With God is knowledge
Definitions of God’s knowledge:
Knowledge is a simple act of the understanding, apprehending that a thing is, and comprehending its nature and relations, or how it is. God’s knowledge is His essence knowing; it is one eternal, all-comprehensive, indivisible act. It is independent of anything outside God, it is total, perfect and essential.
It is God’s knowledge in respect to things already past. It is not implied that God forgets and then recollects what has escaped His notice. Rather this term has an anthropomorphic slant. When God “forgets” or “does not remember” (as in the forgiveness of sins) it is asserted that He will not bring the matter up once again, not because of a deficient memory.
Conversely, when God remembers the thought is conveyed that God knows what has already happened, and is fully conscious of it. The Bible speaks of “a book of remembrance” (Malachi 3:16), and “the books were opened” (at the Last Day). All history is well-known to God.
In regards to things future, or to come, God’s knowledge is called foreknowledge or prescience (1 Peter 1:2).
Predestination is founded on the prescience of God and on the supposition of all futurity being present to Him. If we allow that God from all eternity foresaw all things, He must thus have foreseen them in consequence of His permitting or foreappointing them. Hence events are not certain merely because foreknown; but foreknown because certain on account of predetermining reasons.
This Latin-derived word is used to describe the universality of the objects known by God. It is infinite knowledge (Psalms 147:5); eternal (Acts 15:18; Isaiah 46:10); universal, extending to all persons, times, places and things (Hebrews 4:13); and perfect, relating to what is past, present and to come. He knows all, infallibly and perpetually (Jeremiah 10:6,7; Romans 11:33).
This knowledge is peculiar to God (Mark 13:32; Job 36:4). It is incomprehensible to us how God knows all things, yet is it evident that He does (Psalms 139:6).
Wisdom presupposes knowledge, and is the practical use which the understanding makes of the material of knowledge. This is determined by the will. God’s wisdom is infinite and eternal. It is the selection of the highest possible end, the manifestation of the glory of God. It is involved in selecting and directing in every area of His operations the best possible means to secure that end.
Such wisdom is shown to us in the great acts of creation, providence and grace.
Is the knowledge of God a communicable attribute?
The absolute knowledge that is in God is obviously incommunicable to any other, for to suppose that a creature would be all-knowing is to attribute infinity to that creature, which is absurd.
It is incommunicable because this attribute of God is constantly connected in Scripture with His omnipresence, and forms a part of almost every description of that attribute; for, as God is a Spirit, and therefore intelligent, if He is everywhere, if nothing can exclude Him, not even the most solid bodies, nor the minds of intelligent beings, then are all things naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Where He acts, He is; and where He is, He perceives.
He understands and considers things absolutely (not relatively, like us). He sees things are they are in their own natures, powers, properties, differences, together with all the circumstances belonging to them.
“Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” They are known from all eternity, before they were made, in their possible, and known, now they are made, in their actual, existence. This type of knowledge is therefore incommunicable.
Angels and human being have some knowledge, limited and growing; it is grounded upon God’s knowledge and derived from God, totally dependent on God’s unlimited knowledge.
“The speculative knowledge of God”
This refers to such divine knowledge when the truth of a thing is known without a respect to any working or practical operation. The knowledge of things possible is in God only speculative.
Sometimes it is called a practical knowledge because it tends to operation and practice. It is the principle of working about things that are known. It is the knowledge God has of the things He has decreed, terminating in the act of creation, which is not a natural and necessary act (for God), as the loving Himself, and delighting in Himself is. Creation was wholly free, for it was at His liberty whether He would create or not. “He hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion” (Jeremiah 10:12).
Such also is His knowledge of the things He has created, and which are in being. His knowledge in such a case terminates in the government of them for His own glorious ends. By this knowledge “the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down their dew” (Proverbs 3:20).
So God’s speculative knowledge is the knowledge whereby He knows the essence, qualities, and properties of what He creates and governs. By such knowledge His glory is enhanced, and the common good of the world over which He resides is assured. Only God has such knowledge.
Speculative knowledge then is God’s knowledge of Himself and things possible. Practical knowledge is His knowledge of His creatures and things governable; yet this practical knowledge is not only of things that are made, but of things which are possible, which God might make, though He will not.
Does God have a knowledge of all sin?
Not only does God know all details about every creature but also about all their actions, most particularly the ways of men. “Doth he not see all my ways, and count all my steps” (Job 31:4). Their wanderings are known to Him (Psalms 56:8). He sees all their goings (Job 34:21). He exactly ponders man’s behaviour (Proverbs 5:21).
