Where a lounge chair is used as a prop to demonstrate God doesn’t have a body. Yeah, blasphemous, I know.
What does God’s omnipresence have to do with a man spread out on a lounge chair?
Yet, millions of people make the mistake–often innocently enough–of imagining God with a human body, throwing his feet upon the earth as a footstool, settling back in a great throne that is heaven.
But the biblical doctrine of God’s omnipresence is in direct opposition to this mistake. Let’s see how.
Omnipresence: Two Things It Isn’t
Omnipresence means that God is present everywhere…at once. There is nowhere that God is absent.
And as the indivisible, simple God…all of God is everywhere. Not this part here, that part there. He is at every point of space. But he is not space. He is all present, in all places, at all times.
Furthermore, God’s omnipresence–though part of a cluster of classical attributes like omnipotence and omniscience–is not an attribute. It’s a way to describe how he relates to his creation. Thus, if there was no creation, God would not be omnipresent.
Omnipresence: What the Bible Says
The word omnipresence never appears in Scripture. Yet, it is implied everywhere.
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! 1 Kings 8:27
Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
True, the early Old Testament writers describe God as coming and going in language that might be used of a human. But it does not follow from this that the writers who do so think God is subject to space.
Historical Support for God’s Omnipresence
From early church fathers to the modern age, theologians throughout history have tried to counter the crude idea that God had a body like a man–a serious obstacle if God is omnipresent.
Iraneaus said people do not understand the expression “heaven is his throne and earth his footstool.” They make the mistake of imagining God lounging like a man lounges.
“All though heaven is called his throne, not even there is He contained,” says Clement of Alexandria.
The truth is, he doesn’t need heaven or earth. But, Augustine said, “He fills them both with His presence and His power.”
The classical argument against God having a body comes from John 4:24.
When Jesus said “God is spirit,” J. I. Packer argues, “he was seeking to disabuse the Samaritan woman of the idea that there could be only one right place for worship, as if God were locally confined in some way.”
Jesus’ point is that while we, being flesh, can be present in only one place at a time, God, being spirit, is not so limited.
Why God’s Omnipresence Is Important to You
God’s omnipresence is of great practical importance to your religious life–both from a personal and salvation point of view.
Personally, the nearness of God means you can communicate and enjoy him anywhere and everywhere.
Salvation wise, God’s omnipresence assures you that God will rescue, protect and preserve you from dangers like water, rivers or fire.
God is here and everywhere. He’s not confined to a stump or mountain or a river. But he’s free in the universe. Near everything, next to everyone. And through Jesus Christ, immediately accessible to every loving heart.
What Do You Think?
So: Have you made the mistake of thinking God had a body? Does it upset you to think that he doesn’t? Does it scare you that God is everywhere at all time? Concern you? Comfort you? Share your thoughts.
**Part of The Nature of God series.**