Commentary, Featured, John McReynolds - Posted by on Sunday, October 10, 2010 6:50 - 0 Comments 7,728 views

Basics 18 – The Infinite Ability of God

BASIC BIBLE DOCTRINE

Understanding God

Lesson Eighteen: The Infinite Ability of God 

God is everywhere.  He is everywhere there is to be.  Right now I’m sitting here typing in these words.  You are somewhere out there, in places I don’t know, doing things I can’t see, thinking thoughts or saying words I can’t hear.  And we are separated by time as well as space.  By the time you read these words I am no longer typing them—I have finished. 

But God is watching me type these words, and at the same time He is watching you read them.  God can do this because He is present exactly where I am, and He is also present exactly where you are.  In fact I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves!  But someone might say, “Wait a minute!  You already wrote this, but I’m just now reading it.  God could have moved from where you are to where I am in the meantime!” 

It doesn’t matter if a week or a month or a year separate when I wrote it and when you read it.  God is timeless—it’s all the same to Him. 

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day”—2 Pet. 3:8. 

This issue of God’s omnipresence doesn’t just cover distance and space.  When we think of omnipresence we tend to think it only means that God is everywhere—but it also means that God is everywhen, too!  God is present at every point of space and time in the universe.

 

 

 BASIC BIBLE DOCTRINE

Understanding God

Lesson Eighteen: 

The Infinite Ability of God 

by John McReynolds

God is spirit, and those that worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”  So says the Gospel of John, chapter 4, verse 24.  Our Lord has provided the means whereby we can be assured of the filling of the Holy Spirit by confession of our sins as per 1 John 1:9—“If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  So let’s take this opportunity to confess our known sins if necessary and to otherwise to prepare our hearts for the study of the Word of God. Let us pray:

Thank You, Father, for another grace opportunity to take in your wonderful Word. May God the Holy Spirit take the truths we are studying and make them a source of blessing, growth and challenge in our lives that we might be built up spiritually and that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ might be glorified, for we ask it in His name—amen.

He Is Able

There is a praise song that expresses the aspect of God’s essence that we are going to take up now—“He Is Able”:

He is able, more than able
to accomplish what concerns me today.
He is able, more than able
to handle anything that comes my way.
He is able, more than able
to do much more than I could ever dream,
He is able, more than able,
to make me what He wants me to be.
 

This song is expressing God’s infinite ability to do whatever pleases Him.  It is this ability we are going to attempt to explore in this lesson.

One of the best Biblical descriptions of God’s awesome abilities was written by King David over 3,000 years ago in the 139th Psalm.  I’m going to quote it at length, so please open your Bibles to Psalm 139.  Beginning with verse one listen to this wonderful expression of God’s limitless understanding, presence and power:

… O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.

You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”

Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me,
O God! How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

Divine ability can be considered a composite of three attributes of God by which God is able to accomplish all things that He pleases.  Anything His sovereign will pleases to do, His infinite abilities enable Him to do.  God is able to do whatever He pleases because:

  1. His infinite understanding comprehends exactly and completely what He needs to do down to the most infinitesimally small detail.  We refer to this attribute as God’s Omniscience
  2. His immanent, transcendent nature places Him simultaneously at every location in time and space, so that He is always exactly where He needs to be to immediately accomplish His will.  This complements both His infinite understanding and his infinite power.  We call this His Omnipresence
  3. His infinite power enables Him to accomplish any and all of His purposed actions without reducing His infinite resources by even the tiniest amount.  In theological terms this is called Omnipotence.

Psalm 139 presents aspects of all three of the attributes that comprise the infinite ability of God.  As we examine these three attributes we will be looking analyzing passages in this psalm in more detail.

If you have been following this series Understanding God you may have noticed that we have been following a pattern in our studies of the characteristics of God.  First we try to describe a characteristic of God in terms of His Deity in an attempt to wrap our relative, finite minds around His absolute, infinite nature. 

