“For nothing will be impossible with God.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What exactly does it mean that something is impossible? At a strictly practical level, it means that whatever it is cannot happen. There is no chance of it taking place. The way we generally use the word, though, it means simply that we consider whatever it is to be highly unlikely. What Gabriel said to Mary here, though, seems to demand a bit of explanation. Nothing will be impossible? Really?
A standard, if skeptical, response to this might be to flippantly ask whether God can make a boulder so big He can’t lift it. This kind of question is intended to create an impossible logical trap that winds up reducing the character or power of God in some way. Many a skeptic has thrown it down and claimed some kind of an insurmountable victory over the backward forces of religion.
The truth is that it rests on some fundamentally flawed misunderstandings of God’s character and thus is as irrelevant to any debate as it is unhelpful. The only proper response to this kind of argument begins with gentleness per our Lord’s example and Peter’s instructions, but that gentleness includes making the observation that perhaps they don’t understand the nature of God as well as they think they do.
What Gabriel and modern philosophers alike mean by nothing being impossible for God is that God can do anything that is logically possible. He is, in a sense, limited by the laws of logic. He cannot create a square circle or a four-sided pentagon because those aren’t actually things. Thus, their inability to be done doesn’t somehow make God less powerful than we are making Him out to be. Because the laws of logic flow out of His character they aren’t any kind of a limitation for Him.
What we mean here is that if there is a thing, God can do it. Period. In this particular instance, a pregnant virgin is a thing. Thus, God could do it.
That sounds great and all, but where does it connect for us? I mean, I’m a guy for starters. A pregnant guy isn’t a thing. God can’t do that. A pregnant virgin may have brought salvation to the whole world and that’s awesome, but what does God’s ability to do anything that can be done mean today for me? Isn’t that the question we ask ourselves? If not out loud, then we’re at least tempted to ask it in our head or heart.
Now, on the one hand, salvation should be enough, but on the other hand, we connect better with truths that are personalized for us. Besides, we serve the God who can do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine. It’s not beyond the pale to ask what He intends to do in our lives that seems impossible.
Okay then, ask the question: What seems impossible in your life but whose happening would bring glory to God? Is it a relationship being reconciled? Is it a stubbornly skeptical friend or family member coming to salvation in Christ? Is it a healed body? A new job? Hope in a dark place? God can do it. As long as it is a thing, God can do it. With God, all things are possible.
Now, there is a bit of a disclaimer here I would be remiss to leave out. Just because God can do something doesn’t mean He will. In addition to being all powerful He is also all-wise (that’s omnisapient in case you’re curious). He knows which things need to be done to bring us life and Him glory and won’t do those things that will detract from those higher ends.
That being said, what is your impossible right now? Where could God be more glorified in your life than He currently is but the likelihood of that outcome seems beyond all meaningful hope? Listen: If Christmas teaches you nothing else, make sure you learn this: God can do that. May you know the hope of the God of the possible as you celebrate this season.