When you think about God or try to describe him, how do you do it? On the surface, this may seem like a simple question, but it isn’t. This question requires more than a simple cursory answer. Part of the challenge in describing God is he goes beyond our ability to comprehend him fully. Thankfully, we are not left to our own imaginations to try to gain knowledge of who God is. The Bible helps us figure this out. One thing we know from Scripture is that God is Spirit. This is what Jesus said in John 4:
“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
As you seek to understand and describe God, what does “God is spirit” really mean? Why does that matter when thinking about who he is? As we unpack this question, I think you will soon agree that the fact God is spirit is not only a reality, but a necessity that lets you understand in a small way who God is.
What Does the Bible Say about God’s Nature?
As we look at this concept, one aspect of God’s nature speaks to the truth that God is spirit perhaps more than any other one: the fact of God’s omnipresence. If you are unfamiliar with that word, it means that God is present everywhere all the time. I believe David captures this idea in the Psalms wonderfully:
“Where can I go from your spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12)
This truth about God’s presence did not just apply to David; it also applies to you. Have you ever tried running from God’s presence? What you quickly recognize is you can’t. There is nowhere you can run where God is not still present. By the way, this is a good thing: it means you cannot outrun God. He is still there no matter where you go or how far you run. This brings comfort because whether you are in the high valley or the low depths, he is there with you. The only reason this truth makes any sense at all is because God is spirit.
Why Does It Matter that God Is Spirit without Physical Form?
One of the things the Bible does is reveal the character of God. We learn from Scripture that God is loving, compassionate, slow to anger, and does not treat our sins as they deserve. These are just some of God’s many characteristics we learn from the Bible. Aside from that, when the Bible describes God, the verses often use anthropomorphisms—this is when we give physical characteristics to an invisible God. Let me give some examples to help you understand this.
“When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place.” (Psalm 8:3)
“And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” (Exodus 7:5)
Since God is spirit, we know he does not have actual fingers or hands. These anthropomorphisms describe God in a way that we as humans can understand. Yet, we must go beyond that and recognize God the Father does not exist in a physical form. You may wonder, why does it matter that God is spirit, without physical form? One reason it matters has been mentioned (because he is omnipresent). This one aspect of God’s nature clarifies many of the promises we hold onto. Without the fact that God is spirit, these promises don’t make much sense. Here are some examples.
The promise of God's presence
“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19)
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
The promise that God hears us
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
The promise that God saves
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
The promise that God sees
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him...” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
Because God is spirit, all these verses make sense. If he wasn’t, they would fall apart. As you search the Scriptures and find more promises from God, I hope you understand one of the things that causes them to work so well is because God is spirit. Since he has no physical form, he can be present everywhere at the same time.
Our ability to pray and know God hears us. Our ability to walk through life and know God is with us. Our ability to know God sees all and knows all… each of each is a direct result of the fact God is spirit. Here is one more promise that you can know for certain is true because God is present everywhere.
“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.” (Psalm 46:1-3)
If God Is Spirit, How Did He Appear to Abraham?
Allow me to address one more thought about the fact that God is spirit. How is it possible that a God, who is spirit, can appear to Abraham? We read about this in Genesis 18:
“The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground” (Genesis 18:1-2).
How can this be? There is another term you should know: theophany. A theophany is an appearance or manifestation of God in the Old Testament where God appears in physical form. Sometimes in human form or even as the Angel of the Lord. These appearances point to God’s interaction with humanity but also serve as a precursor to the ultimate theophany that would take place. The final and most important theophany was in the person of Jesus Christ. In Christ, the fullness of the deity dwelt in human form (Colossians 2:9). When God appeared to Abraham, it was a look ahead to the day when God would appear to all humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. It also points us to the pre-incarnate Christ and provides evidence of his eternal nature. God, who is Spirit, would one day take on human flesh, and the Old Testament points to this truth.
One Takeaway from Knowing God Is Spirit
As you solidify in your heart the knowledge that God is spirit, this should cause you to walk away with one thing: confidence. You can walk through life with an assurance that God goes with you no matter what happens or where you go in this life. He is not just present around you; he is present within you. Because God is spirit, he has given you the Holy Spirit, who is with you everywhere you go. This glorious truth can only happen for one simple reason: God is spirit.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.
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