When we fail miserably in that attempt we then try to understand the way in which that aspect of God’s nature affects us personally and try to assess its impact on our existence.  Hopefully we are a little more successful at that.  So in keeping with the practice we have established, we are going to first of all try to describe these three attributes of God—omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence.

Omniscience—God Is All Knowledge

The words omniscience and omniscient are from the Latin compound word omniscientia, which is made up of two Latin roots, omni, meaning all, and scientia, meaning knowledge or understanding. Literally then omniscience means “all knowledge” or “all understanding”, and omniscient means “possessing all knowledge and understanding”.  When these terms are used to describe attributes of God they mean “infinite knowledge and absolute understanding”.

If you read the last lesson you may remember the statement that “… God doesn’t possess eternal life, He is eternal life.” Along those same lines we can say that God does not possess all knowledge, He is all knowledge.  All of us know some things—some folks more or less than others.  I know a few things, and nearly anything I can think of that I know about I had nothing to do with its existence. 

For example, I live in my house.  I know it pretty well, but I had nothing to do with it being here—someone else built it before we ever got into it.  Oh sure, we’ve done a few things to it over the years, but nothing in comparison to the carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and bricklayers who built it long before Linda and I came to occupy it.

But God not only knows everything in the universe, He is the One who caused every one of those things to come into being.  Since God is the cause of all reality, it follows that He knows all of the knowable in its entirety, and in all of it’s infinitely  complex detail. 

Do you know what an elementary particle is?  Basically, an elementary particle is a primary building block of matter—the stuff of which all the physical universe, including our bodies, is made.  All of the atoms and molecules that make up our world are composed of these elementary particles.  Scientists believe there are many different kinds of these—composite particles such as protons, neutrons, and electrons—these are the ones I’m more familiar with.  And then these are made up of many other even more elementary particles such as mesons, bosons, leptons, baryons, photons, neutrinos, quarks, and more.  I can’t even pretend to understand any of these.

Now by a series of very obscure computations someone has estimated that there are on the order of 5.4 X 10^80 of these elementary particles in the universe (that’s 5.4 times 10 to the 80th power in scientific notation).  That would be 540 with 78 zeroes, or 540 with 26 groups of three zeroes behind it.  I don’t even know how to say a number that large.  Writing this number out looks like this:

540,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Human comprehension is left behind after about the 3rd or 4th set of zeroes. 

Now I have no idea if that number is anywhere close to right, or if it is sheer fantasy.  But it will serve to make my point.  God’s omniscience not only knew exactly how many of these elementary particles there were at the moment He created them—whether there were 5.4 X 10^80 or vastly more—but he knows where each individual one has been at every moment since creation.  He knows where each individual one will be from now until the end of time.  He knows every atom that each of these particles make up, and how those atoms combine together—some of them forming the strands of DNA that make up the stuff of physical life, and He knows all of the interactions they will undergo between now and the end of time.  And He knows all of this in His real time, which views everything as one vast, eternal now.

If God’s infinite intellect comprehends all of this, it is absolutely no problem for Him knowing the affairs and interactions of each human on this little planet located in an average-sized star system on the edge of a modestly sized galaxy that is one of perhaps trillions of others that are all contained within God’s infinitely comprehensive understanding. 

And of course this is the point of this little exercise—God in His omniscience knows you and I, and all of our affairs and issues, far better than we will ever know ourselves.  And God comprehends all of this vast complexity without diminishing His resources by the tiniest amount—without “breaking a sweat” as it were.

And isn’t this what Psalm 139 is telling us?

O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.

God knows it all.  There are many more Scriptures telling us of God’s omniscience.  Here are just a few that show different aspects of God’s omniscience:

God knows all that is knowable

1 Sam 2:3—“Boast no more so very proudly, Do not let arrogance come out of your mouth; For the LORD is a God of knowledge, And with Him actions are weighed.

2 Chron. 16:9a—“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.

Job 26:6—“Naked is Sheol [the grave] before Him, and Abaddon [Hades] has no covering.

Job 31:4—“Does He not see my ways And number all my steps?

