If God had anything to do with the Scriptures which we term the Holy Scriptures, if He directed that certain men should write them, that which stands written, both in the Old Testament and in the New, must be flawless and entirely truthful. All the writers must have been truthful men. God can only inspire us by means of statements which are utter truth. In the April and June, 1952, issues of The Differentiator I sought to demonstrate that the Greek word theopneustos, found only at 2. Tim. 3:16 and rendered "inspired by God," really means "inspirable by God." All Greek Verbal adjectives like this, ending in the letters -tos, require in English the ending -able or -ible. The words or writings of men may inspire us in some degree. Similarly, it is the words of God that can inspire us spiritually. We know from experience that God can breathe through any or all of His Scriptures. We do not require to believe in any theory of mechanical inspiration of the Scriptures. God has spoken to us in the veracious writings of spirit-filled men, men who wrote truth and no falsehood, men who can be utterly trusted.
James, the brother of the Lord, during his lifetime earned the distinction of being called The Righteous (Ho Dikaios). Sometimes in English he is called The Just, but this is not accurate. A just man might be very hard. But a righteous man is one who loves that which is right. He must have an all-round love of all righteousness, including love for his brethren and his associates.
If James was really a "circumventer," one who tripped up others by the heel, a true "Jacob"; if he misquoted Old Testament Scriptures, in order to suit his own ends; if he was so morally dishonest that he deliberately usurped Peter's place at the gathering in Jerusalem (Acts 15; Gal. 2), then we lose faith in him and in his Epistle.
We cannot put faith in the writings of any man known to have twisted the Scriptures. James did not pervert any Old Testament Scriptures. I defy anyone to prove that he did. The quotation by James recorded in Acts 15:16-17 is not alone from Amos 9:11-12, as has probably been glibly assumed. James says, verse 15, "And with this the words of the prophets are in agreement. . .." Note, the prophets. Amos was not the only one he had in mind. We are told that Amos said nothing about "I will turn back" or "I will return." No one said Amos wrote these words. We are told that James the circumventer inserted this statement to fit his mistaken idea that Paul's ministry brought the nations into the kingdom. But the fact that Amos did not write" After these things" (Amos 9:11) but "In that day" ought to shew that the first clause in Acts 15:16 is not quoted from him at all.
David McCalman Turpie compiled two extremely useful books, "The Old Testament in the New" (Edinburgh, 1868), and, "The New Testament View of the Old" (London, 1872), in which he listed every quotation from the O.T. found in the N.T., shewing the actual Hebrew and Greek texts and all the Septuagint readings.
Under Acts 15:15 he calls attention to the fact that James is speaking of the "sayings of the prophets," but he points out that Amos "was only one of 'the prophets,' James' words implying that there were several." On another page Turpie says regarding these prophets, that" James adduces just one of them, vizt., that in Amos 9:11-12, leaving it, however, to be inferred that other similar sayings are to be met with in the other prophets. For his words assert that there were more prophets than Amos, from whom he quotes, and that their sayings announced, as well as his, that God would' visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name."
Major Withers has referred to a very fine and useful book, "The Microscope of the New Testament," by Sewell, who pointed out many of the small but important points in Scripture. He did, in very deed, use his microscope, with great effect. But at Acts 15:15 it cannot be claimed that any microscope is required to shew that the word prophets refers to more than one person. The critic of James the circumventer has here fallen sadly short. We earnestly hope he will honourably withdraw his unwarranted defamation of James the Righteous.
Furthermore, if it is true that James deliberately misquoted Scripture, it would appear that the Apostle whom he put "under his thumb," whom he so artfully superseded, whose place he usurped—Peter,—committed the same flagrant offence. In Acts 2:16-21, Peter makes a long quotation from Joel 2:28-32. But whereas Joel says, " And it comes to pass afterwards, I shall pour out My spirit upon all flesh," and the Greek Septuagint says, "And it will be after these things, I shall also pour out from My spirit on all flesh," Peter alters this into "And it will be in the last days, God is saying, I shall pour out from My spirit on all flesh." While it is true that the Vatican Codex reads "after these things" (meta tauta), it is not strongly supported. Not only so, but Peter makes an addition which is not found in Joel, in v., 18, "and they shall prophesy." Here the Concordant Version Note calls this "an inspired break between that part of Joel's prophecy which was fulfilled at Pentecost and that which is yet future." If Peter could thus be inspired to add a few words, why should not James be inspired to quote a few words from some source other than Amos?
