The Reconciliation of James and Paul.

Download PDF

The Reconciliation of James and Paul.

The book of James has caused serious debate and splits with believers throughout the ages, primarily on the topic of justification by faith verses works.

It was Martin Luther who considered The Book of James to be an epistle of straw and not worthy to be in scripture because of this.

Paul teaches the righteousnes of Faith apart from the law and James talks of the Royal Law of Liberty and justification by works, but not the works of the Mosaic Law as some ascert. James uses a justification of so called works with the example of Abraham sacrificing his son. This was an act done before the Old Covenant law was even implemented, so that was no justification by that law, so all arguments of Justification by the Mosaic Law are eronious. However we shall further clarify.

Escentially, righteousness is the gift by God, justification is the gift received and applied by the believer, showing a change in behavior. You could say, the proof is in the put-in. Paul’s usage of righteousness is correct, and James usage of justification is correct also.

Some say it was with the Old Covenant Law that was the basis of Luthers ascertion of James and justification by works. They think that to be declared righteous, and to be justified are synonymous.


One problem with this view, is that it lends to the belief of “once saved always saved”, and this is just not true if there is no change of heart expressed with behavior. To continue to live in sin is an insult to the Living God and the price He paid. “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity”. This is a work and proof that Christ in you is a changed life.


In Genesis chapter 15, The Lord spoke to Abraham some promises and “he believed God, and it was accounted (or credited) to him for righteousness“. However this is NOT Abraham’s act of justification, justification came afterward, showing them to be two separate events in time.


Abraham’s Justification.

James reference to being justified comes from Genesis 22  “it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham“.

Abraham  was instructed by God to sacrifice his son, of which technically he did not, but he played it out as a test that he heard God correctly and as a prophecy of God sacrificing His only begotten Son. This is significant and of central importance to the Gospel message that “God sent His Son into the world that whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life.” And “and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” through the various obst

Abraham only mimicked Gods sacrifice as proof that he understood what God was asking him to do, because even before Abraham offered his son on the alter he said “God will provide a sacrifice” showing us that Abraham knew his son wouldn’t be the one to die that day, and that by this act, Abraham had already received his own son back from the dead so to speak, by doing so. So knowing the resurrection of God’s Son was what Abraham had to receive and be tested on.

That so called work was the playing out of Abraham’s faith in order to pass the test to have the Test-imony and receive a reward. That he received the Word of God and heard the voice inside himself, to follow the unction of The Holy Spirit, and acted upon that. This was a work, but not of Law. It was the internal motivation of God that was important.

Upon Abraham accomplishing his task and work, God  said “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, (a work) and have not withheld your son, your only son17 blessing I will bless you” (with a reward). And so Abraham passed the test and was confirmed. Abraham was justified.

This is separate from the declaration of righteousness, having obedience to the inner prompting which replaced the outer commands.

This is why James says “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works (actions), and by works (actions) faith was made [i]perfect? Which saying is true.

Faith was perfected there because when God called on Abraham to use it, he did, and it came out in the form of an action from The Holy Spirit. It is okay to call this a work, without it being associated with The Old Covenant Laws of Moses. So in truth James was not being legalistic.

The Universal Pattern is to be Tested.

We are all tested. Even as James explained “ My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 

So there is an end to testing called perfection. God did not give us a life full of sorrow and grief to end in physical death, to realize our inheritance in an an after life. 

Some believe that because Abraham was earlier counted as righteous for believing, that to do a work would discredit God’s earlier declaration. But there is a difference from the gift given and it being activated then tested and confirmed. These are 3 different steps in our growth. The apprehension of the Glory is our human objective.

So then Martin Luther, and those who stay divided on this topic, are reading into James Testimony incorrectly and jumping to the conclusion that James meant works of the Mosaic the law.

The Written Law verses God’s Law written on our hearts.

We agree that the Old Covenant Law no longer has relevance for us with the internal scripting and the promptings of The Holy Spirit.

And yes in Luthers time they were mandating cathedral goers to participate in and perform things that are catagorized as works mandated only from the church and not the unction of the Holy Spirit.

