Today we’re thinking about God’s power which the Shorter Catechism says is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. When we say God’s power is infinite, we mean it’s not restricted or limited in any way. He is omnipotent. That is, he is all-powerful. There is nothing he cannot do and nothing is too hard for him. When we say God’s power is eternal we mean it’s without beginning and it’s without end. He has always been all-powerful and he will always be all-powerful. And his power is unchangeable which means it does not increase or diminish over time. When we’re born, we’re very weak and can do very little for ourselves. We rely on our parents to lift us and to feed us and to clothe us. As we get older, we get stronger, until we reach that point in our lives when we start to decline. However, God is not like us, because his strength does not change one way or the other. So, God’s power is infinite and eternal and unchangeable. And, of course, his power is infinite and eternal and unchangeable because he is infinite and eternal and unchangeable. His power is not something which is separate from him and which he happens to possess, but it’s what he is. By nature he is all-powerful.
And since he’s all-powerful, then he’s able to do all that he pleases. He’s able to do all that he wants or wills. Everything is subject to his power and control so that he powerfully directs all his creatures and all of their actions. There is nothing that is outside of his control. And no one is able to thwart his plans and nothing is too hard for him.
Our experience is very different. When I’m walking my dog, she doesn’t always come when I call. I can lose control of myself and say and do things which I don’t want to do. Yvonne plants a flower in the garden, but it might not grow the way she wants. I’m hoping for a dry day, so I can cut the lawn, but it rains and my plan is ruined. When I’m driving to Bangor to see my parents, I’m hoping for green lights but every light is red. Every day we face frustrations and set backs, as well as troubles and trials, because we’re not all-powerful and things don’t happen the way we want them to and there are many things which are outside of our control. But nothing is too hard for the Lord and everything is under his power and control.
The Bible testifies to God’s power in many places and in many ways. We see it in some of his names, which speak to us of his power. For instance, in Genesis 17 he appeared to Abram and he referred to himself as El Shaddai or God Almighty. In Genesis 49 he is described as ‘the Mighty One of Jacob’ and in Isaiah 1 he is known as ‘the Mighty One of Israel’. In Deuteronomy 7 he is described as a great and awesome God. He is great and awesome because of his power. And in Revelation 19:6 he is called ‘the Almighty’. And, of course, being Lord he rules over all that he has made.
So, his names speak to us of his power. But then, the Scriptures also describe his power in various ways. The following is only a sample. In Genesis 18, after Sarah laughed when she heard she would bear a son in her old age, the Lord said to Abraham:
Is anything too hard for the Lord?
Job said of him in Job 42:
I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
In Psalm 115 the psalmist declares that our God is in the heavens and he does all that he pleases. In Psalm 135 the psalmist says:
Whatever the LORD pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.
Proverbs 21 tells us that he can turn the king’s heart in whichever way he wills. And in the same chapter we’re told that no wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the LORD. There’s nothing that can succeed against him. Jeremiah prayed to the Lord in Jeremiah 32 and said:
It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.
And later in the same chapter, the Lord said about himself:
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
In Matthew 19, the Lord Jesus said that with God all things are possible. When the angel announced to Mary in Luke 1 that she would bear a son when she was a virgin, the angel replied:
[N]othing will be impossible with God.
In Ephesians 1 Paul wrote about the immeasurable greatness of God’s power and about the working of his great might when he raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. And in Romans 8, Paul teaches us that God works all things together for good. He’s able to work all things together, including sinful and wicked things and our sorrow and suffering. Because of his great power, he’s able to turn those things to our advantage. And so, the consistent witness of the Bible is that God can do all things and nothing is too hard for him.
So, that’s what the Bible says about him. And when we think about what God has done — when we think about his works of creation and providence and salvation — we see that the things he has done also display his great power. And so, he displayed his power in creation, because in the beginning he made all things from nothing by his powerful word. He displays his power in his works of providence, because he now sustains all things by his powerful word. And in the past, he displayed his great power when he saved the Israelites from Egypt and when he brought them safely through the Red Sea. He displayed his great power when he rescued Daniel’s three friends from the fiery furnace and when he rescued Daniel from the lions. And when it was time for the Saviour to come into the world to save us from our sin and misery, he was conceived in Mary’s womb by the power of the Most High God; and he was raised from the dead by the working of God’s great power. And the gospel message is the power of God for salvation. And though the preaching of the cross seems foolish and weak to an unbelieving world, it is in fact the wisdom and power of God, because God uses that foolish and weak message to convince and convert his people to faith in Christ.
