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STUDIES ON GOD’S ATTRIBUTES
By Davis W. Huckabee


Chapter Five
THE RELATIVE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
PART 2

In our last study on the relative or transitive attributes, which have to do with God’s relations to His creation, we considered those that have to do with time and space, namely, Eternity, Immensity and Transcendence. Now we continue our study and will take up the attributes of Omnipresence, Omniscience and Omnipotence. These three attributes are those most frequently thought of when the attributes of God are mentioned. The reason for this most probably being that there is certain poetry of sound in them that makes them easier to remember and to associate with the term attributes. However, as glorious as these are, they are but three of many marvelous attributes of God, all of which are arrayed for the good of the saved. These can be studied from different orders, depending upon whether we do so in a logical or in a chronological way.

The Universe or Cosmos, with the necessary idea of causation in mind, was doubtless the source of the conceptions of the power, knowledge, wisdom, presence, etc., of God, and it is from the study of this source that, under the guidance of the Scriptures, these conceptions can be completed and justified. In the enumeration of the attributes of this class, we might either begin with some one from which the others should be logically deduced, in which case we should select Omnipresence; or we might adopt a supposed natural and chronological order of observation, in which case we should begin with Omnipotence. The first conception naturally suggested by Cosmos to the mind of a beholder, would seem to be that of power, the second, the twofold one of knowledge and wisdom; then, on reflection, that of omnipresence, and so on from the more to the less apparent. [E.G. Robinson, Christian Theology, pp. 72-73.].

We will take the more logical order in our study, believing that there must first be God’s presence before there can be either His knowledge or His power manifested. The prefix omni on each of these words is from the Latin omnis, meaning “all, the whole, any; every; utmost,” (Ainsworth’s Latin Dictionary, p. 592), and so, these attributes have to do with God being ultimate in His exercise of each of these. As has been the case so often in our past studies, so it is here again. Being human beings, and thereby limited in our every attribute, we cannot adequately conceive of God being ultimate in any attribute. And yet this is the case, and we must accept this by simple faith, without demanding proof or evidence. Has not the God that cannot lie revealed it. Indeed, to doubt or to demand evidence in any matter of Biblical revelation is to doubt the very Godhood of God, but especially so in these attributes for they are the very things that manifest God to be God. The first of these attributes to be considered is that of God’s Omnipresence. Perhaps the following will help our understanding.

When we assert the omnipresence of God we mean that God is not confined to any part or parts of the universe either in time or space. He is not present in this or that point in space and absent from some other; nor in this or that moment of time and absent from some other. But he is present in all his power at every point of space and every moment of time. When we speak of the divine immanence we mean this indwelling of God in space and time. When we speak of the diving transcendence we assert that God is not limited by time and space. [E. Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion In Its Doctrinal Expression, p. 225].

Omnipresence is the presence of the personal God in all his works. The undivided Godhead is everywhere. The mystical formula for this doctrine was: “God is a circle whose center is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere.” Omnipresence is possible only because, being a spirit, God is without parts, divisibility, or subjection to any spatial limitations. [E. H. Johnson, Outline of Systematic Theology, p. 69.].

When we realize the full implications of this attribute, we will be most signally blessed, for it means that the child of God is never separated from his God, but that He is always present, and ever ready to rush to the defense of His child. He is never more than a prayer away. But this brings up another matter that we must consider, which is, that this attribute, being joined with others, such as His love, will be exercised differently according to the objects for which it is exercised. The omnipresence of God is a comfort to the saint, but a fearful thing to the sinner.

One word of caution here might be in order. The omnipresence of God does not mean that God is present everywhere in the same sense or with reference to the same end or purpose. He is not present in the rock and in the reason of Plato in the same sense. He is not present in the sinful life of Nero and the holy life of Jesus in the same sense. He is not present in hell and in heaven in the same sense or with reference to the same function or end. In one case his presence may mean torment, in another it may mean bliss. In one case he is present to sustain the natural order as natural; in another to regenerate and sanctify the believing soul. [W.T. Connor, Christian Doctrine, pp. 84-85.].

Thus God’s presence is manifested in different ways, and the modes of His operations differ according to circumstances, but He is nonetheless omnipresent as to His essence.

