A Shepherd’s Musings: Week 22 – God is Spirit
When Jesus talked with the woman at the well, as recorded in John 4, He told her, “God is spirit.” What does the statement God is spirit mean (v. 24)? Think on that awhile, and you might experience the same brain cramps that I have been feeling. So I have prayed, read, researched, and thought some more. Thinking about God can be hard work because, well, He is God and not a man. He is beyond us.
Let’s back up a step and simply define “spirit.” Most of the sources I checked generally agree with Noah Webster’s 1828 definition: A spirit is “an immaterial intelligent substance. Spirit is a substance in which thinking, knowing. . . and a power of moving do subsist. Hence, [a spirit is] an immaterial intelligent being.”
So the statement “God is spirit” communicates, at the least, that God is a real person and not just a force or power. He thinks, knows and moves. However, this moving, knowing, and thinking is not confined to a physical body or object. As spirit, God is outside of the space, time, and material dimensions within which we as humans have been created to live on earth. Peter warns us not to misjudge God because of this difference in our nature, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Furthermore, Paul’s profound statement about God to the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill can only be understood within the truth that God is spirit:
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Act 17:24-29).
Because God is spirit, He can be near each of us at the same time. This is mind boggling when we consider the billions that inhabit the earth! The Psalmist brings out this omnipresent nature of God’s being, as spirit, in an enlightening and meaningful way:
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me (Psalm 139:7-10).
The fact that the Lord is spirit can bring us much comfort and peace in the trials of life because we know that we can call upon Him in any place or at any time (Philippians 4:4-9). I find it easier to trust in God when I remember that He is beyond my limitations of time, space, and material world. The fact that God is spirit helps us to know that we can worship Him all the time and in every place. Our relationship with God is not limited to a certain time or place! Is that not what Jesus meant when He told the woman at the well that “God is Spirit” (John 4:19-24)?
With Prayer, Mark © June, 2011
Scripture quoted: ESV – Emphasis added
Selected Verses on “God is Spirit”
Genesis 1:1-2, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Gen 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
Psalm 143:10, Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!
Isaiah 11:1-5, There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, I but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
Ezekiel 11:24-25, And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in the vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to the exiles. Then the vision that I had seen went up from me. And I told the exiles all the things that the LORD had shown me.
Matthew 3:16-17, And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
John 4:21-24, Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Romans 8:14, For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-11, But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”– these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 3:16, Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 6:11, And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18, But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Philippians 3:3, For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.
Hebrews 9:14, How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.