Friday, April 24, 2009

...biblical reflections on the self-sufficiency of God

A few years ago a famous evangelist said, “God created on this planet people who He could love and who would return love to Him. Reverently speaking, God was lonely. He wanted someone to love and someone who would love Him.”

Statements like this one made above do not represent the character of the One Triune God. God was never lonely beloved. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit - three Persons, co-equal; co-eternal; co-existing - were never found wanting, inadequate, or in need, in any manner whatsoever from His creatures because He needed company. We were not created to satisfy God's "lonely" feelings. But we were made to glorify Him and worship Him forever (Roms. 9:11ff). To suggest otherwise, is to suggest that God is less than God; it is to suggest that God was incomplete, lacking, deficient in some way until He made us. This sentimentalism unwittingly redefines God in a way that God has not defined Himself. When any of us try to redefine God according to our emotional perceptions, we end up distorting a right view of who He is. It is tantamount to taking His name in vain (ascribing attributes to God's person that are not consistent with or revealed in His Word, but stating them as truth).

Consider what the Lord says about Himself through the pages of Scripture, "God will hear and answer them-- Even the one who sits enthroned from of old-- Selah. With whom there is no change,..." (Psalm 55:19a - emphasis added); "For I, the LORD, do not change;"(Malachi 3:6a). The Lord our God does not change or vary as man does in actions, thoughts, motives and desires. Our Lord is not moved nor swayed as we are by how He "feels" at any given moment. He is immutable--the same, "yesterday, today, and forevermore" (Heb. 13:7).

How can anyone really think that the omnipotent, omniscient sovereign God is sitting above the vault of the earth, with the universe full of His glory, exisiting from all eternity past, contemplating that when we sing, pray, or preach about Him, He is quietly saying, "I like to be praised for one reason... so that I won't be so lonely and receive love from My people as I have never been loved before?” Surely not.

Oh beloved, God is lacking nothing in His person; He is complete and did not make us because He needed us. We are made for His pleasure, according to His purpose, for His glory, which He determines after the council of His own will--not ours (Eph. 1:4-14). We were made for His glory; not to satisfy His unmet need of loneliness.

A.W. Pink has given us one of the most profound and wonderful messages on this subject. May his words cause you to exalt further in the absolute sufficiency in "The Solitariness of God."

The Solitariness of God
By A.W. Pink

The title of this article is perhaps not sufficiently explicit to indicate its theme. This is partly due to the fact that so few today are accustomed to meditate upon the personal perfections of God. Comparatively few of those who occasionally read the Bible are aware of the awe-inspiring and worship-provoking grandeur of the Divine character. That God is great in wisdom, wondrous in power, yet full of mercy, is assumed by many to be almost common know]edge; but, to entertain anything approaching an adequate conception of His being, His nature, His attributes, as these are revealed in Holy Scripture, is something which very, very few people in these degenerate times have attained unto.

God is Solitary in His Excellency
“Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like Thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).

“In the beginning, God” (Genesis 1:1). There was a time, if “time” is could be called, when God, in the tri-unity of His nature (equally co-existing in three Divine Persons), dwelt all alone. “In the beginning, God.” There was no heaven, where His glory is now particularly manifested. There was no earth to engage His attention. There were no angels to hymn His praises; no universe to be upheld by the word of His power. There was nothing, no one, but God; and that, not for a day, a year, or an age, but “from everlasting.” During eternity-past, God was alone: self-contained, self-sufficient, self-satisfied; in need of nothing. Had a universe, had angels, had human beings been necessary to Him in any way, they also had been called into existence from all eternity. The creating of them when He did, added nothing to God essentially. He changes not (Malachi 3:6), therefore His essential glory can be neither augmented nor diminished.

God was under no constraint, no obligation, no necessity to create. That He chose to do so was purely a sovereign act on His part, caused by nothing outside Himself, determined by nothing but His own mere good pleasure; for He “worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11).

That He did create was simply for His manifestative glory. Do some of our readers imagine that we have gone beyond what Scripture warrants? Then our appeal shall be to the Law and the Testimony: “Stand up and bless the Lord your God forever and ever: and blessed be Thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise” (Nehemiah 9:5).

God is No Gainer Even From Our Worship
He was in no need of that external glory of His grace which arises from His redeemed, for He is glorious enough in Himself without that. What was it moved Him to predestinate His elect to the praise of the glory of His grace? It was, as Ephesians 1:5 tells us, according to the good pleasure of His will. We are well aware that the high ground we are here treading is new and strange to almost all of our readers; for that reason it is well to move slowly. Let our appeal again be to the Scriptures. At the end of Romans 11, where the apostle brings to a close his long argument on salvation by pure and sovereign grace, he asks, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” (vv. 34,35).

