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Only Jesus (great song by Big Daddy)

What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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James v. Paul


Is it any accident that James's Epistle in the New Testament seemingly culminates with this message about Grace at odds with Paul's usage? 

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth [or opposes] the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. [Quote from Proverbs 3:34.]

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:6-7 KJV.)



Clearly Paul teaches grace cannot be given for any humility or similar work of righteousness, but only for faith. It is "faith, not works, lest any man should boast" -- Eph 2:8-9. 


It is no suprise that Luther revolted at the Epistle of James because it contradicts and undermines Paul. Luther did not share the idea commonly heard today that all "scripture" -- anything put in the NT -- is inspired de facto.


Here is what Luther said to prove an obvious contradiction on the very issue that Proverbs 3:34 already undermined accepting Paul's faith alone doctrine. For Luther said the Epistle of James is an epistle of straw because it rejects Paul's doctrine of faith alone, bluntly showing the contradiction in stark terms:  

Many sweat hard at reconciling James with Paul, but unsuccessfully. ‘Faith justifies [Romans 3:28] stands in flat contradiction of ‘faith that does not justify’ [James 2:24.] If anyone can harmonize these sayings, I’ll put my doctor’s cap on him and let him call me a fool....Flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture, it [James] ascribes righteousness to works, and says Abraham was justified by his works, in that he offered his son Isaac [James 2:21], though St. Paul, on the contrary teaches in Romans 4 [vv. 2-3], that Abraham was justified without works, by faith alone, before he offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15 [v.6]. [Quoted in Jason Von Vliet, Living Waters from Ancient Springs: Essays in Honor of Cornelis Van Dam (Wipf & Stock Publishers 2011) at 103.] 


Who is James? He is also known as James the Just, the brother of Jesus, an "apostle" according to Paul. (Gal. 1:19, "Other of the apostles I saw none, except James, the brother of the Lord.") But Luke says Matthias replaced Judas; hence James the Just is not an apostle.

Jesus made James one of the pillars of the church. Clement, an early Christian leader, in his book Hypotyposes said that "the Lord after his resurrection imparted knowledge to James the Just and to John and Peter, and they imparted it to the rest of the Apostles, and the rest of the Apostles to the 70, of whom Barnabas was one." (Eusebius, Church History II, i. 2-4, quoting Clement in the 4th Century.)  This echoes that Paul says the three pillars of the church were James the Just, John and Peter, but Paul said it did not make any "difference to me, as God is not a respecter of persons." (Gal. 2:9.)


Also, Peter and John chose James the Just to lead the 12. Clement said in the same work: "For they say that Peter, James and John after the Ascension of our savior, as if also preferred by our Lord, did not strive after honor, but chose James the Just the Bishop of Jerusalem." Eusebius, id. See also Mark Kern, The Life of the Apostle Paul (2014) at 25.

Did James, Jesus' brother, the Bishop of Jerusalem, to whom Jesus imparted important knowledge after the Resurrection that was then spread among the 12 and then the 70, write his epistle to address flaws in Paul's writings, as we said in Jesus Words Only?

James' Words Responding to Paul



Gal 2:16; Romans 3:28: Justification is by faith not works of the Law.

James 2:24: Justification is by works not faith alone

Gal 3:6; Romans 4:3: Quotes Genesis 15:6, Faith made Abraham right with God.

James 2:22-23: Quotes Genesis 15:6, his faith and deeds worked together

Gal 3:20; Romans 3:30: God is one.

James 2:14-19: You believe God is one, good but even demons believe that!

Gal 3:23: We were captive under the law.

James 1:25: The law makes people free

Gal 5:18, Rom 8:2 & 10:4: We are not under the law.

James 2:10-13: We will be judged according to the law, but there is mercy for the merciful

Romans 5:20: God sent the law to increase sin

Romans 7 5: law works in our members to bring sin and death

Romans 7:7, not know to lust / covet had law not told me not to covet

1 Cor. 15:56 "sinful passions...[are] coming into active exercise through the law" (Tischendorf interpretation); literally, 

"the strength of sin is the law" (KJV / NIV)

James 1:13-15: God tempts no one. Desire causes sin which causes death

Gal 1:12-16, 2 Cor.12:1-7 Paul did not learn from the other apostles but by direct revelation from Christ above

James 3:14-15: If you are jealous & ambitious, do not boast & lie. This isn't the wisdom that comes down from above.

Gal 1:20 "before God, I do not lie!"

James 5:12 Do not Swear by heaven or earth, but let your "yes" be yes and your "no" be no

1Cor 9:15, 2 Cor 10:14-15, 11:21-23, 2 Cor 12:11-12, Phil 3:8-9, I Thes 2:7-12

James 3:5: Don't Boast!

Gal 1:8-9: Paul curses the one preaching "a different Gospel"

James 3:9: Don't curse!


Augustine in 412 AD wrote that James' epistle, along with 1 John and 2 Peter were aimed to refute the faith alone doctrine found in Paul's writings, which Second Peter attributed to Paul's writings being "hard to understand" "nonsense" or "unintelligible" -- the three meanings of the Greek word dysnoetas in 2 Peter 3:16. So Augustine, after explaining that criticism of Paul by Apostle Peter, explained:

"Apostolic Epistles of [Second] Peter, John, James and Jude direct

their aim chiefly against it" [i.e., faith alone doctrine from Paul's

"difficult to understand" words] so as to maintain with

vehemance that faith without works profits not."  

(Augustine, Faith and Works (republished 1847) at 57.)

There was nothing subtle about this point in James' Epistle. Luther wrote:

“Many sweat hard at reconciling James with Paul, but unsuccessfully. ‘Faith justifies’ [Romans 3:28] stands in flat contradiction to ‘faith does not justify’ [James 2:24.] If anyone can harmonize these sayings, I’ll put my doctor’s cap on him and let him call me a fool.”

Quoted in Jason Van Vliet, Ed., Living Waters from Ancient Springs: Essays in Honor of Cornelis Van Dam (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2011) at 103.  

In F.F. Powell's Robbing Peter to Pay Paul (2009) at 67, Powell aptly says: "James obviously believes that Paul is adding an erroneous tenet to the gospel."

Hence, there is good reason to believe James' Epistle is directed at Paul's writings, and at least that is how it was being typically construed in that much earlier era, the same as today.  



Some think they have solved the contradiction between James and Paul by claiming Paul had two senses of the word works. For example, Daniel Fuller in The Unity of the Bible (Zondervan: 2010) at xcviii smugly says “But Luther (and Calvin) did not enjoy the benefits of the rather recent movement in Biblical theology and so were apparently unaware that Paul used ‘works’ in two different senses,” and thus Luther “unfortunately repudiated James as subcanonical.” 

However, Fuller’s claim is besides the point. Paul says “faith justifies” (Romans 3:28.) James says “faith without works does not justify” (James 2:17). Because Paul does not use the word works in the verse at issue, Paul’s usage of the word works elsewhere does not matter. It is James’ usage that matters. James is saying that such a claim that “faith justifies” is certainly deficient in something: works. He then uses Abraham’s work of obedience with Isaac as the kind of work he has in mind that justifies. I am certain works in Paul means at least the kind of work that James had in mind. And so does every evangelical pastor of renown. Hence, if Paul had a second meaning of works, it is irrelevant. The question is did James have a reasonably correct understanding, and did James intend to contradict that. The answer is obvious.