God is a Spirit – John 4:4-24


I made reference a few minutes ago to the differences between the “Separate” Baptists and the “Regular” Baptists of the 18th and early 19th centuries. There were not many at all, and unlike today’s Baptists, sovereign grace was not one of them. At that time 95% of all Baptists believed in sovereign election. As I understand it, what separated the two groups was their different emphases on doctrine and how emotional they were in their presentation of the Gospel. People attending a Separate Baptist church would come expecting a heart-rending topical message on repentance and faith, and they would be surprised if there was much Bible exposition. But the members of the Particular or Regular Baptist church over in the next valley would come expecting a sermon on the DOCTRINE of repentance, filled with scripture or at least an exposition of a specific passage. Our message this morning would more likely come from the lips of a Philadelphia Association preacher than a Sandy Creek preacher.

But that doesn’t mean our subject will necessarily be a dry or useless waste of time. Christ told the Samaritan woman, “God is a spirit, and He must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.” This statement attacks a major Mormon doctrine – a cult which is sweeping around the world. And it is a doctrine which separates the practical atheists from true believers, even in the pews of Baptist churches in this country. If we and our children do not at least begin to understand that God is a spirit, then the generation which follows us will be vulnerable to intellectual and practical heresy. This is an important and practical doctrine.

Opposed to the statement “God is a spirit,” would be something like, “God is corporeal; He has a body.” If God was corporeal, then he could be worshiped in some corporeal or fleshly fashion. But the reality is – God IS a spirit and He must be worshiped spiritually. This is something which is impossible for the unsaved person, because he is spiritually dead. And this renders the worship found in most Christian denominations unacceptable to God. Because God is a spirit, the Lord tells us he must be worshiped in truth. This is in contrast to worship with lies, but it also takes us to Him who is “the way, the truth and the life.” God the Father, or the God-head, must be worshiped through God the Son and the Holy Spirit. He who has not the true Christ, the Christ of the Bible, cannot worship God. And again, that excludes huge portions of “Christendom.”

Christ tells us that Jehovah does NOT have a body. A body would take away from just about every one of His divine attributes. Even as we look within ourselves we find that our spirit is more important than our physical body. Our bodies die, but our spirits exist for ever. Our body cannot live without the empowerment of our spirit. Our spirit is our principal part. And since the Creator exceeds the creature in everything, so He exceeds us in the mode of His existence. He has nothing material in His essence.

To say that God is a spirit raises several negatives. Much of what we know about the Lord is negation – what God is not. As physical beings, we can hardly perceive anything except in a physical way. So when Christ tells us that God is a spirit, we understand Him to say that He is not like us. God is infinitely higher than any of His creation.

Approaching Jesus’ statement “God is a Spirit” negatively, what does that mean?

If God was not a spirit, He could not be one essence. In speaking to the Jews about His deity, Christ said, “I and my Father are one.” The Trinity could not exist if God was not a spirit. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God – they are one in essence. Bodies are made up of various parts – look at your own body – thousands of parts. Some of those parts can be removed without much consequence – like tonsils or the appendix. And we can add to bodies as well as take from them – I added to my body last Thursday.

If God had a body, He would be some sort of compound being – composed of various parts. And in God’s case each part would be either finite or infinite. If, say, both the heart of God and His mind were infinite, would that not make each of them both God? Only God can be infinite. But if some PART of God was not infinite then that part of Him wouldn’t be WORTHY of God. Fortunately God has neither heart or mind as we think of them – He is spirit. “Hear , O Israel: the LORD our God is One LORD.”

I Timothy 1:17 is one of the important statements about the nature of God. At the conclusion of his epistle, Paul says, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” If God was not a Spirit this verse would be a lie – because bodies cannot be invisible, or eternal, or…. Things visible are within our grasp – even if they are a million light years away – they are potentially reachable. God is invisible to any and all of our senses – we can neither see, touch or smell Him. When he is said to have appeared to Moses or others, they did not see Him – His essence – they saw a form of God which He created for them to see. Furthermore, no man can see God; no man can see God and live – because there would be a clash between something spiritual and something physical – something absolutely holy and something sinful. If God was corporeal, we might be able to in some way measure Him, weight Him, size Him. Such a thought reduces the infinite Being.

But God – Elohim, Jehovah – IS infinite. As Solomon correctly declared at the dedication of the Temple, “the heaven, and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee.” Science can measure the weight of the earth, the size of the sun, and the extent of our galaxy. But the universe – the heavens – stretch beyond all of the means we now have to examine them. But the Creator is greater, larger, and beyond all He has created. If He had a body this idea would be inconceivable. But it makes perfect sense since God is a spirit.

