Reviewed by: Daniel F. Patterson
Date posted: 12/27/2009
The 24/7 Christian: Practical Help from the Book of James, by Anthony Selvaggio. Published by Evangelical Press, 2008. Paperback, 165 pages, list price $14.99. Reviewed by OP minister Daniel F. Patterson.
Anthony Selvaggio has provided the church with a practical primer on the book of James. The book seems to be a collection of sermons or Bible studies adapted for publication. As such, it possesses three important qualities that will benefit pastors and laypersons alike.
First, the book is redemptive in focus. It is easy, while studying James, to lose sight of its redemptive focus, reducing it to a collection of moral imperatives. Selvaggio carefully avoids that error. He points out that "James' purpose is to encourage those who have accepted the theology of Christ to adopt it in practice" (p. 22). Furthermore, Selvaggio argues that James is Christ-centered in three ways. First, James speaks with the voice of wisdom, wisdom that only Jesus can grant. Second, the epistle has an eschatological emphasis, calling believers to appropriate into the present age the realities of Christ's second coming. Third, there are echoes of Jesus' words throughout James (pp. 23-25). Selvaggio carefully weaves these aspects of Christ's person and work into his book, bringing the reader back to their standing before God in Christ.
Second, the book is reasoned in its exegesis. Selvaggio's conviction that the text of the Scriptures should be carefully followed is evident throughout the book. Each chapter lucidly opens up a portion of James, providing the reader with a theme and then subsections that expand on that theme. Chapter 3, for example, is entitled "The Reasons for Our Trials" and includes the following subsections: "To Test Our Faith," "To Cultivate Perseverance in Us," and "To Bring Us to Perfection." This approach to the epistle allows the reader to follow James's argument easily, as it supplies exegetical pegs on which to hang the study of each passage. The divisions also provide pastors with ideas for homiletical outlines.
Third, the book is relevant in its exhortations. This is highlighted by the title of the book, The 24/7 Christian. One of the challenges with any book of the Bible is not just the "what?" of a passage, but the "so what?" of it. Selvaggio drives home the practical nature of the issues James addresses, such as greed, pride, gossip, prayer, trials, and faithfulness.
With this said, the reviewer has one quibble with the book. This involves not what Selvaggio says, but what he fails to say. In his exposition of James 5:13-18, Selvaggio is conspicuously silent on the exegetical and pastoral issue of whether anointing the sick with oil should be continued in the church today. Both pastor and layperson will face this question when studying James, and therefore it should be addressed in any study of the book.