The Attributes of God: Aseity

by Lauren Dyck

Over the last few months in our men’s group, we’ve been taking a look at the attributes (or perfections) of God. This study has proven to be extremely beneficial and is geared towards knowing God more and knowing God better, and by this, loving Him more and worshiping Him better. As we get to know God, we learn to trust Him no matter what our circumstances in life.

In this series, I want to share introductory information and pray that it will encourage you to study our God more and help you also better understand and know God.

In this first post, we will be looking at God’s aseity. The term aseity comes from the Latin phrase a se, meaning “from or by self.” Ed Welch, in his blog post entitled “Counseling is Theological,” states the following regarding aseity: “God is ‘a se.’ This is a quieter, more esoteric piece of theology. When we talk about God’s aseity, we mean that He is ‘of Himself.’ He was not created, and He is not dependent on His creation. In other words, He does not need us in order to be complete and fully satisfied. His name, ‘I am who I am’ (Ex. 3:14) expresses His aseity. Unlike all the other gods who were born, derivative and interdependent, the true God is seated over all, and is complete in Himself. We need Him to live, move and breathe, but He does not need us. He is under no compulsion to create, love and adopt us; He loves us simply because He loves us. This again emphasizes the asymmetry in our relationship with the Lord. His love is freely given first, and is greater than our own.”

As a guide for our study on God’s attributes, we are using the textbook “Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth” as edited by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue. In this textbook, they define God’s independence (aseity) like this, “God is independent of all things. He is perfectly self-sufficient, not depending on anything outside Himself for anything, and is therefore the eternal, foundational being, the source of life and sustenance for all other beings.” They then provide the following list as scriptural support of God’s aseity:

  1. As Yahweh, God is self-existent, having life in and of Himself (Ex. 3:14; John 5:26)
  2. God existed before all things, and through Him alone all things exist (Ps. 90:2; 1Cor. 8:6; Rev. 4:11)
  3. God is Lord of all (Deut. 10:17; Josh. 3:13)
  4. He depends on nothing; all things depend on Him (Rom. 11:36)
  5. He is the source of everything (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 45:5-7; 54:16; John 5:26; 1 Cor. 8:6)
  6. He does as He wills (Ps. 115:3; Isa. 46:10-11; 64:8; Jer. 18:6; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 9:19-21; Eph. 1:5; Rev. 4:11)
  7. His counsel is the basis of everything (Ps. 33:10-11; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 46:10; Matt. 11:25-26; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Eph. 1:5, 9, 11)
  8. He does everything for His own sake (Josh. 7:9; 1 Sam. 12:22; Pss. 25:11; 31:3; 79:9; 106:8; 109:21; 143:11; Prov. 16:4; Isa. 48:9; Jer. 14:7, 21; Ezek. 20:9, 14, 22, 44; Dan. 9:19)
  9. He needs nothing, being all-sufficient (Job 22:2-3; Acts 17:25)
  10. He is the first and the last (Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13)
  11. He is independent in His mind (Rom. 11:33-35), His will (Dan. 4:35; Rom. 9:19; Eph. 1:5; Rev. 4:11), His counsel (Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:10), His love (Hos. 14:4), and His power (Ps. 115:3)

Herman Bavinck speaks on God’s aseity, or independence, in this way: “God is what He is through or by His own self. He derives this attribute from the ‘I am’ of Exodus 3:14, which he takes in the sense ‘I will be what I will be.’ While aseity only expresses God’s self-sufficiency in His existence, independence has a broader sense and implies that God is independent in everything: in His existence, in His perfections (attributes), in His decrees, and in His works.”

John Frame, in his Systematic Theology book, goes a bit further in addressing aseity: “Not only does He exist without receiving existence from something else, but He gains his knowledge also from Himself (His nature and His plan), and He serves as His own criterion of truth.” Frame then goes on providing a list to outline God’s aseity,

  1. As Lord, God owns all things
  2. Everything possessed by creatures comes from God
  3. When we give something back to God, we give Him only what He has first given us
  4. When we give something back to God, He is not obligated to recompense us
  5. God owes nothing to any creature
  6. God has no needs.

Frame then sums up this topic with this statement: “So aseity is essential to a credible doctrine of God, not a mere bit of abstract theorizing. It is also important to note that aseity does not isolate God’s being from the world, but rather enables God to enter our history without confusing His being with the being of the world. If God entered the world out of need, then He would be dependent on the world; then there would be no clear distinction between Creator and creature. Yet He enters our world not out of need, but as the a se Lord of all.”

God’s aseity, or independence, truly helps us to know that we can trust Him in all circumstances, for we know He is wholly in control and has the complete ability to work all things for our good, and has always intended it as so.

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