A ‘Capacity’ for God

Posted on July 4, 2020


By David Ettinger

A Fascinating Phrase
While listening to the great Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee on the radio recently, I was struck by a fascinating phrase he used. He described those who have not accepted Jesus Christ into their lives as “having no capacity for God.”

In other words, regardless of intellect, unbelievers are spiritually ignorant regarding the things of God, which is why truths which seem so evident to believers are so foreign to them.

Helpful Definitions
Dr. McGee’s phrase is spot-on when looking at dictionary definitions of the word “capacity.”

Dictionary.com defines “capacity” as “the power of receiving impressions, knowledge; mental ability.” Because unbelievers are spiritually dead to God, their impressions of God, ability to know Him, and the capability of receiving him are skewed, and sometimes completely shut off.

Webster’s dictionary defines “capacity” as “aptitude”; “the faculty or potential for treating, experiencing, or appreciating.” They use the example of “the capacity for love.” Some people have a far greater capacity for love than others. The same applies to the things of God, except unbelievers have no capacity for Him in their unsaved states, and this greatly influences their experience and appreciation of God.

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Corresponding Scripture
 The Bible certainly corroborates these secular definitions when applied to the spiritual state. The capacity-deficit toward God which plagues unbelievers leads to (italics added):

  • “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing … ” (1 Corinthians 1:19)
  • “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
  • “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

What This Means for Believers
To believers, these verses are crucial when witnessing to unbelievers, particularly the last two. Please remember that the natural state of the human race is to regard as foolish the things of God. In other words, when speaking of God and faith in Christ, the “default” reaction of the unbeliever is to at once see such talk as foolish.

Furthermore, notice in the second verse (2 Corinthians 2:14) the words “does not” and “cannot.” Without God’s intervention, “natural” man “does not” accept that which is of God, and furthermore “cannot understand them.” This aligns perfectly with Dr. McGee’s assertion that unbelievers – in their natural state and without God’s intervention – have no capacity to fathom the things of God.

Compounding this incapacity is the fact that Satan is actively blinding the minds of unbelievers, doing his best to make sure they never acquire the capacity to accept God.

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A Reminder
As believers, we were once the same way:

  • “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).
  • “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” (Colossians 1:21).
  • (The apostle Paul speaking): “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13).

Our Part
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to be patient with unbelievers for several reasons. First, in their natural state, they lack the capacity to accept the true and living God. Second, we were once like them – that is, having no capacity for God – and would still be in that condition had God not intervened and opened our eyes. Third, they are only doing “what comes naturally.”

Always remember that the minds of unbelievers are darkened toward God because they don’t have a capacity for Him. Therefore, we are to “regard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16), but to view them as individuals for whom Christ died.

So, when praying for unsaved loved ones and friends, keep these vital truths in mind, be patient, and pray for God to give them the “capacity” for Him!