The Gospel Depends on a God Who Does Not Depend on You
Grudem’s observation offers a penetrating look into how many Christians think about God. But is this what Scripture teaches? What implications would such a view have for worship? And how would such a view affect our salvation?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.— Wayne Grudem
We must begin by asking if God needs us to exist or to be fulfilled and happy. The God of the Bible is one who does not need us at all. In theological language, this is the doctrine of divine aseity, literally meaning “from-himself-ness.” God is a-se. He exists independent of the world, as one who is self-sufficient and self-existent. In his book The Doctrine of God (see pp. 603-608), John Frame helpfully outlines seven characteristics of aseity.
- As Lord, God owns all things. God is “possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:19). Indeed, the “earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Ps. 24:1).
- Everything possessed by creatures comes from God. The Lord made heaven and earth and every good and perfect gift is from his hand (Gen. 1-2, Exod. 20:11, Neh. 9:6, Ps. 146:5-6; Ja. 1:17).
- When we give something back to God, we give him only what he has first given to us. We are God’s stewards and will be held accountable for whether or not we have used what he has given to us for his glory (Luke 12:42; 16:1-8). Since the church belongs to God, pastors will be held accountable for their pastoral care (Titus 1:7).
- When we give something back to God, he is not obligated to recompense us. When we do what we were told to do, we, as unworthy servants, have only done our duty (Luke 17:10).
- God owes nothing to any creature. Notice how God answers Job: “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). Or consider Paul who writes, “‘Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?’ for from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen” (Rom. 11:35-36).
- God has no needs. Psalm 50 is powerful in this regard: “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it” (Ps. 50:10-12).
- God is by nature a se. As Paul says to the Athenian philosophers in the Areopagus, “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” (Acts 17:24-25).