God is a Spirit

God’s Spirit in the Law

4 min

“God is a Spirit.” Thus, Jesus said to the woman at the well outside the village of Sychar. He went on to tell her “and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). This woman was focusing her attention upon the external forms of worship. Yet, the Lord Jesus was emphasizing to her that God is a Spiritual Being Who delights in spiritual worship.

God’s spiritual nature is emphasized throughout the Bible, from the Book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation.

In the opening verses of the Bible, we are introduced to the spiritual nature of the God of Heaven. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (Genesis 1:1–3).

We know from Colossians that the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, was active in Creation. According to Colossians 1:16, “by him [Jesus] were all things created.” But just as the Son of God is eternal, so also the Spirit of God is eternal—and He was active in the creation of the world. The writer of Hebrews called the Holy Spirit “the eternal Spirit” (9:14).

Alongside the Father and the Son, the Spirit of God was active in Creation. The Hebrew word translated as “spirit” is רוּחַ (ruach). This same Hebrew word is also used to describe breath and wind. Just as the wind blows across the waters and generates wave motion and energy, so the Spirit of God “moves” upon our hearts to make the clay vessel of mankind vibrate with life!

This word for “spirit” is also the same word used to describe the moment when God “breathed” into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, and man became a living soul. God is a Spiritual Being, and God has created man to respond to His divine Spirit. Unlike the rest of Creation, man has the capacity to worship his Creator “in spirit and in truth.”

God’s essential spiritual nature is the basis for the second commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Exodus 20:4). Because God is a Spiritual Being, He cannot be depicted in any bodily form or physical representation. This fact set the God of the Bible apart from the false gods of antiquity. Dagon, the god of the Philistines, was fashioned in the likeness of a fish. The gods of Egypt took the form of the ibis, the frog, the eagle, the calf, and other beasts, birds, and insects. The Egyptians even worshipped the dung beetle!

In stark contrast to ungodly darkness and humanistic paganism, the God of the Bible is spiritual, and He delights in spiritual worship. Stephen Charnock, a Puritan pastor and author of The Existence and Attributes of God, described the importance of God’s attribute of spirituality:

It is impossible to fashion any image of God. If our more capacious souls cannot grasp his nature, our weaker sense cannot frame his image; it is more possible, of the two, to comprehend him in our minds, than to frame him in an image to our sense. He inhabits inaccessible light; as it is impossible for the eye of man to see him, it is impossible for the art of man to paint him upon walls, and carve him out of wood. None knows him but himself, none can describe him but himself.

Stephen Charnock

Charnock proceeded to list all the other attributes of God that are linked to His spirituality. If God were not spiritual, He could not be invisible; He could not be infinite; He could not be independent; He could not be immutable (unchangeable); and He could certainly not be omnipresent (everywhere at once)!

God’s nature as a Spiritual Being defines our worship as spiritual and gives us a hope beyond the death of the physical body to the hope of a glorious resurrection. God’s spiritual nature also makes the miracle of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ all the more significant. He Who is spiritual took on our bodily substance.

According to Hebrews 2:17, we learn this truth about our Lord Jesus, “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” The eternal, spiritual Son of God took upon Himself our temporal, physical bodies. As a result of His Incarnation, we too will one day “put on incorruption” (I Corinthians 15:53–54) and share in His glories of His eternal and spiritual life. There are many mysteries here on earth and in Heaven that will one day be fully and gloriously revealed when we see Him face to face.

Until that day, we should be ever thankful that God is a Spirit, and we should be very careful to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Each of us should carefully examine our attitude toward God, worship, church, and toward religion in general. Are we focusing on the physical aspects of a church building and the furniture within, the ceremonies, or other physical niceties? Or, are we truly worshipping a spiritual God in spirit and in truth? The call to the woman at the well then is still the same to us today: “The Father seeketh such to worship him.”

This article is from our Matters of Life & Death teaching series.

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