That James invented a "crass corruption of the Hebrew Scriptures" is not true; or that he did not "hesitate to alter the inspired Hebrew" so that his "kingdom ecclesia" might get the credit for all the mighty works and miracles done, through Paul and Barnabas. As Alford shews, James would not have quoted from Amos, nor would the Pharisees present have allowed any rendering at variance with the original Hebrew.
Quite a fair proportion of the quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are not exactly verbatim. In some cases words are even completely altered. Thus, Deut. 6:13 lays down, "Jehovah thy God thou shalt fear, and Him shalt thou serve." The Septuagint reads "Kurios thy God thou shalt fear, and Him alone shalt thou serve," the word "alone" having been added, apparently, to represent the emphatic word Him in the Hebrew. But in Matt. 4:10, Jesus says to Satan, "The Lord (Kurios) thy God shalt thou worship and Him alone shalt thou serve." The Lord alters fear to worship. He had a good reason, for Satan had just offered the Lord all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, if only He would worship him. But whereas Satan asked for worship to himself (dative case in Greek), the Lord made God the direct object of worship (accusative case).
Who, however, would think of accusing the Lord of having altered the Scriptures?
Another serious charge has been brought against James, that he was egotistic. It is all too easy to raise such a charge when we do not know all the facts connected with the gathering in Jerusalem. When he said, "Wherefore I am judging" (or, deciding), we do not hear the tone of his voice, or see his expression. Perhaps it was much humbler and gentler and more reasonable than that of his detractors. The word "wherefore" must not be overlooked: James produced an excellent reason for his view.
The emphatic word I is not necessarily a sign of egotism. If James was here (Acts 15:19) an egotist, what are we to think of Paul? About eighty times in the New Testament does Paul use the emphatic pronoun EGO (I), along with a verb which already incorporates the pronoun I. Just glance at Acts 17:23, "This One I am announcing to you. . . ." Gal. 6:17, "for I, the brand-marks of the Lord Jesus Christ am bearing in my body." Phil. 4:11, "for I learned to be content. .." Can it be that in these cases Paul meant he was the only person to do these things?
Exegetes are unanimous in agreeing that James was chairman or president of the gathering, and merely voiced its general verdict. Schaff's Commentary suggests that James said, "I for my part decide we ought not to burden them. . ." "There is no authoritative judgment here on the part of James. It is simply a weighty opinion of the presiding elder; an opinion which, coinciding with the already expressed judgment of Peter in favour of the Gentile mission, was finally adopted by the majority of the Council, and taken as the basis of their official decree."
Says Alford, "There does not seem to be in the following speech (by James) any decision ex cathedra, either in the 'hear me' or in the 'I am deciding'; the decision lay in the weightiness, partly no doubt of the person speaking, but principally of the matter spoken by him."
Wordsworth points out that Acts 16:4 and 21:25 prove that "no single voice of anyone Apostle (James, Peter or Paul) was predominant over the rest."
Webster & Wilkinson point out that Peter's primacy was limited in extent and duration; and that James was inferior as an Apostle, but locally superior as Overseer (in ecclesiastical History he was known as the Bishop of Jerusalem). They shew also, what a good thing it was that James presided at the Convention, and not Peter, for the claims of the Roman Catholic Church are thereby shattered.
They also point out that James' presidency of the Jerusalem Church is indicated in Acts 12:17, where Peter, after his deliverance from the jail, says, "Report to James and the brethren these things." Further, "James took the initiative; the decree was enacted by the Apostles and Elders, and ratified by the assembled Church."
Wordsworth shews in answer to his query, Who constituted the Council? that Acts 15:2 says Paul and Barnabas went up Lo the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem; Acts 15:6 says the Apostles and Elders met to consider the matter; Acts 16:4 says Paul went through the cities delivering the decrees determined by the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem. This triple mention of the Apostles and Elders, without the mention of any other party, is significant, and seems to indicate that the "Apostles and Elders" constituted the Council, so far as deliberate voice and definite sentence were concerned, and therefore the decree was promulgated in their names.
