The Thoughts of God
There are some things that we can do that our God cannot do. We can lie, he can speak nothing but truth; we can sin, he can only do righteousness; we can die, he has lived and will live forever. Our capacity to do such things does not make us greater but infinitely less than our God.
Such things as those listed above are examples of sinful endeavour that we too naturally do and that God cannot do. There are, however, other examples where we can perform in ways that our God cannot perform that are not essentially sinful, but rather have to do with the difference between our being finite creatures and our Lord being the infinite and eternal God. For example, we fail to accomplish many sincerely intended good endeavours. Our God, due to his almighty power, cannot fail to do what he intends to do.
One of the greatest differences between ourselves and our God is found in the area of thought. The things we do may be limited by the finite extent of our power, but it would seem that with our thoughts there can be no limit, It is, for example, a task so far impossible for man to control the weather or to travel instantaneously from one place in creation to another. Yet we can easily think about our doing such things. Such speculative or imaginative thinking, we may suppose, narrows the capacity gap between the Lord and ourselves. However, it is precisely in the realm of thought that we are most unlike our God.
The Bible tells us something critical for us to understand about the thoughts of our God when it links his thinking to his doing. In Psalm 40:5 we read: ‘Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts toward us: there is none to compare with thee; I would declare and speak of them; they would be too numerous to count.’ Notice how David links the wondrous doings of the Lord with his incomparable thoughts. We may note the same link in Psalm 92:5: ‘How great are Thy words, O Lord! Thy thoughts are very deep.’ The Lord himself tells us that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:9). We are to understand this not only in the sense that the Lord’s thoughts are more pure and exalted than our low, limited, and often vile mental activity. The thoughts of our God are superior to ours also because of how they are linked to his actions. Our thoughts are disconnected from or only imperfectly connected to our actions. The thoughts of God all issue in perfect and holy action.
We waste most of our thoughts in speculating flights of fancy, whereas our God is the supreme realist. We are prodigious in the production of thoughts that at best issue in partial and imperfect actions, and at worst issue from and in vanity. Not one of the thoughts of the Lord is like that. Our God is simply incapable of ruminating over a number of mental conceptions and forming a plan of action from the selection of the best thought or the merging together of various aspects from several thoughts. The notions of potentiality, contingency, and possibility belong to the realm of the creature and of the derived, not of the Creator from whom all things originate. God created potentiality and contingency for the exercise not of his own thought process but for that of his creatures.
Most of our thoughts are discarded as being undesirable or impracticable. The reason that we can seem to out-think our God is that we think badly and poorly. Every one of the thoughts of our God results in perfectly executed action precisely because he never has a wrong or poor or undesirable thought, nor does he lack the will and power to bring his infinitely and infallibly wise and holy thoughts into the fruition of reality.
Accordingly, faith enables us rightly to reckon that the plans and promises of our God are as good as his performance, for with our God his Word declared is as good as his work accomplished. Faith does not lead us into the realm of philosophical speculation over the being and attributes of our God so much as it leads us into the apprehension and growing understanding of the perfect thoughts of our sovereign God that ever, only, and always result in the perfect realization of those thoughts.
Therefore, when we rightly regard the connection between the predestinating plans and purposes of our God and their realization in creation, we should not think there were several different ways in which God could have elected and redeemed his people but that he merely decided to do it through the incarnation, perfect life, atoning death, and justifying resurrection of his Son. Instead, we should know that the works of our God flow from his perfect thoughts, and do not result from a consideration of aspects from many thoughts of varying quality. The reason some are elected by God to be redeemed by Christ is that such has been from all eternity the singular thought of God with respect to man, the crown of his creation. This truth should give us great comfort and draw from us grateful and continual praise. Our God not only thinks far above our thoughts, but he does above what we ask or think as he inexorably transforms his thoughts into perfect and praiseworthy deeds. Our God is the supreme realist, and that is why not one of his words or promises can or will pass away.
William Harrell is Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia.
Hope of the Church 15 October 2021
To help us in the dealings of our lives we should have such a conception of God as not to limit him in our thoughts. When we are in extremity we must not tie him to this thing or to that thing. He can make matter out of nothing. Why should we limit the unlimited […]
The Prayer Meeting 3 September 2021
Why bother coming to the prayer meeting? In the pecking order of many congregations, it is somewhere below the much-lamented evening service. In the priorities of too many Christians, it seems to have little value. It’s the one we can afford to miss. It’s the one to which we don’t, or maybe wouldn’t, take our […]