The Hallelujah Chorus
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings! and Lord of lords!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
(Play Handel's Messiah - The Hallelujah Chorus)
OMNIPOTENCE (Ps 68:14; 91:1, 2; 115:3; 2Cor 6:18) means God is all powerful and thus has unlimited authority & influence. He has the ability to do whatever His will dictates. Man may have the authority but not the ability to carry through. The term omnipotence is not found in Scripture but clearly is declared in Scripture (Ge 18:14; Job 42:2; Nu 11:23; Mt 19:26; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 19:6). His omnipotence is seen in His act of creating (Ge 1:1, 2, 3; Ps 33:6, 7, 8, 9). and sustaining everything (Col 1:17b; Heb 1:3), in His relation to mankind (Gen. 45:4, 5, 6, 7, 8; Ex. 4:11; Da 4:17, 25, 32; Luke 12:20; Acts 12:21, 22, 23, 24), in His relation to the hosts of heaven (Da 4:35; Heb 1:14), in His power over Satan and his minions (Job 1:12; 2:6; Luke 22:31, 32), and as Commander in chief (Ex 9:3, 4, 5, 6, 23, 24, 25, 26, 33; Ps. 107:25, 26, 27, 28, 29; Jonah 1:17; 4:6, 7, 8; Da 3:22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28).
Jesus said “All authority (exousia = authority and power to act - see word study) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Mt 28:18)
Although God has all power He cannot do that which contradicts His holy character or essence and thus He cannot annihilate Himself because He is eternal, immutable, and all wise. He cannot lie because He is truth (Titus 1:2; Heb 6:18). He cannot not keep His Word because He is faithful (2Ti 2:13). God cannot be tempted by evil (James 1:13). The omnipotence of God gives every saint a firm foundation to trust Him and confidence in His ability to keep the precious and magnificent promises in Scripture.
What is a practical application of KNOWING God as OMNIPOTENT? CLICK for a great Biblical example and brief discussion.
Spurgeon rightly says that "Every conversion is a display of omnipotence."
Question: What does it mean that God is omnipotent?
Answer: The word omnipotent comes from omni- meaning “all” and potent meaning “power.” As with the attributes of omniscience and omnipresence, it follows that, if God is infinite, and if He is sovereign, which we know He is, then He must also be omnipotent. He has all power over all things at all times and in all ways.
Job spoke of God’s power in Job 42:2: “I know that you can do all things and that no plan of yours can be thwarted.” Job was acknowledging God’s omnipotence in carrying out His plans. Moses, too, was reminded by God that He had all power to complete His purposes regarding the Israelites: “The LORD answered Moses, ‘Is the LORD’s arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you’” (Numbers 11:23).
Nowhere is God’s omnipotence seen more clearly than in creation. God said, “Let there be…” and it was so (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, etc.). Man needs tools and materials to create; God simply spoke, and by the power of His word, everything was created from nothing. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).
God’s power is also seen in the preservation of His creation. All life on earth would perish were it not for God’s continual provision of everything we need for food, clothing and shelter, all from renewable resources sustained by His power as the preserver of man and beast (Psalm 36:6). The seas which cover most of the earth, and over which we are powerless, would overwhelm us if God did not proscribe their limits (Job 38:8-11).
God’s omnipotence extends to governments and leaders (Daniel 2:21), as He restrains them or lets them go their way according to His plans and purposes. His power is unlimited in regard to Satan and his demons. Satan’s attack on Job was limited to only certain actions. He was restrained by God’s unlimited power (Job 1:12; 2:6). Jesus reminded Pilate that he had no power over Him unless it had been granted to him by the God of all power (John 19:11).
Being omnipotent, God can do everything that is in harmony with His Holy character. The Bible reveals that He cannot do things which are contrary to His Holy character. For example, Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, and Hebrews 6:18 teach that He cannot lie. God lacks the ability to lie because lying is contrary to His moral perfection. In the same way, despite His being all-powerful and hating evil, He allows evil to happen, according to His good purpose. He uses certain evil events to allow His purposes to unfold, such as when the greatest evil of all occurred—the killing of the perfect, holy, innocent Lamb of God for the redemption of mankind.
As God incarnate, Jesus Christ is omnipotent. His power is seen in the miracles He performed—His numerous healings, the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44), calming the storm (Mark 4:37-41), and the ultimate display of power, raising Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter from the dead (John 11:38-44; Mark 5:35-43), an example of His control over life and death. Death is the ultimate reason that Jesus came—to destroy it (1 Corinthians 15:22; Hebrews 2:14) and to bring sinners into a right relationship with God. The Lord Jesus stated clearly that He had power to lay down His life and power to take it up again, a fact that He allegorized when speaking about the temple (John 2:19). He had power to call upon twelve legions of angels to rescue Him during His trial, if needed (Matthew 26:53), yet He offered Himself in humility in place of others (Philippians 2:1-11).
The great mystery is that this power can be shared by believers who are united to God in Jesus Christ. Paul says, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9b). God’s power is exalted in us most when our weaknesses are greatest because He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). It is God’s power that continues to hold us in a state of grace despite our sin (2 Timothy 1:12), and by His power we are kept from falling (Jude 24). His power will be proclaimed by all the host of heaven for all eternity (Revelation 19:1). May that be our endless prayer! GotQuestions.org
- Can God sin? If God cannot sin, is He truly omnipotent? | GotQuestions.org
- Could God create a rock so heavy He could not lift it? | GotQuestions.org
- What does it mean that God is Almighty? | GotQuestions.org
- Is it really true that ALL things are possible with God? | GotQuestions.org
- Can Satan read our minds or know our thoughts? | GotQuestions.org (Is Satan omniscient like God?)
Ray Pritchard in his sermon series on the "omni" attributes of God writes that…
these attributes are difficult to grasp because they describe truths about God that have no analog in human experience. We are limited as to place, power and personal knowledge. God is not. Thus we say that God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), and omnipotent (all-powerful).
Theologians sometimes speak of God's attributes in two categories—communicable and incommunicable. That sounds strange until you remember that we commonly speak of communicable diseases—diseases that can be spread from one person to another, such as chicken pox. Incommunicable diseases are those that cannot be spread from one person to another, such as rheumatoid arthritis or most forms of cancer.
When this distinction is applied to God, communicable attributes refer to those aspects of God's character that we may share in some way—such as mercy, grace, anger, justice, and holiness. Incommunicable attributes are those that are unique to God and unshared in any way by his creatures. The three "omni" attributes fall into this category. I have always remembered that distinction because that was the subject of the very first question on my ordination exam almost 20 years ago—Define the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God and give an example of each. Talk about a tough way to get started. I'm not sure how I answered, but I must have done all right because they voted to ordain me.
The Definition - With that as background, we turn now to the final "omni" attribute: omnipotence. The word means "all-powerful" and refers to the fact that God's power is infinite and unlimited. He can do with power anything that power can do. Said another way, God has the power to do all he wills to do. He has both the resources and the ability to work his will in every circumstance in the universe.
If you prefer a simpler definition, just think of these three words—"God is able." That's what omnipotence means. He is able to do everything he needs to do or wants to do.
The Scripture - This doctrine is assumed everywhere in the Bible. One might easily find 500 verses that either teach omnipotence or implicitly assume it. Although the word is not found in our modern translations, the concept might be truly said to be assumed on every page of the Bible. (It is found in the King James Version of Revelation 19:6, "For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth." George Frederick Handel composed his majestic "Hallelujah Chorus" around that phrase.)
To make matters easy to understand, let's list four categories of scripture that lead us to the doctrine of omnipotence:
A. Nothing is too hard for God.
"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you." Jeremiah 32:17
"For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37
B. No one can stop God's plans.
"I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted." Job 42:2
C. He made all things and all things serve him.
"Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you." Psalm 119:91
D. He does whatever he pleases.
"Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him." Psalm 115:3
Seven Stages of God's Power
In his commentary on Ephesians (God's New Society, pp. 139-140), John Stott shares a delightful analysis of Paul's famous benediction at the end of Ephesians 3:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20, 21)
I am going to retrace his comments, with one or two slight changes. Let's call this the Seven Stages of God's Power.
1. He is able, for he is the true and living God..
2. He is able to do, for he is neither inactive, idle, nor dead.
3. He is able to do what we ask, for he hears and answers prayer.
4. He is able to do what we ask or imagine, for he reads our thoughts, and sometimes we imagine things for which we do not dare to ask. But he can do those things anyway.
5. He is able to do all that we ask or imagine, for he knows it all and can perform it all.
6. He is able to do more than all we ask or imagine, because his expectations are higher than ours.
7. He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, because his power is unlimited.
As a simple summary statement we may say that there are no limits to what God can do because there are no limits to GOD.
Among the many titles given to God in the Old Testament is one that relates directly to his omnipotence. In Genesis 17:1 God speaks to 99 year old Abraham who has been promised a child by God. By this time his body is "as good as dead" (see Romans 4:19, 20, 21, 22). In the face of all his very understandable doubts God reassures him by calling himself EL Shaddai, which means Almighty God (See study). It was God's way of saying, "Don't look in the mirror, Abraham. Look at me. If I say you're going to have a son, it's going to happen. Age means nothing to me. I am Almighty God." (For the full sermon message see Is Anything Too Hard For God? The Doctrine of God's Omnipotence by Ray Pritchard)
The Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" Rev. 19:16
Believer! what can better support and sustain you amid the trials of your pilgrimage, than the thought that you have an Omnipotent arm to lean upon? The God with whom you have to do, is boundless in His resources. There is no crossing His designs- no thwarting His purposes- no questioning His counsels. His mandate is law; "He speaks, and it is done!" Your need is great. From the humblest crumb of providential goodness, up to the richest blessing of Divine grace, you are hanging from moment to moment a pensioner on Jehovah's bounty! But, fear not! "I am the Almighty God!" Finite necessities can never exhaust infinite fullness. "My God shall supply all your needs!"
To You, O blessed Jesus! all power has been committed in heaven and in earth. "all power!" He has in His hands the reigns of universal empire! To "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" has been entrusted the seven-sealed roll of Providence. Whatever be the boon which the poorest, weakest, loneliest, most afflicted of His saints require, if it be really for their good, the "Wonderful Counselor" secures it. "As a Prince, He has power with God," and must "prevail." He combines in His adorable Person all which a sinner requires. A heart tender enough to love; and a hand strong enough to save. The Elder Brother! the "Mighty God!" How He delights in the exercise of that omnipotence in behalf of His own people– in ruling over their interests, and overruling their trials for their interests! hen He prays for Himself, it is "Not my will." When he prays for them, it is, "Father, I will!" May I not well take the motto which He still bears on His breastplate before the Throne, as the ground of support and encouragement in all time of tribulation- "able to save unto the uttermost"?
My enemies are many- their name is Legion. Satan, the great Adversary; the world, and the world's trinity– "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life"; heart traitors; bosom sins. But He that is for me, is greater far than all that can be against me. He is "stronger" than the "strong man." "Christ the Power of God." "I, who speak in righteousness, am mighty to save!" Believer, are you in trial, beaten down with a great fight of afflictions- like the disciples, out in a midnight of storm, buffeting a sea of trouble? Fear not! When the tempest has done its work, when the trial has fulfilled its embassy, the voice which hushed the waters of old, has only to give forth the omnipotent mandate, "Peace, be still!" and immediately there will be a great calm. The "all power" of Jesus!- what a pillow on which to rest my aching head; disarming all my fears, and inducing thoughts of sweetest comfort, consolation, and joy! "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8 (From - THE NIGHT WATCHES by John MacDuff)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: "The noun "Omnipotence" is not found in the English Bible, nor any noun exactly corresponding to it in the original Hebrew or Greek. The adjective "omnipotent" occurs in Rev 19:6 the King James Version; the Greek for this, pantokrator, occurs also in 2Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7,14; 19:15; 21:22 (in all of which the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American) render "almighty"). It is also found frequently in the Septuagint (LXX) , especially in the rendering of the divine names Yahweh tsebha'oth and 'El Shadday. In pantokrator, the element of "authority," "sovereignty," side by side with that of "power," makes itself more distinctly felt than it does to the modern ear in "omnipotent," although it is meant to be included in the latter also. Compare further ho dunatos, in Luke 1:49.
- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Omnipotence
- McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia Omnipotence
- Charles Buck Dictionary Omnipotence of God
- CARM Theological Dictionary Omnipotence
- Holman Bible Dictionary Omnipotence
- Hastings' Dictionary of the NT Omnipotence
- King James Dictionary Omnipotent
- Morrish Bible Dictionary Omnipotent
- Vines' Expository Dictionary Omnipotent
- Webster Dictionary Omnipotent
- Watson's Theological Dictionary Omnipotence
GOD'S OMNIPOTENCE IS
INHERENT IN HIS NAMES
Inherent in Old Testament Names of God:
The formal conception of omnipotence as worked out in theology does not occur in the Old Testament. The substance of the idea is conveyed in various indirect ways. The notion of "strength" is inherent in the Old Testament conception of God from the beginning, being already represented in one of the two divine names inherited by Israel from ancient Semitic religion, the name 'El. According to one etymology it is also inherent in the other, the name 'Elohim, and in this case the plural form, by bringing out the fullness of power in God, would mark an approach to the idea of omnipotence.
In the patriarchal religion the conception of "might" occupies a prominent place, as is indicated by the name characteristic of this period, 'El Shadday (see EL Shaddai - God Almighty); compare Ge 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:24,25; Ex 6:3. This name, however, designates the divine power as standing in the service of His covenant-relation to the patriarchs, as transcending Nature and overpowering it in the interests of redemption.
Another divine name which signalizes this attribute is Yahweh tsebha'oth, Yahweh of Hosts. This name, characteristic of the prophetic period, describes God as the King surrounded and followed by the angelic hosts, and since the might of an oriental king is measured by the splendor of his retinue, as of great, incomparable power, the King Omnipotent (Ps 24:10; Isa 2:12; 6:3,5; 8:13; Jer 46:18; Mal 1:14).
