God depends on nothing and no one for His existence. On this episode of Simply Put, Barry Cooper considers the aseity of God.
In a former life, I was an actor, and one of my first professional acting roles was on a nationwide tour in which we dramatized various parts of the life story of Jesus. I portrayed Simon Peter, which I brilliantly did by shouting a lot, and I also portrayed John the Baptist, which I brilliantly did by shouting a lot while wearing a wig.
Each night during the show, an evangelist would give a fifteen-minute presentation of the good news about Jesus—at least, that was what was advertised. More often than not, however, he presented Jesus like this: “Think of Him on the cross. Look at the tears in His eyes. See how alone He is. He’s doing all this so you’ll be His friend. He’s pleading with you. ‘Won’t you come to Me and be My friend?’”
As a young Christian, I was troubled by this, and couldn’t quite put my finger on why. But the reason is simple: this is not the God revealed in Scripture. This evangelist had not reckoned with what we call the aseity of God.
The impression that evangelist gave is that God is somehow incomplete without us. He’s lonely. He needs our help. He can’t do anything without us. Pity Him!
Is that our view of God, perhaps subconsciously?
Because the Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit doesn’t need us to—in the immortal words of Jerry Maguire—“complete Him.” He is self-existent, meaning He has the power of being in and of Himself. He depends on nothing and no one for His existence. He is self-sufficient. (That’s what aseity means—the a se in aseity is Latin and means “from himself.”)
And think about this. Within the Godhead Himself there is a never-ending Niagara of perfect, overjoyed love overflowing between the Father and the Son through the Spirit. Unlike you and me, God needs no one outside Himself in order to love and be loved. He is, in Himself, both the great Lover and the great Beloved. This is why the Bible says, “God is love.” He doesn’t need anyone or anything—apart from Himself—in order to love or to exist.
How very unlike us. Think about how many things we’re dependent on to get anything done. We need oxygen to exist, we need our hearts to pump, our synapses to fire, our blood cells to—whatever it is blood cells ought to be doing. And that’s before we even start talking about needing warmth and food and shelter and clothes and other human beings.
I recently had a baby girl, or to be medically accurate, my wife had a baby girl. For nine months, our little nugget was totally and utterly dependent on us, or to be medically accurate, my wife, for everything.
That’s a picture of who we are in relation to God. There is, as it were, an “invisible umbilical” connecting us to the God who sustains us. Without it, we would simply cease to live.
God, on the other hand, isn’t dependent on anyone or anything—but everyone and everything is dependent on Him. He is the great unmade Maker, the great self-sustaining Sustainer.
That’s what we mean by the aseity of God, and it’s all over the Bible.
It’s the refrain of the psalmist in the Old Testament: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
It’s what Jesus means when He says in John chapter 5, ”The Father has life in himself.”
It’s what Paul says to the men of Athens in Acts chapter 17: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
Now, why is aseity important?
Just as it’s the very essence of sin to believe that we should be like God, so it’s also deadly to believe that God should be like us, to believe that God is basically just us, except with a much bigger budget.
When we think like that, we create an idol: a god of our own imagining, a fawning, dependent God who is unworthy of our worship. And in so doing, we also deprive ourselves of the supreme joy for which we were made: the joy of worshiping the ever-loving triune God who alone is worthy of worship.
We forget God’s aseity—His self-existence and independence from creation—to the ruin of God. And to the ruin of ourselves.