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Truth For Life: A Devotional Commentary on the Epistle of James, by John Blanchard. Webster, New York: Evangelical Press USA, 2003. Pp. vii – 404. $16.99 (paper). [Reviewed by Prof. Robert D. Decker.]

 

In many ways this is a fine commentary on the Epistle of James. The author’s title accurately states that this is a devotional commentary. The author’s writing style is pleasing, nicely worded, and easy to read. The style is not at all cluttered with the technical language of Hermeneutics (rules for Bible exposition). This means that the commentary, though the author works from the Greek, can profitably be used for personal and family devotions as well as to prepare one for a Bible Study Society.

An example of the author’s style is as follows:

We need to carry this same lofty conception of our Saviour into our evangelism, too. When a friend of mine was still a young preacher he was given a piece of advice that I have never heard bettered; “Young man, whenever you preach, be sure that you do two things—lift the Saviour high and lay the sinner low.” That advice was never more relevant than now. Some evangelism seems to me to run the risk of suggesting that there are ways in which a sinner can bring himself into the position where he will be acceptable to the Saviour, and then of bringing the Lord down in order to make him accessible to the sinner, so that one is eventually presented with the suggestion that two equals should come to an agreement. Beware of anything that remotely smacks of that kind of thing! Lift the Saviour high! Speak of his glory, his majesty, and his power, as well as of his mercy, love and grace. Then lay the sinner low. Show him that he is not just unhappy or unfulfilled, but “dead in …transgressions and sins” (

Ephesians 2:1

) and in need of a miracle if he is ever to receive eternal life (pp. 12-13).

Blanchard finds the theme of the Epistle in chapter two verses 14-26, where James speaks of the relationship between faith and works. This reviewer is of the conviction that the theme of the Epistle of James is summed in chapter 1:26-27. Blanchard’s interpretation of the passage, however, is right on target. The author faces head on the question whether the passage is in conflict with Romans 3:28. After he writes, “Now if Paul and James are in conflict, then the whole of the New Testament is in ruins, and the authority and unity of the Bible destroyed,” Blanchard demonstrates conclusively that there is no conflict at all between those two passages (cf. pp. 159 – 175). The advocates of the heresy of justification by faith and works would do well to ponder what Blanchard has to say in the two chapters cited above.

The author clearly and sharply refutes the heresy of Arminianism (cf. p. 64). Blanchard also clearly affirms the doctrine of God’s sovereign predestination. Writes he, “Remove that truth from the Bible and you are left with a haphazard jumble of religious words; recognize it in the Bible and you have a firm basis for everything else you read” (p. 122). Blanchard continues by explaining that predestination is “incontestable,” “unconventional,” and “unconditional” (cf. pp. 122-126).

The commentary is not without faults. Blanchard strongly affirms the error of common grace by misinterpreting the common, so-called “proof texts” (Ps. 145:9, 16; I Tim. 4:10Matt. 5:45). The author does this while interpreting James 4:4-6! This would mean, if Blanchard’s view were correct, that God is gracious to His and our enemies whom the saints may not love, and that God, at one and the same time, is gracious to the proud and resists the proud!

Blanchard also incorrectly interprets James 5:14-15 to refer to physical healing. This reviewer would point out that the AV translation of the Greek verb in verse 15 is correct. The text reads, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick….” The text does not read, “shall heal the sick.” As a matter of fact, the text continues by speaking of the forgiveness of the sins of the sick person.

With these caveats we recommend the commentary.