Omnipotence

Omnipotent is one of the many words which appear in the older versions of the English Bible, but not in the more modern ones. It is also part of the vocabulary of our hymns, but is rarely employed in more modern choruses and Christian songs. It is a word which can only be applied to God Himself. When used of God, it refers to fact that He is all-powerful, that He is unconstrained by any outside force; He can do anything consistent with His character.

Although you will not find omnipotence in your Bible concordance, you will find words which express nearly the same content. Almighty is one such word. And of course, in addition to the word almighty, there are many words and many verses which speak of God’s power – unconstrained, unstoppable.

And when we look for verses in the Bible which describe God’s power, or which describe God as Almighty, we begin to find them everywhere. Before we examine these verses, one more preliminary comment is necessary.

Everyone Knows

God’s eternal power is something which, according to the scriptures, everyone knows. Romans 1:20 clearly teaches this: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

In other words, the omnipotence of God is something which is known by everyone even apart from biblical revelation. Now of course, Paul goes on to tell us that this knowledge is suppressed and exchanged for a lie. But it is known nonetheless. The evidence for omnipotence is clear and compelling.

The Bible’s Witness

In addition to the revelation of creation, God has graciously given revelation of Himself in His Word, the Bible. His omnipotence – expressed in terms like almighty and power – is something about which the Bible is clear. And it is especially clearly expressed in three clusters of biblical texts.

Redemption

The first are the texts in the Bible which speak of God’s redemptive work. We can see this in the Old Testament story of Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt. God raises up Pharoah to display His power (Exod 9:16); the Israelites primarily see God’s power in their deliverance (Exod 14:31). We might expect that God’s work of redemption would be cited as evidence of His mercy, or His kindness, but the Bible uses these acts of redemption as evidences, primarily, for God’s power.

The same is true in the New Testament revelation of our redemption. We often focus on God’s saving work in Christ as evidence of His love, or His forgiveness, or His mercy. And it is indeed evidence all of these things and more! But the Bible focusses our attention on the way in which redemption shows God’s power. To give just one example, in 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Notice what Paul emphasizes: the power of God.

I wonder if this accent on God’s power is found in our discussions and reflections on redemption. The fact that we could be redeemed by God through the work of Christ in His death and resurrection is a magnificent display of God’s power. It is an evidence of His omnipotence.

Worship

The second place where the references to God’s almighty nature and unstoppable power are clustered with special frequency and density are in contexts of organized worship. We see many references to God’s might and power in the Psalms, for instance. In Psalm 68:32-35 we see God praised as both possessing eternal power and as dispensing it to His people. And Psalm 115:3 summarizes God’s power, simply stating, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Again and again, God’s power is the subject of Israel’s worship.

In the New Testament, we see this pattern continue. In the scene of heavenly worship in Revelation 4, the four living creatures unceasingly repeat, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty…” God’s omnipotence is the subject of worship.

Once again, we need to compare this biblical pattern with our own practice. Does our organized and public worship clearly declare that God is all-powerful? Do we sing about this? Does our practice reflect it? There are certainly many aspects of God’s character for which we should praise Him. But biblical worship focusses attention on the reality of God’s omnipotence.

Suffering

The most surprising concentration of Bible passages in which we read of God’s Almighty nature is found in the book of Job. God is named as The Almighty more times in Job than in any other book of the Bible. In fact, God is referred to in this way more times in Job than in all the other books of the Bible combined! This is astounding, especially when you consider the context of the book. Job, a righteous man, is suffering. His suffering is deep and prolonged, and God never explains it. For many of us today, such deep suffering would cause us to question whether God was Almighty after all. But Job (and even his misguided friends) consistently take for granted that God is the Almighty one. He is all-powerful, even in the midst of these complex and difficult circumstances. Do you remember that God is omnipotent, even when you’re suffering? Are you tempted to explain suffering by diminishing God’s power?

Job’s answer to one of his friends’ foolish statements is an appropriate way to end our meditation on this important attribute of God. These words are found in Job 26. They remind us of God’s power, and remind us of how little we can understand of its scope, energy, and reach. We are left as we should be when we study God’s attributes, with fear and wonder.

 

‘The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke. 12 By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. 13 By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. 14 Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?’

 


Jonathan Master serves as professor of theology and dean of the School of Divinity at Cairn University. At this year’s US Ministers’ Conference (May 30 – June 01) he will be speaking on the theme of the Word of God in his two addresses, Living and Active, and Sharper Than A Two-Edged Sword.
The above article was originally posted at aplacefortruth.org and is re-posted here with the kind permission of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

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