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What the Bible says about God is Spirit
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 2:24

This verse shows that two human personalities can become one flesh. Why, then, can God not be one with two distinct personalities who work independently yet in complete harmony? Paul adds in I Corinthians 6:17, "But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." If a human can be one with God and remain entirely distinct, why cannot another spirit being with a separate personality be one with Him?

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?

Exodus 20:4-6

Some do not perceive the differences between the first and second commandments. However, the first stresses the uniqueness, the matchless distinctiveness of the Creator God. It draws attention to our obligation to the One without whom there would be no life or hope at all. He is also the Source of truth, right values, and standards that will produce right relationships and peaceful prosperity so that life is not merely lived but has the potential to contain great peace, joy, and accomplishment. Thus, the first commandment deals with what we worship.

In contrast, the second commandment covers the way we worship. The Father and Son are unique Individuals who come into our lives from beyond this physical realm. They are absolutely holy, pure, and undefiled, uncreated and eternal. An idol, on the other hand, is someone or something of any other realm that we make and value, giving it devotion that rightfully belongs to the Creator.

John 4:24 instructs us regarding the way God desires that we worship Him: "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." The second commandment regulates a specific area of idolatry; it deals with God's spirituality. It thus involves our manner of worship in faith, most obviously in that it prohibits the use of physical "helps" or "aids" in worshipping the invisible, spiritual God.

John 1:18 states that no man has seen God at any time. Deuteronomy 4:15-16 provides an Old Testament parallel:

Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female.

Since no one has ever seen God, whatever is made to picture Him would be a work of man's hands and a lie. It is helpful to recall that the Holy of Holies contained no representation of God. The Bible frequently uses the image of an altar to indicate the worship of God, yet, except for the Temple's brazen altar, even they were to be made of simple turf or uncut stones (Exodus 20:22-26). Additionally, the second commandment prohibits the use of anything that represents God or could become an object of veneration. Thus, it prohibits any kind of likeness of Christ such as crucifixes, pictures, and statues.

Numbers 33:52 commands the Israelites, ". . . then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places. . . ." This destruction was not to be wanton, but God intended it to involve only religious, worshipped things. Why?

Any representation of God changes Him into a different god from what He really is. Egypt, from whence Israel came, worshipped oxen, heifers, sheep, goats, lions, dogs, cats, monkeys, ibis, crane, hawks, crocodiles, serpents, frogs, flies, beetles, sun, moon, planets, stars, fire, light, air, and darkness. Very likely, an Egyptian could come up with "good" reasons why he did so. A man wrote in an email that he did not care whether the Bible said not to worship as the pagans do through the use of Christmas and Easter. He was going to do it anyway because it was his way of praising God. He is worshipping a god of his own design.

Idolatry, then, denies the true nature of God, so obedience to this commandment determines the way we worship. It must be in spirit and in harmony with His nature, which the Bible reveals. Knowing God's true nature is important because we become what we worship. Thus, this commandment covers idolatry in a form in which the true God is worshipped through either a false image or a corrupt practice. This false representation perverts His reality. If we idolize, we become the wrong thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment

Exodus 20:4-6

The second commandment teaches that He wants no one to be concerned about what He looks like. He has purposefully hidden this knowledge except to tell us that we generally look like Him. However, we do not know specifics. He has done this because physical attributes can be misleading about character. In our relationship with Him, He wants us to emphasize the spiritual—His character, the qualities of His spiritual attributes, and His purpose. The second commandment, then, involves the way we are to worship Him—in spirit and in truth, always aware that man does not live by bread alone.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment

John 4:24

God is Spirit, and nowhere, not even in one verse, does it say that God does not have a body. He is perfect, immortal, infinite, immutable, self-existing, omnipotent, omniscient, invisible, impartial, absolutely holy, full of knowledge and wisdom, and sufficient to provide for His entire creation.

Like any other person He has names, and in His case, many names. And just as our names identify us as specific individuals, His names identify Him. He has titles by which He is known. Men and women have titles by which they are known.

The Bible shows that He has a head, hair, face, arms, fingers, hands, waist, loins, eyes, eyelids, nostrils, ears, mouth, lips, tongue, breath, feet, and back parts. God even speaks of His heart! He rests, but He does not get tired. He feels things. He eats and drinks, and the alcohol in wine, as Judges 9:13 says, has an effect on Him: It cheers His heart. He laughs. He becomes angry. He speaks in a small still voice; Heroars from Zion. As a man, He wept. Sounds a great deal like us, does it not? It should because we are made in His image and likeness.

But there is even more. He goes about from place to place in a body, just like anybody else. He rides in a vehicle (see Ezekiel 1). He walks. He plants. He works. He lives in a spiritual place called heaven.