As God knows all the actions of creatures, so He knows all the thoughts of them. “He tries the heart and the reins” (Psalms 7:9). “Hell and destruction are before him, much more then the hearts of the children of men” (Proverbs 15:11). So much so that David in worship exclaims, “Thou understandest my thoughts afar off” (Psalms 139:2).
God being omniscient, He is also holy and righteous. If He were not all-knowing, He could not be the Judge of all the earth, but since nothing is concealed from His eyes, He, being omnipotent, is able to exercise His justice and equity unto all. He examines us by the standard of His law. |He will render to each one according as his deeds, and according to the imagination of his heart, for God who fashioned the heart, understands the motions of it (Psalms 33:13,15).
This is the glory of God at the last day, “to manifest the secrets of all hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5). And the prophet links the power of judging and the prerogative of trying the hearts together: “But thou, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart” (Jeremiah 11:20). Furthermore: “I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins, to give every man according to his way, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).
Judgement being reserved for the Last Day, we ought not to think that God is indifferent or somehow grown careless to righteousness, even though we witness heaps of injustice around us. The Judge of all the earth will certainly do right; He knows the difference between right and wrong. He keeps record, and though we may suffer injustice from the hands of man, being defrauded of what is ours, we may assure ourselves that God will right all wrongs, for He knows about them unfailingly.
Unbelievers may arrogantly assume that they can get away with despising God’s law. They think that they can go on enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin, and nobody notices. But God does! And it is with Him that we have to do.
If you have not yet bowed down to Christ the Lord, then do not hesitate. Flee to Him who alone is able to deliver you from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). In Him alone is there good hope. Through His shed blood your sins will be cancelled and forgiven, so much so that God “will remember them no more.”
What would the implications be if God had no knowledge of future events?
God knows all future things, all things to come. Everything which is the object of God’s knowledge without Himself was once only future.
If this were not so, then all the prophecies in the Bible, at least those which have already been fulfilled, have no explanations whatsoever. If God does not know the future, then who does? If the Creator is lacking, how much more the creature that came from His hands? Who wrote the happenings of the future? How could it be done? It would remain for us an enormous mystery.
Again, what about the prophecies in Holy Writ that still await fulfilment? If God were not omniscient, how can we believe them? And if we defer from believing them, then we are acting as judges over the Word of God, editing here and there according to our whims. This would blasphemously imply that we are stronger than God.
If God is ignorant of the future, than we mortals are in this respect, at least, greater than God. For we know some things still future. We know when the next solar eclipse will happen; we know when the next elections will take place, and so on. Some future things are known by men; and we must allow God a greater knowledge than any creature.
Again, if God is unaware of the future, then His eternal decree comes to nought. It could not be true, for in decreeing and determining all things whatsoever, He must know the future. If He doesn’t then His decree of creations, providence and grace is a fiction. But to admit this is the height of impiety.
Another point: if God did not know all future things, He would be mutable in His knowledge, and therefore a changeable God. He would be becoming better and better every day, graduating from relative ignorance to relative intelligibility. But a mutable God is not infinite, and therefore no God at all.
If God were ignorant of the future, He would naturally be ignorant of all contingencies. He would not know all things that shall accidentally happen. We speak about chance happenings, for in our ignorance they so appear. But the Scripture affirms that God knows and even arranges all contingencies to happen (1 Kings 22:39). Is the Scripture therefore at fault? If we admit this we would be destroying the very foundations of our faith.
How does God know all things?
As there is a vast distance between the essence of God and our being, so there is between the thoughts of God and our thoughts. We think about God’s knowledge, then, our conclusions must be taken from His Word.
1. God knows by His own essence. |He sees the nature of things in the ideas of His own mind. He sees the events of things in the decrees of His own will. He knows them by knowing Himself, not by viewing the things.
God does not depend on the creature to acquire information from it. If it were so, God would then obtain a perfection from those things which are below Himself.
As He sees all things possible in His own power, because He is able to produce them, so He sees all things future in His own will, decreeing to effect them.
His knowledge is then more noble, and of an infinitely height elevation than ours, or the knowledge of any creature can be. He knows all things by one comprehension of the causes in Himself.
2. God knows all things by one act of intuition. If God knows by His own essence, He knows all things by one act. What God sees He pierces into by one glance from eternity to eternity.
God does not know things discursively from other things. Neither does He know things successively, one after the other. He does not deduce one fact from another.
This is concluded because of God’s eminency. God is above all, and therefore cannot but see the motions of all. It is also because all the perfection of knowing are united in God. Man uses his senses; he fixes his gaze upon one object at a time; it is God’s perfection that He can behold all at once.