Heb. 4:13—“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Matt. 10:29-30—“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

We cannot hide our sins from God

Job 34:21-22—“For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps.  There is no darkness or deep shadow where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.

Jer. 16:17—“For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes.

1 Sam 16:7b—“for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

God’s wisdom and understanding are limitless

Psa 147:4-5—“He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.  Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.

Prov. 3:19-20—“The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens.  By His knowledge the deeps were broken up And the skies drip with dew.

Jer. 51:15—“It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom, And by His understanding He stretched out the heavens.

God’s omniscience includes foreknowledge

Isa 46:9-10—“Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure …’

Acts 2:23—“… this Man [Jesus Christ], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

Matt. 6:8b—“… for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

As God the Lord Jesus Christ is omniscient

Matt. 9:4—“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?

John 2:24-25—“But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men,  and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

Peter recognized that Jesus was omniscient: John 21:17—“He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?"  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?"  And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You."  Jesus said to him, "Tend My sheep.

We can take comfort in His omniscience

God knows what He wants us to be: Job 23:10—“But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

God knows exactly what we need: Matt. 6:31-33—“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’  For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

God wants us to understand His will and His ways in our lives: James 1:5—“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

We can understand what is God’s wisdom, and what is not: James 3:17—“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

Omnipresence—God Is Everywhere

The words omnipresence and omnipresent are similar to omniscience.  Here again we have two Latin roots: omni, again meaning “all”, and praesens, which means exactly what the English version “presence” means.  So essentially omnipresent means “all present” or “everywhere present”, while omnipresence refers to the quality or attribute of “being everywhere present”.

God is everywhere.  He is everywhere there is to be.  Right now I’m sitting here typing in these words.  You are somewhere out there, in places I don’t know, doing things I can’t see, thinking thoughts or saying words I can’t hear.  And we are separated by time as well as space.  By the time you read these words I am no longer typing them—I have finished. 

But God is watching me type these words, and at the same time He is watching you read them.  God can do this because He is present exactly where I am, and He is also present exactly where you are.  In fact I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that God is closer to us than we are to ourselves!  But someone might say, “Wait a minute!  You already wrote this, but I’m just now reading it.  God could have moved from where you are to where I am in the meantime!” 

It doesn’t matter if a week or a month or a year separate when I wrote it and when you read it.  God is timeless—it’s all the same to Him. 

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day”—2 Pet. 3:8. 

This issue of God’s omnipresence doesn’t just cover distance and space.  When we think of omnipresence we tend to think it only means that God is everywhere—but it also means that God is everywhen, too!  God is present at every point of space and time in the universe.  There is nowhere that we could escape from God:

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

Immanence and Transcendence—what are those?

Well, God must be awfully big to be able to do that!  But don’t get the idea that God’s omnipresence means that God is merely infinitely large.  There is another aspect to the omnipresence of God.  God is said by theologians to be immanent and transcendent. Immanent means that God exists everywhere in His entirety at every point in His creation.  Transcendent means that God extends infinitely beyond His creation, and cannot be contained, even partially, by it. 

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

Notice that this phrase says, “You are there.”  It doesn’t say, “Your big toe is there.”  If I lay down on my bed I cannot claim that I am entirely at all points where I am contacting the mattress.  My head is up at my pillow, my toes are somewhere down near the foot of the bed, my hands are somewhere in between—all the different parts of my body are at different locations on the bed.

But God is at every point in the universe in His entirety.  His entire Person is right here where I am right now.  His entire Person is right there where you are right now.  And His entire Person is at every point of time and space in between.  God’s entire Person pervades every aspect of time and space—that is what we mean when we say God is immanent

The term transcendent comes from the verb transcend, which means to go or exist beyond defined limits.  “Limits” in the context of the verb “transcend” generally mean limits that cannot be exceeded.  An example:  For years it was considered physiologically impossible for a human being to run a mile in four minutes or less.  Yet in May 1957 a young medical student at Oxford University named Roger Bannister broke the four minute barrier with a time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.  Roger Bannister transcended the four minute barrier for milers.

