What can God do?
Ian Rees, Bath, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
‘God Almighty’ is a name, or an expression, with which many people are familiar.The truth of it is something with which we can never be too familiar.What does God have power to do?
God has power in creation
‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. With these majestic words the Bible contradicts all philosophies and theories of man that deny that a personal creator made the universe. The word of God clearly teaches that this world was made by God and for God. ‘Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thine hands’, Heb. 1. 10; ‘God . . . made the world and all things therein’,Acts 17. 24; God ‘created the heavens and stretched them out, he spread forth the earth and that which cometh out of it, he giveth breath unto the people that walk therein’, Isa. 42. 5. God Himself, speaking to Job, asked, ‘Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?’ Job 38. 4. ‘By [his dear Son] were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible’, Col. 1. 16; John 1. 1-3. Now, we all have a God-given ability to create things. It is true that some have more ability than others but we are all creative in our own way.Yet each one of us has to use materials to be creative. The artist uses paint, the sculptor stone, the knitter wool, the potter clay; we all use something to create something else.Yet God created something out of nothing. In the beginning, before there was anything at all, God merely spoke the word, gave a command, and matter came into existence. What awesome power! ‘God said, Let there be light: and there was light’, Gen. 1. 3; ‘He spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast’, Ps. 33. 8-9; ‘the worlds were framed by the word of God’, Heb. 11. 2.God is the Creator.
God has power over nature
Yet the universe continues day by day. Scientists have discovered the laws of nature, laws that do not change. Who made the laws of nature? The Creator, of course. He has made this world, and He continues to keep it going. The Son of God ‘upholds all things by the word of his power’, and ‘by him all things consist’, Col. 1. 17.Why are the laws of nature on the whole unbroken? Why does the universe continue on its way? Why doesn’t the earth suddenly detach itself from its orbit and hurtle into oblivion? Because God created and continues to sustain His creation. He occasionally disregards the laws of nature, of course; after all, that is what a miracle is - when the Creator God over-rides the laws of nature for His own purposes. God has power in His creation and He has power over it. On the one hand God could bring a flood upon the face of the earth and drown everything except for those He chose to save, Gen. 7-8; on the other hand, He withheld rain from His people and crippled their land with a drought in order to punish them for their rebellion. God sent out a great wind which whipped up a mighty tempest that nearly sank Jonah’s boat; yet, on the other hand, when a storm rose up that nearly capsized the boat in which the Son of God and His disciples travelled, the Lord instantly calmed the raging sea with a word,Mark 4. 35-41.So dramatic was the death of His Son upon the cross that there was a violent earthquake, Matt. 27. 51-53. God can disturb and command nature itself.
God has power over living creatures
Elijah the prophet needed to be fed in secret without anyone knowing where he was. Could God arrange that? Of course. He made ravens fly to where Elijah was and give him meat from their mouths, 1 Kgs. 17; He could preserve the life of Daniel, His servant,even in a den of lions and then destroy Daniel’s enemies by those lions,Dan.6; He could bring two bears out of a forest to kill youths who mocked His servant,2 Kgs.2, 23; He could make a donkey talk, Num. 22. 28. When Jonah was thrown into the sea, God prepared a great fish to come and swallow him up, then disgorge him onto dry land. God even prepared a plant to give Jonah shade, then He sent a worm to eat and destroy the plant. God has power over His creatures.
God has power over things
God could make a metal axe-head float up from the bottom of the river where it had fallen, so that its user could restore it to its owner, 2 Kgs. 6. He could make a dead piece of wood, used for years by Aaron as a walking stick, to shoot buds and blossom overnight, Num 17. 8. He could send down fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice in order to prove He is God, 1 Kgs. 18. His Son could turn water into wine in a moment, when it was needed, John 2. 1-11. An humble soldier, in the middle of a battle, could shoot an arrow into the air, aiming at nothing in particular, and God could bring that arrow down onto His target, a rebellious king under His judgement, 1 Kgs. 22. 28-34.
God has power over chance
Sometimes people draw straws to find out something – in the Bible people cast lots, or used the Urim and the Thummim,to discern the will of God in a matter. One day God instructed Joshua to bring all the people before Him tribe by tribe, after a calamitous defeat at Ai, and the tribe of Judah was identified as being the problem. Then, family by family, the tribe of Judah passed by and the family of the Zarhites was identified. From them the household of Zabdi was identified, and from there the finger fell upon Achan; and of course it was Achan who had sinned and disobeyed God, Josh. 7. Was this chance? No, it was of God. When the sailors in Jonah’s boat decided to draw lots to see who was responsible for bringing the ferocity of the storm upon them, the lot fell on Jonah. Was that chance, bad luck, misfortune? No. It was of the Lord, for, ‘the lot is cast into the lap but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord’,Prov. 16. 33.That is why Christians do not believe in luck, whether it is good luck or bad. It is God’s over-ruling circumstance, sometimes called God’s providence.