Still another name expressive of the same idea is 'Abhir, "Strong One," compounded with Jacob or Israel (Ge 49:24; Ps 132:2,5; Isa 1:24; 49:26; 60:16). Further, 'El Gibbor, "God-Hero" (Isa 9:6 of the Messiah); compare for the adjective gibbor, Jer 20:11); and the figurative designation of God as Tsur, "Rock," occurring especially in the address to God in the Psalter (Is 30:29, the King James Version "Mighty One"). The specific energy with which the divine nature operates finds expression also in the name 'El Chay, "Living God," which God bears over against the impotent idols (1 Sa 17:26,36; 2Ki 19:4,16; Ps 18:46; Jer 23:36; Da 6:20,26). An anthropomorphic description of the power of God is in the figures of "hand," His "arm," His "finger."
Other Modes of Expression:
Some of the attributes of Yahweh have an intimate connection with His omnipotence. Under this head especially God's nature as Spirit and His holiness come under consideration. The representation of God as Spirit in the Old Testament does not primarily refer to the incorporealness of the divine nature, but to its inherent energy. The physical element underlying the conception of Spirit is that of air in motion, and in this at first not the invisibility but the force forms the point of comparison. The opposite of "Spirit" in this sense is "flesh," which expresses the weakness and impotence of the creature over against God (Isaiah 2:22; 31:3).
The holiness of God in its earliest and widest sense (not restricted to the ethical sphere) describes the majestic, specifically divine character of His being, that which evokes in man religious awe. It is not a single attribute coordinated with others, but a peculiar aspect under which all the attributes can be viewed, that which renders them distinct from anything analogous in the creature (1 Sa 2:2; Ho 11:9). In this way holiness becomes closely associated with the power of God, indeed sometimes becomes synonymous with divine power equals omnipotence (Ex 15:11; Nu 20:12), and especially in Ezekiel, where God's "holy name" is often equivalent to His renown for power, hence, interchangeable with His "great name" (Ezek 36:20-24). The objective Spirit as a distinct hypostasis and the executive of the Godhead on its one side also represents the divine power (Isa 32:15; Mt 12:28; Lk1:35; 4:14; Ac10:38; Ro15:19; 1 Cor 2:4).
Unlimited Extent of the Divine Power:
In all these forms of expression a great and specifically divine power is predicated of God. Statements in which the absolutely unlimited extent of this power is explicitly affirmed are rare. The reason, however, lies not in any actual restriction placed on this power, but in the concrete practical form of religious thinking which prevents abstract formulation of the principle. The point to be noticed is that no statement is anywhere made exempting aught from the reach of divine power. Nearest to a general formula come such statements as nothing is "too hard for Yahweh" (Ge 18:14; Jer 32:17); or "I know that thou canst do everything?" or "God … hath done whatever he pleased" (Ps 115:3; 135:6), or, negatively, no one "can hinder" God, in carrying out His purpose (Is 43:13), or God's hand is not "waxed short" (Nu 11:23).
In the New Testament: "With God all things are possible" (Mt19:26; Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27); "Nothing is impossible with God" (the Revised Version (British and American) "No word from God shall be void of power," Lk 1:37). Indirectly the omnipotence of God is implied in the effect ascribed to faith (Mt 17:20 "Nothing shall be impossible unto you"; Mk 9:23 "All things are possible to him that believeth"), because faith puts the divine power at the disposal of the believer. On its subjective side the principle of inexhaustible power finds expression in Isa 40:28: God is not subject to weariness. Because God is conscious of the unlimited extent of His resources nothing is marvelous in His eyes (Zech 8:6).
Forms of Manifestation:
It is chiefly through its forms of manifestation that the distinctive quality of the divine power which renders it omnipotent becomes apparent. The divine power operates not merely in single concrete acts, but is comprehensively related to the world as such. Both in Nature and history, in creation and in redemption, it produces and controls and directs everything that comes to pass. Nothing in the realm of actual or conceivable things is withdrawn from it (Amos 9:2,3; Da 4:35); even to the minutest and most recondite sequences of cause and effect it extends and masters all details of reality (Mt 10:30; Lk12:7). There is no accident (1 Sa6:9; compare with \1Sa 6:12; Pr 16:33\). It need not operate through second causes; it itself underlies all second causes and makes them what they are.
It is creative power producing its effect through a mere word (Ge 1:3; Dt 8:3; Ps 33:9; Ro 4:17; Heb1:3; 11:30). Among the prophets, especially Isaiah emphasizes this manner of the working of the divine power in its immediateness and suddenness (Isaiah 9:8; 17:13; 18:4, 5, 6; 29:5). All the processes of nature are ascribed to the causation of Yahweh (Job 5:9; 9:5;Isa 40:12; Am 4:13; 5:8,9; 9:5,6); especially God's control of the sea is named as illustrative of this (Ps 65:7; 104:9; Isa 50:2; Jer 5:22; 31:35). The Old Testament seldom says "it rains" (Am 4:7), but usually God causes it to rain (Lev26:4; Dt 11:17; 1Sa12:17; Job 36:27; Mt 5:45; Ac14:17).
The same is true of the processes of history. God sovereignly disposes, not merely of Israel, but of all other nations, even of the most powerful, e.g. the Assyrians, as His instruments for the accomplishment of His purpose (Am 1:1-2:3; 9:7; Isa 10:5,15; 28:2; 45:1; Jer 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). The prophets ascribe to Yahweh not merely relatively greater power than to the gods of the nations, but His power extends into the sphere of the nations, and the heathen gods are ignored in the estimate put upon His might (Isa 31:3).
Even more than the sphere of Nature and history, that of redemption reveals the divine omnipotence, from the point of view of the supernatural and miraculous. Thus Exodus 15 celebrates the power of Yahweh in the wonders of the exodus. It is God's exclusive prerogative to do wonders (Job 5:9; 9:10; Ps 72:18); He alone can make "a new thing" (Nu 16:30; Isa 43:19; Jer 31:22). In the New Testament the great embodiment of this redemptive omnipotence is the resurrection of believers (Mt 22:29; Mk 12:24) and specifically the resurrection of Christ (Ro 4:17,21,24; Eph 1:19); but it is evidenced in the whole process of redemption (Mt 19:26; Mk 10:27; Ro 8:31; Eph 3:7,20; 1Pet 1:5; Rev 11:17).
Significance for Biblical Religion:
The significance of the idea may be traced along two distinct lines. On the one hand the divine omnipotence appears as a support of faith. On the other hand it is productive of that specifically religious state of consciousness which Scripture calls "the fear of Yahweh." Omnipotence in God is that to which human faith addresses itself. In it lies the ground for assurance that He is able to save, as in His love that He is willing to save (Ps 65:5,6; Ps 72:18; Ps 118:14, 15, 16; Eph 3:20).
As to the other aspect of its significance, the divine omnipotence in itself, and not merely for soteriological reasons, evokes a specific religious response. This is true, not only of the Old Testament, where the element of the fear of God stands comparatively in the foreground, but remains true also of the New Testament. Even in our Lord's teaching the prominence given to the fatherhood and love of God does not preclude that the transcendent majesty of the divine nature, including omnipotence, is kept in full view and made a potent factor in the cultivation of the religious mind (Mt 6:9). The beauty of Jesus' teaching on the nature of God consists in this, that He keeps the exaltation of God above every creature and His loving condescension toward the creature in perfect equilibrium and makes them mutually fructified by each other. Religion is more than the inclusion of God in the general altruistic movement of the human mind; it is a devotion at every point colored by the consciousness of that divine uniqueness in which God's omnipotence occupies a foremost place.
Spurgeon's Devotional on Isaiah 40:10:
Isaiah 40:10 'Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
God has a strong reserve with which to discharge this engagement; for He is able to do all things. Believer, till thou canst drain dry the ocean of omnipotence, till thou canst break into pieces the towering mountains of almighty strength, thou never needest to fear. Think not that the strength of man shall ever be able to overcome the power of God. Whilst the earth's huge pillars stand, thou hast enough reason to abide firm in thy faith. The same God Who directs the earth in its orbit, Who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lamps of heaven, has promised to supply thee with daily strength. While He is able to uphold the universe, dream not that He will prove unable to fulfill His own promises. Remember what He did in the days of old, in the former generations. Remember how He spake and it was done; how He commanded, and it stood fast. Shall He that created the world grow weary? He hangeth the world upon nothing; shall He who doth this be unable to support His children? Shall He be unfaithful to His word for want of power? Who is it that restrains the tempest? Doth not He ride upon the wings of the wind, and make the clouds His chariots, and hold the ocean in the hollow of His hand? How can He fail thee? When He has put such a faithful promise as this on record, wilt thou for a moment indulge the thought that He has out promised Himself, and gone beyond His power to fulfill? Ah, no! Thou canst doubt no longer.
O thou Who art my God and my strength, I can believe that this promise shall be fulfilled, for the boundless reservoir of Thy grace can never be exhausted, and the overflowing storehouse of Thy strength can never be emptied by Thy friends or rifled by Thine enemies.
"Now let the feeble all be strong,
And make Jehovah's arm their song."
The Awesome Power Of God
Tremble, O earth, before the Lord, before the God of Jacob,
--Psalm 114:7 (See Spurgeon's Note)
Back and forth, back and forth go the pounding waves of the sea. From ages past, the continents have been separated by the mighty oceans. Man has learned to travel over them, to descend to the bottom of them, and to travel through them--but their immensity and the relentless force of their waves remain untamable. Rocks are crushed, shorelines are changed, and even experienced sailors can be driven aground or sent to the bottom of the sea. The combined genius of man and the most powerful equipment can do little to conquer the oceans. They are no problem for God, however. The One who created the mighty oceans does with them what He wishes. Psalm 114 refers to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:13-31) to describe God's great power. The psalmist wrote, "The sea saw it and fled" (Ps 114:3-Note). Then he asked, "What ails you, O sea, that you fled?" (Ps 114:5-Note). The answer is implied: The seas were obeying the command of God. When the turbulent seas of adversity are threatening, we need to remember the awesome power of God. As the seas fled before Him, so too can the obstacles that seem so overwhelming to us. They have no more resistance to God's power than water in a teacup! --D C Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
God gives to His servants a promise:
You'll not have to face life alone,
For when you grow weak in your struggle,
His strength will prevail--not your own.
The power of God within you is greater than the pressure of troubles around you.
When life gets you down, take time to look up.
To Show His Strength
"For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars." 2 Chronicles 16:9
Although it's God's desire to reveal His power to us, we seldom give Him the chance. We're like the accountant who was told by his boss to falsify company records. Afraid of being fired, he chose to comply--even though as a believer in Christ he knew he was lying and breaking the law. Worse than being out of a job, he ended up in jail. He missed the opportunity to trust God and give Him a chance to show His power. I'm afraid we're not much different. We're like King Asa, a good king who foolishly chose to make a treaty with Ben-Hadad rather than trust God. Asa had reason to worry--Judah was at war with Israel. But Hanani the prophet told Asa, "Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped" (2 Chr. 16:7). As a result, the rest of Asa's reign was plagued by war (1Ki. 15:16).
God continues to show Himself strong to those who remain loyal to Him. Whenever we rely on a crooked boss or a clever scheme or a pack of lies, we are headed for trouble. But if we stay true to God when we're under fire, we give Him the opportunity to show us His power. --D C Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
In God we trust, let others trust their rulers,
We trust in God to save us from alarm;
Like broken reeds, the works of man will fail us,
Our God alone can keep us from all harm.
Our problems can be opportunities to discover God's solutions.
Safest Place In A Storm
Read: Psalm 46:1-11
God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Ps 46:1 (Spurgeon's Commentary on Ps 46:1)
The safest place in South Florida during the hurricane season may be the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The $5 million structure boasts 10-inch concrete walls designed to withstand the force of 130 mph winds. Because the fierce storms come every year, the Center is there to provide a safe working environment for the people who monitor the weather and issue the warnings. When other residents leave, they must stay. Just like hurricanes, the storms of our lives arrive with unnerving regularity. Often they strike without warning and linger without welcome, testing the limits of our faith and endurance. But God has given us a place of safety in the midst of our circumstances. The prophet Nahum wrote, "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him" (Nah 1:7). And the psalmist confidently stated, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed" (Ps 46:1, 2). God Himself is our center of safety. It is not our strength but His that shields us from the whirling winds of circumstance and change. --D C McCasland
Give me a spirit of peace, dear Lord,
Midst the storms and tempests that roll,
That I may find rest and quiet within,
A calm buried deep in my soul. --Dawe
When trouble blows into your life,
seek shelter in your OMNIPOTENT God.
Dear saint, God's omnipotence has several implications that should greatly encourage your faith and give you comfort and stedfast hope that if the all powerful God is for you, who can be against you…
No power or will can
ultimately thwart His purposes.
What God starts,
He always finishes.
No matter how great the need,
His resources are never depleted
- Attributes of God - The Power of God (Can God Do Everything?) - by Dr S Lewis Johnson - and The Power of God, part II This is only one study out of over 100 in depth lectures by Dr Johnson on Systematic Theology including studies of the doctrines of God, Christ, the Spirit, Prayer, Salvation, etc. (click for this extensive list)
- What God Is Like by J. Hampton Keathley III
- HYMNS THAT RELATE TO GOD'S POWER - Click here
- The Omnipotence of God by D. H. Kuiper
- The Omnipotence of God by Thomas Watson (scroll down)
- Is Anything Too Hard For God? The Doctrine of God's Omnipotence by Ray Pritchard
- The Omnipotence of God by Sam Storms
- Omnipotence of God by C H Spurgeon - multiple quotes
- Mercy, Omnipotence and Justice by C H Spurgeon
- Discourse On the Power of God by Stephen Charnock (from his classic work "The Attributes of God")
- The Lord of Power by John M. Frame
- Of the Omnipotence of God by John Gill
- The Power of God by A. W. Pink
- The Omnipotence of God by A.W. Tozer
- The Power Of God by David Legge
- How Much Does God Control? Loving a God who is all-powerful and good - a small booklet from Radio Bible Class about 40 pages
- God Is Able from The Joy of Knowing God -- Action To Take: List some problems in your life that seem to be impossible to solve. Now meet the conditions for enjoying God’s power: Yield your will fully to Him; Commit the problems to Him in prayer regularly; Believe that He will solve them in His own perfect way.
Job 42:2 “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
Psalm 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
Isaiah 43:13 “Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?”
Habakkuk 3:6 He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered, The ancient hills collapsed. His ways are everlasting.
