Corruption of the Early Church
I would argue that much of post-Biblical Church history, and
particularly with regards to Catholicism, has been dominated by what
happened in the church at Jerusalem.
The Corruption in the Jerusalem Church
There a legalistic cult had arisen whose spread to the Gentile churches
caught the attention of the apostle Paul who subsequently, along with
Barnabus and Titus, went to the church at Jerusalem to deal with it.
That is "Some men came down from Judea to Antioch
and were teaching the brothers: 'Unless you are circumcised, according
to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul
and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas
were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem
to see the apostles and elders about this question." Acts 15:1,2
That church was led by the other apostles and James, the Lord's brother
- not the apostle James. The apostle James had already been martyred.
Luke records at that meeting, "some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees
stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey
the law of Moses.'" These "believers" were among the leadership of that church for Paul says, "I
went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I
preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed
to be leaders" Gal 2:2
I put "believers" in quotes for Paul says of them, "Yet not even Titus, who was with
me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter
arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the
freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give
in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with
you." Gal 2:3-5 Thus these were "believers" in name only, yet among the leadership at the church there.
Indeed false believers among church leadership dominated the history of post-Biblical Christianity.
While these people failed to influence Paul, as he says, "As for those who seemed to be
important— whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not
judge by external appearance— those men added nothing to my message." Gal 2:6 Yet I would argue they did ultimately have an influence on the message.
Peter argued in favor of Paul saying, "Why
do you (Jews) try to test God by putting on the necks of the (Gentile)
disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to
bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus
that we (Jewish Christians) are saved, just as they Gentile Christians)
are." Acts 15:10,11
Then James, who is not an apostle of Jesus Christ, spoke up as if he
were the ultimate authority both over Jews and Gentile Christians and
imposed regulations on them, merely toning down the regulations the
circumcision would impose, rather then eliminating legalistic
regulations altogether. For while saying, "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." (Acts 15:19)
in response to Peter's work characterizing the whole of the Law as a
yoke that could not be born, he took Peter to mean that one could simply
tone down the Law to regulations which he thought would not be
difficult, those regulations being, "we should
write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from
sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood." Acts 15:20
It appears that James did not understand the gospel. He didn't
understand Peter's point about believing in God's grace. He didn't
seem to understand Paul's point that salvation is by faith
apart from the works of the law. Who does James think he was to add his
own cherry picked regulations to the gospel? He wasn't even an apostle.
Or was it that James was aligned with this heresy himself? Yes he made
concessions in light of the present opposition he faced. But he made the
kingdom of God out to be a matter of eating and drinking,
in accordance with Jewish customs.
How is it that this heresy of the circumcision was not only present in
that church, but even found among its leadership, despite the fact that
apostles of the caliber of Peter and John were there? How could that
have happened? I would speculate, Fear! Namely fear of James and his
It's interesting to note as Paul does in Gal 2:11,12 "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group."
Note first that Paul seems to associate these certain men "from James"
with the circumcision group - which is that heretical sect. Why mention
"from James"? I take it that Paul wanted people to associate James with
that sect of which Peter was afraid. Some further evidence of which may
be inferred from the letter of James which I'll mention later. Though I
don't understand what Peter was afraid of, but I take it that it was
fear of the circumcision sect and fear of their leader James which
allowed this heresy to propagate.
In confronting Peter on the matter Paul argues, "know
that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus
Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be
justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by
observing the law no one will be justified." Gal 2:16 No mention of the regulations which James imposed upon the gospel.
However if this perspective is the case, then Paul is being the
hypocrite himself here. For why did he not object to James'
imposition of regulations upon the gospel? Indeed was Paul afraid of
James? Granted that Paul
ignored James regulations in his own preaching. And in fact preached
against them. For example he said, "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking" Rom 14:17 and "Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience" 1Cor 10:25 To the Colossians he writes,
"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why,
as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not
handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish
with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings." Col 2:20-22 Why didn't Paul use this same statement in responding to James' proposition to impose such regulations on the Gentiles?
While some of the regulations James imposed had to do
with conditions of fellowship between Jewish and Gentile Christians,
it's difficult to read that passage in Acts in that way. It seems to me
that at the time Paul gave in to James' legalism. Much as Paul said, "those men added nothing to my message." he
failed to confront James personally as he did Peter with regards to
this very issue. Why rebuke Peter publicly to his face concerning
something Peter was simply implying by his actions while not even giving
a rebuttal to James who was explicitly adding regulations to the gospel
as requirements for salvation? Why get upset with Peter and not with
Perhaps Paul was afraid of James at the time, and regretting that fact
became really angry with himself for doing so as might be reflected in
his tone in Galatians and towards Peter.