In theoretical physics the speed of light is considered a physical speed barrier that is impossible to break.  The speed of light in a vacuum is about 186,000 miles per second, or about 300,000 kilometers per second.  Nothing in our physical universe has ever been observed exceeding the speed of light.  Now science fiction is rife with stories involving faster than light space travel—very necessary if the characters are going to be flitting around the universe.  In many of those stories those who developed faster than light travel were described as having transcended the speed of light barrier.

I have heard some Bible teachers say that prayer regularly breaks the light speed barrier—prayer reaches God’s ear instantly.  But that’s probably not the best illustration, considering that—as we have just seen—God is right where the the prayer is being offered.  In the case of prayer it doesn’t have to travel any distance at all before God hears it.  God’s omniscience and omnipresence transcends all physical limitations.

So with respect to God’s created universe God is said to infinitely transcend it.  In other words God extends infinitely beyond the universe.  Now this doesn’t at all mean that God simply spills over the boundaries of the universe—that is not what’s in view here.  To say that you would have to say that part of God is contained in the universe and part of Him is outside the universe.  This is not correct.

We used to have a sweet dog named Maddie—she was a Staffordshire Terrier, and a fairly good sized one at that.  At her full adult size she was about 80 pounds.  The problem with Maddie was that she had no idea how big she was.  She regularly tried to climb up into our laps when we were sitting around the living room, the way she did when she was just a little puppy.  We had bought a large round doggie bed for her, and another small round doggie bed for our poodle, Sophie. 

For some reason Maddie got it into her head that Sophie had the better bed, so she would always try to get into her much smaller bed—with predictable results.  It was comical to watch her try to fit herself into Sophie’s bed.  No matter how small she tried to coil herself up, there was always a substantial part of Maddie overflowing onto the floor.  Sophie would finally give up and trundle over to Maddie’s bed to sleep.

That is not what is meant by Divine transcendence.  God does not “spill out of the universe” like Maddie spilled out of Sophie’s bed.  When we say God is transcendent we mean that God is infinitely higher than His creation; that He extends infinitely beyond it, and that He cannot be contained—even partially—by it.  King Solomon understood this about God, as he indicated during his dedication of the temple he had built for God.

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!”—1 Kings 8:27

So we see that God is immanent—He is simultaneously, in His entirety, at every point of the universe.  Yet He is also transcendent—He is infinitely beyond His created universe, and He is not contained by the universe.  This is one of those Divine paradoxes that cannot be resolved logically.  For us it seems impossible that God could exist in His entirety at all points in His creation and at the same time not be contained by it.  Yet these are the logical conclusions of the concepts God presents to us about Himself in His word.

Here are more Scriptures that speak of God’s omnipresence:

God is immanent in the universe

Jer. 23:23-24—“‘Am I a God who is near,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far off?  Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the LORD.

Acts 17:26-27—“… and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us

No part of the universe can contain God

1 Kings 8:27—“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!

Acts 17:24—“… He is Lord of heaven and earth, [and] does not dwell in temples made with hands …

God’s throne is heaven and the earth His footstool.

Deut. 4:39—“Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

Isa. 66:1—“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?

Man cannot escape the presence of God.

Job. 34:21,22—“For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, And He sees all his steps.  There is no darkness or deep shadow Where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.

Psalm 139:7-10—“Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.

Prov. 15:3—“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good.

The presence of God is a comfort to believers

Gen. 28:15—“Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

Josh. 1:9—“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Ex. 33:14—“And [God] said, "My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.

Psalm 121:3,4—“He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Matt. 18:20—“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.

1 Cor. 3:16—“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Heb. 13:5—“Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you …

Omnipotence—God Is All-Powerful

Just like the words omnipresence and omniscience, we again have a compound word with two Latin roots: omni, meaning “all”, plus potens, which means power.  Potens is where we get our word potent, which of course means powerful.  So essentially omnipotent means “all-powerful”, and omnipotence refers to the quality or attribute of “being all-powerful”.

