“I dwell in possibility” —Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), one of America’s greatest and most original poets of all time.Just what is meant by the term “all things” in Mark 9:23 and Matthew 19:26? All of us at some point have circumstances or situations that come up that we’d like to see changed, yet, too often, they don’t change or they change in a way we were not hoping for, yet most of us who consider ourselves to be Christians believe that God can do all things including what seems to be impossible.
I came across an article on CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) titled, “What does it mean when the Bible says ‘with God all things are possible?‘” by Jared Wellman, a writer at CARM since 2010, and Pastor at Mission Dorado Baptist Church. He states:
This question refers to a statement made by Jesus in Matthew 19:26 and its counterpart Mark 10:27. The totality of His statement was, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” The question is best answered by looking at the context of the statement, which, beginning in Matthew 19:16, consists of a conversation between Jesus and a young rich ruler. The keys to purely understanding the statement hinge first on what Jesus meant by “this,” and second, what He meant by “all.” Whatever “this” was is impossible with man, but with God, “all” is possible.
The scene opens up with a rich young man coming to Jesus asking Him “what good things he should do to inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:16). Jesus’ response is important because He begins to attack the young man’s understanding of “goodness.” Jesus declares that only the Father in heaven is good. This of course was not a disclaimer of His own deity, but a lesson to His special audience that no one is good except for God. Continuing His discourse with the young man, Jesus then said, “but if you wish to enter eternal life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17).
Because he still did not understand, the young man’s response to Jesus was to receive a “laundry list” of commandments that he needed to follow in order to receive eternal life. Jesus replied by listing five commandments that all deal with human relationships (Matthew 19:18-19). This is important because He was making a distinction between having faith in the law (or in his own abilities) and having faith in God; that is, the difference between the law and grace. The young man thought that the law could save him, but Jesus knew that that was impossible. As John MacArthur has written, “Jesus was trying to impress on the young man both the high standard required by God and the absolute futility of seeking salvation by his own merit. This should have elicited a response about the impossibility of keeping the law perfectly but instead the young man confidently declared that he qualified for heaven under those terms.” “All these things I have kept,” said the young ruler (Matthew 19:20).
Even after the young man failed twice to acknowledge his self-righteousness, Jesus continued to try to expose the sin in his heart. The young man asked, “What am I still lacking?” (Matthew 19:20) Jesus replied, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). At this, the young man “went away grieving for he was one who owned much property” (Matthew 19:22).
At least two sins were revealed here: First, the young man was not as blameless as he thought he was because he was guilty of loving himself and his possessions more than his neighbor (which was a broken commandment according to v.19), and second, he lacked true faith which requires an unparalleled devotion to Jesus. This is when Jesus called over His disciples to teach them a lesson. He said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). The disciple’s response was, “Then who can be saved?” or, “Then how is it possible for anyone to be qualified to enter the kingdom of God?” (Matthew 19:25)
This is where the famous and oft quoted verse comes in, which is the inspiration for our question. Jesus replied, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). This answers our first contextual issue, for we can now see that the “this” concerns salvation. It is impossible for man to save himself by his own merits, or for the law to grant eternal life. The grace offered only by Jesus Christ is necessary. The question now is, “What did Jesus mean by ‘all things?’”
This part of the question concerns God’s omnipotence, or, His power. It is important to understand that omnipotence does not mean that God is capable of doing anything including the irrational or imperfect. There are things that God is incapable of doing, such as lying or denying Himself (Hebrews 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:13; Titus 1:2). Because God cannot do certain things, however, does not mean that He is less God because the things that He cannot do would actually take away from His perfect nature. Instead, omnipotence refers to God’s power, which is unlimited (Job 11:7-11, 37:23; Revelation 4:8). That is, God can take the things that are impossible to man, and make them possible because His power is unlimited, while ours is limited. The context of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:26 is a perfect example of His unlimited power because while it is possible for man to be saved, it is impossible for man to accomplish the goal on his own. God’s unlimited power is needed to make the possibly impossible, possible.
