Faith & Works


THE CAPTION
I would like to issue a general warning to people choosing interpretations of Scripture in regards to their sins.  Be careful of interpretations of Scripture that have opposing viewpoints where you are choosing the one that allows you to sin verses obedience to God’s moral Law.  A fool disregards the FACT that there are two interpretations and chooses the selfish one.  The wise see the two, and chooses the righteous one out of fear and love of God above self.  That the fool has chosen the unrighteous path is proof by example that he does not love God, which is the first and great commandment.  Selflessness – is the whole of the Law.

FAITH & WORKS

Faith and Works are not contradictory but complimentary.  James’ view of faith and works does not contradict Paul’s teachings on this subject.

James is considered to be the first bishop of the Jerusalem church, and was in the faith prior to Paul.  Paul submitted to James’ authority during the Jerusalem Council episode, so, it is probably accurate to say that James’ view was paramount. 

Much of the controversy surrounding Paul’s writings is based in a false belief that Paul taught that the Law is no longer an authoritative source for Christians.  Most Protestant churches teach that to keep God’s Law is “legalism.”  An opinionated label widely used by carnal professors to demean believers that want to obey God’s moral commandments out of faith. 

It is quite strange that the Bible itself contradicts the view that God’s commandments are not obligatory:

Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law.”  Act 21:20.

Being zealous for, and obedient to, God’s Law is a very good thing.  Paul was a student of Gamaliel, who was recognized as an observant Jew in the eyes of the public, even a highly respected scholar/lawyer:

Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men…But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”  Act 5:34-35, 39.

Paul states:

I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.”  Act 22:3.

Because of this respect for the “whole” Law and Gamaliel, gainsayers began to slander Paul’s work:

And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise [their] children, neither to walk after the customs”  Act 21:21

Those are the words of James, who does not believe the reports about Paul.  James also recommends that Paul:

Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave [their] heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but [that] thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.”  Act 21:23-24

Paul heeded James’ advice, and as such was observant of the Law as always; or, Paul is the biggest hypocrite in the Bible.

Paul’s method of teaching justification by faith in the Epistles stems from instances in the latter half of the book of Acts, and the debate over whether Gentiles are saved by faith or keeping the whole of the Law (ceremonial and moral).  The Jerusalem Council decided that it is faith that saves.  This ruling, along with a few other instructions, were sent to the Gentiles. 

So, as to salvation, it is by faith, but respect to the moral Law was evidence that faith was working according to James:

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”  Jas 2:17

Some claim that Law and works are not synonymous, but you cannot perform works without charity (God’s love) through faith, and charity is the highest order of any Law.  Just because obedience to the ceremonial Law, or circumcision, is not required for regeneration, does not mean that the moral Law is not a sanctifying article, or that the whole Law has been done away with. 

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  Mat 5:17-19.

If Paul was teaching that the Jews were no longer required to circumcise their children, this is departing from God’s command, and is a very serious accusation.  If Paul taught that Jewish circumcision was done away with then Paul would have never made it to Rome.  This would have been tangible evidence of blasphemy against the Law. 

But, according to Acts, it is only a rumor started to defame Paul.  Paul taught no such thing, and just like the zealous Jews above, Paul was observant of the Law.  If Paul was not observant of the Law, then why was Paul trying to deceive the Jews by appearing for purification in the temple?  Paul would have been two-faced to teach that New Testament believers are not to keep the Law, and at the same time be trying to convince the Jews that the Law is supposed to be kept.

Paul heeded James’ advice above in Acts 21, and Paul was also present at the Jerusalem Council when James declared that the Law of Moses is beneficial to the Gentiles:

For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.”  Act 15:21.

It may be implied that Paul agreed with James’ view here as well.  Notice the requirements given by James in the prior verse:

But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood,”  Act 15:20.

These decrees were meant to allow the new Gentile converts into fellowship with the Jews.  Violation of these particular requirements, as mentioned in Leviticus Chapter 17 and Leviticus Chapter 18, meant that God forbade the Jews to fellowship or associate with the violators.

The sole purpose of requiring the Gentiles to observe these initial requirements was to remove the obstacles imposed by Leviticus, and allow fellowship between the nations.  Furthermore, to reinforce that the moral Law was still in effect, James adds that the Law of Moses will be taught to them after fellowship commences “every sabbath day,” above in Acts 15:21.

God joined the Jew and Gentile together in fellowship the New Testament.  Today, they are separated because of the perverseness of the Gentile churches and their application of God’s word to faith.

