The psalmist declares that our Lord is great “and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5). We often talk about what we know and how we know, but rarely stop and ask: How does God know? What does God know? So today we turn our attention to ten things we should know about God’s knowledge.
(1) God's knowledge is intuitive, not discursive. When I say that our knowledge is discursive I mean that it comes to us by way of observation, reasoning, comparison, induction, deduction, and so on. In other words, we learn. But God's knowledge is intuitive, by which is meant that it is innate and immediate. God does not learn: he simply knows. He neither discovers nor forgets.
(2) We should also remember that God's knowledge is simultaneous, not successive. He sees things at once and in their totality, whereas we know only as the objects of knowledge are brought before us, one bit after another. With God the act of perception is complete and instantaneous. God thinks about all things at once.
(3) We also know from Scripture that God's knowledge is independent, not dependent. He does not receive his knowledge from anyone or from anything external to himself. Isaiah asked this: “Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isa. 40:13-14). The answer, of course, is no one!
(4) God's knowledge is infallible, not subject to error. As Ronald Nash has said, "Divine omniscience means that God holds no false beliefs. Not only are all of God's beliefs true, the range of his knowledge is total; he knows all true propositions" (51). God is always correct in what he knows.
(5) God's knowledge is infinite, not partial. “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18). God knows exhaustively all his own deeds and plans. He also knows us thoroughly and exhaustively. No secret of the human heart, no thought of the mind or feeling of the soul escapes his gaze. See 1 Chron. 28:9a; Prov. 15:3; Ps. 69:5; 139:1-4; Isa. 40:27-28; Ezek. 11:5; Jer. 17:9-10; 1 Kings 8:39; Matt. 6:8; Acts 1:24; Heb. 4:13; 1 John 3:20.
(6) God has exhaustive foreknowledge over all things that come to pass, including the morally accountable choices made by men and women. God issues a challenge to all so-called other deities: “Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any” (Isa. 44:7-8). God alone declares what is to come. God alone knows the future, for God alone has ordained it.
(7) The truth of God’s omniscience should affect our worship and adoration of him. Stephen Charnock put it this way:
“Consider how great it is to know the thoughts and intentions, and works of one man from the beginning to the end of his life; to foreknow all these before the being of this man, when he was lodged afar off in the loins of his ancestors, yea, of Adam. How much greater is it to foreknow and know the thoughts and works of three or four men, of a whole village or neighbourhood! It is greater still to know the imaginations and actions of such a multitude of men as are contained in London, Paris, or Constantinople; how much greater still to know the intentions and practices, the clandestine contrivances of so many millions, that have, do, or shall swarm in all quarters of the world, every person of them having millions of thoughts, desires, designs, affections, and actions! Let this attribute, then, make the blessed God honourable in our eyes and adorable in all our affections. . . . Adore God for this wonderful perfection!” (Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God, pp. 239-40).
(8) A proper understanding of God’s understanding ought also to have a profound impact on our humility. Charnock explains:
“There is nothing man is more apt to be proud of than his knowledge; it is a perfection he glories in; but if our own knowledge of the little outside and barks of things puffs us up, the consideration of the infiniteness of God’s knowledge should abate the tumor. As our beings are nothing in regard to the infiniteness of his essence, so our knowledge is nothing in regard of the vastness of his understanding. We have a spark of being, but nothing to the heat of the sun; we have a drop of knowledge, but nothing to the divine ocean. What a vain thing is it for a shallow brook to boast of its streams, before a sea whose depths are unfathomable! As it is a vanity to brag of our strength when we remember the power of God, and of our prudence when we glance upon the wisdom of God, so it is no less a vanity to boast of our knowledge when we think of the understanding and knowledge of God” (240).
(9) God’s knowledge of the secrets of our hearts should have a profound influence on our personal and practical holiness:
“Can a man’s conscience easily and delightfully swallow that which he is sensible falls under the cognizance of God, when it is hateful to the eye of his holiness, and renders the actor odious to him? . . . Temptations have no encouragement to come near him that is constantly armed with the thoughts that his sin is booked in God’s omniscience” (258).
(10) What is even more glorious is that this doctrine which makes us fearful of sin is also the foundation of comfort and assurance. If God is omniscient, then he knows the worst about us, but loves us notwithstanding! The apostle John writes: “This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts and he knows everything” (1 John 3:19-20).