The Letter of the Jerusalem Church
It is disconcerting that this marginalizing of the gospel imposed by
James was propagated among the Gentile churches through a letter saying:
we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with
words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and
keep the law" ——to whom we gave no such commandment—— it seemed good to
us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our
beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who
will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:
that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things
strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from
these, you will do well. Farewell." Acts 15:24-29
Notice in the rhetoric James is using, "We" is not referring to Paul or
Barnabas. Both from verse 23 and verse 24 which
speaks of "some who went out from us". Who is "us"? It's the Jerusalem
church. I would imagine much as Paul reluctantly tolerated traveling
with this letter with its messengers to the Gentile churches to
establish the fact that the circumcision sect was unauthorized, it
appears from his writings that he did not personally endorse the
contents of this letter. He didn't even mention the letter in this
epistle to the Galatians. I would imagine it particularly disturbed him
personally this phrase James included where I believe James falsely
invoked the endorsement of the Holy Spirit to give the letter some
Whatever Paul's reasons, I believe neither this letter nor Paul's compromising of his gospel by endorsing it by implication was of the Holy Spirit.
Church history would likely have been better off if he got in James'
face right there at the meeting, just as he had done with Peter later
on, even if it meant a church split - even splitting with the other
I think if Paul had stood up to James, then Peter and John would have
seen his boldness and be convicted of the Holy Spirit and side with
Paul, and consequently Catholicism, which is simply a derivation of the
circumcision sect, would not have had a legalistic leg to stand on.
Though Paul never admitted this publicly, it may reflect his rhetoric
and vehemence against the circumcision sect, like in Galatians 1 "I
am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you
by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is
really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into
confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even
if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one
we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" Gal 1:6-8
Perhaps Paul should have told James that if he insisted on adding his
"necessary" regulations to the gospel then he can go to hell.
Maybe Paul was calculating as if a politician that his ministry was
someone contingent upon the endorsement of the Jerusalem church. Yet
in Galatians 2 he denies this. Is he speaking hypocritically? Doesn't
he even realize what he was doing? I would imagine that Peter didn't
realize what he was doing when he stopped eating with the Gentile
Christians of which Paul called him to account in Galatians 2. So Paul
himself proves that an apostle of Jesus Christ can make mistakes, in the case of Peter. But did
Paul himself make a mistake in caving into James to this extent?
Concerning the doctrine of the circumcision Paul says, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Gal 5:9 of which Jesus says, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Luke 12:1 Yet it
seems Paul's own hypocrisy along with that of the other apostles in
allowing the gospel to be marginalized by James resulted in the whole
church being corrupted for thousands of years.
The Prejudice of the Jerusalem Church
The apostles in Jerusalem, even while having the Holy Spirit, were characteristically prejudice against Gentiles.
Consider Acts 6
Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying,
a complaint arose from the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews
because their widows were neglected in the daily service.
Why were these widows neglected? Because they had been married to
Gentiles. This demonstrates prejudice among the congregation. The
apostles response also showed prejudice as they said, "It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve
tables. " Yet Jesus had taught them
When He had washed their feet, taken
His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I
have done to you? "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for
so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you
also ought to wash one another’s feet.For I have given you an example,
that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to
you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent
greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you
if you do them." John 13:12-17
They didn't follow Jesus' example. Their excuse was that they couldn't do
both the ministry of the word and "wait on tables", the phase being
clearly derogatory, indicating their contempt for such lowly labor. Yet
they chose Stephen to do this, a man who both ministered in the word (as
is demonstrated in Acts 7) and who "waited on tables". I believe they
were blinded by their own prejudice against Gentiles resulting in their
Jesus had to give Peter a special vision just to get him to share the
gospel with Cornelius, a Gentile. Yet clearly, after being saved, it
hadn't occurred to Peter to invite him to the Jerusalem church! Why?
Obviously prejudice in light of the criticism Peter received for
visiting a Gentile.
