Since God is an uncreated spirit, He is therefore simple, immutable, infinite, omnipresent and eternal. Having considered these attributes, we proceed to look at those divine perfections that are true of Him as an active and operative spirit. The two attributes that belong to all active spirits are life and power. However, these are true of God in an infinite measure —since He is an infinitely active spirit (“actus, purus, et simplicissimus”), all act, so He has life in Himself and His power is almighty. We shall now consider the life of God.

Some believe this is not a single perfection of the Godhead, but is expressive of all the divine perfections. Indeed, this is true, for as it is His nature and essence, so it is Himself. This applies equally to every other attribute—each perfection is one with His nature and essence. However, the finiteness of our minds require we view these attributes under different considerations, which are displayed in various ways. Henceforth, the life of God may be treated as a distinct attribute. Yea, it is a very eminent and fundamental one, by which God exerts His nature and essence, and displays all His perfections.

I. The Life of God Compared to Life in the Creatures.

Although we cannot comprehend the life of God, yet we may be able to apprehend something of it by considering life in the creatures. By rising from the lowest degree of life to an higher, and from that to an higher still, we may helpfully form some idea of the life of God, although it be an inadequate one.

1. Plant Life.

If what has motion has life, and what has not is without it, then life is a principle in the creature by which the creature moves. So long as a creature has any motion, it is reckoned to have life; but when motionless, it is thought to be dead. The phrases, “to move”, and “to have life”, are synonymous, expressing the same thing (see Gen 7:21-23). However, it is not any kind of motion that can lay a claim to life. For instance, the sun, moon and planets move, yet they are inanimate; and while a dead carcass may be moved, yet it cannot move itself. Henceforth, it is self-motion only that shows a creature to be alive, and this of course is under a divine agency. Forthwith, all creatures live and move and have their being in and of God. While it is true some things are said to have life, such as a fountain, flowing with water (Gen 26:19; Song of Solomon 4:15; Jer 2:13; Jn 4:10), yet this is ascribed in an improper sense. A flowing fountain may appear to have self-motion, yet if that water be left in a pool or lake, then it remains unmoved, becomes stagnated and is dead. If inquiry is made as to the lowest degree of real life, the answer would be in vegetables, herbs, plants and trees. This vegetation is truly said to live (Ez 47:7,9). Although they do not have a local motion, yet they do share a motion of growth and increase—they become bigger and larger, rising up to a greater height, and bringing forth leaves and fruit. This attests to real life.

2. Animal Life.

There is a higher degree of life in animals. They share with the bodies of men the breath of life. Both are possessed of sensitive powers—seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling. And both perform the common functions of life—eating, drinking, walking, &c. But neither the life of vegetation or of animals can assist us in our ideas of the life of God—there is nothing in them that is similar to His.

3. Spiritual Life.

There is yet a higher degree of life, which is in rational creatures, such as that of angels and the souls of men. Not only are they capable of operating on bodies and matter, but also without them. In addition, they are equipped with the ability to perform acts within themselves, by a self-motion, suitable to their nature as rational spirits—to understand, to will, to choose, to refuse, to love, to hate, &c. These may be called the motions of the mind, even as the inclination to sin, which are the first thoughts thereof, is called “motions” (Rom 7:5). It may well be said that these internal acts of the mind, which are good in angels or men, and show a rational life in them, most resemble what is in God. For the Lord does in, and of, and by Himself, understand all things; He wills and decrees whatever He pleases; He loves and hates what is agreeable or disagreeable to Him, &c.