Scripture is full of verses that portray God making the possibly impossible possible. When Abraham and Sarah were awaiting the promise of a son, even after they were well past child bearing years, God told them, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) In the book of Numbers when the Israelites were complaining to Moses about food, the Lord told Moses that he was going to feed over 600,000 people for an entire month. Moses was skeptical, but God said, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23). In the book of Job, after forty-two chapters of trials, Job was able to answer God and say, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1). Jeremiah said, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jeremiah 32:17). Finally, in Luke 1:37, in foretelling the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel told Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
It is easy to get hung up on the word “all,” but it is best to remember that the context of this statement is in reference to salvation. God made a way when the way was impossible for us. This is what it means that “with God all things are possible.” (Quote source here.)
In a second article titled, “Is it really true that ALL things are possible with God?” GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:
While God can do anything He wishes to do, God will not do things that would be against His holy will or contradictory to His purposes. He can commit no sinful act, for example, for He is completely holy, and sinning is not in His character.
Some will still ask, shouldn’t anything be possible for an omnipotent deity? An example may help: “Can God make a stone so heavy He can’t lift it?” This question contains a paradox: if the Lord is so powerful He can make a stone of infinite weight, how would it not be possible, given His mighty power, for Him to lift it? Yet, since the stone is of infinite weight, how would it be possible for Him to lift it? The answer is that God will not deny Himself, which is the case here. It seems He would not even consider such an idea, for He would be pitting Himself against Himself, a foolish act having no value in His kingdom purposes.
It is worth noting that we see throughout the Bible that God is omnipotent—all-powerful—not equaled or surpassed by anyone or anything. In discussing God’s making a dry path in the mighty Jordan River to allow the safe passage of His people, Joshua 4:24 says, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” Similarly, Jeremiah 32:26-27 relates, “Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: ‘I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’” Continuing, in Hebrews 1:3, we see, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” These verses and others show that all things within God’s will are possible for Him.
The angel in Luke 1:36-37 said to Mary, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” Some ask that, if “nothing is impossible with God,” does that mean I can run faster than a car or leap a tall building in a single bound? It is perfectly within God’s power to make those things possible, but there is nothing in Scripture that indicates it is God’s desire to make them possible. Something being possible for God does not obligate Him to actually do it. We must be thoroughly familiar with Scripture so that we can know what is God’s desire and what He has promised, and thereby know what God will make possible in our lives.
When we consider all of our heavenly Father’s mighty supernatural works throughout the Bible, we see that He indeed is capable of moving human events along the continuum of time, in spite of things seemingly impossible, all for His glorious purposes. (Quote source here.)
In an article written during the Christmas season titled, “All things are possible with God,” by Angela R. Jones, Senior Pastor of The Greenhill Church and Christian Outreach Ministries, she writes:
…Today, I want to encourage you to hold on to your faith and believe that things impossible for man are possible with God. He can do the impossible because He is the all-powerful, invincible, all-knowing, infinite, faithful and everlasting God. He is Spirit, and He has supernatural power to move the impossible and see the invisible.
Let me comfort you with these words found in Romans 5:1-5 (Living Bible):
“So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us — they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it, until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
Lessons from trials build your character. Hold on with faith in God that all things will work out for your good. The believer’s hope is different from the hope in the world. Spiritual hope can be described as positive expectancy with confidence and assurance that God will uphold His promises, even when you cannot see the outcome. It is an inward possession of trust in the power and goodness of God working in your life.
The believer’s hope is deeper than positive thinking or speaking. As believers, we know that what we hope for will surely come to pass because of the one we have placed our hope in. Hope for many lies in what they can see or do. They may or may not be able to get what they long for because of human limits. Therefore, people lose hope because they are trusting in the limitations of themselves and in other human beings. But God has no limits. He can breathe life into your dead situation.
There are three characteristics of hope that I pray you will carry with you as you move into the new year:
1. Hope believes in the unseen.
2. Hope presses through trials.
3. Hope relies on the power of God.
Beloved, hold on and keep the faith because there is hope for the hopeless. God has no limits. (Quote source here.)
And since we are on the topic of “all things,” let us not forget Romans 8:28 which states: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And remember that with God . . .
All Things . . .
Are . . .
Possible . . . .
YouTube Video: “Turn It Around” by Israel Houghton and New Breed: