Faith Works

A professor I had in college once said, "Knowledge is the amassing of facts, while wisdom is the ability to use those facts in a correct way." Not bad for a college professor. There is a group of Old Testament books known as "wisdom literature." Proverbs is one of those books and the word "wisdom" is used 59 times in the 31 chapters. There is one book in the New Testament that gives us some of the same "wisdom literature" flavor. It is the book of James. We do not see many commentaries on this particular book. But the book merits attention and the study of it will reward the diligent.

Be Mature is a commentary written by Warren Wiersbe, whom I have found to be a helpful expositor. This is one of the "Be" series on the New Testament. Each one I have read is of real value. Written originally for an adult Sunday School curriculum, the book has 13 short chapters, helpful in digesting small portions of the book. Also while expositionally sound, it is written in non-technical, easy to read, language.

There are two helpful commentators that use more verse by verse exposition. One is George Waugh in the What the Bible Teaches series, published by John Ritchie. Each of the writers in this series is an able and respected teacher in New Testament assemblies and thus the perspective is familiar. This is helpful in such passages as the one on praying with the sick, anointing them with oil. This problematic passage has many different interpretations. I am guilty of turning to such passages and using them as a "litmus test" for the rest of the book, which is not completely fair. But in a controversial passage such as the one in Chapter 5, it's a good test of orthodoxy. This commentary is solid, does not dodge the issues, and the author has sound reasoning for his interpretation.

A kindred commentary is by D. Edmund Heibert. He has written in the Everyman's Bible Commentary series, published by Moody Press. One feature that struck me about this commentary was the range of resource materials quoted. Some of you will like that feature, some won't. It is well written, verse by verse, and he uses his knowledge of the Greek to practical effect. This is the heaviest book I read on this practical epistle. How does he handle the "litmus test" passage? He gives the exposition of the passage and makes no further comment. By doing this, he at least doesn't get into trouble with anyone.

Another book is a brief introduction to the epistle by Albert McShane. He calls his book The Power of Faith. In the introduction, McShane says, "Apart from commentators who have covered the entire Bible...very few writers have chosen the epistle of James...Perhaps the chief reason is that many have found difficulty in discovering any order in its composition...In the past as far as brethren in assemblies are concerned, it has virtually been left alone...Readers will notice that no attempt has been made to take them through all the process of study involved in this work, but rather to give them the results acquired." He then proceeds to a 60-page introduction to the book instead of the needed exposition that he seems to have promised in his introduction. Results of the work without the qualifying process tend to cause the readers to rely on the writer and not the text itself. That becomes a dangerous precedent. Having said that, may I say that McShane's results are helpful in most areas.

For maturing in the Christian life, one does well to know and put the principles of James into practice. The above suggested books will help bring his epistle into focus for us.