Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Press, 2018
Are you looking for a Bible study book for your small group? If so, I’d like to recommend the Let’s Study series on each book in the New Testament. It’s published by Banner of Truth Press in Scotland. The series “seeks to combine explanation and application. The aim is the exposition of Scripture written in the language of a friend, seated alongside you with an open Bible.”
The editor of the entire series and the author of several books in the series is pastor-theologian Sinclair B. Ferguson who ministers both in his home country of Scotland and in the United States. Dr. Ferguson is both a Bible scholar and a pastor. His books are strong in exegesis, as well as application. His pastoral heart shines through in all he writes. In my opinion he treats the text of James like a physician seeking to diagnose a sick patient and prescribe the proper treatment for him. Very insightful. Very pastoral.
Each chapter is a commentary on a section of the epistle of James with questions for discussion. I appreciate that the author helps us to see the theological foundation of the practical truths found in James, and he often brings us back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. His teaching is not moralistic, but Gospel centered.
Ferguson also has a knack for seeing how the verses all fit together. In the past when I’ve studied the epistle of James it has often seemed to just be a collection of rather disconnected thoughts, much like the book of Proverbs. I was unable to connect the verses in a way that made sense to me. Using this study guide has help me to understand better how they all fit together, in addition to how they apply to my life.
An honest confession: I had been confused how the word “justify” is used in the New Testament. The author helped me to see this word in the Greek New Testament is used in two ways. It can mean God counting a sinner righteous in Christ by grace through faith. It can also be used to show someone to be righteous by his actions.
From James chapter 2 Ferguson explains why partiality is wrong in an interesting way: “And the marvel is this – whether we are wise or simple, old or young, male or female, and yes rich or poor – we have been dignified by the noble name of the Lord Jesus, not because of what we are, but because of who He is and what He became for our sake. Our dignity and worth are found in Him, not in ourselves. …
“Now we begin to see why showing partiality is so wrong. In fact, it undercuts the very foundation of the gospel. It is the antithesis of grace. For when we understand and respond to God’s grace in Christ we say something like this:
When I was helpless, Christ died for me.
When I was poor, He enriched me.
When I was tainted by sin, He threw His arms around me.
When I was unloved, He kissed me in His grace.
When I was naked, He clothed me in His garments.
When I was an orphan, He brought me to His own Father.
When I had no friends, He gave me His whole family.
When earth left me starving, He fed me with bread from heaven.
When nothing would satisfy my thirst, He gave me living water.
When I was in darkness, He gave me the light of life.
When I was lost, He found me.
When I was a stranger, He took me in.
When I was without hope, He gave me the hope of glory.
When I had nothing to give Him, He gave me everything He had.
And when I die, He will let me live with Him forever.