of this, not words, and these are the proving hours!” This line of verse may even have been inspired by this very scripture. James assertion that faith is shown by deeds, not words is a well-known and readily accepted notion. But it is false.

The Word of God declares that Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and even Mary demonstrated faith without works, without deeds, without actions.

Heb. 11:11.  Because of faith also Sarah herself received physical power to conceive a child, even when she was long past the age for it because she considered [God]

Who had given her the promise, reliable and trustworthy and true to His word [promise].  [Gen. 17:19;  18:11-14;  21:2.]

What did Sarah do that produced a child in a formerly dead womb? Nothing. The deed was performed by Abraham. The word “receive” is not an active but a passive verb. Sarah merely believed God’s promise and “received strength” to conceive. In fact, her works had been futile. She offered Abraham her maidservant Hagar in an attempt to work out God’s promise. That action was not the proof of faith, but of unbelief. When Sarah believed God’s promise, she stopped relying on her works and merely allowed God’s power to bear fruit within her. Rather than faith without works being dead, Sarah’s faith without works brought new life.

Likewise, her son Isaac demonstrated faith without works.

Heb. 11:20.  [With eyes of] faith Isaac, looking far into the future, invoked blessings upon Jacob and Esau. [Gen. 27:27-29, 39, 40.]

Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau by faith. He merely spoke what God wanted him to speak. I wonder if he said, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled.” Just kidding. Isaac did nothing to bring to pass the blessings that God promised Jacob and Esau. He merely spoke the words. It was up to God to make it happen. But it took faith for Isaac to speak that blessing. Speaking God’s Word is a genuine result of faith. This truth is echoed in the next two verses in Hebrews.

Heb. 11:21-22.  [Prompted] by faith Jacob, when he was dying blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and bowed in prayer over the top of his staff. [Gen. 48.]  [Actuated] by faith Joseph, when nearing the end of his life, referred to [the promise of God for] the departure of the Israelites out of Egypt, and gave instructions concerning the burial of his own bones. [Gen. 50:24, 25;  Exod. 13:19.]

By faith Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph. He did indeed rise from his bed and lean on his staff, but the emphasis in the verse, like the one before it, is on the blessing. Joseph did likewise and demonstrated faith by words, not deeds. He made mention of the departing of the children of Israel. He prophesied. Prophesy is most certainly a product of faith. Does the prophet have to carry out that which he speaks? No. He merely speaks that which God tells him to speak and God Himself sees to it that the prophecy is fulfilled. This characteristic of faith is mentioned in II Corinthians 4:13

II Cor. 4:13.  Yet we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, I have believed, and therefore have I spoken.  We too believe, and therefore we speak. [Ps.


Finally, let us consider what is perhaps the single most important instance of faith in human history. Mary became the mother of our Lord by faith. As you read this passage, ask yourself, what did Mary do?

Luke 1:26-38.   Now in the sixth month [after that], the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a girl never having been married and a virgin, engaged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, Hail, O favored one (endued with grace), the Lord is with you!  Blessed – favored of God – are you before all other women!.  But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled and disturbed and confused at what he said, and kept revolving in her mind what such a greeting might mean.  And the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found grace – free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving kindness – with God.  And listen!  You will become pregnant and will give birth to a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus.  He will be great (eminent) and will be called the Son of the Most High;  and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His forefather David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob throughout the ages, and of His reign there will be no end. [Isa. 9:6, 7;  Dan. 2:44.]  And Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I have no [intimacy with any man as a] husband?  Then the angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you (as a shining cloud);  and so the holy (pure, sinless) Thing which shall be born of you, will be called the Son of [out of] God. [Exod. 40:34;  Isa. 7:14.]  And listen!  Your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is now the sixth month with her who was called barren;  For with God nothing is ever impossible, and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.  Then Mary said, Behold I am the handmaiden of the Lord;  let it be done to me according to what you have said.  And the angel left her.

Did she believe? Absolutely. Elizabeth prophesied that she did.

Luke 1:42-45.  And she cried out with a loud cry, then exclaimed, Blessed – favored of God – above all other women are you!  And blessed – favored of God – is the Fruit of your womb!  And how [have I deserved that this honor should] be granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For lo, the instant the sound of your salutation reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed – happy, to be envied – is she who believed [trusted] that there would be a fulfillment of the things that were spoken to her from the Lord.

And blessed is she that believed. What did Mary do? She said “Be it unto me according to thy word.” She believed, she spoke God’s Word, she received. Since this same Mary was also the mother of James, one wonders how he could have ignored her example when he took it upon himself to declare that faith without works is dead. Nevertheless, we must recognize that James’ doctrine of dead faith is at odds with the writings of both Paul and Luke. This is more than a difference in mannerisms. It’s not a disagreement on practical matters. This is a doctrinal conflict that can only be settled by assuming that God’s Word makes no sense or that James’ words, or those of both Paul and Luke are false.

