by Lucas Miles
“That’s going to be a pretty short article,” said a friend of mine after she heard about the recent piece I was writing on things God can’t do. Like most people, her first inclination was to think that there is nothing God can’t do, other than the stereotypical punch-list of illogical questions that philosophers love to mill over, like, “Can God make a rock so heavy that even he can’t lift it?”
But surprisingly, the Bible is full of much more meaningful acts that God cannot do.
Here is a list of some of my favorites:
1. God cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:13)
2. God cannot lie. (Numbers 23:19, Hebrews 6:18)
3. God cannot tempt anyone. (James 1:13)
4. God cannot be tempted by evil. (James 1:13)
5. God cannot remember your sins. (Hebrews 8:12)
6. God cannot change. (James 1:17)
7. God cannot take back his word. (Psalm 89:34)
Although these examples clearly illustrate certain things God can’t do, do they, in any way, limit God’s power or take away from his divinity? Clearly not. On the contrary, the beauty of God’s power lies in his ability to harness it at will, which ultimately helps us further comprehend the depths of his love.For example, in Jeremiah 19:5, the Bible states that the vile activities of the Israelite never even entered into the “all-knowing” mind of God! Although theoretically God could know all things, this passage clearly indicates that God did not even consider the detestable ways in which man would exercise his free will.
Consider also perhaps one of the saddest stories in the Bible:
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. (Genesis 6:5-6; emphasis added).
It seems that if God had fully utilized his omniscience, he would not have been surprised to discover the full extent of man’s wickedness in the earth. Yet, this passage clearly states he regretted making human beings in light of their detestable actions and wicked heart.“
But isn’t God omniscient?” you might ask.That depends on what you mean. For God to allow himself to be “all-knowing” all the time means that while he is thinking about the work of Christ on the cross or his love for you, he is also thinking about every way in which evil possibly could be concocted. Like Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians, it seems that God also chooses to focus on “whatever is true” and “whatever is pure.”
This may come as new information to some who have viewed God’s mind as something closer to an all-seeing, all-knowing computer operating system. But remember, this “limitation’, if you will, is not a result of an insufficiency in God’s nature; rather, it is a self-imposed commitment to truth, love and relationship with man. Because God is a loving Father, he chooses to see the best in his children, wayward as they may be at times.
God’s power is further demonstrated through his faithfulness to his own word. Hebrews tells us that God sustains all things through his powerful word. This means that if God were to lie, or take back his word in any way, the entire fabric of existence, as we know it , would begin to unravel.
As a result, God is incapable of violating his own covenant with man. To do so, would be to violate who he is. Again, this is not a limitation on God’s part, but an example of his utmost precision and control. Unlike a tantrum-throwing Greek god who wields his power uncontrollably, our God is able to faithfully oversee his own integrity to ensure that he never violates the words he has spoken. It is the defining picture of ultimate control and self-governance.
Understanding God’s self-imposed limitations helps us see that much of the pain of this life has human choice, not God, at its epicenter.
To see all our situations as “God’s plan” not only strips people of their responsibility to choose, but it also villainizes God and blames him for the bad circumstances we experience in this world. If we are to embrace the goodness of God, then we have no choice but to embrace personal responsibility.
From God’s perspective though, the responsibility and ultimate reign over this earth, which he granted man and woman, was never designed to place blame on them or assign them fault. God bestowed humankind with responsibility as a way of empowering us to rule this world in any way we see fit and reminding us that we have a vote to cast in the ballot of our lives. As the psalmist adds, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind” (Psalm 115:16).
We can all agree that God is the most powerful being that has ever existed or that will ever exist. And although God has the ability to do anything he wants, scripture clearly demonstrates that God is willing to limit even his own ability and power, in order to give life to man.
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Lucas Miles is the Senior Pastor of Oasis Church in Granger, Indiana and the President of the Oasis Network For Churches, a global grace-based church planting and resourcing organization. Lucas has a passion to see people everywhere embrace the goodness of God and find wholeness through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Get Lucas’ new book, Good God, here: http://worthypublishing.com/books/Good-God/