What God Cannot Do

Rev. Todd Wilken

The pastor is retired now, but at the time, he served one of the most influential congregations in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I heard him say it with my own ears. I didn’t believe it then, and I still don’t. He was being interviewed on the radio. The interviewer asked him a question.

Q: Does God have some other way of salvation, other than Jesus?
A: God can do anything. So, he can save people anyway he wants. But Jesus is the only way we know of.

This idea is very popular now among Christians living in a world full of all kinds of beliefs and religions. It seems to make sense. There are so many different religions—maybe there is more than one way to be saved. Maybe there are a lot of ways.

Those who think this way will ask, “Who are we to say that God couldn’t have some other way of salvation, in addition to Jesus?” They say, “For us Christians, Jesus is the way of salvation; there could be other ways for other religions.” They caution, “We shouldn’t put limits on God. Maybe he has decided to save different people in different ways.”

These statements sound open-minded and tolerant. But these statements are horribly wrong. They all begin with the premise: God can do anything. That is wrong.

Christians do believe that God is omnipotent (Latin for “all-powerful”). But that does not mean that God can do anything. According to the Bible, there are several things God cannot do.

  • He cannot deny himself (2 Timothy 2:13).
  • He cannot be tempted to evil, nor can he tempt man to sin (James 1:13).
  • He cannot endure open iniquity (Isaiah 1:13).
  • He cannot lie or break a promise (Psalm 89:33-35).
  • He cannot fail (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Think about it. If God could deny Himself, how would we know He was telling the truth? If God could be tempted to evil, or tempt man to sin, how would we know He is good? If God could endure sin, how could we be saved? If God could lie or fail to keep a promise, how could we ever trust Him? If God could fail, could we have any hope?

In other words, if God could do any of these things, He would be more like the devil than the God we find in the Bible. He would be a terrible, awful, fearsome God.

A God who can do anything just might do anything. He might decide to destroy you for no reason. He might give you cancer just for fun. He might send you to hell, just because He can.

This is the kind of God lurking behind those seemingly tolerant and open-minded statements: A God who can—and might—do anything. This is not the God revealed in the Bible.

Thank God that He cannot do just anything. And, thank God that He cannot save people in any way He wants.

Before His crucifixion, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” And, that’s true. God could have spared Jesus. But that would mean condemning us. That would mean breaking all of His promises, going back on his word, and failing to save sinners.

This is what God cannot do. He has promised to save sinners, therefore He cannot spare Jesus. Jesus must die. There is no other way, even for the omnipotent God.

This means that Jesus isn’t just one possible way that God could have saved us. Jesus is the only way. This means that we can be certain that Jesus’ death on the Cross for us really does save us. God has kept all His promises, He has kept His word, He has not failed. Your sins really are paid for, in the only way they could have been paid for. Death has been conquered for you, in the only way death could have been conquered. Eternal life has been earned for you, in the only way eternal life could have been earned.

Now, think about this: There is comfort for sinners like us in what God cannot do.

  • He cannot deny himself. He has saved the world through Jesus.
  • He cannot be tempted to evil, nor can he tempt man to sin. His sinless Son Jesus was your substitute on the Cross.
  • He cannot endure open iniquity. He punished all of our iniquity by putting Jesus to death on the Cross.
  • He cannot lie or break a promise. He has kept all His promises in Jesus.
  • He cannot fail. He has not failed. He has accomplished the salvation of the world through the crucified and risen Jesus.

And, now we can take real comfort knowing that God is all-powerful. We need not fear His power, but can trust that for God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all (Romans 8:32), nothing is impossible. There is no sinner He cannot save, no sin He cannot forgive. Nothing is able to separate you from Him (Romans 8:35-39), not even death.

Does God have some other way of saving sinners, other than Jesus? 
No. There is no other way than the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Rev. Todd Wilken is host of the radio show, Issues, Etc. He is also the assistant pastor of Trinity Lutheran-Millstadt, Illinois and believes that he can hug every cat.