The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Acts 17:24-25
From the time we can crawl, we are trying to gain our independence. We walk, we run, we climb the highest tower of the jungle gym. From there, we cannot wait to gain our first proof of the world acknowledging our independence, a plastic card that makes it legal for us to peel out of the driveway alone in gloriously gleaming metal on wheels. The next step to independence is getting a job so we can make enough money to leave our parents’ house for the autonomy of adulthood.
But in all this, we are never truly independent. We neither made ourselves nor can we make it by ourselves. We have needs—lots of them. However, there is one being who needs nothing at all and is truly independent from the rest of creation. That person is God.
God’s independence means:
God is not dependent on anything for his existence but has necessarily always existed, nor does he have any needs but has all sufficiency of every perfect thing in himself, lacking in nothing.
We will break God’s independence down into two categories: his self-existence and his self-sufficiency.
1) God’s self-existence
God was not created by anyone or anything but has always existed. Psalm 90:2 declares, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” We humans have a hard time wrapping our brains around this truth because we all have a starting point. We may (kind of) understand how something could go on forever into the future when we contemplate things like eternal life, but it is beyond us to comprehend how something could have no beginning. Everything we know has one. Everything, that is, except God.
God necessarily exists by virtue of his nature. He is the great “I AM,” his self-proclaimed name to Moses at the burning bush. This state-of-being verb – which means to be or to exist – used as a title, denotes the essentialness of his being. We would typically use this phrase to describe ourselves to someone, as in “I am Bob” or “I am a father.” When God uses this phrase, he describes himself by repeating the state-of being-verb, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14, emphasis added), thereby solidifying that he simply is and has always been in a perpetual state of existence. Similarly, Jesus says in John 8:58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am,” proclaiming that, just like the Father, there was no point in time that he came into existence; he has just always been.
Although God was not created, he is the creator of all things. If you were to put everything that exists into two categories, things that were not created and things that were created, the first category would list God, and the second category would contain everything else in existence. In the apostle John’s vision of heaven, the twenty-four elders continually fall down before the throne of God and worship him, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11). Without God, not a thing that was made would have been made (John 1:3).
God gets his life from no one, but he himself gives life and breath to everything (Acts 17:24-25). He is the source of life for every living thing past, present, and future, for he has all life in himself (John 1:4, 5:26) and “for from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36).
2) God’s self-sufficiency
Not only does God not need us for his existence, he has no needs at all. God has everything he would ever “need” within himself. God is “a self-contained source of perpetual and perfect sustenance . . . Because he created everything, nothing he has created could possibly be needful to him for his existence. If it were, then like him, it would have always existed” (Jen Wilkin).
God is spirit (John 4:24), without a physical body, so he has no physical needs like food, water, or sleep. But he also has no relational needs. Some people mistakenly think that God created humankind because he was lonely and needed fellowship. The Bible, however, is clear that within the persons of the Trinity, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit enjoyed a perfect sharing of love, communion, and glory before the foundation of the world. As Jesus is reassuring his disciples before his departure, he prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed,” and, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:5, 24). If God had never created anything, he would still be perfectly satisfied within his own being.
There are several practical things we can learn from God’s independence. First, because he has no needs, God cannot be tempted. God created everything and therefore owns it all. There is nothing that anyone could give him that isn’t already his and nothing with which we could lure or entice him. King David writes, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2). Asaph also acknowledges of God, “For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine” (Psalm 50:10-12). Because of God’s complete independence and self-sufficiency, we can trust that he will never be controlled by something outside of himself or have his hand swayed. And that is a good thing for his created beings.
Similarly, a need shows a weakness. As humans, we have needs. If we do not get food, water, air, or sleep we will eventually die of starvation, suffocation, or exhaustion. But with no needs, God has no weaknesses. Our almighty God will never grow tired or faint, he will never need to take a break to reload his carbs or rehydrate, nor does he depend on anything to keep his existence going. We, on the other hand, cannot survive one second of a day without being dependent on our Creator. He gave us life and he is the only one who sustains our life (Hebrews 1:3). We literally need him for the air we breathe, for pumping blood and oxygen through our veins, for sustaining our body systems while we sleep, for rain and sunshine to grow the food we eat, and for the strength and skill it takes to work each day.
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth . . . The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God . . . These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104:14, 21, 27-30)
Furthermore, since God has all-sufficiency in himself, we can trust that he possesses everything we need. He is able to keep every promise he has ever made because the substance of those promises lies within himself. When God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9), we can truly believe that his grace and power are enough for us because he is sufficient. When “he who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” says he will “also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32), we can have genuine hope that God is able to provide all those things from the storehouse of his own sufficiency.
Conversely, even though God does not need us, he did choose to create us for his own good pleasure and he delights in us. As a human father is not dependent on his small child to provide for any of his own needs, parents still take great joy in their children, love them, and enjoy spending time with them. If we have become his children by faith in Christ, he rejoices in us as much as he rejoices in his only Son. “For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation” (Psalm 149:4). God does not need us, but he chooses to walk with us and call us his friends, if we fear him and obey his commandments (Psalm 25:14; John 15:14). He chose to show us the greatest love of all by meeting our greatest need, a sacrifice for our sin, by laying his life down for his friends (John 15:13).
Lastly, even though God does not need us to bring him glory, because all glory and honor are already his, we can still participate in ascribing to him the glory due his name. We were created for that purpose, so let us join with the rest of creation in magnifying our independent, all-sufficient Lord with all that we have. “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 150:6).