In Awe of God’s Omnipresence (Part 1)


Orthodox Christians have confessed throughout the centuries of church history that God exists eternally in three co-equal Persons—each possessing one glorious nature, essence, substance, being or “form” (Phil. 2:6). Each of the three, while distinct from the other two, fully possesses all of the attributes (sometimes called perfections) of the “Godhead” (Rom. 1:20).

The attributes of God have been arranged in several ways. Sometimes we divide them according to “attributes of greatness and attributes of goodness.”1 Probably the three most well-known in the first category begin with the prefix omni, from the Latin for all. They are omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.

Of these three—all incomprehensible to the finite and fallen human mind—omnipresence may be the hardest for us to grasp. It is a challenge even to define. The fact that we teach the doctrine of omnipresence is beyond question. Classic passages that describe it include Psalm 139:7-12 and Romans 8:35-39. However, what we mean by it, or how others understand us, can be much more difficult to discern.

Perhaps new to some is the concept that of all of God’s attributes this may be the one upon which there has been the most significant disagreement within historic, orthodox Christianity.

What Omnipresence Is

Our basic understanding of the doctrine of omnipresence, which many of us learned as children, is that God is present everywhere, at all times. Yet, even the universe cannot contain Him (Acts 17:24).

When dealing with this issue, we must keep before us the concept that God, in His essence, “is Spirit” (John 4:24). We will take up the issue of Christ’s relationship to omnipresence, with regard to His incarnation, a bit later. But first, we need to establish this basic truth—that God’s presence everywhere relates to His eternal existence as spirit.

Now, angels are also spirit beings, but no one would argue that they are omnipresent. They are, in the words of my wonderful theology professor, the late Dr. Myron J. Houghton, “localized spirits.” When a Christian dies, he is also temporarily without a body—as only his immaterial spirit has life (2 Cor. 5:8). Yet this does not make him omnipresent. But God, as spirit, is infinite and eternal—and omnipresent. But what exactly does that include?

The ESV Study Bible provides an excellent, concise definition of omnipresence when it states: “God does not have spatial dimensions and is present everywhere with his whole being, though he acts differently in different situations.”2 As an “implication” of this doctrine, it goes on to declare: “God can be sought anywhere regardless of place. Believers should never feel lonely, and the wicked should never feel safe.”3

Charles C. Ryrie also stated succinctly: “Omnipresence means that God is everywhere present with His whole being at all times.”4 Speaking more technically, Lutheran theologian John Theodore Mueller called this “the attribute of God according to which He is illocally, but essentially, everywhere.”5

John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue state: “Omnipresence indicates that God is present with every point of space in his entire being.”6

They go on to explain,

These perfections mean that God is not diffused through space so that only part of him is in each place. Also, God is not bound to one place. God is fully present in every place…. God upholds the created order by being entirely present with every point of space.7

What Omnipresence Is Not

We need to emphasize—especially in a world where mysticism often trumps traditional theological orthodoxy—that omnipresence does not equate to pantheism, which is the belief that all is God.

The world is indeed God’s creation, but it is not God. For this reason, we do not worship any part of it (Isa. 44:17; Rom. 1:25). Ryrie stated of pantheism, “This heresy fails to distinguish the Creator from the created, a distinction taught in the very first verse of the Bible.”8 MacArthur and Mayhue concur: “… he is distinct from and greater than creation.”9

The molecules of water in the measureless oceans of the world are not part of the essence of God. Were we to bow down to them, we would be guilty of the sin of idolatry. Yet, by some means beyond our understanding, if you were to dive into that very ocean, God would be there, and He would hear and answer your prayer (see Jonah 2:1-9).

Again, Ryrie maintained: “Omnipresence does mean that God is everywhere present but not diffused throughout or penetrating the universe.”10 Mueller added: “God is present in all creatures, yet He is never a part of them….”11

This article first appeared in the Voice magazine (May/June 2022). Used by permission of IFCA International. The original article can be read at:


1 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1985), 267.

2 Wayne Grudem, gen. ed. (Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2008), 2,512.

3 Ibid.

4 Basic Theology, (Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1999), 46.

5 Christian Dogmatics, (Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, 1934), 165.

6 Biblical Doctrine, (Crossway, Wheaton, IL, 2017), 173.

7 Ibid., 173-174.

8 Ryrie, 46.

9 MacArthur and Mayhue, 174.

10 Ryrie, 46.

11 Mueller, 166.

NKJV - Source

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.