When someone mentions the attributes of God, some people start licking their theological chops–they love conversations about such high concepts. Others are confused. “What does that mean?” they ask. And, more importantly, “Why does it matter?”
Understanding what God is like is about more than parsing key distinctions; it impacts our everyday life.
God’s self-existence, independence–what is termed aseity–teaches us that God exists of himself. He’s the Creator, rather than creation; he doesn’t need anything, but gives all things. While these truths may sound like they remain in the realm of the abstract rather than the practical, I believe aseity makes three key differences every day for the Christian life.
Aseity Clarifies the Gospel
God’s self-existence first and foremost demonstrates its importance in our lives by clarifying the gospel. One of the most beloved images in the Bible for the gospel is a free gift, as Paul writes in Romans 3:24: “[We] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
This is very different from our mostly-transactional lives. We work and get paid. We have needs and we buy. Even in relationships, as Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock rapped, “It takes two to make a thing go right.” Foundationally, a transaction is between two parties who both have needs, which is fine for the grocery store, but not so much with God. With God, things must be different.
Aseity teaches that God doesn’t have any needs. He isn’t lacking in anything. This means that when the gospel is offered to us, it’s a gift with no strings attached. God offers it from a place of lacking nothing but giving everything. It’s in this context that we have a relationship with him–we are children born from grace, as the apostle John writes, “See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
Aseity Directs Our Service
The second difference that God’s self-existence makes is that it directs our service and good works. We have come to know God as our Father in a gracious relationship in which he gives all out of his abundance. Jesus himself, as the incarnate and self-existent God, declared the purpose of his ministry in Mark 10:45 when he said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
What do you do for the God who doesn’t need anything but gives everything? How do you serve the Savior who didn’t come to be served but to serve? Well, as one theologian summarized the thoughts of Martin Luther on the subject, “God does not need our good works, but our neighbor does.” That is, our service in this world is not primarily directed towards overly-spiritual tasks that seem holy as if God had need of something, or as if we had to earn something from him, but to the needs of people that God has placed in our lives. This may not seem very radical, until we realize this calling includes service even to our enemies (see Luke 6:27-28).
Aseity Establishes God’s Glory
Soli Deo Gloria–Glory to God Alone, is a beloved and biblical declaration, but how is God glorified in his self-existence? In John’s Gospel, we see that it is when Jesus is headed to the cross that the Father’s glory shines brightest (see John 12:20-36). Indeed, theologian Ashley Null writes, “The glory of God is to love the unworthy.” Though we are poor and needy, our self-existent God takes thought for us (Ps. 40:17).
This foundational truth that it’s God’s nature to need nothing and give everything informs what it means to for us believe in, serve, and glorify God. If God is self-existent, then his gospel is for even the least and the lowly. He leads us by serving our needs, and his glory meets us not on the heights of success and good behavior, but in the depths of sin, shame, guilt, and suffering.
To have this biblical doctrine reorient our understanding of God helps us to see in a new way this most foundational truth: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
 Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation. Trans by Carl C. Rasmussen. 2nd ed. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004), 10
 Ashley Null, “The Power of Unconditional Love in the Anglican Reformation,” in Reformation Anglicanism: A Vision for Today’s Global Communion, ed. Ashley Null & John W. Yates III (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 76