God Profits Nothing From Us
The force of this is, it is impossible to bring the Almighty under obligations to the creature; God gains nothing from us. If thou be righteous, what givest thou Him? Or what receiveth He of thine hand? Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art; and thy righteousness may profit the son of man (Job 35:7,8), but it certainly cannot affect God, who is all-blessed in Himself. When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10)—our obedience has profited God nothing. Nay, we go further: our Lord Jesus Christ added nothing to God in His essential being and glory, either by what He did or suffered. True, blessedly and gloriously true, He manifested the glory of God to us, but He added nought to God. He Himself expressly declares so, and there is no appeal from His words: “My goodness extendeth not to Thee” (Psalm 16:2). The whole of that Psalm is a Psalm of Christ. Christ’s goodness or righteousness reached unto His saints in the earth (Psalm 16:3), but God was high above and beyond it all, God only is the “Blessed One” (Mark 14:61, Gr.).

God Was Pleased and Alone
It is perfectly true that God is both honored and dishonored by men; not in His essential being, but in His official character. It is equally true that God has been “glorified” by creation, by providence, and by redemption. This we do not and dare not dispute for a moment. But all of this has to do with His manifestative glory and the recognition of it by us. Yet had God so pleased He might have continued alone for all eternity, without making known His glory unto creatures. Whether He should do so or not was determined solely by His own will. He was perfectly blessed in Himself before the first creature was called into being. And what are all the creatures of His hands unto Him even now? Let Scripture again make answer: “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?” (Isaiah 40:15-18).

That is the God of Scripture; alas, He is still “the unknown God” (Acts 17:23) to the heedless multitudes. “It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: that bringeth the princes to nothing; He maketh the judges of the earth as vanity” (Isaiah 40:22,23). How vastly different is the God of Scripture from the god of the average pulpit!

The Utter Independence of God
Nor is the testimony of the New Testament any different from that of the Old: how could it be, seeing that both have one and the same Author! There too we read, “Which in His times He shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords: Who only bath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man bath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting, Amen” (1 Timothy 6:16). Such an One is to be revered, worshipped, adored. He is solitary in His majesty, unique in His excellency, peerless in His perfections. He sustains all, but is Himself independent of all. He gives to all, but is enriched by none. Such a God cannot be found out by searching; He can be known, only as He is revealed to the heart by the Holy Spirit through the Word. It is true that creation demonstrates a Creator, and that, so plainly, men are “without excuse;” yet, we still have to say with Job, “Lo, these are parts of His ways: but how little a portion is heard of Him? but the thunder of His power who can understand?”(26:14).

The Pusillanimous Intellect of Man
The so-called argument from design by well-meaning “Apologists” has, we believe, done much more harm than good, for it has attempted to bring down the great God to the level of finite comprehension, and thereby has lost sight of His solitary excellence. Analogy has been drawn between a savage finding a watch upon the sands, and from a close examination of it he infers a watch-maker. So far so good. But attempt to go further: suppose that savage sits down on the sand and endeavors to form to himself a conception of this watch-maker, his personal affections and manners; his disposition, acquirements, and moral character—all that goes to make up a personality; could he ever think or reason out a real man—the man who made the watch, so that he could say, “I am acquainted with him?” It seems trifling to ask such questions, but is the eternal and infinite God so much more within the grasp of human reason? No, indeed! The God of Scripture can only be known by those to whom He makes Himself known. Nor is God known by the intellect. “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and therefore can only be known spiritually. But fallen man is not spiritual, he is carnal. He is dead to all that is spiritual. Unless he is born again supernaturally brought from death unto life, miraculously translated out of darkness into light, he cannot even see the things of God (John 3:3), still less apprehend them (1 Corinthians 2:14). The Holy Spirit has to shine in our hearts (not intellects) in order to give us “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Growing in Grace
And even that spiritual knowledge is but fragmentary. The regenerated soul has to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus (2 Peter 3:18). The principal prayer and aim of Christians should be that we “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

this has been an encore presentation


Puritan Belief said...


I learnt a lot from reading this.

At first I must say I felt quite insignificant when you find out just how perfect and complete the Lord is without us.

Then again with sentences such as "He sustains all, but is Himself independent of all."

It gives you a whole new perspective on just how great it is that the Lord would make himself known to us.