These are works of the flesh, being penance and punishments and vain repetitions that God is not pleased with. The works that please God are acts from His words and spirit planted in your heart that you are in agreement to, not as a slave, but as being liberated because this is what people were designed for from the beginning, and why James used the phrase “The Perfect Law of Liberty”. 

Jesus defines our work and duty.

It was as Jesus acknowledged “Father those you have given Me, have kept your Word”. And Christ knew this because His words came out of their mouths as a confession of faith  and turned into actions. This is not to be misconstrued as keeping the Law associated with the two clay tablets, but The Law of God written on the circumsized and tested heart, like pictured in Abraham “The Father of Faith. In this way we are all figuratively children of Abraham, if we follow his promptings and do his works.

When we understand this, this is The Law of Liberty that enables us, because we are set up for success. God doesn’t give us a task He doesn’t empower us to do. That is the element of liberty that does not produce condemnation. We have a different (power) source of motivation as understood like this.

All The Old Covenant Laws are an exterior set of written principals  for those whose senses have not been tuned to hear the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. They have not been perfected in the faith and need some help.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they are not saved. It means they are not confirmed, they are working on it and being tested along the way. Even from Paul’s own words, he said to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. Yes, confirm the thing that dwells in you. It should be alive and active.

We see with that Quote from Paul, that he did believe in works also, so to speak, because he too refers to actions as a means of validating and working out his own salvation, if for no one else than between God himself. God is the only one we seek to please.

There are two sets of principals. The Law of Moses on two clay tablets that produce sin and death, and the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that sets us free from those.

The laws associated with love referred to by James is The Royal Law and The Law of Liberty. This is more correctly understood as being associated with the Sermon on The Mount with Jesus saying; it is written of old “27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”. He uses love as a filter by which you look through for all the motivations of the heart. This is the scribing of the finger of God. 

The writer of Hebrews put it like this “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,”.

If the Israelites understood this then no more laws would have been given because on the law of love hangs all the other commands. 

At Mt Sinai all the people said to Moses, you go up and talk to God. That is a fearful place. So the Israelites were happy with external promptings, looking for more to do. God gave them enough meat/things to do, to where it was coming back up from their stomachs through their nostrils. That sounds like a lot of fun because you see that is what that picture meant. They were puking.

That is why when the disciples urged Jesus to eat, He answered them “I have meat to eat of which you do not know.” who also said “My meat is to do the will (work) of The Father” and “are there not 24 hours in a day to work? I must work while it is day.

It is us of The New Covenant that our food, is the bread of life, and just as Jesus was asked “what must one fo yo do the works of God?” And He said “believe in the One He has sent”. And we believe Him and follow Him by obeying the promptings of The Holy Spirit. “If you see a brother in and say, be warm and filled then walk away, how does the love of God live in you?

And our meat/work is to eat of His flesh because it was His body that was broken for us. He said “here take and eat, eat all of Me”. This is the bread of life that comes down from Heaven and not some silly little man made wafer somebody puts on your tongue.

The Law of The Spirit is Love, that supercedes and replaces all other law.

We saw that James referred to love as the highest motivator, we see here that Paul does too in Romans 13 saying  “Owe no one anything except to (act out of) love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled (validated, kept and confirmed) the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” [b]“You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” as a fulfillment of all (external) laws. This pretty much sums it up because that’s what pleased God. Love affirms that Gods work takes root in whoever acts out this way. This is a work or an action. It is a test to become a lifestyle. In this way to Love God and others are the core values, and “The Royal Law” and “The Perfect Law of Liberty”. Once again measured by the selfless motivation. When you are acting on love, stealing killing and self preservation don’t even enter your thoughts.

As far as the rest of the old laws that follow, turns out just to be a quagmire or a thicket of distractions. This is why at the justification of Abraham sacrificing his son, the sacrifice the Lord supplied was the lamb stuck in a thicket, because Jesus Christ was that lamb as seen here “13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son”. The lamb in the thicket was “the offering the Lord provided” and the reason Isaiah said of the Messiah, he was led forth like a lamb to a slaughter.