Paul was in agreement with James’ requirements that Gentile Christians were to conform to the commandments concerning methods of worshiping one living God, eating of blood, and sexual behavior as taught by the Law; and because fellowship was now possible, the moral Law could be taught to the Gentiles every Sabbath.  Here is the evidence of the agreement between James and Paul:

Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; [namely], Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote [letters] by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren [send] greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, [Ye must] be circumcised, and keep the law

Note: there is only one issue for the Jerusalem Council – does adult circumcisions meet the requirement of circumcision as imposed by the law):

to whom we gave no [such] commandment

Note: singular - commandment, one issue again or the Bible would say commandments:

It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell [you] the same things by mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”  Act 15:22-29

Circumcision was the only “Law” issue being debated by the Jerusalem Council for adult Gentiles.  The subsequent ruling was an interpretation of Law only.  The new converts had already violated the Law, as the Law required eighth day circumcision. 

The only other instance of a command in the Law requiring circumcision, other than eighth day circumcision, was for the stranger eating the Passover; and, how many Gentile Christians observe Passover today?  God said to Abraham:

He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” Gen 17:13

The covenant that God made with Abraham was an “everlasting covenant.”  Neither Paul, nor The Jerusalem Council, had the authority to dissolve it.

Paul remained obedient to God’s Law:

But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets

Note: believing means obeying:

And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.  And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and [toward] men.”  Act 24:14-16

Since this is Paul’s deposition, it is quite strange that Paul did not indicate that the Law of Moses had been replaced or done away with but instead reinforced having a conscience void of offence toward God and man.  Is it possible that Paul is a liar or perjurer?  If Paul is not a liar, then what Paul says about obeying the Law is true.  But what about Galatia? 

Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with [me] also.  And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.  But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 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 2:1-4

Here, Paul is testifying of the Jerusalem Council episode 14 years earlier; and when compared to Galatians 5:2-10:

Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.  For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law

Note: the whole law would have included things like Passover and eighth day circumcision. 

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.  For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.  For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.  Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?  This persuasion [cometh] not of him that calleth you.  A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.  I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.”  Gal 5:2-10.

This is the same issue found in Acts 15:1:

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”   Act 15:1.

Paul did not preach this gospel of obeying the ceremonial Law through circumcision or rituals, and the Galatians were starting to believe that to be saved meant being circumcised and keeping rituals.  This opposed the faith gospel that was preached by Paul.  Paul came to the same conclusion as was reached by the Jerusalem Council, that the righteousness that comes by faith justifies, not rituals:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed 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.”  Gal 2:16

Also, in Galatians 3:2-3, Paul reminds the Galatians:

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”  Gal 3:2-3.

This sounds familiar to Peter’s testimony before James and the Jerusalem Council:

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men [and] brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.  And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as [he did] unto us;  And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Act 15:7-9

Paul does not teach to disregard the Law in Galatians, but teaches in agreement with James and the Jerusalem Council’s view.  According to Paul no one is justified or saved by rituals.  Paul kept the Law because Paul loved the Lord completely and neighbors respectively, which is the whole of any Law.  First comes regeneration, then obedience to the moral commandments out of charity. 

If believers observe the rituals of the ceremonial Law for salvation then faith is disqualified, and consequently, justification too.  The ceremonial or moral Law cannot save believers because they have violated it.  However, coming into obedience to the moral Law (not rituals) after repentance (confessing and forsaking your sins) is part of sanctification and the progress toward blamelessness; and you cannot be saved without that because it includes faith, or faithfulness to God in Whom you claim to believe. 

The controversy between the teachings of Paul verses the teachings of James is centered around rumor and not fact.  It is not the belief of the apostles or elders of the primitive church to do away with the moral Law, but to embrace it altogether through faith.

As a Gentile believer, I used to struggle with not being compliant with the ritual aspects of the Law, specifically circumcision.  When I first met the Lord in 1986, I almost circumcised myself believing that was required, but it is not, it is my faith.

There is a difference between keeping God’s moral laws verses the ceremonial laws that were given to the Jews.  This is the Law question throughout the New Testament’s debate about obedience to the Law.  Today, this distinction has been clouded by the Devil to the point that many so-called Christians are under his influence and believe that they do not have to be moral to receive everlasting life.  The proof being their immoral lifestyles, which continue to become more wicked every day.

You should know that there is NO LAW that abrogates your obedience through faith to God’s moral commandments according to Paul:

For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.  Rom 2:13.

If you are found in violation of God’s moral laws you will not inherit everlasting life.  Why?  Because you have expressed a devil’s faith according to James:

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”  Jas 2:19-20.

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