Over the next few weeks at evening church I ‘m getting us to think about the God of the Bible; the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the uncreated creator of everything in whom we live, move and have our being.
The reason for doing so is that we cannot but benefit by having our eyes lifted from the mundane ordinary of this life to the majestic extraordinary of his. It would be really good for us to know God better. And I’m not sure that we know him very well. I’m not sure we could add much to ‘my God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do’. That’s better than nothing. But it’s not enough. My kids know that and most of us are grown ups! And so my intention is that our conception of God is expanded, that we realise just how much he is beyond our comprehension and that we’re moved to worship him.
And so, over the next few weeks I’m going to think about those characteristics of God that distinguish him as creator from us as creatures.
The first divine characteristic or godly attribute that we’re going to think about is God’s independence. I’ve found teh writings of John Frame, Waynes Grudem, Herman Bavinck and Bruce Milne helpful in thinking about this divine characteristic.
1. The definition of Independence
God’s independence is sometimes known as his aseity. This is a word that comes from the Latin ‘a se’ which means ‘from or by himself’. But you knew that, right? I know we find big theological words off putting. But most one of us work in an industry that usually employs technical words. And so we shouldn’t be surprised to discover it’s the same in theology. And given that God is supposed to be the Christian’s area of expertise we should develop an appetite for understanding these things and not disdain learning!
God’s aseity or independence highlights his self sufficiency. He does not need any part of creation in order to exist or for any other reason. God is absolutely independent and self sufficient in and of his own existence.
He is not like a self sufficient farmer who in fact has to grow crops and build a house in order to be self sufficient. God just is, by himself and on his own. He can provide himself with everything that he needs in order to flourish.
2. The evidence for Independence
There are many biblical references that we could turn up, and the writers I’ve referenced above will list those. But let’s limit ourselves to one reference. In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul said these words,
‘24“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
God does not need anything from mankind. He is entirely self sufficient. It’s sometimes thought that God needed to create human beings because otherwise, without us, he’d be lonely. If that were true then we could not say that God was independent. It would mean that God needed to create people in order to be completely happy or completely fulfilled in his personal existence. But of course, though God may delight in us, he does not need us. Eternally he has had himself for company in those perfect Trinitarian friendships.
3. The reason for God’s Independence
God is self sufficient because of who he is. In other words his existence is dependent on his nature. We are the creatures and we come into being and we depend on other things for our existence.
But he is the uncreated creator of everything; that’s his nature. He never came into being, he has always been. And everything comes from him.
4. The implications of God’s independence
It’s hard for this not to sound like abstract theorising. So let’s try and land it.
1. God’s independence means that he’s self existent
God exists without receiving his existence from anything else but himself. He has life within him and so he’s perfectly self sustaining. He looks to nothing else to give him his existence. He is before all things. God has no need of others outside himself to sustain his existence. Human beings may search for an ultimate cause of our existence. God is it. He stands behind, before and beyond all things. He is our uncreated creator and we will only understand our existence in him.
2. God’s independence means that he’s self attesting
God gains knowledge only from himself and he applies a standard of truth that comes only from himself. What he knows is real and he determines what is true. He looks to no one else to inform his understanding and guide him in what’s true or false. God has no need of others outside himself to provide him with knowledge. Human beings may search for an ultimate standard of truth and tried to locate it in a religious or secular authority. They may have settled on the experiences of our senses or human reason. But truth can be found only in God.
3. God’s independence means that he’s self justifying
God serves as his own measure of righteousness. He looks to no one else to define the standards or right and wrong. God has no need of others outside himself to instruct his conscience so that he can determine what’s moral and immoral. Human beings construct systems of ethics. We can construct an ethical system based on duties, or on likely consequences or on subjective human motives. But God determines what’s right.
Much human endeavour has been devoted to the search for the ultimate cause of being, to find an ultimate standard of truth and to determine the ultimate justification of right. The Bible says that God is it.
A divine supernatural personal being who has no needs is quite something. But any god who needed the creation would not be worthy of our worship. A god who receives his existence from something else, who gains his knowledge from something else and who relies on something else to work out what’s right and wrong isn’t worthy of worship. He, she or it is inadequate. It’s a dependent creation not the independent creator. And to worship anything like that is idolatry.
The God of the Bible enters our world as the independent uncreated creator of everything not needing us, but because we need him.