We are told very plainly in "Unsearchable Riches" (March, 1953, page 57) that James, or rather, "Jacob Joseph usurps the place of an apostle," and that he was not an apostle at all (July, 1954, page 221), but a "circumventer" who stole the place of Peter. Major Withers has referred to Acts 9:27. I would refer to the Note here in the Concordant Version, which says, "Though most of the apostles were absent from Jerusalem, Paul saw the two real leaders, Peter and James." The text informs us that Barnabas got hold of Paul and led him "to the Apostles" in Jerusalem. Apparently then, the writer of the Note thought that James, the brother of the Lord, was an Apostle, in accord with Gal. 1:18-19.
This, of course, completely turns the tables, and proves that James had every right to act as he did at the Convention, and that he usurped no one's place.
Another of James' faults was that he addressed the multitude at the Convention as "Men! Brethren!" which "could be applied to all members of the Jewish race, and does not distinguish them from the saints who have God's spirit." That is in Acts 15:13. But what of Peter in verse 7? He addresses the assembled "apostles and elders" as "Men! Brethren!" Was it possible that some of these apostles and elders were unbelievers, and thus not brethren? It is quite true that Peter addresses Israelites in Jerusalem in Acts 2:29 in the same way. But let us look a little more closely at this chapter. Peter commences in verse 14 with "Men! Judeans!" and in verse 22, with "Men! Israelites!" But as he warms up to his earnest appeal, obviously observing that it is taking powerful effect, he changes into "Men! Brethren!" in verse 29, seeing from their faces that they were being pricked to the very heart, which is proved by their appeal to Peter and the Apostles, "Men, brethren, what should we be doing?" (verse 37).
Yet another alleged blunder by James is the fact that he calls Peter "by the name given him by his earthly parents, Simeon, thereby ignoring the spiritual appellation given him by our Lord Himself as the foundation of the kingdom ecclesia, which was Peter."
In 1. Cor. 9:20 Paul writes that he "became to the Jews as a Jew." Surely it was right and natural, in an assembly composed only of Israelites, that James should give Peter his own name. There is not one word to show that James was ignoring the name Peter. In fact, Wordsworth deals with this very point, "Why in Acts 15:14 is Peter called Simeon?" He explains, "James does not say Petros, but uses his original Hebrew name. . . . Simon. . . . he with all his Jewish habits and prepossessions, has shewn what God has done by him among the Gentiles. And now hear what your own Hebrew Prophets say to the same effect. He has been a true Simeon, hearing and obeying God; imitate him!" (Note: the Hebrew word from which the name Simeon comes, shama, is rendered as hear about one thousand times, and about 80 times as obey).
The Convention was entirely dominated by the Holy Spirit; so much so, that He knew the effect of James' reference to Peter under the symbol name of Simeon.
Wordsworth, also shews that as Paul went up to Jerusalem to the gathering, by revelation, the Council was of God, because it was revealed to Paul that he was to go, not to learn anything from the other apostles, but in order to quell and pacify strife, and promote the cause of the Gospel and the success of his own ministry. The Holy Spirit revealed to him His Will that he should go.
The division of the spheres of labour was very evidently the will of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 2:9).
Acts 15:28 demonstrates decisively that the decision of the Council was not arrived at through the "fleshly minds" of those present, apart from the guidance of God's Spirit. "For it seems good to the Spirit, the Holy (Spirit), and to us, not to be placing one more burden on you more than these essentials." Webster & Wilkinson are quite correct to speak of "the will of the Spirit as intimated by the inspired utterance of the Apostle James." It must be noted that all the assembled Apostles and the Elders, with the whole ecclesia, agreed to send the letter to the Gentile brethren throughout the districts of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia (Acts 15:22-23). Any suggestion that they used the name of the Holy Spirit in verse 28 in vain, or without authority, makes us shudder.