Along with the other apostles there, James also plays the hypocrite in this regard. For he writes, "My
brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of
glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a
man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a
poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the
fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to
the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have
you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil
thoughts?" James 2:1-4 Yet
James appears to hold the faith with partiality, making a distinction
between Jews and Gentiles and imposing Jewish regulations upon Gentiles.
Nor was he inviting Gentiles into his church. I would ask James, what
if you replace the rich man with the word "Jew" and the poor with
"Gentile", how do you measure up? Do you not make yourself out to be a
judge with evil thoughts? Indeed he did play the judge over the
Gentiles, imposing upon them his cherry picked regulations.
And as for judging James, didn't James himself write, "Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment." James 3:1 And isn't James a teacher? And wasn't it written that the Bereans were honorable in scrutinizing Paul? (Acts 17:11)
The hostility in the Jerusalem church was an example of the church being
conformed to the world around them. For the culture was hostile to
Gentiles. When Paul came to Jerusalem it is written "And
they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices
and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to
live!" What was the word? The word was "Gentiles" (Acts 22:21,22)
Yet all during this time Peter and John were in the church there. Why
were they not persecuted as Paul? Because they consciously or otherwise
endorsed this kind of prejudice against Gentiles. Their fear
of James and his cronies was likely fear of persecution for endorsing a
gospel that declared that Gentiles don't have to become Jews to become
The Usurpers of the Jerusalem Church
Another thing to take into consideration concerning that meeting in Jerusalem as Paul noted in Galatians 2 is this:
"James, Peter and John, those reputed to be
pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized
the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and
they to the Jews." Gal 2:9
First of who were they to make such a decision? Jesus Christ told the apostles, "you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8 and "go and make disciples of all nations". The word "nations" is "ethos" translated "Gentiles" over half the time (93 times) in the AV. And "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." Mr 16:15
So first of all the decommissioning of Peter and John as apostles to the
Gentiles, to limit their ministry to the Jews, was unauthorized. They
did not have the right to make such a decision and override Jesus'
command. Nor did they have the right to decommission Paul as an apostle
to the Jews to restrict his ministry exclusively to the Gentiles. Jesus'
commission to Paul was, "This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel." Acts 9:15 And again much as Paul did not object to this presumptuous decommissioning, he did ignore it. Note for example Acts 18:5 "Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ." (In your face James!)
The apostles in Jerusalem had played with usurpation before when they
replaced Judas. In Acts 1, though Jesus told them to wait for the Holy
Spirit, they didn't to wait to make an administrative decision, of which
there shouldn't have been any urgency nor was it their decision to
make. An apostle was one whom Jesus Christ chose personally. Instead the
apostles chose men for themselves and then allowed the Lord one out of
two choices. I think the Lord was rather insulted by this. Much as they
were presumptuous about Judas's replacement, the Lord chose Paul
instead, a man whom the apostles would never have chosen. (Using Paul as
he did was kind of Jesus' way of saying to them, "in your face!")
Who is James?
There are those who would claim that James was one of the Twelve
apostles. Doubtful. There were two apostles named James. One was James
the brother of John who was killed in Acts 12. That's not this James.
Then there was James the apostle, the son of Alphaeus, referred to as
James the Less, likely to distinguish him from the other apostle James.
Obviously not James the brother of Jesus son of Joseph. Furthermore the
mother of James the Less, though called "Mary" was not Mary mother of
Jesus. (Mr 15:40) Jesus had neither father nor mother in common
with James the Less. Thus the apostle James (that is, James the Less)
was not the brother of Jesus. Furthermore if James the Less was the
brother of Jesus, why was he not referred to as James the brother of
Jesus? Those who equate the two have no explanation as to the alleged
change in title.
Consider Acts 1:13,14 When they
arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those
present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas,
Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the
Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in
prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Notice that James son of Alphaeus, otherwise known as James the Less,
whom some propose is James the brother if Jesus, is shown by these
verses to be distinct from the brothers of Jesus.
Consider also John 7:5 "Even his own brothers did not believe in him." That
should pretty much put to bed the issue. In John 7, his "brothers"
didn't believe in him. Yet James the Less did. Thus James the Less was
not a "brother" of Jesus.
As for some who allege "brother" means "cousin", makes no difference in
the above arguments. But in fact James, the brother of Jesus, was Jesus'
biological half-brother. Notice: Mark 6:3 "Is
this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses,
Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?" And they were offended at Him.
