Independence of God

by Wayne Grudem

Independence. God’s independence is defined as follows: God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy. This attribute of God is sometimes called his self-existence or his aseity (from the Latin words a se, which mean “from himself ”).

Scripture in several places teaches that God does not need any part of creation in order to exist or for any other reason. God is absolutely independent and self-sufficient. Paul proclaims to the men of Athens, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:24–25). The implication is that God does not need anything from mankind.

God asks Job, “Who has given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 41:11). No one has ever contributed to God anything that did not first come from God who created all things. Similarly, we read God’s word in Psalm 50, “every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world and all that is in it is mine” (Ps. 50:10–12).

People have sometimes thought that God created human beings because he was lonely and needed fellowship with other persons. If this were true, it would certainly mean that God is not completely independent of creation. It would mean that God would need to create persons in order to be completely happy or completely fulfilled in his personal existence.

Yet there are some specific indications in Jesus’ words that show this idea to be inaccurate. In John 17:5, Jesus prays, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made.” Here is an indication that there was a sharing of glory between the Father and the Son before creation. Then in John 17:24, Jesus speaks to the Father of “my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world.” There was love and communication between the Father and the Son before creation.

These passages indicate explicitly what we can learn elsewhere from the doctrine of the Trinity, namely, that among the persons of the Trinity there has been perfect love and fellowship and communication for all eternity. The fact that God is three persons yet one God means that there was no loneliness or lack of personal fellowship on God’s part before creation. In fact, the love and interpersonal fellowship, and the sharing of glory, have always been and will always be far more perfect than any communion we as finite human beings will ever have with God. And as the second verse quoted above speaks of the glory the Father gave to the Son, we should also realize that there is a giving of glory by the members of the Trinity to one another that far surpasses any bestowal of glory that could ever be given to God by all creation.

With regard to God’s existence, this doctrine also reminds us that only God exists by virtue of his very nature, and that he was never created and never came into being. He always was. This is seen from the fact that all things that exist were made by him (“For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” [Rev. 4:11]; this is also affirmed in John 1:3; Rom. 11:35–36; 1 Cor. 8:6). Moses tells us that God existed before there was any creation: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:2). God’s independence is also seen in his self-designation in Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ ” It is also possible to translate this statement “I will be what I will be,” but in both cases the implication is that God’s existence and character are determined by himself alone and are not dependent on anyone or anything else. This means that God’s being has always been and will always be exactly what it is. God is not dependent upon any part of creation for his existence or his nature. Without creation, God would still be infinitely loving, infinitely just, eternal, omniscient, trinitarian, and so forth.

God’s being is also something totally unique. It is not just that God does not need the creation for anything; God could not need the creation for anything. The difference between the creature and the Creator is an immensely vast difference, for God exists in a fundamentally different order of being. It is not just that we exist and God has always existed; it is also that God necessarily exists in an infinitely better, stronger, more excellent way. The difference between God’s being and ours is more than the difference between the sun and a candle, more than the difference between the ocean and a raindrop, more than the difference between the arctic ice cap and a snowflake, more than the difference between the universe and the room we are sitting in: God’s being is qualitatively different. No limitation or imperfection in creation should be projected onto our thought of God. He is the Creator; all else is creaturely. All else can pass away in an instant; he necessarily exists forever.

The balancing consideration with respect to this doctrine is the fact that we and the rest of creation can glorify God and bring him joy. This must be stated in order to guard against any idea that God’s independence makes us meaningless. Someone might wonder, if God does not need us for anything, then are we important at all? Is there any significance to our existence or to the existence of the rest of creation? In response it must be said that we are in fact very meaningful because God has created us and he has determined that we would be meaningful to him. That is the final definition of genuine significance.

God speaks of his sons and daughters from the ends of the earth as “every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isa. 43:7). Although God did not have to create us, he chose to do so in a totally free choice. He decided that he would create us to glorify him (cf. Eph. 1:11–12; Rev. 4:11).

It is also true that we are able to bring real joy and delight to God. It is one of the most amazing facts in Scripture that God actually delights in his people and rejoices over them. Isaiah prophesies about the restoration of God’s people:

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,

and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

You shall no more be termed Forsaken

and your land shall no more be termed Desolate;

but you shall be called My delight is in her,

and your land Married;

for the LORD delights in you

and your land shall be married. . . .

as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,

so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isa. 62:3–5)

Similarly, Zephaniah prophesies that the LORD “will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival” (Zeph. 3:17–18). God does not need us for anything, yet it is the amazing fact of our existence that he chooses to delight in us and to allow us to bring joy to his heart. This is the basis for personal significance in the lives of all God’s people: to be significant to God is to be significant in the most ultimate sense. No greater personal significance can be imagined.


From Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

By Topic


By Scripture

Old Testament









1 Samuel

2 Samuel

1 Kings

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

2 Chronicles








Song of Solomon


















New Testament







1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians





1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy





1 Peter

2 Peter

1 John

2 John

3 John



By Author

Latest Links