On Omnipotence

newonenewoneTwo passages that discuss God’s omnipotence are Psa. 115:3 and Gen. 18:14. Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” There’s a contrast in the psalm between the dead idols of other religions and the one true God of Israel. The Israelites ought to glory in Yahweh for he is alive and able to do whatever he so wills. His power and might surpass the other gods for their power and might are truly nonexistent. The end of the psalm praises God for his abundant provisions on the covenant community. It is right to give him praise and thanks for he is worthy of it unlike any other. In Genesis 18, Abraham is visited by the Lord who promises to the aged individual a male child who would fulfill the earlier promises. Sarah overhears the conversation and laughs in incredulousness. The Lord questions Abraham about why his wife laughed and asks the rhetorical question “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” The intended answer is no. If the Lord can open up the womb of a woman clearly past menopause, he can surely do anything he desires. These two verses are examples of statements made throughout Scripture that God is able to do whatever he wants. The repeated refrain of Scripture is that the Lord is able to do all that can be done (Psa. 24:8; Eph. 3:20; Matt. 3:9, 19:26; 2 Cor. 6:18).

There are however scriptural statements that God has some limitations on his power. James 1:13 reads, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” Why is God unable to be tempted with evil? Is this not an impugning of his power? God does not have anything on the inside of him that merits desire for evil. He lacks any moral failing that would lend him to see sin as appealing. This is why God is incapable of leading others in sin. Because of his perfection, God has no contact with evil, and evil is powerless to bring him into temptation for there’s nothing evil has to offer.[1] God’s nature is such that moral failings are impossible (Titus 1:3; Heb. 6:18). God also appears to not be able to do the logically impossible. The writer to the letter of Hebrews remarks that, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself. (Heb. 6:13)” Why could God not swear by any other greater name? Because there’s no greater name than the name of the greatest possible being. Behind God’s faithfulness to fulfill his promises rests three things: 1) God is eternal, being ever present to fulfill what he has promised, 2) God is omnipotent, having the ability to fulfill what he has promised, and 3) God is virtuous, doing what is right to his people.[2] His promises are as sure as his character and abilities.

These supposed limitations do not appear to call the doctrine of God’s omnipotence into question. Far from being limitations, they appear to be virtues. Lacking the propensity or temptation to sin no more makes God any less omnipotent than it would make us less human in glory for we also will lack that function. Furthermore, the fact that God cannot bend the laws of logic does not bother me in the least. It grounds logic in something objective. It is an essential part of who he is and the way he has so created our universe. There’s no need for a harmonization if one understands the definition of omnipotence.

[1] Simon Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistle of James and the Epistles of John. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker, 1986), 48.

[2]George H. Guthrie, Hebrews. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 1998), 245.



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