New Defender's Study Bible Notes
1:17 Father of lights. God’s first recorded words were “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). He is the “Father of lights” but He did not create light, for “God is light” (I John 1:5), and is “dwelling in the light” (I Timothy 6:16). In fact, He had to “create darkness” but only had to “form the light” (Isaiah 45:7). Scientifically speaking, as far as the physical creation is concerned, all matter is essentially energy in motion, and light is the most basic form of energy.
1:17 no variableness. This attribute of the Father of lights—that is, no variableness—is suggested by the most basic and universal law of science, the law of conservation of energy. God can “form the light” into many different kinds of energy, but the total quantity is conserved, neither being augmented by creation nor decreased by annihilation. “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).
1:17 shadow of turning. The word “turning” is from the Greek trope. When combined with the Greek for “in” (that is, en), it becomes entrope, which means in the Greek “confusion” or “shame.” We get our English word “entropy” from this source, which thus literally means “in-turning.” In science, any system which “turns in” on itself, without drawing on external sources of energy or information (in other words, a “closed system”) will experience an increase of entropy, or disorganization. This is, so far as all evidence goes, a universal principle of science, and seems to reflect God’s primeval curse on “the whole creation” (Romans 8:22). That is, even though all things are being conserved in quantity by God, they are deteriorating in quality, running down toward physical chaos and biological death. But God Himself, who imposed these laws on His creation, is not bound by them. There is not even a “shadow of turning” with Him!
1:18 word of truth. We are “born again” through the incorruptible “word of God” (I Peter 1:23; note also James 1:21; Ephesians 5:25-26).
1:18 firstfruits. See I Corinthians 15:20,23. Christ is Himself the “firstfruits” from among the dead, but among “His creatures,” we are His firstfruits. There may be also a suggestion here, since James was writing specifically to and about Jewish believers in Christ, that these were considered His firstfruits, with Gentiles coming later. Even Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, agreed that the gospel should be preached “to the Jews first” (Romans 1:16).