by Bruce Ware
1. Self-Existence (Aseity)
This attribute means that God has existence within Himself or it is His nature to exist. God is not caused to exist as is everything else. Everything else owes its existence to something else. In most cases that is true in both a direct and an indirect fashion. You owe your existence in a direct fashion to your parents who conceived you and brought you into this world; indirectly to how many others do you owe your existence? And ultimately to God who created the human race. It is true to anything else you point to in the universe that its existence is derivative upon an other. But God’s existence is intrinsic to Himself. It is His very nature to exist. He cannot not exist. In fact this is the intuition that drove Anselm to his ontological argument. It was this notion that there must be something whose existence is beyond the pale of dependence, whose existence is absolutely independent, not contingent upon something else. That is what lead him to this notion of imagining a being than which none greater can conceived. The being which none greater can be conceived is a being that exist. Because one that is just a thought in your mind compared to one that exists, the one that exists is going to be greater. He argued in the next step of the argument that necessary existence is greater than contingent existence. So the being which none greater can be conceived exists necessarily. It is really this intuition of self-existence of God that formed that argument.
We see it biblically. The very point of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The beginning is not God because it doesn’t say, “In God’s beginning,” rather, “In the beginning God...” The point of Genesis 1:1 is that before the beginning there is God. Before the beginning of what? Creation, everything else that exists there is God. The implication of that is He has no beginning. He exists eternally. Eternity is actually an attribute we will come to in a moment that is very closely related to self-existence but it is not identical. Eternity has to do with the mode of God’s existence, visa vie time; we will talk about that in a moment. Self existence has to do with the fact of God’s existence. That is independence, not contingent, necessary, a part of God’s very essence is to exist, so God has life in Himself. His existence is part of His very nature. I think self-existence is also indicated in the very famous name of God given to Moses in Exodus 3. Moses asks God, “When I go back to the people of Israel in Egypt and tell them that I have met with You and You commanded me to bring them out of Egypt and they ask me, ‘Who sent you?’ What shall I tell them?” And God says, “Tell them I AM has sent you.” We get the name YAHWEH or the kind of derivative of that, that became popular through the King James Version, I believe it was, is the term Jehovah. Which is really consents of YAHWEH and the vowels of Adonai. I don’t know why anybody did that but they came up with Jehovah. Actually the Hebrew term is four consents “Yhvh” (hwhy). The term just means, “I AM.” Its sort of this notion of the being of God, His existence. Of course that has all kinds of implications as it relates to the people of Israel in so far as He is the God for them in their need, in their plight and the like. I think this term means more than existence but I don’t think it means less than that. There have been a number of studies that have been done of YAHWEH and that term used in Exodus 3:14.
John 5:26 speaks of the Father who has life in Himself and the Son who has life in Himself. I think that is a very strong passage of the independent existence of God.
Passages that speak of God’s self-sufficiency that we looked at last time and I will remind you of when we come to that in a moment, also imply self-existence. If God is really self-sufficient, the most basic quality that anything could have is existence. There is no point in talking about whether something is good or has power or knowledge if it doesn’t exist. So self-sufficiency entails self-existence.
First on the list of God’s incommunicable attributes is God’s self-existence intrinsically, within His own nature. It is His nature or essence to exist, self-existence.
God possesses within Himself or intrinsically every quality in infinite measure. Any quality you can think of, whether it is goodness or beauty or truth, or knowledge or power, God possess that quality as what constitutes His very nature; He does so infinitely. So goodness is God’s own quality or nature. Nobody gave it to Him, nobody makes God good or grants Him goodness, it is His own by nature which not the case for us. Why is it that we have any quality that we have? You name it, why do you have it? It was given to us. Remember Paul’s question in I Corinthians 4:7 which is a verse that Christian people ought to put on a bumper sticker. Don’t put it on your bumper, put it on your bathroom mirror so you can see it first thing in the morning, everyday. What do you have that you have not received? What is the answer to that rhetorical question? Nothing. And then Paul goes on to say, “Why do you boast as if you have not received , it?” Every single quality, every true idea, every ounce of energy, every moral quality that is up right that you and I have is a gift. It is not intrinsic to our existence to have it. We might not have it, look at the demons. We might not have it but God grants those qualities to be given in finite measure. Those qualities in God are His by nature, infinitely. So all goodness is God’s, all power is God’s, all holiness is God’s (we will come to holiness later, it is a very interesting in Isaiah 6 because it is holy seraphim around the throne of YAHWEH who are crying out, “holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” Have you ever wondered why they don’t say, “We are holy, He is holy, we are all holy”? Think about it. It is interesting, it relates to this issue we are thinking about right here.) These qualities are God’s in infinite measure.
Self-sufficiency Key Texts
This is most explicit statement.
Acts 17:24“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;
Acts 17:25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
Catch the two “all’s”. He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.
How much does posses? Everything. Of how much are we dependent? Everything.
Self-sufficiency can also be inferred from James 1:17
James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
If every good and perfect gift comes from the God, who posses it? Where is any goodness, any good gift that is found? In Him, nowhere else.
Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the Lord, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?
Isaiah 66:2 “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.
So it is all His. He made all of it. The Doctrine of Creation ex nihilo also supports self-sufficiency. If God created all there is, there is nothing else out there with independent existence that could add to the fullness of God. God is infinitely full. The only reason the creation exists is because God gave of His fullness to bring into being something that had no existence or qualities apart from God granting them what they have, granting us what we have.
These doctrines are so important because they establish the supremacy of God, the magnitude of His greatness, the infinite extent of His perception. We have to take these to heart because the whole drift in our culture is to conceive of a God much more like us, almost to a pathetic being, in many, many ways. This is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is one before whom we should absolutely marvel that He would deem to care, to create and care about us.