Does it bother you if someone answers “No” to the question: Is God omnipotent?
There’s a lot of fresh discussion around this age old question, “Is God omnipotent?” A lot of people are challenging this concept and tying to be honest with themselves about what they really believe. So that’s what we’re talking about today.
Years ago when I lived in Texas, I often got together with a friend to talk about the Bible, the nature of God, how to follow Jesus better in our lives, that sort of thing. We often had very deep and thoughtful discussions about our faith. We didn’t always agree on every little detail, but we appreciated and respected each other for our faith.
One particular afternoon, we got onto the subject of whether God is omnipotent, or all powerful.
The word omnipotent is one of the first words I heard to describe God when I got serious about my faith in high school.
In our conversation, my friend mentioned that some people really didn’t believe God is omnipotent, but that she thought it was one of the most important aspects of her faith.
Some folks think they believe in God’s omnipotence but actually don’t
But the more we talked, and the more she shared what she believed, it was getting pretty obvious to me that she really didn’t believe God is omnipotent. She talked about all the other things she believed had power, most notably the devil, and we’ll come back to that in just a few minutes.
I asked her a few questions and she realized she wanted to think of God as omnipotent, but that she actually believed other things besides God had power.
So let’s talk about what the word omnipotent actually means. It means all powerful. Pretty straight forward, right? All means all. Power means power. This is an absolute statement.
God’s omnipotence in the Old Testament
It’s a concept that’s been around for a long time in the church and traces its path all the way back to the Old Testament. When the people of Israel had given pretty substantial resources for building the First Temple, King David offered a prayer,
David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, LORD, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 1 Chronicles 29:10-12 NIV
David was acknowledging God’s all powerful nature, among other things.
Jesus echoed many of these same ideas in the prayer he gave us, which we have named after him, the Lord’s Prayer.
But the idea of God’s omnipotence is expressed even earlier in the Old Testament when God reveals Himself to Abram.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty [Hebrew: El-Shaddai]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Genesis 17:1 NIV
God’s omnipotence in the New Testament
The New Testament also refers to the omnipotence of God.
When Mary questions the angel Gabriel how it is possible she will have a son, the answer is pretty straight forward. Gabriel says,
For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 NLT
Jesus reiterates this point in reference to salvation when he says plainly,
with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 NIV
And to top it all off, in the book of Revelation we have this
And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Revelation 19:6 NKJV
This word omnipotent in the Greek is pantokratōr. It means the all-ruling, i.e. God (as absolute and universal sovereign):—Almighty, Omnipotent. It’s used 10 times in the New Testament and usually translated as Almighty.
So we’ve got God telling Abram He is the Almighty, King David acknowledging God’s all power, Gabriel and Jesus both declaring that all things are possible to God, and finally a voice in heaven like the sound of many waters and mighty thunderings declaring that God is omnipotent.
The human mind wrestles with the question: Is God omnipotent?
All these Biblical witnesses, along with others I haven’t mentioned, make a pretty good case for the omnipotence of God.
But it’s amazing what the human mind can decide to accept or reject.
Last week on Social Media, I saw several posts declaring that God is not omnipotent, that He is not all powerful, but His love is always there. It just doesn’t control our lives. God exists but He can’t do everything. They didn’t deny God’s existence, just that He doesn’t have all power.
The responses to these remarks kind of surprised me. Everyone pretty much felt relieved. They had all been taught that God was omnipotent, but had not seen much evidence of it in their lives.
If God is omnipotent, why does He allow and not prevent or stop all the evil in the world?
Asking the right questions
That’s a pretty good question, but it may not be the right question to ask, because the premise in this question assumes that God is allowing evil and is not preventing or stopping it.
But like my friend in Texas many years ago, they may have been taught the words that God is omnipotent and thought they believed it, but they were not taught that He actually is omnipotent.
In most cases they were taught, and believed, there is an evil power in the world, often called the devil, not to mention a whole lot of other things that have power in their lives. If you believe there is another power besides God, you don’t actually believe God is omnipotent, even though you might think you do and you say the words.
It was a relief to these folks on Social Media to say God is not omnipotent. They don’t have to reconcile what they were taught about God being omnipotent with what they see going on in the world.
In their minds it kind of gets God off the hook. Because if God allows all the evil in the world or if He could prevent it and doesn’t, what kind of God would He be? That doesn’t sound very loving, does it?
The good thing in all this is that these folks are being honest with themselves about what they actually believe, instead of some idealized belief they thought they agreed with. And this gives them a sense of freedom because they’re no longer saying one thing and believing another.
So, is God omnipotent or not?