If you remember Abraham’s son was bound (what the law does) up above the wood stoked for the fire. But it was because of That Lamb that Isaac was loosed, and The Lamb offer in Isaac’s stead was the pleasing sacrifice for God. And with this sacrificial Lamb “the Lord provided” went all external laws.

That is why we proverbially offer the same Lamb up to God in our stead and God is pleased with our sacrifice too because “on Him was laid the inequity of us all and by His stripes we are healed.

Jesus Christ was that Lamb, and the thicket represents the Old Covenant Law that everyone gets stuck in and the fire represents the judgment of the cross where Jesus took the Law to, to never have a hold on us again. We are free from law.

Paul says in Collosians that “the hand written ordanances that were written against us ( Mosaic Law) were taken out of the way and nailed to the cross”. They hang there dead at the same place we recon our old man dead as well. So we don’t need to get caught up in that thicket, ever again.

“The law was added to make sin exceedingly sinful”. God’s one time sacrifice of His Son concluded the whole law era. It has been satisfied and “fulfilled” then accredited to us who believe. Jesus Christ did this one work that no other person could do, then presents it as a gift to us as a finished package. You can not add to it, or take away from it. You can however store it inside and leave it dormant or you can integrate with it and assimilate it, activate it, and use it.  This is the works of New Covenant different from the old. Having invisible promptings and the power to perform it called The Holy Spirit.

This is why Paul said that The Gospel is the power of God unto Salvation. That word power from the Greek is “dunamis” and where we get the concept of a Dynamo. Or better yet, a generating plant. Meaning that if the Gospel is tested and confirmed is us, it is because it was this power of God in us, and the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit is us that we cooperate with, yhaty does the works in us. And like Jesus said “it is the Father in Me that does the works”, so say we. In this way we know we are the Elect.

Even as Jesus prayed Father, I desire that those whom you have given Me may be with Me where I am. That they may be one even as we are one.

So we should know when our faith has its maturation, by following The Holy Spirit with specific actions some may call works and not the law with all its enunciations as many suppose. “The law was added till faith comes”? Yes when the invisible rescriptions of the mind takes place, and the Holy Spirit has its home in you. You don’t need external promptings. You are completed. Your faith is confirmed. You are walking in Love.

Love is the bond of perfection.

James and his reference to the Royal law of Liberty and goes on to say 14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” 

This is really no different than when Paul said in Romans 13, Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” [b]“You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” And since love is the fulfillment of the law, then “justification’ is not a big stretch in terms because in essence it means a validation. Wasn’t that really what James was driving at? That Abraham’s faith was confirmed? 

Why even John the apostle in his first epistle drew upon the relationship between Cain and Abel as those who hate and those who love, (another pre-law picture) who concludes that “,But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God [a]is perfected in him”  showing that he is also in agreement with Jesus, Paul and James in reference to love as the standard. He also said that those who fear are not made perfect in love, showing us that love is a byproduct of perfection in the faith and essentially the proof of a maturation that does not need law. The inner law of love supercedes the need for any other law. 

Again with Paul in the love chapter, he says that we have all wisdom and have all knowledge, and if we have not love we are just clanging  symbols.

Probably the most important comparative that Paul the apostle had, was in Colossians 3 where when he speaks about putting on our new body, (most think they get it after they physically die) 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you (is this a work of law too?), so you also must do?  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. There you have it.

When we are gleaning through scripture, and the various behaviors and attributes that are available to us, we know which ones to put on that are more appropriate. But this should never be misconstrued as trying to keep the law, or doing a work itself because that cannot be done, at least not by carnal endeavor.

Recognizing our greater calling.

Paul says that we are called to settle our own discrepancies within the faith saying “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world ? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life.’

We have been given the tools to reconcile Paul and James. They are both necessary.

Paul sums it up like this ”

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not [b]puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, [c]thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is [d]perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

And from John’s 1st epistle

“we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we [d]know that we are of the truth, and shall [e]assure our hearts before Him.” 

This is The Kingdom of God at hand.