The word omniscience comes from the word omni which means “all” and from the word scientia which means “knowledge.” God’s omniscience, therefore, means that God has all knowledge or, stated differently, that God is all-knowing. This means, of course, that God knows everything about your life — all the big things that you are proud of and all of those little things that weigh you down. If you are a Christian, the doctrine of God’s omniscience should bring you an immense amount of comfort.
Yes, God’s omniscience can be a scary thing, too. This is especially true if you are not a Christian. Unrepentant sinners who do wrong ultimately won’t get away with anything, even if vindicated in this life. On the last day, God will exercise his justice in part because, well, he is just, but also because he has perfect knowledge of all actions. For the Christian, too, God’s omniscience should humble you, knowing that he knows your heart even when you disguise your motives to others. There are many ways to think about the omniscience of God, but here I want to focus on how it brings comfort in the Christian life.
If you are the kind person (like me, at times) who struggles a bit with perfectionism, an overly sensitive conscience, and feeling guilty for wrongs you did not commit, then you know how overwhelming you can sometimes feel. These life-sapping characteristics seem to suck the joy right out of life. No doubt, feeling conviction over sin is a good thing and is a sign that you are in Christ and have been regenerated by God’s spirit. But what about feeling condemned for a less than perfect performance? What about when Satan attacks and you feel despair? What about when you feel guilty for things that aren’t your fault? I have met more than one person who battles these sorts of struggles.
Over the years, I have found a tremendous amount of comfort in talking with someone else when feeling a bout of despair or discouragement. Being part of the body of Christ is truly astounding, and one reason is simply to have a brother or sister in Christ to listen to you as you vent. I’ve learned that not everything I feel and think is always accurate, and I need the opinion of a trusted Christian friend when my view seems cloudy. Half (or dare I say 75%) of my struggle vanishes simply once I get my struggle off my chest. Letting other Christians know about my battle helps a lot. But knowing that God already knows helps even more.
We read: “for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20). This is an incredibly encouraging verse for those of you feeling bogged down with guilt and shame. Your heart might condemn you but God is greater than your heart. The last three words are particularly encouraging: “God knows everything.” What a staggering thought. When I’m falsely accused, when Satan tempts me to despair, when I’m struggling with introspection to the point of self-harm, I cast my angst on the Lord through prayer in confidence knowing he’s always available to listen, knowing he has the power to help, and knowing he already knows about the situation. The omniscience of God is not just to be known, but tasted.
Three More Encouraging Illustrations
First, the Gospel Coalition has a segment on their site entitled “On My Shelf” where they interview various Christians about books and life. I like reading these articles to get a glimpse into the lives of those interviewed. One particular interview stood out to me, and it had nothing to do with a book. It had everything to do with a quote on God’s omniscience. “What are you learning about life and following Jesus,” Jared C. Wilson was asked. Wilson points us to Mike Cosper’s book, Rhythms of Grace, where Cosper writes: “In Christ, we are never misunderstood.” 1 That’s an incredibly encouraging quote. It satisfies our need to be known.
Wilson adds: “I can trust Jesus with my reputation. I can take my lumps, even unjustly, and I don’t have to be anxious about trying to explain myself—even with good intentions it can be an exercise in self-justification, in people-pleasing. I’ve been learning more and more what it means to be so secure in Jesus that I have nothing left to hide and nothing left to prove.”
Second, I once heard a widely recognized pastor give a chapel service on Exodus 2 (I don’t remember the specific text or, for that matter, most of his sermon). But I do remember him directing his listeners to Exodus 2:25 where it says, “God saw the people of Israel — and God knew.” He then told us that this was one of his favorite Bible verses. The context here are the Israelites groaning because they were stuck in slavery. God heard their groanings. And although it was not quite God’s will to release them yet, God did not forget his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God never forgets anything. God never breaks his promise. God sees you and he knows.
Third, my wife and I watched Epic Episode 8 in which Tim Challies goes to India to find objects that tell part of the story of the Christian faith. The last part of the video documented Amy Carmichael, a giant in the Christian faith who, among other things, started an orphanage in India and made it her life’s work to rescue girls forced into prostitution. Carmichael experienced many highs and successes in ministry. People still talk about her today even though she went to be with the Lord over 50 years ago. But like all believers, Carmichael was susceptible to discouragement. She too knew what it was like to be brought low. She too knew what it was like to battle self-doubt. She too was not a stranger to feelings of despair.
Discouraged, one day she decided to reach out to a friend, who reminded her of Revelation 2 in which Jesus says “I know” and “Fear not” as Jesus speaks to various churches. Carmichael decided to have a plaque hung by her bed with the words “Fear not” and “I know.” She also wrote a poem about it, which sounds a little something like this:
‘“I know’: the words contain
Unfathomable comfort for our pain.
How they can hold such depths I do not know—
I only know that it is so.
‘Fear not’: the words have power
To give the thing they name; for in an hour
Of utter weariness, the soul, aware of One beside her bed,
O Lord most dear,
I thank Thee, and I worship—
Thou art here.’”
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