"The God of Scripture can only be known by those to whom He makes Himself known. Nor is God known by the intellect. “God is Spirit” (John 4:24)"

Certainly a humbling experience reading this post.

Shawn L said...

Thanks Steve I'll be thinking about this one some more.

cyd said...

PB & Shawn:

Get hold of a copy of
The Attributes of God by A.W.Pink.

It's wonderful; you will love it.


Joel said...

I'm not sure I understand a distinction. God doesn't neeed us, it's true, but does it follow from that that He doesn't take pleasure from us that He wouldn't otherwise have?

It seems to me, following your logic (which is good, BTW), that although God derives a pleasure from His creation, that pleasure is itself of His devising, and He intended it only to be savored through us. Hence His love for us who aren't worthy of His love on our own merits.

Superfluff said...

Steve, I guess you are the same Steve Camp who used to inspire a whole bunch of my generation. We were an anomoly..a group of young people in a charismatic church who read Schaffer, loved the Lord and hated mediocrity. Steve, we have all gone our own way but the strange thing is...we still talk to each other and download Steve Camp from ITunes.
Not making excuses for sin Steve just thanking you for the good times.
If you reply, you can do so at (although probably not your kind of thing).
If not, thanks anyway!

Jeremy Weaver said...

Great post, Campi!
God created out of overflow, and not out of want. He was perfectly content with Himself (which leads into Trinitarian thought), and out of that contentment chose to create. What an awesome God!

SJ Camp said...

Joel said: I'm not sure I understand a distinction. God doesn't neeed us, it's true, but does it follow from that that He doesn't take pleasure from us that He wouldn't otherwise have?

God didn't create us because He was lonely or that He needed us - correct... But at the same time we are called His workmanship - His poiema. We are treasured by Him, valued by Him, purchased with His blood, called His children. And yes, He does take pleasure (delights) from our praise and worship to Him.

What a joy to serve the Lord and to be loved by Him... Hope this helps clarify a bit more.

Grace and peace,
Col. 1:9-14

SJ Camp said...

Thanks superfluff for your kind words.

Cleopas said...

Hi Steve,

I first heard of the ‘God was lonely’ argument in 1980, and at the time I dismissed it with the same arguments that you have used. However, a few years ago I had cause to reexamine it and realized that I had painted it with too broad a brush.

Think for a minute about Adam, before the fall. God was the one who reached the conclusion that it was not good for him to be alone. What was the trait He saw in Adam’s heart that led Him to this conclusion? Whatever it was, it was ultimately a reflection of God Himself, for Adam was created in His image. The Hebrew word ‘image’ means His manner, His similitude. In this pristine world, untainted by sin, if this trait did not descend from God, as a reflection His own character in man, then from whence did it come? And remember that Adam was in perfect fellowship with God the entire time.

God was the one who sought a companion for Adam, and when this was fulfilled the creation went from ‘good’ to ‘very good’. But did this really start with Adam and Eve, or were simply they the earthly ‘copy’ of a true relationship in the heavenlies? For we know that Christ has the preeminence in all things:

"‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”
(Eph 5:31-32)

Now it is perfectly true that God does not need us in any way. But it overstates this truth to imply that there is, therefore, no form of attachment involved. It is also true that He is not ruled by His emotions, but it overstates this again to imply that emotions have no effect on Him, that He has no feelings for us, or that we don’t matter to Him. Following the marriage analogy again, our love for Him can effect Him with joy or sorrow:

“For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”
(Isa 62:5)

“. . . because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols . . . ”
(Ezek 6:9)

So in creating man, fellowship was not a 'need' but it was certainly something He desired as being pleasant. It is also true that it was subordinate to Christ, that He may be glorified in Him alone; but this is not to say it was diminished thereby. God loved us before we loved Him.

I think God’s character is well reflected in Ecclesiastes 10:2: “A wise man's heart is at his right hand, but a fool's heart at his left.”. In other words a fool acts impulsively, but a wise man acts thoughtfully. In a similar way, God is motivated in His decisions by wisdom, not by emotions (as in Prov 28:26), but He is very thoughtful in how He applies His decisions in our lives, always having our best interest at heart (Jer 29:11).

I thought that Joel had a pretty good take on it with his comment. I just came back and saw that you said something similar. Hope this is not redeundant.

Joel said...

"God didn't create us because He was lonely or that He needed us - correct... But at the same time we are called His workmanship - His poiema. We are treasured by Him, valued by Him, purchased with His blood, called His children. And yes, He does take pleasure (delights) from our praise and worship to Him."

