The Omnipotence of God
Every theologian is sooner or later asked a question by a student that is posed as an impossible nut to crack. The old query is this: Can God make a rock so big that He cannot move it? At first glance this question seems to impale the theologian on the horns of an unsolvable dilemma. If we answer yes, then we are saying that there is something God cannot do; He cannot move the rock. If we answer no, then we are saying that God cannot build such a rock. Either way we answer we are forced to place limits on God’s power.
This problem resembles the other teaser: What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? We can conceive of an irresistible force. We can likewise conceive of an immovable object. What we cannot conceive of is the coexistence of the two. If an irresistible force ever met an immovable object and the object moved, it could no longer properly be called immovable. If the object did not move, then our “irresistible” force could no longer properly be called irresistible. We see, then, that reality cannot contain both—an irresistible force and an immovable object.
Meanwhile, back to the immovable rock. The dilemma posed here (as in the case of the irresistible force) is a false dilemma. It is false because it is erected on a false premise. It assumes that “omnipotence” means that God can do anything. Yet, as a theological term, omnipotence does not mean that God can do anything. The Bible indicates several things that God cannot do. He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). He cannot die. He cannot be eternal and created. He cannot act against His nature. He cannot be God and not be God at the same time and in the same respect.
What omnipotence does mean is that God holds all power over His creation. No part of creation stands outside the scope of His sovereign control. Therefore, there is a correct answer to the dilemma of the rock. The nut can be cracked. The answer is no. God cannot build a rock so big that He could not move it. Why? If God ever built such a rock He would be creating something over which He had no power. He would be destroying His own omnipotence. God cannot stop being God; He cannot not be omnipotent.
When the Virgin Mary was puzzled by Gabriel’s announcement to her of the conception of Jesus in her womb, the angel said to her: “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Here the angel was reminding Mary of God’s omnipotence. I guess even angels are capable of using hyperbole. Narrowly considered, the angel expressed bad theology. But the broader biblical understanding points to the meaning that God’s power reaches far beyond that of the creature. What may be impossible for us is possible with Him.
To say that nothing is impossible with God means that He can do whatever He wills to do. His power is not limited by finite limitations. Nothing or “no thing” can restrict His power. Yet His power is still restricted by what and who He is. Sin is impossible for Him because one cannot sin without willing to sin. God cannot commit sin because He never wills it. Job got to the heart of this matter when he said: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (Job 42:2).
For the Christian, God’s omnipotence is a great source of comfort. We know that the same power God displayed in creating the universe is at His disposal to assure our salvation. He showed that power in the Exodus from Egypt. He displayed His power over death in the resurrection of Christ. We know that no part of creation can frustrate His plans for the future. There are no maverick molecules loose in the universe that could possibly disrupt His plans. Though powers and forces of this world threaten to undo, we have no fear. We can rest in the knowledge that nothing can withstand the power of God. He is the One who is almighty.
- Omnipotence does not mean that God can do anything. He cannot act against His nature.
- Omnipotence refers to God’s sovereign power, authority, and control over the created order.
- Omnipotence, though a threat to the wicked, is a source of comfort to the believer.
- The same power God exhibited in creation is displayed in our redemption.
- Nothing in the universe can thwart or frustrate God’s plans.