In these turbulent times, power is something of a dirty word. But God’s infinite power is supremely wonderful because it is wedded to His justice, truthfulness, and love. Today, Barry Cooper delves into the unlimited power of God.
God has often been said to be “omnipotent,” meaning, literally, “all-powerful,” “almighty.” If you listen to Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus, it’s the most repeated line: “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
But someone raises the question, Is God really omnipotent? Can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it?
Ohhh, clever. If you say yes, then it sounds as if you’re denying God’s omnipotence, because you’re saying He can’t lift it.
But if you say no, then again it sounds as if you’re denying His omnipotence, because you’re saying He can’t make a rock that big.
It’s trying to be a “gotcha.” But it’s based on a misunderstanding of what God’s omnipotence is. Does omnipotence mean God can do literally anything—anything at all?
Well, you can certainly line up individual Scripture verses which seem to support that idea. In the Old Testament, for example, Job says to God: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
In Luke 1:37, the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says to His disciples: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
In fact, you could take any verse which refers to God as “almighty,” because it’s saying the same thing: God is all-powerful.
It certainly sounds like God can do anything He wishes. But does that mean God can go against His own character? No. God cannot—and I’m very glad of this fact—be unjust, or lie, or act with evil intent. He’s not all-powerful if by “all-powerful” we mean “able to do things which go against the goodness of His nature.”
And actually, when we see that kind of principled power in a human being—someone who could never steal from their employer, or someone who could never cheat on their spouse—we don’t see that as a limitation of their strength; we see it as part of their strength.
But if God can’t go against His character, does this “inability” leave Him vulnerable in some way? Does it mean His power can be thwarted by the evil plans of others? Is His reach limited in some way?
Thankfully, no. God’s power is such that He doesn’t need to do evil in order to bring about all His good purposes. Just consider the cross, which is, after all, the greatest demonstration of God’s goodness and love.
Here’s the way the first disciples described how the cross came about. They said that those responsible “did what [God’s] power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Now it’s clear that those responsible acted freely—they were truly responsible for what they did. They were under no compulsion to conspire as they did against Jesus. And yet, in freely acting as they did, they carried out God’s purposes. How powerful do you have to be to have your enemies do your bidding even as they’re trying to destroy you?
And that helps to explain why, in a remarkable moment in Mark’s gospel, Jesus actually uses the word “Power” as a name for His Father: “Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
Power, in these turbulent days, is something of a dirty word. We’re so used to seeing power being abused—by politicians, by parents, by Hollywood moguls, by corporate CEOs, even by leaders in the church.
But God’s power is a supremely wonderful thing, because it is wedded at every point to His justice, faithfulness, truthfulness, and love. It cannot be bought. It cannot be perverted. It cannot be misused. God wields His power as the Father of the fatherless and the protector of widows, orphans, and outcasts. The One who binds up the hearts of the broken-hearted. This is ultimate power, but ultimate power of whom it is said:
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench. . . .
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
Such power. Such tenderness. Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.