Difficult Questions — ‘The Nature of God’: spirit essence or physical body
1/ Question: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that God the Father and Jesus Christ have bodies of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22). However, John 4:24 tells us that “God is a Spirit” and nothing more. In Colossians 2:9, speaking of Christ, it states, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead, bodily”. Genesis 1:26-27, where it states that God would create man in His own image, refers to a spiritual creation, not a literal one. Romans 1:22-23 tells us of unrighteous men who “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man… who changed the truth of God into a lie..” Nowhere in the Bible does it state that God has a physical body.
2/ Response: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does indeed believe that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s body, as does His Son, Jesus Christ. John 4:24 does state that God is a Spirit, but reading on, the scripture says “…and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth”. We don’t set aside our physical body in order to worship God ‘in spirit’. The context of the scripture informs us that the Samaritans were not worshiping the Father in truth. In John 4:22, Christ told the Samaritan woman that “…ye worship ye know not what.” 2 Kings 17:28-34 points out that these people were pagan worshipers, and Jesus was pointing out that God also had a spirit, and was not a pagan God. Other scriptures teach that God is Love (1 John 4:8), God is Light (1 John 1:5), and God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). These appear to be statements about God’s influence and capabilities, not His physical characteristics. A close reading of Romans 1:22-23 reveals that the people were also worshiping birds, four-footed beasts, and creeping things, in addition to a statue of a corruptible man. Yes, a ‘natural’ or corrupted man is estranged from and at odds with God, but the scripture recount the stories of many righteous, obedient, devoted men and women who overcome these tendencies and achieve a state of holiness and purity. Acts 8:13-20 tells us that these Samaritans didn’t receive the “Word of God” until Philip preached to them. Thus, they were obviously living by or under a different word, a ‘corrupted’ word. Colossians 1:18-19 informs us that Christ was the head of the church, the firstborn of every creature, and it so pleased the Father that in “Christ” was all fullness of the Godhead to dwell – in His mortal tabernacle of flesh. John 15:15 tells us that He gave of his fullness to His followers. This fullness was ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ To interpret the use of the word ‘bodily’ (Colossians 2:9) as meaning Christ’s physical body is erroneous, for if you accept that literally, then you must accept the next verse literally, which reads, “…and you are complete in Him…”. He was speaking of the Church. It is true that the Bible does not categorically state that God had a body of flesh and bones, but references to this truth are found in several passages. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ was in the “express image” of the Father, and as Stephen was being stoned, he looked up into heaven and saw God and also Christ standing at his right Hand (Acts 7:55-56).
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