Chapter 2: The Father of Lights
After introducing his epistle, James quickly gets into the heart of his message—conveying a vision that greatly exalts God the Father and illuminates His profound love for His begotten sons.
If you could count all the stars just in our galaxy alone at the rate of 125 stars every minute, it would take over 4,500 years to count them. But as far as scientists can tell, there are a few trillion galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars—some with as many as a trillion stars. And we have only begun to explore outer space with our modern telescopes.
The best that astronomers can figure is that the “known” universe contains 70 sextillion stars. That’s a 70 with 21 zeroes after it—probably more than the number of grains of sand on Earth. That figure is impossible to comprehend. Only God knows the size of the universe.
The Bible tells us that God has an individual name for each one of those stars (Isaiah 40:26).
We live on one planet revolving around one star among those countless stars. How many other planets are out there, waiting to be populated? God created all that real estate out there for a purpose! “For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18).
Notice what James says about this inspiring subject.
The Father of Lights
“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).
The “lights” to which James refers are those of the universe. God is the Father of that vast material creation. He created all those lights through Jesus Christ. Take some time to look at the latest pictures from the Hubble telescope, and they will dazzle you with all their brilliance!
Highly educated human beings are staring up at that marvelous creation, studying it, measuring it, trying to comprehend it—and they still arrive at the ludicrous conclusion that it all evolved out of nothing! They are missing the transcendental vision wrapped up in that creation.
All of those heavenly lights inspire God. They represent incredible promise and potential, just waiting to be realized!
Every good and perfect gift comes from that illustrious God. Look at what He created! Clearly, He has all kinds of gifts to give!
When you look at the material creation, you see a lot of shadows. For example, the planets cast shadows. But God is not that way—James says that with Him is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” He is brighter than the sun at high noon—100 percent light! This is the total opposite of darkness. There isn’t a trace of evil in Him. The ancient Israelites were led by a fiery pillar cloud. Wherever it went, they followed. If it moved at 3 in the morning, they moved with it. They continually looked to that light to lead them, and so should we.
The expression “with whom” should read “in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” This is referring to our Father’s perfect character—God is 100 percent agape love. His goal is for us to become perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
God cannot sin. There isn’t even one speck of a shadow of evil in His nature. His love toward us is perfect and absolute—100 percent light. He would never do anything to harm us spiritually.
God is recreating His love in us. He is building His love on Earth through His firstfruits today. To do that, we must know His character and totally trust Him—even in our most fiery trial!
Spiritual light should dazzle us a zillion times more than the light from the universe. The big issue is not creating the universe. The big issue is creating the character of God in us to rule the universe!
We must cooperate with God or that can never happen. We must desire and choose to build His character in us, or it can’t be done.
Nothing but good gifts come from the Father.
This is an inspiring verse, which follows quite an inspiring passage at the beginning of the first chapter of James’s epistle. But we can’t get distracted by that massive universe because James just uses it as an introduction to set up what he is
Firstfruits of His Creatures
Notice the very next verse: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:18). Here is where James—the brother of Christ—puts the emphasis! If you really work to comprehend what he is saying here, God will reward you by filling to capacity all that you can bring to this verse.
The limitless stars are impressive to anyone—but all that is trivial compared to God begetting you! You have the potential to become God—God’s son—with the capacity to even create a universe and animals, perhaps even create more sons of God! Remember, God wants to recreate Himself in you!
That is what we must emphasize! That is where the real excitement is: your life!
We were begotten by the Father!
If He isn’t calling you or hasn’t begotten you with His Holy Spirit, you cannot truly understand this. If you do understand it, then you have received that unparalleled spiritual begettal from the Father of lights!
What is it worth to be begotten by that Father who created all those lights? That magnificent Creator God made you a firstfruit—the highest, most wonderful calling you could ever have! That calling is a zillion times more important than anything the Hubble telescope can show us.
Be in awe of the universe, but be a zillion times more in awe of your potential!
Consider it: What would all the universe out there be worth without God beings to rule over it? What if, as a worst-case scenario, God had the universe, but no sons? What would that be worth to Him? I don’t think God would put much value on it.
God wanted to give the universe to the angels, and that plan didn’t work—so He decided to sacrifice His Son in order to make Plan B work! That proves beyond doubt where God’s priorities lie. Sure the universe is magnificent and luminous—but it is just material stuff. It means nothing compared to a son of God! It’s not even worthy of comparison!
The universe becomes much more impressive to behold when you realize that God put it there in order for His sons to rule over it—if the angels failed when they were placed on this Earth.