Both in the Old and New Testament whenever "brother" is used in the context of talking about earthly brothers (as opposed to "brothers in the faith"),
and referenced to a mother, it always refers to biological brothers and
not simply a kinsman. Furthermore in New Testament Greek there is a
distinct word for "relative" or "cousin" used many time, but different
than that for "brother" used in the above cases. If they meant to say
"relative" or "cousin" why is it not translated that way? Because
translators know that such a translation would be invalid.
Now since James, the brother of Jesus, was not an apostle, who does James thinks he is? I asked this in a Bible study group and one responded, "He was the Lord's brother". That's the thing! Nepotism! In
the world it is presumed that simply being a family member makes one
subject to special favoritism. But that is not the case in the kingdom
At one point Jesus' family, including his mother reckoned him crazy and on that basis tried to take him away from his ministry.
"Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd
gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.
When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of
him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" Mark 3:20,21 Then if we continue on to verse 31 when they actually arrived it says: Then Jesus’ mother and brothers
arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd
was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are
outside looking for you." "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he
asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and
said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my
brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:31-35
Jesus showed no favoritism to his family. Even with regards to Mary he often criticized and treated like everyone else. "One
of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is
the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He
said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and
observe it." Luke 11:27,28
The concept of Nepotism is the reason why Mary is viewed as being the
"Queen of Heaven" in Catholicism. I think it's the reason why James was
treated as if the head of the Church, who could arbitrarily impose
regulations upon it. Interesting fact Eusebius, the Christian historian
writing in the early 4th century, notes that the Roman Emperor Domitian
presumed the Church to be a monarchy, and wanting to rid the empire of
it located the descendants of the Lord's family, namely descendants of
Jude, who along with James, were two of the half brothers of Jesus.
Eusebius says, "Treating them with contempt, seeing them as
simpletons, commanded them to be dismissed, and by a decree ordered the
persecution to cease." But what is of particular note is what Eusebius writes next, "Thus delivered, they ruled the churches, both as witnesses and relatives of the Lord."
They ruled simply because they were relatives. That's nepotism.
Catholicism started off as a monarchy ruled by Jesus' relatives. It is
not what Jesus endorsed. Just as James arbitrarily added man made
regulations to the Church, so also the Catholic Church. They corrupted
the gospel consequently leading to "church" filled with false brethren,
both in leadership an among the assembly.
James started it. Paul failed to sufficiently stand against it. The
result being thousands of years of the gospel largely being lost and
marginalized. The "rulers" not being allowed to be scrutinized on any
basis but one's pedigree.
Nepotism led to Cronyism. And again Bereans were disallowed from
scrutinizing leadership, simply due to "office" and church politics.
Church leaders became insulated from scrutiny until the Reformation. Yet
Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity stand and continue today as
illustrations of the errors of James and the sect of the circumcision.
Paul versus James
Concerning the epistle of James understand firstly that James was not
chosen by Jesus Christ to be an apostle. Likely his epistle and the epistle of
Jude (his brother) were likely canonized due to nepotism, being half
brothers of Jesus Christ (which means nothing to Christ).
While James does make some valid points in his letter, like the faith
saves is a faith that intends to apply itself, which is simply the
definition of genuine faith, yet James appears to deviate from this
valid point by making justification conditioned upon works.
Justification by Faith Alone versus by Faith and Works
Paul declares that justification is by faith alone, apart from works.
That is, simply by believing one is justified and thus saved from God's
Rom 4:2,3 If, in fact, Abraham
was justified by works, he had something to boast about— but not before
God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was
credited to him as righteousness." (Gen 15:6)
Contrast those statements with James
Rom 4:5 To the man who does not work but believes God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
James 2:21-23 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when
he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was
working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Gen 15:6)While many have tried to reconcile these statements, these
statements are not reconcilable. They are mutually exclusive of the
other. Notice that Paul's argument in Rom 4:2,3 hinges upon the idea
that Gen 15:6 was fulfilled right then in Gen 15, while in James 2:23
James' argument hinges upon the idea that Gen 15:6 was not fulfilled
until Gen 22 where he references Abraham's work. If James is right, Paul
is wrong. And if Paul is right, James is wrong.