Yet, despite all these biblical descriptions, the men and women who claim that God has no body never cite any other passage except John 4:24 as proof. But He has revealed Himself in so many different ways in His Word that what these people say turns God into a liar who deceives mankind about what He is like.

Let us be clear: John 4:24 does not teach that God has no body. It, plus a multitude of passages that we have read or alluded to, expand our understanding about the properties of spirit—about what spirit bodies are like. Spirit is just as real as matter, except that it is a much higher type of substance and is governed by higher laws.

John 4:24 is a statement of fact, but it does not define or analyze spirit. The properties of spirit are described throughout the Bible, as those who actually saw and heard God and interacted with Him reported their experiences. Either they are right, or these modern writers are. They cannot both be right because they contradict each other. Which will we believe?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 3)

John 4:24

This scripture plainly states that God is Spirit, but the verse does not define what "spirit" is in reference to God. It says nothing at all about form, shape, or composition. It states only this fact, and one must look elsewhere in the Bible to find information concerning His form and shape.

The word spirit is translated in the Old Testament from the Hebrew ruach, and in the New Testament the Greeek pneuma. Both of these words have the same fundamental meaning and usage, "an invisible force or power."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 4)

John 4:24

The King James has wrongly translated this verse from the Greek. It really says "God is spirit," not "a" spirit - there is no indefinite article in the Greek. Basically, Jesus is saying that God is invisible and immaterial.

This scripture directly refers to the Father. "Spirit" is used in the sense of composition. However, just because the Father and the Son are spirit does not mean they have no form. If they had no form, how could the Bible honestly say that humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)? They do have form. Physically, we are in Their image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)

John 17:11

Deuteronomy 6:4 states, "The LORD our Elohim is one LORD." In John 17:5, Jesus establishes that there was a time when He was alongside the Father, but now He says that He is with, alongside of, His disciples. He is not alongside of the Father, and in this context, He asks the Father, "that they [the apostles] may be one as we are." What kind of oneness is this, if it is not being "alongside of"? John 17:21 shows this unity is actually "inside of"!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim

Acts 1:8

"You shall receive power" - This occurred, as recorded in Acts 2. That power arrived like the sound of wind, a mighty, rushing wind, a great gust of air. Connect this with Genesis 2:7, where God breathed air into Adam. In that act, God was giving the man a spirit. When God gave His Holy Spirit to men, He duplicated it on a majestic scale, and the Spirit came to mankind like the sound of wind or air moving. Mankind, then, is given power, the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 62:11 says, "Power belongs to God." The context deals with a person going through trials. We have a natural tendency to turn in every direction for help, to reach out to other people, to think up solutions, to grasp for the power to solve our problem, but the psalmist informs us that God is the source of salvation. In Him resides the power to save in a right and good way.

Jeremiah 32:17 reads that "God creates by His power," and John 4:24 says that "God is a spirit." Putting these together, God is a creating spirit of the greatest power. When He creates, things of positive function and awesome beauty emerge. What a difference between man and God! By comparison, man in God's image creates destruction; almost everything man makes seems to produce negative results. But when God creates, God creates functional beauty.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power

1 John 4:7-12

If we are going to be like Him, these verses are important to us because they tell us much about Him and our responsibilities. First, love is of God—He is its Source. This love the apostles write about comes from God and is not normally a part of man's nature. It is agape love. Human love apart from God is at its best a mere pale and vague reflection of what God is eternally.

Next, John says "God is love." Sublime as this is, some have misunderstood it because it can be misleading. God is not just an abstraction like love. He is a living, dynamic, and powerful Being whose personality has multiple facets. He cannot be boxed, wrapped, and presented as merely being one attribute.

John's statement literally reads, "The God is love." The Greeks used an emphatic form of writing, and here the emphasis is on the word "God." The syntax means the two words "God" and "love" are not interchangeable. "Love" describes God's nature. A good paraphrase would read, "God, as to His nature, is love." God is a loving God!

This does not mean that loving is one of God's activities, but that every activity of God is loving. If He creates, He creates in love. If He rules, He rules in love. If He judges, He judges in love. Everything He does expresses His nature. God and His nature are manifested by what He does. By love God is revealed and known.

The very existence of life in others besides Himself is an act of love. His love is revealed in His providence and care of His creation. Since we are not robots, free-moral agency is an act of His love. God, by a deliberate act of self-limitation, endowed us to respond with mind and emotion. We are not animals. God's love is the explanation for redemption and our hope of eternal life. Out of love, God has given us something to live for. Life is not just a matter of going through the paces. We do not live our lives in vain.

God made humanity in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). But the Bible says, "God is Spirit," and "God is love." Man, though, is flesh, and the Bible describes us as carnal, self-centered, and deceitful. In practical fact, this means that man cannot be what he is meant to be until he loves as God loves. Only then will he truly be in the image of God because he will have the same nature as God. So, to achieve his potential, a person must love, but he must love with the love of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 




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