This the 6th installment of a review of RA Torrey’s 1898 publication What The Bible Teaches. See all of Lex’s posts here. A PDF copy of the book can be downloaded here. You are welcome and encouraged to join the discussion.
Chapter 6. THE OMNIPOTENCE OF GOD
I. GOD IS OMNIPOTENT
Proposition: God can do all things; nothing is too hard for him; all things are possible with Him. God is omnipotent
This may seem self evident, but since God created everything that exists there is little room for argument. Torrey gives some basic verses in support such as Genesis 1:3, Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light; and Matthew 19:26, “And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” I won’t raise the absurd questions like “can God make a rock that is too big for Him to lift.” Suffice it to say if God can design and create the basic building blocks of matter, the atoms in all their glory of exotic sub-atomic particles, then use these basic elements of matter, electromagnetic energy, to engineer the inexhaustible variety of animate and inanimate matter, of life, love, and all that living on this planet entails, surely we can agree that God indeed can do anything He intends.
All nature is absolutely subject to God’s will and word
But it isn’t just a matter of God winding up His fancy toy and watching it spin around His room. He is intimately involved. Torrey mentions a verse from Psalm 107:25-29, “For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed.” That’s just one simple example, that God works in and through His creation. It is all at His command and control. He stands not afar off, but is close at hand. Just as He was in the Garden when He walked beside Adam and Eve. He didn’t make everything and abandon us. He is interested, He loves His creation and His creatures. How would you explain the Exodus if not for God’s personal guidance through the Red Sea and the Wilderness? Or the conquering of Jericho? Or the hundred other ways God led and protected and fought for His people as depicted in the Historical books of the Old Testament?
All men are absolutely subject to God’s will and word
Torrey chooses a verse from James to elaborate, but there are many others. James 4:12-15, There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” Our daily living should be guided by the principle of staying in His will, because outside of it we perish.
Other verses that can be used in support of this proposition that men are subject to God’s will:
Ex. 4:21 The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.”
1 Sa. 26:12 So David took the spear and the jug of water from beside Saul’s head, and they went away, but no one saw or knew it, nor did any awake, for they were all asleep, because a sound sleep from the LORD had fallen on them.
1 Kings 12:15 So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the LORD, that He might establish His word, which the LORD spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
Prov. 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD.
Zech. 14:13 It will come about in that day that a great panic from the LORD will fall on them; and they will seize one another’s hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another.
Angels/Satan are absolutely subject to God’s will and word
Torrey offers a few verses to indicate that even the angels and Satan are under His control, I suppose to give us reassurance that our Lord is fully able to protect us from the most powerful and scary of His creation, those incorporeal creatures we can’t usually see, but, while far less powerful than God are a whole lot more powerful we. But we are reassured by Paul’s comfort in Rom. 8:31 “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”
II. THE EXERCISE OF GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE IS LIMITED BY HIS WILL
Proposition: The exercise of God’s omnipotence is limited by His own wise, holy, and loving will.
Finally, Torrey mentions the one limit to God’s power – that He can’t go against His own will. He states a verse from Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” I suppose this is meant to imply that God can not be unjust, is not evil, and has no imperfection. He is incapable of denying His holy nature, unlike the human race, which practices this disparity of nature daily and destructively. That is, though created in God’s image, man prefers the profane rather than the sacred, and darkness rather than light.
And since God is so holy and just Torrey asks why doesn’t He, in the power of His might, destroy the devil and remove the cause of man’s temptation and failing? Well, to be sure, that day is coming. Fortunately we have the Book of Revelation to paint a very vivid picture of his demise, and offer to us a great relief and hope that this misery we endure will have an ending. And not just an ending but a most glorious new beginning. But until then God’s purpose, though not clear to us as we look through a dark veil, will none the less prevail, as Paul hints, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1Cor. 13:12
In a world that seems completely out of control it helps to know that the one person that can do anything about it is in complete control. Whether in world politics, or finances, or in one’s personal life when things don’t make any sense, and to be honest, that seems much of the time, there is a rock on which we can stand. “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God, The God who girds me with strength And makes my way blameless? He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, And sets me upon my high places. Psalm 18:31-33 Our God is omnipotent. Let us not diminish His person or power or majesty by our inability to comprehend the incomprehensible One. One day it will all make sense and we will see Him clearly. “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” 1 John 3:2
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]