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“God has life in Himself” by J.I. Packer

“Children sometimes ask, ‘Who made God?’ The clearest answer is that God never needed to be made, because He was always there.

He exists in a different way from us: we, His creatures, exist in a dependent, derived, finite, fragile way, but our Maker exists in an eternal, self-sustaining, necessary way— necessary, that is, in the sense that God does not have it in Him to go out of existence, just as we do not have it in us to live forever.

We necessarily age and die, because it is our present nature to do that; God necessarily continues forever unchanged, because it is His eternal nature to do that. This is one of many contrasts between creature and Creator.

God’s self-existence is a basic truth. At the outset of his presentation of the unknown God to the Athenian idolaters, Paul explained that this God, the world’s Creator, ‘is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else’ (Acts 17:23–25).

Sacrifices offered to idols, in today’s tribal religions as in ancient Athens, are thought of as somehow keeping the god going, but the Creator needs no such support system.

The word aseity, meaning that He has life in Himself and draws His unending energy from Himself (a se in Latin means ‘from Himself’), was coined by theologians to express this truth, which the Bible makes clear (Pss. 90:1–4; 102:25–27; Isa. 40:28–31; John 5:26; Rev. 4:10).

In theology, endless mistakes result from supposing that the conditions, bounds, and limits of our own finite existence apply to God. The doctrine of His aseity stands as a bulwark against such mistakes.

In our life of faith, we easily impoverish ourselves by embracing an idea of God that is too limited and small, and again the doctrine of God’s aseity stands as a bulwark to stop this happening. It is vital for spiritual health to believe that God is great (cf. Ps. 95:1–7), and grasping the truth of His aseity is the first step on the road to doing this.”

–J.I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 26-27.

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“An ethic of hope pervades the New Testament” by J.I. Packer

“‘For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.’ –Romans 15:4

Living between the two comings of Christ, Christians are to look backward and forward: back to the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb, whereby salvation was won for them; forward to their meeting with Christ beyond this world, their personal resurrection, and the joy of being with their Savior in glory forever.

New Testament devotion is consistently oriented to this hope; Christ is ‘our hope’ (1 Tim. 1:1) and we serve ‘the God of hope’ (Rom. 15:13). Faith itself is defined as ‘being sure of what we hope for’ (Heb. 11:1), and Christian commitment is defined as having ‘fled to take hold of … this hope as an anchor for the soul’ (Heb. 6:18–19).

When Jesus directed His disciples to lay up treasure in heaven, because ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matt. 6:21), He was saying in effect, as Peter was later to say, ‘set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed’ (1 Pet. 1:13).

An ethic of hope pervades the New Testament.

It is an ethic of pilgrimage: one should see oneself in this world as a stranger traveling home (1 Pet. 2:11; Heb. 11:13).

It is an ethic of purity: everyone who really hopes to be like Jesus when He appears ‘purifies himself, just as He is pure’ (1 John 3:3).

It is an ethic of preparedness: we should be ready to leave this world for a closer relationship with Christ our Lord at any time when the summons comes (2 Cor. 5:6–8; Phil. 1:21–24; cf. Luke 12:15–21).

It is an ethic of patience: ‘if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently’ (Rom. 8:25; cf. 5:1–5, where the Greek word for ‘patience’ is translated ‘perseverance’ to bring out its nuance of stubborn persistence in face of pressures).

And it is an ethic of power: the hope gives strength and confidence, energizing effort for running the race, fighting the good fight, and enduring the ‘light and momentary troubles’ (2 Cor. 4:17) that still remain before we go home (Rom. 8:18; 15:13; 2 Tim. 4:7–8).

Though the Christian life is regularly marked more by suffering than by triumph (1 Cor. 4:8–13; 2 Cor. 4:7–18; Acts 14:22), our hope is sure and our mood should be one of unquenchable confidence: we are on the victory side.”

–J.I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 183–184.

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