What does Father of lights mean?


James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

The phrase, "Father of lights" may have at least two meanings: (1) that God created light and the light bearing bodies (sun, moon, stars) and (2) it may be referring to the holy character of God; representing all that is pure, good, honest, etc. IMO, in context it actually is a combination of both meanings in James 1:17-18.

God created the universe Ex-nihilo (Gen. 1:1) - see below. It is beyond all doubt that God created light (Gen. 1:3-5) and the light bearing bodies (Gen. 1:14-18; 2:1, 3-4; Psa. 8:3-4; Isa. 45:12; John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3; 2 Pet. 3:5, etc.). The NIV literally adds the word "heavenly" to James 1:17; however it's not in the Greek text. So, the all-powerful One controls all; He is absolutely sovereign - the creator and sustainer. He brought forth all that is "very good" (Gen. 1:31).

Referring to His character, 1 John 1:5 states that "God is light" (cf. Rev. 22:5). 1 Timothy 6:16 states that God "dwells in unapproachable light," referring to the fact that He reflects, sustains, and dwells in righteousness, holiness, purity, and truth. So, God's character is associated with light. In Scripture, "darkness" often represents that which is evil and corrupt (John 1:5; 1 Thess. 5:4; 1 John 1:5), but God is "light," the polar opposite of "darkness." So, God represents all that is good as there is no sin in Him (cf. Gal. 5:19-22). He not only possesses light, He is light, so He is all that is right (cf. Gal. 5:22-23). So, the Christian can absolutely trust the eternal King to always do what is good for His subjects (cf. Rom. 8:28).

So, because God "brought us forth by the word of truth" (Jas. 1:17) we should not allow sin to "conceive" within us (Jas. 1:12-16); rather we should bring forth, do, and sustain that which is very good (Jas. 1:21-27). Since, we are "a kind of firstfruits of his creatures," (Jas. 1:18) - "the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14; John 8:12; 12:36; Phil. 2:15; cf. Prov. 4:18) - God's children should bring forth the righteousness of God (Jas. 1:19-20) and imitate God in their new life trusting that He will sustain them - as He has all His light bearing bodies throughout all their generations - especially through temptations and trails.

Related Topics:

What is Ex-Nihilo?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).