What this means in essence is that God is able to do anything that he purposes to do.  Anything that God in His omniscience desires to accomplish, he can do anywhere He pleases in His omnipresence, by means of His omnipotence.

Now when we think of power we often think in terms of great massive machinery such as huge earth scooping shovels or giant cranes able to lift many tons.  A number of years ago when I was on a consulting job I worked for a while at a fabrication yard in Ingleside, Texas near Corpus Christi.  They made giant offshore oil platforms there.  It often took two or three years to build one of those gigantic platforms, and when they were ready to put them in place they had to load them onto multiple barges and float them down the Intercoastal Canal and out into the Gulf of Mexico. 

To load these huge structures that were often 100 feet or more in height required a truly colossal crane capable of lifting many hundreds of tons.  The one they had towered several hundred feet in the air and was capable of lifting 4,000 tons.  There were dozens of lifting cables, each one as thick as a man’s thigh that stretched a quarter of a mile behind the main vertical structure of the crane to where the lifting winches were located.  The size and power of that machine truly boggled the mind.

God established the laws of nature …

Of course such an arrogant display of horsepower shrinks to nothing beside the power that can be marshaled by the One who hung the stars and planets in their place and started the galaxies spinning.  The Book of Job in chapter 38 verses 4 through 11 records something of the power of God in the creation of the earth:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements, since you know?
Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?

More passages in Job tell of His infinite power, such as Job 26:7-14—

He stretches out the north over empty space
And hangs the earth on nothing.
He wraps up the waters in His clouds,
And the cloud does not burst under them.
He obscures the face of the full moon
And spreads His cloud over it.
He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters
At the boundary of light and darkness.
The pillars of heaven tremble
And are amazed at His rebuke.
He quieted the sea with His power,
And by His understanding He shattered Rahab
[the proud]
.
By His breath the heavens are cleared;
His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent.
Behold, these are the fringes of His ways;
And how faint a word we hear of Him!
But His mighty thunder, who can understand?

Of course God’s omnipotence isn’t just limited to massive power—it also includes the ability to create the most delicate of structures, as we have already seen in Psa. 139:13-15:

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.

 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

And not only is God’s power manifest in His creative acts, He also displays it in His limitless ability to control all the forces of nature.  By His command He establishes the laws of nature—Psa. 19:4-6:

[The heavens’] line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Deut. 11:14-15:

“… that He will give the rain for your land in its season,
The early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain
And your new wine and your oil. 
He will give grass in your fields for your cattle,
And you will eat and be satisfied.”

Matt. 5:45b:

“… for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

… And what He established He can revoke.

But the same God who set the laws of nature in their place has the power to revoke them.  From time to time in the history of man God has intervened supernaturally, using a reversal of the laws of nature to display His power and reveal His purpose to men, and sometimes to bring judgment on the wicked:

“Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven,”—Gen. 19:24

Through Moses, God performed the miracles of the ten plagues in Egypt culminating in the parting of the Sea of Reeds:  Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided.”—Exo. 14:21

At Joshua’s request God caused the sun to stand still so that he could gain the victory over the Amorites, as recorded in Josh. 10:13—“So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.”

God’s omnipotence was again displayed when God defended Jerusalem against the Assyrian army under Sennacherib:

“Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, ‘He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield or throw up a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he shall not come to this city,’ declares the LORD.  ‘For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’  Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead.”—2 Kings 19:32-35

And of course, Jesus stilled the wind and waves in Matt. 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24—But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger.  They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.—Luke 8:23-24 (This was the literal fulfillment of a prophecy recorded in Psa. 107:29). 