On the expression, "to the Holy Spirit and to us," Meyer says, "The agreement of the personal activity of the advisers themselves with the illuminating and confirming influence of the Holy Spirit experienced by them when advising." He quotes Ewald as saying, "The mention of the Holy Spirit is the most primitive Christian thing imaginable." The Convention was, in fact, a typical example of the manner in which a Christian assembly ought to solve a difficult problem. The results prove this beyond all doubt.
When the epistle reached the multitude at Antioch, were the brethren there in any way disappointed, or sorrowed, or fettered? Not in the least! We read that they rejoiced, at the encouragement given by the letter (v. 31). The word used here by Luke (paraklEsis) is used of any gentle and friendly close communion. Conybeare & Howson say "The encouragement inspired by this letter would be increased by the sight of Judas and Silas." As Webster & Wilkinson put it, "The Jerusalem church was anxious for the Gentile churches to feel that the enactment was not by their own authority alone, but by the will of the Spirit," so they sent the two prophets, Judas and Silas, whose presence, not alone as "leading men among the brethren," but as prophets, was confirmation that God was behind the whole proceedings.
We must not overlook that Paul was one of those who agreed to the sending of the epistle. Yes, that very Paul, "Paul the Dauntless," who, not even for one hour, pretended to yield the submission required by the false brethren who sneaked in to spy out the freedom in Christ Jesus possessed by the Gentiles, and to enslave them. It is unthinkable that Paul was obligated to agree to a document to which he strongly objected. Can it be that Paul co-operated to lay a grievous burden on the Gentiles, as "subjects of the kingdom"? Was he compelled, not only to obey decrees to which he objected, but to put Gentile believers under the yoke of the Jerusalem Church? The idea is absurd, and is without foundation.
Wordsworth has a worthwhile word upon Acts 15:25-26, where the epistle commends "our loveable Barnabas and Paul, men who have gone on hazarding their souls for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Says Wordsworth, "A remarkable testimony. The first Christians were not wont to praise each other in public. But this attestation was reasonable and appropriate. It was a reply to the charges of the Judaisers against Paul. It was a public declaration by the other Apostles at Jerusalem that Paul's claims to divine revelations and an apostolic mission, were true; and that there was no difference of opinion, or disparity in dignity, between him and the Twelve who had "seen the Lord" on earth. Such a declaration was called for.
Is there any hint, or suspicion, that those who "came from James" to Antioch (Gal. 2:12), were sent at the instigation of James? Can it be that he was working secretly to overthrow the labours of a fellow Apostle? There is nothing to shew that anyone was sent by James, but those who came would be under his jurisdiction and of his diocese. Some have thought they may have availed themselves of James' name in order to gain their own ends. Acts 15:24 makes it clear that those "coming out from us" (the Apostles and Elders of Jerusalem) had not been given directions by the Apostles. Indeed, as Wordsworth shews, after the speech made by James, such a supposition would be utterly incredible. James completely demolished the fanatical demands of the Pharisees present. In fact, it will be observed that in his quotation from Amos, there is no mention whatever of the cause of the dispute—circumcision and the observance of the Law of Moses.
Before giving consideration to the so-called "Decrees" of Acts 15, and 16:4, in the next chapter, I wish to deal with two points. First, the statement "The mere fact that the apostles asked for help for the poor was a sign of their own apostasy" (Gal. 2:10, "Only that we should remember the poor"; Unsearchable Riches, November, 1952, page 293). In reply to this point, Jowett simply quotes Romans 15:26-27 ("For if, in their spiritual things the Gentiles participate, they ought in the fleshly things also to minister to them "). Jowett also refers to 1. Cor. 16:1-4 (the collection for the Jerusalem saints). This alone demolishes the above unfortunate charge against the Apostles.
Secondly, if "decrees" were made at the Convention for the Gentiles to keep and obey, did Paul, in his own epistles, never lay down certain rules for the Gentiles to observe? What about 1. Thess. 4:3 and Eph. 5:3 (fleshly vices); 1. Thess. 5:22 (abstain from every appearance of evil); Eph. 4:28-29 (no stealing; no tainted speech); Eph. 4:31 (no bitterness, fury, or calumny); Eph. 5:18 (no drunkenness); Gal. 5:16-21 (all the works of the flesh)? It may be noted that in 1. Thess. 4:2 Paul mentions "what charges we give to you through the Lord Jesus." These charges (parangelia) are of much the same quality as the decrees (dogmata). We require to be told these things, time and again. We do not become automatically holy upon believing.
