Theology Thursday: God’s Nature – Omnipotence

We’ve been examining the nature of God in the past few Theology Thursdays.  We’ve looked at God’s eternality, and His omniscience.  Today we turn our attention to God’s Omnipotence.  Omnipotence is defined as being universally powerful, or not lacking in power.  Scripture defines God this way.

“‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,” {Jer 32:17 NASB}

In Jeremiah 32, God is giving a sign to Israel that not all is lost.  As Nebuchadnezzar is besieging Jerusalem, Jeremiah is directed to buy two fields and goes through the meticulous steps to purchase these fields right down to a contract, title deeds, witnesses, and a full payment.  God then directs him to put the title deeds in earthen jars to be sealed up and kept for a long time.  The reason is because God promises “‘For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”‘” {Jer 32:15 NASB}

As the largest and greatest army the world had seen to that point was swallowing up little Judah, God is promising prosperity and peace in that very spot again throughout this chapter.  God was abundently clear, the inevitable defeat, deportation, and domination by Babylon would not be the end to Judah or Jerusalem.  Jews would, once again, inhabit the land.

 ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Take these deeds, this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, that they may last a long time.” ‘For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Houses and fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.”‘ {Jer 32:14-15 NASB}

It must have seemed impossible, even laughable to the common idolatrous Jew of Jeremiah’s day.  Yet it was not absurd for Jeremiah because the prophet knew nothing is impossible with God.  In verse 17, Jeremiah begins to pray and boldly declares his faith in God’s promise saying “nothing is impossible for you!”  It would be one thing if this was just hyperbole from the prophet, or simply Jeremiah’s theory; but God leaves us no room for such work arounds.  After Jeremiah finishes his prayer, God answers him:

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”” {Jer 32:27 NASB}

God confirms Jeremiah’s declaration.  NOTHING is too difficult for God.  NOTHING.  There is nothing outside of the scope of possibility for God to accomplish.  The Bible makes this clear.  There is nothing at all that God cannot accomplish, nothing that God finds too difficult a task.  As a result, He is omnipotent.

What does that mean, exactly?

Many Christians borrow too much from worldly philosophies and ask meaningless questions to try to trick the words into saying something they clearly do not say.  One such question is “Does God have the power to sin?”  The answer is no.  Not because God can’t accomplish the act which we call sinning, but because God is the definition of righteousness.  Simply because God’s character is righteous does not mean sin is too difficult for Him.  He has the power to murder and steal just as any common man may possess.  But God refrains from such wickedness not because He lacks the power, but because God is ALSO holy, good, and righteous.

This is a perfect example of the danger of starting with God’s character and deducing His nature, falsely, from conclusions about His character.  The character of God and the nature of God are not subservient to one another but instead stand on their own and work in harmony with one another.  We cannot limit the nature of God because of a character trait God possess (or vice versa) but rather must understand how God’s nature and character work hand in hand.

Another meaningless question is “Can God create a rock so heavy that even He can’t lift it”.  The answer is a rhetorical trick meant to confuse the categories.  Obviously God can lift any weight and create an object of any weight.  Not only does the question presume a limit on God, but it also imposes a category on the claim of omnipotence that isn’t native to the claim.  The claim isn’t that God can out power Himself, but rather that there is not a limit on God’s power.  There is a world of difference between the two claims.

Also, we must understand that God’s power reaches across all categories and understandings.  Not only can God affect the category of the physical, but also the mental, emotional, spiritual, and whatever else may exist.  We can’t consistently understand God as God unless we agree that He is powerful enough to both calm the storm and calm our nerves, part the sea and pardon our sin, heal physical and mental handicaps.  It is a small God that has great power over the physical, but little over the mind.  Regardless, such a weak God is not Omnipotent.

We must define this aspect of God’s nature just as we define all aspects of His nature, from His word, the Bible.  God affirms Jeremiah’s declaration; nothing is too difficult for Him.  What does it mean to have universal and limitless power; to be omnipotent?  It means that nothing is too difficult to accomplish.  It does not mean all things must be accomplished, it does not mean having to prove such strength, it is simply a statement on the potential of power within God’s possession and the lack of power to limit Him in everyone and everything else.  Far from lifting heavy weights and performing impossible tasks, the power of God is truly universal, reaching into every aspect of life.

The major heresy in opposition to God’s omnipotence is Open Theism.  It may seem odd to point to a heresy that primarily opposes God’s omniscience, but the logical fallout of denying the knowledge of God is that one must deny His power as well.  This is expressed in two ways:

1)  If God doesn’t have the power to see the future, then it can easily be concluded that God isn’t ALL powerful.
2) If God can’t know the future then God can’t affect it either.  

A limit on God’s knowledge is a limit on God’s power.  But the Bible is clear that nothing is hidden from God AND that His power is without limit.

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