Matthew 19:26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Mark 14:36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Revelation 19:6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.
This is an eminently practical attribute of God which describes His presence in every place at the same time! As a result there is nowhere in the universe that lies outside of God's cognition and care. God can be scoffed at, mocked at, disbelieved, impugned, spurned, blasphemed, etc, but ultimately He is unavoidable! Every man must prepare to meet God now through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ as Savior or later in Christ as Judge (2Ti 4:1-note, Jn 5:22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27)! As William Secker put it "A man may hide God from himself, and yet he cannot hide himself from God." Tozer adds that "The notion that there is a God but that he is comfortably far away is not embodied in the doctrinal statement of any Christian church."
GOD IS NOT
Spurgeon succinctly defined God's omnipresence - God is everywhere. His circumference is nowhere, but his center is everywhere. (Spurgeon goes on to say) I heard the story of a man, a blasphemer, profane, an atheist, who was converted singularly by a sinful action of his. He had written on a piece of paper, “God is nowhere,” and ordered his child to read it, for he would make him an atheist too. The child spelled it, “God is n-o-w h-e-r-e—God is now here.” It was a truth instead of a lie, and the arrow pierced the man’s own heart (For more of Spurgeon's comments click Omnipresent.) He is no petty deity, presiding, as the heathen imagined their gods to do, over some one nation, or one department of nature. Wherever thou art, and whatever thou lookest upon, thou art in God’s workshop, where every wheel is turned by his hand. Everything is not God, but God is in everything, and nothing worketh, or even existeth, except by his present power and might. Is it not a sad proof of the alienation of our nature that though God is everywhere we have to school ourselves to perceive him anywhere? His circumference is nowhere, but his centre is everywhere. Distance is no distance in the sight of God.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones rightly said that "This is the fundamental thing, the most serious thing of all, that we are always in the presence of God."
Question: What does it mean that God is omnipresent?
Answer: The prefix omni- originates in Latin and means “all.” So, to say that God is omnipresent is to say that God is present everywhere. In many religions, God is regarded as omnipresent, whereas in both Judaism and Christianity, this view is further subdivided into the transcendence and immanence of God. Although God is not totally immersed in the fabric of creation (pantheism), He is present everywhere at all times.
God’s presence is continuous throughout all of creation, though it may not be revealed in the same way at the same time to people everywhere. At times, He may be actively present in a situation, while He may not reveal that He is present in another circumstance in some other area. The Bible reveals that God can be both present to a person in a manifest manner (Psalm 46:1; Isaiah 57:15) and present in every situation in all of creation at any given time (Psalm 33:13-14). Omnipresence is God’s characteristic of being present to all ranges of both time and space. Although God is present in all time and space, God is not locally limited to any time or space. God is everywhere and in every now. No molecule or atomic particle is so small that God is not fully present to it, and no galaxy so vast that God does not circumscribe it. But if we were to remove creation, God would still know of it, for He knows all possibilities, whether they are actual or not.
God is naturally present in every aspect of the natural order of things, in every manner, time and place (Isaiah 40:12; Nahum 1:3). God is actively present in a different way in every event in history as provident guide of human affairs (Psalm 48:7; 2 Chronicles 20:37; Daniel 5:5-6). God is in a special way attentively present to those who call upon His name, who intercede for others, who adore God, who petition, and who pray earnestly for forgiveness (Psalm 46:1). Supremely, He is present in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:19), and mystically present in the universal church that covers the earth and against which the gates of hell will not prevail.
Just as the omniscience of God suffers apparent paradoxes due to the limitations of the human mind, so does the omnipresence of God. One of these paradoxes is important: the presence of God in hell, that place unto which the wicked are departed and suffer the unlimited and unceasing fury of God because of their sin. Many argue that hell is a place of separation from God (Matthew 25:41), and if so, then God cannot be said to be in a place that is separated from Him. However, the wicked in hell endure His everlasting anger, for Revelation 14:10 speaks of the torment of the wicked in the presence of the Lamb. That God should be present in a place that the wicked are said to be departed unto does cause some consternation. However, this paradox can be explained by the fact that God can be present—because He fills all things with His presence (Colossians 1:17) and upholds everything by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3)—yet He is not necessarily everywhere to bless.
Just as God is sometimes separated from His children because of sin (Isaiah 52:9), and He is far from the wicked (Proverbs 15:29) and orders the godless subjects of darkness to depart at the end of time to a place of eternal punishment, God is still there in the midst. He knows what those souls suffer who are now in hell; He knows their anguish, their cries for respite, their tears and grief for the eternal state that they find themselves in. He is there in every way as a perpetual reminder to them of their sin which has created a chasm from every blessing that might be otherwise granted. He is there in every way, but He displays no attribute other than His wrath.
Likewise, He will also be in heaven, manifesting every blessing that we cannot even begin to comprehend here; He will be there displaying His manifold blessing, His manifold love, and His manifold kindness—indeed, everything other than His wrath. The omnipresence of God should serve to remind us that we cannot hide from God when we have sinned (Psalm 139:11-12), yet we can return to God in repentance and faith without even having to move (Isaiah 57:16). GotQuestions.org
- Is Satan / the devil omnipresent? | GotQuestions.org
- If God is omnipresent, does that mean God is in hell? | GotQuestions.org
- If God is omnipresent, then what is special about being in the presence of God? | GotQuestions.org
- What is the difference between the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit and God’s omnipresence? | GotQuestions.org
- What does it mean to be in the presence of God? | GotQuestions.org
- What does it mean that God is with us? | GotQuestions.org
ISBE Article on Omnipresence
1. Non-Occurrence of the Term in Scripture:
Neither the noun "omnipresence" nor adjective "omnipresent" occurs in Scripture, but the idea that God is everywhere present is throughout presupposed and sometimes explicitly formulated. God's omnipresence is closely related to His omnipotence and omniscience: that He is everywhere enables Him to act everywhere and to know all things, and, conversely, through omnipotent action and omniscient knowledge He has access to all places and all secrets (compare Psalm 139 ). Thus conceived, the attribute is but the correlate of the monotheistic conception of God as the Infinite Creator, Preserver and Governor of the universe, immanent in His works as well as transcendent above them.
2. Philosophical and Popular Ideas of Omnipresence:
The philosophical idea of omnipresence is that of exemption from the limitations of space, subjectively as well as objectively; subjectively, in so far as space, which is a necessary form of all created consciousness in the sphere of sense-perception, is not thus constitutionally inherent in the mind of God; objectively, in so far as the actuality of space-relations in the created world imposes no limit upon the presence and operation of God. This metaphysical conception of transcendence above all space is, of course, foreign to the Bible, which in regard to this, as in regard to the other transcendent attributes, clothes the truth of revelation in popular language, and speaks of exemption from the limitations of space in terms and figures derived from space itself. Thus, the very term "omnipresence" in its two component parts "everywhere" and "present" contains a double inadequacy of expression, both the notion of "everywhere" and that of "presence" being spacial concepts. Another point, in regard to which the popular nature of the Scriptural teaching on this subject must be kept in mind, concerns the mode of the divine omnipresence. In treating the concept philosophically, it is of importance to distinguish between its application to the essence, to the activity, and to the knowledge of God. The Bible does not draw these distinctions in the abstract. Although sometimes it speaks of God's omnipresence with reference to the pervasive immanence of His being, it frequently contents itself with affirming the universal extent of God's power and knowledge (Deuteronomy 4:39 ; Deuteronomy 10:14 ; Psalm 139:6-16 ; Proverbs 15:3 ; Jeremiah 23:23 , Jeremiah 23:24 ; Amos 9:2 ).
3. Theories Denying Omnipresence of Being:
This observation has given rise to theories of a mere omnipresence of power or omnipresence by an act of will, as distinct from an omnipresence of being. But it is plain that in this antithetical form such a distinction is foreign to the intent of the Biblical statements in question. The writers in these passages content themselves with describing the practical effects of the attribute without reflecting upon the difference between this and its ontological aspect; the latter is neither affirmed nor denied. That no denial of the omnipresence of being is intended may be seen from Jeremiah 23:24 , where in the former half of the verse the omnipresence of Jeremiah 23:23 is expressed in terms of omniscience, while in the latter half the idea finds ontological expression. Similarly, in Ps 139, compare Psalm 139:2 with Psalm 139:7 ff, and Psalm 139:13 ff. As here, so in other passages the presence of God with His being in all space is explicitly affirmed ( 1 Kings 8:27 ; 2 Chronicles 2:6 ; Isaiah 66:1 ; Acts 17:28 ).
4. Denial of the Presence of the Idea in the Earlier Parts of the Old Testament:
Omnipresence being the correlate of monotheism, the presence of the idea in the earlier parts of the Old Testament is denied by all those who assign the development of monotheism in the Old Testament religion to the prophetic period from the 8th century onward. It is undoubtedly true that the earliest narratives speak very anthropomorphically of God's relation to space; they describe Him as coming and going in language such as might be used of a human person. But it does not follow from this that the writers who do so conceive of God's being as circumscribed by space. Where such forms of statement occur, not the presence of God in general, but His visible presence in theophany is referred to. If from the local element entering into the description God's subjection to the limitations of space were inferred, then one might with equal warrant, on the basis of the physical, sensual elements entering into the representation, impute to the writers the view that the divine nature is corporeal.
5. The Special Redemptive and Revelatory Presence of God:
The theophanic form of appearance does not disclose what God is ontologically in Himself, but merely how He condescends to appear and work for the redemption of His people. It establishes a redemptive and revelatory presence in definite localities, which does not, in the mind of the writer, detract from the divine omnipresence. Hence, it is not confined to one place; the altars built in recognition of it are in patriarchal history erected in several places and coexist as each and all offering access to the special divine presence. It is significant that already during the patriarchal period these theophanies and the altars connected with them are confined to the Holy Land. This shows that the idea embodied in them has nothing to do with a crude conception of the Deity as locally circumscribed, but marks the beginning of that gradual restoration of the gracious presence of God to fallen humanity, the completion of which forms the goal of redemption. Thus, God is said to dwell in the ark, in the tabernacle, on Mt. Zion (Numbers 10:35 ; 2 Samuel 6:2 ; 2 Kings 19:15 ; Psalm 3:4 ; Psalm 99:1 ); in the temple (1 Ki 8; Psalm 20:2 ; Psalm 26:8 ; Psalm 46:5 ; Psalm 48:2 ; Isaiah 8:18 ; Joel 3:16 , Joel 3:21 ; Amos 1:2 ); in the Holy Land (1 Samuel 26:19 ; Hosea 9:3 ); in Christ (John 1:14 ; John 2:19 ; Colossians 2:9 ); in the church (John 14:23 ; Romans 8:9 , Romans 8:11 ; 1 Corinthians 3:16 ; 1 Corinthians 6:19 ; Ephesians 2:21 , Ephesians 2:22 ; Ephesians 3:11 ; 2 Timothy 3:15 ; Hebrews 10:21 ; 1 Peter 2:5 ); in the eschatological assembly of His people (Revelation 21:3 ). In the light of the same principle must be interpreted the presence of God in heaven. This also is not to be understood as an ontological presence, but as a presence of specific theocratic manifestation (1 Kings 8:27 ; Psalm 2:4 ; Psalm 11:4 ; Psalm 33:13 ff; Psalm 104:3 ; Isaiah 6:1 ff; Isaiah 63:15 ; Isaiah 66:1 ; Habakkuk 2:20 ; Matthew 5:34 ; Matthew 6:9 ; Acts 7:48 ; Acts 17:28 ; Ephesians 1:20 ; Hebrews 1:3 ). How little this is meant to exclude the presence of God elsewhere may be seen from the fact that the two representations, that of God's self-manifestation in heaven and in the earthly sanctuary, occur side by side (1 Ki 8:26-53; Psalm 20:2-6 ; Amos 9:6 ). It has been alleged that the idea of God's dwelling in heaven marks a comparatively late attainment in the religion of Israel, of which in the pre-prophetic period no trace can as yet be discovered (so Stade, Bibl . Theol . des Altes Testament , I, 103, 104). There are, however, a number of passages in the Pentateuch bearing witness to the early existence of this belief (Genesis 11:1-9 ; Genesis 19:24 ; Genesis 21:17 ; Genesis 22:11 ; Genesis 28:12 ). Yahweh comes, according to the belief of the earliest period, with the clouds (Exodus 14:19 , Exodus 14:20 ; Exodus 19:9 , Exodus 19:18 ; Exodus 24:15 ; Numbers 11:25 ; Numbers 12:5 ). That even in the opinion of the people Yahweh's local presence in an earthly sanctuary need not have excluded Him from heaven follows also from the unhesitating belief in His simultaneous presence in a plurality of sanctuaries. If it was not a question of locally circumscribed presence as between sanctuary and sanctuary, it need not have been as between earth and heaven (compare Gunkel, Gen , 157).
6. Religious Significance:
Both from a generally religious and from a specifically soteriological point of view the omnipresence of God is of great practical importance for the religious life. In the former respect it contains the guaranty that the actual nearness of God and a real communion with Him may be enjoyed everywhere, even apart from the places hallowed for such purpose by a specific gracious self-manifestation (Psalm 139:5-10 ). In the other respect the divine omnipresence assures the believer that God is at hand to save in every place where from any danger or foe His people need salvation (Isaiah 43:2 ).
Literature. - Oehler, Theologie des A T (3), 174 ff; Riehm, Alttestamentliche Theologie , 262 ff; Dillmann, Handbuch der alttestamentlichen Theologie , 246 ff; Davidson, Old Testament Theology , 180 ff; Konig, Geschichte der alttestamentlichen Religion , 197 ff.
- Hastings' Dictionary of the NT Omnipresence
- Webster Dictionary Omnipresent Omnipresence
- Watson's Theological Dictionary Omnipresence
- Charles Buck Dictionary Omnipresence of God
- CARM Theological Dictionary Omnipresence
- McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia Omnipresence,
- The Nuttall Encyclopedia Omnipresence
Ray Pritchard on God's omnipresence
"The scene: A young boy and his mother are having a serious discussion over lunch one day. "Where is God?" he asks innocently. "He's in heaven," his mother replies. "Does He live there?" "Yes." "Where's Jesus?" "He's in your heart." "But I thought Jesus and God were the same Person." "They are." "How can he be in heaven and in my heart at the same time?" "Sweetheart, it's hard to explain." A short pause. "Where does the Holy Spirit live?" Another short pause. "I think it's time to take a nap."
