What does it mean that God is omnipotent?
Question: "What does it mean that God is omnipotent?"
Answer: The word omnipotent comes from omni- meaning “all” and potent meaning “power.” As with the attributes of omniscience and omnipresence, it follows that, if God is infinite, and if He is sovereign, which we know He is, then He must also be omnipotent. He has all power over all things at all times and in all ways.
Job spoke of God’s power in Job 42:2: “I know that you can do all things and that no plan of yours can be thwarted.” Job was acknowledging God’s omnipotence in carrying out His plans. Moses, too, was reminded by God that He had all power to complete His purposes regarding the Israelites: “The LORD answered Moses, ‘Is the LORD's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.’”
Nowhere is God’s omnipotence seen more clearly than in creation. God said, “Let there be…” and it was so (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, etc.). Man needs tools and materials to create; God simply spoke, and by the power of His word, everything was created from nothing. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).
God’s power is also seen in the preservation of His creation. All life on earth would perish were it not for God’s continual provision of everything we need for food, clothing and shelter, all from renewable resources sustained by His power as the preserver of man and beast (Psalm 36:6). The seas which cover most of the earth, and over which we are powerless, would overwhelm us if God did not proscribe their limits (Job 38:8-11).
God’s omnipotence extends to governments and leaders (Daniel 2:21), as He restrains them or lets them go their way according to His plans and purposes. His power is unlimited in regard to Satan and his demons. Satan’s attack on Job was limited to only certain actions. He was restrained by God’s unlimited power (Job 1:12; 2:6). Jesus reminded Pilate that he had no power over Him unless it had been granted to him by the God of all power (John 19:11).
Being omnipotent, God can do anything. However, that doesn’t mean God has lost His omnipotence when the Bible says that He cannot do certain things. For example, Hebrews 6:18 says that He cannot lie. That does not mean He lacks the power to lie, but that God chooses not to lie in accord with His own moral perfection. In the same way, despite His being all-powerful and hating evil, He allows evil to happen, according to His good purpose. He uses certain evil events to allow His purposes to unfold, such as when the greatest evil of all occurred—the killing of the perfect, holy, innocent Lamb of God for the redemption of mankind.
As God incarnate, Jesus Christ is omnipotent. His power is seen in the miracles He performed—His numerous healings, the feeding of the five thousand (Mark 6:30-44), calming the storm (Mark 4:37-41), and the ultimate display of power, raising Lazarus and Jairus’s daughter from the dead (John 11:38-44; Mark 5:35-43), an example of His control over life and death. Death is the ultimate reason that Jesus came—to destroy it (1 Corinthians 15:22; Hebrews 2:14) and to bring sinners into a right relationship with God. The Lord Jesus stated clearly that He had power to lay down His life and power to take it up again, a fact that He allegorized when speaking about the temple (John 2:19). He had power to call upon twelve legions of angels to rescue Him during His trial, if needed (Matthew 26:53), yet He offered Himself in humility in place of others (Philippians 2:1-11).
The great mystery is that this power can be shared by believers who are united to God in Jesus Christ. Paul says, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9b). God’s power is exalted in us most when our weaknesses are greatest because He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). It is God’s power that continues to hold us in a state of grace despite our sin (2 Timothy 1:12), and by His power we are kept from falling (Jude 24). His power will be proclaimed by all the host of heaven for all eternity (Revelation 19:1). May that be our endless prayer!
Recommended Resources: Knowing God by J.I. Packer and Logos Bible Software.