Part VIII - The Apostle Paul in His Other Epistles

Having dealt in detail with the Apostle Paul's epistles to the Romans and Galatians, it will not be possible due to the length of this essay to delve too deeply into the other epistles which were either written by ir influenced by the Apostle's thinking. However, a few key points to some of his epistles are worth noting here to show further the congruity of the Apostle Paul's thought with that of the other Apostles and of Our Lord. The epistles to be looked at here in brief will be 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 2 Corinthians, Colossians, Philippians, and Hebrews in that order. For the Apostle Paul lends much more positive support to the views of the Lord and the other Apostles on saving works of mercy and their role in justification in these epistles than he did in the two we examined in detail. (Romans 2 excluded of course.) Here are some relevant passages from 1 Corinthians:

7 Therefore, neither he that planteth is any thing, nor he that watereth: but God that giveth the increase. 8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth, are one. And every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour. 9 For we are God's coadjutors. You are God's husbandry: you are God's building. 10 According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation: and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus. 12 Now, if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble: 13 Every man's work shall be manifest. For the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire. And the fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. 14 If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. [1]
This is one of many Scriptural allusions to the purification process of Purgatory but that is not the primary subject being discussed here. Notice though the emphasis placed by the Apostle Paul on doing good works and being told to be careful in how we "build on the foundation that is Christ Jesus". This is a different subject altogether then the one that was the predominant theme in Romans and Galatians. Later in this epistle is the classic Pauline discourse on charity and its central importance to the faith. Let us look at it in full at this time:
1. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2. And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. [2]
Paul basically kills two birds with one stone here. He states that faith without charity is nothing. This is exactly what the Apostle James noted (James 2:14-16). However, the Apostle also states that without charity, all acts however good they might seem to be are worthless without being done out of love of God and neighbour. In short, only works performed in Godís grace and friendship out of love for Him have any merit at all. Charity is not a mere pious sentiment. Instead, it is a supernatural virtue comprising love of God above all things and love of our neighbour for God. Faith that worketh by charity has to have merit because Paul specifically says that works performed without charity "profiteth nothing." Logically then, works performed by charity in faith are meritorious.
4. Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, 5. Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil: 6. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth: 7. Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8. Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void or tongues shall cease or knowledge shall be destroyed. 9. For we know in part: and we prophesy in part. 10. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall 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 the things of a child. 12. We see now through a glass in a dark manner: but then face to face. Now I know in part: but then I shall know even as I am known. 13. And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity. [3]
Charity is clearly what justifies man not faith alone. The Apostle notes the necessity of works performed in charity (or as Catholics call it: faith working in love) in other epistles as well. Here is a notable passage from the Epistle to the Ephesians:
8 For by grace you are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves, for it is the gift of God. 9 Not of works, that no man may glory. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus in good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them. [4]
Since we are "His workmanship" created in Our Lord Jesus Christ, to a person who is in a right relationship with God, the works performed are actually God's. Many Protestants mistake Ephesians 2:8-9 as the Apostle Paul declaring against any and all works whatsoever. In doing this they are partially correct. Catholic teaching is unequivocal that nothing done before the grace of justification merits the grace of justification. Or to quote the Council of Trent:
But when the Apostle says that man is justified by faith and freely,[44] these words are to be understood in that sense in which the uninterrupted unanimity of the Catholic Church has held and expressed them, namely, that we are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God[45] and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification.

For, if by grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the Apostle says, grace is no more grace. (Romans 11:6.) [5]