Even if we give James the benefit of the doubt, and remove salvation and justification from the context, we cannot harmoniously merge this passage with the writing of the Apostle Paul. However, I believe removing salvation and justification by faith from our understanding of this passage is unwarranted and unwise. Look ahead at verse 23. James has used his hypothetical situation as the foundation of the doctrine of justification by works.

James 2:19.  You believe that God is one;  you do well.  So do the demons believe, and shudder [in terror and horror such as make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]!

This statement is completely irrelevant. This is what is known as a “straw man” argument, a deceptive tactic designed to  misrepresent and ridicule an opposing point of view, rather than debate it honestly.  No one in Jerusalem questioned that there was one God. None of the Diaspora Jews would have questioned that there was one God. Rather than explain WHY born again Judaeans needed to keep the law, he’s arguing a point that no one has challenged! In so doing, he demeans the argument in favor of justification by faith without law and equates it with something as simplistic as believing that there is one God. This is an insult that is compounded by associating it with devils! As I said, this is slippery stuff James is pushing. This is the method whereby the Galatians were bewitched and so quickly removed from the grace of Christ unto the other gospel. This sidestep sets up another direct attack on the truth as seen in verse 20.


James 2:20.  Are you willing to be shown [proof], you foolish, unproductive, spiritually-deficient fellow, that faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless?


But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Just as emphatically as Galatians presents the truth of our justification by faith of Jesus Christ without the works of the law, James continues to attack the gospel by sneaking in sideways and then blatantly contradicting it.

This begs the question; why did God allow this to be included in the canon of the NT?

Perhaps what we see here is the fulfilling of Jesus; parable of the tares among the wheat. If we didn’t have these books in the New Testament, we might assume the conflicts in Acts were settled and therefore be less vigilant about the enemies of the gospel of grace.

Verse 21 starts the cycle again. A question is posed to which the correct answer is a resounding no. Before the reader realizes that he’s been suckered, James is contradicting the gospel yet again.

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.]

The answer to this question is a resounding “NO”. According to Genesis 15:6, Romans

4:3, and Galatians 3:6, ” …Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” James reiterates the false premise in the form of another question before making a false statement in verse 23. He is trying to supply a doctrinal foundation to continue to keep born again Judaeans under the law, but doing so in a rather dishonest manner.

James 2:23.   And [so] the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed – adhered to trusted in and relied on – God, and this was accounted to him as righteousness [as conformity to God’s will in thought and deed], and he was called God’s friend. [Gen. 15:6;  Isa. 41:8;  II Chron. 20:7; Rom. 4:3;  Gal. 3:6.]

This statement is wrong on two levels. First, it says “the scripture was fulfilled”. If you read the 30 or so other verses in the New Testament in which the words “scripture” and “fulfilled (pleroo) ” are used together, you will find that ALL of the others refer to prophecy; foretelling, that is. The statement “Abraham believed God and it was accounted for righteousness” is not prophetic. It’s a plain statement of truth, a recounting of an established spiritual and historical fact. So to use the phrase “the scripture was fulfilled” in this context is deceitful and deliberately misleading.

Secondly, this misleading phrase implies that Abraham’s righteousness wasn’t complete until he offered Isaac thirty years later! This is in direct contradiction to Romans 4:9-11.

Rom. 4:9-11.  Is this blessing (this happiness) then meant only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised?  We say that faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.  How then was it credited [to him]?  Was it before or after he had been circumcised?  It was not after, but before he was circumcised.  He received the mark of circumcision as a token or an evidence or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised, [faith] that he was to be made the father of all who [truly] believe though without circumcision and who thus have righteousness (right standing with God) imputed to them and credited to their account,

WHEN was Abraham justified? Both Genesis and Romans declare that he was justified WHEN he believed God’s promise.  Verse 11 says circumcision was a seal of the righteousness of the faith Abraham had. The word “seal” is the same word used of a letter that is sealed before mailing or a royal document that is sealed with the King’s signet ring to show it’s authenticity. A letter is not sealed until it’s finished. Likewise, the last thing a monarch does is to affix the seal to a document. Abraham’s righteousness could not have been sealed if it was yet incomplete. So James’ assertion that the righteousness that God imputed to Abraham for his believing wasn’t complete until thirty years later is simply false.

Since this section in chapter two is the central argument (if you can call it that) of James in favor of the law, most of what remains has been mentioned in some way already, so I will only briefly refer to the remainder of the epistle.

James 3:2.  For we all often stumble and fall and offend in many things.  And if any one does not offend in speech – never says the wrong things – he is a fully developed character and a perfect man, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature.

James goes back to setting tongue control as the principle standard for godliness. Here he says a man who can control his tongue is perfect, or completely mature. In the seven church epistles, maturity is associated with understanding the mystery, (Colossians 1:27 & 28), those who use the manifestations of holy spirit to edify the church (I Corinthians

14:20), and those who focus on the furtherance of the gospel and the return of Christ (Philippians 3:15). It seems to me that a man could be perfect according to James standard without knowing anything of the manifestations, the return of Christ, or the mystery.

