God alone is independent, i.e., he is self-autonomous or self-determining. This self-authenticating truth might have been obvious to previous generations, but not so much to our age today. Man today craves absolute independence, however unachievable. We will always need something outside of ourselves to survive, such as food, air, shelter, relationships, etcetera. But not so with God.
The study of God’s nature as revealed through Scripture and creation is known as Theology Proper. At its fore is God’s independence, Scripture bearing witness that he [God] was before all things came into existence (John1:1-2). To God belong all things (Psalm 50:10-12, Job 41:11), none of which he formed because he needed, but rather out of his good pleasure (Revelation 4:11) and for his glory (Isaiah 48:11). While he delights in man’s worship of him (Zephaniah 3:17-18, Psalm 147:11), it is not as though he depends on that to be fulfilled.
God is Independent, but Man is Dependent
A remarkable portion of Scripture that talks about the independence of God is Acts 17:24-25. It reads, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything.” Here, a contrast between man’s dependence and God’s independence is made. We see how God does not need a building to dwell in or human hands to serve him. Yet for man, he depends on God for “life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). The distinction couldn’t be more apparent.
The implication for Christian ministry is enormous. We are often tempted to view our acts of devotion as a giving of something back to God. But God remains independent. He does not need the sacrifices like the Old Testament saint gave (these pointed to the eventual perfect sacrifice, his Son Jesus), nor any of the sacrifices we make for Christ’s gospel. Whatever we offer, we do so only as thanks (Psalm 107:1) and praise (Psalm 150:1-6); we offer it in response to the riches of God’s mercy–for our salvation (Romans 1:16, 6:23, John 3:16).
The Christian life is a life of dependence. We look to God for grace, mercy, and strength to move through life (John 15:5). Whenever we express our dependence on God, it glorifies him.
Thus exhorts Peter, “[serve] in the strength that God supplies in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). Moreover, “[be] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). Elsewhere Paul would speak of their ministry as an “act of grace…for the glory of the Lord himself…” (2 Corinthians 8:19).
Our growth in faith and our works of faith are accomplished solely by the strength God supplies. However excellent our ministry accomplishments, they’d be of utterly no good if undertaken while relying on ourselves even in the slightest. We must wholly depend on God.
A Lonely God?
“God alone”, the Christian says, ascribing due reverence. “A lonely God”, thinks the heathen, for he supposes that God created man because he was lonely and needed fellowship. If that were true, then God would not be independent of creation. In John 17:5, Jesus says, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made.” Jesus, God in the flesh (2 Peter 1:1) and the eternal Son of God (John 8:58, Isaiah 9:6, Colossians 1:17), was glorified long before man existed. God takes pleasure in us glorifying him but is not dependent upon it for his fulfilment (Zephaniah 3:17-18, Psalm 147:11). He is ever God, and his purposes are not reliant on our worship (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17).
His pursuit of man to bring him into a relationship with himself (1 John 4:10, Acts 17:27) is for man’s good and subsequently for God’s glory. He is a loving God (1 John 4:16), pursuing us even though he doesn’t need us!
What a marvellous being God is! Indeed he is gracious (Psalm 116:5); a God full of mercy (Deuteronomy 4:31). It is fitting that we give him utmost thanks through lives lived in obedience to his will and not mere lip service.