The Self-Existence of God: What does it mean? Why does it matter?

When someone uses words like “the self-existence of” anything, it sounds like something philosophical and esoteric. And, with that comment, my philosopher friends just cringe and think, “No one appreciates philosophers.” If I had used the term “aseity,” the reaction might be even more quizzical: “What … ? Get real, man. Let’s just talk about fly fishing or the coming World Series.”

For those of us who believe that God truly exists and truly cares about His creation, God’s self-existence matters — if it exists within the teachings of the Bible itself. As human beings we can involve ourselves in unending speculation and preoccupy ourselves with reading “the white spaces,” rather than simply looking at the print. Philosophical speculation, however, normally falls within the realm of “what if …” — not absolute truth. And, yes, I realize that we’ve just passed through an era (indeed, might still be in it) of nearly wholesale denial of absolute truth. But, I digress. Let’s get on with the topic at hand.

God is self-existent. Why? Because, as God He was not created. He has no source, no maker, no origin. Instead, He Himself is the Creator of all else. God exists from all eternity and to all eternity. Scripture opens with “In the beginning God …” (Genesis 1:1). Moses doesn’t write about the origin of God, but about the origin of the universe. He assumes the existence of God. We might also look at God’s self-description to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God doesn’t defend His existence; He declares His existence. No one else and nothing else caused itself or themselves to exist. Everything and everyone has an origin — except God. He is the only uncaused Cause — something you might have heard in either a theology class or a philosophy class.

The prophet Isaiah provides us with much needed help with regard to why the self-existence of God matters, how it impacts our lives — assuming we believe in a God who truly exists:

  • God alone is God — there is no other. Isaiah 45:5-7, 14, 21-22
  • God alone is Creator. Isaiah 45:18; 48:12-13
  • God’s word alone is true and based upon who He is. Isaiah 45:23
  • God alone is Lord. Isaiah 45:23
  • God alone is completely holy and righteous. Isaiah 6:3; 40:25; 45:24
  • God alone can be trusted completely. Isaiah 44:8
  • God alone can save us from our sins and forgive us. Isaiah 45:21-22

In other words, God’s self-existence makes Him the sole determiner of absolute truth — truth we can depend upon. God is someone we can trust completely. He is always there. Therefore, He will not leave us or forsake us the way others do. Since He alone is completely holy and righteous, He sets the standard for truth, for holiness, and for righteousness or justice. God is the only one who doesn’t fail, default on a promise, run out when trouble comes, lie, or die. He provides us with everything we look for in the character of someone we can rely on. And, that even extends to our great need to be completely forgiven.

Perhaps the writer to the Hebrews summarized all of this best by concluding that our hope finds an anchor in God (Hebrews 6:13-20). That’s why the self-existence of God matters. He provides hope in the midst of a world that is too often rocked by relativism, confusion, hypocrisy, hatred, rejection, violence, and death.

Messianic Hope and the Gentiles–Thinking Through Romans 15:8-13

Romans 15:8-13 provides us with the apostle Paul’s theology of Messianic hope as founded upon the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible. In this significant text he builds upon the revelation of hope about which he speaks in Romans 15:4. With emphasis the apostle refers first of all to revelation twice-written, then follows up with key Scripture citations in each of the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible to demonstrate that the totality of the Old Testament testifies to the Messianic hope of the Gentiles. Not finished yet, Paul then mentions “hope” three times in the closing verses of this section (Romans 15:12-13) to drive home his point. With such amazing focus, how could we miss this truth’s importance to believers, to the Church, and to missions? May your heart be challenged as mine has been in meditating on this text in Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

As a contributor to ParkingSpace23’s blog, I posted an article about the hope the Gentiles possess in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. I hope you will click on the following link Messianic Hope and the Gentiles, read, and praise the Lord for being included in God’s redemption program from the beginning.