God begat us as His sons. Not even the angels were ever offered such glory. But we are not only God’s begotten sons—we are firstfruits. We have been called in this evil world—“out of season.” We will receive the most distinct honor ever given to God’s sons for all eternity. The Father has chosen us to marry His only eternal Son! We will be the Bride of Christ.
The firstfruits will be the most honored sons in God’s Family forever. That is the transcendent calling of the firstfruits. We will serve as Christ’s helpmeet and teach the world about the Family of God—and then on to the universe. What a future! That is the awesome potential of this Church.
God’s supreme creation isn’t the universe—but His masterpiece of recreating Himself in man. The firstfruits are in the Family of God already! At this point we are begotten, preparing to be born into that Family. We are God’s Family in embryo. Does that truth still dazzle and excite you? Do you still hunger and thirst for it?
Herbert W. Armstrong taught us all about our incredible human potential. His whole work revolved around the instruction about the God Family! Like Elijah (2 Kings 2:12), and the Apostle Paul in the first century (1 Corinthians 4:14-15), Mr. Armstrong was a father to us. He taught us all about what it means to be begotten of the Father and born into the Family of God.
God isn’t just a liberal benefactor—He is the Father! If you think He doesn’t know you, then you don’t know Him. What father doesn’t know his child? If you think God the Father doesn’t have the most special thoughts toward you, you just don’t get it! That’s not the kind of Father God is. He has perfect love! When you are begotten, you are known by your Father. How profoundly you are known!
Here is where the Laodiceans have failed. They fail to honor their Father (Malachi 1:6). They have lost sight of this transcendental Family plan!
They are dying spiritually because of their rebellion. They are all in danger of being aborted.
Only mankind has the honor of being born into the Family of God—even fiery, brilliant angels were never offered that potential!
What is this birthright worth to you? Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of soup; James would not sell his for any price.
“Of his own will” God begat us. God watched us, scrutinized our lives and sanctified us; He instructed Jesus Christ to preserve us—and finally, after that intensive process, He invited us into His Family: I want that individual as a kind of firstfruits. Why? Because it was God’s own will to build His Family! (See Jude 1, and request a free copy of our booklet on Jude for a thorough explanation of this inspiring scripture.)
Please concentrate on this breathtaking statement: “Of his own will begat he us.” Building a family, physical or spiritual, requires no small commitment. The Father isn’t going to start a Family and then desert it, as men and women often do.
This Greek expression means that God has a total, complete commitment; not only to start and nurture a family, but to complete it. That means He is also committed to finishing not just the firstfruit harvest, but the entire harvest. God has only just gotten started, with us. The greatest work lies yet ahead.
God never gives up on even one person as long as there is any hope.
When you beget children, there is a heavy responsibility if you are loving parents. If you reject your responsibility, the children are left with many unnecessary trials. Their lives often become disasters. God is not such a parent. His love and commitment last until the job is finished.
That is what this Greek expression means. When the Father finishes His job, there is nothing left to do!
God “begat” us, but that is only the beginning. The Father is committed to us until we are born—and then He provides for His Family forever!
God is eternally committed to His Family. The fact that He risked losing His Son, Christ, forever should prove that to us.
God, through His Spirit, “begat … us with the word of truth.” The foundational part of that truth came through Herbert W. Armstrong. God continues to reveal His truth to the pcg and beget more sons.
This all points back to the “Father of lights.” Our primary project must be to learn about our Father. James put the emphasis where it belongs. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights”—and this is the greatest gift He has to give. This is the pinnacle of the Father’s creation!
There is nothing greater than what God is offering to His beloved firstfruits.
We have been called to be part of a “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). We will be above the rest of the Family forever. That is not gloating—it is just acknowledging reality.
The commentaries don’t understand these verses at all. About the best they can see is that it is about being “born again” on this Earth. That is disgracefully wrong!
Satan works hard to destroy this Family truth. He languishes in bitterness, moaning about never being offered the opportunity to be a son. Why should these clods be given that amazing future? he thinks. What did they do to deserve that? The answer is, we didn’t do anything to deserve it! It wasn’t until God called us and began working in us that we started to produce the fruit and spiritual growth our Father expects from His Family.
This is the most inspiring truth in the Bible. And it is difficult to truly grasp. The Laodiceans treated it casually and simply let it go! What a tragedy—throwing that future away in order to live the life of a fading flower! (James 1:10-11).
The more I think about this, the more my mind reels. This is everything!
And the Laodiceans have shamefully tossed it away!
We must warn them that, unless they repent, they are about to be destroyed—to be as if they had never been born! Considering what they are giving up, that is the most obscene tragedy there is!
James says we must take this message and reach out to our beloved brethren. That proves how much God loves His Family. Humanly, we may have given up on them long ago—but not the Father! He will not give up on them until He absolutely has to.