4. Regenerational Life.

The highest degree of life, and that which comes nearest to the life of God, is that which is in regenerated persons. It is that principle of spiritual life, grace, and holiness, implanted in the soul, by the Spirit of God, wherein the regenerated person becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Yea, it is that operation where Christ is formed in them—“and they live, yet not they, but Christ lives in them”. Having such a principle of life wrought in them, they understand divine and spiritual things; they will that which is spiritually good, and walk in the ways of the Lord; the Spirit of God works in them a disposition thereunto, and gives them power to perform. “Being in Christ, and created in Him unto good works”, they perform vital spiritual acts, living a spiritual holy life, which is called, “the life of God”, and to which unconverted sinners are strangers (Eph 4:18). Now, this most resembles the life of God, especially, as it will be perfect and eternal in a future state, though it falls abundantly short of what is in God. Henceforth, every imperfection in the life of angels and men, must be removed from God. Likewise, everything that is great and excellent must be ascribed to Him.

II. The Life of God Considered in His Own Blessed Being.

The life of God infinitely transcends that which is in finite creatures. It must therefore be maintained, that the life of God is essential, eternal and efficient.

1. God is Life Essentially.

The scriptures, both in the Old and New Testaments, frequently speak of God as the “living God” (Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10; Ps 42:2; 84:2; Matt 16:16; 2 Cor 6:16). This attribute is ascribed not only to the Father, but also to God the Son, who is called the living God (Heb 3:12), as well as God the Spirit, who is called the Spirit of the living God (2 Cor 3:3). Each person of the TriUne Jehovah is the living God. This title, or epithet, is one with which He has in opposition to, and contradistinction from, them that are not by nature God: First, the living God is opposed to idols—lifeless and motionless (Jer 10:10,1,16; Acts 14:15; 1 Thess 1:9). Second, the living God is distinguished from all objects of idolatrous worship—(1) The sun, moon and stars, which are inanimate; (2) Heroes, kings and emperors, which decay after their death—the worship of these persons is called eating the sacrifices of the death (Ps 106:28); (3) Wood, stone, brass, silver and gold, which are dumb objects, and lifeless ones (Ps 115:4-7).

Some of the greatest personages in history and proudest monarchs that ever were upon the earth, some of which actually set themselves up as the one true deity, have acknowledged the Lord to be the living God, who lives for ever and ever (Deut 4:34; 6:26). But there is no need for their testimony, when Jehovah Himself declares to be the one true and living God—“And lift up my hand, and say, I live for ever” (Deut 32:40). The expression, “as I live, saith the Lord”, is frequently used by God throughout scripture, as a Personal oath affirming He has life in Himself (Num 14:28). As God is the Supreme Being, He cannot swear by one greater than Himself—“for when he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself” (Heb 6:13). It does not surprise us, therefore, that both men and angels swear by the living God—“by him that lives for ever and ever” (Jer 5:2; 12:16; Dan 12:7; Rev 10:5,6).

Life is the nature and essence of God—it is Himself. The natural life of creatures is not in and of themselves, for it is “in Him they live, and move, and have their being”; and of what comparison is the life of a creature with that of the Creator, when the creature’s life “is but a vapour, that appears for a while, and then vanishes away (Js 4:14). Neither is the spiritual and eternal life of the saints in and of themselves, for it is from God, “hid with Christ in God”. It is in this sense God is said to have life in Himself, and gives life to all that have it.

Now, this life of God which is in and of Himself, is true for all three Persons of the TriUne Jehovah—“the Father has life in Himself” (Jn 5:26), and so has the Son (Jn 1:1,4), as well as the Spirit, called, therefore, “the Spirit of life” (Rev 11:11). And, what is true of all the Persons in the Godhead, is true of God essentially, for they partake of the same undivided nature and essence, and live the same life. Since God is life essentially, so He lives as a simple and independent self-existent Being.

(1) God Lives Simply.

