The old folks used to say, “God is God all by Himself.” In theological language these saints are describing God’s aseity.
I don’t generally like to use theological jargon outside of the classroom, but the word “aseity” got me excited. I first heard of the term while studying systematic theology in seminary. Immediately I latched onto the word because it finally gave me a name for one of the first principles of God. His independence.
Aseity Means God’s Independence
Herman Bavinck in his Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2 describes God’s aseity this way.
“The first thing Scripture teaches us concerning God is that he has a free, independent existence and life of his own that is distinct from all creatures.”
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God…” These initial words of Scripture contain the concept of aseity. The Bible gives no explanation for where God came from. It simply assumes His existence from before the beginning of creation. God is uncreated, uncaused, and the only truly independent Being.
All other existence depends on God as the Creator. “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). By contrast, God depends on nothing for His existence. In Exodus 3:14, God reveals His name to Moses as, “I Am Who I Am” (Yahweh). God simply is.
Aseity is one of God’s incommunicable attributes. It is an aspect of His existence that belongs uniquely to Him. Like His unchangeableness (immutability) or His eternality, no other other created being shares in God’s aseity.
Aseity means that God is categorically different in His essence from all creatures. He stands above and apart from all creation as the One who has no source, no cause, and no dependence. He is perfectly God, with or without the world He made. God needs nothing and no one in order to be God. In contrast, all things depend on Him.
Aseity Means We Cannot Manipulate God
The aseity of God teaches human beings how to relate to their Maker. We cannot manipulate God. If God is truly independent, then He does not need anything we can offer Him. He does not need our worship (though it pleases Him), He does not need our good works (though He commands it), He does not need our faith (though He desires it). We cannot put God into our debt. No amount of piety or earthly power can force God to perform. He always acts from His own will, grace, and pleasure. An independent God is a sovereign God.
Aseity Means God Can Provide for All our Needs and Wants
God’s aseity also means we need look only to Him to fill all our needs. Although as men and women we are daily confronted with our dependence, God does not want for anything. He contains all love, fellowship, delight and more in an infinite supply. So as believers we can go to God with our needs and wants knowing that He can supply all of them. Although, by His own free decision, He chooses to use many means to provide for us, we know the source of all provision comes from the all-sufficient One. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
Our Understanding of God Must Include His Aseity
Humankind must undestand God’s aseity as the first of His attributes. Aseity makes God sovereign, authoritative, and absolute. He does what He wills because He depends on no one and all of us depend on Him. We creatures can add nothing to God nor take anything away. He does not need our help, but instead offers the life-restoring help we need because of sin through faith in Jesus Christ. He gives this gift graciously, freely, independently because, as the old folks say, “God is God all by Himself.”