Thus we are introduced to one of the more difficult doctrines of the Bible—the doctrine of God's omnipresence. "Where is God?" This is a very important question. The seeker wants to know ? and so does the skeptic and so does the guilty sinner so he can run the other way. And so does every hurting person who feels abandoned by the Almighty. "Where is God when I need Him?"
The "Omni" Attributes - There are three attributes of God that should always be kept together in your mind. They naturally go together since each begins with the four-letter prefix "omni": Omniscience/ Omnipotence/ Omnipresence. The first means that God is all-knowing, the second that he is all-powerful, the third that he is present everywhere.
Tony Evans comments that these three attributes work in tandem: He knows what needs to be done—that's omniscience. He has the power to do it—that's omnipotence. He's always wherever he needs to be to do whatever needs to be done— that's omnipresence.
Omnipresence is the hardest for us to grasp. We can only be one place at one time, but God is everywhere at the same time. Our problem is that we have nothing to compare to it. Is God all powerful? Yes, and we can slightly grasp that concept because we have power and strength. Is God all wise? Yes, and we can conceive of that on some level because we have wisdom and knowledge. But there is no sense in which we are can be present everywhere! We can't even be two places at once—a fact that we sometimes forget. For that reason omnipresence is mysterious to us.
Satan is Not Omnipresent - But we're not alone in this. Only God is omnipresent. All other beings are restricted to a given place at a given time. When I preached this sermon, I comment that the angels and demons can only be one place at one time. I also pointed out that Satan is also limited. He is not omnipresent. That thought apparently was new to many people. They had somehow conceived of Satan as being like a "junior God" who could do everything God could do, only at a lower level. But a moment's thought will show the impossibility of that notion. Either you are omnipotent or you are not. There is no such thing as being 90% omnipotent, or 60% omniscient for that matter. By the same token—and even more obviously—either you are present everywhere all the time or you are not. There is no such thing as "partial omnipresence." Because Satan is a created being, he is limited and localized in the spirit realm, as are all the angels and demons. This should give comfort to those who feel overwhelmed by attacks they believe to be Satanic in nature. While we would surely agree that Satan works today through a vast array of spirit beings who work his infernal will, he himself is no more omnipresent than you or I.
Not a 99% God! - In his classic seven-volume Systematic Theology, Lewis Sperry Chafer advanced the following argument for omnipresence. He said in essence that God's perfection demands it. If we could conceive of even a tiny portion of the universe where God is not present, then we might conceive of a being in that locality who is greater than God himself. Some years ago a certain brand of soap advertised itself as "99 and 44/100th pure." But God knows no such sliding scale with regard to himself. A 99% God is no God at all! If your God is not present everywhere in the universe, then he is not the God of the Bible.
That leads me to offer this simple definition of omnipresence (courtesy of John Bisagno): The Lord Our God is everywhere at once.
He is everywhere present all the time. That is a truly awesome thought. Most people are not comfortable with an omnipresent God. That's why they have idols. They want a god they can see and feel and touch. A god they can understand. A god they can control. A god made by their own hands.
But you can't fully understand the God of the Bible. And you certainly can't control him.
God is Not Limited by time or space - Perhaps the greatest statement of omnipresence is found in the inspiring words of Psalm 139:7-12.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
As David contemplates how God knows him inside and out, he wonders where he might go to hide from the Lord. Heaven, hell, east, west, the far side of the ocean—it doesn't matter for the Lord is already there. What about the darkness of the night? The darkness will not deter God, for "darkness is as light to you." There are several important implications of this truth.
First, God cannot be contained in a building. Solomon said as much in the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Sometimes I hear well-meaning people call the church the "house of God," as if his presence somehow specially dwells in a building made by the hands of man. But a church is not a holy place in the sense that the temple was a holy place. Today God dwells among his people and in his people wherever they are and wherever they go.
Second, God cannot be localized in a city or a nation. This truth should keep us from boasting too much in our supposed moral superiority. God is not an American nor does he exist to defend and perpetuate our form of government.
Third, God cannot be reduced to an image or a statue. This is why the Second Commandment warns against making "graven images." It is also why the Jews refused to make any pictures, drawings or statutes of God. The danger of idolatry is so great that J. I. Packer in Knowing God warns against the danger of religious pictures, even innocent drawings of Jesus. The truth is, we don't know what he looked like and any picture or statues meant as an "aid to devotion" may somehow lead to superstitious worship.
Fourth, he is always present whether we believe it or not. In the early days of space travel, one of the Russian cosmonauts returned from orbiting the earth to announce that he had looked out his space capsule and had not seen God anywhere. To which Dr. W. A. Criswell of the First Baptist Church of Dallas replied, "Let him take off his space suit for just one second and he'll see God quick enough."
Fifth, he is present even in the worst moments of life. God's omnipresence means that he is there in the midst of suffering, pain, sickness, sorrow, anger, grief, bitterness, divorce, betrayal, murder, rape, sexual abuse, cancer, AIDS, abortion, warfare, famine, earthquakes, fires, floods, every natural disaster, accidents, personal loss, and at the moment of death.
Sixth, he is always available to us wherever we go, 24 hours a day. We always have his full attention, we don't have to make an appointment, he's never too busy to hear us when we pray, he's never preoccupied with other problems. Can you imagine what it would be like if we prayed only to have a angel tell us, "I'm sorry, but God is busy handling a major crisis in the Middle East. Leave your name and number and someone will get back to you as soon as possible." That will never happen because all of God is completely available to you no matter where you are. Though there be a thousand wars in a thousand places, our God hears you as if you were the only one praying.
Seventh, we may rely fully on him no matter how desperate our situation may be. This week I spoke with two of our senior adults. One has just been diagnosed with cancer. When I talked with her, she said, "Pastor, don't worry about me. The Lord has been so good to me." She's 80 years old. Later I spoke with a woman who is 90, very weak and frail and eager to go to heaven. Her voice quivered, but her faith was strong. "I'm just trusting in the Lord," she told me. These dear saints have learned through a lifetime of walking with God that he will never leave them for he is always present with his people.
God is always present everywhere in the universe - Most of us struggle to understand omnipresence because it is so foreign to our experience. The doctrine teaches us that God is wholly present everywhere. "God is not like a substance spread out in a thin layer all over the earth—all of Him is in Chicago, in Calcutta, in Cairo, and in Caracas, at one and the same time" (Paul Little). God's presence is not like a layer of peanut butter on a piece of bread. All of God is completely present at every point in the universe all the time. He is present as fully as though He were nowhere else. Furthermore, his presence extends to all three Persons of the Godhead. That's a relief because what if I needed to talk to Jesus and found out that he was over in Indonesia and wouldn't be back in Oak Park for a month? Or what if the Spirit were in South Dakota when someone needed him in Turkey? Thank God, all three Persons of the Trinity are everlastingly available to all the children of God.
I have already commented that he is present even though we do not realize it. One writer said that God's presence is like the air we breathe. Air is odorless, tasteless, invisible (when it's not polluted). Most of the time we don't even think about the air we breathe, yet we depend on it for our very existence. Even so God's presence is everywhere with us, and if it were withdrawn, none of us could survive for even one moment.
Or consider radio waves. They are invisible yet everywhere. We don't realize that in this room there are thousands of signals floating through the air. Microwave, short wave, AM-FM, TV, cellular phone, CB, police, fire, ultra-low frequency and ultra-high frequency. Tens of thousands of signals float through the ether all around us. They are there all the time. We aren't aware of them because we don't have a receiver tuned in to the right frequency. Likewise, God is always there, but we're not tuned in to his frequency so we don't sense his presence all the time.
God can be ignored but he cannot be avoided - You can ignore God but you can't avoid him. This should be a serious warning to the unconverted. That's why Genesis 16:13 calls him (in Hebrew) El Roi, which means The God Who Sees. At the end of this age, in those terrible days leading up to the return of Christ, the unconverted will suddenly realize the error of their ways. But then it will be too late. Revelation 6:15-17 describes the scene:
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?
Think of it! Every sin you commit is committed in the presence of God. He hears every white lie, he knows when you cheat on your taxes, he listens when you swear under your breath, he takes note of every broken promise, he records the evil men do under cover of darkness.
Jesus Makes People Nervous - You can't avoid him even if you try. This week I heard from a couple in our church whose children attend the local public schools. One of their sons had to write an essay about a person in the past who changed the world for the better. When he chose Jesus, the teacher said he had to pick another person because to write about Jesus you have to use the Bible and she said it wasn't a trustworthy historical document. Now, before I say anything else, let me remark that the teacher was simply showing her ignorance. Her comments were pure prejudice—nothing more. I seriously doubt she has ever read the Bible. Even the secular experts agree that it is the most trustworthy ancient book in the world.
So the parents protested, called the principal, played phone tag with the principal, and then earlier this week the teacher relented under pressure. In fact, the principal said she thought it was marvelous that a young boy should know so much about his faith. When I discussed it with the mother, I asked what would have happened if one of the students had volunteered to write about Mohammed? Or Buddha? That would be okay, but not Jesus. "Jesus makes people nervous," she said. Yes, he does.
You can ignore him but you can't avoid him! Every time you write 1997 you are giving testimony to his power. All history is divided by his birth.
God promises to draw near to anyone who will draw near to him - God is always near his people. This promise is repeated many places in scripture. Hebrews 13:5b says, ‘‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
In Matthew 28:20b Jesus promised, "I am with you always."
And in Deuteronomy 31:6, as he was nearing the end of his long life, Moses reminded his people, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
In our worship services we sometimes have a prayer called an "invocation," which means we pray and invite God's presence in our midst. Now I know what is meant by that. We are praying for God's manifest or powerful presence in our midst. However, I do think it's good to remember that we don't have to ask God to be with us because he is always with us. We don't have to "invoke" God's presence. He's already here!
The Bible also tells us that he draws near to us in times of pain and suffering. Psalm 34:18 tells us that "the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Many of God's choicest servants have experienced God's powerful, uplifting presence in the midst of unspeakable sorrow. Often they look back later and marvel at how God brought them through when their own resources completely failed.
"Open His Eyes, Lord" - He is also near when we least expect him. In this regard I often think of Elisha and his scared servant at Dothan. 2 Kings 6:8-18 tells how the mighty armies of Aram had completely surrounded the people of God at Dothan. When his servant saw the enemy drawn up on every side, he cried out in fear, "What will we do?" Elisha told him not to fear because, "those that are with us are more than those who are with them" (2Ki 6:16). Then Elisha prayed that the servant's eyes might be supernaturally opened. They were, and as he looked up, he "saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2Ki 6:17).
Something like that needs to happen to many of us. We need a glimpse of God's presence all around us—even in the midst of difficult circumstances. Maybe you don't need a new neighborhood or a new job or a new school. You need to see the angels of God surrounding you right now!
We also know that he draws near to those who approach him in humble faith. In Psalm 145:18 we read that "the Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." James 4:8 challenges us to "come near to God and He will come near to you." To quote Tony Evans once again, "God is with you if you are with God! If you are far from God today, who moved? He's right where he always said he would be. If you aren't conscious of his presence, perhaps it's because you have moved away from him."
"When John Comes Home" - There is one final promise we need to remember. This is the most important promise of all. He promises to walk with us in the hour of death.
You will not pass across the threshold of death alone. In one of his sermons Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse illustrated that truth this way. Think about a mother with son serving in the military. She doesn't know when he'll be home, so she constantly speaks of him this way: "When John comes home, he'll fix the window shade." "When John comes home, he'll plant the garden," "When John comes home, he'll sit in his favorite chair and eat dinner with the whole family." Why the third person? Why does she say "he" and not "you"? Because John isn't home yet!
But when he finally comes home and she sees him for the first time, she cries, "John, you're home." Why the change from "he" to "you"? Because John has come through the door.
Now listen to these familiar words:
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me" (Psalm 23:1, 2, 3, 4).
Why the change from "he" to "you"? Because even though the Lord is with us every day, we don't always feel his presence right beside us. But in the moment of death, we are not left alone. The Lord Jesus comes for us and walks with us across the Great Divide. Thank God, I do not have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death alone. For he comes, he enters the room, the stands by the bedside, he reaches down and takes my trembling hand, and he walks with me from this life into life eternal.
The Best Part of the 23rd Psalm- The best two words in Psalm 23 are two little words in verse 4: "You are with me."
The shepherd is no longer up ahead leading the flock. The valley is too dark for that. Now he is walking with us, step by step, walking side by side reassuring his sheep by his calm presence.
If God is with us, we have nothing to fear. - Death casts a frightening shadow over all of life. Visit any hospital or nursing home and you will see the fear on the faces of the patients. Go to a funeral and watch the faces of the mourners. One reason we hate funerals is because we don't want to face the truth of our own mortality.
We can struggle with many other enemies but we can't struggle with death. The grim reaper wins every time.
We'll all eventually go through the valley of the shadow of death. We need a guide to help us find our way through that land of darkness to the light on the other side. Where will we find a guide who can take us through that valley? We've got to find someone who's been there before, who's gone through himself, who can take us by the hand and lead us where he's already been.
The Guide We Need - Who can we get? Where can we find a guide like that? His name is Jesus! He's been there before. He knows the way through. He's been to the light on the other side and he'll come for us.
But thank God, we don't walk through that valley alone. Jesus will walk with us. He'll lead us through to the other side.
Deep in my soul, I believe that the saints of God have nothing to fear in the moment of death. Though it may not be pleasant or painless, though it comes after long suffering or in a fiery crash, the moment itself will be filled with joy as the Lord himself escorts God's children through the darkest valley of all. At that moment, all other guides must turn back. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can help us through. And he does. (Ray Pritchard Here, There and Everywhere: The Doctrine of God's Omnipresence)
The famous scientist Isaac Newton , a believer in Jesus Christ, drew this profound conclusion about God…
He is not eternity and infinity, but eternal and infinite; He is not duration or space, but He endures and is present. He endures forever and is everywhere present; and by existing always and everywhere He constitutes duration and space.
As believers we should love the comforting attribute of God's omnipresence, for as Isaac Watts said so poetically…
Within thy circling power I stand;
On every side I find Thy hand;
Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,
I am surrounded still with God.