God may be conceived of as present in any place, or with any creature, in several modes;—first, as to his essence; second, as to his knowledge; third, as manifesting that presence to any intelligent creature; fourth, as exercising his power in any way in or upon the creature. As to essence and knowledge, his presence is the same everywhere and always. As to his self-manifestation and the exercise of his power, his presence differs endlessly in different cases in degree and mode. Thus God is present to the church as he is not to the world. Thus he is present in hell in the manifestation and execution of righteous wrath, while he is present in heaven in the manifestation and communication of gracious love and glory. [A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology, p. 111.].

Probably these different modes of God’s manifestation are what has caused some people to doubt God’s omnipresence, for they have expected Him to always manifest His presence the same way with all people, which He does not do, nor can He consistently do so. To manifest His presence with the wicked in the same way as He does with the righteous would be to discourage the righteous, and to condone the wicked in his wickedness.

Some of the Scripture proofs of God’s omnipresence are as follows. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me,” (Ps. 139:7-11) “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have budded?” (1 Kings. 8:27). “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? Saith the Lord,” (Jer. 23:24). “...though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being...” (Acts 17:27-28).

From these texts we may make the following observations. Psalm 139:7 by the use of Hebrew parallelism suggests that God is everywhere present in spirit, for this is the very essence of God, (John 4:24). And because a spirit is not confined to time and space as bodies are, omnipresence is the natural result of being ultimate Spirit as God is. This fact makes manifest that no one can hide his sin from God, for God is everywhere present. Thus this has a very practical aspect to it.

A man who sincerely believes the omnipresence of God, cannot be indifferent to religion. To realize that the moral Governor of the universe is ever near, in all his holiness and power, and as much present as if he were nowhere else, must awaken solicitude. When a sense of guilt oppresses, the presence of such a companion becomes intolerable. The guilty man strives to flee from the presence of God, as Jonah did; but the doctrine of God’s omnipresence teaches him that the attempt is unavailing. The power of conscience tormenting the guilty man, wherever he goes, is terrible; but the presence of the God against whom he has sinned, and whose wrath he dreads, is still more terrible. To the soul, reconciled to God, the doctrine is full of consolation. In every place, in every condition, to have with us an almighty friend, a kind father, is a source of unspeakable comfort and joy. We need not fear, though we pass through fire or flood if God be with us. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, we may fear no evil. In every circumstance and trial, it conduces to holiness, to know that God is present. [John L. Dagg, Manual of Theology and Church Order, pp. 62-63.].

In 1 Kings 8, God’s omnipresence is revealed in that the very heaven of heavens, which are in a very peculiar sense the Lord’s, (Deut. 10:14), probably because His throne is there, cannot contain Him so as to confine Him to the exclusion of other places. Jeremiah 23:24, shows that God fills both heaven and earth, yet without any indication that He extends or exhausts Himself in doing so. Finally, Acts 17:27-28 shows God’s presence with all men, even those that are not saved, although, as already noted, He is not present with the unsaved in the same sense that He is with His own people.

Scripture is abundantly clear as to God’s omnipresence, for this is basic to the very nature of God, for a limited God is unworthy of the name of God, but another blessed truth that is corollary to this, is that Christ our Savior, being God, is also omnipresent. He declared this when He gave the Great Commission to His Church, for He said in Matthew 28:20: “And, lo (—behold, the same way this truth was introduced in 1 Kings 8:27), I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” This same truth is expressed in Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It is implied in Revelation 1:13.

Unless he was omnipresent, he could not be in whatsoever place two or three are gathered together in his name, or be in the midst of the candlesticks, the churches, or with his ministers, to the end of the world, (Matt. 18:20; 28:20), for though this is to be understood of his gracious presence, yet unless he was omnipresent, this could not be vouchsafed to all the saints, and all the churches, in all ages, at different places, at the same time; as when they are worshipping in different parts of the world. [John Gill, Body of Divinity, p. 43.].

This is the truth that is implied in such texts as Romans 8:38-39. Nothing can separate the saint from his God, for He is omnipresent, and this in a very special loving sense. Hallelujah!

The second attribute that we want to consider is that of omniscience. This may be logically deduced from God’s omnipresence, for if He is all-present then He has observed all things that ever have happened, and therefore He knows them, having observed their formulation from earliest times. Yea, most things He actually formed Himself, and is the source of them.

Omniscience is an inseparable companion-fact to omnipresence; or rather, is really a part of it. If God’s entire power of action is everywhere available at all times, his entire power of knowing is everywhere available at all times, for knowing is one of his acting. A thinking spirit who is perpetually present with all that exists will have full knowledge of all that exists. [W.N. Clarke, Outline of Christian Theology, p. 80.].

