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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Attributes of God That Belong to Him Alone

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is God One Essence or Substance?

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In What Sense Is God One Essence or Substance? (The Simplicity of God)

The Attributes of God That Belong to Him Alone – Question 15

The God of the Bible is a unified being. In one of the most important statements in the entire Old Testament, Moses wrote the following about God’s essence.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NASB)

God is one in number. This is also known as the “simplicity” of God. The idea of God’s simplicity has to do with His essence. Although God is a Trinity, He is also a unity, one substance. This means that God is not composed of more than one part, or more than one substance.

A number of points need to be made about this idea of God’s simplicity.

1. The Simplicity of God Emphasizes His Self-Existence

The doctrine of the simplicity of God emphasizes that He exists without the need of anything else. For example, there were no forces that came together to form God. By nature, He is a unified being. In other words, there are no “parts.”

2. God Is Made up of a Different Substance than Humans: He Is Spirit

While human beings are made up of matter and spirit, the same is not true with God. Jesus said that God is spirit.

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24 NRSV)

God, as opposed to humans, is made up of one substance, spirit. Because He is spirit, we worship Him in the Spirit, or by means of the Spirit.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians he emphasized that we worship God “in the Spirit” or “by the Spirit.” He said,

For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us. (Philippians 3:3 NLT)

Worship of God must be by means of the Spirit, not by human effort.

Paul also wrote,

But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. (1 Corinthians 6:17 NASB)

We are one in the spirit with the Lord if we belong to Jesus Christ.

3. The Essence of Jesus Is Still Spirit

The Bible says that God the Son, Jesus Christ, became a human being. In doing so, He added something to Himself that He never previously had, a human nature. However, He did not alter His absolute essence. Indeed, He is still spirit. Because the Son is Almighty God, He is also spirit in His essence. Consequently, His essence did not change when He became human.

In sum, the Bible emphasizes the God of Scripture is one substance; He is not made up of separate parts.

Summary – Question 15
In What Sense Is God One Essence or Substance? (The Simplicity of God)

The simplicity of God means that God is a unified being; He is one essence. Hence the God of Scripture is not composed of a variety of substances. In this sense He is different from humans who are made up of matter and spirit.

Jesus Christ is not an exception to this truth about God’s nature. As God, He took a human body while He came to the earth. Yet, in His essence, He is still absolute spirit.

The simplicity of God reminds us that God needs nothing else to exist neither did He come about by a number of forces, or substances, being joined together. This reassuring fact will encourage us to worship Him as the unchanging God.

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