August 2012 • Volume XIV, Issue 4
The Spirituality of God (1)
The problem with the Samaritan woman, at least in the
first half of John 4, is that she has not grasped the
spirituality of God. The Lord Jesus speaks to her about
"living water" (10), but she thinks He needs a bucket to
reach the bottom of the well (11). She misses the point
that Christ is the living water! He tells her that this
water springs up to "everlasting life" (14), but she
reckons that this will stop her from thirsting so that
she will no longer have to make trips to the well (15).
She is overly enamoured with places connected to
religious figures and history: Jacob’s well (12) and Mt.
Gerizim where "our fathers worshipped" (20). But Jesus
declares that she and the Samaritans in general did not
even know what they were worshipping (22)! This woman
has divorced and remarried several times, she has had
five different husbands and the man with whom she is
currently living she has not even bothered to marry
(17-18). Yet she thinks she can worship the true and
holy God at Mt. Gerizim! It is in this context and in
order to correct her misconceptions that the Lord Jesus
makes the greatest statement in all the Bible about the
spirituality of God and His worship: "God is a Spirit:
and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and
in truth" (24).
What is meant by God’s being "spirit" or His
spirituality? Very simply, it means that He is not
material or physical, even in the tiniest degree. He
does not consist of any material or physical parts—there
are no parts in God anyway!—for God is entirely
immaterial and non-physical. He is wholly spirit, pure
God is not a solid or a liquid (obviously); He is not
even a gas. He is pure spirit (not to be confused with
an extremely fine gas).
What about God’s spirituality and man’s five senses? You
cannot feel Jehovah with your fingers or smell Him with
your nose. You cannot see God with your eyes; He is
invisible. You cannot hear the Most High with your ears;
He is inaudible. Even the voice that Israel heard at Mt.
Sinai declaring the ten commandments was a created
sound. Finally, you cannot taste God either. But what,
someone objects, about Psalm 34:8: "O taste and see that
the Lord is good"? This is not referring to tasting God
with the mouth or seeing Him with the eyes. This is
perceiving and knowing Him by faith through the Word so
as to fellowship with, love and enjoy Him. God is
spirit, pure spirit, infinitely exalted above our puny
five senses, yet known with great certainty and
blessedness by believers in the crucified and risen
But what about other entities spoken of as "spirits" in
the Bible? Man has a spirit, being both body and soul
(spirit, mind, heart). Man’s soul or spirit is created,
finite (existing in this life within and not outside his
body) and sinful (at least in this world), whereas the
Almighty is uncreated spirit, infinite spirit and
spotlessly pure spirit.
Angels are spirits, as Hebrews 1:14 asks rhetorically,
"Are they not all ministering spirits?" (cf. Ps. 104:4).
As spirits and only spirits, angels are not joined to a
physical body, unlike man; they are much more
knowledgeable, powerful and swift than man. The elect,
unfallen angels are sinless (I Tim. 5:21). But even the
mighty angels, whether elect angels or reprobate angels,
are still created and finite spirits.
Unlike men and angels, God is uncreated spirit. He is
infinite, eternal, unchangeable, omnipotent spirit; the
perfectly holy, just and good spirit. There is not a
broad generic category called "spirit" in which God also
fits. Man’s soul is spirit and angels are spirits, both
finite and created spirits. However, Jehovah is
infinitely higher spirit for He alone is uncreated,
eternal and absolutely righteous spirit.
What about God as spirit and the Holy Spirit? God’s
being a spirit concerns His essence or being or nature.
God is spirit and so the Father is spirit, the Son is
spirit and the Holy Ghost is spirit. However, when we
speak of the Holy Spirit, we are not talking about the
divine essence or nature as such. Here we are speaking
of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity as regards His
distinctive personal characteristic. He is spirited or
breathed forth from the Father to the Son and from the
Son to the Father, as the eternal, divine and personal
breath of the First and Second Persons.
God’s glorious perfection as pure spirit very obviously
accords with especially some of His other attributes.
First, God’s spirituality goes hand in hand with His
unity. If God is in any way material or physical, then
He must consist of parts and therefore He cannot be
absolutely one or simple or united. But since God is
pure spirit and not material, He can be and is
absolutely simple, one and united. Perhaps this is why
the unity of God is intimately linked to the
spirituality of God at the very start of Belgic
Confession 1: "We all believe with the heart, and
confess with the mouth, that there is one only simple
and spiritual Being, which we call God."
Second, God’s spirituality necessitates His
invisibility. Because God is pure spirit, He must be and
is invisible. No technological marvel can ever be
devised whereby God, who is spirit, could be seen by a
creature. Remember the Russian astronaut who declared
from outer space that God was nowhere to be seen, as if
He did not exist. This was merely an instance of
anti-Christian propaganda from a mouthpiece of
communistic atheism. God, by definition, is spirit and
invisible; of course, He cannot be seen!
Third, as spirit, God is omnipresent. Just think for a
moment if God were both omnipresent and material (i.e.,
not spirit). Then He would fill the universe so that
nothing else could exist, because matter fills its own
space, for if God were physical and everywhere then
there would be no room for anything else! However, being
uncreated, immaterial spirit, the Most High is present
everywhere and yet displaces nothing!
