Whatever may be the truth in this matter, it certainly cannot be wrong for us to examine what the Word says respecting it. Many there are that would refrain from the investigation of unpopular truths because the cry of heresy is raised against them. We shall not consider ourselves subjects of the appellation, neither are we prying into the secrets of the Almighty, as we pursue the investigation of this matter. The Bible certainly contains testimony upon this point, and we again repeat, “Things which are revealed belong to us.” We inquire then, What saith the Scripture?
The very testimony we have been examining in regard to man’s being formed of the dust in the image of God, proves conclusively that God has a form, although the sentiment is contrary to what we have been taught, while children, from the catechism:
“Question. What is God?
“Answer. An infinite and eternal spirit; one that always was and always will be.
“Q. Where is God?
But we inquire, Is not God in one place more than another? Oh no, say you: the Bible says he is a spirit, and if so he must be everywhere alike. Well, if when man dies his spirit goes to God, it must go everywhere. But the Bible certainly represents God as located in heaven. “For he hath looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth.” Ps. cii, 19. Then certainly heaven cannot be everywhere, for God is represented as looking down from it. “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” 2 Kings ii, 11. But, says one, does not the Bible represent God as everywhere present? Ps. cxxxix, 8, 9, 10. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
We reply, the subject is introduced in verse 7, as follows: “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” The Spirit is God’s representative. His power is manifested wherever he listeth, through the agency of his Spirit. Christ, when giving the commission to the disciples, says, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, and lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Now, no one would contend that Christ had been on the earth personally ever since the disciples commenced to fulfill this commission. But his Spirit has been on the earth; the Comforter that he promised to send. So in the same manner God manifests himself by his Spirit which is also the power through which he works. “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Rom. viii, 11. Here is a plain distinction made between the Spirit, and God that raises the dead by that Spirit.
If the living God is a Spirit in the strictest sense of the term, and at the same time is in possession of a Spirit, then we have at once the novel idea of the Spirit of a Spirit, something it will take at least a Spiritualist to explain.
There is at least one impassable difficulty in the way of those who believe God is immaterial, and heaven is not a literal, located place: they are obliged to admit that Jesus is there bodily, a literal person; the same Jesus that was crucified, dead, and buried, was raised from the dead, ascended up to heaven, and is now at the right hand of God. Jesus was possessed of flesh and bones after his resurrection. Luke xxiv, 39. “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I, myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” If Jesus is there in heaven with a literal body of flesh and bones, may not heaven after all be a literal place, a habitation for a literal God, a literal Saviour, literal angels, and resurrected immortal saints! Oh no, says one, “God is a Spirit.” So Christ said to the woman of Samaria at the well. It does not necessarily follow because God is a Spirit, that he has no body. In John iii, 6, Christ says to Nicodemus, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” If that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, then on the same principle, that which has a spiritual nature is spirit. *God is a spirit being, his nature is spirit, he is not of a mortal nature; but this does not exclude the idea of his having a body. David says, [Ps. cxiv, 4,] “Who maketh his angels spirits;” yet angels have bodies. Angels appeared to both Abraham and Lot, and ate with them. We see the idea that angels are spirits, does not prove that they are not literal beings.
It is inferred because the Bible says that God is a Spirit, that he is not a person. An inference should not be made the basis for an argument. Great Scripture truths are plainly stated, and it will not do for us to found a doctrine on inferences, contrary to positive statements in the word of God.**
— J.N. Loughborough, An Examination of the Scripture Testimony Concerning Man’s Present Condition and His Future Reward or Punishment, pp. 25-32
* The better rendering of John 4:24 is in the margin of the Revised Version, which has “God is spirit,” thus confirming Loughborough’s remark that it is simply referring to God’s nature, just as in other places, it is written that “God is light” and “God is love” (1 John 1:5; 4:8). These are all attributes of God. We are mortal, but God is spiritual. He is not dwelling in a temple on earth but in a temple in heaven, from where He has a knowledge of the whole universe and can operate anywhere in it at will. This is the spiritual God we are to worship, and we are also to worship Him in practically living the truth of His Word.
** This article was shortened to make it a readily readable size.