But the comforting doctrine of divine omnipresence is also convicting, as Spurgeon explains…
Where we cannot enjoy God’s company, we will not go. Our motto is, “With God, anywhere. Without God, nowhere… There is no place so well-adapted for the discovery of sin and recovery from its power and guilt as the immediate presence of God. Get into God’s arms, and you will see how to hit at sin. You will gather strength to give the final blow which shall lay the monster in the dust. Job never knew how to get rid of sin half so well as he did when his eye of faith rested on God, and he abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes (Job 42:5, 6)
Scriptures that speak of God's Omnipresence…
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.
Psalms 139:7 (Spurgeon's note) Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Thy hand will lead me, And Thy right hand will lay hold of me.
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,"
12 Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee.
Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the LORD, "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?
Jeremiah 23:23 "Am I a God who is near," declares the LORD, "And not a God far off? 24 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. (See comment by John Wesley in his sermon On the Omnipresence of God)
Acts 17:27 that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us
Amos 9:2 "Though they dig into Sheol, From there shall My hand take them; And though they ascend to heaven, From there will I bring them down. 3 "And though they hide on the summit of Carmel, I will search them out and take them from there; And though they conceal themselves from My sight on the floor of the sea, From there I will command the serpent and it will bite them.
Ezekiel 48:35 The city (Millennial city of Jerusalem, not the New Jerusalem, cp Re 3:12-note; Re 21:2-note) shall be 18,000 cubits round about; and the name of the city from that day shall be, 'The LORD is there.' (Jehovah Shammah)
Comment: Here we see the omnipresent LORD, choosing to dwell with men, a humbling truth indeed! How this great truth of future grace should serve to motivate present loving obedience to our ever present, ever ready and able to help LORD! Take a moment to thank Him for always being there, always watching over you, always caring for you as one of His beloved children (even when we don't act like His children - indeed, amazing mercy and grace). How awesome is this attribute of our Father's omnipresence. Praise Him that He is Jehovah Shammah, the God Who is there, yesterday, today and, yes, forever. Amen
Richard L. Strauss gives several practical applications of omniscience for contemplation - God is everywhere: He is with us in temptation… w/ us in need… w/ us in loneliness… w/ us thru difficult service… w/ us in danger… w/ us in death… Begin to cultivate a consciousness of God’s presence. Greet Him at the beginning of each new day. Remember often through the day that He is right there with you. At bedtime rehearse the events of the day and think about how you could have allowed Him to be more a part of them, and what difference it would have made if you had. Say “goodnight” to Him before you drop off to sleep, remembering that He will be with you all night long." (The Lord Is With Us)
Stephen Charnock the great Puritan writer reminds of the comforting truth that "As there is not a moment but we are under His mercy, so there is not a moment that we are out of His presence. Let us therefore look upon nothing, without thinking who stands by, without reflecting upon Him in Whom it lives, and moves and hath its being… Let us not bound our thoughts to the creatures we see, but pierce through the creature to the boundless God we do not see: we have continual remembrances of His presence; the light whereby we see, and the air whereby we live, (all things) give us perpetual notices of (God)… Yea, what a shame is our unmindfulness of (God), when every cast of our eye, every motion of our lungs, jogs (our memory of God)… How shall we do to be (more) serious? Mind God’s presence. How shall we avoid distractions in service? Think of God’s presence. How shall we resist temptation? Oppose to them the presence of God.’ (Reference)
J C Ryle in his booklet Thoughts For Young Men has this to say about the eyes of God -
RESOLVE NEVER TO FORGET THE EYE OF GOD. - The eye of God! Think of that. Everywhere, in every house, in every field, in every room, in every company, alone or in a crowd, the eye of God is always on you. "The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good" (Pr 15:3), and they are eyes that read hearts as well as actions.
Endeavor, I beg you, to realize this fact. Remember that you have to deal with an all-seeing God, a God who never sleeps, a God who understands your thoughts, and with whom the night shines as the day. You may leave your father's house, and go away, like the prodigal, into a far country, and think that there is nobody to watch your conduct; but the eye and ear of God are there before you. You may deceive your parents or employers, you may tell them lies, and act one way before their faces, and another behind their backs, but you cannot deceive God. He knows you through and through. He heard what you said as you came here today. He knows what you are thinking of at this minute. He has set your most secret sins in the light of His countenance, and they will one day come out before the world to your shame, except you take heed.
How little is this really felt! How many things are done continually, which men would never do if they thought they were seen! How many matters are transacted in the rooms of imagination, which would never bear the light of day! Yes; men entertain thoughts in private, and say words in private, and do acts in private, which they would be ashamed and blush to have exposed before the world. The sound of a footstep coming has stopped many a deed of wickedness. A knock at the door has caused many an evil work to be hastily suspended, and hurriedly laid aside. But oh, what miserable folly is all this! There is an all-seeing Witness with us wherever we go. Lock the door, pull down the blind, turn out the light; it doesn't matter, it makes no difference; God is everywhere, you cannot shut Him out, or prevent His seeing. "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Heb 4:13-note). Young Joseph understood this well when his employer's wife tempted him. There was no one in the house to see them, no human eye to witness against him; but Joseph was one who lived as seeing Him that is invisible: "How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" (Ge 39:9)
Young men, I ask all of you to read Psalm 139:1-12f. I advise all of you to learn it by heart. Make it the test of all your dealings in this world's business: say to yourself often, "Do I remember that God sees me?"
Live as in the sight of God. This is what Abraham did, he walked before Him (Ge 17:1). This is what Enoch did, he walked with Him (Ge 5:22, 24, cp Ge 24:40, 48:15, Ps 26:3, 56:13, 116:9). This is what heaven itself will be, the eternal presence of God. Do nothing that you would not like God to see. Say nothing, you would not like God to hear. Write nothing, you would not like God to read. Go no place where you would not like God to find you. Read no book of which you would not like God to say, "Show it to Me." Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like to have God say, "What are you doing?"
One word of caution is in order regarding the doctrine of omnipresence.
As Unger explains …It is essential to the right conception of God in this respect that we avoid all materialistic notions of His presence that confuse God with everything and thus lead to pantheism (Ed: a popular false doctrine in new age spirituality). God is Spirit, and His infinite presence is to be regarded in the dynamical sense rather than in the sense of a substance infinitely extended. He is distinct from all His works while His power and intelligence and goodness embrace and penetrate them all. The omnipresence of God is also to be regarded as compatible with various manifestations of His presence according to the spheres of life in which He exists and operates. Thus in the most exalted sense He is “Our Father … in heaven” (see Mt 6:9; etc.).
by Isaac Watts, 1719
IN all my vast concerns with Thee,
In vain my soul would try
To shun Thy presence, Lord, or flee
The notice of Thine eye.
Thy all-surrounding sight surveys
My rising and my rest;
My public walks, my private ways,
And secrets of my breast.
My thoughts lie open to the Lord,
Before they're form'd within;
And ere my lips pronounce the word
He knows the sense! mean.
Oh wondrous knowledge, deep, and high;
Where can a creature hide?
Within Thy circling arms I lie,
Beset on every side.
So let Thy grace surround me still,
And like a bulwark prove,
To guard my soul from every ill,
Secured by sovereign love.
Lord, where shall guilty souls retire,
Forgotten and unknown?
In hell they meet Thy dreadful fire,
In heaven Thy glorious throne.
Should I suppress my vital breath
To 'scape Thy wrath divine;
Thy voice would break the bars of death,
And make the grave resign.
If wing'd with beams of morning light,
I fly beyond the west;
Thy hand, which must support my flight,
Would soon betray my rest.
If o'er my sins I think to draw
The curtains of the night;
Those flaming eyes that guard Thy law
Would turn the shades to light.
The beams of noon, the midnight hour,
Are both alike to Thee:
Oh, may I ne'er provoke that power
From which I cannot flee!
THE OMNIPRESENCE OF GOD - "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" Psalm 139:7
The omnipresence of God! How baffling to any finite comprehension! To think that above us, and around us, and within as, there is nothing but Deity- the invisible footprints of an Omniscient, Omnipresent One! "His eyes are in every place;" on rolling planets and tiny atoms, on the bright seraph and the lowly worm- roaming in searching scrutiny through the tracks of immensity, and reading the dark and hidden page of my heart! "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
God, I feel Your presence near,
Everywhere over nature's face;
Wherever I turn my eye,
Your living footsteps trace!
Nothing can sever me from Thee-
Everywhere You are with me!"
O God! shall this Your Omnipresence appall me? No, in my seasons of sadness and sorrow and loneliness- when other comforts and comforters have failed- when, it may be, in the darkness and silence of some midnight hour, in vain I have sought repose- how sweet to think, "My God is here!" I am not alone. The Omniscient One, to whom the darkness and the light are both alike, is hovering over my sleepless pillow. "He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps!" O my Unsetting Sun, it cannot be darkness or loneliness or sadness where You are. There can be no night to the soul which has been cheered with Your glorious radiance!
"Lo! I am with you always!" How precious, blessed Jesus, is this Your legacy of parting love! In the midst of Your Church until the end of time- ever present, omnipresent. The true "Pillar of cloud" by day and of "fire by night," preceding and encamping by us in every step of our wilderness journey. My soul! think of Him, at this moment, in the mysteriousness of His Godhead nature- and yet, with all the exquisitely tender sympathies of a glorified Humanity, as present with every member of the family He has redeemed with His blood! Yes, and as much present with every individual soul, as if He had none other to care for, but as if that one engrossed all His affection and love!
The Great Builder, surveying every stone and pillar of His spiritual temple- the Great Shepherd, with His eye on every sheep of His fold- the Great High Priest and Elder Brother, marking every tear-drop; noting every sorrow- listening to every prayer- knowing the peculiarities of every case; no number perplexing Him- no variety bewildering Him; able to attend to all, and overtake all, and answer all- myriads drawing hourly from His Treasury, and yet no diminution of that Treasury- ever emptying, and yet ever filling, and always full!
Jesus! Your perpetual and all-pervading presence turns darkness into day! I am not left unbefriended to weather the storms of life, if Your hand be from hour to hour piloting my frail bark. Gracious antidote to every earthly sorrow– "I have set the Lord always before me!" Even now, as night is drawing its curtains around me, be this my closing prayer- 'Blessed Savior! abide with me, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent!' Under the shadowing wings of Your presence and love, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8 (From - THE NIGHT WATCHES by John MacDuff)
Sermon by John Wesley - see below
On the Omnipresence of God
By John Wesley
"Do not I fill heaven and earth?" saith the Lord. Jeremiah 23:24
1. How strongly and beautifully do these words express the omnipresence of God! And can there be in the whole compass of nature a more sublime subject? Can there be any more worthy the consideration of every rational creature? Is there any more necessary to be considered, and to be understood, so far as our poor faculties will admit? How many excellent purposes may it answer! What deep instruction may it convey to all the children of men! And more directly to the children of God.
2. How is it then that so little has been wrote on so sublime and useful a subject? It is true that some of our most eminent writers have occasionally touched upon it, and have several strong and beautiful reflections which were naturally suggested by it. But which of them has published a regular treatise, or so much as a sermon, upon the head? Perhaps many were conscious of their inability to do justice to so vast a subject. It is possible, there may some such lie hid in the voluminous writings of the last century. But if they are hid even in their own country, if they are already buried in oblivion, it is the same, for any use they are of, as if they had never been wrote.
3. What seems to be wanting still, for general use, is a plain discourse on the omnipresence or ubiquity of God.
I. First, in some manner explaining and proving that glorious truth, "God is in this, and every place;"
II. And Then, applying it to the consciences of all thinking men;
III. A few practical inferences.I.
1. Accordingly, I will endeavour, by the assistance of his Spirit, first a little to explain the omnipresence of God; to show how we are to understand this glorious truth, "God is in this, and every place." The Psalmist, you may remember, speaks strongly and beautifully upon it in the hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm; observing in the most exact order, First, "God is in this place;" and Then, "God is in every place." He observes, First, "Thou art about my bed, and about my path, and spiest out all my ways." (Ps. 139:3) "Thou hast fashioned me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me." (Ps 139:5) Although the manner thereof he could not explain; how it was he could not tell. "Such knowledge," says he, "is too wonderful for me: I cannot attain unto it." (Ps 139:6) He next observes, in the most lively and affecting manner, that God is in every place. "Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit, or whither shall I go from thy presence? If I climb up into heaven, thou art there; if I go down to hell, thou art there also.' (Ps 139:7, 8) If I could ascend, speaking after the manner of men, to the highest part of the universe, or could I descend to the lowest point, thou art alike present both in one and the other. "If I should take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there thy hand would lead me," -- thy power and thy presence would be before me, -- "and thy right hand would hold me," seeing thou art equally in the length and breadth, and in the height and depth of the universe. Indeed thy presence and knowledge not only reach the utmost bounds of creation; but
Thine omnipresent sight,
Even to the pathless realms extends
Of uncreated night.
In a word, there is no point of space, whether within or without the bounds of creation, where God is not.
2. Indeed, this subject is far too vast to be comprehended by the narrow limits of human understanding. We can only say, The great God, the eternal, the almighty Spirit, is as unbounded in his presence as in his duration and power. In condescension, indeed, to our weak understanding, he is said to dwell in heaven: but, strictly speaking, the heaven of heavens cannot contain him; but he is in every part of his dominion. The universal God dwelleth in universal space; so that we may say,
Hail, Father! whose creating call
Unnumber'd worlds attend!
Jehovah, comprehending all,
Whom none can comprehend!
3. If we may dare attempt the illustrating this a little farther, what is the space occupied by a grain of sand, compared to that space which is occupied by the starry heavens? It is as a cipher; it is nothing; it vanishes away in the comparison. What is it, then, to the whole expanse of space, to which the whole creation is infinitely less than a grain of sand? And yet this space, to which the whole creation bears no proportion at all, is infinitely less in comparison of the great God than a grain of sand, yea, a millionth part of it, bears to that whole space.