James: 2:24 "a man is justified by works, and not by faith only
Both Catholics and Protestants are wrong in embracing James. Catholics
deal with the contradiction by interpreting Paul in light of what James
says, while Protestants interpret James in light of what Paul says, but
neither side is willing to accept the truth which Martin Luther
embraced. Namely what James says here is plainly wrong. Paul is an
apostle. James is not. James has no business and no authority to contend
Here are some ways in which some misread James. Take James 2:24 "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." Some have suggest this should read "By works you see that a man is justified rather then solely by faith."
The idea is to make works the means of seeing rather than the means of justifying. It's like taking Acts 8:23 which says, "For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity" in which Peter is criticizing Simon Magnus, and rewriting it as, "For by bitterness and by iniquity I see that you are poisoned", as if Peter was the one full of bitterness and iniquity!
To disprove the validity of such an amusing translation one needs only read the verse that follows James 2:24 which says, "Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?"
How would one have to rewrite this verse to be consistent with the
gloss given of verse 24? One would want to fabricate the following, "Likewise, by works don't you see that Rahab the harlot was justified?" Here the word "see" which is not even in the verse is inserted, the words jumbled. "was not" becomes "don't you see that".
And you'd have to play the same game with verse 21, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?" Wave a magic wand and turn that into, "By works don't you see that Abraham our faith was justified ..."
Another gloss it to suggest that James' usage of the term "justified" to mean
to "be vindicate", and that by ellipsis James is talking about
being vindicated with regards to the
claim of faith. And so in this case "justified" means something
completely different between Paul and James. Again you have to put words
in James' mouth and ignore the context, but these verses would read: "Was not Abraham's claim of faith vindicated by works", and likewise of Rahab.
Now, even given these possibilities, when is James saying the Abraham
was accounted righteous - in the same sense Paul was speaking? Both Paul
and James reference Gen 15:6 where it speaks of Abraham being accounted
righteous. Notice James 2:23 the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Gen 15:6)
When was the scripture fulfilled? When was Abraham reckoned righteous?
According to James Abraham was not reckoned righteous in Gen 15:6, which
James simply reads as a prediction. James indicates that Abraham was
not reckoned righteous until Gen 22, when he offered Isaac.
According to James Gen 22 is when Abraham worked, prior to that Abraham had faith but no works. And as he said, "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." James 2:17 and "If someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" James 2:14, he's saying that Abraham's faith was dead and he was unsaved until Gen 22.
Now contrast that with Paul who says concerning Gen 15:6 "if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Rom 4:2,3 Paul says Abraham was justified by faith alone in Gen 15:6 prior to doing any work. And he makes a point of that in saying further, "to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Rom 4:5
So even if we were to assume by "justified" James is referring to "one's
claim of faith being vindicated", we still end up with the fact that
according to James one must not only believe in order to be saved.
Rather one is not saved until they also have works of faith, which is a
proposition contrary to Paul's gospel.
In terms of software one may write
James: Works needed to qualify faith else faith doesn't justify
The gospel of James is that salvation is contingent upon FAITH + WORKS. That is if a person comes to faith in Christ, it's not until they do works of faith that they are saved.
if (works) then
if (faith) then justified
Paul: Faith along is the condition for justification. Works reveal one's faith.
if (faith) then
The gospel of Paul is that salvation is "a man is justified by faith apart from works" Rom 3:28 "For
by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Eph 2:8,9
The two gospels are incompatible. The differences cannot by reconciled
in an honest reading of the letter of James. Ask yourself - Can a person
who has faith be saved prior to doing any work of faith? Which camp are
you in? Paul's or James'?
The Law of Liberty
Further evidence is found in James' usage of the term "the law of liberty", a phrase unique to James and found in James 1:25 and 2:12.
Context indicates that he's saying that if one perfectly obeys the law of Moses (which is why he calls it the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) - you have to perfectly obey to be justified), one is free from God's wrath, but "whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10 He then quotes regulations from the law of Moses and goes on to use the phrase "law of liberty".
Paul makes a similar point in Rom 2:13 "for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified" which is similar to James 1:22 "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only" and Paul also says that God will render "eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality" Rom 2:7 Indeed Paul was speaking of salvation by works, salvation by the works of the law, in those passages.
