James the Elder

Paul and Dispensationalism #6

Thursday, August 13, 2015

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14 KJV).

What else can the Apostle Paul teach us about dispensational Bible study?

A preacher recently described his former days in Bible College. Students were to pick sides in the infamous “Paul-James debate,” better known as the “faith-without-works-versus-faith-plus-works clash.” There were those who would quote verses from Romans chapters 3 and 4 and then there were those who would cite verses from James chapter 2. The loser of the debate would be the one who ran out of verses to quote!

All religious absurdities aside, James chapter 2 is quite a simple passage. However, cults mindlessly quote James chapter 2 out of context. Before James wrote chapter 2, he wrote chapter 1, the key to grasping chapter 2! For example, James wrote, “to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, greeting…. The trying of your faith worketh patience” (1:1,3). Firstly, James is writing to the nation Israel, not us Gentiles! James would know more about his own epistle than today’s theologians and ecclesiastical leaders, yes? Secondly, James is encouraging believing Israel in their “trial of their faith.” They are being tested. Satan’s evil world system (the Antichrist) is tempting believing Israel to follow him. In chapter 2, James tells Israel to follow believing Father Abraham, to have works that demonstrate their salvation (verses 14-26).

Paul, however, writes to us Gentiles (Romans 11:13). We are under grace, not law (today’s Scripture). Fellowship with God today is not dependent on our performance—it is Jesus Christ’s performance at Calvary. Romans through Philemon never tell us we must work to be saved or to prove our salvation. Israel must demonstrate her faith with works, but we are under no such requirements in our Dispensation of Grace. It is important that we get this, for if we place ourselves under law, sin will dominate our lives. However, if we understand how the grace life begins (Romans chapters 3-5), how it operates (Romans chapters 6-8), and what it looks like (Romans chapters 12-16), we will not fall prey to legalism. We will not mix law and grace as the Galatians did. Pauline dispensationalism spares us from misery, frustration, and defeat!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “How did God ‘testify’ of Abel’s gifts?