1. This seems to be the plain meaning of those solemn words which God speaks of himself: "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" And these sufficiently prove his omnipresence; which may be farther proved from this consideration: God acts everywhere, and, therefore, is everywhere; for it is an utter impossibility that any being, created or uncreated, should work where it is not. God acts in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, throughout the whole compass of his creation; by sustaining all things, without which everything would in an instant sink into its primitive nothing; by governing all, every moment superintending everything that he has made; strongly and sweetly influencing all, and yet without destroying the liberty of his rational creatures. The very Heathens acknowledged that the great God governs the large and conspicuous parts of the universe; that he regulates the motions of the heavenly bodies, of the sun, moon, and stars; that he is
Totam Mens agitans molem,
et magno se corpore miscens:
The all-informing soul,
That fills, pervades and actuates the whole.
But they had no conception of his having a regard to the least things as well as the greatest; of his presiding over all that he has made, and governing atoms as well as worlds. This we could not have known unless it had pleased God to reveal it unto us himself. Had he not himself told us so, we should not have dared to think that "not a sparrow falleth to the ground, without the will of our Father which is in heaven;" and much less affirm, that "even the very hairs of our head are all numbered!"
2. This comfortable truth, that "God filleth heaven and earth," we learn also from the Psalm above recited: "If I climb up into heaven, thou art there; if I go down to hell, thou art there also. If I take the wings of the morning, and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there thy hand shall lead me." The plain meaning is, If I remove to any distance whatever, thou art there; thou still besettest me, and layest thine hand upon me. Let me flee to any conceivable or inconceivable distance; above, beneath, or on any side;, it makes no difference; thou art still equally there: In thee I still "live, and move, and have my being."
3. And where no creature is, still God is there. The presence or absence of any or all creatures makes no difference with regard to him. He is equally in all, or without all. Many have been the disputes among philosophers whether there be any such thing as empty space in the universe; and it is now generally supposed that all space is full. Perhaps it cannot be proved that all space is filled with matter. But the Heathen himself will bear us witness, Jovis omnia plena: "All things are full of God." Yea, and space exists beyond the bounds of creation (for creation must have bounds, seeing nothing is boundless, nothing can be, but the great Creator), even that space cannot exclude Him who fills the heaven and the earth.
4. Just equivalent to this is the expression of the Apostle: (Eph. 1:23, not, as some have strangely supposed, concerning the Church, but concerning the Head of it) "The fullness of him that filleth all in all;" ta panta en pasin, literally translated, "all things in all things;" -- the strongest expression of universality which can possibly be conceived. It necessarily includes the last and the greatest of all things that exist. So that if any expression could be stronger, it would be stronger than even that -- the "filling heaven and earth."
5. Indeed this very expression, "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" (the question being equal to the strongest affirmation), implies the clearest assertion of God's being present everywhere and filling all space; for it is well known, the Hebrew phrase "heaven and earth," includes the whole universe; the whole extent of space, created or uncreated, and all that is therein.
6. Nay, and we cannot believe the omnipotence of God, unless we believe his omnipresence; for, seeing, as was observed before, nothing can act where it is not, -- if there were any space where God was not present, he would not be able to do anything there. Therefore, to deny the omnipresence of God implies, likewise, the denial of his omnipotence. To set bounds to the one is undoubtedly to set bounds to the other also.
7. Indeed, wherever we suppose him not to be, there we suppose all his attributes to be in vain. He cannot exercise there either his justice or mercy, either his power or wisdom. In extra-mundane space, (so to speak) where we suppose God not to be present, we must, of course, suppose him to have no duration; but as it is supposed to be beyond the bounds of the creation, so it is beyond the bounds of the Creator's power. Such is the blasphemous absurdity which is implied in this supposition.
8. But to all that is or can be said of the omnipresence of God, the world has one grand objection: They cannot see him. And this is really at the root of all their other objections. This our blessed Lord observed long ago: "Whom the world cannot receive, because they see him not." But is it not easy to reply, "Can you see the wind?" You cannot. But do you therefore deny its existence, or its presence? You say, "No; for I can perceive it by my other senses." But by which of your senses do you perceive your soul? Surely you do not deny either the existence or the presence of this! And yet it is not the object of your sight, or of any of your other senses. Suffice it then to consider that God is a Spirit, as is our soul also. Consequently, "him no man hath seen, or can see," with eyes of flesh and blood.
1. But allowing that God is here, as in every place, that he is "about our bed, and about our path;" that he "besets us behind and before, and lays his hand upon us;" what inference should we draw from hence? What use should we make of this awful consideration? Is it not meet and right to humble ourselves before the eyes of his Majesty? Should we not labour continually to acknowledge his presence, "with reverence and godly fear?" not indeed with the fear of devils, that believe and tremble, but with fear of angels, with something similar to that which is felt by the inhabitants of heaven, when
Dark with excessive bright his skirts appear,
Yet dazzles heaven, that brightest seraphim
Approach not, but with both wings veil their eyes.
2. Secondly. If you believe that God is about your bed, and about your path, and spieth out all your ways, then take care not to do the least thing, not to speak the least word, not to indulge the least thought, which you have reason to think would offend him. Suppose that a messenger of God, an angel, be now standing at your right hand, and fixing his eyes upon you, would you not take care to abstain from every word or action that you knew would offend him? Yea, suppose one of your mortal fellow-servants, suppose only a holy man stood by you, would not you be extremely cautious how you conducted yourself, both in word and action? How much more cautious ought you to be when you know that not a holy man, not an angel of God, but God himself, the Holy One "that inhabiteth eternity," is inspecting your heart, your tongue, your hand, every moment; and that he himself will surely bring you into judgment for all you think, and speak, and act under the sun!
3. In particular: If there is not a word in your tongue, not a syllable you speak, but he "knoweth it altogether;" how exact should you be in "setting a watch before your mouth, and in keeping the door of your lips!" How wary does it behove you to be in all your conversation; being forewarned by your Judge, that "by your words you shall be justified, or by your words you shall be condemned!" How cautious, lest "any corrupt communication," any uncharitable, yea, or unprofitable discourse, should "proceed out of your mouth;" instead of "that which is good to the use of edifying, and meet to minister grace to the hearers!"
4. Yea, if God sees our hearts as well as our hands, and in all places; if he understandeth our thoughts long before they are clothed with words, how earnestly should we urge that petition, "Search me, O Lord, and prove me; try out my reins and my heart; look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" Yea, how needful is it to work together with him, in "keeping our hearts with all diligence," till he hath "cast down imaginations," evil reasonings, "and everything that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and brought into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ!"
5. On the other hand, if you are already listed under the great Captain of your salvation, seeing you are continually under the eye of your Captain, how zealous and active should you be to "fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life;" "to endure hardship, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ;" to use all diligence, to "war a good warfare," and to do whatever is acceptable in his sight! How studious should you be to approve all your ways to his all-seeing eyes; that he may say to your hearts, what he will proclaim aloud in the great assembly of men and angels, "Well done, good and faithful servants!"
6. In order to attain these glorious ends, spare no pains to preserve always a deep, a continual, a lively, and a joyful sense of his gracious presence. Never forget his comprehensive word to the great father of the faithful: "I am the Almighty" (rather, the All-sufficient) "God; walk before me, and be thou perfect!" Cheerfully expect that He, before whom you stand, will ever guide you with his eye, will support you by his guardian hand, will keep you from all evil, and "when you have suffered a while, [he] will make you perfect, will stablish, strengthen, and settle you;" and then "preserve you unblameable, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!" Portsmouth, August 12, 1788
The OMNIPRESENCE of God by Thomas Watson (excerpt)…
God is infinite. All created beings are finite. The Greek word for "infinite" signifies "without bounds or limits." God is not confined to any place. He is infinite, and so is present in all places at once. His center is everywhere. "In no place is God's Being either confined or excluded," Augustine. "Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain you." The Turks build their temples open at the top, to show that God cannot be confined to them—but is in all places by his presence. God's essence is not limited either to the regions above, or to the terrestrial globe—but is everywhere. As philosophers say of the soul, "the soul is in every part of the body," in the eye, heart, foot; so we may say of God, his essence is everywhere; his circuit is in heaven, and in earth, and sea, and he is in all places of his circuit at once. "This is to be infinite." God, who bounds everything else, is himself without bounds. He sets bounds to the sea, "Hitherto shall you come, and no further!" He sets bounds to the angels; they, like the cherubim, move and stand at his appointment, but he is infinite, without bounds. He who can span the heavens, and weigh the earth in scales, must needs be infinite! (Reference)
- Attributes of God - The Immensity and Omnipresence of God - by Dr S Lewis Johnson - Recommended Resource - includes Mp3, a 22 page Pdf or MS Word document. This is only one study out of over 100 in depth lectures by Dr Johnson on Systematic Theology including studies of the doctrines of God, Christ, the Spirit, Prayer, Salvation, etc. (click for this extensive list)
- Is God Everywhere At Once? (Omnipresent) - Don Stewart
- God's Omnipresence by A.W. Tozer
- Of the Infinity of God, His Omnipresence and Eternity by John Gill
- Here, There and Everywhere: The Doctrine of God's Omnipresence by Ray Pritchard
- The Omnipresence Of God by David Legge
- The Omnipresence of God by Thomas Watson (scroll down)
Deuteronomy 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.
Psalm 139:8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good.
Isaiah 66:1 Thus says the LORD, “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?
Jeremiah 23:24 “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 17:27 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;
Omniscience is from the Latin omnis = “all” combined with scientia = “knowledge” the combination meaning to know all or to have perfect knowledge.
God’s omniscience is His knowledge of all things including actual and possible, past, present, and future (foreknowledge).
God is all knowing, and His knowledge is in no way restricted by temporal considerations. He knows and sees the past, the present, and the future with equal clarity and absolute certainty. To Him, all is the present.
God knows all things perfectly (Ps. 147:5; Job 37:16; 1 John 3:20), sees and hears everything (Ex 3:7; 2Chr 16:9; Ps 34:15; 102:19, 20; Pr 5:21; 15:3; Jer. 16:16), knows from all eternity the entire plan of the ages and the part of every man in that plan (Isa. 46:9, 10, 11; 48:3, 4, 5, 6, 7; Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12).
God has perfect knowledge of each individual person and of all his ways (Ps. 33:13, 14, 15; 139:1-16; Pr. 5:21), his words (Ps. 139:4; Matt. 12:35, 36, 37), his thoughts (1Chr 28:9; Ps. 94:11; 139:1, 2; Mt. 9:4), his afflictions and trials (Ge 21:17, 18, 19; 1Cor. 10:13; Rev. 2:9, 10, 13) and his future actions and final state (Gen. 18:19; Ex. 3:19; Isa. 44:28-45:5; Matt. 25:31, 32, 33, 34, 41; Acts 27:22, 23, 24, 25).
God’s omniscience means that nothing anyone does escapes the knowledge of God and that one day we will be called to give an account at the bar of God for God will deal with each according to the truth of his life (Ro 2:2, 3, 6; 14:10, 11, 12). For more information on the various judgments, see The Doctrine of the Judgments.
God's omniscience gives us confidence in prayer knowing that He will not lose our prayers and that He always knows the best answer, even knowing our needs before we ask (Matt. 6:31, 32, 33, 34; Isa. 65:24).
Jonathan Edwards in his sermon "Man Naturally God's Enemy" observed that all men are naturally God's enemies because of five things: God's holiness, because we are not holy; God's omniscience, because he knows we are not holy; God's omnipotence, because this offends our desire for autonomy; God's mercy, because it is a holy mercy; and God's immutability (unchangeableness), because God will never be other than he is in these "offensive" attributes.
The Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics has an interesting note on God's omnipotence noting that "The quality of being all-powerful, normally understood as the power to perform any action that is logically possible and consistent with God’s essential nature. Omnipotence is one of the traditional attributes of God. Many attempts to analyze this property have been made, centering on the “paradox of the stone”—a vivid illustration of the logical difficulties raised by omnipotence. The paradox of the stone begins with the question “Can God create a stone that he cannot move?” If so, there is something God cannot do (move the stone). But if God cannot create such a stone, then there also appears to be something God cannot do. The source of the paradox is the question as to whether it is possible for an omnipotent being to limit itself.
Puritan John Owen: He sees the inside of all; and what men are there, that they are to him. He sees not as we see, but ponders the hidden man of the heart. No humble, broken, contrite soul, shall lose one sigh or groan after him, and communion with him; no pant of love or desire is hid from him,--he sees in secret; no glorious performance of the most glorious hypocrite will avail with him,--his eyes look through all, and the filth of their hearts lies naked before him."
Question: What does it mean that God is omniscient?
Answer: Omniscience is defined as “the state of having total knowledge, the quality of knowing everything.” For God to be sovereign over His creation of all things, whether visible or invisible, He has to be all-knowing. His omniscience is not restricted to any one person in the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all by nature omniscient.
God knows everything (1 John 3:20). He knows not only the minutest details of our lives but those of everything around us, for He mentions even knowing when a sparrow falls or when we lose a single hair (Matthew 10:29-30). Not only does God know everything that will occur until the end of history itself (Isaiah 46:9-10), but He also knows our very thoughts, even before we speak forth (Psalm 139:4). He knows our hearts from afar; He even saw us in the womb (Psalm 139:1-3, 15-16). Solomon expresses this truth perfectly when he says, “For you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind” (1 Kings 8:39).
Despite the condescension of the Son of God to empty Himself and make Himself nothing (Philippians 2:7), His omniscience is clearly seen in the New Testament writings. The first prayer of the apostles in Acts 1:24, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart,” implies Jesus’ omniscience, which is necessary if He is to be able to receive petitions and intercede at God’s right hand. On earth, Jesus’ omniscience is just as clear. In many Gospel accounts, He knew the thoughts of his audience (Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Mark 2:6-8; Luke 6:8). He knew about people’s lives before He had even met them. When He met the woman collecting water at the well at Sychar, He said to her, “The fact is you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (John 4:18). He also tells His disciples that their friend Lazarus was dead, although He was over 25 miles away from Lazarus’s home (John 11:11-15). He advised the disciples to go and make preparation for the Lord’s Supper, describing the person they were to meet and follow (Mark 14:13-15). Perhaps best of all, He knew Nathanael before ever meeting him, for He knew his heart (John 1:47-48).