By simplicity, we mean the life of God does not arise from any composition of parts. God is a Spirit, a simple and uncompounded Being. Now, all other creatures have life by virtue of composition. For instance, natural life in humans consists of the union of soul and body—once this union is dissolved, it ceases to live—for “the body without”, or separate from, “the spirit”, or soul, “is dead” (Js 2:26). Likewise, the spiritual life of saints arises from the union of Christ and His Spirit, as a principle of life unto them—which, could it be dissolved, as it cannot, death would ensure, even death spiritual and eternal. So, the life of God, being simple in essence, is therefore “infinite”, “eternal”, “immutable” and “most perfect”. In the life of creatures, even among those of the highest order, there is something wanting in them as they are finite and dependent beings; but in God there is nothing wanting, for He is “El-Shaddai”, God all-sufficient, blessed and happy in Himself for evermore.

(2) God Lives Independently.

Since the life of God is “of Himself”, it is independent. There is no cause from whence it is, or on which it depends. The natural and spiritual life of men is of God, and therefore they depend on Him—they live not so much their own life, as another’s. They have their life from God in every sense, and are supported in it by Him—“He is thy life, and the length of thy days” (Deut 30:20). But God lives His own life, which is without a cause, and has no dependence on any other.

2. God is Life Eternally.

God is without beginning of life or end of days, and there is no variableness in Him—He is “the same today, yesterday and for ever”; He is the “true God”, without beginning, succession or end (1 Jn 5:20). Indeed, it is said of Christ, the Word and Son of God, that He is the “eternal life”, which was with “the Father” from eternity. If God the Son was with the Father from eternity, then He necessarily lived from eternity to eternity. Now, what is true of God personally, is true of Him essentially—He lived from eternity, and will live for ever and ever. The eternal nature of the life of God may be concluded from the following affirmations: (1) The life of God is eternal because the Scriptures declare it—the scripture references above, which prove that the life of God is in Himself, are sufficient to assure us that this life is also eternal; (2) The life of God is eternal because of the “simplicity” of His nature—that which does not consist of parts, and therefore cannot be reduced and dissolved, must therefore live for ever; (3) The life of God is eternal because He is independent—as there is no cause prior to Him, from whom He has received His life, or on whom it depends; nor is there any above Him, superior to Him, that can take away His life from Him (as He can from His creatures, who are below Him, and dependent on Him); so He is above all, dependent on none and therefore eternal; (4) The life of God is eternal because He is immutable—if His life was not eternal, He must be subject to the greatest of changes, even death; but in Him there is no change, nor shadow of change, for He is the same, and of His years there is no end (Ps 102:27).

The above arguments which affirm God’s eternity, may also be used to prove that He lives for ever—He “is the true God”, “the living God, and an everlasting King” (Jer 10:10). In 1 Timothy 1:17, He is called “immortal eternal”. In addition to the above arguments, it may be useful to point out that the ungodly have such a notion of Deity as immortal. There is nothing more common with them than to call their gods, “the immortal ones”. Socrates says, “God is, I think, the very species or idea of life, and if anything else is immortal, and confessed by all that He cannot perish.” Aristotle has this remarkable observation, “The energy, act or operation of God, is immortality, this everlasting life; wherefore there must needs be perpetual motion in God.” He then reports, that Alcmaeon supposed that the soul was immortal, because it was like to the immortals. However, our God, the true God, is He “who only hath immortality” (1 Tim 6:16), that is, who hath it in and of Himself, and gives it to others. This is true of, (1) Angels—for these spirit beings are immortal, for they die not, yet this immortality is not of themselves, but of God. He supports and continues them in their being. It is a sobering consideration that as He made the angels out of nothing, He could, if He would, annihilate them, and bring them to nothing again. (2) Human Souls—these spirits beings are also immortal, for they cannot be killed, nor do they die with their bodies. However, what is said of angels may also be said of human souls. If it be asked whether the bodies of men, after the resurrection, are immortal, we answer yes—this mortal then puts on immortality, and will always be clothed with it. However, this is the gift of God, and the effect of His will and power. Yea, even the bodies of the wicked are immortal, but not of themselves, for this too is traced to the will and power of God. In fact, so mighty is God’s will and power, that He makes the bodies of the wicked immortal which runs against their will and power—for they choose and seek for death, but cannot have it; their torments are endless, and the smoke of them ascends for ever and ever; if they could annihilate themselves, they would; but they cannot, for God gives them immortal souls and bodies. In short, it has been proved that God only has immortality in and of Himself.

