The phrase “but God” appears 45 times across both the Old and New Testaments. As we explore each appearance of this important expression, we gain insight into how God overcomes and transforms difficult situations for His glory. Let’s take a closer look at where this phrase shows up and what we can learn.
- The phrase “but God” occurs 19 times in the Old Testament and 26 times in the New Testament.
- It highlights how God intervenes, often unexpectedly, to orchestrate events and bring about His purposes.
- “But God” transitions us from a bleak or hopeless state of affairs to a demonstration of His sovereignty and saving power.
- Studying this phrase equips us to trust God when facing trials and to give Him glory for His work in our lives.
Old Testament Occurrences
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The Old Testament contains 19 appearances of the powerful phrase “but God.” Let’s explore each one and see how God uses this expression to display His might and mercy.
The Book of Genesis includes the phrase “but God” eight times. In each case, we clearly see God overriding human plans to fulfill His divine purposes.
- Genesis 20:3 – Abimelech had taken Sarah into his harem, but God protected her from him.
- Genesis 21:12 – Abraham was distressed about sending Ishmael away, but God comforted him regarding Isaac.
- Genesis 31:7 – Laban cheated Jacob, but God protected him and ensured he prospered.
- Genesis 31:24 – Laban pursued Jacob to harm him, but God appeared to Laban in a dream and warned him.
- Genesis 45:8 – Joseph’s brothers meant evil when they sold him into slavery, but God used it for good to save many lives.
- Genesis 48:21 – Jacob was dying in Egypt, but God promised to bring Israel back to Canaan.
- Genesis 50:20 – The brothers intended evil against Joseph, but God purposed it for good.
- Genesis 50:24 – Joseph was dying in Egypt, but God would surely visit Israel and bring them out.
In Genesis, “but God” highlights how He flips desperate situations for His people. Despite dangers and setbacks, He remains their protector and provider.
- Exodus 21:13 – A man may kill another unintentionally, but God allows no mercy for murder.
God distinguishes between accident and intent, not letting the guilty go unpunished.
- 1 Samuel 23:14 – Saul pursued David relentlessly, but God did not deliver him into Saul’s hand.
God preserved His chosen king against malicious efforts to destroy him.
- 1 Chronicles 28:3 – David longed to build the temple, but God chose Solomon instead due to David’s warrior history.
God redirected David’s good desire to have Solomon fulfill it.
- Job 32:13 – Job’s friends claimed to speak for God, but God later rebuked them for misrepresenting Him.
- Job 42:15 – Job lost everything, but God restored his fortunes and granted him twice as much as before.
After Job’s testing, God abundantly blessed him beyond what he previously enjoyed.
- Psalm 49:15 – The upright may perish in death, but God redeems them from the grave.
- Psalm 64:7 – The wicked attack suddenly, but God shoots back unexpected arrows to make them stumble.
- Psalm 75:7 – No one can promote themselves, but God alone judges who to lift up or put down.
- Psalm 128:2 – You may face adversity, but God will bless you in the end if you fear Him.
- Psalm 135:14 – God’s people know He will judge them, but God will have compassion and not destroy them.
These psalms exalt God’s power to protect and care for His children against allodds.
- Isaiah 17:13 – Israel’s foes roared like raging waters, but God rebuked them so they fled far away.
God effortlessly repels any force that opposes His people.
The Old Testament occurrences of “but God” demonstrate His sovereignty in transforming despair into hope. No matter how bleak things appear or how far humans stray, God intervenes to accomplish His purposes. Recognizing this empowers us to trust Him in our troubles and walk in hope.
New Testament Occurrences
The phrase “but God” appears 26 times in the New Testament. Let’s look at each context and how it highlights God’s amazing grace and power at work.
- Mark 2:7 – The teachers of the law considered Jesus’ words blasphemous, but God can forgive any sin.
Jesus has divine authority to pardon sin, despite objections from the religious establishment.
