by Rev. Danny Hyde
What is God? We believe he is self-existing. That’s the meaning of confessing, “God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection.”
We see a visual illustration of the self-existence of God signified by the burning bush in Exodus 3. Here is a revelation of the angel of the Lord—the Son of God before his incarnation—who appeared “in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” and although “the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed” (Ex. 3:2). Meditate for a moment on why the Son of God would appear in such a way. What is the significance of “this great sight?” (Ex. 3:3) In other words, why did the Son not just appear as a flame of fire, why include the bush? Of course the covenantal purpose of this revelation is made clear towards the end of this event (Ex. 3:13–17), but we cannot miss the theological truth illustrated in the burning-yet-unconsumed bush. Our theologians have pointed out that the fire was a self-sufficient fire because it had no fuel, and this illustrates the self-sufficiency of God as the eternal “I AM.” The word for this is aseity. From two Latin words meaning “from self,” aseity means that God exists from himself and that he derives what he is from himself. He is “in and of himself” all that he is, “infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection,” as the Catechism says.
Another biblical illustration of this is in God’s attitude to Israel’s myriad sacrifices in Psalm 50. In a poetic way the Lord taught his people that, “every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10). What was his point in saying this in song? It was to remind his beloved children that he did not need their sacrifices like the gods of all the other nations did. Their gods literally were fed by their people’s sacrifices. The Lord, though, says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? (Ps. 50:12–13)” God needs nothing beyond himself. He is self-existing.
Let me suggest two areas in which this is so practical for us to know. First, God’s self-existence should cause us to be humble. As we seek to give an answer to what are our thoughts on God, we need to impress upon our neighbors the humility of knowing that God does not need us, or them. Second, this should also cause in us awe and wonder. The God who is infinite in being (his being is without finitude, it is unquantifiable), infinite in glory (his glory is without limit), infinite in blessedness (his blessedness is without end), and who is infinite in perfection (he is all that he needs) actually shares himself with us. He doesn’t need us; we need him. And that’s the wonder of the Gospel, as God comes to us in Christ and brings us back to him by the work of the Spirit. And this leads to my second point.