Preaching Through James

December 15, 2011

This last year I finished a series through the book of James entitled, Authentic Faith. I divided up this book into 15 messages and gave the congregation the entire outline of the series before we began. It was a terrific study, one that challenged me as a preacher and offered a great challenge for our church. James is one of those books that is not very difficult to figure out in that it is written directly to the church. Sure there are some cultural considerations to consider, of course, but not as much as other books. James was plain-spoken, speaking in the wisdom literature style of the Hebrew Scriptures.

I thought I would post some of the resources I used as I made my way through this book.

Be Mature by Warren Wiersbe

This is part of Wiersbe’s highly acclaimed “Be” Series. I actually have the entire series, compiled as the Biblical Exposition Series. (Now titled, the Wiersbe Bible Commentary) I have it as part of the Preaching Library in Wordsearch. But if you didn’t want to invest all that you can pick up the single copy of Be Mature fairly inexpensively.

I typically use Wiersbe with every series I use, just to get a basic overview of the book. I like how Wiersbe breaks down the sections in each chapter. This is typically where I start with every series. It’s a basic-level commentary set I recommend, especially for beginning pastors like myself.

Treasures from James by Rod Mattoon

Rod Mattoon is senior pastor of Lincoln Land Baptist Church in Springfield, IL. He is not that well-known, but his commentaries are incredibly rich and detailed and have cultural and Scriptural insights that make them unique. He is an expert at alliteration and also features additional studies on topics that come up in the text (backsliding, gossip, etc). I discovered these after they became available in Wordsearch. I believe you can also purchase the hardback books here.

James, Faith that Works by R. Kent Hughes.

Hughes may be my favorite pastor and expositor and commentator. He was the longtime pastor of College Church in Wheaton. Hughes has a way of grapping the central theme of the text. He includes rich cultural information and is first-rate writer. He is the commentator I quote from the most, I think. It’s also available in Wordsearch.

The Complete Biblical Library

This an awesome, 39 volume set compiled by 50 scholars that is available exclusively in Wordsearch. What is especially great about this is that it allows for some really terrific Greek and Hebrew word study. There is a commentary portion as well as a Greek Bible and in Wordsearch its a snap to look up words. It was out of print for many years, but Wordsearch has put it back into circulation, at least in their software.

The Letter of James by Douglas Moo

I had this recommended to me by several people and I’m glad I purchased it. This is more of a technical commentary, but its especially helpful when there is a section of text that you’re just not sure how to interpret, especially when there are a few ways that it has historically been interpreted by orthodox believers. Moo does a great job of presenting all of the typical ways a passage has been interpreted and then presents his opinion, but in a very objective, dispassionate way. And often there are third-way approaches that involve greater textual study and cultural considerations. This was a very useful reference for me in my study.

Solid Stepping Stones by Robert Lightner

This a simple study guide created for group study, not necessarily a commentary. Nevertheless it was helpful for me to see how Dr. Lightner, a professor at Dallas Seminary, boiled down the immense truths to eye-level for his readers. Sometimes its difficult for pastors to get out of the heaviness of the text and the cultural background and present a practical, life-changing message. This is was something I consulted often at the end of my study to see  if the main points I was emphasizing were indeed worthy of emphasis in my message.

A Thirst for Wholeness by Jay Adams

This is book on the book of James by well-known counselor, Jay Adams. I used this with the first few chapters. James brings out some powerful insights on how to apply James to our personal relational problems. However, I found this a bit difficult to navigate, because Adams is never clear, in each chapter, which section of James he’s covering. So when you’re preparing a text its hard to go find that corresponding text in this book. Perhaps a read-thru of the entire book before preaching might be a good exercise.

Additional Resources: 

  • Tullian Tchividjian’s sermons series on James, preached at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
  • ESV Study Bible – I found the notes to be incredibly helpful