By Peter Amsterdam
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God, who created all things out of nothing, known as creation ex nihilo, is all-powerful. The traditional word for God’s infinite power is omnipotence, which comes from two Latin words: omni, which means all, and potens, which means power. God has the power to do anything He wills to do.
In the Old Testament, when God entered into a covenant with Abraham, He said He was el Shaddai, which in Old Testament Hebrew means God Almighty, God the most powerful. El Shaddai is used six times in Genesis and Exodus and once in Ezekiel. Shaddai, meaning Almighty, is used 36 times throughout the Old Testament in reference to God. In the New Testament the Greek word for Almighty, pantokratōr, is used ten times, mostly in the book of Revelation.1
The name God called Himself when He spoke with Abraham described His omnipotence. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.’”2
Scripture expresses that God has the ability and the absolute power to bring about whatever is His will. “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”3 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?”4
The awesome power of God is manifested in His creating the universe. The Bible teaches that God created the universe and all that is in it, including our world, out of nothing.5 It says He spoke it into being. “He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.”6
Theologian Thomas F. Torrance describes the doctrine of creation ex nihilo in this way:
The creation of the universe out of nothing does not mean the creation of the universe out of something that is nothing, but out of nothing at all. It is not created out of anything—it came into being through the absolute fiat of God’s Word in such a way that whereas previously there was nothing, the whole universe came into being.7
It’s hard to imagine a greater display of power than creating the world out of nothing! Jeremiah sees creation as being proof that “nothing is too hard” for God.8 The apostle Paul spoke about creation being one way to perceive God’s power and nature:
“What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”9
In creating the universe, God also created the active and latent power within created things. From the atom to stars and to galaxies, there is power within God’s creation. God has created the universe with natural power that has come from the All-Powerful.10 The natural power of created things is seen in the ordinary working of the world. The sun gives light and heat, plants grow, water evaporates and turns into rain, the planets rotate around the sun, and so forth.
God’s power is also sometimes seen when He operates outside the ordinary working of nature by performing miracles. He separated a sea so His people could walk through on dry ground11; He sent fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice12; He caused a virgin to conceive a child through the Holy Spirit, who was to be God Incarnate13; when that child grew up, He healed the sick and raised people from the dead14; after He was crucified, God raised Him from the dead and brought Him bodily to heaven.15 These miracles are also evidence of God’s omnipotence.
God’s power is infinite, meaning that it is without any limits, immeasurable. While Scripture affirms that God can do all things, it also states there are some things God cannot do. He can’t deny Himself by going against His nature and character.16 He can’t lie.17 He can’t be tempted with evil or tempt others with evil.18 He can’t do wickedly or pervert justice. He won’t violate His righteousness.
When the Bible says God is Almighty and can do anything, it should be understood that God can do anything which is consistent with His nature and character.
Theologian J. Rodman Williams explains it this way:
This is not omnipotence in the sense of sheer power. For the God who is Almighty is the God whose character is holiness, love, and truth. Therefore, He does, and will do, only those things that are in harmony with who He is. To say it is impossible for God to do wrong or evil does not limit His omnipotence any more than, for example, to say it is impossible for God to will His own nonexistence. These are moral and logical contradictions to the very being and nature of Almighty God. In the scripture, over and over, God’s omnipotence is associated with His character.19
Besides not going against His nature and character, God can’t do things that are logical impossibilities. For example, God can’t make a square circle. He can’t make 5 plus 5 equal 11. These are logically impossible.
When explaining God’s omnipotence in relation to logical impossibilities, William Lane Craig says:
Can God do things that are logically impossible? For example, could God make a square circle? Could God make a married bachelor? Could God bring it about that Jesus both came and died on the cross, and that He did not come and die on the cross? Could God make a round triangle? … Indeed, when you think about it, these really aren’t things at all. There isn’t any such thing as a married bachelor. There’s no such thing as a round triangle. These are just combinations of words which when put together are incoherent combinations. They are just logical contradictions. Therefore to say that God cannot do logical contradictions is not to say there is something that God can’t do, because these aren’t really things at all, and thus to say that God can’t bring about a logical contradiction is not really to inhibit God’s omnipotence at all.20
God’s omnipotence is an important factor that builds our faith in Him, as He is not someone who makes claims and promises which He does not have the power to perform. God has the power to deliver on what He has promised. He promised that through Abraham the whole world would be blessed21; that David’s seed and line would be eternal22; that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem,23 would suffer and die for the sins of mankind.24 He delivered. He prophesied events centuries in advance; they came true. When we read His promises to us, we can put our weight down on what He has said, as He is the all-powerful Creator and sustainer of the universe and all that is in it. He who is infinite power is our Father, and we are His children. We are safe within His arms.
Originally published June 2012. Excerpted and republished October 2019.
Read by Jon Marc.
1 Revelation 11:17.
2 Genesis 17:1.
3 Matthew 19:26.
4 Jeremiah 32:27.
5 See Genesis 1.
6 Psalm 33:9.
7 Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 207.
8 Jeremiah 32:17.
9 Romans 1:19–20.
10 Psalm 62:11.
11 Exodus 14:21–22.
12 1 Kings 18:38–39.
13 Luke 1:26–35.
14 John 11:41–44.
15 Acts 5:30–31.
16 2 Timothy 2:13.
17 Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18.
18 James 1:13.
19 J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 71.
20 William Lane Craig, The Doctrine of God, Defenders Series Lecture 9.
21 Genesis 12:1–3.
22 2 Samuel 7:12–13, 16.
23 Micah 5:2.
24 Isaiah 53:3–6.