And extending this concept, if God was not a Spirit, He could not be the Creator of this vast universe. Without a doubt creation is complex – like our bodies. And using the body as an example, we know that our human complexity began in ultimate simplicity. By the grace of God your mother and father were brought together and you began as a single cell. In nine months you were complex and mature enough to be born. Then your 6 pounds further developed into your 106 pounds and for some us into our 206 pounds. Similarly, God, the spirit, is the single – and simple – creative source of all things.

And in that light, would the condemnation God pronounced in Romans 1 apply, if He was not a spirit? In proving man’s sinfulness before God, Paul said, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” If God had a body of some kind, couldn’t the idolater eventually find a form or shape acceptable to the Lord?

If God had a body, could He be truly independent? My body is made up of billions of different cells and every one of them is dependent on other cells. My lungs drawn in air, from which the oxygen is drawn out and attached to millions of red blood cells. Then my heart pumps that blood throughout my body feeding all the other kinds of cells, carrying out their various responsibilities. A compound being depends on the integration of its parts for its existence. If enough parts are removed then that being will die or cease to exist. Is God dependent on lesser or inferior parts coming together to establish His being or to maintain His existence? No, because God is a spirit.

Just as it is said of God the Son, it could be and should be said of the entire God-head…. He “is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” God is immutable – unchangeable – in him is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” When a person dies there is a separation of body and soul – the physical and the spiritual part. And then after that the body could even be divided into its various parts. Unlike anything living in His creation, God is an unmixed spirit, leaving no room whatsoever for division or change of any kind. And incidentally, this makes Him impeccable as well – unable to sin.

I realize that if someone was determined to reject my message this morning, he could probably find a reply for just about every point I have made. But what would he be able to say to this statement – a corporeal God could not be omnipresent. God said to Israel through Jeremiah, “Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.” As much as most of us would like, from time to time, to be in more than one place at a time, we can’t physically do it. In our spirits we might imagine ourselves in some exotic, foreign place, but our bodies demand that we remain where we are. And perhaps we’d like to be at home in bed, but necessity demands that we be at the dentist’s office. Or we have so many things to do that it would be wonderful if we could be in three place at once. Sadly, our bodies, and heavenly bodies, even divine bodies, if they existed could only be in one place at a time. But God is a spirit, eliminating this problem – He is everywhere present at once. And if God were both omnipresent and corporeal at the same time – if God possessed an infinite body, there wouldn’t be any room for anything else. Furthermore, there wouldn’t be room for motion to occur – even God would be immobile.

Bodies are somewhat cumbersome things. If we want to move from one room to another, then we have to use our legs. And if we want to visit our friend across town, then we have to get in our car or use some other means of transportation. Our bodies are cumbersome, and they are breakable – they are finite and fragile. A bullet might pass through my body, and it would inflict great damage as it did. A punch probably would not pass through, but again, it would do damage. God cannot be physically touched by anything. And this allows Him to be perfect. Neither we nor Satan, can lay a hand upon him. And because He is a spirit he cannot be defiled by our sin – any sin. As a divine spirit, He transcends us in excellence to an infinite degree.

Yes, God is sometimes said to have a heart and hands, eyes, and even wings. But these are only ways in which He condescends to speak with us. And yes, the Son of God took upon Him human flesh in order to accomplish our salvation. We don’t have the means of understanding how a spirit can touch us; we can’t grasp divine emotion. We are limited to human or physical illustrations, to even begin to understand the infinite God. Sometimes there is a correspondence between some Divine operation and some organ of our body, so the Lord has chosen to apply that to Himself, enabling us to can understand. But as Christ said to Thomas, “a spirit hath not flesh and bone.”

What should all this mean to us?

If God is a spirit, nothing physical can defile Him. No filth of flesh can come into contact with Him. He is able to remain perfectly holy, while still dealing with us in our sins.

If God is a spirit, He is not bogged down with a mass of size and weight, but is free to act, even in our souls. He can cure or remove that tiny cancer cell – or remove a mountain. And He does not tire from overwork. Because He is spirit, He can meet our needs no matter what sort they are – physical or spiritual.

If God is a spirit, He is immortal. Remember, death is always a separation of some kind. But since God is a single uncompounded spirit, there can be no separation in Him. And related to this – He is unchangeable, enhancing our faith in all His blessed promises.

If God is a spirit, we can have communion with Him only in our spirits. And for this reason we ought to take more care of our spirits than our bodies. How often we live as if our physical substance was all that we are. Bible Christianity should make us more concerned with our spirit, because God is a spirit.

And if God is a spirit, we must be on guard especially against sins of the spirit. Paul says,Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Sins of the flesh are wicked, and worthy of eternal wrath from God, but sins of the spirit are especially evil in that they defile that which is nearest to the Lord. Sins of the flesh tend to make us like beasts, but sins of the spirit make us more like the Devil. More necessary than to be cured of cancer, our spirits need to be regenerated that we might have fellowship with God who is a Spirit. That God is a Spirit is another reason why we – each of us – you – need to be born again.