The Heart of It All: The Nature and Character of God

June 19, 2012

by Peter Amsterdam

God’s Omnipotence

Audio length: 15:34

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(For an introduction and explanation regarding this series overall, please see The Heart of It All: Introduction.)

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 10 times, mostly in the book of Revelation. 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.”[1] 

God said to [Israel], “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.”[2]

I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty.[3]

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.[4]

We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for You have taken Your great power and begun to reign.[5]

Scripture expresses that God has the ability and the absolute power to bring about whatever is His will.

For nothing will be impossible with God.[6]

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.[7]

Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.[8]

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for Me?[9]

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.[10]

Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases.[11]

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. It says He spoke it into being.

He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.[12]

God ... who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.[13]

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. … And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters.” … And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” … And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation.” ... And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens.” … And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth.” … And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds.” … Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”[14]

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.[15]

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. The apostle Paul spoke about creation being one way to perceive God’s power and nature.

Ah, Lord God! 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.[16]

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.[17]

Considering the intricacy and complexity of the universe and of our world, having the power to create it is incredible power. I thought Jack Cottrell expressed this well:

In addition to the bare fact of creation from nothing, the omnipotence of God is magnified even more when we consider the size and nature of the universe so created. Its size is so vast that we cannot even comprehend it ... Our galaxy of about 100 billion stars is about 100,000 light years in width, and there are probably close to 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Many of these galaxies are visible only through a 200-inch telescope whose lens took ten months to cool and eleven years to polish. Yet God spoke the whole universe into existence with a word! The amount of matter originated in that creative moment could not even be imagined. According to one calculation, our own sun loses nearly five million tons of its matter per second; yet at this rate it will still last for many billions of years.[18]

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.

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God.[19]

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 ground; He sent fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice; He caused a virgin to conceive a child through the Holy Spirit, who was to be God Incarnate; when that child grew up, He healed the sick and raised people from the dead; after He was crucified, God raised Him from the dead and brought Him bodily to heaven. These miracles are also evidence of God’s omnipotence.

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.[20]

The fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.”[21]

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin ... And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”[22]

They took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.” When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.[23]

The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.[24]

God’s power is infinite, meaning that it is without any limits, immeasurable. As such, He not only has the power to do those things He has done, but also the power to do things He could do but hasn’t done. Some examples of such things mentioned in the Bible are raising up children of Abraham from stones, or sending legions of angels to deliver Jesus. While He has unlimited power and thus the ability to do these things, He didn’t do them.

Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.[25]

Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels?[26]

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. He can’t lie. He can’t be tempted with evil, or tempt others with evil. He can’t do wickedly or pervert justice. He won’t violate His righteousness.

If we are faithless, He remains faithful––for He cannot deny Himself.[27]

In hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.[28]

By two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.[29]

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one.[30]

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.[31]

Jack Cottrell wrote:

Is God’s “inability” to do these things an expression of weakness on His part? Hardly! In fact, the opposite is true. If He could do these things, it would be an expression of weakness. These are negative acts, not positive ones; to do them would imply a lack of strength. That He cannot do them is not a limitation but rather an affirmation of His power. Another approach to these “cannots” is that they are contrary to the very nature of God, and obviously omnipotence does not include the requirement that God must be able to contradict His own nature. God could not sin or annihilate Himself, for these are impossibilities by the very nature of things, or more specifically, by the very nature of God.[32]

Wayne Grudem says:

Although God’s power is infinite, His use of that power is qualified by His other attributes (just as all God’s attributes qualify all His actions).[33]

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? These sorts of things are usually exempted from God’s omnipotence. The vast majority of Christian theologians have not understood God’s omnipotence to mean that God can do things which are logically impossible. 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.[34]

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 blessed; that David’s seed and line would be eternal; that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, would suffer and die for the sins of mankind; He delivered.[35] He prophesied events centuries in advance; they came true.[36] 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.


Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Other versions cited are The New International Version (NIV), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), The New Revised Standard Version (NRS), The New King James Version (NKJV), and the King James Version (KJV).

[1] Genesis 17:1.

[2] Genesis 35:11.

[3] Exodus 6:3.

[4] Job 33:4.

[5] Revelation 11:17.

[6] Luke 1:37.

[7] Matthew 19:26.

[8] Genesis 18:14.

[9] Jeremiah 32:27.

[10] Job 42:2.

[11] Psalm 115:3.

[12] Psalm 33:9.

[13] Romans 4:17.

[14] Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26.

[15] Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 207.

[16] Jeremiah 32:17.

[17] Romans 1:19–20.

[18] Jack Cottrell, What the Bible Says About God the Creator (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1983), 303.

[19] Psalm 62:11.

[20] Exodus 14:21–22.

[21] 1 Kings 18:38–39.

[22] Luke 1:26–27, 30–31, 34–35.

[23] John 11:41–44.

[24] Acts 5:30–31.

[25] Matthew 3:9.

[26] Matthew 26:53.

[27] 2 Timothy 2:13.

[28] Titus 1:2.

[29] Hebrews 6:18.

[30] James 1:13.

[31] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), Vol. 1, p. 71.

[32]Jack Cottrell, What the Bible Says About God the Creator (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1983), 300.

[33] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press 2000), 217.

[34] William Lane Craig, The Doctrine of God, Defenders Series Lecture 9.

[35] Here are the Bible passages where the promises mentioned were given, which we know from history were fulfilled.

The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1–3). Given: Around 1800 BC. Fulfilled: Since the resurrection of Jesus, about 31 AD.

When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me. Your throne shall be established forever (2 Samuel 7:12–13,16). Given: Around 1000 BC. Fulfilled: When Jesus rose from the dead, about 31 AD.

You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2). Given: Between 750–686 BC. Fulfilled: about 4 BC.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned––every one––to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:3–6). Given: Between 740–680 B C. Fulfilled: At Jesus' crucifixion around 31 AD.

[36] Here are some examples of things prophesied far in advance, and that we know from history occurred:

* The Jewish people, in exile in Babylon at the time of this prophecy, would return from their Babylonian exile and rebuild Jerusalem. Afterwards the Messiah would appear, be rejected, and Jerusalem and its temple would be destroyed. Given: About 530 BC. Fulfilled: By 70 AD.

Seventy weeks [periods of seven years] are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed (Daniel 9:24–26).

* Israel would be destroyed. This was fulfilled by the destruction of Israel by the Roman army. Given: Around 1400 BC. Fulfilled: 70 AD.

The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young. They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you (Deuteronomy 28:49, 50, 52).

* The Messiah would be a descendant of King David. Given: between 626–586 BC. Fulfilled: At Jesus’ birth, around 4 BC.

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land (Jeremiah 23:5).

* The rubble that was Tyre would be thrown into the sea. This was fulfilled by the army of Alexander the Great, as they built a land bridge from the mainland to the island of Tyre, using the city’s rubble. Given: Between 587–586 BC. Fulfilled: 333–332 BC.

They will plunder your riches and loot your merchandise. They will break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses. Your stones and timber and soil they will cast into the midst of the waters (Ezekiel 26:12).

* Four world kingdoms shown to Daniel in a dream: The Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman Empires. Given: About 530 BC. Fulfilled: From 530 BC until 100 AD.

You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these (Daniel 2:31–33, 39–40).