“In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you” (2 Chronicles 20:6).
We have all heard the saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and sadly, experience often shows the truth in that old bit of wisdom. But if it is true, what about God – who is truly all-powerful (2 Chronicles 20:6) at a scale that no human can even begin to grasp (Job 26:7-14)? If power corrupts – especially absolute power – why is it that God is somehow unaffected by this fact?
Some atheists have presumed to know the answer to that question by proclaiming that this fact disproves the existence of God, as his very nature would be compromised by his own power. But we might well reply to this argument with the words of Jesus himself: “…You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 29:29).
The Scriptures show that the power of God does not in any way corrupt him because it is transformed by another equally inherent aspect of God’s nature – his love. In fact, the Scriptures clearly record the fact that while God has infinite power, he is love (1 John 4:8). What we are always overrides what we have, and this is certainly true in the case of the power of God.
We continually get glimpses of this control of power by love throughout the earthly life of Jesus, the Son of God. We see it from the very beginning of his ministry in the temptations in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) by his refusal to misuse the power he had, and we see it at many other times such as when the disciples urged him to bring fire down on a city of the Samaritans (Luke 9:54) or to use power to avert his own death (Matthew 16:21-23).
But these are all examples of Jesus not misusing the power he had at his disposal. Even more telling are the times when Jesus did use the great power he had – in miracles and signs given in love to help others. Even on the rare occasions when Jesus claimed privileges for himself, such as the right to use something based on his true identity, we find his use of power was entirely for love. This was either love of God, as when he claimed the right to use the donkey that carried him into Jerusalem in order to fulfill the word of God (Matthew 21:1-11), or love of others, as when he claimed the right to use the upper room where he expounded truth to his disciples and washed their feet (Matthew 26:17-18 and John 13:1-20). In all these instances, Jesus used the power he had in service to others.
Because of these examples, we can know that God’s power does not in any way corrupt his perfect nature. The potential for misuse of power is transformed by his perfect love. To turn our original statement around,we can say that “love transforms power and absolute love transforms absolute power.”
This truth flows over into the lives of those who are truly led by the Spirit of God. As the apostle Paul wrote: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, emphasis added). The power of God – the power he gives – is transformed by love and controlled by self-discipline.
Doubtless that is why Paul also described his desire that believers “May have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). With God, the expression of power is never separated from love, and the two should never be separated in our lives, either.