Monday, December 4, 2023

Post # 25 The Doctrine of God - God's Attribute of Omnipotence: Reflections And Applications


    In this series of posts we have attempted to introduce the reader to the being and attributes of God. Such a study, called "The Doctrine of God", or as known by its theological term "Theology Proper", makes its goal to raise the mind and heart of the reader to God. Today's post aims to introduce the reader to the attribute of God's omnipotence.

    The term "omnipotence" derives from two Latin terms, "omni" meaning "all" and "potence" referring to "power". Strictly speaking, to say God is all powerful is to say He is able to do anything that corresponds to His character. Theologian Wayne Grudem gives the following definition, "God's omnipotence means that God is able to do all His holy will" (Systematic Theology, 2nd edition, page 258). Author Charles T. Grant, in the Winter 2002 edition of "The Emmaus Journal", writing an article entitled "Our Heavenly Father", notes of Divine omnipotence,

"Omnipotence means that God can do whatever He desires to do. “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isa. 46:10). “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Ps. 115:3). It does not mean that God’s actions are without rational or moral restraint. Rather it implies that God is able to do everything which is consistent with His nature." 

    When talk of omnipotence, we must qualify the term with reference to what God can and cannot do. Scripture tells us that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Why? God is a God of truth - i.e. the "True and Living God" (Jeremiah 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9). We've studied in past posts how God cannot change His essential nature (Malachi 3:6). We know that God cannot be unfaithful to His promises, since He is always faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). 

    These qualifiers do not cancel out Divine omnipotence, but rather serve to sharpen what the Bible says on the subject. God can do all according to His nature, which means such attributes as His eternality, immensity, omniscience, omnipresence, and Divine independence help us to see how the power of God is indeed unlimited. 

    It doesn't take much to find God's omnipotence in the Scripture. Near the end of the New Testament we find the following glorious statement of God's omnipotence,

"Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns." 

That term "Almighty" tips the reader off to identifying this woondrous attribute. In Genesis 17:1, Abraham identifies God as "El-Shaddai" or "God Almighty". Job 11:7 reminds us of the infinite depths of God in light of His omnipotence, “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?" The Christian is reminded of God's omnipotence in upholding them through all of life in 2 Corinthians 6:18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty." A quick scan through any Bible concordance will yield nearly sixty places where this main term "Almighty" is used with respect to God's omnipotence. 

Exploring further Biblical statements on Divine omnipotence

    As we mentioned, God's omnipotence is found throughout the Bible. I've mentioned to the reader some places that utilize the term "Almighty". Several more are worth mention to aid us in appreciating this perfection of God. Throughout the books of Genesis, Exodus and Ezekiel, we find reference to God being the "Almighty". I already referenced Genesis 17:1. The significance of this verse reference is that it is the first time we come across this title is in Genesis 17:1, 

"Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless." 

    In four other places in Genesis (28:3; 35:11; 43:14 and 48:3) we find God speaking to the patriarchs and revealing Himself as God Almighty. By Exodus 6:3, God reveals Himself to Moses and, with this designation of Himself as "God Almighty", gives the specific name by which He reveals Himself to His people as "I AM Who I AM". This covenant name speaks of God's self-existence and thus sustaining Himself by His own omnipotent, never ending power. Ezekiel 10:5 rounds out the places in the Old Testament we will consider with respect to this name God Almighty, wherein we read, 

"Moreover, the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks." 

    The point of these texts is to demonstrate that from God's very names, we see already implied that He is indeed the Omnipotent God. 

Reflecting and meditating on God's omnipotence in Psalm 139:13-16.

    Truly when we focus on any of God's attributes, they ought to stir our hearts to worship. A.W Tozer notes in his classic work "Knowledge of the Holy" the following about God's omnipotence, 

"God possesses what no creature can: an incomprehensible plenitude of power, a potency that is absolute." 

