The Father of Lights

October 9, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Posted in John, Q&A | 10 Comments
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Question: I can understand why God would be called the “Father of Light,” but why is He called the Father of lights (plural) in James 1:17?

Answer: That’s one of my favorite verses.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17 (emphasis added)

Although the word “light” is found frequently in the New Testament, the plural “lights” is used only four times.

The first time, it is a translation of the Greek word lychnos, which was the generic word for mobile lights. Back in Bible times it would have been used to describe candles or lamps, which could be carried around to light up dark areas or rooms. I imagine it would be the ancient equivalent of our modern flashlights.

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;

Luke 12:35 (emphasis added)

The second time, “lights” is from lampas, meaning torches. These could have been for outdoor or indoor use, including traveling at night, or to illuminate meetings where people gathered after dark. Think of the angry villagers who came after Frankenstein’s monster to terrorize him with fire.

torches

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together.

Acts 20:8 (emphasis added)

The third time plural “lights” is used, it is a translation of the word phoster, which has a connotation of objects that burn with their own, self-generated light.

That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Philippians 2:15 (emphasis added)

The word you are asking about – “lights” in James 1:17 – is a translation of the Greek word phos, a shorter form of phoster, and which emphasizes lights that are used for the express purpose of revelation – revealing through illumination that which was previously hidden by darkness.

In its context, James 1:17 supports the truth that, although Christians will be tempted severely by the lusts of our own flesh, we may not blame God for these temptations. He – and every gift He sends down to us from on high – is perfectly good, and His immutability makes it impossible that He could fail to do what is right.

Therefore, although I can’t say for certain exactly why the Holy Spirit inspired James to use the plural “lights” when describing our Heavenly Father’s perfection, benevolence, and blessed immutability, I suspect it has to do with all the different types of light – both literal/physical and spiritual/metaphorical – we see in Scripture as coming from, or representative of, Him.

For instance, God is the Creator-Father of all the celestial bodies, including the Sun and the stars which light up the sky both at night, and in the day.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Genesis 1:14 (emphasis added)

God is the Father of all wisdom, which is symbolized by light, even to the extent that we refer to an exceptionally intelligent person as “brilliant.”

I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee.

Daniel 5:14 (emphasis added)

God is the Father of Truth itself (Himself).

But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

John 3:21 (emphasis added)

God is the Father of the Light of the World.

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

John 1:4-9 (emphasis added)

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

John 8:12 (emphasis added)

God is the Father of our inheritance, as His children, of light.

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:

Colossians 1:12 (emphasis added)

God is certainly the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and His chosen, redeemed, and sanctified people, and in that sense, among many others, can it be said with joy, reverence, awe, and praise that He is the Father of Lights.

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