The terms “essence” and “substance” mean pretty much the same thing when used of God. The “essence” of God is that which is behind all outward manifestations of God – that is, God’s essence is the reality of God itself, material or immaterial. The “essence” of God refers to the basic aspect of the nature of God. God is not a philosophy or an idea or even the personification of an idea. God is a Person, He has “essence” and “substance.”

1. God is Spirit

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

God is a substance, but not a material substance. God is a Spirit therefore He is a spiritual substance. As human beings, we are tripartite, that is, a person is a spirit, he has a soul, and lives in a body. When we look at people, we can’t see their immaterial parts – soul and spirit – only their material or physical part – the body. God has no body to observe and this fact enables skeptics and doubters to question God’s reality simply because we can’t observe Him or experience Him in the material realm. The Bible, however, makes plain the existence of another realm that is just as real as our material realm: the realm of the spirit. There is a dimension that exists alongside our dimension and this is the dimension in which God dwells. From Genesis onward we can observe God’s work in our dimension from His. For example, God created man in our dimension but gave him a spirit; we read about angelic (spirit) visitors, audible communications from God to people, and of theophanies, which are physical but limited manifestations of God clearly perceptible by man. From time to time, God breaks through from His realm into ours so that we may observe and experience Him, His presence, and the things of the spirit in a way that is real to us.

False worship

Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. (Deuteronomy 4:12)

You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman… (Deuteronomy 4:15, 16)

God does not have a body like ours or like anything in our material world. The ancient Israelites were surrounded by nations that worshiped idols; gods they made in the image of things they could see with their eyes. God had commanded the Israelites not to make any images that would represent God; images that looked like things in the material world. Sadly, when the faith of the Israelites wavered, the first thing they did was to craft idols to help them worship an invisible God.

Real worship

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

The Israelites fashioned idols to represent God. Because their faith was lacking, they needed something to see to help them worship Someone they could not see. “Why” the Israelites made idols is irrelevant because God expressly told them never to do it. God is a spirit, therefore His people must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Using a “worship aid,” like an idol, is not worshiping truthfully, rather it is dishonest worship because while a person may think they are worshiping the invisible God, they are in reality devoting themselves to the idol – the thing representing God.

Because human beings are tripartite beings, they must worship God with all of their being: body, soul, and spirit. Using an idol may get the body to worship but does nothing for the soul and spirit.

Freedom through the spirit

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom… (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Other translations read like this: “The Lord is that Spirit,” referring to Jesus Christ. When people turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, away from things like the Law of Moses, we experience spiritual freedom. The Israelites under Moses could not experience God personally; they had no freedom of worship. But Christ is not confined to the written word, He is “the” or “that” Spirit which may be worshiped anywhere, any time and His presence is wherever His people may be. Not only that, the Spirit of Christ is what sets people free from the bondage to both sin and the Law.

The divine nature of Christ

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

The Son of God, as the second Person of the Trinity, was pure Spirit prior to His Incarnation. Through the Incarnation, the Son of God was united with human flesh to create the Man Jesus Christ – fully human and fully divine, one Person with two natures, perfectly united. The Father and the Son are equally God and united in purpose, yet two distinct Persons. Jesus Christ came to reveal God to us and to reconcile us to God.

Our invisible, immortal God

…who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16)

On its surface, this verse seems to state the obvious. Immortality is nothing new. Angels are immortal. Demons are immortal. Even human beings are immortal in the sense that the body may die but the spirit lives on forever. However, all these immortal beings have “created immortality.” God is different because His immortality is inherent – its part of His essence. Our immortality is derived from Him.

2. God is a Person

Aristotle wrote about the “Prime Mover,” a force behind what we can see. Thomas Carlyle spoke of the “god-stuff” in religious rituals. Hegel and the other idealistic philosophers represented God as an impersonal spirit. All the smart people were wrong. God is a Spirit and He therefore must have a personality. The very fact that He relates to us must mean He is a Person, even if He is a Person at a level unfathomable by us.

