Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 12
Thesis: Having "James" extend the "right hand of fellowship" destroyed the credentials of the false brethren.
Introduction: As we move through Paul's rationale for "faith" in his particular version of the Gospel, we have noted that he went up to Jerusalem to present his message to those who "seemed to be somewhat". As we come to the end of his argument, we note that he says that, when it was all said and done, he received the "right hands of fellowship" from, in this order, "James, Cephas, and John". This is the capstone of this segment of his argument and is enormous in what he claims because, with this claim, if it is true, there is nothing left for the false brethren to use to mount an attack on his message.
This evening we are going to look into whose "right hands of fellowship" Paul received.
May 22, 2011
- I. James.
- A. This particular "James" is the son of Mary and Joseph, the author of the book of James in our New Testament and a particularly influential leader in the Church in Jerusalem.
- 1. According to the book of James, "justification" is by "works" (2:21 and 25), a concept easily misunderstood in terms of what he meant and, on the face of it, in direct contradiction to Paul in Romans 3:20, 4:2 and Galatians 2:16.
- 2. According to Luke's record in Acts 15:1, it was "certain men which came down from Judaea" who created the doctrinal controversy, but Paul's record in Galatians 2:12 says that Peter's hypocrisy was caused by "certain [men that] came from James".
- a. This pretty much makes "James" a kind of trouble-maker, though he was an apostle by Paul's own words (Galatians 1:19).
- b. According to Acts 15:13-21, however, it was "James" who clinched the decision of the Council in Jerusalem to agree with Paul's doctrine, but to ask the Gentiles to respect the fact that the Jews among them had been taught for generations that certain behaviors were grossly evil.
- B. The actual doctrine of James as taught in the Book of James, however, is not in contradiction with Paul's doctrine in all of his letters.
- 1. At issue is the words of James in James 2.
- 2. The proper understanding of those words is not hard to grasp, but, nonetheless, is easily twisted by all who have a "bent" toward the idea that God will only forgive those who prove the legitimacy of their "belief" by adding certain "works" to it.
- a. In order to understand James, we must understand the difference between how the Gospel is distorted when it comes under the perspective of the Jewish mentality and how it is distorted when it comes under the perspective of the Greek mentality.
- 1) When Jews hear and understand the Gospel of salvation apart from the works of the Law, there is often a major "pendulum shift" that drives them into what Jude calls "turning the grace of God into licentiousness".
- a) This occurs because the separation of justification from all Law-works in the immature mind automatically means freedom, not from the Law, but to do what the Law proscribes.
- b) This penchant for lawlessness (doing evil) is bound up in the hearts of all men and is only conquered by the growth of the divine agape in those hearts.
- c) The only solution for this penchant in the reality of an undeveloped Love is confrontation with the fact that "faith" is easily professed, but not easily exercised.
- d) James' letter was addressing Jewish believers' ungodliness from the direction of their twisting of the grace of God into the freedom to sin.
- e) James' thesis is that "faith" will, not must, reveal itself through the deeds of those who possess it so that it is no small matter to "claim" to believe in a gracious God and not "be" gracious.
- 2) When Gentiles hear and understand the Gospel of salvation by grace, there is often a "reverse pendulum shift" that drives them into the arms of the legalisms of Law-theology (just as is demonstrated by the letter to the Galatians).
- a) This occurs because the offer of a relationship with God in spite of a lifestyle of gross lawlessness often translates into an offer to have Life on the basis of "better behavior".
- b) This penchant on the part of those whose lives have been flagrantly evil is typically attended by a lack of understanding of the true agape of God that causes grace to be easily twisted into its opposite.
- c) This penchant for twisting grace is only resolved by seeing how the human effort to "clean up my life" is a denial of why Christ died.
- d) So Paul's thesis is that "faith" is, not must be, in God's promise alone and that growth in grace necessarily means growth in that kind of faith.
- b. In order to understand James, we must understand the difference between how he used the biblical record of Abraham's justification and how Paul used it.
- 1) It is clear that both James and Paul were driven in their arguments by the same goal: to give believers a solid basis for living truthfully.
- 2) It is also clear that Paul used Abraham's justification in its actual historical reality (Romans 4:10-12; Galatians 3:17) while James used it in its actual divine intentionality (James 2:21-24).
- a) Paul's argument is that God justified Abraham by faith before there were any attendant "works" and/or "commitments".
- b) James' argument is that God's justification of Abraham was the beginning of a long-term process of developing the Love of God in the heart of a fallen man.
- c. In order to understand James, we must understand the difference between what his focus was in distinction from Paul's.
- 1) It is beyond clear that Paul's focus was upon the actual objective of "faith": the grace of God.
- 2) It is also beyond clear that James' focus was upon the actual essence of that "faith": the inner conviction of truth that addresses the issues involved in making choices and taking action.
- 3) It is a necessity of the case that the difference in foci will raise different points of the Truth to prominence.
- a) Paul, while making sure that "grace" remains the central focus, would have never argued that the way one "believes" does not matter (Note Romans 6:1 and 15).
- b) James, on the other hand, while making sure that "faith" remains the central focus, would have never argued that what one "believes" does not matter.
- d. Thus, James' "justification by works" is addressing the issue of justification from the resultant consequence perspective and Paul's "justification by faith" is addressing the issue from the only effective initiation perspective.
- C. Thus, for James to extend the right hand of fellowship and to marshall the final argument in the debate is crucial to Paul's claim in Galatians.