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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

     

Part IV: The Omnipotence of God in the Affairs of Men

Chapter 1

The Omnipotence of God in the Universe

Alleluia! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!--Revelation 19:6

       I REMEMBER a class at the university at which about 150 premedical students were present, and the professor was attempting to visualize on the blackboard the course of events, evolution-wise, from the first atom to the amoeba, to the reptiles, to mammals, and to man. The line went upward across the board, punctuated at the appropriate intervals by the appearance of successively higher categories of life. The progress of the past gave every promise for the future, until he stopped and said,
     "In time, of course, the universe will die a heat death and all life will cease, and this line will peter out and disappear."
     Then there was a long silence. As the implications slowly dawned upon these young students, there was a certain uneasy shifting of position, and a shuffling of feet. Then a subdued voice said rather fearfully,
     "Is that all all there is to it. . . ?"
     And the professor, after a moment's pause, said, "Yes as I see it."
     We struggled to conceive of such a meaningless spectacle: so magnificent yet all to no purpose. Some of us at least found it impossible to believe this could be a true interpretation. However, it seemed to be the "scientific" account. But is such an account necessarily the whole truth? I think not.
     In the first place, science can tell us nothing about the origin of the universe. The origin of the universe can, in the nature of the case, only be attributed to pure accident or to deliberate creation with a purpose. It is really meaningless to speak of pure accident, because one cannot possibly conceive of the kind of accident that would have to occur to account for the appearance of the materials out of which the universe formed itself in the first place. It is possible to argue that this material always existed, implying the eternity of matter. But this

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again really solves no problems, for the eternity of matter is not something that we can conceive: such a conception is quite beyond our powers of imagination. Rationally we are really left with only one alternative, namely, that the universe was created: and a creation means a Creator, and the Creator must have had the power, the will, and a plan. These three prerequisites are summed up simply in the word God: and as has been pointed out on more than one occasion, the first verse of Genesis takes into account the time ("in the beginning"), the will ("God"), the power ("created"), the space ("the heavens"), and the materials ("and the earth") involved in the origin of the universe.
     But what do we know about this Creator? God has spoken in no uncertain terms about His own relationships with the created order, claiming to be the Designer and Sustainer of the universe from the very beginning through every stage. Furthermore, it is revealed in Scripture that this creative and sustaining activity has always been in the hands of the Word of God, the Son of the Father. If we have not entirely lost the power of wonder, we do well to remind ourselves of the fact that the little baby lying in the manger was none other than the Creator of this universe -- surely a stupendous fact.
     Genesis 1:1 tells us simply that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," but Hebrews 1:8-10 tells us that "with respect to the Son, He said, . . . Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands." This is what lies behind John's statement, "In the beginning was the Word. . . . All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. . . . And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:1,3,14). In Hebrews 1:1,2 we are told that "God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son . . . by whom also He made the worlds." These passages are reflected in the Old Testament as, for example, where we are told in Psalm 33:6 that "by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made."
     Isaac Newton was one of the first "modern" scientists to find himself faced with the problem of reconciling a universe which he believed was manifestly the work of God and yet which was so governed by law that its deterministic machine-like character seemed to exclude God. He therefore thought of the Creator as something of a Watchmaker who made the watch, wound it up, and thereafter stood apart from it without interfering in its operation. Undoubtedly this was a view which he held in his mind rather than

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in his heart. As a firm believer in Scripture and a keen student of the Word of God, he must many times have been comforted by those passages which show that God does not stand aside, allowing the watch to run itself down; He is constantly at work, as the Lord said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17). Not only has God a plan for this universe, but He has at no time been forced by any circumstance whatever to deviate in the slightest degree from it. From God's point of view, there are no such things as accidents, in spite of the declarations of such people as Sir Julian Huxley that the world as we know it has come about purely by chance. Not only can we say that God has never altered His plan, but we can go one step further and say that throughout history He has continually guided events in accordance with it.
     Psalm 33:11 reminds us that "the counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations." This is reiterated in Isaiah 14:24,27, "The Lord of hosts hath sworn saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. . . . For the Lord of hosts hath purposed; and who shall disannul it?" Indeed, "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God" -- Psalm 62:11. And Job 23:13 declares, "He is of one mind, and who can turn Him? And what His soul desireth, even that He doeth."
     There are many broad statements in Scripture revealing the operation of the Lord's overruling providence within the compass of His creation, ordering and guiding its multitude of interrelated forms into a beautiful harmony. What kind of "providence" this is we are in a most comforting position to know, for this Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, has been clearly revealed to us in the New Testament and personal experience bears out His care for His creatures.
     Perhaps the most comprehensive claim is made in Ephesians 1:11, where it is stated that He effectually operates all things "after the counsel of His own will." In the original, this statement is even more explicit than appears in the Authorized Version, for it will be found that the New Testament Greek has two phrases which look much alike and are translated as though they were synonymous, but which are essentially different in their meaning. The simple phrase all things, so recurrent in English versions of the New Testament, is actually used to translate two quite distinct Greek concepts represented by the word (panta) standing alone, and (ta panta) with the definite article. The first is equivalent to our word anything, but the second means the universe, a very different concept.

