God’s eternity involves many attributes. Theologians call them “incommunicable attributes,” which mean things that are true of God that are not true of us in any way. Some of God’s attributes are communicable. God is a God of truth. We can know truth in part. If God is a God of love, we experience what love means because we share in that aspect of his personality. But not these attributes. God’s incommunicable attributes include, in addition to eternity (none of us are eternal), the attribute of self-existence. What that means is that God has no origins. He’s always been there, and he owes his existence to nobody. When you and I speak of what we are, we have to say, “God has made me; therefore, I am what I am by the grace of God.” But when God speaks of himself, he says, “I am who I am.” He always was. God existed, himself, alone. One consequence of this is, ultimately, in the purest sense, he’s unknowable. We could never exhaust him, because when we think in terms of knowledge, we always think of cause and effect. We say, “This is here because of something else.” It’s how we understand it. But you can’t do that with God: he always was. Not only that; God is self-sufficient, which means that he has no needs. And again, we’re not like that. We don’t know what it is to be without needs. We need oxygen to breathe, we need food to eat, clothes to wear, houses in which to live, and all sorts of other things. And if we’re deprived of some of these things, even for a few moments, we cease to exist. We die. God doesn’t need anything. In himself, he has absolutely everything.
Many people imagine that God created us in order to supply some need in himself. They imagine perhaps that God was lonely in eternity so he created us to keep him company. They forget that God is a Trinity. There was always fellowship within the Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God does not need people to keep him company.
Other people suppose that God needs worshipers. But God doesn’t need that. One writer said if every individual on the face of the earth became an atheist tomorrow, God would be no more deprived by our atheism than the sun would be deprived of light if all of us became blind. It would just be our failure to see it that’s the problem. But it wouldn’t affect the sun and neither would our atheism affect God.
Some people suppose that God needs helpers, even suggesting that God created us to somehow get the job done. It’s true of course that God has given us the glorious privilege of participating in his work, as he works through us. He’s even called us co-laborers or fellow-workers with Jesus Christ, but it doesn’t mean that God needs us. God can manage very well without us. And he has. He did it long before we came to be, but he has chosen to use us; and that’s due only to his own free and sovereign will. Somebody might say, “Well, if that’s true, doesn’t that make the work we do of no importance – if God doesn’t really need us?” No, that’s not the way it is. As a matter of fact, the opposite is the case. Yesterday we looked briefly at Psalm 90 – that’s the psalm written by Moses. Moses there is conscious of death: his brother has died, Miriam has died, he’s the last of the family that remains. He’s reflecting in that psalm on how insignificant human beings are and how short is the span of life. But, nevertheless, when he comes to the end of that, he talks about his work, and he asks the eternal God to establish it. The last verse says, “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us. Establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands” (v.17). It’s because God is eternal and doesn’t need us that what we do actually matters, because God makes it count in the eternal span of things. That’s one reason for the Book of Revelation. We have to see when we’re in times of persecution and everything seems to be going badly or trouble comes into our life that, nevertheless, how we bear up under that, really does matter. It matters to God.