Clearly, we observe Jesus’ omniscience on earth, but this is where the paradox begins as well. Jesus asks questions, which imply the absence of knowledge, although the Lord asks questions more for the benefit of His audience than for Himself. However, there is another facet regarding His omniscience that comes from the limitations of the human nature which He, as Son of God, assumed. We read that as a man He “grew in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52) and that He learned “obedience through suffering” (Hebrews 5:8). We also read that He did not know when the world would be brought to an end (Matthew 24:34-36). We, therefore, have to ask, why would the Son not know this, if He knew everything else? Rather than regarding this as just a human limitation, we should regard it as a controlled lack of knowledge. This was a self-willed act of humility in order to share fully in our nature (Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 2:17) and to be the Second Adam.
Finally, there is nothing too hard for an omniscient God, and it is on the basis of our faith in such a God that we can rest secure in Him, knowing that He promises never to fail us as long as we continue in Him. He has known us from eternity, even before creation. God knew you and me, where we would appear in the course of time, and whom we would interact with. He even foresaw our sin in all its ugliness and depravity, yet, in love, He set his seal upon us and drew us to that love in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-6). We shall see Him face to face, but our knowledge of Him will never be complete. Our wonder, love and praise of Him shall go on for all millennia as we bask in the rays of His heavenly love, learning and appreciating more and more of our omniscient God.
Spurgeon on Omniscience
Suppose for a moment that Jehovah could not see the works and know the thoughts of man. Would you then become more careless concerning him than you are now? I think not. In nine cases out of ten, and perhaps in a far larger and sadder proportion, the doctrine of divine omniscience, although it is believed, has no practical effect on our lives at all. The mass of mankind forget God.
Man is all outside to God. With heaven there are no secrets. That which is done in the private chamber of the heart is as public as the streets before the all-seeing eye.
Hide nothing from him, for you can hide nothing.
God knows us before we know anything.
Our eyes are weak; we cannot look through the darkness; but his eye, like an orb of fire, penetrateth the blackness; and readeth the thoughts of man, and seeth his acts when he thinks himself most concealed.
Remember that thought is speech before God.
The atheist cries, “No God”; and he who would deny to God universal knowledge is twin brother to him. As good have no God as a God who does not know.
We see things as they come one after the other in a procession, but God is in a position from which he sees all at once. A man traveling through England sees a portion at a time; but he that looks at a map sees the whole country present before him there and then. God sees everything as now. Nothing is past, nothing is future to him.
The omniscience of God is concentrated upon every single being, and yet it is not divided by the multiplicity of its objects; it is not the less upon any single one because there are so many.
What manner of persons ought we to be when we know that God is observing us, and noting every movement of our being!
He knows our likes and dislikes, our desires and our designs, our imaginations and our tendencies. He knows not only what we do, but what we would do if we could. He knows which way we should go if the restraints of society and the fear of consequences were removed; and that, perhaps, is a more important proof of character than the actions of which we are guilty. God knows what you think of, what you wish for, and what you are pleased with: he knows, not only the surface-tint of your character, but the secret heart and core of it. The Lord knows you altogether. Think of that. Does it give you any joy, this morning, to think that the Lord thus reads all the secrets of your bosom? Whether you rejoice therein or not, so it is and ever will be.
There is a great breadth to our conceit; but the things that we really know are very few, after all. He who is wisest will be the first to confess his own ignorance. Our faith in the superior knowledge of God is a great source of comfort to us. That he knows everything, is a sort of omnipresent covering to our naked ignorance.
God knows all that you and I may wish to know; and as he knows it, it is better than our knowing it.
Ray Pritchard's sermon - His Eye Is On the Sparrow: The Doctrine of God’s Omniscience
“If the Lord be with us, we have no cause of fear. His eye is upon us, His arm over us, His ear open to our prayer—His grace sufficient, His promise unchangeable.” John Newton
This week I was involved in three different discussions regarding one of the thorniest issues of Christian theology—predestination and free will. One took place on Tuesday, one on Wednesday and one on Thursday. The one on Thursday was particularly interesting because it was a debate between two men in a Bible study group. I was not really a participant; I was basically the referee. Both men energetically argued their positions. Perhaps I should say they passionately argued their positions. That word should not surprise you since no doctrine arouses quite as much passion as the doctrine of predestination and its relationship to human free will. If God knows all things, and if as the Westminster Confession of Faith says, he “ordains whatsoever comes to pass,” then are we not reduced to the level of robots? How can we have free will if God has already decided everything in advance? On the other hand, if we truly have free will, how can it be said that God ordains all things?
These are truly vexing questions that have troubled thoughtful Christians down through the centuries. At the end of the debate on Thursday I’m not sure any minds were changed. My own evaluation is that both of my friends were partly right and both were partly wrong. That shouldn’t surprise us because any time we discuss the ways of God we are certain to be partly right and partly wrong. At the very least, our knowledge will be very incomplete.
What God Knows
With that as background we turn to consider the doctrine of God’s omniscience. The word itself is a bit of a mystery, so let’s break it down. “Omni” means “all” and “science” in its original sense means “knowing.” So omniscience means “all-knowing.” In classical theology the doctrine of God’s omniscience means that God knows all things, past, present and future, real and potential, and he knows them all at the same time. He not only knows what was, and what is, he also knows what will be. More than that, he knows everything that could be but is not.
If we are looking for scriptural proof, it isn’t hard to find. In fact, we may confidently say that few doctrines are so explicitly taught as the doctrine of God’s omniscience. Consider the following statements of Scripture:
- 1 Samuel 2:3 … the Lord is a God who knows …
- 1 John 3:20 God … knows everything.
- Psalms 147:5 Great is our Lord … his understanding has no limit.
- Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
But that only scratches the surface. The Bible in many places sets forth the implications of God’s unlimited knowledge. Consider further the following statements:
- He numbers the hairs on your head. Luke 12:7
- He knows your words before you speak them. Psalm 139:4
- He knows your thoughts before you think them. Psalm 139:2
- He knows your prayers before you pray them. Matthew 6:8
- He knows when you get up in the morning and when you go to bed at night. Psalm 139:2-3
- He knows everything you are going to do tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and every moment of every day until the moment of your death. Psalm 139:16
- He records every word you say and will some day call you to account for every careless, thoughtless, unkind and unchristian comment. Matthew 12:36
- He sees everything you do in secret—both the good and the bad. Matthew 6:4
- He hears every whispered word and will one day shout them from the housetops. Luke 12:3
No wonder David exclaimed as he pondered how much God knew about him, “You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:5). He felt trapped by God’s knowledge of his every word and deed.
Little Ole Me and Great Big God
This is at the heart of our problem with predestination and free will. To speak of God knowing every detail of our lives is bad enough, but then to add that somehow he predestines everything that happens to us, that thought is so overwhelming as to be spiritually claustrophobic.
This week someone in our congregation sent me a very thoughtful e-mail on this subject. Listen to how she phrases it:
I have always had difficulty accepting that predestination within God’s plan can occur simultaneously with free will that I believe God has granted to us. This seems paradoxical to me.
If everything that occurs in the universe is in accordance with God’s plan, how can we have free will? Also, if my life is predestined to be a certain way, why should I take responsibility for my actions, choices, thoughts, beliefs … anything?
And all this talk about how God does everything and I can do nothing has left me feeling somewhat trivialized. What motivation do I have to try?
I believe in a good, all-knowing, powerful, but infinitely loving God. I believe he does care about me, my questions, my feelings, my desire to do good things. But, I always have difficulty reconciling the little ole me with that great big God.
I love the last sentence because it expresses the way a lot of people feel when they think about who we are versus who God is. How do you reconcile “little ole me with that great big God?” The answer of course is, you don’t. He’s God and you’re not. If you feel small and tiny and even unworthy in his presence, then you have grasped one important fact about who God is.
God’s Knowledge and Ours
Let’s move on to consider God’s knowledge and ours. There are some important contrasts we need to think about. First, God’s knowledge is independent, ours is dependent. No one has ever taught God anything because his knowledge is complete from the beginning. But our knowledge is dependent in that we must learn what we know.
Second, God’s knowledge is infinite, our is partial. He knows everything that could be known, we know a tiny fragment of what could be known. When I was preaching in Kentucky several years ago, I heard a Southern gospel song on the radio. It had a most unusual title: “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God?” That sounds odd at first because things occur to us all the time, but it’s true: Nothing has ever “occurred” to God. He never wakes up and says, “A great idea just occurred to me.” In the first place, he never sleeps, therefore he never wakes up. In the second place, all his ideas are great. In the third place, nothing ever occurs to him. He knows all the great ideas all the time from the beginning of time.
Third, God knows us better than we know ourselves. Specifically, he knows what is in the human heart. That is why David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23). God knows things about us we don’t know about ourselves. Psalm 19:12 says, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” Psalm 90:8 declares, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.”
Writing over 100 years ago, the great London preacher Charles Spurgeon used a powerful word to describe God’s knowledge of our hearts. He said that everything in the heart is “transparent” to God. Nothing is hidden, everything is clearly seen.
Again, consider the words of God: “The Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
All these truths should give us pause the next time we are tempted to think that no one can hear what we are saying or no one knows what we are thinking. How wrong we are! One day you will give account for every careless word and every unspoken thought. Not only that, you will answer for the motives behind your thoughts.
Before you speak, think. Before you think, remember. It is said that Jewish men wear the traditional yarmulke on their heads because it represents the hand of God pressing down on them. It reminds the wearer that he always lives in the presence of God.
Implications of Omniscience
It has been well said that God’s omniscience is a comfort to believers and a terror to unbelievers. The comfort is easy to see. If he truly knows all things and if he ordains all things, then everything that happens to me or to those I love must happen as part of his plan. F. B. Meyer has written, “It is in proportion as we see God’s will in the various events of life and surrender ourselves either to bear it or do it, that we shall find earth’s bitter circumstances becoming sweet and its hard things easy.”
I received a message this week from someone who had never written me before. Suffice it to say that this person’s family is going through a terribly difficult time and there is no end in sight. The trial may continue for some time to come. This is what she had to say:
I have known the truth of Romans 8:28 in my head for many years, but only over the last month have the words had a meaning for my heart. I am convinced that this whole situation has a purpose, but I am still struggling with the “What?” Without the promises of God, I am sure that I would be unable to carry on, going to work and supporting my kids.
If this letter sounds disjointed, it is just how my thoughts have been over the past several weeks. But I have continued to hold on to something you wrote in your book…(to paraphrase) Don’t worry about 2 or 3 weeks from now, because God has already been there. I know that he continues to hold our entire family in the palm of His hand and that He is directing this to its own end and to His glory. I know that since He cares for the sparrows, He surely is caring for us.
That’s a wonderful statement by a believer who, though struggling to understand her own situation, has rested her faith on the fact of God’s sovereignty over the details of life. Somewhere this week I ran across a wonderful statement of what sovereignty really means. God’s sovereignty means “He knows what He is doing, and He is doing it.” That sums it up, doesn’t it?
Many of you recognize the name Andrew Murray. Although he lived almost 100 years ago, many of his books are still in print, including the classic With Christ in the School of Prayer. During a low period in his own life, he wrote the following words: “He brought me here. He will keep me here. He will make this trial a blessing. He will bring me out again. Therefore, I am here by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time.”
We often hear it said that “disappointment is His appointment.” But that can only be true if God is in charge of the details of life.
Every Decision Is a Free Choice
That leads me to give you my personal understanding of predestination and free will. I confess that I struggled with this whole question for many years, and did my share of arguing late into the night. Eventually I came to an understanding that has freed me from the necessity to argue anymore. It basically consists of three points. First, from our human standpoint, we are completely free. When you wake up in the morning, you have a choice to get out of bed or to stay in bed. You can put on a red dress or a blue one. When you get in your car, you are free to drive to work or you can drive to St. Louis if you like. Every decision you make is a free choice. By that I simply mean that you do not feel constrained by some divine power that forces you to eat at Wendy’s instead of McDonald’s. As far as you are concerned, you “pay your money and you make your choices.”
That leads to the second point: God sees and knows everything you do. He hears everything you say. He will someday judge you for all of it. Nothing escapes him. Everything is transparent before his eyes. Yes, you have free will but you are 100% responsible for every choice you make—that includes the choices you make in the words you say and the thoughts you think. He won’t just judge the “big” things; he’s going to judge the “little” ones, too.
What, then, is predestination? That’s the third point. Predestination simply means that God works in, with, through, and sometimes in spite of your decisions to accomplish His will for your life. He controls both the circumstances, the environment, and the thoughts of your heart. Everything that happens to you is part of his plan for your life. There are no accidents with God. He doesn’t roll dice.
That’s why Joseph could say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, KJV). Even the evil that men do serves his purposes, often in ways we cannot see and would not understand even if he told us.
The theologians use an interesting phrase to describe this truth. They say that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass in the sense that he “participates” in every human decision. Yet he does so without being the author of sin. Precisely how this can be is a mystery our small minds simply cannot fathom. No one is totally “free” from God. That includes both the missionary laboring in Albania and the serial killer who brutalizes young women. The choices of both are “free” from the human point of view, yet God works in both instances to accomplish his will. And both will be judged—one to be rewarded for sacrificial service, the other to be punished for unspeakable crimes.
Even as I write the last paragraph I am deeply conscious that we are all much more comfortable with the notion of God working through the good that people do. How God works through evil stretches the mind and challenges the heart. Yet both sides of this question are true and both must be believed if we are to be truly biblical in our thinking.
Salvation is of the Lord
Let’s apply this truth of free will and predestination to your salvation. Several years ago I spent an hour with two friends who couldn’t believe in predestination. So I asked them if they freely chose to come to Christ. Yes, they said. Did you feel pressured or coerced by God? No, not at all. Was it a free choice to accept Christ? Yes, absolutely. When I got them far enough out on a limb, I sawed it off behind them. I asked a very simple question: As you look back now, are you conscious that Someone was drawing you to Jesus? They paused for a moment and both answered yes. That Someone is the Holy Spirit who draws unbelievers to Christ (see John 16:8-11).
What does it mean? When you came to Christ, you made a decision of your will. You chose him. Predestination simply means, God chose you first and if he didn’t choose you first, you would never have chosen him. To say it another way, God so arranged the circumstances that when the moment was right, my two friends literally had no other choice but to freely choose Jesus. They weren’t aware of it at the time, but in looking back, they could see the invisible hand of God drawing them to Christ.
