Bible Catechism: The Doctrine of God

Doctrine God 

What does the Bible teach about God?

Question How does God exist?

Answer God is self-existent and depends on no one and nothing else in order to exist. He was not created, will never be destroyed, and does not need anything apart from Himself.

Scripture Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Explanation| God exists. He is real, and He’s a real being. We exist too, but is our existence the same as God’s? Think for a moment about how you exist. You do exist—you are a living being. But how did that happen? How do you continue to be a living being? In the first three questions, we saw various ways in which God is different from us and the rest of His creation. With this question—‘How does God exist?—we see even more how truly unique (one-of-a-kind) God really is. 

God is self-existent. To exist means to ‘be’—to be a living being, to have life. To be self-existent means to have life by one’s own doing. Or, as our answer puts it, self-existent means to ‘depend on no one and nothing else in order to exist.’ The one and only, true and living God exists, and He does so entirely on His own. And this is true about no one and nothing else except God. One of the best ways to understand this truth about Him is to see it in relation to our existence. Sure, we are relatively independent. That is, for example, for the most part we exist without needing to be hooked up to anything. At the same time, however, we are very much dependent on other things in order to live. We need food (and the right sort of food, too), water (and enough water at that), shelter (which includes the right environment, temperature, and atmosphere), and rest (yes, we need sleep in order to live). And those are just the basics, basics that even the strongest, most capable human being needs in order to live and keep living! In addition, we could easily consider all the other ways that demonstrate our dependence on others outside of ourselves. But God does not depend on anyone other than Himself. In fact, the name He gives Himself reveals this truth. He is the I AM—or, the self-existent one.1 He is the one who not only never needs to be hooked up to anything, but even more, never needs food, water, shelter, or rest…or anything else. He is perfectly and exclusively independent. And to take this a step further, if God is the one who gives life (and He is, as the ‘creator and sustainer of everyone and everything’), then that means He is life—He, in Himself, is the very essence of existence.2

God was not created and will never be destroyed. This is yet another way to understand God’s self-existence. For sure, He has no beginning and no ending—He is eternal, remember? But, as it relates to His self-existence, this means that no one or nothing made Him, and no one or nothing can undo Him. He has always been and will always be. Nothing comes before Him, and nothing will come after Him, because He is apart from everyone and everything. Let’s think again about how this relates to us. How did you and I even get life in the first place? How did we come into existence? It certainly wasn’t by our own doing. We didn’t do anything in order to become living beings. We didn’t even have a say in the matter, either! Further, if I were to look at my own life not only from its beginning (when and how I was born) but also from its ending (when and how I will die), I would see that from start to finish my entire existence ultimately depends on God. The Bible tells us that the days of our lives, the number of our years, the moment of each of our deaths is all known and ordered by God.3 But who does the same with God? No one, other than God, Himself. He needed no one in order to be, He needs no one in order to continue being, and no one can or ever will be able to stop Him from being forever. He is that independent.

God does not need anything apart from Himself. Quite in line with what we’ve already discussed—and hinted at here and there—if God exists in and of Himself, then He certainly does not need anything except Himself. He doesn’t need anything to exist, and He doesn’t need anything. Period. What this means is that He is completely sufficient in Himself and He is completely satisfied in Himself. He, in Himself, has everything—is everything—that He could ever need or want. Everything outside of Him—everything that isn’t Him—is unnecessary to Him. I know that may sound a little harsh (or at least, unsentimental), but it’s true. He owns ‘the cattle on a thousand hills,’ so why would we think that we could ever contribute anything to Him or give Him something that He needs?4 When God’s prophet, Elijah, confronted the prophets of Baal (a false god), he mocked them essentially about why their god couldn’t answer them—perhaps their god was busy with (or dependent on) other things!5 The Apostle Paul, in comparing God with all other gods, highlights very clearly how much God does not needus—the one who made the world is not served by human hands ‘as though he needed anything.’6 We’ll touch on this more in later questions, but for now, this much is true: for God to be God—the self-existent God that He is—means that when He did create He did not do so because He was lacking or missing something. He wasn’t lonely, bored, or afraid. He didn’t need to add anything to Himself in order to be or stay happy, fulfilled, or safe. We, however, are not God. As much as we might try (and we do!), we aren’t sufficient and can’t be satisfied in ourselves or in any other created thing. But we should be satisfied in God alone, the one who is enough in Himself!

Our verse for this question (Psalm 90:2) reminds us that God is who He is apart from what He has made. First, He was who He was ‘before’ He made anything. The ‘mountains’ and ‘the earth and the world’ did not complete Him when He made them. Or, to put it another way, He is what He is without needing the things that He has made to make Him be what He is. Second, who He is as God is ‘from everlasting to everlasting,’ meaning, He is always unaffected in who He is as God by what He has made. He remains the same God always because He is not dependent on anyone or anything. So, God is more solid, sure, and steady than even the mountains themselves!   

This is what the Bible teaches about God.

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1 Exodus 3:13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘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.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

2 1 Timothy 613 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony beforePontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

3 Psalm 13913 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

4 Psalm 50I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. 12 “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. 13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

5 1 Kings 1826 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

6 Acts 1724 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.