Now, just for this discussion, let’s say God is omnipotent. If that’s the case, it’s true whether you believe it or not. History is full of things people have believed that aren’t true and things that are true which people have not believed.
On the other hand, if God is not omnipotent, believing that He is doesn’t make Him so. So just because you believe or don’t believe something, doesn’t make it true or untrue.
So when someone says God is not omnipotent, it doesn’t mean He isn’t. All they’re really saying is that they don’t believe in a God who is omnipotent. Their concept of God doesn’t include the idea of being all powerful.
And the God they used to think of as being omnipotent, was really not omnipotent either. Because they believed in other powers in addition to God.
How does God see Himself?
Maybe a better question to ask is How does God see Himself? Does God think of Himself as omnipotent?
Here’s one thing God says about Himself:
This is what the LORD says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” Isaiah 44:6, 8 NIV
Okay, I realize the word power is not in these two verses, but the implication is that God is the only God. In the Bible, as well as today, people tend to make a god out of what they think has power.
There’s so much more that could be said about how God sees Himself. I did an episode about this very topic all the way back in September of 2020, Episode 51: How Does God See Himself?
What actually is power?
Even King Nebuchadnezzar caught a glimpse of God’s all power when he declared, referring to God,
He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Daniel 4:35 NIV
But here’s the verse that puts it all in perspective.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Matthew 28:18 KJV
This word “power” in the Greek is exousia. It can also mean authority. They’re pretty much the same thing in Greek.
If Jesus was given all power and authority, it means that power came from somewhere. The only possibility is that it came from God. God would have to have all power in order to give it to Jesus.
As I said, when someone says God is not omnipotent, it simply means they haven’t seen any evidence of it. And who can blame them. Look at all the terrible things going on in the world. If God is omnipotent, why isn’t He doing something about it?
Again, this is the wrong question because it assumes He is not doing anything or that He allows evil to have dominion over mankind and the world.
God is saving the world
God’s all power is alive and well and fully capable of solving all the world’s problems. And He is doing so this very moment and every moment.
The most obvious example of this is in one of the first Bible verses I learned a little kid:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT
Christ is the solution to all the world’s problems, the destroyer of all evil influences and powers here on earth. John says in his epistle,
But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8 NLT
So the next question is: Does the devil have power? It sure seems like it doesn’t it. Just look at the mess the world is in.
But does the devil have any real power? Well, Jesus actually refers to the power of Satan when he sends out 70 disciples to preach and heal. He tells them:
I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. Luke 10:19 NIV
The enemy Jesus is referring to here is the devil, evil. And Jesus talks about the devil’s power.
If the devil has power, is God omnipotent?
What is this power of the devil? Is it really power?
Jesus says the devil is a liar.
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44 NIV
The only power the devil has, the only thing he can do, is tell lies. Lies have no power of their own. If you believe a lie and it seems to have power over you, it doesn’t actually take any power away from God. You just can’t see God’s omnipotence at that point.
When the devil tempts Jesus to worship him by promising to give Jesus power, he’s lying. He doesn’t have any power to give Jesus. That’s actually part of the temptation, to believe the devil has power.
Getting a bigger perspective
But let’s take a step back to get a bigger perspective on what’s going on here.
Just as the power or influence of evil is so obvious in the world today, so was it in Jesus’s day. But Jesus came to prove the power of evil, or the devil, was not the power everyone thought it was.
Jesus told Pilate the reason he was on earth was to bear witness to the truth.
To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. John 18:37 KJV
To bear witness means not just to see something but to testify or tell others about it. Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. That is the truth he bore witness to, that he saw and told others about.
In the kingdom of heaven there is no other power but God. On earth, there are all sorts of powers besides God. But Jesus didn’t come to explain earth to us. He came to testify to what’s true in heaven and that heaven is at hand.
In effect, Jesus was proclaiming that in heaven, which is at hand here and now, God is supreme, has all power, and with God, all things are possible.
Jesus proved God is omnipotent
How did Jesus deal with all the evils of the world, or the power of the devil?
He healed all sickness and disability. He brought people back to life. He freed people from sin. And how did the world respond. It crucified him.
On the surface it looked like the power of evil destroyed Jesus, but in fact, just the opposite happened. He allowed the world’s hatred to do its worst by crucifying him. But actually, he called the world’s bluff and proved evil to be powerless and God omnipotent.
The only way to see and comprehend that God is omnipotent is to bear witness to what is true in heaven. If you start with what’s going on here on earth, it will be impossible to see or believe that God is omnipotent.