So it is for all of us. Salvation is of the Lord. It is a work of God from beginning to end. Our choice is a free choice, but it is made possible only by God’s Spirit enabling us to believe and be saved.
Someone has illustrated the truth this way. Think of the gate of heaven, and above it is a large sign, “Whosoever will may come.” As you pass through the gate, you look back and from the inside the sign reads, “Chosen from the foundation of the world.”
Or to say it yet another way: “He doesn’t make you go against your will, he just makes you willing to go.” I have often said that God will not force anyone to believe. He is a perfect gentleman. But that is only part of the story. When the moment comes, God so arranges the circumstances that you are irresistibly drawn to Jesus Christ. He gives you a new heart and a new desire and from that new desire you freely choose the Lord.
Bad News for Sinners
One final word and I am done. This doctrine of God’s omniscience should strike terror into the heart of every unbeliever. Jesus said, “Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36). God’s omniscience is the basis of his judgment. This is not good news for sinners.
We cannot hide anything. He knows all our works and thoughts and bring them all into judgment. The wicked man says, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees” (Psalm 10:11). Wrong!
Who knows? God knows!
Job 34:21 “His eyes are on the ways of men; he sees their every step.
Jeremiah 16:17 “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.”
Omniscience means that God will take into account every word and every deed. Nothing will escape his penetrating gaze in the last great day. Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
You can sin and go to Hell if you desire. No one is going to fool God. No one is going to escape judgment.
Come, Ye Sinners
But here is the good news for sinners. No one has to go to Hell. If you go, it won’t be because you were predestined for Hell. It will be because you rejected God’s gift of salvation.
Earlier I said that no one can be saved unless God calls him. That thought may trouble you, but it shouldn’t. How do you know if God is calling you? If you have the slightest desire, then God is calling you. If you want to be saved, then God is calling you. It truly is as simple as that.
If God is calling you, then come running to the Cross of Christ. Fling yourself upon God’s mercy. Hold fast to the bloody Cross as your only hope. If you want to be saved, you can be saved and you will be saved. That is the promise of God to you. No one will ever be lost who truly wanted to be saved. No one will be in hell who truly wanted to go to heaven by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.
“Whosoever will may come” is still the gospel message. When we finally get to heaven, we will look back and discover that we were indeed “chosen from the foundation of the world.” It’s true that I don’t claim to understand it all, but that’s okay, because I’m just little ole me and he’s a great big God.
Come, Ye Sinners
Over 235 years ago Joseph Hart wrote one of the grandest gospel hymns ever composed: Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy. It’s set to a musical style that is sometimes called Sacred Harp music. Every verse contains wonderful truth, but none is greater than the third verse:
Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requireth, is to feel your need of him.
But listen to the fourth verse:
Come ye weary, heavy laden, lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better, you will never at all.
And the chorus is the sinner’s answer to the gospel invitation:
I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in his arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior, O, there are ten thousand charms.
If you are still without Christ may he make you restless in your heart until you find your rest in him. If you are a believer, may you find comfort and joy in believing both now and in the days to come. Amen.
OMNISCIENCE - om - nish´ens : The term does not occur in Scripture, either in its nominal or in its adjectival form.
1. Words and Usage:
In the Old Testament it is expressed in connection with such words as דּעת , da‛ath , בּינה , bı̄nāh , תּבוּנה , tebhūnāh , חכמה , ḥokhmāh ; also "seeing" and "hearing," "the eye" and "the ear" occur as figures for the knowledge of God, as "arm," "hand," "finger" serve to express His power. In the New Testament are found γινώσκειν , ginṓskein , γνῶσις , gnṓsis , εἰδέναι , eidénai , σοφία , sophı́a , in the same connections.
2. Tacit Assumption and Explicit Affirmation:
Scripture everywhere teaches the absolute universality of the divine knowledge. In the historical books, although there is no abstract formula, and occasional anthropomorphic references to God'staking knowledge of things occur (Genesis 11:5 ; Genesis 18:21 ; Deuteronomy 8:3 ), none the less the principle is everywhere presupposed in what is related about God's cognizance of the doings of man, about the hearing of prayer, the disclosing of the future (1 Samuel 16:7 ; 1 Samuel 23:9-12 ; 1 Kings 8:39 ; 2 Chronicles 16:9 ). Explicit affirmation of the principle is made in the Psalter, the Prophets, the ḥokhmāh literature and in the New Testament. This is due to the increased internalizing of religion, by which its hidden side, to which the divine omniscience corresponds, receives greater emphasis (Job 26:6 ; Job 28:24 ; Job 34:22 ; Psalm 139:12 ; Psalm 147:4 ; Proverbs 15:3 , Proverbs 15:11 ; Isaiah 40:26 ; Acts 1:24 ; Hebrews 4:13 ; Revelation 2:23 ).
3. Extends to All Spheres:
This absolute universality is affirmed with reference to the various categories that comprise within themselves all that is possible or actual. It extends to God's own being, as well as to what exists outside of Him in the created world. God has perfect possession in consciousness of His own being. The unconscious finds no place in Him (Acts 15:18 ; 1 John 1:5 ). Next to Himself God knows the world in its totality. This knowledge extends to small as well as to great affairs (Matthew 6:8 , Matthew 6:32 ; Matthew 10:30 ); to the hidden heart and mind of man as well as to that which is open and manifest (Job 11:11 ; Job 34:21 , Job 34:23 ; Psalm 14:2 ; Psalm 17:2 ff; Psalm 33:13-18 ; Psalm 102:19 f; Psalm 139:1-4 ; Proverbs 5:21 ; Proverbs 15:3 ; Isaiah 29:15 ; Jeremiah 17:10 ; Amos 4:13 ; Luke 16:15 ; Acts 1:24 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:4 ; Hebrews 4:13 ; Revelation 2:23 ). It extends to all the divisions of time, the past, present and future alike (Job 14:17 ; Psalm 56:8 ; Isaiah 41:22-24 ; Isaiah 44:6-8 ; Jeremiah 1:5 ; Hosea 13:12 ; Malachi 3:16 ). It embraces that which is contingent from the human viewpoint as well as that which is certain (1 Samuel 23:9-12 ; Matthew 11:22 , Matthew 11:23 ).
4. Mode of the Divine Knowledge:
Scripture brings God's knowledge into connection with His omnipresence. Psalm 139 is the clearest expression of this. Omniscience is the omnipresence of cognition ( Jeremiah 23:23 ff). It is also closely related to God's eternity, for the latter makes Him in His knowledge independent of the limitations of time ( Isaiah 43:8-12 ). God's creative relation to all that exists is represented as underlying His omniscience (Psalm 33:15 ; Psalm 97:9 ; Psalm 139:13 ; Isaiah 29:15 ). His all-comprehensive purpose forms the basis of His knowledge of all events and developments (Isaiah 41:22-27 ; Amos 3:7 ).
This, however, does not mean that God's knowledge of things is identical with His creation of them, as has been suggested by Augustine and others. The act of creation, while necessarily connected with the knowledge of that which is to be actual, is not identical with such knowledge or with the purpose on which such knowledge rests, for in God, as well as in man, the intellect and the will are distinct faculties. In the last analysis, God's knowledge of the world has its source in His self-knowledge. The world is a revelation of God. All that is actual or possible in it therefore is a reflection in created form of what exists uncreated in God, and thus the knowledge of the one becomes a reproduction of the knowledge of the other (Acts 17:27 ; Romans 1:20 ). The divine knowledge of the world also partakes of the quality of the divine self-knowledge in this respect, that it is never dormant. God does not depend for embracing the multitude and complexity of the existing world on such mental processes as abstraction and generalization.
The Bible nowhere represents Him as attaining to knowledge by reasoning, but everywhere as simply knowing. From what has been said about the immanent sources of the divine knowledge, it follows that the latter is not a posteriori derived from its objects, as all human knowledge based on experience is, but is exercised without receptivity or dependence. In knowing, as well as in all other activities of His nature, God is sovereign and self-sufficient. In cognizing the reality of all things He needs not wait upon the things, but draws His knowledge directly from the basis of reality as it lies in Himself. While the two are thus closely connected it is nevertheless of importance to distinguish between God's knowledge of Himself and God's knowledge of the world, and also between His knowledge of the actual and His knowledge of the possible. These distinctions mark off theistic conception of omniscience from the pantheistic idea regarding it. God is not bound up in His life with the world in such a sense as to have no scope of activity beyond it.
5. God's Omniscience and Human Freewill:
Since Scripture includes in the objects of the divine knowledge also the issue of the exercise of freewill on the part of man, the problem arises, how the contingent character of such decisions and the certainty of the divine knowledge can coexist. It is true that the knowledge of God and the purposing will of God are distinct, and that not the former but the latter determines the certainty of the outcome. Consequently the divine omniscience in such cases adds or detracts nothing in regard to the certainty of the event. God's omniscience does not produce but presupposes the certainty by which the problem is raised. At the same time, precisely because omniscience presupposes certainty, it appears to exclude every conception of contingency in the free acts of man, such as would render the latter in their very essence undetermined. The knowledge of the issue must have a fixed point of certainty to terminate upon, if it is to be knowledge at all. Those who make the essence of freedom absolute indeterminateness must, therefore, exempt this class of events from the scope of the divine omniscience. But this is contrary to all the testimony of Scripture, which distinctly makes God's absolute knowledge extend to such acts (Acts 2:23 ). It has been attempted to construe a peculiar form of the divine knowledge, which would relate to this class of acts specifically, the so-called scientia media , to be distinguished from the scientia necessaria , which has for its object God Himself, and the scientia libera which terminates upon the certainties of the world outside of God, as determined by His freewill. This scientia media would then be based on God's foresight of the outcome of the free choice of man. It would involve a knowledge of receptivity, a contribution to the sum total of what God knows derived from observation on His part of the world-process. That is to say, it would be knowledge a posteriori in essence, although not in point of time. It is, however, difficult to see how such a knowledge can be possible in God, when the outcome is psychologically undetermined and undeterminable. The knowledge could originate no sooner than the determination originates through the free decision of man. It would, therefore, necessarily become an a posteriori knowledge in time as well as in essence. The appeal to God's eternity as bringing Him equally near to the future as to the present and enabling Him to see the future decisions of man's free will as though they were present cannot remove this difficulty, for when once the observation and knowledge of God are made dependent on any temporal issue, the divine eternity itself is thereby virtually denied. Nothing remains but to recognize that God's eternal knowledge of the outcome of the freewill choices of man implies that there enters into these choices, notwithstanding their free character, an element of predetermination, to which the knowledge of God can attach itself.
6. Religious Importance:
The divine omniscience is most important for the religious life. The very essence of religion as communion with God depends on His all-comprehensive cognizance of the life of man at every moment. Hence, it is characteristic of the irreligious to deny the omniscience of God (Psalm 10:11 , Psalm 10:12 ; Psalm 94:7-9 ; Isaiah 29:15 ; Jeremiah 23:23 ; Ezekiel 8:12 ; Ezekiel 9:9 ). Especially along three lines this fundamental religious importance reveals itself: (a ) it lends support and comfort when the pious suffer from the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of men; (b ) it acts as a deterrent to those tempted by sin, especially secret sin, and becomes a judging principle to all hypocrisy and false security; (c ) it furnishes the source from which man's desire for self-knowledge can obtain satisfaction (Psalm 19:12 ; Psalm 51:6 ; Psalm 139:23 , Psalm 139:24 ).
Literature. Oehler, Theologie des AT3 , 876; Riehm, Alttestamentliche Theologie , 263; Dillmann, Handbuch der alttestamentlichen Theologie , 249; Davidson, Old Testament Theology , 180 if.
- Charles Buck Dictionary Omniscience of God
- CARM Theological Dictionary Omniscience
- Spurgeon's Illustration Collection Omniscience
- Holman Bible Dictionary Omniscience
- Hastings' Dictionary of the NT Omniscience
- Webster Dictionary Omniscient
- Watson's Theological Dictionary Omniscience
- International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Omniscience
- McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia Omniscience
- The Jewish Encyclopedia Omniscience of God
Proverbs 15:3 says that
The eyes of JEHOVAH are in every place, watching the evil and the good.
Secret sins, services, and sorrows, are all under God's eye (see commentary on Proverbs 5:21). This speaks comfort to saints, and terror to sinners. The great attribute of OMNISCIENCE then is not so much meant to be a statement of theology but an incentive for conduct.
Is Someone Watching and Listening? - In this age of electronics, we have all become aware of bugging devices. A person's office, hotel room, or telephone can be monitored so that every sound is picked up. This is accomplished through highly sensitive microphones that are so small they can easily be hidden. Heads of state, government officials, and business people in strategic positions must be exceedingly careful of what they say, especially when entering a strange setting. The awareness that they might be overheard is sure to make them think twice before they speak. Did you ever stop to think that God sees everything we do and hears everything we say every moment of the day? Heb 4:13 says that "all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." This truth is both comforting and sobering–comforting because God stands ready to deliver us when we are in trouble (Ps 33:18,19 Spurgeon), and sobering because "the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good" (Pr 15:3). What a profound effect this should have on the way we live! The next time you are tempted or in trouble, remember that God is watching and listening." –R W DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
There is no time of day or night,
No place on land or sea
That God, whose eye is never dim,
Does not see you and me.
To know that our OMNISCIENT God sees us brings both conviction & comfort.
- The Knowledge of God by A. W. Pink
- The Divine Omniscience by A.W. Tozer
- Omniscience by C. H. Spurgeon (Genesis 16:13), on El Roi, the God Who Sees. (see El Roi in Name of the LORD is a Strong Tower)
- What God Is Like by J. Hampton Keathley III
- His Eye Is On the Sparrow: The Doctrine of God's Omniscience - Psalm 145:4, 5 by Ray Pritchard (recommended)
- Of the Omniscience of God by John Gill
- The Omniscience of God by Thomas Watson (scroll down)
- Perfect in Knowledge from by Lehman Strauss
- The Omniscience Of God by David Legge
John 2:24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men,
John 16:30 “Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.”
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.
Acts 1:24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen
Job 26:6 “Naked is Sheol before Him, And Abaddon has no covering.
Job 31:4 “Does He not see my ways And number all my steps?
Job 34:21 “For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, And He sees all his steps.
Psalm 147:5 Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.
Hebrews 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.
1 John 3:20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.