Power Without Corruption

“Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” wrote Lord Acton with great insight into human nature.

Power Without Corruption

Power over others is the soil in which brutality, oppression, and tyranny flourish like weeds. For this reason many nations have checks and balances to ensure no single person or group accumulates all power. Such legislation is needed to put a brake on human depravity.

Thankfully, while sinful human beings sometimes possess great power over others, none will ever possess absolute power. Such power belongs uniquely to God (Psalm 62:11). Only God is Almighty.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)

God’s act of creation undoubtedly exhibits stupendous power. As the apostle Paul put it, “since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen … even His eternal power” (Romans 1:20).

God produced the whole universe from His own imagination and by His own ability. What first existed only in His mind became actual physical reality. He “made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24).

When we refer to an artist’s ‘creation’ we recognise that what they have produced was first conceived in their imagination and then skillfully brought forth into the physical world. God’s creation, however, is unique because it was produced out of nothing. Artists require a canvas and paints. Sculptors require materials and tools. God had neither canvas nor raw materials; He had no paints or tools. How then was the universe constructed? How was the masterpiece painted? The Psalmist explains:

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth …
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
(Psalm 33:6,9)

God’s power is not simply more of what we have; it is not just brute force. No amount of brute force could produce something from nothing. God’s ability is of a different order. While we can’t produce as much as a grain of sand from nothing, God spoke into existence a universe of 100 billion galaxies, each containing many billions of stars, from nothing. In poetic language the prophet Isaiah records this wonder:

Lift up your eyes on high,
And see who has created these things,
Who brings out their host by number;
He calls them all by name,
By the greatness of His might
And the strength of His power;
Not one is missing.
(Isaiah 40:26)

As Isaiah implies, the God who produced creation also maintains it. He is intimately involved in running the whole show.

In Greek mythology Atlas was condemned to carry the sky upon his shoulders forever unless another would relieve him. He attempted to trick others into taking this onerous burden to no avail. While Atlas, in mythology, was bowed low under the intolerable weight of the universe, the Lord Jesus, in reality, upholds “all things” without breaking sweat. He is the “true God” (1 John 5:20) who carries the universe toward its ultimate conclusion “by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). This is a God of limitless power, infinite ability, inexhaustible energy.

God’s greatest work, however, is not creation but redemption. This required the bearing of a burden far greater than the universe. The Son of God carried the crushing weight of “the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). He “bore our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). He who was God voluntarily endured the weight of judgment which would have pressed human beings down into hell itself. In doing so he provided eternal salvation for us. Because of this, God’s power can bring salvation to any person: “the gospel of Christ … is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). 

God’s power is always exercised for good. The “Almighty God” is also the “incorruptible God” (Genesis 17:1; Romans 1:23) who will never decay or diminish in power or moral virtue. While power corrupts the best of men, absolute power can never corrupt God. What a tremendously stabilising thought in an increasingly unstable world!

Absolute power in the hands of corrupt men would be a recipe for unimaginable tyranny leading to the worst of dystopian nightmares. Thankfully such power belongs only to God and will always be exercised in righteousness and love for the ultimate good of all who respond to His grace. This is why the Bible predicts a future in which the benign rule of the righteous King (Jesus) will ensure that people “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4) and the “whole earth [shall be] at rest and quiet” (Isaiah 14:7).