Covenant maker

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14, 15)

Only people can make covenants or contracts with other people. God heard the cries of the Hebrews in Egypt and that moved Him to initiate a covenant with them through His friend Moses. God is a Person in a way that is a mystery to us, but that difference didn’t prevent Him from entering into a covenant with other people.


I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:5, 6)

In this 8th century BC prophecy, God revealed to Isaiah that He would raise up a deliverer who would bring an end to the Babylonian Captivity and restore the Jews to their homeland in the 6th century. It was a very precise prophecy, God named this deliverer – Cyrus.

This passage of Scripture revealed to the Jews that God is both transcendent and immanent. He is transcendent in that He exists outside of our realm. God is not limited in any way by the things that limit us, including time. He alone knows “the beginning from the end,” so it shouldn’t surprise us that God named a man who was to be born 200 years hence! But God is also immanent; He is close to us and He is able to relate to us in our world. Just as He entered into a covenant with Moses, He spoke to Isaiah.


If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:30 – 32)

During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stressed the idea that we shouldn’t put our trust in material things; that we shouldn’t worry about things in our material world. God looks after all of His creation, from living animals to inanimate things like flowers. But God, as He relates to human beings, is like a Father. All human fathers look after their children, how much more does God our Father look after us? It is part of God’s nature to care for those He created.

3. God is eternal and unchanging

Eternity in His hands

The idea of the “eternity of God” means that He is infinite in relation to time. That is, He is without beginning and without end. God is completely free from the constraints of time because time is a part of our dimension, not His. That God is eternal is taught throughout the Bible: Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:2; 102:27; Isaiah 57:15; 1 Timothy 6:18.

God exists by reason of His nature, not His volition. He simply IS. God is, therefore, free from the succession of time. Eternity for God is now. In fact, we read this in 2 Peter 3:8 –

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day…

However, time does exist to God; He knows what a “day” is. Yet, He sees the past and future as clearly as He sees the present. How is this possible? It is simply because God is the cause of time!

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

Unchanging, unchangeable

But the eternal God is also the unchangeable God. In theology we call this “the immutability of God.” Everything we are familiar with in our dimension changes, either for the better or for the worse. But God cannot change for the better because He is already absolutely perfect; He cannot change for the worse for the exact same reason. God is exalted over all things, even the possibility of change. God can never be any wiser, more compassionate, more truthful or more gracious. He is all these things in their totality.

I the Lord do not change. (Malachi 3:6)

God cannot possibly change, therefore when He speaks – when He makes a promise or gives His Word – His words are eternal in their force! That’s why God’s covenant with Israel, for example, is eternal.

Every single attribute of God; every aspect of His character is unchanging. From eternity past to eternity yet to come, nothing about God will change because He cannot change.

Similarly, Jesus Christ cannot change:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

What applies to God the Father must also apply to God the Son. Therefore, there is no expiration date on any of the benefits we have received through Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of sins never stops; victory over sin never ends, and our salvation never needs to be re-upped!

God is completely reliable

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Because God doesn’t change, He doesn’t change His mind, even though it may appear like He does to us. He can be counted on to do all things He said He would do, the way He said He would do them. He will not – He cannot – treat us differently than He has promised. Therefore, no matter what, He cannot love us less. He cannot help us more. He cannot disregard any of the promises He has made to His children. God already knows the end from the beginning. All this may be mysterious to us, but there are no mysteries to God. Nothing is hidden from Him, nothing is unknown to Him, and nothing takes Him by surprise.

When we consider these things about God – the fact that He is a Spirit, and a Person, that He is eternal and immutable – we should worship and exalt Him. Understanding these points of theology is not an intellectual exercise! The more we learn about God, the greater our wonder of Him grows. How can we not humbly bow down and worship a God who is so great?

Almighty God,
The Great I AM,
Immoveable Rock,
Omnipotent, powerful,
Awesome Lord,
Victorious Warrior,
Commanding Kings of Kings,
Mighty Conqueror.
And the only time,
The only time I ever saw Him run,
Was when He ran to me,
Took me in His arms, held my head to His chest,
And said, “My son’s come home again.”
He lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes,
And said, “Son, do you know I still love you?”
He caught me by surprise,
When God ran.

God always catches us by surprise!

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