Summary: A sermon on the transcendence of God based on John 4:24. A lot of this is comparing God's spirituality to human spirituality (Adapted from Dr. Jack Cottrell's book, God Most High, chapter 5)
"Most middle class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot." (Gordon Dahl)
Because of the biblical facts of creation, we understand that God is transcendent. In other words, God goes beyond the universe. The word transcendence means to climb over, to go beyond. Because God is the absolute Creator of the universe, He is transcendent to it.
We learn from John 4:24 that God is spirit. We must note that angels are spirits, and that human beings are partly spirit. Since we know more about the human spirit than about angelic spirits we need to limit our comments to this. From Genesis 1:26-27 we find that God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” In some sense we are like God. This verse tells us that there is a genuine likeness between God and man. Some misinterpret this as meaning that we can be God or that we are God. Nothing can be farther from the truth. First sin of the angels was this and the first sin of man was this.
Here is a basic difference between us and God. God is the uncreated spirit. The fact that God is uncreated makes him different from all of creation. God is in a totally unique category when compared to creation. God is a different dimension entirely. Need to keep this in mind.
Since we have made it clear that God is God and we will never be God, let’s talk more about ways that we are like God, namely, God’s spirituality. In a sense all of the things that can be said about God as spirit can also be said about human beings as spiritual creatures. Again, we must be cautious because God’s spirituality does not make him transcendent; it is the fact that He is uncreated spirit that makes him transcendent, or beyond the creation.
Nevertheless Jesus’ description of God as spirit (John 4:24) gives us real insight into the essence of God, and we need not be reluctant to consider what this means.
Thesis: Let’s discuss the negative and positive meanings of God’s spirituality
The Negative meaning of God’s spirituality
Spiritual essence is immaterial or nonmaterial. Spiritual beings are not “made out of” material stuff. In other words, our spiritual side is not formed of atoms and molecules and the elements of this world. Jesus made this point when He said, “a spirit (a ghost- NIV) does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39).
Since God is spirit, He also is nonmaterial; His essence is entirely different from the physical. To the Samaritan woman Jesus pointed out that one does not have to go to any mountain to worship God, as if God’s presence were localized there, as if God had a physical body that could only be in one place at a time.
Since God is spirit and not matter, we must reject every view of God that sees Him as having a material body. How then do we explain the various biblical passages which do indeed describe God as if He exists in a physical body that moves from place to place? Scriptures speaks of God’s face, God’s eyes, God’s ears, God’s mouth, God’s nostrils, God’s arm, God’s hand, and God’s feet. In addition to this, God is also represented as performing bodily movements or assuming bodily postures. He sits on a throne with Jesus at his right hand. He looks down from heaven, and He hides His eyes. He comes down from heaven and He walks with His people. How do we explain this, if God does not have a material body?
There were times when God displayed Himself to His people in human form for purposes of communication. As such He took on a body with bodily parts, and He went through bodily motions. But this does not mean that this is His true form and essence, any more than His manifesting Himself as a pillar of fire means that God is literally like fire.
These are all figurative expressions which are intended to emphasize the reality of specific actions and attitudes of God. When these actions and attitudes are described in these terms, they are made concrete in our minds. For instance, God’s face is a sign of His presence and His favor; His eyes and ears signify His knowledge; His nostrils stand for His anger; His arm signifies His power; His hand suggests His action and His power. God is even pictured as having wings as a symbol of His power to protect. Does this mean that God has wings?