Christians teach that God is spirit, based on the teaching of Jesus (John 4:24). But what do we mean when we say that God is spirit?
God is alive.
First, a being of spirit is alive. God is not an inaminate object, like a pagan idol carved from stone. The word spirit means “breath”. Breath is the evidence of life. God is often called “the living God” (Psalm 84:2).
God is personal.
Second, as a being of spirit, God is also personal. He is not an impersonal force like gravity or electricity. God has all the basic traits of personality, such as mind, will, and emotions. Because he is a living person, we can know him and communicate with him personally.
God is not material.
Something does not have to have a material form in order to exist. Spirit is not a different form of matter. In fact, by definition, a spirit does not consist of physical matter.
Luke 24:39 (ESV) “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
As a spirit being, God does not inhabit a body. But what about the verses in the Bible that talk about God in physical terms? For example, 2 Chronicles 16:9 speaks of God’s eyes. Isaiah 59:1 talks about God’s ear. In Deuteronomy 33:27, God has arms. All of these statements are examples of anthropomorphism. This is a figurative way of describing God in human terms so that finite human beings can comprehend what God is like. To say that God has arms or a mouth is symbolic language to communicate that God has the capacity to take action or to communicate. We don’t take them literally any more than statements in the Bible that describe God as a bird or a flame.
Psalm 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings.
Deuteronomy 4:24 The Lord your God is a devouring fire…
The only sense in which God has a body has to do with God the Son. While God the Father is a being of eternal spirit, God the Son came to earth in human form, in the person of Jesus. Jesus respresents, in physical form, everything that God is in spirit.
God is invisible.
Fourth, as a spirit being, God is invisible.
1 Timothy 1:17 (ESV) To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
Although invisible, God can manifest himself in visible ways to reveal himself to human beings – as he appeared to Moses in a burning bush (Exodus 3:3-4). But we can never see God fully in his spiritual nature.
God is an infinite Spirit.
Human beings have a spirit that inhabits a body. Our spirit is limited. But God is not limited in any way. In fact, to be infinite, God must be spirit. If God was limited to a physical body, he could not be omnipresent. But God the Father is not limited to physical dimensions.
Jeremiah 23:23-24 “Am I a God who is only close at hand? says the Lord. “No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” says the Lord.
Why it matters.
The fact that God is an infinite spirit is an encouragement.
- You can have a relationship with him. He is not a force.
- You can have a relationship with him even though you can’t see him. It doesn’t depend on the five senses, a physical presence, or some particular kind of event or circumstances.
- Millions of people can have intimate relationship with God at the same time. You don’t have to wait in line.
- He can be present with you at all times and all places.