The difference is that Paul concludes, "by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight" Rom 3:20 and
"a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus
Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be
justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the
works of the law no flesh shall be justified." Gal 2:16 And goes on to say, "no one is justified by the law in the sight of God" Gal 3:11
Paul rejects the gospel of James. While James advocates attempting to be justified by law, Paul says, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." Gal 5:4
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being
justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ
Jesus" Rom 3:23,24
James' "Law of Liberty" Paul categorizes as slavery. Concerning the legalism in the Jerusalem church Paul writes, "this
occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by
stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they
might bring us into bondage)" Gal 2:4 and likewise in Gal 5:1 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage" Yet in that very meeting in Acts 15 even when Peter said, "why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" Acts 15:10, referring to the regulations of the Law of Moses, James imposed legal regulations upon the Gentiles.
Paul writes, For as many as are of the works of
the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who
does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the
law, to do them." Gal 3:10 And while James acknowledges the potential condemnation saying, "whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" Jam 2:10,
yet he refers to the law as the law of liberty. Never sin and you'll be
free from God's wrath. Rather than being judged based on your faith in
Christ James writes, "So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty." James 2:12 Little good the gospel of James does! The gospel of James is a gospel of straw.
The Spirit and the Body
James' backwards theology is further illustrated in his saying, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." James 2:26
Here James associates the body with one's faith, and the spirit with
one's works. That's backwards. A person's faith is internal. One's
works, like one's body is an expression of that which is internal. And
faith should be associated with one's spirit in this analogy, and works
with one's body. And seeing as the spiritual man is alive even though
his body may be dead, yes you can say that a man is justified by faith
apart from works, just as Paul declared Abraham justified (alive to God)
in Gen 15:6, whereas James considered him dead until Gen 22. Paul says,
"if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness." Rom 8:10
The body is dead in that one's works (the body) are not taken into
account with regards to one's justification, unlike the gospel of James. So while James could have said "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so works without faith is dead" or "For as the spirit can be alive apart from the body (2Cor 5:6), so also one's faith may be a living faith without works", but he couldn't say what he did say.
Martin Luther's Preface to James
Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise
it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men
but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However,
to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I
do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow.
In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works 2:24).
It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son
Isaac (2:20); Though in Romans 4:22-22 St. Paul teaches to the contrary
that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before
he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6.
Although it would be possible to "save" the epistle by a gloss giving a
correct explanation of justification here ascribed to works, it is
impossible to deny that it does refer to Moses' words in Genesis 15
(which speaks not of Abraham's works but of his faith, just as Paul
makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham's works. This fault proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.
In the second place its
purpose is to teach Christians, but in all this long teaching it does
not once mention the Passion, the resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ. He
names Christ several times; however he teaches nothing about him, but
only speaks of general faith in God. Now it is the office of a true
apostle to preach of the Passion and resurrection and office of Christ,
and to lay the foundation for faith in him, as Christ himself says in
John 15[:27], "You shall bear witness to me.? All
the genuine sacred books agree in this, that all of them preach and
inculcate [_treiben_] Christ. And that is the true test by which to
judge all books, when we see whether or not they inculcate Christ. For
all the Scriptures show us Christ, Romans 3[:21]; and St. Paul will know
nothing but Christ, I Corinthians 2[:2]. Whatever does not teach Christ
is not yet apostolic, even
though St. Peter or St. Paul does the teaching. Again, whatever
preaches Christ would be apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and
Herod were doing it." (__ibid__).
But this James does nothing more than drive to the law and its works. Besides,
he throws things together so chaotically that it seems to me he must
have been some good, pious man, who took a few sayings from the
disciples of the apostles and thus tossed them off on paper. Or it may
perhaps have been written by someone on the basis of his preaching. He
calls the law a "law of liberty" [1:25], though Paul calls it a law of
slavery, of wrath, of death, and of sin.
Moreover he cites the
sayings of St. Peter [in 5:20]; Love covers a multitude of sins" [1 Pet.
4:8], and again [in 4:10], "Humble yourselves under he had of God" [1
Pet. 5:6] also the saying of St. Paul in Galatians 5[:17], "The Spirit
lusteth against envy." And yet, in point of time, St. James was put to
death by Herod [Acts 12:2] in Jerusalem, before St. Peter. So it seems
that [this author] came long after St. Peter and St. Paul.
