New Defender's Study Bible Notes
3:15 earthly, sensual, devilish. The “wisdom” of this world will “come to nought” (I Corinthians 2:6), for it is of “the world, the flesh and the devil” (earthly, sensual, devilish). It is humanistic, or man-centered, and therefore inevitably leads to envy and strife between men (James 3:16). The man of true wisdom, centered in Christ (I Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:3) will show his works, in the context of godly behavior, with “meekness” (literally “gentleness”) of wisdom (James 3:13; note also II Timothy 2:24-26).
3:17 from above. The “wisdom that is from above” answers to the seven pillars of wisdom of Proverbs 9:1. As Proverbs is the Old Testament book of wisdom, contrasting wisdom and folly, so James, in the New Testament, contrasts the wisdom from above and that of the world, the flesh and the devil. Thus, the seven pillars of the house of true wisdom are built on Christ, the one foundation (note Proverbs 8, adumbrating Christ, the Word, as the Creator of all things and, therefore, the only source of true wisdom), constituting the stability of genuine Christian character. These seven characteristics, as given in this verse, are thus the measure of genuine wisdom. They are:
(1) “Pure,” a character made clean by the “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5); since this attribute is listed as “first,” it may be considered as the central pillar, surrounded by the other six. Without purity of life and doctrine, the other pillars will fall;
(2) “Peaceable” (note again II Timothy 2:24-26);
(3) “Gentle” (or literally “appropriate;” a Christian should always be a gentleman, or gentlewoman);
(4) “Easy to be entreated” (that is, “reasonable”);
(5) “Full of mercy and good fruits,” always helpful and considerate;
(6) “Without partiality,” that is, manifesting true humility;
(7) “Without hypocrisy,” always sincere in both speech and action.