Doctrine | God
What does the Bible teach about God?
Question | How does God accomplish His plan for all things?
Answer | God has planned everything that happens. No one can give Him counsel, take Him by surprise, or thwart His plan. He knows all things and He does whatever He pleases.
Scripture | Isaiah 46:9b-10 For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.”
Explanation | Over the course of the last few questions, we’ve used a number of different words to describe God’s interaction with His creation: plan, purpose, design, determination, wisdom, accomplish, etc. I hope you’re beginning to see God as He has made Himself known to us in the Bible—a God who knows what He’s doing, a God who is able to do what He knows is best, a God who is over all things, and a God who is actively working in all things to bring His plan to pass. We’ll see this even more, below, as we look at how God accomplishes His plan for all things.
God knows all things and plans all things. What is necessary for God to ‘accomplish His plan for all things’? Well, in order to actually accomplish His plan for all things, God must know all things. And in fact, He does—God knows all things. That is, He is infinite with regard to knowledge. There is nothing that can be known that He doesn’t know. He knows the future—what will happen. He knows the past—what has happened. And, He also knows what could happen—the possible. He knows everything that is, and He knows everything about everything that is.1 He knows Himself fully, and He knows us fully—every physical aspect of our existence and every non-physical aspect, too, including the ‘thoughts and intents’ of our hearts (Hebrews 4:13). God’s knowledge of all things is perfect, and it will always be perfect—it will never grow or fade. So, God knows all things, but even more, He also plans for all things. For example, He knows that something will happen, but He’s also planned for that something to happen. And this is true whether we understand how it works or not. We’ve already seen that God has made all things and continually sustains all things. But what does the ‘all things’ include? The Bible tells us that God’s plan includes both good things and bad things.2 And how could it not? While we might struggle making sense of and being okay with God’s specific relationship to bad things, how could God know all things and accomplish His plan if He either isn’t able to or doesn’t plan for all things? How can God truly be in control of all things if the bad things of life aren’t somehow a part of His plan? But they are. We’ll come back to this topic later and look at it further when we work through the doctrine of sin. But for now, know that all things are known and planned by God.
God does whatever He pleases. What does this mean? It means that God’s plans and actions for all things are not dependent on anyone or anything outside of Him. He can do—and does do—whatever He wants. The emphasis, here, is on Him. He does what He pleases.3 He pleases, meaning, He plans according to His will not anyone else’s. He does, meaning, He makes His plans happen, not needing anyone else to bring them to pass. So, this includes making plans and accomplishing those same plans. God doesn’t need any help from anyone in planning for all things or accomplishing His plan for all things.4 Because He, in Himself, knows all things and knows how best to do all things, He never needs anyone to provide further information or another perspective or even a corrective. No one does give Him counsel, and no one can give Him counsel. God doesn’t need us to help Him with His plans, and we are in no position to be of any help to Him, anyway. Let me take this even further. For God to do whatever He pleases means that God doesn’t need anyone else and He is fully capable of using whatever means He pleases to bring His plan to pass. He isn’t limited by anyone or anything in accomplishing His plan. The Bible depicts God using the natural order of life to do what He pleases—He works through the changing of the seasons, everyday routines and responsibilities, normal relationships, the desires, beliefs, actions, and words of people, and the coming and going of generations and nations.5 He also supernaturally intervenes in carrying out His plan—from how He makes His will known (for example, through a talking donkey!), to how He displays His power over the natural order of life (for example, the miracles associated with Moses, the prophets, and Jesus Christ).6
God’s plan for all things cannot be thwarted. Put another way, what He has planned will come to pass. No one and nothing can stop what He is pleased to do. Our plans often fail. His do not. They never have and never will. No one is able to thwart His plan, but, interestingly enough, He is able to thwart our plans.7 So, for example, if what people plan to do doesn’t accomplish what God has planned for all things, then He can and will stop their plans from coming to pass in order to accomplish His plan. But this leads us still further to a few other related truths. First, we do not know all that is a part of His plan. Sure, He has told us about some parts of His plan, but not all of them. There are things we do not know, and will not ever know.8 Second, we do not know how He works all things according to His plan. Meaning both, how does God use what He uses in making His plan happen, and why does God use some things and not other things? To use our example above, why does God stop some plans from happening, but allow other plans to come to pass? And we’re talking about both good plans and bad plans, too. Again, the Bible tells us something about how God uses all things to accomplish His plan, but it doesn’t tell us everything.9 We must know that God is in control of all things and is working in all things to bring about His good plan. And we must trust Him, whether it makes sense to us or not.
If what our verse above states about God is true—‘I will accomplish all my purpose’—then what does this mean for us? First, nothing happens by chance. In fact, there really is no such thing, then, as chance or fate or coincidence or serendipity. All things—whether we see this clearly or not—are operating according to His plan, all the time. And second, we need Him and His ‘counsel.’ Our knowledge, counsel, plans, and purposes are imperfect and fail. In order to understand how to live our lives according to His way, we need Him and His word.
This is what the Bible teaches about God.
1 1 John 3: 20 For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (See also, Psalm 44:20-21; 94:10-11; 2 Kings 13:19; Acts 15:8)
2 Isaiah 45: 7 I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things. (See also, Lamentations 3:38)
3 Psalm 115: 3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (See also, Job 42:2)
4 Isaiah 40: 13 Who has measuredthe Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? 14 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?
5 Ezra 1: 1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing. (See also, Proverbs 21:1; Also, the book of Esther illustrates this as well. Even though God is not mentioned by name and His “hand” is not referenced, He is very much directing the affairs of people and events.)
6 Exodus 4: 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” (See also, Exodus 7:3-4; 11:9-10; 14:17-18)
7 Psalm 33: 10 The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.11 The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (See also, Proverbs 10:3; Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 19:1-4; Isaiah 43:12; 1 Corinthians 3:19)
8 Deuteronomy 29: 29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (See also, Romans 11:33-36; 1 Corinthians 2:9)
9 John 9: 1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.