Note: This post is part of an ongoing series of posts related to the attributes of God. Here are the links to the previous posts (Why Study the Attributes of God, The Holiness of God, The Power of God, The Presence of God).
Knowledge of God or otherwise known as the Omniscience of God deals with God’s knowledge, i.e., God is all-knowing. In Latin, “Omni” means “all” and “science” in its original sense means “knowledge” or “knowing.”
Arthur Pink in his excellent book, Attributes of God quotes this:
“God knows everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events and all creatures, of the past, the present, and the future.”
In other words, God does not have to learn anything nor did he gradually become all-knowing. His knowledge of all things was, is and always will be perfect [Job 37:16]. Nothing catches him by surprise, not even the most wicked of acts and nothing escapes his attention.
God’s knowledge as applying extends to both actual and possible events. God not only knows what has happened and what will happen but also what might have happened. In Matthew 11:21, Jesus said, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.” Jesus emphatically states Tyre and Sidon would have repented if they had seen what these people in Chorazin and Bethsaida saw―i.e., the miracles of Jesus. That is knowledge of what might have happened, not mere knowledge of what did happen. That’s the extent of God’s omniscience.
Perhaps the most familiar portion of Scripture that describes God’s omniscience is Psalm 139:1-6, 15-16, “1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain…15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Mind boggling to comprehend a God who knows us so intricately.
Not only that, God knows all about other creation of his such as birds and even the stars. Psalm 147:4-5 says, “4 He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. 5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” Psalm 50:11 says that God “knows every bird in the mountains.”
God knows the future as well in terms of the events that will happen. Just the fact that so many prophecies have been fulfilled according to their predictions should teach us this fact [e.g., virgin birth (Isa 7:14, Matt 1:18-25), the place where Jesus would be born (Mic 5:2, Lk 2:4-7)]. These should give us confidence in the fulfillment of what God has revealed in the book of Revelation about future events as well, i.e., the things that “must soon take place” [Rev 1:1].
The omniscience of Jesus. Even Jesus exercised this attribute in his earthly ministry thus displaying his divine nature. In his rebuke to the Pharisees who accused him of blasphemy for pronouncing forgiveness for sins to a paralyzed man, we read these words, “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?”” [Matthew 9:4]. Omniscience is reserved only for God and if Jesus knew their thoughts, then he is divine as well.
The Omniscience of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is omniscient as well. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” By this very statement, we can clearly understand that the Holy Spirit who knows all the thoughts of God is divine himself.
So, all three members of the Trinity are clearly omniscient. They know all things and nothing is hidden from them. Now, how do these truths benefit believers? In at least 4 ways.
1. It leads us to praise God more.
Even though unbelievers do not like the fact that God is omniscient, believers should be in a state of awe and praise God for this attribute. Truths such as, “God knowing all about us right from the womb, God knowing all the hairs of our head, his knowledge of what we are thinking, what words come out of our mouths even before they come out, the number of stars, the number of animals, etc.,” should cause us to join David in praise, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” [Psalm 139:6].
We who have our eyes opened to know this awesome God should praise him all the day for his knowledge of all things.
2. It brings great comfort to a troubled soul.
In trials. Luke 12:7 reads, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” What a comforting thought! Psalm 56:8 reminds us that God even a record of our tears.
So, even in the midst of great trials, we can cease from giving into worry because he knows what we are going through.
In failures. Not only in trials does the knowledge of God’s omniscience brings comfort, but it also brings comfort when we have sinned and messed up. How so? Remember, God knows all things from beginning to end even before we were created. So, no sin of ours catches God by surprise even though it may catch us by surprise.
Psalm 103:14 says that God knows that “we are dust.” He knows we will fail him at times. And despite knowing we would fail, again and again, God still set his steadfast love upon us to save us and keep us till the end. Wow! WOW! That is so comforting! What love!
That is why we can freely confess all our failures before God and not be shy. He knows our failures anyway. He simply wants us to come clean in our confession so we can experience his comfort [1 John 1:9]. He does not keep a record of our sins. Psalm 130:3-4 says, “3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”
Not only does God not keep a record of our sins, he also promises to “remember [our] sins no more” [Heb 8:12; Isa 43:25] when we become his children. God not remembering our sins is not to be understood in the sense that God forgets, but in the sense of God not remembering them in a way to throw it back at our faces in judgment.
When Peter sinned by denying the Lord 3 times and the resurrected Lord confronted him the third time with the question, “Do you love me?,” what was Peter’s response? “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” [John 21:17]. What was the basis of Peter’s appeal? The Omniscience of Jesus! “Lord you know my heart. Even though I denied you, I did it out of fear. Deep inside, you know I do love you.” That was what he was basically saying. And the loving Jesus not only forgave him freely, but also put him back in the ministry. Now, that is comforting!
At times, our own hearts keep on condemning us even after we have sought forgiveness for the sins we have done. We beat ourselves up constantly. We must refrain from doing so! Remember the assurance of John, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” [1 John 3:20]. Take comfort in God’s knowledge.