As I mentioned earlier, the folks who have decided that God is not omnipotent haven’t seen any evidence of God’s omnipotence in their lives. They have prayed for healing but healing hasn’t come. They have prayed for justice, but injustice increases. They’ve prayed for peace, but the wars continue. The list goes on. You can see why they are frustrated and have come to the conclusion that God is not so powerful after all.
The human mind is always trying to figure things out from its own limited perspective. It cannot conceive of, perceive, or acknowledge the omnipotence of God because it inherently believes in its own power. At its core, the human mind, which has not yielded to God, believes in many separate powers instead of, or in addition to, God.
Jesus claimed no personal power
Jesus took the exact opposite approach. He claimed no power of his own. Whatever power he had, he knew came from God. He said,
By myself I can do nothing; John 5:30 NIV
Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. John 14:10 NIV
But Jesus didn’t say he came to fix things here on earth. He said he came to bear witness to the truth of what is going on in heaven right now.
In heaven, there is only good. God is the only power. This awareness of the presence of heaven here on earth is what I call the mindset of Jesus. It was the lens he looked through. It was the perspective he looked from.
It was the way he healed. It was the way he destroyed the works of the devil. I’ve talked about this idea before on the podcast. Jesus knew that in heaven, God is omnipotent and causes only good.
Jesus knew there was no sickness or disability in heaven. He knew there was no evil power called the devil in heaven. He saw this so clearly when he was with someone who was sick, it was like turning on a light switch.
Everyone around him caught a glimpse of this light, this truth. To them, it looked like someone was healed. And from earth’s perspective, that’s exactly what happened. But from heaven’s perspective, nothing changed. In heaven, the person had never been sick or disabled in the first place.
What is true in heaven?
To the degree you and I bear witness to what is true in heaven, which Jesus promises is at hand, we will see the same evidence of God’s omnipotence in our lives. It may appear as healing or problems solved, or in any number of ways.
This is what Jesus is talking about in the Lord’s prayer when he tells us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it already is in heaven. (see Matthew 6:10 KJV below)
What is God’s will in heaven? Perfect peace. Perfect love. Perfect joy. Perfect well-being. Perfect wholeness. Perfect relationship with God. Perfect harmony among all the sons and daughters of God and all creation.
If you think heaven is way off in the future after you die, you will not see what Jesus saw, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
If you focus on what’s happening on earth, and try to fix it, you’re starting with the problem instead of the solution.
It’s really a mindset issue
If you start with the premise, the mindset, that God is not omnipotent, this becomes the lens you look through. And you see everything in that light.
It’s like putting on gray tinted sunglasses. You see everything as gray. The color is in the lens, not the object you’re looking at.
Just so when you look through God-is-not-omnipotent colored sunglasses. You’ll see everything that happens in that light. The non-omnipotence of God is in your thought, not in God or events.
If you begin your prayers and live with the conviction that God is not omnipotent, is it any surprise you don’t see more evidence of God’s power in your life?
When you look through the lens of God’s omnipotence, you’ll see God as always able and willing to heal and save.
What lens are you looking through?
The more you can see what’s true in heaven, the more you will see God’s omnipotence. And the more you look through this lens of what’s true in heaven, the more you’ll see evidence of God’s omnipotence in your life. Because the kingdom of God is at hand, that means the omnipotence of God is also at hand.
So let’s come back to the original question: Is God omnipotent? Your answer is going to depend on the lens you’re looking through and the perspective your looking from.
If you’re looking through the lens of good and evil forces fighting each other here on earth, if you are looking at what’s going on from earth’s perspective, then it would be almost impossible to conclude that God is omnipotent.
But when you look through the lens of the kingdom of heaven is at hand, when you look at things from the perspective of what’s going on in heaven right now, you can’t help but see God’s omnipotence. The more clearly you bear witness to the truth of what’s going on in heaven, the brighter the light of God’s omnipotence will shine in your life.
Photo credit: Ryan Hutton on unsplash.com
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
1 Chronicles 29:10-12 NIV
10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, LORD, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.
13 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.
Genesis 17:1 NIV
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty [Hebrew: El-Shaddai]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.
Luke 1:37 NLT
37 For nothing is impossible with God.
Matthew 19:26 NIV
26 with God all things are possible.
Revelation 19:6 NKJV
6 And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
Isaiah 44:6, 8 NIV
6 This is what the LORD says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
Daniel 4:35 NIV
35 He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
Matthew 28:18 KJV
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
John 3:16 NLT
16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
1 John 3:8 NLT
8 But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.
Luke 10:19 NIV
19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.
John 8:44 NIV
44 He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 18:37 KJV
37 To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.
John 5:30 NIV
30 By myself I can do nothing;
John 14:10 NIV
10 Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
Matthew 6:10 KJV
10 Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.