Beyond our Knowing
And so, we believe that God is all-powerful and he can do all that he wants. Now, while we say God is all-powerful or omnipotent, we never actually see all of God’s power. How could we see all of God’s power since his power is infinite? And that’s the point Job is making in Job 26 where he describes God’s power displayed in the creation and how he spreads out the skies and he suspends the earth over nothing and he wraps up the waters and he covers the face of the moon and he marks out the horizon and so on. And then, at the end, Job says that these things which we see and which display God’s power to us are but the outer fringe of his works. It’s just a portion of what he can do. It’s just a sample of his great power. In fact, what we hear of him and his power is only a faint whisper compared to the full thunder of his power. Think of an iceberg and how we only see the tip of the iceberg and hidden under the water, there’s much, much more. We only see the tip of God’s power and he has so much more power in reserve which we never see. And so, Paul in Ephesians 3 writes about how God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. His power is beyond our imagination.
And his power is never exhausted. When he made the heavens and the earth and all that they contain, he could have made more stars if he wanted to. He could have made more types of birds and fish and animals if he wanted to. He could have made more types of flower if he wanted to. It wasn’t as if he made a certain number of these things and then he had to stop because he was tired and because he’d exhausted himself. That’s what happens to us when we make things. After a while, we’re tired and we have to stop. But God could have gone on if he wanted to, because his power is not restricted or limited in any way and it’s therefore never exhausted.
God’s Nature and Will
However, the theologians are careful to say that there are some things God cannot do. He cannot do things that make no sense. For instance, he cannot make a round square or a triangle with four corners. He cannot do anything immoral. For instance, he cannot lie or steal or covet. Nor can he change his divine attributes or his eternal plan. He cannot do any of these things which I’ve mentioned, because doing any of these things would be to go against his nature. He is not an irrational, illogical God, but a God of truth and faithfulness and wisdom and knowledge. He is not a wicked God, but a God of righteousness and holiness and goodness. He cannot change his attributes, because by nature he is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. He cannot change his eternal plan, because it too is unchangeable like him. And the theologians refer to other things which he cannot do. But not being able to do these things is not a weakness, because part of God’s glory is that he is a God of wisdom, not nonsense, and he’s good, not wicked, and he’s immutable, not mutable.
And the theologians, when discussing God’s power, normally bring up his will. You see, there are things God could do, but he did not do. As I said earlier, he could have made more stars and more kinds of birds and fish and animals. He could have done that, but he didn’t. And he didn’t do those things, not because he couldn’t do them, but because he did not want to do them. Those things don’t fit in with his will.
So, God is all-powerful. There’s nothing he cannot do. However, he only does those things which are in accordance with his nature. And he only does those things which are in accordance with his will.
And that means his power is not a brute force which is uncontrollable, but it’s guided by his nature — which includes his wisdom and holiness and justice and goodness and truth — and it’s guided by his will. Think of a powerful car like a Ferrari. If it’s driven by an inexperienced driver, anything can happen. The driver steps on the accelerator too hard, or breaks too hard or turns the steering wheel too hard, and the car will spin out of control. It’s too much for that driver. But put Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel, and he can guide that car down the track and over the finish line. And God’s power is always guided by God’s other attributes and by his will and it always leads to God’s glory. It’s not an uncontrollable force, but it’s controlled by God for our good and for his glory.
And so, God’s power is not something which makes us afraid, but it’s something which brings us comfort. It brings us comfort because he’s able to work all things together for our good. It brings us comfort, because he who began a good work in us is able to carry it on completion. It brings us comfort, because no one is able to snatch us from our Saviour’s hand. It brings us comfort, because while we go on living on the earth, we’re shielded by his power. It brings us comfort, because he’s able to do for us all that he has promised. I might make a promise to you and have ever intention of keeping it. But something crops up and it prevents me from doing what I promised. But there’s nothing and there’s no one who is able to thwart God’s plan for us or to keep him from doing all that he has promised us. And as Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:11, God is the one who works out everything — everything! — in conformity with the purpose of his will. And so, we’re in his powerful hands and we needn’t be worried or anxious about anything, because he’s got everything worked out and he’s able to do all that he has planned for us.