The Council followed this up with the definition stating that "if anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works, whether done by his own natural powers or through the teaching of the law, without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema" (Canons on Justification: Canon 1). This is in essence a summation of Ephesians 2:8-9 which in referring to us being saved by grace through faith as a gift of God without works refers to the grace of justification which man cannot merit. The subsequent verse confirms this understanding stating that  God saves us with the intention of our doing good works that He has already planned for us. Threfore, our good works are the final cause of our justification for we are carrying out God's work in the process - which is always meritorious. This is why these works are the benchmark by which we are to be judged. The Apostle amplified this theme in 2 Corinthians:
9 we labour, whether absent or present, to please him. 10 For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil. [6]
In other words, we will be judged by works but not works of the law. Our salvation is conditioned on us doing good works to be rewarded for them in the next life. Good works of course wrought in us by Our Lord Jesus Christ through our faith in Him and BY Him living in us (Gal. 2:20). This is different from the Pelagian concept spoken of earlier when the words of Our Lord were being examined. (To recap, Pelagianism is where man can be justified apart from God's grace.) Yet Protestants continue to distort the Catholic position to be either one of Pelagianism or one of Semi-Pelagianism. The Catholic teaching is neither of these things.

Semi-Pelagianism was a heresy that was subsequent to Pelagianism which claimed that once a man had been baptized that they did not need Godís grace to attain final perserverence. This error was condemned at the Synod of II Orange in 529 - a synod that in the Catholic Church holds equivalent ecumenical status and is also recognized as authoritative in the east. (These condemnations were later re-affirmed at the Council of Trent.) The Catholic Church teaches that we need God's grace not only to obtain the grace of justification but the same grace in order to perservere or else we will be lost. We can fall away through serious sin but we can also be restored to God's grace upon repentence. This is the antithesis of the Semi-Pelagian position which is nevertheless constantly misconstrued by Protestant apologists as "the Catholic position". Notice how the Apostle Paul's theme in 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Ephesians is perfectly in line with the words of Our Lord and the other Apostles. The same is the case with his teaching in Colossians. After warning them against the errors of the philosophers and the doctors of the law, he notes the following as the conduct to be practiced by all:

12 Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience: 13 Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another. Even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also. 14 But above all these things have charity, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly: in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. 17 All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. [7]

Charity is the bond of perfection. It is greater by far than faith (1 Cor. 13:13) which without it is barren (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-8; James 2:14-26). This is also amplified in the epistle to the Philippians:

1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of charity, if any society of the spirit, if any bowels of commiseration: 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that you be of one mind, having the same charity, being of one accord, agreeing in sentiment. 3 Let nothing be done through contention: neither by vain glory. But in humility, let each esteem others better than themselves: 4 Each one not considering the things that are his own, but those that are other men's. 5 For let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  6 Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man. 8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. 9 For which cause, God also hath exalted him and hath given him a name which is above all names: 10 That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: 11 And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. 12 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation. 13 For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will. 14 And do ye all things without murmurings and hesitations: 15 That you may be blameless and sincere children of God, without reproof, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: among whom you shine as lights in the world. 16 Holding forth the word of life to my glory in the day of Christ: because I have not run in vain, nor laboured in vain.[8]
Notice Paul emphasizing the very same themes as Our Lord and the other Apostles. Also, he speaks of "working out your salvation" for "it is God who worketh in you." This is justification by faith working in love. Again the distinction is made in Philippians 3:
1 As to the rest, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not wearisome, but to you it is necessary. 2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. 3 For we are the circumcision, who in spirit serve God; and glory in Christ Jesus, not having confidence in the flesh. 4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other thinketh he may have confidence in the flesh, I more, 5 Being circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; according to the law, a Pharisee: 6 According to zeal, persecuting the church of God; according to the justice that is in the law, conversing without blame. 7 But the things that were gain to me, the same I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ: 9 And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God, justice in faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death, 11 If by any means I may attain to the resurrection which is from the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect: but I follow after, if I may by any means apprehend, wherein I am also apprehended by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended. But one thing I do: Forgetting the things that are behind and stretching forth myself to those that are before, 14 I press towards the mark, to the prize of the supernal vocation of God in Christ Jesus. [9]
The last parts in blue are a blatant repudiation of the very concept of "eternal security." If the Apostle Paul did not believe he was eternally saved then those who would presume to be more righteous than the Apostle Paul have no foundation for their arrogance. The Apostle Paul had a strong moral assurance that nevertheless recognized that he could indeed fall away and be lost. So many who preach "eternal security" have a presumptuous view about salvation built on a foundation that has thoroughly been demonstrated has no existence in the words of Our Lord, or in the writings of any of the Apostles. (To say nothing about the Old Testament.)