Omniscience means “all-knowledge” and has to do with God’s infinite and perfect knowledge of all things that are objects of knowledge. His omniscience is not limited in any way by time (past, present, future), since He Himself is not limited by time, but is above and exempt from it. It is for this reason that God’s foreknowledge, (Rom. 8:29; Acts 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:2), is not a bare passive prescience of a possibility, but rather is an active force that accomplishes God’s will (see this in Acts 2:23), so that it is almost equivalent to foreordination, the same Greek word is so rendered in 1 Peter 1:20.

God is, and always was so perfectly wise, that nothing ever did, or does, or can elude His knowledge. He knew, from all eternity, not only what He Himself intended to do, but also what He would incline and permit others to do. “Known unto God are all His works (ap aionos)from eternity” (Acts 15:18)... Consequently, God knows nothing now, nor will know anything hereafter, which He did not know and foresee from everlasting. His foreknowledge being co-eternal with Himself, and extending to everything that is or shall be done (Heb. 4:13). [Jerome Zanchius, Absolute Predestination, pp. 10-11.].

There is no possibility of anything happening except what God has foreknown and determined to allow to come to pass for His own good and just reasons. “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?” (Lam. 3:37). Note carefully here that it is not simply a matter of permission with the Lord, but that He actually commands this.

1. He knows all events that are certain or fixed. The certainty that they will come to pass is based upon his decree. He therefore knows all things that shall come to pass. 2. He knows all events that could possibly come to pass. This is based upon his infinite knowledge of himself and of all his creatures, by which all things or events, which could at any time or under any circumstances occur, are known to him. In these two classes are necessarily included all objects of knowledge. [J.P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, p. 88.].

He knows all events, past, present and future; knows them not as possibilities, but as certainties; not as certainties dependent on his efficient causation alone, but as certainties which so include all contingent causes and volitions as to subserve them to his own unchangable will. His infinite knowledge and eternal decrees are coeternal and inseparable. [E.G. Robinson, Christian Theology, pp. 83-84.].

Scriptural proof of this attribute of God are numerous. “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou has beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it,” (Ps. 139:1-6). Even the formation of all parts of each person is known and recorded in advance in God’s Book of Records, according to verses 15-16: “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” John 2:24-25: “Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world,” (Acts 15:18). “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33). “For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things,” (1 John 3:20). See also Psalm 147:4-5; 33:13-15; 104:24 and Hebrews 4:13.

From the omniscience of God some make a distinction of the omnisapience or “all-wisdom” of God, but this is actually almost the same thing, wisdom generally being the wise use of knowledge. But God is called, “the only wise God” in Romans 16:27, 1 Timothy 1:17 and Jude 25. And all about us we see the continuous evidences of His wisdom and knowledge in His working out of His eternal purpose of grace and glory.

There are no surprises that come to God out of the future. The fact that God is working out a purpose in the history of the world carries with it his perfect knowledge of the temporal order. This order is under his complete control. But it cannot be under his complete control unless it is under his perfect knowledge. The events of history must be foreknown of God else the history of the world is a series of haphazard events moving toward no purpose or goal. [W.T. Connor, Christian Doctrine, p. 86.].

What great comfort there is therefore in the assurance that God knows everything about every event that comes to pass, and that none are allowed to come to pass until they have first passed His review and revision. The “we know” of Romans 8:28 is based upon the fact of God’s perfect knowledge and control of all events. What a tremendous impact this would have upon each one of us if we would but enter practically into this glorious truth. For then we could meet every trial and affliction with the assurance that it came directly from the throne room of the Most High, and that it bore a blessing for us if we rightly meet it.

Unfortunately, all too many professing Christians either do not believe in God’s omniscience, or else they believe in it but believe that God does not have the power to do anything about the problems that He sees coming upon his people. In either case, it is rank humanism and unbelief that prompts such a view, and is dishonoring to God.

A comforting practical aspect of the omniscience of God is to be seen in that the Lord Jesus Christ not only knew all things by observation, but also He experienced all things that we do, sin alone excepted. This is set forth in, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:14-16). He knows by actual experience all that we suffer, and therefore He sympathizes with us in our temptations, and always provides the way of escape from these, (1 Cor. 10:13). We have but to look for it.

The third attribute to be considered is that of omnipotence. Here, as with the other attributes with the prefix omni, the thought is of all, or ultimate. In this case it has to do with God’s unlimited power to do any and all things that are the objects of power, and which do not involve a contradiction of God’s other attributes. For example, though God has all physical power to do as He pleases, His moral nature exercises a restriction upon Him so that He cannot do anything that is inherently evil. He cannot lie, (Heb. 6:18).

