Majesty and Power
I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all I please … What I have said I will bring about; what I have planned I will do’
Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!
Having summarised the works of God in creation and in triumphing over His enemies, Job declares ‘These are but the outer fringe of His works. How faint the whisper we hear of Him! Who then can understand the thunder of His power?’ (Job 26:14). And in one verse we are flung against the infinite power and majesty of the Living God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is awe-inspiring to realise that whilst we may be overwhelmed by the power that God has displayed in all that He has done, He is in fact able to do infinitely more, ‘…immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine’ (Eph.3:20). Truly nothing is too hard for Him (Jer.32:17).
It is easy to lose balance as we consider the Almighty seated on His throne, ruling and overruling with illimitable power throughout His creation. Surely this God can do anything. ‘Power belongs to You O God’ (Ps.62:11). In fact we need to be a bit more nuanced than this. It is obviously incorrect to say God can do anything. It is more than semantics for example, to remind ourselves that God cannot sin. We are told several times throughout Scripture that He cannot lie (e.g. Heb.6:18). Nor can He be pleased without faith (Heb.11:6), or save impenitent sinners. The more glorious refrain that echoes through the ages is that He does what He pleases (see e.g. Is.46:10; Dan.4:35; Ps.115:3; Psalm 135:6 etc.). He is not limited by anything beyond His own will and desires. What in his infinite wisdom He decrees, He is able to bring to pass by His infinite power and authority. ‘No word from God will ever fail’ (Lk.1:37), for there lies within His being the undiminished and undiminishable fullness of power. He cannot be frustrated or restrained. In His incomparably great power (Eph.1:19), He never tires or wearies (Is.40:28).
Theologians delight to lay out the glory of God’s power through Christ in creation (e.g. Ps.33:6; Heb.1:2); in sustaining that creation (Heb.1:3); in salvation
(Heb.1:3-4; Rom.8:30); in victory over His enemies (Col.2:14-15) and in the renewal of all things (Phil.1:6, Jude 24-25). Capturing a sense of the power of God transforms our understanding of the world. Take the power of God at work in Christ in the moment-by-moment sustaining the life of the creation (Col.1:17). What would happen if His power wavered for even an instant? Things don’t just happen of their own accord. What we call the laws of nature are actually the sustaining power of God upholding all things in an ordered and cohesive system that shapes the functioning of creation and providence.
We fear power. As Lord Acton famously said, ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Not in the hands of the Son of Man who is enthroned in glory (Daniel 7:13-14). But we are nevertheless surprised at how He uses His power. ‘Jesus knew that God had put all things under his power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped towel around His waist. After that He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciple’s feet…’ (John 13:3-5). Truly the greatest among you will be your servant (Matt.23:11). This God who is able to whatever He pleases, pleases to serve and to give His life as a Ransom for many (Mk.10:45). This is the meaning of the washing of the feet: ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with me’ (Jn.13:8). He pleases to bring His power to bear on the devastating reality of sin and on the plight those who live without hope and without God in the world (Eph.2:12). Christ, the power of God (I Cor.1:24) came to do what only an Almighty God could do. He Himself bore our sins in His body (I Pet.2:24), and then was raised from the dead by the power of God, and was seated by that same power at His right hand in the heavenly realms (Eph.1:19-20).
And now the power of God is inextricably tied to the message of Christ crucified (I Cor.1:18). ‘The Gospel … is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes’ (Rom.1:17, see also Matt.28:19-20). In this Gospel, the power of God that was exhibited so sublimely in the creation of all things by the Word of God, is again displayed through the Word, as Christ is preached as Lord (II Cor.4:5); and the God who said ‘let light shine out of darkness’ makes His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ Jesus’ (v.6). If you would like to confront the power of God, and see it at work, then proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Philosophers who try to think about the power of God often end up asking questions like: ‘Can God create a rock too heavy to lift… and then lift it?’ What do you make of such questions? How would you answer them?
What event in Scripture illustrates God’s power for you most compellingly? Why? What is it about that event that speaks to you so strongly?
How does God express His power in your salvation: past, present, and future?
Where else in your experience does God demonstrate His power? Where and how would you like to see Him manifest His power? Why do you think He doesn’t use His power the way you want Him to?
(e.g. to protect His people from suffering?)
We have thought of what it means for God to be powerful. What does it mean for people to be powerful? How could we grow in power, and should we want to?
The end of the Lord’s Prayer brings the question of God’s kingdom, power and glory to bear on our approach to God. How does thinking of God’s power and majesty affect how we pray and what we would prayer for?
I praised the Most High; I honoured and glorified Him who lives for ever: “His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the people of the earth. No-one can hold back His hand, or say to Him, ‘What have you done’”
For further reflection
We can feel unsure about the concentration of power in the hands of a single individual. Our history is littered with examples of totalitarian regimes and oppressive tyrannies. When power is uncoupled from the checks and balances we have grown used to, it can quickly become vicious and abusive, brutal and pitiless. What then do we make of Christ, the power of God, and in whom all authority in heaven and earth has been invested? Who even when He delegates authority (Rom.13:1-7) remains undiminished in His power and majesty. As with all His attributes, we need not fear one whose power is integrated within the beauty of God’s holiness. The Living God is worthy of all power and strength. He is good, and patient, wise and compassionate. Power in the hands of such a One as this is a glorious thing, not to be feared. In fact it is a necessary thing. An old divine, Stephen Charnock wrote:
‘The power of God is that ability and strength to bring to pass whatever He pleases, whatever His infinite wisdom may direct, and whatever the infinite purity of His will may resolve. As holiness is the beauty of all God’s attributes, so power is that which gives life and action to all the Divine nature. How worthless His eternal counsels would be if His power could not execute them. His mercy would be feeble pity, if He were destitute of the power to relieve; his justice inconsequential without the power to punish, and His promises an empty sound without His strength to accomplish them’.
In His hands illimitable power is safe. But it is illimitable power still. There is an appropriate awe and reverence due to One who holds such power, and more, who can hold such power and not be corrupted by it. In the Bible it is called the ‘fear of the Lord’. We learn to fear Him, and we need fear no other (Ps.27:1). To not fear Him is the ‘sinfulness of the wicked’ (Ps.36:1). How can we cultivate the fear of the Lord in our own life, and in the life of our Churches?