We hear this phrase all the time. We hear pastors, professors, parents, and other Christians confidently state that God is omnipotent or all-powerful. Even the first and second grade girls that Erica and I teach know this and say this. It sounds great and we love to say it because it makes us sound smart. But do we really know what it means? Does the Bible actually teach that God is omnipotent or all-powerful? Does this mean that God can do absolutely anything? Or is God limited in some ways? If so, is he truly full of glory and worthy of eternal worship? I will set forth in this post to answer a few of these questions and hopefully draw conclusions on the following matters:
- What does the Bible mean by saying God is omnipotent?
- If God is omnipotent, can he create a stone that he cannot lift?
- If God is omnipotent, can God sin?
I pray my answers are concise and helpful.
What is Biblical Omnipotence?
After establishing the existence of God, some attributes of God need to be described and explained. One attribute that brings about some confusion, controversy, and misunderstanding is omnipotence. The Bible speaks clearly of God’s omnipotence, yet questions still arise as to what omnipotence actually entails and means. A simple and quick glance at God’s omnipotence leads to incorrect conclusions, but these objections to this attribute of God can be eliminated when thought through.
Firstly, the only proper place to go to define God’s character or attributes would be where he has revealed himself. He has revealed himself in his Word and most clearly in the person Jesus Christ. God is defined in Scripture as being an omnipotent being, meaning that he can do anything and everything that is consistent with his will and nature. It is important to quickly assert then that God cannot do anything that is contrary to his nature. This however is not evidence of impotence. This will be examined later. According to the witness of Scripture to God’s nature, he can be defined as omnipotent. The whole of Scripture within the plotline of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation describes God as being omnipotent. One reference from Scripture which attests to God’s omnipotence can be found in the book of Job: “Then Job answered the LORD and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted’” (Job 42:1-2). Job concludes after all of his experiences with God and his sovereignty vis-à-vis his suffering that God “can do all things.” Other similar references speaking to God’s omnipotence include Psalm 24:8, Isaiah 55:11, Jeremiah 32:17-19, Mark 10:27, Luke 1:37 and others. The Bible is clear that God can do all that he pleases, his purposes will be accomplished, and that he can do all things.
The important thing to notice and understand about God’s omnipotence is that God can do all things consistent with his nature and will. So what is not consistent with his will? There are certain things that God cannot do, but these things do not negate his omnipotence. For example, God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), break his promises (Hebrews 6:17-18), sin, or do the logically impossible since logic is built into God’s nature. Therefore, God can do all that he chooses to do since he is all-wise and good. God, being an all-wise and free being, does not have to always use his power. He is only necessitated to act when he promises to do something, which will coincide both with his will and nature.
The Dilemma of the Stone
The skeptic will then turn to Christians who attest to God’s omnipotence and challenge this claim by asking if God can sin or do what is contradictory since he is omnipotent. However, in the Christian definition of omnipotence, God can do all things that are consistent with his will and nature. God cannot do what is illogical since logic itself is built into his very nature. In answering the age-old question, “Can God create a stone in which he cannot lift?” the Christian can faithfully respond that this claim does not deny omnipotence. The answer a Christian must give is that God cannot create a stone that he cannot lift. However, all this says is that God can create a stone that he can lift. The statement itself attests to his omnipotence rather than denying it. Laws of logic are laws of logic because they reflect the very mind of God, so in doing the contradictory such as making round squares, God cannot do because it is not within his nature to do.
Can God Sin?
Now to the question of whether God can sin or not. It is the common attack by skeptics that since God can do everything (since God is omnipotent), this must include the ability to sin. How does the Christian answer this dangerous claim that we know is not true? How do we reconcile omnipotence with sinlessness?
In terms of ability (sheer capacity) to sin, God has that. He has the capacity to do absolutely anything imaginable. However, God has a character that would and could never bring about sin. He does not have the determination or the moral capacity to sin since it is directly contrary to his character, nature, and will. So, God’s lack of ability to sin is actual the positive characteristic of his goodness. God’s lack of determination and moral capacity to sin is not a flaw or impotence, but rather is evidence of a great strength and good omnipotence. God would be impotent as we are if he sinned.
In closing, God is indeed omnipotent. God can do anything and everything that is consistent with his will and nature. Anything that is contrary to God’s nature and will is something that God cannot do, but this fact exalts the glory of God and does not challenge the power of God. God would not be omnipotent if he were illogical, nor would he be omnipotent if he were sinful. May we ever exalt and praise the God of eternal power, honor, and glory who is altogether good, righteous, and holy!
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you… (Mark 14:36)
Is anything too hard for the LORD? (Genesis 18:14)
Nothing is too hard for you (Jeremiah 32:17)
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27)
For nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37)