My Recommendations: Book of the Week, July 9

No greater subject for our contemplation exists aside from Jesus Christ Himself. We all need to spend significant time meditating on our Savior’s work and His role in our world, our life, and our future. John Owen’s classic, The Glory of Christ: His Office and Grace, will profoundly impact your life. It is not an easy read, because of the richness of its topic and the depths that Owen plumbs. This edition provides definitions for old English terms that have gone out of use to help the reader understand him better. Occasional boxes provide summaries and charts organizing some of the key observations. Consider just a few of the jewels to be gleaned from this superb work on Christ:

  • “The revelation made of Christ in the blessed gospel is far more excellent, more glorious, and more filled with rays of divine wisdom and goodness, that the whole creation and the just comprehension of it, if attainable, can contain or afford.”
  • “he knows not Christ, he knows not the Gospel”
  • “It is in Christ alone that we may have a clear, distinct view of the glory of God and his excellencies.”
  • “all our present glory consists in our preparation for future glory”

Click on picture for link.

Identifying the Imperatives in Biblical Narratives

Narratives occupy a large portion of the Bible, whether its pages record the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph or the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness, or the events surrounding the judges and kings of Israel, or the stories of Ruth or Esther. And, those are just part of the Old Testament narratives. The Gospels and Acts in the New Testament also contain much narrative. The old saying is that “narratives describe, but don’t prescribe.” Sounds good. But, as with many such sayings, it is over-simplified and actually ignores explicit instruction from the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Preachers and teachers need to learn how to carefully discover the imperatives within narratives.

As a contributor to ParkingSpace23’s blog, I posted a blog on this very topic. Although it merely scratches the surface (believe me, there is far more to tell and to teach about it within both testaments), I hope you will click on the following link Implications or Applications?: Preaching Biblical Narratives, read, and start identifying the imperatives of biblical narratives.

Pentecost Meditation: The Significance of Christ’s Ascensions

Bible readers often pick up on the apparent fact that Jesus ascended more than one time into heaven following His resurrection. Indeed, there appear to be three different ascensions, each accomplishing different purposes. As we come to the observance of Pentecost, which marks the historical beginning of the New Testament Church (see Acts 2), we do well to remember that its founding occurred after Jesus’ final ascension. Too often we pay so much attention to Jesus’ death and resurrection that we ignore the fact that His death and resurrection alone did not fulfill all that He came to accomplish in His First Advent. Without His ascension, many of the purposes for His coming could not be carried out.

Jesus’ First Ascension

Jesus’ first ascension occurred when He fulfilled Psalm 68:18 (see Ephesians 4:8). At that time He took all of the Old Testament saints (those in “Paradise”) to the third heaven (cp. 2 Corinthians 12:2–4). Jesus took Paradise up to (not into) heaven. Therefore, at that point He had not returned to the Father. He merely transported the Old Testament saints from their compartment in Sheol separated from the compartment of the unsaved by a great gulf (Luke 16:26). Because of this transfer of saints to heaven, all believers now depart this world for heaven directly. Jesus’ first ascension insured that our very next destination following death will be heaven itself (John 14:1–3; 2 Corinthians 5:6–8; Philippians 3:20).

Jesus’ Second Ascension

After Jesus took the righteous Old Testament saints up to the boundary of heaven, He returned to the earth so that He might exit the tomb. Before this He had been speaking to the spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19) to make His victory proclamation. Peter refers to the location as Tartarus (2 Peter 2:4). It most likely occupied at least a portion of the “great gulf” (or “great chasm”) between the compartments of the righteous and unrighteous Old Testament departed spirits in Sheol. As Jesus exited the tomb on Sunday morning (Resurrection Sunday), having rolled back the stone, He encountered Mary Magdalene and said, “Don’t touch me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father” (John 20:17).

