In the third chapter of his epistle, James gets down to the nitty-gritty. The empire-wide trial that had come upon the churches of God had to do with false doctrine spread by false teachers. This was an organized conspiracy begun by Annas, the high priest of Jerusalem, the very same who had Jesus crucified. It was a secret plan whereby he had planted false brethren throughout the Christian assemblies in Asia, Galatia and Greece (cf. Acts 5 and the Ananias and Sapphira incident). Paul knew about the plan, but, of course, was not privy to the identity of the false brethren. He told the churches in Greece that the conspiracy was already at work (2Thessalonians 2:7), but Paul’s presence among the churches in the area was enough to keep secret evil plan from gaining a strong foothold among them.
Since Paul’s imprisonment, however, the plan virtually exploded, and this is what James’ epistle is all about. He addresses all the churches throughout the Diaspora (James 1:1) concerning a common trial that had erupted throughout the churches of God (James 1:2). If we consider the implications of James’ first two verses, we might ask how could all these churches experience the same kind of trouble at the same time throughout such a vast area without there being a secret plan at the root of it all? Remember, this was the 1st century AD not the 21st; communication was not that great. If, on the other hand, a wicked conspiracy already existed to undermine the Messianic assemblies throughout the empire, it would only take a few letters sent throughout the Diaspora to set it all in motion at virtually the same time.
James began the third chapter of his epistle with an advisory not to try to be teachers of the word, because, as teachers, we would receive the greater judgment of God. James also used encrypted language to get his point across. Using references to beasts and the tongue, he would bring to mind John’s message of the false prophet or the mouth of the beast in Revelation 13, and I believe it was this inference that got James killed by Ananias, the high priest and son of Annas, cir. 62 AD.
James described the tongue as an unruly member that could not be tamed (James 3:8), boasting great things (James 3:5; cf. Revelation 13:5). It defiles the whole body (James 3:6) with its incongruities, in that both blessing and cursing come from the same mouth (James 3:10), blessing God and cursing men whom God had made (James 3:9). James applied this generally to the whole church under trial with the rising up of the false teachers, but specifically it referred to Annas when his epistle is compared with Revelation 13.
There exists two types of wisdom, one evil and the other pure and good. One comes out of the evil heart of man (Matthew 12:34, cf. Revelation 13:5; 13:6-7), while the other proceeds from the Spirit of God. The one causes bitter envying and strife in one’s heart (James 3:14) and is earthly, sensual and slanderous (verse-15), and where strife exists there is confusion and every kind of evil work (James 3:16). Herein, James has described the fruit of Annas’ ministry as the high priest at Jerusalem. “Behold how great a matter a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5), where Annas is the tongue (the mouth in Revelation 13). His work is described as a fire, a world of iniquity, defiling the whole body and the work of hell (James 3:6). Remember, the church at this time was still considered a part of Judaism, so the leadership at Jerusalem, whether of God or of man, was felt throughout the churches of God.
On the other hand, that which is from God is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easily entreated (not characteristics of the Annas priesthood). It is full of mercy, the fruits of the Spirit and exercised without partiality. It is the fruit of righteousness sown in peace by men who make peace (James 3:17-18). The contrast was obvious. Whoever is peaceful, gentle and easily entreated is of Christ, while those who cause strife and confusion, envy and injure the reputation of others are not of Christ.