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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Personal Attributes of God

Don Stewart :: Does God Have a Physical or Material Body?

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Does God Have a Physical or Material Body? (God’s Spirituality)

The Personal Attributes of God – Question 16

One of the things that many people wonder about God is His form. Does He have a physical or material body? What does God look like?

There are those who reason that since human beings are made in the image of God and that we have a body then the God of the Bible must also have a body. This however makes the mistake of assuming that the image of God is physical. It is not. Indeed, the Bible teaches that God does not have a body. Scripture teaches the following.

1. God Is Spirit: He Has No Physical Form

The Scriptures teach that God is spirit. Jesus said: “God is spirit” (John 4:24). By nature, God is a spirit-being. This is also known as God’s “spirituality.”

In whatever way a person defines spirit, the definition does not include a body of flesh and bones similar to what we have. This can be seen in an encounter Jesus had with His disciples after His resurrection from the dead. He said,

“Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39 NRSV).

Jesus clearly said a spirit or a ghost does not have flesh and bones. God, therefore, being a spirit, does not have a physical form like humans. In fact, God has no material form or physical limitations at all.

2. God Is Invisible

A spirit is also invisible. God’s spirit, therefore, cannot be seen by human beings. The Apostle Paul wrote about the invisible God.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 NKJV)

The Lord is not only the only God He is also the invisible God.

No Mere Human Has Seen the Father

The Apostle John wrote that no one has ever seen God. He put it this way.

No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son—the One who is at the Father’s side—He has revealed Him. (John 1:18 HCSB)

God is not able to be seen; neither by angel nor by humans.

Jesus Has Seen the Father

Yet, the Bible says that God the Son has seen the Father. Jesus made this claim.

“Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. (John 6:46 NKJV)

Jesus puts Himself in a unique position of saying that He has actually seen God the Father. This is one of the many ways in which the Bible says that Jesus is different from all other beings. Indeed, Jesus is God the Son!

God’s Invisible Qualities Are Made Known through Creation

The Apostle Paul testified that the Lord has invisible qualities that are made known through His creation. He wrote the following to the Romans.

From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20 NLT)

His invisible qualities are made known from the things which we can see.

He Is the Image of the Invisible God

To the Colossians, Paul called Jesus Christ the image of the invisible God.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation. (Colossians 1:15 NLT)

According to this statement, Jesus, God the Son, existed before anything else in the universe. Furthermore, He is supreme above all creation.

Nobody Can Enter His Presence

To Timothy, Paul again emphasized that no one can enter God’s presence.

He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No one has ever seen him, nor ever will. To him be honor and power forever. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16 NLT)

We are unable to approach Him in our fallen human nature.

He Has No Physical Form

He is the unseen God who has no physical, or material, form. John the Apostle said it clear.

No man has ever seen God... (1 John 4:12a RSV)

Scripture also emphasizes that we love Him though we have not seen Him. Peter wrote,

You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9 HCSB)

It is the united testimony of Scripture that humans have not seen the invisible God of Scripture.

3. He Is Not Subject to Human Limitations

As spirit, God is not subject to the limitations of a body as are human beings. He does not have any body parts neither does He have human passions. God is not composed of any material elements. Therefore, He cannot be seen without our natural eyes or experienced by our natural senses. In the Book of Job the question is raised,

“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?” (Job 11:7 NRSV)

The answer is no. God’s depths and limits are not discoverable.

4. God Did Not Allow the Making of an Image of Him

In addition, God specifically forbade His people to make idols or some type of image of Himself. There are a number of reasons as to why this is so.

A. The Ten Commandments Forbid Images of the Lord

We read the following in the Ten Commandments.

“Never have any other god. Never make your own carved idols or statues that represent any creature in the sky, on the earth, or in the water. Never worship them or serve them, because I, the LORD your God, am a God who does not tolerate rivals. I punish children for their parents’ sins to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” (Exodus 20:3-5 God’s Word)

The Lord will not tolerate any rivals to Himself. No idols should be made of Him or of any false god. Idolatry is something which He hates.

Later, Moses again emphasized that the Lord did not want any type of physical image made of Him.

