Various aspects of God's nature are so different from our daily human experience that it can be challenging for us to comprehend them. In time, as our trust in the Lord matures, we may come to accept the fact that these things are true of God, but we'll also probably spend a considerable amount of time wondering how these things work.
In particular, the fact that God is self-existent can be challenging for us to accept. We're used to what we're surrounded with having an origin and a creation point. But God is not a created being. He has no beginning and no end. He is completely self-existent.
Likewise, Scripture teaches us that God is sovereign. In a few moments, we'll delve into an examination of what His sovereignty entails, but I will say this at the outset. I personally take great comfort in the fact that we worship a sovereign God. He is in full control, and He assures us that His eyes are upon us.
So why should it matter to us that God is self-existent? And what difference does it make to trust the fact that God is sovereign over His creation?
I. God is self-existent
We live in an era when one of the biggest debates people are engaging in is related to the origin of all things. How did the planets, stars, plants, animals, and humans come into existence? What caused these things? Are they simply the effect of an impersonal force that sparked an initial reaction from which all things observable derived?
Depending on the context you did your schooling in, it's highly likely that much of your training on the subject of the origin of the universe was under the instruction of people who ascribe to an evolutionary perspective. Much of my early training on the sciences came from this perspective. This is also the perspective that my children have been exposed to through the instruction of our school system.
For quite some time, this has been an area of debate. Evolutionary beliefs have been particularly embraced by those who hold to a secular, godless, worldview. In that view, it is widely accepted, by faith, that all things came into existence through an initial act of spontaneous generation.
According to pastor and theologian R.C. Sproul, "There are only three possible explanations for anything that exists now: it is self-created, it is eternal, or it is created by something that is eternal." Sproul thought that the concept of "self-creation" was folly. To believe that something is self-created is not logical because for something to create itself, it would have already needed to be in existence. This, by the way, is a major reason why I will never be able to accept the pure essence of evolutionary explanations for the origin of the universe. The concept of "self-creation" is too contradictory for me to embrace it.
The other options we're left with is that what exists is either eternal or has been created by something that is eternal. Based on what Scripture teaches, as well as the logic that proceeds from a Christian worldview, I believe that what has been created was brought into existence by an eternal, self-existent being who has no origin. A being that has always existed and always will.
Scripture testifies to the fact that God is the self-existent originator of all that we observe. Colossians 1:16-17, in particular, is speaking of God the Son, Jesus Christ. We know that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit worked together in perfect unity to bring creation into existence, but in this passage from Colossians, we're given specific details relating to the Son. We're told that Jesus created all things in heaven and on earth. He created things we can see and things we cannot see. And not only did He create all things, He also sustains what He created. Everything He created is being divinely held together by His infinite power.
God, being the one who caused what we see to come into being, does not Himself have a cause. Logically speaking, there has to be something that doesn't need to be caused by something else. That is true of God. He is uncaused. By nature, He is self-existent.
Consider some of the ways He illustrates His self-existence in Scripture.
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” -Exodus 3:14
"remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me," -Isaiah 46:9
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, -Revelation 1:17
Personally speaking, I take great comfort in the fact that God is self-existent and not dependent on His creation. There is nothing He needs from me or you. He has no area of lack or dependence. That being the case, our self-existent God is capable to graciously supply us with everything we need.
Why is that comforting to me? It's comforting to me because it reminds me that when I'm praying, I'm not praying to someone with weaknesses and fallibilities. I'm praying to the one who sustains what He has made. I'm praying to the one who doesn't require external forces to care for Him. I, on the other hand, am completely dependent on the gracious hand of God to supply what I need. When I acknowledge that, and admit that He is the source of life and sustenance, I can experience a healthy sense of rest - knowing that I don't have to do His job for Him. I can rely on Him. He is my peace. He is my provider. He is the one who promises to care for me.
A belief in an accidental universe with no compassionate oversight and no merciful provision does not produce a sense of rest or peace. It forces us to become overly self-reliant, then anxious when we are forced by necessity to accept that we have limitations that prevent us from doing all that needs to be done or caring for all that needs to be cared for. Many of the causes people have pledged their lives to in our generation stem from their lack of faith in God, the self-existent, uncaused cause.
II. God is sovereign
God is sovereign. This means He rules the universe and is in control of what He has created. He possesses full authority to carry out His perfect plans and eternal purposes. There is no place you could go in all creation that isn't under the sovereign control of God.
Job acknowledged this reality when he spoke of God's power to do anything he desired. He also expressed the fact that no purpose of God's could be thwarted. The plans of God are perfect and will be carried out in full accordance with His divine will.
A practical example of this can be found in one of my favorite accounts in Scripture. For most of my life, I have taken a high degree of encouragement from the account of Joseph's life in the book of Genesis. In fact, the first Bible story I remember reading as a child was the story of Joseph.
Joseph was loved deeply by his father, Jacob. Joseph's brothers grew jealous of the favoritism he was often shown by their father, so they sold him into slavery, and told their father he had been killed. Joseph ended up in Egypt where, through a series of divinely orchestrated events, he ruled the country and became second in authority only to Pharaoh.
The Lord revealed that there would be great famine in the world, so Joseph helped prepare the Egyptians so they would not die of starvation. People from other nations, including Joseph's family, also came to Egypt for food, and during that time, Joseph revealed to his brothers that God had foreordained the chain of events that took place in his life for their benefit and for the benefit of the world. Even though they treated Joseph with malice, the sovereign God who is Lord of heaven and earth meant it for the good of millions of people.
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. -Genesis 50:19-20
But let me ask a question about God's sovereignty that you've probably asked yourself in one way or another at some point. If God is sovereign, why is there sin and suffering in this world? And if a sovereign God would allow sin and suffering to be present in this world, does their presence mean that He is not good?
God is in sovereign control, but not all things that occur have been caused by Him. Take sin for example. Sin exists, but God did not create it. Sin isn't so much a creation as it is a distortion. It's the effect of rebellion against God. Satan was free to rebel against God, and he chose to do so. Adam was free to rebel against God and he likewise chose to do so. The sin and suffering that are present in this world exist as the logical effect of these acts of rebellion. God has temporarily allowed them, but He didn't cause them.
In fact, Scripture makes it clear that it is God's sovereign plan to remedy what humanity has damaged. From eternity past, God the Father planned our salvation. God the Son came to this earth and accomplished it, and God the Holy Spirit continues to apply the effects of salvation to our lives daily.
"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." -Ephesians 2:10
Likewise, it is God's sovereign plan to restore this fallen world. Creation currently moans as it awaits its restoration to the perfection it enjoyed before the fall of mankind when it was subsequently cursed.
"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now." -Romans 8:20-22
It is also God's sovereign plan to welcome redeemed mankind into His presence for all eternity and restore the kind of relationship that was enjoyed by Adam and Eve before they sinned against Him.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God." -Revelation 21:3
Again, as we dwell on this attribute of God, our hearts should be prompted to be at peace. We don't have to control everyone and everything around us. That's not something we can actually accomplish anyway. God is in control, and He even makes a point to turn situations in our lives that seemed like they were meant for our harm into circumstances that work for our ultimate good. He strengthens us through our trials. He grants us joy in the midst of our pain. He blesses us with hope when it would be tempting to feel hopeless. Our self-existent God is sovereign and our sovereign God is good.
© John Stange, 2018