It would seem to be blasphemous to suggest that there are things which God cannot do, nevertheless scripture does reveal this truth in at least two places: Titus 1:2 – ‘God cannot lie’, and 2 Timothy 2:13 – ‘he cannot deny himself’. Actually from the immediate context that second example is speaking especially of the Lord Jesus Christ: God manifest in the flesh.
The reason some would cry ‘blasphemy’ upon reading the title of this piece is because it is generally understood nowadays that ‘God can do anything’: if we have enough faith God will hear and answer our prayers: after all, he is the God of the impossible! The reason people say this is for a number of reasons: Firstly, because they just don’t know the testimony of scripture – see above verses; Secondly, because when they ‘believed’ God didn’t actually say or do anything in response to their ‘commitment’, so they have never really experienced, or even looked for, an answer from him in anything, just that they’ve always presumed that when they’ve prayed he has automatically heard, saved them, or answered their prayers eventually through changed circumstances or feelings of peace.
Thirdly, they believe that as God is Omnipotent – All Powerful – then it necessarily follows that he simply must be able to do anything and everything because he is God! And, Fourthly, they believe that God can do anything because they have never really understood the meaning of words like, ‘God doeth all things according to the counsel of his own will’, or, ‘Our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased’, for they’ve missed the simple fact that conversely God cannot actually do that which is not according to his will.
And therein lies the reason why God cannot do some things: for they lie outside of his will. If God has not willed to do something then he cannot possibly ‘change is mind’ and act contrary to his will. I believe that there are many people who think that God acts mostly as a response to their requests; as though he is some sort of heavenly reactionary to events as they occur. We are entering the realm of God acting or reacting according to ‘unforeseen circumstance’, as if he ‘hadn’t seen it coming’, but the suggestion that these things might be the case is indeed blasphemy – speaking evil of God.
Yet many do believe that God acts as a response to their requests because – as we have already hinted – he did respond to their ‘sinner’s prayer’ by saving them – so they thought. They were told from the beginning that God ‘wanted’ to save them if only they would believe, and that he wouldn’t or couldn’t save them until they did respond to his offer of salvation. So you see that right from the beginning they have been taught that God is there waiting to save, give, bless, heal, answer prayers, etc. but that he cannot do these things unless we are willing to let him, or if we pray to him to do them.
And here is the real blasphemy: The Sovereignty of Man, and The Servant God. In effect this is what people believe, or how they perceive God to be. But at this point I always like to quote the once heathen king, Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4: he’ll tell you what is true about Almighty God: “I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?… Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”
Yes, “Our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased”, Psalm 115:3. And again, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure… yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it”, Isaiah 46:9-11.
Now read those words and see if you can find a God who is ‘looking to do something’ if he can only get the co-operation of man, or of a believer. By the way, those last verses in Isaiah are often quoted as ‘God knows the end from the beginning’, but he definitely says that he ‘declares’ the end from the beginning, something way beyond merely knowing what will happen, God actually declares what is going to happen, for he in his sovereignty has purposed it. He is not a reactionary.
Therefore we can say that God only acts in accordance with his will and his purpose: a will and a purpose which is like himself – eternal and unchanging. In fact we can say that God is bound to his will, as he is bound to the nature of his own Person. Think about it: God is Holy, so therefore he cannot sin – can he? Can God sin? No, the thought is unimaginable. Well there is something he cannot do. God is true; Jesus even declared himself to be “the truth”; therefore can he lie, deceive, or be tempted of evil? He cannot. When God speaks he not only speaks true things, but actually speaks in accordance with ‘the truth’. He can only speak in accordance with his nature, which is true. After all, ‘God cannot lie’, cannot exaggerate, cannot tell ‘half-truths’, cannot lead people to think he’s saying one thing when he means another, cannot give a deceitful impression. In fact he is the only Person who always speaks ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.’ How refreshing, how trustworthy, how absolute he is. Has he spoken to you? Has he revealed his will to you? Has he promised you something – either according to blessing or warning? Then his word is sure, certain, and will come to pass. He means what he says, he will carry out what he has revealed, and you will not be able to counter it, talk him out of it, or fail to see the fulfilment of it. Bow. Worship. Be silent before him.
No. God cannot deny himself. He cannot. Our greatest liberty is to know him and to abide in the truth of who God is. It is to lose self completely. Free-will? Nowhere to be seen. How can sinful man’s will be free when the will of the Holy God is not even free, being itself bound to the nature of his own Being. Such arrogance fallen man in his blindness and ignorance displays. God is sovereign, God is just, God is almighty, God is true; and he cannot be anything other. Those born of the Spirit see it, know it, and rejoice in it. The rest argue and rebel against it. Nevertheless it does remain true: That there are indeed some things which God cannot do.