It should be blatantly obvious that St. Paul's predominent themes in Romans and Galatians of works are not the same works that were referred to by Our Lord, Peter, James, John, Jude, or the Old Testament of which Our Lord came to not abolish but fulfill (cf. Matt. 5:17-21).  However, the Apostle Paul did in 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians for the most part speak of faith that worketh by charity whenever works of any kind were discussed in those epistles. However, those epistles are always subordinated in the Protestant paradigm to the epistles of the Romans and Galatians. To keep this essay from getting much longer then it already is, it will not be possible to touch on 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, or the Pastoral Epistles. However, we will touch on Hebrews a tad bit. There is no shortage of passages in it -- along with the other mentioned epistles -- that speak against salvation by faith alone, eternal security, or merely imputed righteousness. The following are a few examples from Hebrews  covering "eternal security", sola fide, and  a mere imputed righteousness respectively. The commentary in regular font is courtesy of 'Matt1618':

Hebrews 3:12-14
Take heed, BRETHREN, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in DEPARTING from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. FOR WE ARE MADE PARTAKERS OF CHRIST, IF WE HOLD THE BEGINNING OF OUR CONFIDENCE STEADFAST UNTO THE END;
We first know that Paul addresses brothers in Christ. He is not writing to people who may have heard the message and telling them to come into the faith where they are guaranteed salvation by getting an imputed righteousness to their account. He tells his brothers in the faith to unswervingly hold onto faith in Christ. If a Christian comes to have an unbelieving heart, Paul tells them that they can fall away from the living God (v. 12) . This is a real threat that we can lose our faith, so we must persist in Christ. If a believer can not fall away from Christ and out of his grace, why does Paul write that believers can fall away? To prevent that Paul then writes that we must exhort one another to stay in Christ. The purpose of exhorting one another is not to merely have good fellowship, though that is no doubt part of it. Paul highlights this instead so that we stay in Christ. Sin is deceitful. Some think that serious sin can not separate one from God. Paul calls that deceitful. Paul here in Hebrews reflects his thoughts in Ephesians 5:4-6: "4 Let there be no filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." We can only share in Christ as mentioned here in Heb. 3:14, if we do not fall into such serious sins,and thus depart from God.
Hebrews 4:11-14
Let us LABOUR therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 4:12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things [are] naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
Paul gives us a paradox. In order for us to enter Godís rest we must labor. He again speaks in a third person, as encouraging not only the readers but also himself. Labor (good works) in the end will produce rest in God. Labor is not merely a byproduct of Godís salvation, it will produce this rest that God gives us. Paul again reiterates that we should not follow the example of the believers who became unbelievers in Egypt, who because of their immorality and unbelief did not rest with God. Jesus is our High Priest who intercedes for us so that we can labor profitably so we can enter that rest.
Hebrews 12:12-17
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with all men, AND FOR THE HOLINESS WITHOUT WHICH NO ONE WILL SEE THE LORD. 15 See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; 16 that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
We must remember that Paul here is speaking to people who are sons (vv. 5-11). In this section, he continues along the same thing but points out the end result of this discipline. In this section he points out an important cause of salvation, and if we do not do this, the eternal consequence of not doing so. As we see Paul constantly doing in this letter, he tells people to be strengthened in Christ and tells of the absolute necessity of perseverance (vv. 12-13). Then he says that one must strive (in other words labor. Laboring = working). One must reach and do. Reach and do what, and what is the end result? According to Paul, one must first strive for peace and holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Thus, in order to see the Lord we must be holy. If we are not holy, we will not see God. Thus, holiness is a cause of salvation. We can disinherit ourselves if we commit a sin that separates us from God (Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:3-6, 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Paul noted a little earlier Heb. 12:5-11, that through some sins we received discipline. However, if one commits a sin that is so against holiness (a mortal sin) he will cut off the relationship with God so much that he won't see God, according to v. 14.
Now Paul warns these same people who are in God's grace (remember he is speaking to people who God is treating as sons - Heb. 12:5-11)that it is possible for the people to "fail to obtain the grace of God" (v. 15). They obviously failed to pursue holiness (v. 14). A root of bitterness can spring up and we can become defiled (v. 15). If we become defiled, we cut ourselves off from God's grace. Then one can become immoral or irreligious like Esau. Now one may say, well, 'Esau was never God's child, therefore it is irrelevant to those of us who are God's children.' The point that Paul makes however, is that we can become like Esau, and not be able to inherit the blessing. The end result of Esau's mortal sin caused him not to be able to inherit the blessing (v. 17). This fleshes out and gives an example of those who commit and die in idolatry and immorality they will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:3-6). [10]
Approximately half of the epistle to the Hebrews warns about apostasizing from the faith. This is a weird theme to cover if those who are justified have their position in the afterlife in any way "secured." Remember, the epistle was written to believers, not non-believers. Therefore, the constant exhortations to avoid "falling into unbelief", to "labour" to "enter into the rest", and to "strive for holiness" are all statements that fly in the face of Protestant theology. For (i) a "saved" person would not have to worry about apostasy and (ii) someone justified "by faith alone" would not need to "labour to enter into that rest" and (iii) a person whose personal holiness had no part of their justification would not have to strive for holiness if the barometer of judgment is Christ's righteousness which is merely imputed to them. Thus, like the other books examined before it, Hebrews refutes all three of these common Protestant canards. If not for space constraints, we could demonstrate this in much more meticulous detail.