God actively sustains all of creation …

The infinite power of God is manifested not only to believers, but the unbelieving world also benefits from God’s control of nature.  Again, Matt.5:45 that we quoted earlier: “… for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” 

Many people who believe in God are under the impression that God just sort of started things off at the beginning and then just stepped back and is letting the universe wind down as it were.  But that viewpoint is not what is indicated by Scripture.  Col. 1:16-17 says this:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

This verse is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scriptures indicate that not only did Jesus Christ create the universe, He actively sustains it.  Look at Hebrews 1:1-3:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He [Jesus Christ] is the radiance of His [the Father’s] glory and the exact representation of His [the Father’s] nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power

The word “upholds” is pheron [φέρων—pronounced FAIR-own], in the Greek.  It is the present active participle of phero [φέρω—pronounced FAIR-oh], which means to bear up, uphold, or sustain.  The present tense means that this upholding is a continuous action on the part of the Lord—He literally “keeps on sustaining” the universe by the word of His power. 

The active voice means that He is actively engaged in sustaining the universe.  He didn’t just tell the universe “Be ye sustained!” and then walk off and forget about it. 

And the participle stresses the circumstances of the verse, namely that Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe.  So this verse tells us that Jesus Christ is actively, continually sustaining the universe He created. 

Can you get your head around the implications of that?  Jesus Christ in His omnipotence as the Second Person of the Trinity, created the universe by the word of His power.  As we saw earlier this involved bringing into existence all of the roughly 5.4 X 10^80 elementary particles, assembling all of them into atoms, molecules, assembling all of these into the various galaxies, stars, planets, and all of the life forms contained therein—all of the stuff of reality. 

Then He continues to hold all this stuff together, holding all of the atomic nuclei together and keeping all of the electrons whirling around the nuclei of all the atoms, and actively ensuring that all of the interactions of all of matter continues to conform to the laws of nature that He ordained—what the scientists call the laws of physics and chemistry. 

This also means that during all aspects of His earthly life He was actively holding together all of the components of reality. This is a staggering thought.  While Jesus was laying in a manger in Bethlehem—even before that, when we was just an embryo in Mary’s womb—He held the planets and stars in their courses.  While He was hanging on the cross—bearing your sins and mine, paying the penalty of death for every one of the sins of all mankind—He held the incredible energies trapped in matter in their proper place.  We have described elsewhere in this series the incredible suffering Jesus went through.  Even with that unfathomable distraction He never wavered from His task of sustaining the universe.

The Lord was able to do this because of His infinite power (omnipotence), His infinite understanding (omniscience), and the fact that He is at every point in the universe (omnipresence) where there is matter to be held together.  All of His “omni” characteristics are involved in His work of sustaining the universe.

The real “Big Bang” …

Now let’s look at a scientific implication of the Lord’s holding all things together.  Theoretical physicists understand that something keeps the atoms together.  They know that if whatever that “something” is, did not do its job that all atoms would violently fly apart.  They call that “something” the strong nuclear force.  In fact in the 1930’s and 1940’s scientists figured out a way to overcome this strong nuclear force in an unstable isotope of the element uranium, and the result was the atomic bomb.

They can mathematically describe this strong nuclear force and calculate how strong it has to be to keep the atoms together.  These scientists postulate that this force arises from elementary particles called quarks and gluons, but they don’t have any idea what really causes it, nor can they account for its existence. 

They do know, however, that if the strong nuclear force did not exist, all matter would fly apart in the mother of all nuclear explosions.  Hold that thought and turn to 2 Pet. 3:10-12, which says this:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!

Whether or not He holds things together by using quarks and gluons, or simply by the word of His power, is really not the issue.  The Bible indicates in 2nd Peter that there will come a time when the Lord will relax his “strong nuclear force” grip on matter, and then we really will have the Big Bang!  This event will happen at the time of the Great White Throne judgment described in Rev. 20:11 and following.

Jesus’ power—and the Christian life …

There are many more verses about God’s power over nature.  But right now I want to focus on the mighty power of God that is manifest in our lives.  When Jesus walked the earth He often displayed His Divine power to validate His claims of being Messiah.  The Gospel’s accounts of Jesus’ miracles are many, and we could cite many of them here, but instead we’ll just cite a few that deal with Jesus’ power and authority.

The Father granted Jesus the power to forgive sins. 

Matt. 9:4-7—“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, and walk”?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority [exousiaἐξουσία – authority with power, force and strength] on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your bed and go home.’  And he got up and went home.

