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Doctrine of God - Omniscience and Wisdom Print E-mail
The Doctrine of God
Sunday, 02 March 2008

I.  Introduction:

 Once again we can begin with a question: how smart is God?  (I hope you are beginning to see a pattern with these questions.)  Of course God is the smartest of all.  He is all-knowing and all-wise.  The term ‘omniscience’ means ‘all-knowing.’  Before we dive into these two attributes let me say a word about their difference.  As we have seen before, these two are closely related.  Yet, the difference that I would note would be that omniscience refers to knowledge, while wisdom can refer to the application of that knowledge.  God not only knows everything, but He knows how to faithfully apply that knowledge in every situation to accomplish His perfect plans.  This is not exact, but can help us differentiate between the two.  Let’s now consider the Baptist Faith and Message.

II.  The Baptist Faith and Message:

 In the general section on God, the BFM says that God is an “intelligent” being.  It goes on to affirm that God is “all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures.”  This last phrase specifically combats a theological error that has crept up in our day, namely ‘Open Theism,’ which teaches that God does not know the future decisions of His free creatures.  Likewise, the statement on God the Father says that He is “all knowing…and all wise.”  Thus, the BFM affirms the omniscience and wisdom of God.

III.  Passages:

 A.  Omniscience:
  1.  Psalm 90:8 I probably should not have started with this passage, but it was the first in the text, so we will begin here.  The Lord knows even our secret sins.  There is nothing that we do that He does not know.  Of course, the glorious good news is that even so, He still shows us favor and establishes the work of our hands (see v. 17 and the rest of the psalm).
  2.  Psalm 139:1-6, 16 The psalmist again affirms that God knows everything about us.  Whether we sit down, or rise up, He knows.  He knows our thoughts and all our ways.  He knows what we are going to say before we say it.  The Lord knows all of this and more.  Indeed, His knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.  Likewise, in verse 16 the psalmist teaches that God knows all our days even before they came to be.
  3.  Psalm 147:5 Again we see the psalmist affirming that God’s understanding is beyond measure for He knows all things.
  4.  Isaiah 40:13-14 (Romans 11:34) Isaiah teaches us hear that the Lord is always the teacher and never the student.  There is nothing that we or anyone can teach God because there is nothing that He does not know.  After speaking of God’s glorious plan of redemption in Romans 1-11, he concludes with praise, borrowing these words from Isaiah.
  5.  Matthew 6:8 Jesus teaches us that God knows what we need before we even ask Him.  Thus, we can confidently bring all our needs to the all-knowing Father.
  6.  Matthew 10:29-30 The Lord knows all great things and all small things.  There is nothing too insignificant for Him to know.
  7.  Matthew 11:21-23 Not only does the Lord know all actual things, He knows all possibilities.  Jesus speaks of the cities of Tyre and Sidon repenting if only the works done in Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done there.  He says that Sodom would still exist if the mighty works done in Capernaum had been done there.  Thus, God knows all possibilities.  On a side note, this is why we can affirm that the universe that God in fact did make will the universe that will bring Him the most glory (even if we think we could have done better with our limited knowledge).
  8.  1 John 3:20 We see the Apostle John affirming that God knows all things.  He is indeed omniscient.  There is nothing outside of His knowledge.
 B.  Wisdom:
  1.  Job 12:13 Job affirms that God is wise and that wisdom belongs to Him.
  2.  Job 28 Job asks the question here: where is wisdom to be found.  He speaks of man being able to search out jewels and stop up streams, but we cannot find the way to wisdom.  Yet, in verse 23 He tells us God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.  Thus, the Lord is wise and He knows the value of wisdom and teaches man how to be wise (see v. 28).
  3.  Daniel 2:20-23 Daniel is praising the Lord for giving him the meaning of Nebuchadnezzsar’s dream.  He speaks of God’s knowledge of all things and His wisdom over all things.  He thanks the Lord for giving him wisdom and knowledge to deal with the king. 
  4.  Romans 16:27 Paul closes his letter to the Romans by speaking of God as the only wise God.  Again, in the context of Romans, we see that Paul is recognizing and praising God for His wisdom in the plan of salvation.
  5.  Revelation 7:12 As the angels are worshipping around the throne of the Lord they are declaring His wisdom.  Thus, Daniel, Paul, and the angels all worship the Lord for His great wisdom over all.

