By George M. Stulac
Downers Grove, IL
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
5.2 (Fall 1994) : 237-238
This is a lucid, valuable part of the InterVarsity NT Commentary Series, done by a former InterVarsity director who pastors Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Louis. It is a simplified survey of James, informed by substantial use of good tools. Stulac gets at the "gist" of many passages, keeping the main ideas clear and articulating the applicational relevance. Pastors and students who need more detailed help will find it in such as Davids, Adamson, Lenski, Hiebert, Mayor, Mitton, and Moo. However, this work is often insightful, and takes its place as one of the top three popular expositions, alongside those by Homer Kent and Simon Kistemaker.
Stulac thinks James the Just, the Lord's brother, wrote the book in the late 40's. The purpose is to refute a Jewish-Christian misunderstanding of Christ's lordship (17). Trials of the epistle came in the diaspora of Acts 8:1-3, before Paul's epistles (23). Paul in Romans 3`4 and James in 2:14-26 correlate consistently; Paul uses dikaioō to mean "declared to be righteous in the judicial sense of `acquitted,'" whereas James uses the verb in the sense of "shown to be righteous" in a moral sense in acts of daily life (21).
The epistle encourages faith amidst suffering, reflecting servanthood to Christ. By faith one can have joy in trial (1:2), show impartiality (2:1-13), bless and not curse people even in trials (3:9), be cheerful (5:9), be at peace rather than fighting other believers (4:1-2), pray and trust God during sickness (5:13-14) (31).
One good section deals with trust when one lacks material wealth, the kinds of reactions one can feel, and false notions that money means personal security, power, and advantage (33-39).
Stulac sees 1:12 as a summary drawing together major elements in 1:3-11. He never says so, but he apparently takes the "crown of life" to be "the crown which consists of life." This is the ultimate fulfillment, eternal life for all the saved, all of whom love God in some measure and live faithfully in trials (49).
"Deceived" in 1:22-24 is not a warning to genuine Christians to be more serious. It is a warning against one's false assumption of his own salvation when his religion has been only external. "The core of accepting salvation is accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord. If I am saved, I will give myself to the doing of my Lord's word. It is not that I will attempt to save myself by obeying commands; rather, because I am saved, I will set my heart on doing the will of God who is my Saviour" (75). A long section develops how Stulac feels a person today would be only a hearer, self-deceived, in a belief that is merely relativistic, superstitious, emotional, or theoretical (76-78).
At times the work is fairly detailed in stating and supporting different viewpoints. Stulac decides that God jealously desires the human spirit He gave us to be committed wholeheartedly to Him rather than the world. In 5:14-16 the problem is physical sickness with sin possibly involved. The anointing is with oil as in Mark 6:13, but healing depends on the Lord and not the oil. Faith is the principle for all Christian living in 1:6 and throughout the epistle. He sees the passage as applicable today.
Most things appear to be clear, even though concise. The author passes over some points. For example, copious remarks stress being joyful and show that joy is not denial, complaint, or self-pity (39). But he never says what joy is, positively; he leaves that vague. Converting a sinner in 5:19-20, to the commentator, refers either to evangelizing a non-Christian or helping a saved person get right by repentance. Some will wonder if saving a soul from death suggests one interpretation or the other.
All in all, the work is usable for general readers and only a light refreshment with occasional help for those who give attention to detail in teaching.