In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task in spirit, thought, and words. He mangles the Scriptures and thereby opposes Paul and all Scripture. He tries to accomplish by harping on the law what the apostles accomplish by stimulating people to love. Therefore
I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not thereby
prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there
are otherwise many good sayings in him. Therefore
I will not have him in my Bible to be numbered among the true chief
books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or
extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings
in him. One man is no man in worldly things; how then, should this
single man alone avail against Paul and all Scripture.
the epistle of St. Jude, no one can deny that it is an extract or copy
of St. Peter's second epistle, so very like it are all the words. He
also speaks of the apostles like a disciple who comes long after them
[Jude 17] and cites sayings and incidents that are found nowhere else in
the Scriptures [Jude 9, 14]. This moved the ancient Fathers to exclude
this epistle from the main body of the Scriptures. Moreover the Apostle
Jude did not go to Greek-speaking lands, but to Persia, as it is said,
so that he did not write Greek. Therefore, although I value this book,
it is an epistle that need not be counted among the chief books which
are supposed to lay the foundations of faith.
Many an alleged "Christian", especially among those of sects identifying
primarily with James the Lord's brother, not chosen to be an apostle,
over that of the apostle Paul, are under the impression that salvation,
that is justification - the forgiveness of sins - is contingent upon
keeping the Law - which can be summarize as to love God and one's
neighbor. This in contrast to the gospel of Christ the apostle Paul,
chosen personally by Jesus Christ, preaches that justification is by
faith alone apart from the law. And that works follow after a person has
been justified as a natural consequent of their faith and regeneration.
Consider how Catholicism sided with James over Paul with regards to justification.
Catholic Council of Trent
CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified;
in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in
order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not
in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement
of his own will; let him be anathema.
Compare with above with what Paul said in Romans 4:5 "to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness"
CANON XX.-If any one saith, that the man
who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the
commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed
the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without
the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema.
Thus the Catholic church anathemas the apostle Paul.
Compare to Romans 4:6-8 David
also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes
righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds
are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the
LORD shall not impute sin." Or Rom 3:20-22 "Therefore
no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law;
rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a
righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which
the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes
through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that the
justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through
good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of
Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him
Catholicism views works as not the fruit or sign of one's
justification, but the cause of it. They believe in justification by
faith + works.
CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after
the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner
the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out
in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to
be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before
the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him
Compare again to Rom 4:6-8 above and to Jesus who said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" John 5:24
Just as with regards to the gospel of James, Catholicism is contrary to Paul's gospel.
Indeed one many levels Catholicism is so far from Biblical Christianity
that one questions whether it could be even called even a sect of
Catholicism rejects the Biblical concept of forgiveness and advocates
the idea that one must be punished for their sins in order to be saved.
The Heresies of Infant Baptism
and Imputed Guilt
This is one of the earliest among post-Biblical heresies.
Cyprian of Carthage [A.D. 253]
in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much
against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins
is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much
more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently
been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to
Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first
being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more
easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another"
As you can see, the heresy of infant baptism went along with the heresy of imputed guilt.
Paul expresses the gospel this way:
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is
Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you
will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are
justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As
the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to
shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile— the same
Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for,
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then,
can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they
believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear
without someone preaching to them? Rom 10:9-14
As such these infants are not qualified to be saved according to the
gospel. Their being baptized has nothing to do with their faith. They
haven't come to faith. They haven't called on the name of the Lord, and
so according to the gospel they are not saved.
Infant baptism implies a different gospel - a gospel devoid of faith.
It's a gospel of salvation through religious ceremony. So it appears
that by the third century the gospel had been abandoned and replaced
with a gospel of sacramental theology - a gospel of ceremonial salvation
- a gospel of works.
Secondly is the heresy of imputed guilt, continued on even in Reformed
theology along with infant baptism. Imputed guilt is the blasphemous
idea that God reckons people guilty of crimes they didn't actually
commit - which is the definition of injustice. Such a theology portrays
God as unjust.
The gospel of Christ having been abandoned, heretics having taken over
the church, it is no surprise the increase of heresies in the centuries
I could easily imagine why these heresies developed. Alleged "Christian"
parents wanted their children saved without having to rely upon them
coming to hear and believe the gospel, and so they quickly embraced
infant baptism. Institutional churches wanted power over the people and
so they made salvation a function of ceremony. Later Catholicism
developed all kinds of ceremonies to enslave people to their
Imputed guilt meant that you didn't have to view yourself as having
committed sin, but that simply God unjustly holds you accountable for
someone else's sin. So you can think of yourself as a good person,
falsely accused by God of someone else's crime.
For articles on the heresies inherent in Catholicism see
For its related sect, Orthodox theology see
The Berean Christian Bible Study