God has power over politics
But what about the kingdom of men? Does God have a hand in that? Is He able to do whatever He wishes to do with men? Of course. God has power over politics. It is His hand that moves behind the scenes. ‘He removes kings and sets up kings’,Dan.2. 21. God creates empires and overthrows them. ‘I will turn, I will turn, I will turn’, He says. He ‘rules in the kingdom of men and gives [the kingdom] to whomsoever he will’, Dan.4. 17. God tells us He is able even to make people do what He wishes them to do in the fulfilment of prophecy. He had told His people through His prophet Jeremiah, that when they arrived in Babylon, the land of captivity, they would be there for seventy years in exile. At the end of those seventy years,‘in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation saying, ‘The Lord God of heaven . . . has charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem. Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel’, Ezra 1. But Cyrus was not a believer in God.Was this hard for God to do? No, for ‘the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, He moves it withersoever He will’,Prov. 21. 1.God had said that His Son was to be born in Bethlehem.But Mary, the woman chosen to be the mother of the Lord, lived in Nazareth, as did Joseph to whom she was engaged. But just as Mary was coming to the end of her pregnancy, God ensured that Caesar Augustus, in Rome, made a decree that all the Roman world should be taxed and registered in their place of birth. Imagine the vast upheaval there was, as the whole civilized Roman world moved to register themselves, some of them having to travel vast distances.Why? So that Mary and Joseph would arrive in Bethlehem the very night on which Jesus was born, that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘But thou,Bethlehem, Ephratah . . . out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel’,Mic. 5. 2. The great tyrant Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was filled with pride as he looked at his vast city of Babylon. God brought him down, and punished him for his pride, driving him out of his palace with a mental break-down that made him live like an animal in a field for seven years until he realized that ‘the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will’. ‘And at the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High,and I praised and honoured him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?’ Dan. 4.
God has power over life and death
‘God . . . gives to all life, and breath, and all things’, Acts 17. 25; ‘the spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life’, Job. 33. 4; God ‘breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’, Gen 2. 7. He made barren women give birth, and shut up the wombs of others. Yet, He also has power over death.‘The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’, said Job after the deaths of his children, Job 1. 21. ‘You fool, this night shall your soul be required of you’, said God to a rich man intent on living a life without Him, Luke 12. 20. Our times are in God’s hands.
God is omnipotent
God can do anything; He is omnipotent. ‘Our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased’, Ps. 115. 3. God Himself asked Abraham, ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’Gen. 18. 14. Jeremiah’s stated belief, ‘Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee’, Jer. 32. 17, was challenged by the Lord when He replied, ‘Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?’, Job 32. 27. Job could say to God, ‘I know that thou canst do everything’, Job 42. 2. Our Lord Himself said to His disciples on one occasion, ‘With God all things are possible’, Matt. 19. 26. In fact, He is ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think’, Eph 3. 20. ‘All power (authority) is given unto me,’ says our Lord, Matt. 28. 18.
Yet, there are things God cannot do
We need to qualify the blanket statement ‘God can do anything’ by stressing that there are certain things God cannot do. It is true He can do all His holy will; He can do anything in accordance with His own nature. He is not compelled to do anything by any force outside Him. Yet His own nature does limit Him in one respect; He cannot be what He is not and He cannot do what He should not. God cannot lie, for instance. So we read, ‘it is impossible for God to lie’, Heb. 6. 18; ‘God is not a man that he should lie’, Num. 23. 19; ‘The Strength of Israel will not lie’, 1 Sam. 15. 29; Titus 1. 2. Neither can He deny Himself. This means that He cannot break His promises. ‘God cannot deny himself,’ 2 Tim. 2. 15.
God can do anything but sin
God cannot sin, neither can He be tempted to sin;‘God cannot be tempted with evil neither tempts he any man’, Jas. 1. 13. To do these things is to deny Himself, to go contrary to His nature, and God cannot do that. Neither, we should stress, could Christ. Though our Lord was man, unlike us He could not sin. He did not have that sinful nature within Him that responds to sin. Ah! you say. Then He doesn’t know how I feel. If He was never tempted to sin, and never experienced that pull inside that breaks down all barriers, then He doesn’t share the same humanity as I do, and He never faced the full force of the temptation. In Holland they build dykes, or dam walls, to hold out the sea.Imagine, then,a dam wall under tremendous pressure of waves and water. It bears the force, enduring it and resisting it time after time. Part of the wall eventually gives way, and the water floods in. For that part of the wall, the pressure is over and gone. It has yielded. Yet further along the coast, another wall resists the pressure of the storm for hour after hour and never yields. Which wall faced the most pressure? The one that never yielded. So our Lord faced pressures you and I will never face, because we often give in long before the full force is felt, but He never did. The constraints God faces, then, are all internal to Himself,never external.There is no power external to God that can force Him to do what He does not want to do. Where should that leave us? Firstly, we should rejoice that the most powerful Being in the universe is a righteous and a just God, One who cannot be turned to evil. Remember, too, that God’s awesome power is harnessed by prayer and faith. God has said,‘If ye ask anything in my name, I will do it’, John 14. 14. He can move mountains to perform His holy will. Yet remember the secret of prayer is neither the much asking, though we must do that; nor is it the believing, though we must believe He is able to do what He wishes to do. The secret is in asking in His name. To ask in His name is not merely to tag the words,‘In Jesus Name’, on the end of our prayers as though they were some Christian incantation, or abracadabra.To ask in His name is to ask in accordance with His will.When we do that, we will find our prayers will ‘move the hand that moves the world to bring deliverance down’.
GOD IS OMNISCIENT
AUTHOR PROFILE: IAN REES saw an assembly planted in Francistown, Botswana, having served the Lord there for 13 years. Now based in the UK, he was in fellowship in Manvers Hall, Bath, one of his commending assemblies. He has now moved to establish a new assembly in Tenby, West Wales. He is married and has seven children.