However, that is all that will be touched on from Hebrews in this essay because this project needs to be kept to a reasonable length. Thus, due to lack of space the other epistles of Paul (1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon) will not be delved into. However, we have addressed the main ones cited by Protestants to defend their doctrines of sola fide, "eternal security", and a merely imputed righteousness. If their main sources fail to withstand scrutiny -- which unquestionably is the case -- then it would be absurd for someone think that the "lessor" books in the Protestant paradigm, would somehow carry the weight where the books they reference the most fail to do so. And that brings us to another point to cover in brief before wrapping this essay up: the strange way that Protestants "rank" Scripture books.

It is almost a given among Protestants to consider Romans and Galatians as the Gospel over and against anything else in the Bible. (Including ironically the Gospels themselves.) It is reminicent of George Orwell's book Animal Farm. To paraphrase the dictum of the animals and relate it to the Protestant view of Scripture it is clear that "all of Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), however some Scriptures (Romans and Galatians) are more God-breathed then others." To which my immediate reply is "rubbish!!!"

All Scripture is God-breathed and there is no viable reason whatsoever for emphasizing Romans and Galatians over any of the books of the Bible.  However, because of the defective paradigm where those books are so emphasized, most of this essay's focus was on the epistles to the Romans and Galatians. Nonetheless, it is manifestly obvious that the Apostle Paul barely touched on the same themes as the others in the NT when it comes to faith that worketh by charity in those two epistles. (He did a bit in Romans 2 and 13 along with Galatians 6 but not much else.) His predominant and overwhelming emphasis in both the Romans and Galatians passages so commonly appropriated by Protestant sola fide advocates was specifically on works righteousness. This is not the same thing as faith that worketh by charity.

This is made clear in the constant references to "works of the law", "the law", and "circumcision/uncircumcision". As we have seen, these refer constantly to the Law of Moses and how no works of the law can justify someone. And they were addressed to those who felt that to be a faithful Christian one needed to in essence be Jewish: they needed to be circumcized and to keep the whole law in all of its parts without distinction. It is the heighth of faulty exegesis to ascribe this term as a blanket condemnation of all kinds of works indiscriminately in order to prop up a novel notion such as salvation "by faith alone". Even the references to Abraham that the Protestant apologist thinks helps his cause actually hinders it. For as we have already noted, the law came into being about four hundred odd years after Abraham's time. Therefore it would not have been possible for Abraham to have been justified by the law. And by this example, the Judaizing which some of the Galatians and Romans were practicing was proven to be not required.