- Luke 12:20 – The rich man thought his ample goods would secure his future, but God said his life would end that night.
- Luke 16:15 – The Pharisees justified themselves, but God knows our hearts and judges rightly.
- Luke 18:27 – Salvation seems impossible for the rich, but God can save anyone.
God oversees human destiny and always works for our eternal good, not just temporary comfort.
- Acts 2:24 – Wicked men killed Jesus, but God raised Him up, freeing Him from death’s agony.
- Acts 7:9-10 – Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but God was with him in Egypt and rescued him from all his troubles.
- Acts 10:28 – Peter, as a Jew, should not associate with Gentiles, but God showed him no person is unclean but only sin contaminates us.
- Acts 13:30 – Men crucified Jesus, but God raised Him from the dead.
The book of Acts highlights how God uses all situations to spread the Gospel. No human schemes can hinder His plans.
- Romans 5:8 – We were trapped in sin, but God expressed His love by sending Christ to die for the ungodly.
- Romans 8:3 – The law was powerless to save us, but God sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Though hopeless sinners, God loved us enough to make salvation possible through Christ’s sacrifice.
1 Corinthians contains the most New Testament occurrences of “but God.”
- 1 Corinthians 1:27 – The world considers the weak and lowly as nothing, but God chose them to shame the strong.
- 1 Corinthians 2:10 – No one knows God’s thoughts except His Spirit, but God revealed wisdom to us through the Spirit.
- 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 – Apollos and Paul worked to serve God, but God alone provided the growth of the Corinthian church.
- 1 Corinthians 6:13 – Food and the stomach were created for each other, but God will do away with both one day.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 – Temptations seem unbearable, but God always provides an escape so we can endure.
- 1 Corinthians 12:24 – Presentable parts of the body need no special honor, but God gave greater honor to the unpresentable parts.
- 1 Corinthians 15:10 – Paul worked hard as an apostle, but God’s grace was the source of all his effort.
- 1 Corinthians 15:38 – A farmer plants a seed, but God makes it grow into the body He wishes.
- 1 Corinthians 15:57 – Sin appeared to defeat us through death, but God provided victory through Christ.
This sampling in 1 Corinthians displays God’s loving wisdom in using the weak to shame the strong. His power achieves His purposes despite human limitations.
- Galatians 3:18 – The covenant God gave Abraham endured forever, but God’s law given through Moses was temporary.
- Galatians 6:14 – Boasting in circumcision or status meant everything to the Galatians, but God enabled Paul to boast only in the cross of Christ.
- Galatians 6:15 – Outward circumcision matters to some, but God cares only about inward transformation by the Holy Spirit.
Though the Galatians struggled with legalism, God offered true freedom through His grace alone.
- Ephesians 2:4-5 – We were dead in sin and objects of wrath, but God made us alive with Christ and saved us by His grace.
Despite our helpless condition, God mercifully intervened to give us new life in Christ.
- Philippians 2:27 – Epaphroditus was sick and close to death, but God had mercy on him – and Paul – by healing him.
Even faithful believers still suffer illness, but God hears their prayers.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:4 – As apostles, Paul and his team could have claimed honor from men, but God alone examines their motives.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:14 – When Christians die we grieve, but God promises to resurrect them through Christ.
Paul found comfort that God sees our hearts, not merely outward actions. And God will reunite Christians who die through Christ’s return.
From beginning to end, Scripture reveals our great God who transcends every circumstance to fulfill His gracious purposes. Where humans see only despair and hopelessness, God intervenes with sovereign power to redeem, transform, and save.
No one is beyond the reach of His mighty hand when they humbly yield their lives to Him. Trust in Him, not your resources. Hope in Him, not temporary solutions. Glory in Him, not your own efforts.
As you face trials and blessings this week, pause to consider how “but God” applies to your life today. How is He working despite hindrances to demonstrate His loving wisdom and mighty power? Yield to His plans, remembering that your life is not about you, but about magnifying His great worth.