Attributes of God: Lesson 4: God is Omniscient

Omniscience Defined

The word “omniscience” is a compound, consisting of the prefix “omni,” meaning all, and the root “science,” meaning knowledge. Put the two together and you have the literal meaning of the term: God is omniscient, that is, He is all-knowing. He “knows all things” (1 John 3:20; cf. John 21:17); “His understanding is infinite” (Ps 147:5; cf. Ps 139:6, Isa 55:8-9, and Rom 11:33); He is “perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16). God has all knowledge; thus, He is the source of all the knowledge possessed by mankind.

God does not learn (Isa 40:13-14). He has always known all things–past, present, and future[1] (Isa 42:9, 46:10a)–instantaneously. God knows all things in “one indivisible, simultaneous act of intuition” (McCune, p. 95).[2]  Thus, God has neither memory nor prescience (McCune, p. 99). God’s knowledge even includes possibilities. In other words, not only does God know what will happen, but also what could happen. Here are two examples:

Then David said, “O LORD God of Israel, Your servant has heard for certain that Saul is seeking to come to Keilah to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down just as Your servant has heard? O LORD God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the pursuit. – 1 Samuel 23:10-13

Then He [Jesus] began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.” – Matthew 11:20-21, 23

Some Things Which God Knows

The number and names of the stars. He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them (Ps 147:4; cf. Isa 40:26).

The number of hairs on your head. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered (Matt 10:30). FYI: It has been estimated that the number of hairs on the average redhead is 80,000, on the average brunette 100,000, and on the average blond 120,000 (insert your own joke here ().

Man’s thoughts, words, actions, and motives. O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all (Ps 139:1-4). See also Deuteronomy 31:21, 1 Kings 8:39, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Job 31:4, Proverbs 15:11, Ezekiel 11:5, Luke 16:15, and Acts 1:24. God knows everything we think, say, and do, and why we think what we think, say what we say, and do what we do.

Some Implications of God’s Omniscience

The doctrine of divine omniscience is immeasurably relevant to the day-to-day experience of the believer. If ever there existed an opportunity to shatter the silly notion that theology is barren and devoid of practical benefits, this is it@ (Storms, p. 82).

Because God is omniscient, we are accountable to Him. 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 (Heb 4:13 in the NIV; see also Ps 33:13-15, Prov 5:21, 15:3, and Jer 32:19). Accountability for the Christian will ultimately take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10).

Because God is omniscient, we should be motivated to forsake sin and pursue righteousness (1 Tim 6:11, 2 Tim 2:22). I keep Your precepts and Your testimonies, For all my ways are before You (Ps 119:168). There is both a negative and a positive aspect to God’s omniscience. Negatively, God sees all the wickedness that we do (consider, for example, Cain’s murder of Abel in Gen 4 and Achan=s theft in Josh 7) and judges us accordingly (1 Sam 2:3, Ps 44:20-21, 90:8, 94:4-9, Isa 29:15, Jer 16:17, 17:9-10, Hos 7:2, Rev 2:23). This is a sobering thought. As Tozer states: “That God knows each person through and through can be a cause of shaking fear to the man that has something to hide–some unforsaken sin, some secret crime committed against man or God” (Tozer, p. 57). Stephen Charnock (quoted in Storms, p. 83) adds: “Temptations have no encouragement to come near him that is constantly armed with the thoughts that his sin is booked in God’s omniscience.” Positively, however, God also sees all the good that we do (Isa 40:27) and rewards us accordingly (Heb 6:10).

Because God is omniscient, we should invite His scrutiny. As we saw earlier, David begins Psalm 139 by declaring God’s omniscience. Notice how he ends the very same Psalm: Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way (Ps 139:23-24; cf. Ps 26:2). David realized that he could not possibly hide anything from God. Consequently, he invited God to “search him out” and reveal his shortcomings.

God’s omniscience is not only a cause for concern, but also for comfort. As the songwriter has written: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me” (see Matt 10:29-31). See also 2 Chronicles 16:9a. “To us who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope that is set before us in the gospel, how unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No talebearer can inform on us, no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us” (Tozer, p. 57).

[1]God foreknows the future because He foreordained it (see, for example, Acts 2:23).

[2]“[God] knows all that can be known. And this He knows instantly and with a fullness of perfection that includes every possible item of knowledge concerning everything that exists or could have existed anywhere in the universe at any time in the past or that may exist in the centuries or ages yet unborn” (Tozer, p. 56).

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