IV.  Implications:

 A.  The above passages clearly teach that God knows all things.  Let me make some other observations concerning this doctrine.  First, God knows all things and all possibilities, yet, He still chose to create us and redeem us.  His grace is truly amazing toward us.  Second, building upon the first, God knows everything about us and yet He still loves us.  When we talked about this in the men’s study, we all agreed at how wonderful this is.  When I read in the psalms that God knows all my secrets and all my thoughts and all my sins, I can only first respond with great fear and trepidation.  Yet, when I realize that He sent His Son to forgive and redeem me and that He loves me even though He knows me completely, I cannot help but be humbled by such love.  What glorious truth indeed!  Third, as we have noted earlier, this doctrine has come under serious scrutiny as of late.  Open theism argues that God does not know the future because the free acts of men that have not yet been made cannot be known.  Yet, the Scriptures that we have looked at make this error obvious and others have gone into much greater detail than I can to refute their interpretations. 1

 B.  The Scriptures also clearly teach that God is wise in all of His actions.  The wisdom of God in all that He does is seen through many of the specific acts in Scripture: Creation, His dealings with Israel, our redemption at the cross (see below), His ordering of the Church (to name a few).  Thus, it is easy for the Bible believing Christian to affirm His wisdom in all actions.  Yet, it is not always easy to do this in real life situations.  Things happen that do not seem wise and many respond by questioning the wisdom and goodness of God.  Without glossing over the difficulties of these circumstances, we must constantly come back to the Word and remember (believe) that God is wise in all He does even when we cannot see it. 

I often think about the story of Job.  When you first read the story you may be tempted to want to say something like this to Job when he is in the middle of his struggles with his friends: ‘Job, just remember the whole situation, you know, Satan’s challenge to God about you and all, let that encourage you.’  Of course, we must realize that Job never knew what we know.  God never explained the situation to Job (at least as far as we are told in the text).  In the end, when we expect God to do just that, He comes and reminds Job of His greatness and His wisdom and His sovereign control over all.  And Job is comforted.  He finds comfort not in an explanation of the situation, but in the character of God.  May we learn that lessen.  May we firmly believe, especially when we cannot see, that God is wise in all that He does.

V.  Christ and the Cross

 Once again, the weight of these attributes is most clearly felt when we consider the cross of Christ.  Look at Romans 5:6-11.  Christ knew that He had come to die for sinners.  He knew that we were weak and helpless and undeserving.  He knew that we were His enemies.  Yet, even so, He died for us.  His knowledge of us was perfect and yet He still loved us.  Even now, His knowledge of us is perfect, yet, He loves us and forgives us and calls His own.  Granted, we should never presume on such kindness (see Romans 2:4).  Rather, may it lead us to quick repentance and faithful following of the One who knows us and still loves us. 

Likewise, we need to marvel at the great wisdom God displayed at the cross.  Look at 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.  Paul rejoices in the wisdom of God in our redemption.  The world will scoff and call it foolishness, but we who have been redeemed will call it the power of God and the wisdom of God.  It is so amazing because God forgave us without compromising His character.  He remained holy and just in His redemption of sinners (see Romans 3:21-26).  What glorious wisdom!!  Not only that, but Paul tells us that God has united all those who believe in Christ, be they Jew or Gentile, slave or free, black or white, rich or poor, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10).  Thus, God’s plan of redemption, which culminated in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, is the greatest display of His omniscience and wisdom.  May we indeed exult in our great God and His great plan.  Amen.

1 For thorough responses to open theism, see Bruce Ware, Their God is Too Small and God’s Lesser Glory, as well as John Piper, Justin Taylor, and P. K. Helseth, Beyond the Bounds.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 12 March 2008 )

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