Were the "decrees" of the Convention the same as those mentioned in Eph. 2:15 and Col. 2:14? We hope to answer this point in another chapter.
What have been termed decrees were in fact very thoughtful and kindly recommendations. Not one single word is mentioned about keeping any part of the Hebrew Law (Acts 15:20, 29). Not a word is breathed about the urgent matter of circumcision. Dr. Eadie points out that whereas the trouble makers insisted that without circumcision "you cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1), the epistle agreed upon finishes with the words, "you will be well engaged," or "ye shall do well," if you observe the recommendations stated.
The Expositor's Greek Testament gives a helpful description of the situation in Syria in those days. "The language of James in his Epistle shows us how imperative it was in the moral atmosphere of the Syria of the first century to guard the Christian life from sexual defilement, and the burning language of Paul in 1. Cor. 6:15 and 1. Thess. 4:3, etc., shows us the terrible risks to which Christian morality was exposed, risks enhanced by the fact that the heathen view of impurity was so lax throughout the Roman Empire." Dr. Knowling then continues, "Without some special prohibition it was conceivable that a man might pass from some scene of licentious indulgence to the participation in the Supper of the Lord." Webster & Wilkinson shew that the object of the Council was to establish a good understanding between the Jewish and Gentile Christians, so these Gentile practices are singled out which were held in the greatest abomination by the Jews. Meyer says the decree was to have "no permanent force as a rule of conduct," but "it was called forth by the circumstances of the times; it was to be a compromise as long as these circumstances lasted; but its value as such was extinguished of itself by the cessation of the circumstances." Wordsworth states the reasons for requiring Gentiles to be abstinent in certain things: "Because the Apostles desired to shew the Jewish converts that they had a tender regard for their scruples, especially when grounded on Ante-Levitical Law and Usage; and there was a reasonable hope, that therefore the Jewish Christians, on their side, would be more disposed to comply with the Apostles in not enforcing on the Gentile Christians the Rite of Circumcision and the other ceremonies of the Levitical Law." Eadie writes that next to circumcision, the four articles were the greatest obstacle to friendly intercourse between Jews and Gentiles. The decree was therefore only a temporary obligation, for the sake of peace.
Conybeare & Howson (Life and Epistles of Paul) give a graphic picture of the situation. After shewing that the wide separation which existed between Jews and Gentiles was both religious and social, they say, "The Jews had a divine law, which sanctioned the principle, and enforced the practice, of national isolation. They could not easily believe that this law, with which all the glorious passages of their history were associated, was meant only to endure for a limited period: and we cannot but sympathize in the difficulty they felt in accepting the notion of a cordial union with the uncircumcised, even after idolatry was abandoned and morality observed. And again, the peculiar character of the religion which isolated the Jews was such as to place insuperable obstacles in the way of social union with other men. Their ceremonial observances precluded the possibility of their eating with the Gentiles. The nearest parallel we can find to this barrier between the Jews and Gentiles, is the institution of caste among the ancient populations of India. . . .. A Hindoo cannot eat with a Parsee, or a Mohamedan,—and among the Hindoos themselves the meals of a Brahmin are polluted by the presence of a Pariah. . . And so it was in the patriarchal age. It was 'an abomination for the Egyptians to eat bread with the Hebrews.' The same principle was divinely sanctioned for a time in, the Mosaic Institutions. The Israelites, who lived among the Gentiles, met them freely in the places of public resort, buying and selling, conversing and disputing: but their families were separate: in the relations of domestic life, it was 'unlawful,' as Peter said to Cornelius, 'for a man that was a Jew to keep company or come unto one of another nation.' (Acts 10:28)."
