The word “omnipresence” refers to the truth that God is everywhere: from here in the room where I sit to beyond the galaxies that the Hubble telescope is able to probe. Let’s look at ten things we should know about this attribute of God. Continue reading . . .
The word “omnipresence” refers to the truth that God is everywhere: from here in the room where I sit to beyond the galaxies that the Hubble telescope is able to probe. Let’s look at ten things we should know about this attribute of God.
(1) The best place to begin in thinking about divine omnipresence is the very personal affirmation of it by David in Psalm 139. There he writes: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you" (Ps. 139:7-12).
(2) We should probably draw a slight distinction between immensity and omnipresence. Whereas immensity affirms that God transcends all spatial limitations, that his being cannot be contained or localized, omnipresence signifies more specifically the relationship which God in his whole being sustains to the creation itself. In other words, omnipresence (being positive in thrust) means that God is everywhere present in the world; immensity (being negative in thrust) means that he is by no means limited to or confined by it.
(3) Divine omnipresence means that it is inappropriate to speak of God as having size, for this term implies something that is measurable, definable, with boundaries and limitations. Is the question, then, “How big is God?” theologically inappropriate? Probably.
(4) God is not “in space” in the sense that, say, we or the angelic host are. We who have material bodies are bounded by space and thus can always be said to be here and not there, or there and not here. That is, a body occupies a place in space. Angelic spirits, on the other hand, as well as the dead in Christ now in the intermediate state, are not bound by space and yet they are somewhere, not everywhere. But God, and God alone, fills all space. He is not absent from any portion of space, nor more present in one portion than in another. To put it in other terms, we are in space circumscriptively, angels are in space definitively, but God is in space repletively.
(5) God is omnipresent according to his being and not merely according to his operation. That is to say, he is essentially or substantially, not only dynamically, omnipresent. It is the heresy of deism which contends that God is present in all places only by way of influence and power, acting upon the world from a distance, but not himself wholly present throughout.
(6) Although God is wholly present throughout all things, he is yet distinct from all things. It does not follow that because God is essentially in everything that everything is essentially God. It is the heresy of pantheism that the being of God is one and the same with the being of all reality. Pantheism asserts that God minus the world = O; theism asserts that God minus the world = God. The universe is the creation of God and thus, in respect to essence, no part of him. The creation is ontologically other than God, a product ex nihilo of the divine will, not an extension of the Divine Being itself. Consequently, although all things are permeated and sustained in being by God (Col. 1:16-17; Acts 17:28), God is not all things.
(7) God is not present as each point in space but rather present with/in each point in space.
(8) This presence of God throughout the whole of space is not by local diffusion, multiplication, or distribution. Being wholly spirit, God is not subject to the laws of matter such as extension and displacement. He cannot be divided or separated such that one part of his being is here and not there, and another part there and not here. The whole of his being is always everywhere, no less nor more here than there, or there than here.
(9) Whereas the presence of a body in a place of space excludes the simultaneous and in all ways identical presence of another body in the same place of space, such is not true of the Divine Being. God is, in the whole of his being, where everything else is (including matter). Substance or matter is in no way displaced or spatially excluded by the presence of God. To put it bluntly, when God created all things out of nothing, he did not have to “move out of the way” to make room for the world. He is where it is.
(10) The teaching of Scripture on God's omnipresence is unassailable. In addition to what we have already seen in Psalm 139, note the following:
"'Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?' declares the LORD. 'Do not I fill heaven and earth?' declares the LORD" (Jer. 23:24).
"But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!" (1 Kings 8:27; see also 2 Chron. 2:6; Isa. 66 :1).
"And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church) which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (Eph. 1:22-23).
"For in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts l7.28a).
"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17).