Dr. Don Sunukjian, professor at Talbot Seminary, La Mirada, Calif., will host Pastorpedia Live on Wednesday, June 5, at CE National’s Russell Center. The event is sponsored by Grace Seminary and CE National.
Dr. Sunukjian talks about his topic, How to Preach the Book of James—No String of Pearls
A typical approach to James is to view it as a loose collection of exhortations, with no particular thematic flow or progression of thought. But this “string of pearls” understanding is probably not correct.
Instead, there are literary features in the book which point very strongly to a unifying focus on the “trials” that James’ former parishioners are going through. His entire letter is about how they should respond to these trials in order to receive the blessing God intends.
Once we see this unifying focus, it will change how we interpret and preach many of the sections of the book—especially the section which begins, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers” (James 3:1).
Typically, this passage is preached as a warning against becoming a Bible teacher—”because you might misrepresent the Word of God, and God will judge you for leading his people astray doctrinally”.
It has always been awkward, however, to preach the passage this way, because we are Bible teachers, warning people not to do what we are doing. Further, the scriptures everywhere else present being a Bible teacher as a good thing—e.g., God gives pastor-teachers to the church (Ephesians 4:11), and Paul commands Timothy to find faithful men who will be able to teach others also (II Timothy. 2:2). Our typical handling of this passage, therefore, ends up being at odds with other biblical teaching.
Hopefully we’ll see a much more accurate and satisfying interpretation of this passage, and others, as we trace the theme which James introduces at the very start–“how to persevere through trials in order to receive the crown of life” (James 1:1-12).
Dr. Sunukjian taught preaching for 10 years at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He also served as pastor of churches in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Austin, Texas, before coming to Talbot Seminary. With doctorates in both theology (Dallas Seminary) and communications (UCLA), he brings both experience and scholarship to his classroom.
Dr. Sunukjian has written for biblical commentaries and preaching books. He has authored, Invitation to Biblical Preaching, and three volumes of biblical exposition covering Philippians, James, and the life of Jacob.
He and his wife, Nell, enjoy taking leisurely walks on the piers of California and enjoy their growing family of five children and 18 grandchildren.