Conybeare & Howson then ask, how could Jews and Gentiles be socially united as equal brethren in the family of a common Father,—the solution of this problem must in that day have appeared impossible. "And without the direct intervention of Divine grace it would have been impossible. We now proceed to consider how that grace gave to the minds of the Apostles, the wisdom, discretion, forbearance, and firmness which were required; and how Paul was used as the great instrument in accomplishing a work necessary to the very existence of the Christian Church." Again, "We can well believe that the minds of many may have been perplexed by the words and conduct of our Lord Himself: for He had not been sent 'save to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,' and He had said that it was 'not meet to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs.' Until Paul appeared before the Church in his true character as the Apostle of the uncircumcision, few understood that 'the law of commandments contained in ordinances' had been abolished by the cross of Christ."
Conybeare & Howson have here twenty-six very fine pages which ought to be read (volume 1, pages 217 to 243).
Schaff's Commentary on Acts, by Dean Howson and Canon Spence, draws a beautiful and truly Christian picture of the cordial and beneficial outcome of the conference, which they say was completely successful. The resolutions were practical and conciliatory, acceptable at the same time to all except bigoted and fanatical Jews. Naturally, the Hebrew Christian communities in Syria did not wish to be scandalized by the actions of any Gentile believers who might be ensnared by the "schools of vice" which grew up under the shadow of the heathen temples. Syria had become notorious as a land where, "under the wealthy patronage of Rome, all that was beautiful in nature and art had created a sanctuary for a perpetual festival of vice."
As there were then in Syria great numbers of Gentile believers, living in cities where Israelites were also very numerous, it was of some importance that these new believers should not give offence to Israelites. That is why James states (Acts 15:21), "For Moses, from ancient generations, city by city has those proclaiming him in the synagogues being read every sabbath."
In plain words, these Gentile believers should take every precaution not to become a stumbling-block to Israelites, especially now that the nation had turned out to be so apostate. And as Dr. Eadie says, "The compromise which James proposed for the sake of peace infringed but little upon the liberty of the Gentiles, and certainly bore no resemblance to the demands of the Pharisaical party in the church."
With the sentiments expressed in "Unsearchable Riches" (November, 1952, page 288) everyone ought to be in full agreement, "Yet we should remember that, in Israel, there was some excuse. Jehovah had given them the law." This is said in partial condonation of the actions of the "false brethren." On page 295 we read, "Let us put ourselves in Peter's place." And I might add, let us not fail to put our selves in James' place. Let us bear in mind that "the Law indeed is holy, and the precept holy and righteous and good" (Rom. 7:12). Even to maintain some of its standards was beneficial and healthful in daily life, even though the Law could not confer eonian life (the Hebrew Law never promised eonian life). What Gentile to-day pays any attention to Deut. 22:11, "Thou shalt not wear a mingled stuff, wool and linen together?" We do not set ourselves under the Law in finding health in it.
We now consider whether the "decrees" formulated by the Convention are referred to by Paul in Eph. 2:15 and Co1. 2:14, either as decrees or ordinances. I maintain there is not, and cannot possibly be, the slightest connection. Indeed, does it not seem very much out of place to read into these verses and their contexts, which deal with mighty operations affecting the whole Church of God, the result of the shed Blood of Christ, creating a new humanity and a holy temple as God's dwelling place, something connected with one comparatively small and very local affair, which matter must have lost all its importance within twenty years, when Jerusalem was destroyed? To bring such an incident into close proximity with the Blood and Death of the Lord would be to make the Holy Scriptures seem ridiculous. What connection can "the law of the precepts in decrees" (Eph. 2:15) have with the decisions come to at Jerusalem, which were no law at all? Paul here refers to the Mosaic Law, which, though never given over to the Gentiles, set a standard of righteousness short of which every human being falls, whether Israelite or Gentile.
As for Co1. 2:14, "the handwriting of ordinances," or "the handwriting of the decrees," we ought to read "in the decrees." Rotherham renders as "the handwriting against us by the decrees." The common meaning given to the word for "handwriting" (cheirographon) is bond or obligation. Alford thinks the angels promulgated this handwriting, which represented the whole law, the obligatory bond which was against us, the term being used because the Decalogue, representing that Law, was written On tables of stone by the finger of God.
Very naturally, Webster & Wilkinson and others connect the decrees of Co1. 2:14 with verse 20, "why, as living in the world, are you subject to decrees: 'You should not touch, nor taste, nor have the slightest contact. . . . .'"
