This means he is immaterial or nonphysical.
This attribute or perfection is one that is communicable or “shareable” “transferrable us because we are made in his image. We too are spirit, but not even close to the same way God is. Our spirit is created and finite, but he is the opposite—he is the Creator and infinite.
What do theologians say?
Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck says, first, what God’s spirituality is not and then what it is:
God, as a spiritual Being, is the author not only of all that is called “spirit” and “soul” but also of all that is called “body” and “flesh” (Doctrine, p. 179).
Translation: God created human souls and spirits, and material body and flesh.
Now he draws this conclusion:
Hence, by spirituality we understand that divine perfection which designates God negatively, as being immaterial and invisible, analogous to the spirit of angels and the human soul; and positively, as the hidden, incomposed (uncompounded, simple), absolute ground of all creaturely, somatic or pneumatic, essence (ibid.).
Translation: God can be related to the spirit of angels and our human soul because it too is invisible and nonbodily, but he is also the foundation of everything spiritual and material.
Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof describes God’s spiritual existence in this way: “Since He is Spirit in the most absolute and in the purest sense of the word, there is in Him no composition of parts. The idea of spirituality of necessity excludes the ascription of anything like corporeity to God” … (p. 66).
Renewal theologian J. Rodman Williams writes:
Since God is spirit, His being is not some kind of rarified matter, or, as it were, some form of energy. Spirit is not God’s substance, for spirit is not substance or matter but God’s reality. God is not material, regardless of how refined or what form such matter may be. God is spirit (vol. 1, p. 53, emphasis original)
Wayne Grudem defines it briefly:
God’s spirituality means that God exists as a being that is not made of any matter, has no parts or dimensions, is unable to be perceived by our bodily senses, and is more excellent than any other kind of existence (pp. 187-88, emphasis original)
Before that positive definition Prof. Grudem wrote an expanded description of what God is not: He is not a physical body or any other matter; he is not like energy or vapor or steam or air, for they are created things. He is not even like our spirits, for they can be in only one place at one time (p. 187).
Norman Geisler reminds us what matter is, so we can say that God is not it. Matter is finite (limited), extended in space, occupies space, and no two particles can occupy the same space. Even if matter is conceived as like Swiss cheese, it still contains “some mass and particles that cause it to be extended in space.” Matter can wear down, running out of usable energy. Physical forces like gravity and magnetism are part of matter. (p. 477)
God is not like any of those things.
This attribute or perfection means God is spirit, unextended, unlimited by space, and nonphysical.
What do the Scriptures say?
I use the NIV here. If you would like to see the following verses in many translations or in their contexts, please go to biblegateway.com.
This verse contrasts man-made images of gods, implying that God is not physical or man-made:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. (Ex. 20:4)
These two verses contrast the physical stuff of God’s creation, implying that he is unlike it, that is, immaterial.
This is what the Lord says:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting place be?
2 Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?”
declares the Lord. (Is 66:1-2)
The next verses is Christ’s resurrection appearance, and he says he has a body, while a spirit does not have one.
… “For a spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39)
The conclusion to that verse is that Father God is spirit because he has never been incarnated (made flesh).
And this verse is the clearest one of all:
John 4:24: “God is spirit.”
God’s spirit existence implies his invisibility, which the attribute to be studied in the next post.
How do I know God more deeply?
God is not limited by space because his spiritual existence has no size or dimensions. His spiritual existence is more real than created things because God started it all, causing all of material creation to come into existence.
God is incorporeal and therefore indivisible or not composed in parts. This is often called God’s simplicity (noncompositeness or uncompounded).
Further, the Scriptural references to God’s eyes hands or feet or back are called anthropomorphisms (anthrop- meaning “man,” and morph- meaning “form”); that is, God is poetically or figuratively depicted with those features, so we humans can relate to him—God accommodates our puny minds. (Or some may affirm that this is God manifested through his Son.)
God acts in time and relates to our existence because he is pleased to do so and he loves us. We are his creation, and he loves us like a father loves his children. The ultimate expression of God acting in our world is this Scripture:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:6-8)
Written by James Malcolm
ARTICLES IN THE SERIES “DO I REALLY KNOW GOD?”
Do I Really Know God? He Is Spirit