Paulís whole point in Romans and Galatians (for the most part) is that just as Abraham was not justified by the law but was justified by faith, so are we. But Protestant apologists and theologians constantly err in their understanding of what Paul was trying to convey when citing Abraham in both the Romans and Galatians epistles (2 Pet. 3:14-17). Let us clarify this a bit before summarizing this essay with a simple statement which an explanation will be provided for: Abrahamís justification was by faith working through love not faith alone. In offering his son Issac on the altar, Abraham showed that his love of God exceeded his love of Issac: that is charity in a nutshell exemplified by Abraham and is what justified him according to the Apostle James (James 2:20ff). Abraham was justified by an active faith grounded in Godís promise to him (Gen. 15:6). Further still, as we noted earlier, Genesis 15:6 is clearly foreshadowing because Abraham does not even know that Sarah will give birth until after God reveals his perpetual covenant to him in Genesis 17. And consider what happens when Abraham learns about Sarah giving birth at her advanced age.

When Abraham hears that Sarah will give birth, he laughs in his heart (see Genesis 17). Only after a light rebuke from God does Abraham resume his continual pattern of obedience to God's commands which started when he was still Abram and he heeded the Lord's command to "go forth out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and out of thy father's house, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-2). Further still, the Lord also promised him that "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). God also had reiterated this promise to Abraham about the land in Genesis 13:14-18 and Melchisedech blessed Abraham in Genesis 14. All of this preceded Genesis 15:6. And it can properly be interpreted as foreshadowing in the same manner that "before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha" in Genesis 13 forshadowed what was to come later in Genesis 18 and 19.

In fact, Genesis is not unknown for this type of foreshadowing. Another example is when numbering the descendants of Esau the great grandson of Abraham who ruled in Edom "before the children of Israel had a king". There would be no kings in the Israel timeline for at least seven hundred years from Genesis 31 until 1 Samuel when King Saul was anointed as Israel's first king. (Likewise, Genesis 1's reference to God creating man "male and female" before Genesis 2 explains the creation of man followed by the creation of woman.) So when one considers the tendency of the Genesis writers to rely on foreshadowing as well as the pattern both before Genesis 15:6 and after Genesis 15:6, it becomes clear that Abraham's "belief" in God which is mentioned is not intended to be understood as Protestant theologians presume that it is. For Protestant theology consists of taking a handful of verses literally and spiritualizing away the rest. Catholic theology by contrast takes the verses in a variety of senses but primarily literally. And we consider it the utmost of disingenuousness to do otherwise. But let us get back to Genesis and the sequence of events leading up to Genesis 22.

After making the covenant with Abraham and the latter had laughed at the idea of his wife Sarah giving birth at her advanced age (not to mention Abraham's ability to beget offspring at his age), Abraham dutifuly accepted a light rebuke from God and followed his commands to ratify acceptance of the covenant made. (See the last half of Genesis 17.) Then in Genesis 18, Abraham intercedes for Sodom and at best succeeds halfway as the city was destroyed. (The Lord ushering the last just people from the town before doing so.) In Genesis 19 he is scarcely mentioned and then in Genesis 20 he is pulling the old "Sarah is my sister" routine with the king of Gerara as he did in Genesis 12 with the king of Egypt. Issac meanwhile is not born until Genesis 21 and Abraham's other son with his mother were driven from the house by Sarah after this event takes place. So Abraham has not up to this time had any of the promised descendants and we are now to the point where the Apostle James refers to Abraham being "justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar...[as] that faith did cooperate with his works and by works faith was made perfect" (cf. James 2:21-22). Let us consider what the Apostle is saying in that passage so often overlooked or explained away by Protestant commentators.