The Father granted Jesus the power to rise from the dead. 

John 10:17-18—“For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority [exousia] to lay it down, and I have authority [exousia] to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.

And because God gave Jesus this power to rise from the dead unto eternal life, He also has the authority to grant eternal life to all people that are His: 

John 17:2,3—“even as You [the Father] gave Him [Jesus] authority [exousia] over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.  This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

God works in circumstances and in the thoughts, words, and deeds of men.  He weaves the events of our days and the affairs of men all together in the tapestry of His will, and He does it to our benefit and His glory.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”—Rom. 8:28.

God’s infinite ability has a direct bearing on the Christian Way of Life.  So let’s look at some of the ways that God’s ability affect us as Christians:

  1. We are not to try to fight life’s battles in our own strength.  Even as a young man David understood this in his encounter with Goliath:  1 Sam. 17:47—“… that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.
  2. We are not to fear our enemies but rely instead on God’s ability to protect us:  Psa. 27:1—“The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” 
  3. We can have perfect peace when we place our trust in our powerful Lord:  Isa. 26:3-4—“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.  Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.” 
  4. God does not grow tired of upholding us:  Isa. 40:28-29—“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.  He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power.” 
  5. Omniscient God never lacks an answer to issues and problems that seem insurmountable to us:  Jer. 33:3—“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” 
  6. God is able to provide us a glorious future in a spiritual, resurrection body:  1 Cor. 15:41-44—“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.  So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
  7. God always makes sure that we have an abundance of those things we need to accomplish our work for Him:  Cor. 9:8—“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed …
  8. The blessings of both time and eternity proceed from God’s infinite ability:  Eph. 1:18-19—“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might …” 
  9. And there are many more Scriptures that address God’s mighty power in our lives:

    Phil. 4:13—“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

    2 Tim. 1:12—“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

    Heb. 7:25—“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

    1 Peter 1:3-5—“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

The most important thing we can take away from this study of the infinite ability of God is not merely that God is infinite, and that his power and might is beyond our comprehension. We need to understand how His infinite ability impacts our lives.

As believers we have the tremendous assurance that if God is able to sustain the universe, He is certainly able to sustain us through any trial or bad situation.

Only one way to eternal life …

And those who have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior can be assured that He is able to save them. And not only is He able to save them, He is the only means of salvation that God will ever provide.

Many people think that there are many ways to get to heaven. That is a very foolish and arrogant thought. As we have seen God is infinite in His abilities. Not only was He able to devise a plan to save fallen mankind, it was the only plan He ever came up with—not because He couldn’t, but because He didn’t need to. God did not need a “Plan B” because His “Plan A” was perfect!

And God’s plan was centered in the Person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Godhead, the Divine Trinity, by Whom He created the universe.

We are told of Him in God’s word the Bible, and it is that Word which we as God’s children have committed our lives to receive, believe, apply, and allow to transform our lives.

Every line of the Word of God is saturated with Jesus—and yet He has still not revealed all He is to us. Someday we will be in His presence—and we will have an infinite eternity to continue learning more about Him, because there will be an infinity more to learn!

The Apostle John expressed it well in the last verse of his Gospel:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.

Father, we thank you for Your marvelous, perfect Person, infinite in ability, wisdom, and love. We do not know why You deigned to save us who were born lost, and we will never understand it full this side of heaven. But we are thankful that you have revealed Yourself in the Person of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, and our God Jesus Christ.

Thank You Father, for your so great salvation, and for the opportunities You give us to declare that so great salvation. May the concepts You have revealed to us find a home in fertile hearts, that the lost might believe unto salvation, and we, the children of God, might fulfill the very reason that You leave us alive on this earth.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

 

To the reader:  If you have read this lesson, I would greatly appreciate any feedback, questions, or comments you have.  Getting feedback from my readers is very helpful and encouraging to me.  I promise to respond to all legitimate questions or comments as appropriate.  But please, do keep your questions and comments appropriate and constructive.

Thank you very much.

In His Service,

John McReynolds

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