It might be asked, how was this handwriting of decrees, if penned round about the year 51, at the Jerusalem conference, "against us" or against the believers in Syria at that time, and further, how and when was it "nailed to the Cross"? And what connection is there with the next verse, Col. 2:15, and the sovereignties and the authorities?
The "decrees" of the Apostles to the Syrian believers were in favour of these believers, not against them. There was no subjection whatever, any more than we to-day are in subjection to the precepts laid down by Paul for our benefit.
One would have expected in Col. 2:14 something parallel to or connected with verse 13, the gracious forgiving of all our fallings-aside. We would be quite justified in reading in v. 14, "by erasing the handwriting. . . ," just as Alford reads at the close of the verse, "by nailing it to the Cross." We might also ask, when did God take the handwriting "out of the midst"? Is there any record of this event?
Strong exception has been taken to the repeated use of the Greek word meaning "seems" in Acts 15:22, 25, 28 and Gal. 2:2, 6, 9. "A sense of uncertainty is stamped upon the conclusion reached at this convention by the inclusion of the word 'seem' thrice in succession." That is, in Acts 15. "The word seem indicates an opinion, a supposition, what is reputed, not certain or necessarily true, only apparently so." (Unsearchable Riches, March, 1953, pages 64/5). Trench differentiates between PhainO (appear) and dokeO (seem), by referring the former to "actual external appearance," and the latter to "subjective judgment." Cremer thinks the Greek word for "it seems" is an "urbane expression," or, as we might say, a conventional term, meaning "it is resolved," or "it is thought proper," or "it is agreed, or recognized." This word, in fact (edoxen), was the ordinary conventional term used for expressing the formal resolution of a senate or assembly, just like the minutes of a meeting. The letter which summed up the sentiments and conclusions of the gathering "seemed good" to the company; it contained their resolutions and expressed their opinions, as agreed upon.
As for the usage in Gal. 2, Paul submitted his Gospel privately to "those of repute" (C.V.), those who seemed to be something. Here the New World version uses a very expressive term, "outstanding men" (also in v. 6). Paul was quite correct to call James and Peter and John outstanding men. If anyone thinks that Paul was using innuendo by hinting that these three only seemed to be important, or that they were merely reputed to be something, while all the time: Paul had no great opinion of them, it is sufficient to say that God's Holy Spirit utterly forbids any of His saints thus to think of other saints. As Cremer says on the occurrences in Gal. 2, those described are "people who stand for something; who have weight and are esteemed; it expressed not doubt, but the general opinion." We speak of the weight of public opinion. All the Apostles, having been specially chosen by God, must have been men of weight, looked up to by God's people. Such recognition is not wrong. In the Old Testament, the word for weight is also the word for glory (kabod). The Greek word for glory is doxa, related to the word for seem (dokeO). In 2. Peter 2:10 we read of some who calumniate dignities called "glories" (doxas), that is, weighty beings, who are the recognized authorities. "All sin and are wanting of the glory (or recognition) of God" (Rom. 3:23). God cannot give recognition to sinners as such.
The lesson contained in Phil. 2 is summed up for us in verse 3, "with humble-disposition deeming one another superior to one's self." This attitude ought to grow easily and naturally in those who love God. This precept forbids us to pour contempt or denunciation upon James, a very honoured servant of God. It is not for us to revile him and defame him. Such conduct would be treason against the Holy Spirit of God. We ought to be very much alive to the fact that some day we shall meet and salute all of God's people. In my own life this prospect has a profound influence. In that coming day we shall honour and love all who belong to God. But let us all do so now! It it is wrong to slander any living child of God, it is just as wrong to slander one who is dead—for whom Christ died.
Nor may anyone insinuate that James sought to hit back at Peter by making him the target of his epistle. This is the kind of argument the German theologians once delighted in. What! is it possible that God's Spirit could inspire an epistle which defamed or reviled one of His chief servants? What are things coming to?
James was no usurper. He did not filch the leadership from Peter. Nor did James supplant Paul, or put the Gentiles under any Hebrew yoke. We can understand, of course, that those who deem that the teaching of James regarding faith and works is antagonistic to that of Paul will naturally reckon James to be an enemy of the Gentiles and their blessings. But we must not permit our imagination or our prejudice to invent ideas which are in reality additions to God's Word.
