theology · theology thursday

Theology Thursday: All Things are Possible with God

January. That time of year when inspirational quotes are everywhere. I have seen a plethora of them all over social media, and my least favorite this year seems to be the ones I’m seeing most frequently. These are the ones promising women that they can do anything because “Nothing is impossible with God,” or, “All things are possible with God.”

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Just once I’d like to see someone leap off of the roof of one of these megachurches after quoting that verse and yelling, “I can fly!!!!”

(except, I really wouldn’t. so please, don’t do that. but do you see already how misused this verse is? do you really think you can fly like Supergirl because “nothing is impossible with God”?)

Today let’s tackle where this verse comes from in Scripture and why it doesn’t mean what most people think it means.

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(image source)

There are two primary verses that tell us nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 states “For nothing will be impossible with God,” and Matthew 19:26 states “And looking at them, Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’.” Since most of the inspirational memes I see don’t actually contain a biblical reference, I’m going to quickly address both of these.

Quick History Lesson on Luke and Matthew

Both of these books of the Bible are gospels. Luke was written by a man traditionally known as a doctor; he interviewed many eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry and wrote the books of Luke and Acts. Matthew was a disciple of Jesus, one of the Twelve. The account of his becoming a disciple can be found in Matthew 9 and Mark 2. So Matthew was an actual eyewitness to the life of Christ. There is no reason to doubt what either of these men wrote.

Context of Luke 1:37

Let’s look at the context of Luke 1:37. Chapter one of Luke contains a lot of information: the story of Zacharias, Elizabeth, and the conception of the baby John (the Baptist), and the angel Gabriel visiting a young virgin named Mary. It is within this angelic visitation that verse 37 takes place.

Gabriel has appeared to Mary and informed her that God has chosen her to be the mother of His Son. Starting in verse 34, this is what happens:

“Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God’.”

The context here is specifically in reference to the  miraculous conceptions of both Jesus (to a virgin mother) and John (to a barren couple well past child bearing years). This is similar to what God Himself said to Sarah when she laughed when Abraham was told she would conceive at the age of 90 (see Genesis 18:14 – “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?”). Notice, too, that this was a response to Mary’s question. She readily believed that she would carry the child of God; she just didn’t understand how. Gabriel was assuring her that the how didn’t matter because God could, and would, take care of it.

This is not a blanket promise to women in the 21st century that we can do or have whatever we set our minds to, “because nothing is impossible for our God.” People who use the verse in such a way are twisting Scripture to use it in a name it and claim it method. This is another way of misusing the name of God.

Context of Matthew 19:26

Let’s look at Matthew 19:26. This is not the same scenario. Jesus is grown and doing ministry. This verse appears in what is usually known as the account of the “Rich Young Ruler.” A rich young man has appeared before Jesus and wants to know what he must do to be saved. He says he has kept all the Law, so Jesus tells him to sell all that he owns, and give the money to the poor. The rich man goes away upset, because he loves his possessions and money more than he loves Jesus.

Starting in verse 23, we read, “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I saw to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’.”

Even today we can picture a camel and an eye of a needle. Picturing a camel going through the eye of a needle is simply absurd; but God could make it happen if it was within His will to do so. Again, we have to look at what is happening in this story and not just pull this one verse out of context to claim God can make anything happen. Jesus used these words for a very specific purpose, and He was talking about salvation.

Salvation is impossible for humans; we cannot save ourselves. God can save anybody: rich or poor, it doesn’t matter your financial status. God can save anyone – no one is impossible to save; nothing is impossible for God when it comes to salvation. 

So What Does This Mean For Us

Ephesians 3:20 teaches “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us…”.

Him is God, and the power that works within us is the Holy Spirit.

God can do so much more than we are even capable of thinking or asking. James 2:2 says we don’t have because we don’t ask. Our job as Christ followers is not to claim “nothing is impossible with God” and then go on making decisions without studying Scripture and praying. Our job is to study Scripture, make sure what we want lines up with what God commands in His Word, ask for that, and wait for His response.

The leaping off of a building example above is just as crazy as a camel passing through the eye of a needle. But claiming a “life verse” of “nothing is impossible with God,” or saying that you’re going to dream “God-sized dreams” because of Scriptures about miraculous conceptions of prophets and Messiahs is equally absurd.

Scriptures have meanings, and we have to study them in their context and apply them appropriately. Please, dear sisters, be so careful with what you say about God and His Word.

 

5 thoughts on “Theology Thursday: All Things are Possible with God

  1. I agree about the exact verse pertaining to salvation and there’s no question there but I think the application of the highlighted verse is extensive as long as it is used with the same verses, Philippians 4:13 and 2 Corinthians 2:19 in mind and we can gauge that in the person’s intent (very important) whether in writing or spoken, not used in a way that is clearly hyperbolic and borderline insane like your example about leaping off a roof and flying. Doing something like that is clearly testing God and we can see that in Matthew 4:1-11.

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