Much like an artist delights in his artwork, then, but with dimensions we can't even imagine. That makes sense.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I don´t think the reason for creating has anything to do with God desiring fellowship with mankind. Rather, creation is born out of His perfect fellowship (communion, love, delight) with the Son through the Holy Spirit, and out of this love of the Father for the Son, the Father desires to give the Son a gift of redeemed humanity which the Son will treasure and keep until the final day when all things are turned over to the Father in an act of love from the Son to the Father.
So the purpose and the 'need' for creation is ultimately God-centered and not man-centered.

Jeremy Weaver said...

In other words, the Fathers delight in the Son and the Son's delight in the Father are the reasons for creation.
God delighting in himself, creates for Himself.

Andy's Treasures said...

Lots of good stuff here Steve and the rest of you. I think the bottom line is God didn't need us, but what a thrill to know He created us anyway. To believe that God somehow needed to improve Himself through us is to deny the very nature and existence of our divine creator.

donsands said...

A. W. Pink, he's a good teacher! I agree with his assesment of the pulpits at large, and that God no way needed anything, or that He was lonely.
The majesty of God has certainly been deminished, not replaced, but His majesty has been infiltrated with human "sentimentalism, as Steve stated.
Man-centered vs. God-centered man's-doctrine vs. Bible-doctrine preachimg/teaching.
On a good note, I went to a Chris Tomlin concert, and it was God-centered. God was extolled as He should be, and mankind was shown as little and insignificant in comparison.
If any one wants to be uplifted I highly recommend attending His concert tour. The preacher was someone I don't know, Giglio I think, but Matt Redman was there as well.

Thanks Steve for always extolling our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I'm encouraged.

Terry Rayburn said...

I love A.W. Pink's Attributes of God.

But even better, because I find it sets my heart on fire, is The Knowledge of the Holy by the other "A.W.", Tozer.

Listen to Tozer, from his great chapter, "The Self-Sufficiency of God":
"To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being. Need is a creature-word and cannot be spoken of the Creator. God has a voluntary relation to everything He has made, but He has no necessary relation to anything outside of Himself. His interest in His creatures arises from His sovereign good pleasure, not from any need those creatures can supply, nor from any completeness they can bring to Him who is complete in Himself."

"The river grows larger by its tributaries, but where is the tributary that can enlarge the One out of whom came everything and to whose infinite fullness all creation owes its being?"

"The problem of why God created the universe still troubles thinking men; but if we cannot know why, we can at least know that He did not bring His worlds into being to meet some unfulfilled need in Himself, as a man might build a house to shelter him against the winter cold or plant a field of corn to provide him with necessary food. The word necessary is wholly foreign to God."

Yet He has chosen to love us, and we are His "delight". Amazing.

The Book of Job puts those two almost antithetical truths in perspective when God asks, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?....When the morning start sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4ff)

donsands said...

"God is motivated by wisdom, not emotions.."

For me that's a too simplistic statement of how God decides things. He purposes in Himself and it's always perfect, holy, and glorifying to who He is.
God's emotions are there as well, I think. This could be a potential rabbit trail, but let's see.

I see God deciding things from His emotions. He is greived, and yet always sovereign, when we sin. He is angered, and yet sovereign, when we rebel. The Lord rejoices in His spirit when the 70 return, and yet He knew this would happen.
How do these two work together for the All-knowing Lord of the universe?
I don't know. He doesn't need us, that's for sure, He is self-sufficient, but He is moved when we sin, or when we obey, He rejoices.

Jesus said the Father loves Him, BECAUSE He lays down His life for the sheep.
I know there's harmony here, but perhaps it's not for fimite beings.

Cleopas said...

Hi donsands,

“God is motivated by wisdom, not emotions.” was not meant not downplay His emotions in any way. Obviously God can experience emotions more fully than we could even dream possible, I only mean that His thinking will bot be eclipsed by them. Allow some examples from the life of Jesus:

Jesus approached Jerusalem and wept over the city. The Greek wording means a great heaving of the chest (Luke 19:41). When people are this emotional they tend not to think clearly, but this was not so with Him. Even in the midst of such emotional upheaval He was thinking with such clarity that He predicted the future in perfect detail (vs 42-44). Here’s another example:

In Matthew 23, for a full chapter, Jesus denounced the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites. In reading this for the first time, as a young Christian, I literally trembled to see how angry Jesus was. When we become this angry, for a while, we tend to look at other events through ‘dark glasses’ as we transfer this anger in other directions. But what was the next thing Jesus did?

