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What Does God Know?

One of the unique traits of God is the vast and complete knowledge that He possesses. Men have described this trait of God with the term "omniscience," which means "all knowledge." To say that God is omniscient means that He is unlimited in knowledge of things great and small, whether past, present, or future. Nothing escapes His knowledge, for His perception extends to every time, place, object, and creature. "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13). Such infinite knowledge and perception are exclusively the possessions of God.

The Bible makes repeated claims of God's omniscience and verifies it with proof. Jesus demonstrated the Father's knowledge of even insignificant things in Matthew 10:29-31:

"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."

Surely, if God knows the movements of every sparrow and the number of hairs on everybody's heads, then nothing escapes His knowledge. Consider God's own declaration of His knowledge in Isaiah 46:9-11:

"Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'...Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it."

Here God lays claim to His unique position as God and demonstrates His knowledge of events before they happen. Only He can declare "the end from the beginning," for only He knows what the end is. An example of this foreknowledge is seen in the nation of Israel. God told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved for four-hundred years in a strange land and then would return to take possession of Canaan (Gen. 15:13-14; 17:7-8). These things came to pass just as God said through the history of the nation of Israel.

Another important example of God's omniscience is found in the gospel plan for man's redemption from sin through Christ. In Ephesians 3:11, the Bible says that this plan "was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord." Indeed, God knew from eternity that He would send His Son to be the Savior of man. Speaking of Christ, Peter wrote by inspiration, "For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you" (1Pet. 1:20; see also Eph. 1:4). Even before the world was made, God knew the gospel plan, including the very details of Christ's crucifixion (see Psalm 22).

From ancient times, men have had difficulties with the concept of God's omniscience, and some have offered unscriptural doctrines to deal with the problems they perceive. Many have thought that God's complete foreknowledge of man's deeds makes man's free will impossible. This perceived conflict has caused some men to deny God's omniscience and others to deny man's free will. John Calvin is one who denied man's free will, teaching instead that each man is predestined to either faith and salvation or unbelief and condemnation even before he is born. However, this doctrine contradicts the plain teachings of Scripture (see Josh. 24:15; Ezek. 33:11; Acts 17:30; 2Pet. 3:9; etc.).

Compromises to Scripture or to the concept of God's omniscience are unnecessary. It is not incompatible for man to make his own free choices and for God to know beforehand how man will choose. Just because we may not understand this perfectly does not mean that we must compromise. After all, God knows some things that are impossible for man to know. God's knowledge does not depend on man, and man's limitations do not constrain Him. Isaiah asks rhetorically, "With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?" (Isa. 40:14).

Some men have attempted to use the omniscience of God to accuse Him of injustice, but this has no basis. They say that if God knew men would sin and be lost forever, then it was unjust for Him to create them. This is not an argument made by believers in God, but rather it comes from unbelievers who seek to destroy the faith of others. Scripture answers this argument, saying, "There is no injustice with God" (Rom. 9:14). The fact that God has created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27) is immeasurably gracious, and the fact that he gives every sinner an opportunity to be saved is beyond just. God's justice is served through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even as God is just to allow men to exist now knowing that they will sin but can obtain forgiveness, it was also just for Him to create men in the first place knowing that they would sin.

When considering the omniscience of God, we all can join in Paul's exclamation from Romans 11:33 -- "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" To us, God's ways are unsearchable, but how rich and wonderful are His wisdom and knowledge.

Stacey E. Durham



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