Fourth, God’s spirituality is necessary for His
omnipotence. Think of it this way: man is body and
spirit and so possesses physical and mental powers;
angels, as spirits, are much more powerful and clever;
as pure uncreated spirit, Jehovah is all powerful.
All this and more is included in Christ’s profound
affirmation that God is spirit! This great truth we
shall consider more fully next time, DV. Rev.
God’s Sovereignty in Sanctification
Question: "Is sanctification generally monergistic or
synergistic? Or can we believe it monergistic in a
definitive sense and synergistic in its progressive
activity? Am I in error if I believe sanctification is
monergistic? Or am I getting into Arminianism if I
believe sanctification is synergistic? To define terms:
if monergism is to mean God alone is the sovereign cause
of our salvation and synergism is that we
cooperate/participate in this cause, are these terms
even appropriate in your opinion to be used in the
doctrine of sanctification?"
The text to which the writer refers is Philippians
2:12-13: "... work out your own salvation with fear and
trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to
will and to do of his good pleasure."
The answer to the writer’s question is: Sanctification
is absolutely monergistic in its definitive sense and in
its progressive sense. Let me explain.
There are those to whom the writer evidently refers who
teach that, although God graciously and without human
aid begins the work of sanctification in the heart of
the elect sinner, God, having begun the work, now leaves
the sinner to maintain that work of sanctification and
increase its influence in his life. God begins the work;
the sanctified man carries that work out by his own
The justification for this position is supposed to be
that the text admonishes one who is saved to work out
his salvation. And because an admonition implies man’s
ability to do what is commanded, therefore, the on-going
work of sanctification (working out one’s own salvation)
is man’s work. God gets it started; man must complete
it. This is indeed Arminianism of the worst kind.
Sanctification is the work of God by means of which, and
through the power of the Holy Spirit of Christ, Jehovah
cleanses His people from their total depravity and makes
them holy as He is holy.
Sanctification is, however, a work which God performs
only in principle in our life in the world. That is, our
hearts are made holy. Our hearts are the moral centre of
our whole nature (Prov. 4:23). Our natures remain
depraved, while our hearts are cleansed from sin.
Nevertheless, the holiness that now characterizes our
hearts has great influence on our natures, for the
Spirit works sanctification in our hearts and gives
sanctification its power to have dominion over the
activities of our natures.
Perhaps a rough and inadequate analogy would be the
relation between an owner of a pit bull and the dog
itself. The owner can, with a strong leash, hold the pit
bull in check, just as the Holy Spirit, through the
sanctified heart holds our natures from committing many
sins. The owner of a pit bull can even train the animal
to obey his commands, just as the Holy Spirit enables
our natures, contrary to their depravity, to obey God.
Yet it remains true that, as the Heidelberg Catechism
says, we "have only a small beginning of [the new]
obedience" (A. 114) and "our best works in this life are
all imperfect and defiled with sin" (A. 62). We must
wait for our deaths for sanctification to be completed
in our souls, and for Christ’s coming at the end of this
age for sanctification to be completed in our bodies.
All is the work of God through the Spirit of Christ. Not
one thing is left to us.
But why then the admonition: "Work out your own
We ought to notice first of all the little word "for"
with which verse 13 begins. If the text read "Work out
your own salvation ... although it is God which worketh
in you," the text would support antinomianism, that is,
the idea that we cannot take the admonition seriously
because we are unable to obey it.
If the text read, "Work out your own salvation ... and
it is God which worketh in you," the text would be
Arminian because it would teach synergism, that is, the
heresy that God and man work together to accomplish
salvation. I am reminded of a secondary school which
called itself Christian that had as a motto for the
graduation of seniors, "Do your best and let God do the
But the text says, "Work out your own salvation ... For
it is God which worketh in you." The word "for" means
"because:" we are to work out our salvation because God
works in us. That is, we are to work out our salvation
because God gives us all we need to do it and enables us
to do it.
About this the text is emphatic. God works in us the
willing; we are made willing to work out our salvation.
We want to do it. We want, sometimes desperately, to do
it. And the will must be there before anything else.
But God does more; He also works in us the doing. That
is strong language. God Himself performs the actual
doing. He doesn’t leave the doing of working out our own
salvation to us, but He does that too. There isn’t
anything more to do. God does it all.
And yet we are admonished to do it, and we actually do
what He commands. How is this possible? The answer lies
in the last part of Philippians 2:13: "of his good
pleasure." That is, God has a purpose in saving us. That
purpose is the glory of His own name. He accomplishes
that purpose by enabling us to do good works—work out
our own salvation. He does the willing and the doing.
But He does it through us. He does it through us so that
we do it. He does it through us as a mother teaches her
child to walk: giving the child the desire to walk,
keeping the child upright by holding its little hands
and moving one foot at a time forward step by step.
We have the privilege of being used by God to accomplish
His purpose in our salvation by working Himself what we
must do, but always in and through us.
It is as my pastor of old times used to say, "We do not
ride to heaven in the lower bunk of a Pullman sleeper."
Or as Augustine many, many centuries ago put it, "Give
what Thou dost command, and command what Thou wilt."
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