3. God knows all things independently. Since God is infinite in all His attributes, then His omniscience was not acquired from someone or somebody else. He does not receive His knowledge from anything outside Him; He needs no tutor and no book. “who hath been his counsellor” (Isaiah 40:13).
His works could not be foreknown to Him, if His knowledge commenced with the existence of His works (Acts 15:18); if He know them before He made them, He could not derive a knowledge from them after they were made.
Again, how could His understanding be infinite if it depended upon a finite object, as upon a cause?
4. God knows all things distinctly. His understanding is infinite in regard to clearness. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
There is no blemish in His understanding. Nothing renders His vision obscure. Man discerns the surface and outside appearance of things; little or nothing of the essence of things. Our best is seeing “as in a glass darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). But God knows the forms and essence of things, and every circumstance. All things are open to Him (Hebrews 4:13). “He brings out the host of heaven by number, and calleth them by names” (Isaiah 40:26). On the other end of the scale, He numbers the hairs on every human head.
God’s knowledge is never confused because of external factors: “Darkness and light are both alike to him” (Psalms 139:12). What is darkness to us is not so to Him.
5. Another characteristic of His knowledge is its infallibility. His understanding is infinite in regard of certainty; every little bit of what He knows is as far from failing as what He speaks. “What he hath thought shall come to pass, and what he hath purposed shall stand” (Isaiah 14:24.” “His counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10).
If we do not uphold His infallibility in knowledge, then we would have to conclude that His knowledge is imperfect; and since He knows by His essence, His essence also would be imperfect.
It is therefore impossible that God should err in His understanding.
6. God also knows immutably. His understanding, if infinite, must be unchangeable.
The knowledge of possible things, arising from the knowledge of His power, cannot be changed unless His power be changed, and God become weak; the knowledge of future things cannot be changed, because that knowledge arises from His will, which is irreversible. “The counsel of the Lord that shall stand” (Proverbs 19:21).
7. God knows everything perpetually. Since He knows by His essence, He always knows, because His essence never ceases. He does not know only in habit, but in act.
Time does not affect God or His knowledge. A thousand years are no more to God than a day, or a watch in the night (Psalms 90:4).
God, being the highest degree of being, and unique in being, is therefore the highest degree of understanding.
Knowledge is one of the most perfect acts in any creature. God therefore has all actual, as well as essential and habitual knowledge; His understanding is without bounds, unaffected by the passage of time.
How does knowing about the knowledge of God bring comfort to the Christian?
The Christian is a person born of the Spirit, and has a citizenship in heaven; God the Father is his father in heaven, and he is adopted into His family.
Now since God has an infinite knowledge and understanding, and is all-powerful, then the providence exercised by God in the world must be for his benefit (Romans 8:28). For no father would neglect to provide for the wants of his family. God is omniscient and therefore sees all things; He is good, and therefore does not neglect the welfare of His children. He conducts everything to the appointed end, and included in that end is the ingathering of His church and its final glorification.
Furthermore, our knowing about God’s omniscience is comforting because of the Day of Judgement. God knows those who are His, and He will certainly own them at the last day, and they will be manifested for what they truly are, the sons of God (Romans 8:19). For this great event every mature Christian longs with anticipation. His wrath will not consume us then, for Christ has already bore the curse on our behalf. The books will indeed be opened (cf. Daniel 12:10), but His people, whose names are written in the book of life, will be vindicated, for there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). God knows about it, for it is He Himself who justifies believers (Romans 8:31-33).
God’s knowledge is a source of unspeakable comfort to Christians because they thus are convinced that our standing before Him is not because of anything done by us (for in us dwells no good thing), but in Christ alone, who is made for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. God knows our estate, our thoughts, our deeds; such knowledge drives us incessantly to cling to the Lord Jesus, to His righteousness imputed to us, and nothing else.
Our knowledge that God is omniscient fills us with wonder, awe and praise. It is so comforting to own the all-seeing Jehovah as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He knows us by name, He knows our temptations and thus provides us a way to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13); He knows our cares and invites us to lay them before Him (1 Peter 5:10); though we do not know our future, our God knows it well enough. This thought should eliminate all anxiety as we approach the throne of grace with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6,7).
David enjoyed assurance that He will continue to dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23); he mentions several blessings from above, all because “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (v.1). God sees all our needs and circumstances, and though He often uses trails to sanctify us, He knows how much and how long, and treats us as individual children. There is nothing too minute or too big for Him. Such knowledge of His all-encompassing providence must prove a source of comfort for those within His family.