James 3:6.  And the tongue [is] a fire.  [The tongue is a] world of wickedness set among our members, contaminating and depraving the whole body and setting on fire the wheel of birth – the cycle of man’s nature – being itself ignited by hell (Gehenna).

Sounds pretty wise doesn’t it? Here James restates the earlier premise about perfection coming by discretion by presenting the opposite; the dangers of indiscretion. I find it curious that the phrase set on fire is used twice here, and even more disturbing that he says the tongue “is set on fire of hell”. Is he saying a man who lacks discretion is going to burn in hell? The word “hell” here is indeed gehenna, a reference to the lake of fire. Keeping in mind to whom this is addressed makes this reference even more out of place. Needless to say, the only other New Testament books that use this word are the gospels and Revelation. This implication of hellfire and damnation to foul-mouthed believers is similar to his condemnation of rich men in chapter 5.

James 5:3.  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.

How in the world does this fit with the hope of Christ’s return and the promise of a spiritual body like unto his glorious body? For brevity’s sake, I’ll wrap this up with a look at the end of chapter three.


James 3:13.  Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent?…


James 3:13.  Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?…

Who is a wise man? Well, here we go again. This question is a pack of trouble. Answering this call immediately puts you in dubious company. Surprisingly, most of the uses of the word “wise” in the church epistles are negative. Rarely are we encouraged to claim to be wise. Just the opposite.

Rom. 1:22.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools – professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves.

Rom. 11:25.  Lest you be self-opinionated – wise in your own conceits – I do not want you to miss this hidden truth and mystery, brethren: a hardening (insensibility) has [temporarily] befallen a part of Israel [to last] until the full number of the ingathering of the Gentiles has come in,

Rom. 12:16.  Live in harmony with one another;  do not be haughty (snobbish, highminded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks.  Never overestimate yourself or be wise in your own conceits. [Prov. 3:7.]

I Cor. 1:20.   Where is the wise man – the philosopher?  Where is the scribe – the scholar?  Where is the investigator – the logician, the debater – of this present time and age?  Has not God shown up the nonsense and the folly of this world’s wisdom?

I Cor. 4:10.  We are [looked upon as] fools on account of Christ and for His sake, but you are [supposedly] so amazingly wise and prudent in Christ!  We are weak, but you are [so very] strong!  You are highly esteemed, but we are in disrepute and contempt!

So James’ questions prompts, or rather tempts the reader to make an assertion that he’d probably be better off not making. To make matters worse, James proceeds by pointing the self-proclaimed wise man in the wrong direction!


James 3:13.  Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent?  Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the (unobtrusive) humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom.


James 3:13.  Who [is] a wise man and endued with knowledge among you?  Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

The word “shew” means to point out, as with one’s finger. The phrase “out of” is translated from the word ek, meaning out from within. A good way to remember the specific meaning of ek is that ‘ech’ is the sound one makes when his um…lunch comes out from within one’s rebellious tummy. Sorry.

So James’ advice to the self-proclaimed wise man is to point out from within a good conversation or lifestyle…the grace of God? No. Point out the way to Christ? No. He is encouraged to show out of a good conversation HIS WORKS.

By now, I trust I don’t have to ‘point out’ how different that is from the direction of the church epistles. Again we have James starting with a seemingly innocent question and immediately turning people in a carnal direction. Pointing out your works doesn’t do anyone else any good. It just inflates your ego. It is the opposite of walking by the spirit and being justified by faith.

This passage reminds me of the numerous civic organizations that encourage men to do good works for the community and heap praise on them for so doing. The Good Sam club, the Shriners, Elks, Moose, and Water Buffalo all follow James’ example. Jesus once told James and his other half-brothers “the world cannot hate you”. (John 7:7) Now we can see why. James was a worldly man entirely concerned with worldly matters. That he attained such prominence in the church is a great tragedy.

His influence lead the early Church away from the true gospel of the grace of Christ and justification by faith to the false gospel of works and self-righteousness. He rightly observed that there were tens of thousands of Jews who had believed, but were still zealous of the Law (Acts 21:20). But rather than leading them to the grace and power of

Christ, he established them in the law of sin and death. His leadership robbed the early Church of the fruit of the spirit and mired them in the works of the flesh. And the canonization of his epistle has insured that his bewitching influence reverberates through the ages unto this day. James is most certainly a tare among the wheat

  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. Part Five: The Epistle of James.
  6. Part Six: Summary and Overview.
  7. Part Seven: Peter and John: Food for Thought.


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.

[Gen. 15:6.] 

  • * 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.

1. Licentiousness

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.

2. Laziness

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. Part Five: The Epistle of James.
  6. Part Six: Summary and Overview.
  7. Part Seven: Peter and John: Food for Thought.


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.


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

  1. 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.

  1. 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 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.


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.


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?


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].


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

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