Attributes of God: Lesson 5: God is Omnipresent

Omnipresence Defined

The word “omnipresence” is a compound, consisting of the prefix “omni,” meaning all, and the root “present”. God is all-present, everywhere, ubiquitous. Being infinite (unlimited), God is not limited by space (1 Kgs 8:27, 2 Chron 2:6).[1] His entire presence (God does not “parcel Himself out”) fills the entirety of the universe at every moment.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. – Psalm 139:7-12


“Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the LORD. – Jeremiah 23:24

Though God is fully present everywhere in a quantitative sense, He is not so in a qualitative sense.[2] For example, His presence in the saved is qualitatively different from His presence in the unsaved (Rom 8:9, 1 Cor 6:19). In like manner, His presence in Heaven is qualitatively different from His presence elsewhere (Deut 26:15, 1 Kgs 8:30, Ps 33:13-14, Matt 6:9).[3]


 

On Immanence and Transcendence

Corollaries of omnipresence are immanence and transcendence. God is immanent, that is, He is present within His creation. However, He is also transcendent, that is, He is present above, beyond, or apart from His creation. Jeremiah 23:23 speaks of both: “Am I a God who is near,” declares the LORD, “And not a God far off?” An overemphasis on either of these truths leads to theological error.  To emphasize God’s immanence to the neglect of His transcendence leads to pantheism (the belief that the universe is god, not that God is a person who created the universe and is, thus, separate from it).[4] To emphasize God’s transcendence to the neglect of His immanence leads to deism (the belief that God is so separate from His creation that He is not personally involved in it).

Some Implications of God’s Omnipresence

God’s omnipresence is a cause for concern. Because God is omnipresent, we cannot escape from Him.[5] “Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the LORD (Jer 23:24; see also Job 34:21-22 and Amos 9:2-4). Like David in Psalm 139, we must acknowledge that we cannot hide or run away from God. Adam and Eve tried (Gen 3:8), as did Jonah (Jonah 1:3). Rather than trying to run away from God, we should find ourselves running to Him.[6] Unlike the teacher, God doesn’t leave the room.

God’s omnipresence is a comfort (Ps 139:10). God does not “have any difficulty dealing with needs and problems which arise in widely differing locations at the same time. He does not, however, move from one place to another as a sort of divine superman who flies at infinite speed. Rather, he simply has access to the whole of creation at all times” (Erickson, p. 274). If you are a believer, not only is God near you, He’s in you (1 Cor 6:19-20–be careful where you take Him)! This should be a source of great comfort, especially in times of difficulty (Ps 23:4, 46:1). “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” (Heb 13:5). There’s no such thing as a prayer that “doesn’t make it past the ceiling”–God is below the ceiling.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh
And thy Maker is not by;
Think not thou canst weep a tear
And thy Maker is not near.
(stanza of poem by William Blake, quoted in Tozer, p. 58)

[1]God does not have “size.” As Grudem (p. 175) states: “We should try to avoid thinking of God in terms of size or spatial dimensions. God is a being who exists without size or dimensions in space. In fact, before God created the universe, there was no “where” or space. But God still was! This fact makes us realize that God relates to space in a far different way than we do or than any created thing does. He exists as a kind of being that is far different and far greater than we can imagine.”

[2]God is equally present everywhere “ontologically,” but not so “morally,” “spiritually,” or “ethically” (Feinberg, p. 250).

[3]“God is present in a special way in heaven . . . . God manifests his presence more fully in heaven than elsewhere” (Grudem, p. 176).

[4]According to pantheism, God – the world = 0; according to the Bible, God – the world = God (Storms, p. 88).

[5]“How terrible should the thoughts of this attribute be to sinners! How foolish it is to imagine any hiding-place from the incomprehensible God, who fills and contains all things, and is present in every point of the world. When men have shut the door, and made all darkness within, to meditate or commit a crime, they cannot in the most intricate recesses be sheltered from the presence of God” (Stephen Charnock, quoted in Storms, p. 93).

[6]“There is no place at all whither you may flee. Will you flee from him? Flee unto him” (source unknown, quoted in Grudem, p. 177).

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