Omniscience: The God of Limitless Knowledge

Say what you will, but I maintain that the smart phone is the closest I’ll ever come to knowing everything. In my pocket is a device that grants me access to just about every fact you can ever come up with. And with Siri, I just have to verbally ask her the weight of the earth, and she replies instantly—and backs up her sources.

But there are certain “facts” we just can’t Google. What’s the meaning of life? Should I take that job or not? What’s my kid struggling with that he’s not telling me?

But God knows. He knows it all, even the facts that Google just can’t shake out.

OMNISCIENCE

In theology, we say that God is “omniscient”—meaning “all-knowing.” And like His other characteristics, God’s limitless knowledge stems from the fact that He exists outside of creation and outside of time. He never has to “learn” anything, because He Himself is the very author of history. “He counts the number of the stars,” the psalmist writes. “He gives names to all of them” (Psalm 147:4). Isaiah also records God as saying:

remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:9-10)

God knows everything there is to know—His knowledge is truly limitless.

DID JESUS KNOW EVERYTHING?

What about Jesus, though? Did He know everything? On the one hand, John tells us that Jesus would “not entrust Himself to [the people], because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). Because Jesus is both fully God and fully man, He shared God’s ability to know all things.

But what about the second coming? Jesus tells His listeners that “no one knows” the “day and hour…not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Some might insist that when Jesus became human, He only possessed the knowledge His Father allowed Him to have—and this lay outside that scope. This is possible, though it seems to drive a bit of a wedge between Jesus’ divine and human natures.

I would take it this way: there is a difference between knowing everything and having the ability to know anything. Jesus didn’t have to know everything to be truly omniscient; He simply had to have the ability to “stretch out” His mind, so to speak, and take hold of whatever knowledge He wished. But I think that because He lived in submission to His Father’s will, Jesus chose not to know this detail of God’s plan; it simply wasn’t for Him to know. And that tells us something of our own submission to the Father: He knows our steps, we can only trust Him.

FULLY KNOWN, FULLY LOVED

For David, God’s knowledge was deeply intimate:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it (Psalm 139:1-6)

It’s difficult, I think, for us to be known. We go to such great lengths to avoid being known. We go to social media and self-edit; we want to put our best foot forward by selecting just the right profile picture and crafting just the right status update to make our friends think of us as witty, attractive, and charming. We fear that if anyone knew us—and I mean really knew us—they would reject us outright.

In other words, our desire to be loved supersedes our desire to be known. Pastor and author Tim Keller writes:

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Jesus tells His listeners that even “the very hairs on your head are numbered” (Matthew 10:30). If it weren’t for the mercy of the gospel, being known by God would be terrifying. But because Jesus takes the burden of our darkest secrets, then in Christ we can be fully known, and fully loved.

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