Then Jesus ascended to the Father and shortly afterward appeared to the group of women in Matthew 28:9. This ascension was necessary in order to purify by His blood even the heavenly altar (Hebrews 9:7–11, 23–24). This purification was not due to the heavenly altar being unclean or defiled—it was actually the anointing of the altar to initiate its function as a place where human spirits might worship the Godhead much as the Tabernacle altar was anointed (Exodus 29:12). This anointing the altar with blood also signified the formal initiation of the New Covenant (in His blood—cp. Exodus 24:4–8 [at the establishment of the Mosaic Covenant at the foot of Mt Sinai—a stone altar, not the Tabernacle altar]; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25).

Jesus’ Final Ascension

During the next forty days before His final ascension (Acts 1:9), Jesus appeared to many different individuals (e.g., Luke 24 on the road to Emmaus, and John 21 in Galilee to His disciples). At the end of those forty days, Jesus ascended the Mt. of Olives (see picture above) with His disciples and spoke to them about the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower them in their witness (Acts 1:8). Then He ascended into the sky, going into heaven. The two angels standing nearby then revealed to Jesus’ disciples that He would return just as they had seen Him depart (Acts 1:11).

Reasons for Jesus’ Ascensions

Christ’s ascensions were necessary for at least the following fourteen reasons:

  1. To fulfill prophetic Scripture—Psalm 68:18; Ephesians 4:8.
  2. To transport Old Testament saints to the boundary of heaven, where they could then enter the throne room of the Father and join the angels in worship.
  3. To purify = anoint the heavenly altar by His own blood (Hebrews 9:7–11, 23–24).
  4. To initiate the New Covenant with His blood at the heavenly altar (see the third point above).
  5. To restore the Son to His former glory which had been hidden (except for a brief time at His transfiguration) (John 17:24).
  6. To seat Jesus on the throne of God in heaven at the right hand of the Father (Luke 22:69; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1).
  7. To intercede for us while seated on the Father’s throne (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
  8. To seat Jesus on the throne of God in heaven so that we, too, might be seated with Him (Ephesians 2:6).
  9. To demonstrate Jesus’ ultimate victory and the completion of all of His redemptive work by ascending into heaven, from whence He had come (John 16:28; 17:5; Hebrews 8:1–6).
  10. To send the Spirit as the Comforter in place of Christ (John 16:7), who would baptize and empower His disciples for witness to the world (Acts 1:5–8).
  11. To formally establish the church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
  12. To leave a reminder that Jesus would return in the same fashion to the same location in the future and to fulfill yet another prophecy (Acts 1:11; Zechariah 14:4).
  13. To prepare a place for us in heaven (John 14:1–4).
  14. To prepare to return in the Second Advent in the glory He had had with the Father (Matthew 16:27–28; 24:30) from heaven in judgment (Matthew 25:31-34) and bringing His kingdom (Luke 19:11; 2 Timothy 4:1).

Concluding Thoughts

Without the ascension of Christ, the work of Christ would not be complete. He could not rise from the dead and just remain here, walking around on the earth. He had a heavenly work to accomplish then, now, and in the future. Without the ascension, His sacrificial death and His resurrection would be to no purpose, would fail to fulfill prophecies, and would leave much of His work on our behalf incomplete. Without the ascension, He would not be interceding for us directly to the Father, preparing a future abode for us in heaven, or readying all things for His Second Advent. Because He ascended, we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

“Song of the Bow”: A Biblical Meditation for Memorial Day

Memorial Day marks the national commemoration of those American warriors who gave their lives for our nation on the field of battle. We take the time to honor their memory, to decorate their graves, and to remember their sacrifice. David provided us with a wonderful song, an elegy, preserving the memory of two such warriors for the nation of Israel: King Saul and his son Jonathan. My meditation on 2 Samuel 1:17-27 was published yesterday on ParkingSpace23’s blog, Click on the following link “Song of the Bow”: A Biblical Meditation for Memorial Day, read, and keep on remembering those who served our nation as soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen. Do not allow their memory to die. Pass their story on to the succeeding generations. Remembering their service and honoring their memory belongs to every day of the year, not just Memorial Day.