The omnipotence of God does not mean, of course, that He can do things that are logically absurd or things that are against His will. He cannot lie, because the holiness of His character prevents Him from willing to lie. And he cannot create a rock larger than He can lift; nor both an irresistible power and an immovable object; nor can He draw a line between two points shorter than a straight one; nor put two mountains adjacent to one another without creating a valley between them. He cannot do any of these things because they are not objects of power. They are self-contradictory and logically absurd. They would violate the laws that God has ordained, and thus cause God to cross Himself. [T. P. Simmons, Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine, p. 69.].

This does not mean that He is bound by the same rules as man is, for in God alone is might and right united, so that whatever He does is right. This is because all of God’s exercise of His omnipotence is directed by His omniscience, and it is all in harmony with right principles. And because of His holy nature, all that He does is good and right, for it is inherently impossible for God to do evil. It is because of man’s inherently evil nature that most of his power is put forth for wrong ends.

As we have noted before, the very term “God” suggests His omnipotence, for the Hebrew words so rendered (El, Eloah and Elohim) mean strength or might. Not only so, but it is sometimes united with other terms also suggesting power or might Thus, God revealed Himself to Abraham in Genesis 17:1 as “Almighty God,” to whom nothing is too hard, (Gen. 18:14). He has never surrendered this ability so that He still exercises almighty power. The Greek word pantokrator, appearing in 2 Corinthians 6:18, Revelation 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:15; and 21:22, also declares God’s omnipotence, and there are numerous texts that use neither of these words, yet teach that God is absolutely sovereign, and exercises His power without restraint from any. A sampling of these are: 2 Chronicles 20:6; Job 23:13-14; Psalm 33:8-11; 103:19; 115:3; 135:6; Proverbs 19:21; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Isaiah 14:24, 27; 46:10; Daniel 4:35; John 17:2; Ephesians 1:11; Philippians 2:13, and many others.)

The great mystery is not that the Bible teaches God’s omnipotence, but that any should doubt it, for all creation bears upon its face the fact of an almighty Creator that continually sustains the creation in perfect order, Col. 1:16-17.

Omnipotence is essential to God, it is his nature; a weak Deity is an absurdity to the human mind: the very heathens supposed their gods to be omnipotent, though without reason; but we have reason sufficient to believe that the Lord our God, who is the true God, is almighty; his operations abundantly prove it. {John Gill, Body of Divinity, p. 53.].

Doubts about God’s omnipotence spring from man’s inherently sinful and rebellious nature. For most people, while holding in theory that God is all-powerful, in practice deny it, because they see the inexorable connection between omnipotence and the sovereignty of God’s rule. And they are simply unwilling to submit to God’s rule, yet this rule is a moral one, and it is always exercised for their ultimate good.

We must keep in mind also that the sovereignty of God that grows out of his almightiness is to be thought of as moral; it is not the almightiness of sheer force. It is the rule of a righteous and loving Father, but it is nevertheless the rule of power. To think of the omnipotence of God as the sovereignty of sheer force is to think of him after the manner of Mohammedanism. [W.T. Connor, Christian Doctrine, p. 89.].

Again we must revert to the practical aspect of this attribute, and recall that the Savior claimed this very attribute for Himself in Matthew 28:18, and based the hope of success of His church on it, when He said: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in hearth. Go ye therefore...” Granted, the Greek word here is exousiaauthority but in Jesus authority never exists apart from ability. So that this is omnipotence that He claimed. And if the omnipotent Lord of heaven and earth has commissioned us to go and preach the gospel, baptize the converts into a church body, then teach them all His will, is there any room left for fear or failure? Never! Indeed, all of the attributes of God are united together for the good and success of the Lord’s people.

These three attributes, as soon as they are grouped together, illustrate for us that Unity in God of which we have spoken, which underlies all his attributes. In omnipresence one immeasurable Spirit is present to all things. In omniscience one all-comprehending Mind knows all things. In omnipotence one all-sufficient sway is over all things, in a universe not too great for God. The living God is One, living in these vast modes of existence. [W.N. Clarke, Outline Of Christian Theology, p. 88.].

This is our God through His infinite mercy and grace, and all praise be to His glorious name for making us accepted in the Beloved, (Eph. 1:6). Are His attributes arrayed for your good or for your evil? For your good only if you have repented and trusted Him for salvation.

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