3. God is Life Efficiently.

Unless God has life in and of Himself, essentially, originally and independently, He could not be the source and spring of life to others. But that He is the author and giver of life to others is clear, for “with [Him] is the fountain of life” (Ps 36:9). This may be observed in the gift of natural, spiritual and eternal life:

(1) Natural Life.

No creature is capable of giving real life to others. Men may paint to the life, as we say, but they cannot give life—they are sooner able to create a world, than making an inanimate object live. God is the giver of, (1) Vegetation Life—herbs, plants and trees are from the Lord, and are supported by Him; and He takes it away as easily as He gives it, when His Spirit blows upon them (Gen 1:11,12; Is 40:7); (2) Animal Life—He gives breath to all the fishes in the sea, the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field; and, when He takes that breath away, they die and return to dust (Gen 1:20,21,24,25; Acts 17:25; Ps 104:29); (3) Rational Life—angels are made rational living spirits by Him, and in Him they consist; to men He grants life and favour, and His visitation pressures their spirit, and He is the God of their life; He gives them life, continues it and takes it away at pleasure (Ps 42:8).

(2) Spiritual Life.

The spiritual life that is in any of the sons of men, is from God. Men, in a state of unregeneracy, are dead—dead in a moral and spiritual sense. That is, while they are corporally alive, yet they are dead in trespasses and sins. They are dead as to their understanding of, will to and affection for what is morally and spiritually good. In fact, their living in sin is no other than death. And what is more, while they are in this deplorable state, they cannot quicken themselves—nothing can give what it has not. The resurrection of the dead, in a corporal sense, requires almighty power; so, in a spiritual sense, the exceeding greatness of God’s power is necessary—it is not by might or power of man, but by the Spirit and power of the living God. While men are dead in sin, dead in law and exposed unto eternal death, God in His rich mercy, and because of His great love and by His almighty power, quickens them. He speaks life into them, when He calls them by His grace, breathes into the dry bones the breath of life, and they live spiritually. This spiritual life is one of justification, through the righteousness of Christ, which is the justification of life—it adjudges and entitles them to eternal life. This spiritual life is one of faith on Christ, and of holiness from Him—they live in newness of life, soberly, righteously and godly. Not only so, but this spiritual life is preserved in them—it springs up to everlasting life; it is hid and secured with Christ in God; it is never dying, but shall issue in eternal life; all of which each of the three Persons in the Godhead is concerned (Jn 5:21,25; 11:25; Rom 8:2).

(3) Eternal Life.

Life eternal, which is so often spoken of in scripture, as what the saints shall enjoy for evermore, is of God. God has provided and prepared it for them in His council and covenant. He has foreordained them to it in His purposes and decrees—and what He who cannot lie has promised to them, before the world began, shall surely be given to them in time. He has procured it for them through Christ, as His free gift, which flows from His free favour and good will (Acts 13:48; Tit 1:2; Rom 6:23). Christ came that His people might have it, and He gave His flesh for the life of them. Eternal life is put into the hands of the Son, and He has power to dispose of it, and give it to His sheep, so that none of them shall perish, but shall certainly have it and enjoy it (1 Jn 5:12; Jn 17:2; 10:28). And not only does the Father and the Son secure this eternal life for the saints, but also the Spirit, whose grace springs up to it, and issues in it. He dwells in His people, as the earnest of it, and works them up for it, and brings them into the full enjoyment of it.

Now God must have life in the highest degree of it, as explained. Even essentially, originally, infinitely and perfectly. Otherwise He could never give life in every sense unto His creatures. And, in order to continue eternal life, particularly to His people, and preserve them in it, He must live for ever.



Comments

Comments are closed.

Copyright © 2019, The Association of Historic Baptists