God is sending the Laodiceans one final message.
The greatest honor we could have on Earth today is to deliver this message from the Father of lights to His Laodicean sons.
God is going to give us exalted offices forever for delivering this urgent warning. Soon those who do will shine like the stars forever and ever (Daniel 12:3).
Revelation 22:5 shows that, ultimately, there will be no need for light or sun in new Jerusalem: The brilliance of God is all the light we will need, and we are going to look like Him (1 John 3:2). How could we ever throw that away?
Be Swift to Hear
After talking about that greatest of all truths—and all in the context of some of God’s people being exiled from God—James gives about the best advice he could give: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
The Laodiceans are “my beloved brethren”—your beloved brethren. If we love them, we’ll get this message to them.
The Laodiceans have a horrible self-righteousness problem. James tells us all, Don’t think you know it all! Be swift to hear!
That word swift indicates an entire readiness. To be swift, we must not resist hearing any of God’s words.
Why is James so urgent? Why is it so important to be “swift” to correct this problem? Because we don’t have much time! This is “last hour” doctrine! Be swift to hear! This message is passing right on by, and God says He will not pass by His people anymore (Amos 7:8; 8:2). They must hear it while they can.
God’s people must always strive to be swift to hear our Father—wide open to receive His instruction.
This world displays the reverse of that: People are swift to speak and slow to hear—if they hear at all!
James also tells us to be slow to wrath. We must not let our emotions get in the way. Are you going to let anger turn you from your Father, or will you be swift to hear Him? We also must be slow to speak. The Proverbs talk about this a lot. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). “He who guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3, rsv). “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Proverbs 16:32). God loves people who can rule their spirit. The implication of that proverb is, if you can rule your spirit, God will give you rule over a city—and a lot more!
“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). The word not is emphatic. The Greek word means a full and direct negative. The wrath of man contains none of God’s righteousness. So that means we must always let God’s righteousness direct our anger, or we will make many mistakes.
We absolutely must rule our emotions.
The Implanted Word
The King James Version of James 1:21 is truly a terrible translation. It tells us to “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness.” Naughtiness doesn’t even sound serious.
The Revised Standard Version is much better: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Is that important to you? It saves your eternal life! In other words, get rid of the things that choke and pollute the Word of God in your life. Have a meek attitude so God can implant His Word in you.
God implants His Word in us for the purpose of growth! As we nurture it, deep roots form and it grows even faster. That is what God wants. He wants growth—change—conversion! He wants us to be different today than we were yesterday. We won’t necessarily have explosive growth, but we should be growing every day! We must not remain static in our lives.
Good Bible study brings God into it! And the divine nature grows.
We need to grow so we can teach this world how to grow. One day God will implant His truth in others’ lives, and we will help them to grow.
You could study the Bible intellectually for 10 billion years and never understand it. The only way God can implant His Word in our lives is if we receive it “with meekness”—if we have soft, fertile soil—a childlike, teachable mind. We must approach our Bible study with a meek attitude. God the Father ought to be able to teach His sons! If He can’t, there is no implanting of His Word, and there will be no growth.
Do you have soil in which God is able to plant His Word?
God wants to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). He enables evil human beings to actually put on the nature of God! We can become like our Father! If we “receive with meekness the implanted word,” then it will grow to the point where we come to think and act like our Father—become perfect (Matthew 5:48). We regenerate our whole life!
That is what James means when he says the implanted Word “is able to save your souls.” We must grow in grace, and in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18). Maybe you have one deep problem that chokes your spiritual growth. Face that, so you can grow. We are all sinners, but if you let those sins stick around, they will choke your growth—your eternal life! One big sin can destroy the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
God will not give faith until we repent. His Holy Spirit will not empower us.
Doers of the Word
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. … But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:22, 25).
God wants us to be doers of the Word. We must take His instruction and do it. That is the only way we will be ready to teach the world. That is the only way we will be able to show the people of the world about the Father and the Son—the God Family!
James uses word and law interchangeably in this passage. God’s law is the foundation of His Word. James was actually condemning an apostasy in the Church of God! We have witnessed the same problem in this end time.
If we just hear and don’t do, we are deceiving our own selves! Once you do that, you begin to let lies and deceit cause serious problems in your family, your marriage, your child rearing. You are just deceiving yourself! That is what most of God’s people have done in this end time.
James has the solution to this problem: Be a doer! “For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was” (verses 23-24). In order to solve that problem, look into “the perfect law of liberty” (verse 25). Free yourself from lies and deceit and anything illicit in your life. Learn to take this wonderful truth and be a doer!