Nor was James "puffed up by his fleshly mind." Always he was known for his reasonableness and fair-mindedness. That was why he was universally known as The Righteous one. There is no proof that he traded upon the fact that he Was a son of the Lord's mother. Why should he be blamed because he was a son of his own parents? When we consider how extraordinarily difficult it is to-day for an Israelite to understand and enter into the present blessings of the Gentiles, is it reasonable to expect that James should have abandoned his own Hebrew religion and all that that entailed? Are we left to infer that God blundered in calling as Apostles the Twelve and James?
How could the "crass corruption of the Hebrew Scriptures" (Amos) by James be the result of his "deliberate rejection of Paul's ministry," if it only occurred at the time of the Convention in Jerusalem that the Hebrew Apostles really "got to know the grace being given to Paul" (Gal. 2:9)? I contend that hitherto they knew not, and could not possibly understand, what Paul's message really consisted of. And if in fact James then deliberately rejected Paul's ministry, why did James and Kephas and John give Paul and Barnabas "right hands of fellowship," and agree to the sphere of Paul's labours? Fellowship? What does that mean, but common interests.
When Paul names any of God's family, it is never to condemn, but to speak well of them. When he censures, he avoids naming anyone.
Very wisely and quite straightforwardly did James inform the fanatical Israelites at the Jerusalem gathering of one important matter in their own prophetic writings Which they seemed to have overlooked, that God had long foreknown and foretold the call of the Gentiles. The notes in the Concordant Version at Acts 15:6, 11, and Gal. 2:2 are to be commended. But it must be kept in mind that the call of the Gentiles fore told in the Hebrew Scriptures only appeared to the Israelite as one in which the Hebrews held the hegemony over the other nations. This is clearly inferred in the Amos quotation in Acts 15. God would rebuild the tabernacle of David, so that those left of humanity might seek the Lord. During the Thousand Years the Gentiles will be under the sway of Jerusalem and Israel, but it seems absurd to expect that "Israel as a nation was to be a kingdom of priests" in the days of their unbelief and apostasy, or when they themselves "were under the rule of Rome."
To those who claim that the pentecostal church failed to take the Good News to the Gentiles, there is one factor I should like to point out. In Matt. 28:19 and in Mark 16:15 the Lord does not tell His disciples to be "Going, disciple all the Gentiles," or, "Going into all the world." The first word is in the Greek a Passive, meaning, "Being made to go." (poreuthentes, not the Middle Voice, poreuomenoi, as at Matt. 10:7, etc.). Verse 20 of Mark 16 declares very plainly that they did go, proclaiming everywhere, that is, "into all the world." Evidently then, they were made to go. Something must have happened to make them go off, even though we have no details of the results. Can it then be true that "Spiritually, they refused to fulfil their function to bring the evangel to the nations"? And this failure is given as the reason for the pentecostal church having been set aside. Moreover, "This is the unpardonable sin of those who had been pardoned in Acts (Matt. 18:32-35)," and this brought about what is called "the wreck of the kingdom ecclesia."
But we are told that "gates of Hades" shall not prevail against that ecclesia (Matt. 16:18). Nothing issuing out of the Unseen was to overcome that Church, built upon the rock.
The various articles which we have been criticizing go much too far in terming the "false-brethren" of Gal. 2:4 the "darnel" of Matt. 13:25. Surely this is a very jaundiced view. These men were not called false believers. Rather, their conduct as brethren was wrong and false. They must have had faith in their Messiah. As such it is unthinkable that they should undergo such a fate as being burnt up.
Are there not false brethren today, believers who are unbrotherly? Even if some of their work must be burnt up, yet they will be saved. The same principle must apply in the case of the false-brethren at the Convention.
It was about a month after the above was written are we perused Mr. Adlai Loudy's Studies in the Scriptures, Lesson 20, wherein he devotes a few pages to the same subject. We are glad to find we are in close agreement with him and heartily recommend his treatment of the subject.
A.T. Last updated 13.4.2006