    He then later makes this helpful observation with respect to God's omnipotence, 

"God has delegated power to His creatures, but being self-sufficient, He cannot relinquish anything of His perfections and, power being one of them, He has never surrendered the least iota of His power. He gives but does not give away. All that He gives remains His own and returns to Him again. Forever He must remain what He has forever been, the Lord God omnipotent." 

    Psalm 139:13-16 outlines for us some basic features of this incredible attribute. We could assign "realms" over which God is said to wield His omnipotent power in this Psalm.

1. God's omnipotence over the realms of the extremely small. Psalm 139:13-16

    To speak of "sub-atomic" refers to that level of physical reality that corresponds to the extremely small distances we find when considering atoms, their constitute particles (such as the nucleus and its orbiting electrons) and the complex physical laws used to describe their behavior. Now I won't stray too far into the weeds on this point, knowing full-well how unimaginably complex these considerations can get. 

    The idea of "quantum physics" deals broadly with the various laws and equations that describe what extremely small systems do under certain conditions. Thus, all of the atoms making up the DNA molecules, chromosomes and such were providentially held together in the proper discrete energy levels (called by physicists "quanta") to be at the right moment and places. God governs their motions to then construct the biological material ordained by Him to produce what would be the physical nature of King David. We don't have time to get into the discrete and mysterious way God endues each person's physical nature with consciousness and personality. I know this point is bewilderingly complex - but isn't that the point? to show in small measure God's incredible power at work in the realm of the extremely small. 

2. God's omnipotence over the realm of time and the very large. Psalm 139:16

    God's omnipotence includes His power to affect future events and outcomes, as well as His interactions with the free-decisions made by human beings. How is it that God's omnipotence on the one hand and human responsibility on the other do not conflict? This millennia-old discussion will not be solved in this post, nor can it claimed to be entirely comprehended. We can say at least we do not know how both work, only that they do co-exist, with human self-determination being a reality while never cancelling out God's all-pervasive omnipotence in the realm of His will. 

    At bare minimum, what we do know is that God has so chosen to create a world wherein He exercises His Sovereign, omnipotent power through secondary means and causes. The outcomes of time and history are credited to His ultimate purposes, whilst the details and means to getting to those ends, especially when it relates to evil choices, fall completely in the realm of the creature. Two quotes may aid us in grasping this point. The first comes from the Westminster Confession of Faith's declaration of God's Providence, 

"Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently." 

    The second quote showing God's omnipotent will and man's responsibility to be complementary is found in the Baptist Faith and Message's summary: 

"God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures."

    God's power, though being potentially unlimited in regards to what He can do in the realms of the very small and very large, is nonetheless governed by His own internal character. When we say "governed", we are referring to the fact that there are things God "cannot do". The old familiar question, "could God create a rock to heavy for Himself to lift", is ultimately a meaningless question, since it entails a logical contradiction - something which would conflict with God's orderly and perfect nature. 

    God cannot do what which is logically impossible, since He Himself is the source and standard of what we mean by logic. We know that God "cannot lie" nor sin (Habakkuk 1:13; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), since God is by nature Holy and just. Henceforth God governs the boundaries (if we can use such a term) of His omnipotence. As the later author Herbert Lockyer once quipped,

"God is a being, that, if compared to a circle, has a center that is everywhere and a circumference that is nowhere".   

Closing thoughts

    In bringing the true practical meaning of this attribute home to the Christian, Tozer writes, 

"Omnipotence is not a name given to the sum of all power, but an attribute of a personal God whom we Christians believe to be the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and of all who believe on Him to eternal life. The worshiping man finds this knowledge as source of wonderful strength for his inner life. His faith rises to take the great leap upward into the fellowship of Him who can do whatever He wills to do, for whom nothing is hard or difficult because He possesses power absolute." 

    Nothing in the created realm limits God. He and He alone is God. Let us then worship Him today that is the One, omnipotent Creator, Redeemer and Ruler of the universe. 

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