God’s spirituality (John 4:24) not only very obviously accords with especially some of His other attributes (unity, invisibility, omnipresence and omnipotence); it is also necessary for the truth of the Holy Trinity. If God were not pure spirit, if God were even in part material or physical, then the three Persons would cause a division in the Godhead, the heresy of tritheism (three gods)! The one true God exists in three Persons only because His Being is one (God’s unity) and His Being is spirit (God’s spirituality).
This truth of God’s spirituality rules out various unbelieving worldviews. First, materialism proclaims that everything consists of matter and motion. But this is false for God is spirit (not matter) and angels are spirits (not matter) and men have spirits (which are not matter). Materialism is very popular in our day, being the worldview of atheists and of most evolutionists. Second, pantheism maintains that all (pan) is God (theism). But the material universe is not God since God is spirit. Third, according to panentheism, all (pan) is in (en) God (theism). It claims that the material universe is, as it were, God’s body which is animated by God’s soul or spirit. But God is wholly spirit and not partly matter.
Now we are in a position to understand the anthropomorphisms in the Bible, those representations of God as if He were a man. In the Scriptures, we read of God’s eyes, ears, nose, nostrils and mouth; God’s arms, hands and fingers; God’s soul. So is Jehovah physical and in the form of a man? Despite all we have said in this and the last issue of the News! Holy Writ also speaks of God as having wings and feathers like a bird (Ps. 91:4). But how can He be both in the form of a man and in the form of a bird! Moreover, in Psalm 18:2, David declares, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” So is God in the form of a man and a bird and a rock and a fortress and a buckler (or shield) and a horn and a high tower? How can He be in the form of all these things at once?
You understand, of course, that these are metaphorical references to the Almighty. He is like a fortress who defends us. He shelters us as a bird would under His feathery wings. God’s power is signified by His arms. His omniscience or infinite knowledge is represented by His all-seeing eyes. God’s putting the planets in place by His fingers bespeaks His skilful and precise craftsmanship (Ps. 8:3).
It is our Lord Jesus Christ who supremely taught the spirituality of God. “No man hath seen God at any time [because He is invisible and spiritual]; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18).
In connection with His affirmation that God is spirit (John 4:24), Jesus declared twice that the Father must be worshipped “in spirit and in truth” (23, 24). Significantly, Christ cleansed the temple both at the start of His public ministry (John 2:13ff.) and at the end of His public ministry (Matt. 21:12ff.). Twice in Matthew’s gospel Christ declared, “I will have mercy, and not sacrifice” (9:13; 12:7), quoting Hosea 6:6, and He told the self-righteous Pharisees, who were deeply concerned with externals, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth” (Matt. 9:13). Similarly, Christ denounced the Jewish religious leaders and the blind people who followed them for their merely formal and outward worship (Matt. 23; Mark 7:1-23). The truth of the spirituality of God fits perfectly with Christ’s great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:37). In keeping with this, the Lord Jesus explained the spirituality of God’s law, especially in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).
God’s spirituality explains Christ’s spiritual evangelism. The rich young ruler thought he had kept God’s law (Mark 10:17-27), but his problem was covetousness: the love of money and what it can buy. To expose this sinful inward desire, Christ commanded him to sell all that he possessed (21). Nicodemus also held high office in Israel, but this did not save him. The Lord said to him and to fallen man in general, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
Most of those who followed Christ in John 6 were carnal people, who merely desired food for their bellies and exciting miracles. To them Jesus declared, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (63). Thus He explained Himself as the bread of life (35) and salvation as eating His flesh and drinking His blood (53-56), which no one can do but by the sovereign grace of God, for the Lord explained, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (44). Many of the people left Him (66) for they did not want a spiritual Christ and His spiritual salvation bringing the knowledge of the God who is spirit.
However, Christ especially teaches the spirituality of God by His cross. Yes, there were physical and historical events. Our Lord was betrayed, arrested, tried, scourged and publicly crucified. But much deeper and more awful than Christ’s physical sufferings at the hands of men is His enduring the terrible wrath of God and so bearing the punishment which was due to His elect. Through this spiritual battle, the Lord Jesus defeated the invisible power of Satan and the demons, and triumphed over the law and sin and death.
God’s infinite, eternal and unchangeable justice, holiness, righteousness, love, mercy and grace met at the cross, for it is there that God particularly reveals—and we can most clearly see—His absolute harmony and unity as the God who is spirit. The cross shows God to be perfectly spiritual and not in any way material because it reveals Him as powerful, just, wise, holy, true, loving, unchangeable and merciful—all spiritual qualities.
- Volume: 14
- Issue: 5
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851