As the apostle Paul delivers his sermon at the Areopagus (Mars Hill), he declares:

Acts 17:28, NAS: "for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children'" (emphasis added).

The emphasized text seems very curious, presumably suggesting that, without God, we could not live, move (motion) or exist. Is that correct? Does our next breath and heart beat (life, motion) depend on God?

  • 2
    We are in God's hand from one heartbeat to the next Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Ecclesiastes 12:6. And . . . . it's an up-vote from me.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 8, 2021 at 22:07

3 Answers 3


Your question is lent new meaning in light of this Covid-19 pandemic! I know I now pray differently because of the danger to human life even in the very act of breathing.

Years earlier, I learned to pray differently with regard to my heart-beat after I suffered a heart-attack that damaged my heart moderately. I could have died but for medical interventions. Thereafter, I acknowledged to God in prayer that my every heart-beat was dependent on him. Ecclesiastes 3 states that "there is a time to be born and a time to die" (vs. 2). Chapter 7 warns us not to be over-righteous or over-wise: "Why destroy yourself? Do not be over-wicked and do not be a fool - why die before your time?" (vs.s 16-17) And the Psalmist acknowledge that God knew everything about him even while he was forming in the womb, adding, "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Ps. 139:13-16).

Due to surviving that heart attack, my theme text is, "My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever" (Psalm 73:26).

Beyond the physical level which billions of people seem to take for granted (till death threatens), there is a spiritual level at which God needs to be acknowledged for our next breath and our next heartbeat. That is why Jesus gave the parable of the successful farmer planning to tear down his old barns to replace them with much bigger ones. Jesus called that foolish, because "that very night your life is required of you" - required by God, who gave it in the first place (Luke 12:15-21). The parable was to show the folly of storing up things for oneself, to garner even more in the future, without being rich towards God who gives us everything. He is to be acknowledged in all our ways.

As for our next breath, well, would you consider God's role in breathing if you knew your next breath would contain a potentially lethal virus that would get into your lungs? We all know that there is no immunity against Covid-19 just because a person believes in God and even prays regularly to God. Believers suffer much the same trials and sufferings in life as do non-believers. Christians certainly should not pray superstitiously as if they could call upon God to keep the virus out of the air they breathe. But they could (and, I suggest, they should) pray privately to acknowledge their Maker as the one who is sovereign over their next breath and their next heartbeat. We should not take it for granted that God will keep us breathing and living because none of us know when our time will come. But we know that whenever God allows our lungs and/or our heart to terminally fail, those who have acknowledged him in all their ways will even have their steps into death directed from above, for it will be God's time for us to depart this earthly scene.

Paul certainly knew all those O.T. scriptures I quoted, including this warning to Belshazzar: "And the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, thou hast not glorified" (Daniel 5:23). That night God ensured he breathed his last. Paul would also have know of that particular parable of Jesus, so I think his reference in Acts 17:28 credited God as the ultimate sustainer of our lives, even down to our very breathing and heartbeat. Further, he would appreciate that his educated audience would understand what he meant – the level at which God gives us life.

  • 1
    "Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones" (Psa. 116:15). It's hard for me to fully understand why, once we know our eternal destiny is soon to be with God, that anyone would fear this world: "So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Heb. 13:6).
    – Xeno
    Jul 9, 2021 at 18:00
  • @Xeno Yes, assurance of our eternal destiny makes all the difference. Only that enabled many a saint to entrust their last, dying breath to God, as did Hugh Latimer: “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man: we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” This, while both were chained together to a stake, for burning alive, bags of gunpowder tied around their necks. Proof of Psalm 118:6-7/Hebrews 13:6, indeed!
    – Anne
    Jul 11, 2021 at 12:19

In Acts 17:28a Paul cited the Cretan philosopher Epimenides:

For in him we live and move and have our being.

Ancient Hebrew wisdom literature expressed similar ideas in Job 27:3

as long as my breath is still within me and the breath of God remains in my nostrils

Does our next breath depend on God?

Yes, and therefore our next heartbeat, motion, and life all depend on God.

Job 27:8

For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off, when God takes away his life?

Job 33:4

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

  • Those are some great points Tony. +1.
    – Xeno
    Jul 8, 2021 at 16:02

The idea that God both gives life and sustains life is very common:

  • Job 33:4 - The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
  • Acts 17:25 - And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.
  • Isa 42:5 - This is what God the LORD says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:
  • Dan 5:23 - Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. The vessels from His house were brought to you, and as you drank wine from them with your nobles, wives, and concubines, you praised your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you have failed to glorify the God who holds in His hand your very breath and all your ways.
  • Job 27:3 - as long as my breath is still within me and the breath of God remains in my nostrils
  • Jer 38:16 - But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: “As surely as the LORD lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.”

Indeed, the sustaining power of the God is even more widespread than this:

  • Col 1:17 - He [Jesus] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Thus, the Bible presents the picture all things owing their origin and on-goping existence, especially life itself, to God.

  • It's possible that I didn't understand what the OP was truly asking about but I don't think so. Your answer is all very well but to me you are not addressing the OP's 'immediate' concern. "God gives life and sustains life", yes he does. We need to be cognizant and grateful to God of these aspects of life and the OP is well aware of this but his concern goes deeper than that. He's asking:- "Does (even) our next breath and heart beat (life, motion) depend on God". The answer is in the negative, as we do that freely. The non believer 'freely' breathes and has a heartbeat, just like the believer. Jul 9, 2021 at 0:37
  • @OldeEnglish - I agree that we have free will (withing certain limits of sinful humanity) but I still assume that the OP is asking whether our continued existence depends upon God continuing to give life and sustain it, even for the non-believer.
    – Dottard
    Jul 9, 2021 at 6:28
  • @OldeEnglish are you saying that once a person is made alive by God, their state of living is not dependent on God sustaining it? In other words unless God takes it away, the act of keeping someone alive is independent of God? Please help me understand Jul 12, 2021 at 14:02
  • @NihilSineDeo-The sacrificial death of Jesus, was made in order to reconcile sinners to a holy God. One's sins 'could' now be forgiven, as before Adam's sin weighed heavily upon Mankind. However, it is not enough to have a heartfelt believe in Jesus, and at the same time accept that Jesus died for us, as it is still up to us to 'ensure' our salvation. The gift of 'Free Will' was not taken away. Until Satan is abyssed, we will undoubtedly still be sinning, we just can't do it without remorse/repentance, otherwise salvation can be subject to forfeit. "Once saved, always saved" is nonsensical. Jul 12, 2021 at 17:59

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