By offering his son on the altar (being stopped by the angel right before be killed his son), Abraham completed his faith by obedience to and love of God above all things even over the love he had for his own son. Genesis records the intevention of the angel just as Abraham was about to slay his son with the words "Lay not thy hand upon the boy, neither do thou any thing to him: now I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake" (Genesis 22:12). So if it took this act to confirm that Abraham truly feared God and sought to obey Him, then it is not possible to postulate that Abraham had proven this in Genesis 15:6. And the facile assertion that James was explaining how to be justified "before men" falls on its face as a pitiful attempt to evade the literal sense of the text. Abraham did not prove his righteousness before men according to the text. Instead, he proved it to the Lord.

The Apostle James in referencing the text makes it clear that righteousness before God was not a one time thing. Instead, righteousness is something that must be an ongoing willingness to do what God requests regardless of how it inconveniences the individual. Abraham in placing love of God above all thing and by his actions works of charity (grounded in his faith in Godís promise from Gen. 15:6) truly justified him. And the Apostle James noted the following about the obedience shown in Genesis 22: and the scripture was fulfilled, saying: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice, and he was called the friend of God" (James 2:23). In short, Genesis 15:6 was fulfilled in Genesis 22 and Abraham by being able to be referred to as righteous through his faith was thereby justified by faith and not by the works of a written law that came into existence four hundred odd years after he passed away. The Apostle Paul had already prepared the ground in Romans 2 for explaining how those who "have not the law" are justified. To reiterate that teaching, the Apostle taught that "for not the hearers of the law are just before God: but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom. 2:13). And he follows this up with this explanation:

14 For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these, having not the law, are a law to themselves. 15 Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them: and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another [11]

Consider the application of this principle now to the Patriarch Abraham:

14 For when [Abraham], who [had] not the law, [did] by nature those things that are of the law; these, having not the law, are a law to themselves. 15 Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them: and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another
The summary of Romans 2 is also worth recounting here:
26 If then, the uncircumcised keep the justices of the law, shall not this uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not that which by nature is uncircumcision, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision art a transgressor of the law? 28 For it is not he is a Jew, who is so outwardly: nor is that circumcision which is outwardly in the flesh. 29 But he is a Jew that is one inwardly and the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter: whose praise is not of men, but of God. [12]
The same principle applied to the uncircumcised Gentile without the law as to the circumcised Jew with the law. And even though Abraham was circumcised, he did not have the law outwardly. Instead, he had it inwardly and though he had circumcision of the flesh, he also had circumcision of the heart. And ultimately, we will be judged by Our Lord and Saviour on whether or not we have circumcision of the heart.

That is precisely how Romans and James are reconciled and in neither case must their literal import be explained away. (Yet if you read any Protestant theologian, they will have to explain away the Apostle James to defend an interpretation of the Apostle Paul from Romans and Galatians that is at variance with the actual teaching of the Scriptures - be they the Gospels, the Epistles of the Apostle Peter, the Epistle of James, the Epistles of John and his Book of Revelation, the Epistle of Jude, the Old Testament, the other epistles credited to Paul, and yes, even Romans and Galatians when the latter are read without glasses heavily coloured with the unbiblical notions of Luther, Calvin, and those influenced by them (cf. 2 Pet. 3:14-17).


[1] 1 Corinthians 3:7-14

[2] 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

[4] Ephesians 2:8-10

[5] Council of Trent Session VI: Decree on Justification, Chapter VIII (January 13, 1547)

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:9-10

[7] Colossians 3:12-17

[8] Phillippians 2:1-16

[9] Philippians 3:1-14

[10] 'Matt1618': Excerpts from his essay "Paul, Faith, Works, Obedience, Righteousness, and Salvation" (c. 2000)

[11] Romans 2:14-15

Other Notes:

The Scripture citations unless otherwise noted were taken from an online Douay-Rheims Bible that is similar in many ways to the online Douay-Rheims Bible located at the following link:

The citations from the Council of Trent were obtained at the following link:

The citation from 'Matt1618' was taken from his essay "Paul, Faith, Works, Obedience, Righteousness, and Salvation" located at the following link:
©2003, 2000, "Justification by Faith Working in Love", written by I. Shawn McElhinney. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.

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