Bible Study 101 #7

Saturday, January 11, 2014

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).

The only verse that tells you to study the Bible also tells you how to study the Bible!

We often hear about “Bible contradictions.” One of the most critical and obvious examples—a major issue during the Reformation, and still divisive among Protestants and Roman Catholics today—is justification by faith without works versus justification by faith plus works. Protestants quote, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). Roman Catholics quote, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Well, which is it? Faith plus works, or faith without works? The Bible clearly teaches both!

So, what do we do at this point? Throw the Bible away, dismissing it as “riddled with errors?” Nay! Before we grab the verse we prefer and attempt to claim it, we MUST pay attention to the context! Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles (Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; 2 Timothy 1:11), wrote Romans 3:28. James, an apostle of Israel (Galatians 2:9), wrote the epistle of James. Romans is clearly written to Gentile Christians in Rome (Romans 1:5-7), and James 1:1 says that James is writing to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (Israel!).

We do not combine James and Paul and make their doctrine one—their teachings are to be “rightly divided,” separated unto their audiences. Scripture is not contradictory concerning Romans 3:28 and James 2:24. These verses are written to different groups of people living in different circumstances, so they teach different doctrines. James 2:24 has nothing to do with us Gentiles; the context says it is Israel’s doctrine. Romans 3:28 is our doctrine!

Just as Acts 3:21—“spoken since the world began”—and Romans 16:25—“kept secret since the world began”—seem contradictory, they are speaking of two separate programs (prophecy and mystery, respectively). James 2:24 belongs to the former and Romans 3:28 belongs to the latter.

Again, the Bible becomes so clear when we use God’s Word, God’s way….