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In a loose way of speaking, both could be rendered everything, but this actually conceals a fundamental distinction between the two ideas.
     The first is found for example in Philippians 4:13, and differs from the second, which is found for example in Colossians 1:16. Yet both are merely translated all things. Thus we find the words "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" and "By Him all things consist: all things were created by Him and for Him."
     The difference in the original lies in this, that in the first instance the Greek has simply panta, but in the second ta panta. The first means "anything," a somewhat indefinite phrase; the second means "the whole," or from its basic meaning, "the universe." Thus Colossians 1:16 really reads, "By Him the universe holds together; the universe was created by Him and for Him." This is in perfect harmony with the fuller meaning of Ephesians 1:11 which we have just quoted, . . . who effectually operates the universe after the counsel of His own will.
     There are many, many categorical statements to the effect that in the overall view, God is omnipotent. Thus in Deuteronomy 4:35,39: "Unto thee it was showed that thou mightest know that the Lord, He is God: there is none else beside Him!. . . .  Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath; there is none else." So also in Psalm 135:6: "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places," and in Psalm 115:3: "But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased." In Psalm 103:19 it is written: "The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all."
     A similar sweeping assertion will be found in Daniel 4:34,35. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, said, "Mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him that liveth forever, Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?"
     The unquestionable dominion which He now exercises in heaven and earth is the very last claim the Lord Jesus made. Surely His words here were then meant to give assurance to those who must have felt themselves facing overwhelming odds. In Matthew 28:18,19 appears this last great commission, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth: go ye therefore. . . ."

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These are sweeping assertions, in a sense so sweeping that their impact is apt to be lost. In one way, it is not until God begins to claim omnipotence in some areas of our national or even our personal lives, in which we feel we ought to be left free, that the force of His claims strikes home. I think it is perhaps for this very reason that as the statements of Scripture become more personally applicable, they become increasingly concrete and specific and, at times, disconcerting!
     The pattern which this aspect of revelation takes emerges more distinctly if we tabulate such passages in the form of a kind of genealogical tree. Starting with the Universe at large, we may construct a simple division composed of the Spirit World as opposed to Our World. Leading down from the first of these divisions, we break it down further into Angels and Demons. Under the general heading of Angels, we have three subdivisions, namely, Fallen Angels, Satan, and Unfallen Angels. These are not arbitrary divisions, yet they are very clearly recognized in Scripture. The tabulation thus takes a form something like this:

     In this chapter we consider only the Spirit World. In the next chapter we shall consider Our World. It will then be very apparent that God has far more to say about His omnipotence in Our World than in the Spirit World. But this is not because His omnipotence is greater here: it is rather that it concerns us more directly.
     Now, in the Spirit World we have two categories of beings:

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Angels and Demons. With reference to the demons, first, we are told much in the New Testament, although their origin is not clearly revealed. Some believe that they came into being when angels cohabited with the daughters of men and when supernatural creatures were born who subsequently perished in the Flood (Genesis 6:1ff.). These creatures having once known what it is to possess a body have, so it is held, sought for re-embodiment on this account. Their great strength when in possession of a body is taken to reflect the tradition of giants resulting from the first union of angels and men: and their fear of water (see Matthew 12:43) is also held to have resulted from the judgment which brought their disembodiment. They therefore stand in the scale of beings halfway between angels and men, being neither one nor the other. There seems a clear distinction at any rate between demons and angels in the New Testament, where they figure most prominently. One thing is absolutely clear, namely, that they were completely subject to the Lord's omnipotence.
     Of the Unfallen Angels, we have the words of 1 Timothy 5:21: "I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things. . . ." The implications of this simple observation must be, I think, that those angels which are fallen are distinguished from those which did not rebel -- not by reason of any inherent distinction of their moral nature, but by election. This will be challenged by many as unfair. If there is an answer to this accusation, I think it will become apparent in chapter 4, when we deal with the omnipotence of God in the Christian's life.
     In Hebrews 1:14 the angels are said to be His ministers. There are a number of occasions upon which angels ministered to the needs of men and of the Lord Himself; and when, toward the end of His earthly ministry, the Lord seemed in immediate danger from the mob and when Peter drew his sword to defend Him, He said -- as though it were a thing not the least surprising -- that He could have called upon twelve legions of angels to defend Him (Matthew 26:53). Considering that a legion was composed of six thousand persons, twelve legions would be a very sizable army to call instantly to one's aid. Upon one occasion in the Old Testament (2 Kings 6:17), a prophet who stood in a special way as a forerunner of Jesus was protected by a huge army of spiritual beings.
     There appear to be two classes of Fallen Angels: those who left their first estate and brought upon the world the judgment of the Flood, and those whom Satan persuaded to join him when he rebelled against heaven at a much earlier period (and, as I believe, brought upon the world the judgment reflected in Genesis 1:2,

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necessitating a re-creation and re-ordering of the earth). The first of these categories, we are told, is now chained (Jude 6) and therefore clearly completely under God's control. The second class of angels, though they are apparently still free to hinder God's work (Daniel 10:13), are nevertheless subject to God's commands whenever He so wishes, as indicated in Psalm 78:49 and possibly in 1 Kings 22:23. In both of these instances, God used them to perform duties which an unfallen angel could not possibly have carried out.
     Of Satan we have some limited but significant intimations. In Isaiah 54:16 there is a concluding statement which has been taken by some commentators to be a reference to Satan. It is written, "And I have created the waster to destroy." It may seem a strange thing that anyone should suppose the Lord to have created a being who would seem always to be hindering the fulfillment of His purposes. Yet there are indications that this may be so in other Scriptures -- as perhaps in Isaiah 45:7. This is by no means a solitary statement: it is repeated throughout Scripture upon many occasions and with equal emphasis. We shall return to this point subsequently. At any rate, Satan undoubtedly carries out his opposition by God's permission. This is stated categorically in Job 1:12, for example. In Revelation 20:10 Satan is finally robbed of even this much freedom.
     In Colossians 1:16,17 it is revealed that the universe was created not only by the Lord, but also for the Lord, i.e., to serve His purposes. The statement is made even more explicit by declaring just what is included in this universe. Powers of every category, and both those which are visible as well as those which are invisible, were created "by Him and for Him." Since Satan, like the other angels, is a creature of God, his continuance as a living creature is dependent entirely upon the Source of all life. Though Satan has the power of death apparently with respect to man (Hebrews 2:14), he does not have the power of sustaining his own continued existence, for he is a creature of God. That he is allowed to continue can only mean that such continuance serves the purpose of God.

Not for Curiosity

     I do not think that God ever reveals anything merely to satisfy our curiosity. The statements of Scripture which we have examined so far could hardly be termed "satisfactory" if the purpose of setting them forth had been to give us a clear picture of how God overrules in the spirit world. All that can be said for them is that we are told enough to assure us that we have no more need to fear the unseen world that is hostile than we need to fear the seen world that is

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hostile. We are told that Satan works by permission: we are told that the angels which are still the Lord's ministers are elect of God: we are told that the angels which left their first estate and unnaturally obtruded into the realm of things which is peculiarly ours are now chained: we are told that even Satan is to be bound when God so wishes: we are told that not only the Lord but the disciples also commanded the demons and they were obedient: we are told that the angels of God were instantly ready to minister at the Lord's command. This is sometimes by explicit statement of Scripture, at other times only by implication. To many, such passages may not appear convincing. The issue is not too important, for even those who find such passages unconvincing tend, nevertheless, to assume that God is in command in the spirit world. Most assuredly, it is stated in no uncertain terms that He doeth His will in the army of heaven and among men and no one can hinder.
     What seems important for us to know is that the Lord is still in charge of things, the fortunes not merely of nations, but even of individuals. Here Scripture is far more explicit, as we shall see.

     We may thus tabulate these admittedly brief, yet significant statements regarding the omnipotence of God in the universe as follows:

     We turn now to the omnipotence of God in what may be appropriately termed Our World.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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