The Three “Os”
There are three “O” words that we often use to describe the nature of God. God is:
- Omnipresent – which Dictionary.com explains as “
- Omnipotent – which the dictionary defines as Almighty or infinite in power.
- Omniscient – is sometimes confused with Omnipotent, but it is defined as having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.
I think of the three this latter one is the hardest to understand and thus we often question what God knows and when or how He knows it. Sam Storms does a nice job pointing out ten things we should know about God’s Omniscience. His points are:
- God does not learn: he simply knows. He neither discovers nor forgets
- With God the act of perception is complete and instantaneous. God thinks about all things at once.
- God’s knowledge is independent, not dependent. He does not receive his knowledge from anyone or from anything external to himself. (This is something important to remember as we pray – God already knows the needs that exist – in prayer we are not informing him of something he isn’t aware of.)
- God’s knowledge is infallible, not subject to error. God is always correct in what he knows.
- God’s knowledge is infinite, not partial. God knows exhaustively all his own deeds and plans and he also knows us thoroughly and exhaustively. No secret of the human heart, no thought of the mind or feeling of the soul escapes his gaze.
- God has exhaustive foreknowledge over all things that come to pass, including the morally accountable choices made by men and women. God alone knows the future, for God alone has ordained it.
- The truth of God’s omniscience should affect how we worship him. We should adore him for his wonderful perfection.
- A proper understanding of God’s understanding ought also to have a profound impact on our humility. Consideration of the infiniteness of God’s knowledge should abate our vanity, the tendency to be proud of our knowledge.
- God’s knowledge of the secrets of our hearts should have a profound influence on our personal and practical holiness. When we know that he has condemned something as hateful before his holiness, some act as odious to him, it should arm us with a greater strength as we face temptation.
- This understanding of God’s knowledge, which makes us fearful of sin, is also the foundation of comfort and assurance. If God is omniscient, then he knows the worst about us, but loves us notwithstanding!
A clearer understanding of God’s omniscience should give us a greater sense of awe before him, strengthening us in our temptations, and comforting us in our struggles.
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything. (I John 3:19-20)