“It was at that time that the LORD commanded me to issue the laws and regulations you must obey in the land you are about to enter and occupy. But be careful! You did not see the LORD’s form on the day he spoke to you from the fire at Mount Sinai. So do not corrupt yourselves by making a physical image in any form—whether of a man or a woman, an animal or a bird, a creeping creature or a fish. And when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced by them and worship them. The LORD your God designated these heavenly bodies for all the peoples of the earth. Remember that the LORD rescued you from the burning furnace of Egypt to become his own people and special possession; that is what you are today.” (Deuteronomy 4:14-20 NLT)

Since the Lord repeated what He had earlier said about images and idols it is clear that He detests the making of such things.

We also read that God does not want to be compared to these non-existent idols. Isaiah the prophet wrote,

“Who will you compare Me to, or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25 HCSB)

Images of the Lord were condemned in the strongest of terms. He is a different being than every other life-form in the universe.

B. Images Limit and Misrepresent God

It is a sin to make an idol, or image, of God because it gives the impression that God is limited in some way. Since God has no physical form, or spatial dimensions, it is wrong to make an image of Him, and then assume that God is in the image in some special way. To the contrary, He is everywhere present in the universe. Making an image or idol of Him does not make Him any more present. Indeed, it gives the wrong impression that God can be somehow limited to a human-made object.

The God of the Bible is intensely jealous of His character and has strong words to say about this practice.

“So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the LORD your God has commanded you. For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:23, 24 NASB)

Images cannot accurately represent the living God. Thus, we should never construct any type of image of Him with the belief that He somehow resides in it.

5. He Does Not Have a Shadowy Existence

There is an important point which we must make. The fact that God does not have any material form does not mean He lives in some shadowy existence. God is a real Person with genuine existence. Yet His nature cannot be fully appreciated by the human mind or described in an adequate manner by human language. We are limited in the things which we can understand about Him.

6. This Truth Is Difficult to Comprehend

The fact that God is a personal Spirit is difficult to comprehend. We wonder, “How can something be personal without being material?” While we cannot understand how this can be so, this is what the Scripture says concerning the nature of God. Consequently we must accept it by faith because this is the way in which God describes Himself.

7. Though God Is an Invisible Spirit, He Became a Human

When God the Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth two thousand years ago, He took upon Himself a human nature that included a human body. While He will forever be in that body, His Divine nature is not material. His body is a human body, not a divine body. Previously to His coming to earth, He did not possess a body. Indeed, as the eternal God, He did not need a body to exist in the unseen realm.

This sums up some of the biblical truths about the makeup of the God of Scripture. It is clear that He is made up of spirit rather than something physical.

Summary – Question 16
Does God Have a Physical, 0r Material, Body? (God’s Spirituality)

Since humans have been made in the image of God some people wrongly assume that God must have some physical form like us. Yet this is not what Scripture teaches. Indeed, the Bible says that God is spirit.

A spirit, by definition, is invisible. It does not have any physical form. God, therefore, has no physical form. Thus, the invisible God of Scripture is not able to be perceived with the physical senses. While we know that He is there we cannot see Him. Indeed, the Bible says that we love Him though we have not seen Him.

Thus the God of the Bible exists as a being that is not made up of any or matter or substance. He has no parts, no length, and no width. He is not limited to any particular space. This is one of the reasons that the Lord did not allow idols of Himself to be made. Images also give the false impression that God can be confined to a certain space. God cannot be so confined. As to how God can exist as a spirit without any sort of body is a divine mystery. It cannot be comprehended by us. Yet this is what the Bible teaches concerning God’s basic essence. Consequently we believe what we are taught because God does not lie to us.

While the Bible speaks of God as the invisible God, Jesus Christ, God the Son, took upon Himself human nature, which included a physical form, when He came to the earth. However, He did not possess a divine body; He was fully human in all aspects yet He was without sin. God the Son will keep this scarred body for all eternity as a reminder of what He did for us on the cross of Calvary.

In What Sense Is God Patient? ← Prior Section
Why Do Certain Passages Seem to Teach That God Has a Body? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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