The Omniscience of God
God is the only One Who possesses limitless knowledge. The Illustrated Oxford Dictionary defines “omniscience” as “knowing everything,” and the Bible certainly ascribes omniscience to God (Psalm 139:1-4; cf. Woods, 1988, p. 34). Consider a sample of what the Bible reveals about God’s omniscience: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). “Can anyone teach God knowledge, since He judges those on high?” (Job 21:22, emp. added). Consider a few of the implications of God’s omniscience.
God knows every past action. At times, humans struggle to interpret history because we often lack complete historical information. The eternal God, Who had no beginning, has no problems seeing clearly through the mists of time, for history is ever before Him (Isaiah 57:15). God emphasized this when He told Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I Am Who I Am.” John 8:58 reads: “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.’ ” In the Day of Judgment, we will be judged based on God’s complete knowledge of our history (see Revelation 20:12). God cannot be taught anything about the past (Isaiah 40:14).
God knows every present action. Psalm 33:13-15 reads: “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.” Despite the uniqueness of each person, God understands everyone individually, and knows everyone personally (see Matthew 10:29-30). God even knows everything that is done privately (Matthew 6:4), so no one can hide from God (see Kizer, 2001, p. 7). God cannot be taught anything about the present (Matthew 28:20; 1 Corinthians 4:5).
God knows every future action. The fact that God gave prophets the capability to predict accurately very specific events in the distant future is one of the great evidences for the inspiration of the Bible (Thompson, 1999, p. 19). God has emphasized repeatedly that He knows the future, perhaps never more emphatically than when Jesus Himself prophesied (see Matthew 24:1-51; Mark 8:31; John 2:19-22). The fact that God knows the future does not imply that humans somehow lose freedom of choice. Just because God knows that something will happen, does not mean that He causes it (see Bales, 1974, p. 49). God cannot be taught anything about the future (Acts 17:31; John 14:3).
God knows every human thought. King David addressed his son: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Psalm 94:9-10 reads: “He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see? He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, He who teaches man knowledge?” God cannot be taught anything about the content of human intellect (Acts 15:8).
God knows what humans need. Ecclesiastes 2:26 reads: “For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight….” Noah of old would have perished in the Flood had God not given him a way of escape. The Israelites could not have conquered Canaan without divine guidance and protection. God has promised that He will provide for the physical needs of those who serve Him (Matthew 6:24-34). Most important, God has identified the problem of sin and death and provided the only possible solution—the blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-19).
God knows what is right and wrong, because He defines morality and truth—His Word is the standard for righteous judgment. Hannah wanted desperately to have a child, but she was unable to do so. In her fervent request for God’s intervention, she prayed: “…the Lord is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3). God has revealed what to do in order to please Him, and He knows of our obedience and disobedience (Proverbs 15:3).
What is the proper response to God’s omniscience? The inspired apostle Paul provided a fitting answer in Colossians 3:24: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Those who refuse to serve the Lord should be frightened by God’s omniscience, because God knows of every sin. And unforgiven sin will be punished (Psalm 90:8; Romans 6:23). For God’s children, however, the implications of God’s knowledge are sources of peace and strength (2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 3:22; Romans 11:33). Ultimately, the God Who knows everything will judge humans based on how we use the knowledge that has been revealed to us. We must act based on our knowledge to prepare for eternity.
Bales, James D. (1974), The Biblical Doctrine of God (Shreveport, LA: Lambert).
Kizer, Drew (2001), “Omniscience,” Words of Truth, 38:6-7, November.
Thompson, Bert (1999), In Defense of the Bible’s Inspiration (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Woods, Guy N. (1988), “What is Meant by ‘God’s Omniscience and Omnipresence’?,” Gospel Advocate, 130:34, February.