The expression “looketh into” means that you are stooping down, seriously examining God’s law. Vincent’s Word Studies says that it denotes penetrating, examining or looking into “the very essence of the law.” It teaches you how to make every aspect of your life work—child rearing, marriage, service in the Church, and so on. It truly is a perfect law of liberty!
Mirror is a metaphor for the law. If you look into that mirror, see some dirt on your face, then forget all about it, you are a forgetful hearer.
This example refers to a permanent failure to use the mirror! The real emphasis on this mirror is being a doer of the law, or Word of God. (Request our free book The Ten Commandments.)
God is perfect, and He is creating a perfect man. Sin is the transgression of His perfect law, which is the king of all laws. It is a king’s law. With the King of kings, we will use that law to teach people how to be royalty.
Vincent’s says that for the “forgetful hearer” in verse 25, forgetting is a way of life! That is how the Laodiceans are. They will keep forgetting until God jolts them with 10,000 shocks! At that point, there will be no more arguing about the perfect law of liberty and the government of God.
How can we ever administer the perfect law of liberty if we don’t enslave ourselves to the Father and the Son? That is the God Family gospel. If we don’t know the Father and Son, then we don’t know their law of liberty.
One commentary says this passage in James is ambiguous: “Precisely how the Christian writer would define the law cannot be determined.” Oh really? It isn’t ambiguous to me! That man needs to be humbled and taught! He will never be qualified to teach people until he stops talking like that!
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (verse 26). Many of God’s people are seriously into their religion, but God says it is vain. They are “grinding at the mill” (Matthew 24:41), but it is a waste of time. The Laodiceans have not bridled their tongue. Here lawlessness manifests itself in the tongue. The Laodiceans are swift to speak, talking back to God (Malachi 3:13-14). And they aren’t just slow to hear God’s law and government that implements that law—they don’t hear at all! They reason around God’s law.
We must bridle our tongue and allow ourselves to be bridled and led by the great God. Somehow God is going to have to guide us!
The Fatherless and Widows
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). This verse means what we have always understood: that we should look after those without physical fathers and husbands in the Church of God. But it means a great deal more.
Look at this spiritually, in the context of the Laodicean era. In the first verse of his epistle, James discusses the Father and the Husband. Here he is talking about orphans and widows.
The Laodiceans have chosen to distance themselves from their Father and from their Husband. In doing so, they have lost the Head of the Family and the Head of the Church. James provides a stark assessment of their status today: They are spiritual orphans and widows! They voluntarily turned from God, and now they have no Father and no Husband.
They had a Father and a Husband—that is why James is talking to them about it! I am a slave to the Father and the Son—look at my life! And contrast that with your own—you have abandoned the Father and the Son and are left with nothing.
James says we must visit the fatherless and widows. On a spiritual level, that means we must get this message of James to the Laodiceans!
We can’t do this job by proxy, asking someone to visit them for us. God wants you—every single member of His faithful remnant—to visit them by supporting this message and this work!
God commands that you be personally involved.
If you want to be like your Father and Husband, you will embrace that responsibility!
We show that we are members of the God Family by being doers—getting the message of James to the beloved Laodiceans.
Spiritually, we must have mercy on orphans and widows who are in danger of dying forever! We must learn to think the way God thinks about them. The Laodiceans have no future without a Father and Husband!
Look at the contrast with James 1:1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ ….” James is a slave to both of them. That is more than knowing them—James was a bondslave to them! He had the deepest kind of understanding about them and had made a total commitment to the Father and Son!
What a contrast to the spiritual orphans and widows of James 1:27. These individuals may seem to be religious, but the way the Father views it, they are not. He forcefully condemns their religion!
Where do you fall on that scale—between being God’s bondslave and being an “orphaned widow”? How deep is your commitment to the Father and the Son?
God would never reveal this truth from the book of James if He didn’t think we would deliver it. God’s faithful people want to be a slave to the Father and Son and deliver this message to their beloved brethren. They ache and yearn for their spiritually dying Family members, who have no future and no one to look after them! They accept God’s calling to perform this job to their utmost.
How could we possibly say, I really served the Father and the Son, and not get this message to our beloved brethren? If we don’t deliver this message, we are Laodicean ourselves! We must share this wonderful message. God expects it of us, because He dearly loves His precious Laodicean sons—our brethren, who were begotten by the will of the Father! Their lives have gone dangerously wrong, and our efforts could save some of them now—and will save many of them in the Great Tribulation, where half of them will repent.
This is how we keep ourselves “unspotted from the world,” as James says: by throwing our energies and our very lives behind this most honorable, life-saving Work of God!
Translators inserted a chapter break at this point in James’s epistle, but it should not be there. The thought continues, uninterrupted. Now we will learn what would have happened if God’s people had been swift to hear Him and to heed His warning.