Jesus went into the treasury where the people were donating gifts, and some of the rich gave much. But Jesus appreciated the humble widow’s mite. Think about it. One moment He was furious about religious hypocrisy; a moment later He saw the very simplest religious sincerity and absolutely appreciated it for what it was. In each case His emotions were fully felt, but His wisdom sorted them out clearly.

One final example. When we are overjoyed or greatly relieved we become very careless and disorganized. Like rushing off on a vacation, then wondering if you remembered to lock the door, turned off the lights, etc. When Jesus rose from the dead, what a moment of personal euphoria for Him! Yet in a mind of perfect order He stopped, folded the napkin, and set it in its place. What a little detail to worry about.

I believe that Christians can grow to this place as well, with clarity of thought and fullness of emotions, as a reflection of His nature within them. Tears can be streaming down their cheeks but they are still thinking clearly. A discussion for another day.

Bhedr said...

Who can know the mind of God?

>The river grows larger by its tributaries, but where is the tributary that can enlarge the One out of whom came everything and to whose infinite fullness all creation owes its being?"<

This is a good quote. I think of that song by Marty Goetz?

"We are His bride, taken from His side, where blood and water fell from the broken heart of Yisrael..."

Can a mother leave her young? Perhaps a human mother can. Mothers? can you live without your children?

God loves us as a mother loves her newborn child. Some of you guys need to fully embrace that love. It will do wonders for the soul.

I know I did. Remember Peter? "Lord you shall never wash my feet!"

To much of our theology may seem sound and give us reason to reach Peters conclusion, but He was wrong.

Jesus Wept!

Everyone seems to have an answer for why he did.

We love Him because he first loved us.

Can a mother live without her young. Perhaps a human mother.


Who can know his mind and heart.

Yes, he is intact about as a mother is without her young. She doesn't need em, but most mothers would tell you they would die without them or die for them.

donsands said...

Brother cleopas,
Very good thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.
One thing I think may be different, maybe not, I do believe it's our goal to as followers of Christ to aspire to be as He is, and we will grow, as we discipline ourselves in His Word, prayer, fellowship, and worship, but there's no way I will attain to our Lord's level of interacting with people in this age, in the next age all things will be amazingly different, but in this age I will endeavor to make it my goal to live as my Savior, and in like manner I hope to reflect His love and compassion in righteousness, but never to the degree of our Lord and Friend Jesus Christ.
I believe you and I are very much alike.
God bless you and your family.

2Tal said...

Thanks for the article Steve. Pink has a way with words that I enjoy reading. I personally don't need much to convince me God is self-sufficient. "What do you have that you have not received?", "Who has first given to Him that God should repay him? For of Him and thru Him and to thru Him are all things", "Of Him we live and move and have our being" etc. God being eternal, His holiness and transcedence are all the proof I'll ever need that (to quote Ray Pritchard) God doesn't need us but we desperately need Him.

Julius Mickel said...

Thank you very much Steve, it was in my mind to have something on hand concerning this subject, becuase an inmate had asked me 'wasn't God lonely?' (during a service which i could only answer quickly-if i see him again i can give him this)!

How great that God chose to set His love on us!!!
I think the natural mind likes to think this way, giving great worth to man (blessings deserved) and litle worth to God (blessings owed).
Glorification throws out the 'to see if we would love Him' since in heaven our love towards Him will be perfect and God generated!

Rick Frueh said...

Why God created is a divine mystery. The best I could ever come up with is that God is absolutely good, and absolute goodness desires to share that goodness.

Still a great and glorious mystery.

LivingDust said...

Steven - when I first read the series of articles that A.W. Pink wrote and published, compiled to make "The Attributes of God", I had never thought about the solitariness of God. It is difficult to fathom that God existed for eternities before creating us from the dust of the earth and He was content in all of it. There will be a day when He reveals His mysteries to us and we will hear the wonderous stories of His eternal Kingdom.

Life Experiences and Growths! said...

Im a bit confused on this..I have been studying the Solitariness of God for only 3 days and came across your blog. I keep running into the confusion that God only made us for his pleasure and he is not affected by us...even our obedience to him does not profit God...doesn't our obedience glorify him? isn't that profiting? I feel as if the more I study this the more I keep feeling he is cold hearted...but I know that I am wrong. I just want to understand this. It is like we are to work very hard to become like God and strive to have a relationship with him, but in the end, He really doesn't care cause if has no affect on him? I am not trying to blaspheme God, I am just trying to understand. Thank you