“God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'" Acts 17:24-28
The big picture version of the interruption in the story is that most of the Bible is written TO the nation of Isreal and a smaller part of it is written TO the Body of Christ. They are NOT one and the same with different names. They ARE two different gospels. TWO different methods of salvation. Before you call me a heretic (I get that a lot!), hear me out, please. It’ll make sense to you if you allow yourself to question it and study it for yourself. Once you see the difference, it’s hard to UNsee it! It’s exciting!
These differences are the reason my outlines no longer match up with the Bible Project overviews. The Bible Project calls Jesus followers “Messianic Jews” which makes sense to them because they don’t see the different gospels. But it doesn’t make sense to me because I can’t unsee the different gospel (Gal. 1:6). The book of Acts calls them followers of “The Way” (Acts 9:2, 19:9 and 23, 22:4, 24:14 and 22) and they were the ones persecuted by the Jewish leaders. Messianic Judaism is a fairly recent denomination in church history; it only emerged during the 1800s, so it wasn’t a thing in Saul’s day.
The greeting at the beginning of each book is a good clue as to whom the letter was written. James, a.k.a. Jacob, greets “the 12 tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1) and Saul/Paul greets “the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:2). One gospel is called the Kingdom of God (Prophecy) and the other gospel is called the Grace of God (Mystery). The method of salvation for the Kingdom of God is faith + works. The method of salvation for the Grace of God is faith alone. We’ll continue to see these different gospels compared and contrasted as we read. Can you figure out which gospel James is preaching and which one Paul is preaching?
Are you starting to see differences? I hope so!
UPDATE 21 November 2019: I feel compelled to comment after reading James this morning. A dispensation, simply put, is house rules. There are a total of 12 dispensations throughout the Bible (some dispensationalists see more, some see less). Without going into too much detail about each one, I’ll just say, for now, that the dispensation in effect at Paul’s conversion was called “Kingdom Offered,” which is the 5th of 5 dispensations in the Covenant of Circumcision. In order to be saved, these Jews had to believe, among other things, that Jesus was their promised Messiah, they had to continue in the works of the law (circumcision, baptism, etc.), and they had to abide in Jesus.
With the Jews blaspheming the Holy Spirit (strike 3, you’re out!), God raised up Paul to usher in the Grace of God. Soon we’ll read that God sets Israel aside as His chosen people for a time while He focuses on the Body of Christ. In this dispensation of Grace, we’re saved by faith alone. No works. God did all the work, we just believe.
That said, in reading James today, you may have thought you saw contradictions to Grace. Rest assured, you absolutely did see contradictions to Grace. That’s because James is not speaking to Grace believers, he’s still speaking to Jews (the 12 tribes, remember?). The most blatant “contradiction” is in chapter 2, where he preaches that “Faith without works is dead.” If you read that from the perspective of salvation coming through Faith + Works it makes sense, right? But when you try to apply it to Faith Alone, it’s truly contradictory, isn’t it? Do you see the separation and agree that there is no contradiction or confusion here? The other stuff in James (non-salvation related) we can certainly apply to practical living, though, so don’t dismiss the wisdom there.
I hope this helps you to understand that God is NOT the author of confusion or the maker of chaos. He is the giver of grace and the maker of life!