3. It encourages us to pray with confidence.
In Matthew 6:8 in the context of prayer, our Lord himself encourages us to pray by reminding us of God’s omniscience with these words, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Now some have trouble with prayer because of these very words. “If God knows what we already need, why should we pray?” they ask. While an all-knowing God ordains the end of all things, he also ordains the means.
In other words, prayer is one of the means through which God fulfills what he has already planned to fulfill. In addition, prayer is a way of our expressing our dependence upon him. And what confidence we have when we approach God’s throne of grace knowing the fact that God is fully aware of our needs.
4. It produces a greater sense of accountability.
Proverbs 5:21 says, “For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths.” Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” These verses bring with them a sense of great accountability. Nothing we think or do is hidden from God’s knowledge.
In fact, the Bible goes on further. Not only does God knows all our ways, but he also knows all our motives. So, it’s not just “what” we do that matters, but also the motives, “why” we do that matters! Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” This does not forbid all kinds of judgment but forbids judging the motives of the heart. We don’t know the motives of every heart, only God does and he will judge the motives in the future. For example, we can be:
- Outwardly humble, but inwardly proud;
- Outwardly generous, but inwardly greedy;
- Outwardly selfless in our service, but inwardly seeking to promote our selfish agenda;
- Outwardly loving, but inwardly filled with jealousy and hatred.
The list can go on. The bottom line is this: God is not fooled by mere outward actions, he sees the hearts and probes the motives. We can do something outwardly “Christian” and others may even applaud us for it, yet God knows our real motives! That is why it is useless to put on a mask―useless to practice hypocrisy. God knows the “real” you and me!
The opposite applies as well. Even if others criticize us for some action, if our motives are truly godly, we can take comfort in that God knows the real motives―even if people are not aware of them. God’s perfect knowledge thus brings a greater sense of accountability.
So, 4 benefits for the believer from knowing/reflecting on God’s omniscience. 1. Leads us to praise God more; 2. Brings great comfort to our troubled souls; 3. Encourages us to pray with confidence; 4. Produces a greater sense of accountability.
For the unbeliever, however, this is one of those attributes along with the attribute of God’s sovereignty [i.e. God doing whatever he chooses to do] that annoys them the most. Why? By nature, we don’t want anybody to know more than what we want them to know about us—even when it comes to issues that are not sinful. And when it comes to blatant sinful actions, the resistance is even more. For example, adultery is not called as such anymore. It is called as a “Private Affair” meaning it is none of your business. And that type of a thinking extends toward God as well: “God, don’t intrude in my life. What I do is my private business.”
Jesus summed up this attitude in clear terms in John 3:19,“This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” Sinful humanity does not want their deeds to be exposed. It’s my private life. Don’t embarrass me or cause me to feel bad about my actions. Just leave me alone. And if anyone brings up about God knowing what we do and that we have to give an account, there is tremendous resistance.
This is not a new thing. This type of attitude was present even in Isaiah’s day when the righteous confronted the wicked for their sins. “9 For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. 10 They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. 11 Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” [Isaiah 30:9-11]. Don’t remind us of God. Leave us alone. What we do is our private business. That was their attitude.
You see, it is one thing to love that old popular song by the group called Police, “Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.” But it is totally another thing when that is applied in a practical sense when someone such as God watches our every move! It is a revolting thought. And sinners hate God for being God!
But, this will not stop an omniscient God from being who he is. He will not bow down to our will or change his ways to accommodate us. He does know everything about us. And he will call us to account. We cannot escape him. Hebrews 4:13,“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Notice, “everything is uncovered and laid bare” before an all-knowing and all-seeing God!
What we do in the dark, he knows. Psalm 139:11-12 says,“11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Daniel 2:22 reads, “He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.”
When rebuking the evil leaders for “plotting evil” [Ezek 11:2], this is what God said, “I know what is going through your mind” [11:5] thereby reminding them of his omniscience.
On the contrary, the wicked according to Psalm 10:11, 13 think like this: “11…God will never notice; he covers his face and never sees… 13…He won’t call me to account.” But, they forget God is watching. Job 34:21 says,“His eyes are on the ways of mortals; he sees their every step.” Jeremiah 16:17 is another reminder of God’s omniscience, “My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes.” The wicked forget God’s warnings in Numbers 32:23, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” This is what God has to say about those who live as though God does not see their sins, “but they do not realize that I remember all their evil deeds. Their sins engulf them; they are always before me” [Hosea 7:2]. And one day, this God who sees all things will judge people who have not turned from their sins and turned to him, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve” [Jeremiah 17:10].
The same God who promises to forget the sins of those who have put their faith in his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who took their punishment for sins also promises this: I will remember the sins of those who die without having their sins covered in the blood of my Son Jesus. And I will remember them in a way to bring it to their attention as I pronounce judgement―by throwing them into the lake of fire for all eternity.
So, that is the reality that faces those who have never trusted in Christ. God’s omniscience will bring all your sins to light. The only way to escape this is to turn from your sins and trust in Christ alone. Will you do it today?