43. Romans 11:33-36
Paul has finished his examination of Israel’s history and current standing with God. He has reviewed their calling and election through the patriarchs, their apostasy, and he has declared that their current spiritual hardening is temporary. He has stated that their hardening resulted in riches for the world as the gospel went to the Gentiles, but he has promised that their awakening will bring even greater blessings—blessings akin to people being resurrected from the dead.
Now, at the end of chapter 11 after detailing the depravity of humanity, the mystery of the gospel, righteousness by faith, and the hope for the eventual salvation of the elect remnant of the Jews, Paul breaks into a doxology praising God for His unsearchable wisdom and goodness.
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” he begins. We can deduce to what Paul is referring when he mentions the riches of wisdom and knowledge by referring to other passages where Paul mentions these things. In Romans 2 Paul addresses the intractable depravity of the Jews who, in spite of their special revelation from God revealed in their law and their prophets, still lived their lives in self-centered sinfulness. In verse 4 he addresses their contempt for the riches of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads them toward repentance. In other words, the Jews have been annoyed at God’s apparent slowness to punish the wicked. They’ve failed to perceive two important things: not only is God’s apparent slowness actually patience and kindness that will ultimately lead Gentile enemies of God to repentance, but the Jews themselves are far from God in their hearts. God’s patience is also for their own salvation.
In Romans 9 Paul examines the eternal and inscrutable theme of God’s election. He states in verses 22-23 that God bore with patience the “objects of wrath” in order to make the “riches of his glory” known to the objects of His mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory. Paul is explaining again that God’s apparent slowness to destroy the wicked is actually an expression of His patience as He allows all those He has called to repentance to respond to Him. He allows the wicked to continue for a time because to wipe out the wicked would inevitable wipe out those who are coming to know Him as well.
Ephesians is full of references to God’s riches and wisdom. In 1:7-8 7 Paul praises God for the redemption we have through Jesus’ blood—forgiveness from sin—“in accordance with the riches of his grace which he has lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” In verses 18-19 of the same chapter Paul speaks of the hope to which God has called His people—“the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for those of us who believe.” In 2:6-7 Paul further identifies God’s riches by stating that God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms “in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace expressed to us in his kindness in Christ Jesus.”
Again in chapter 3 verses 8-12 Paul talks about God’s riches by identifying his own calling. “This grace has been given me, “ he writes, “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery which for ages past was hidden in God who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God would be revealed…according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus.” In verse 16-17 Paul prays that out of his glorious riches, God will strengthen the Ephesian believers with “power through his Spirit” that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith.
In Colossian Paul speaks of Christ’s wisdom and knowledge and prays, in 2:2-3, that God’s people will be encouraged in heart and united in love so they will have complete understanding in order to know the “mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul contrasts worldly wisdom with God’s wisdom and points out that worldly wisdom is foolish compared to God’s wisdom. In verses 20-21 he points out that the world in its own wisdom did not know God, but it pleased Him to save those who responded to the “foolishness of what was preached”. In verse 25 he states that the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and in verses 27-31 he explains that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to shame the strong, so no one may boast before Him. “Christ,” Paul writes, “has become for us wisdom from God.” He is our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
We see from these representative passages that the riches and wisdom of God which Paul praises in Roman 11:33 are His merciful patience with humanity, His grace, and the inscrutable mystery of salvation including Jesus’ own incarnation, death, and resurrection. From a human standpoint, Jesus’ sacrifice is foolish and extreme. From God’s eternal perspective, however, his patience and sacrifice and our redemption through Jesus are riches which transfer us from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus (Colossians 1:13), and God is magnified and glorified in the heavenly realms by our regeneration and response to His provision. As long as we try to understand God’s work from a human perspective, we will miss its significance. From a Godly perspective, however, God’s love for us, His personal sacrifice, and His gift of Himself living in us is wisdom and riches for us that we are incapable of quantifying.
Paul links his praise for God’s wisdom and knowledge with submission to His “unsearchable” judgments and His paths which are “beyond tracing out”. Over the years a human-centered viewpoint has crept into Christianity. God is sovereign, some say, but in His sovereignty He limits Himself in order to protect the “free will” of Satan, the evil angels, and human beings. In other words, while giving lip service to God’s sovereignty, they really limit His power by asserting He must allow Satan to wreak his havoc and humans to make self-destructive decisions because their freedom is more valuable than God’s sovereign power. The resulting confusion pretends to honor God but in reality places mankind and the evil angels in a more powerful position than they really are.
The Biblical view of reality is quite different. God’s people have always known that nothing happens on earth or in heaven apart from God’s permission and knowledge. His sovereignty is the umbrella under which all creation lives and makes choices.
The book of Job, the oldest book in the canon, declares God’s sovereignty as the foundation of reality and truth. Written by an author who was probably alive close to the time of Abraham, this book reveals God’s first recorded revelation of Who He is. Building the foundation for the rest of God’s revealed word, the book of Job establishes that God is sovereign and trustworthy. Satan is subject to Him, and God redeems human suffering. He is the Creator and sustainer of all, and mankind’s appropriate response to Him is repentance and worship. This book also declares that God as Redeemer will one day stand upon the earth, and in their flesh people would see God.
Job 5:9-11 states that God performs wonders that cannot be fathomed and miracles that cannot be counted. In chapter 11:7-9 the book asks if a person can fathom the mysteries of God or probe the limits of the Almighty. These things are higher than the heavens, deeper than the grave, longer than all the earth, wider than the sea—and what can we know?
The psalmist acknowledges in Psalm 139:1-10 that God has searched him and knows him. In fact, God knows everything about him: his movements, thoughts, activities, and words—God knows them completely before any of them happen. God hems him in, the psalmist continues; He has laid His hand on him. The writer cannot escape or flee from God’s Spirit—not in heaven nor in the depths—wherever he goes, God’s hand will guide him.
Solomon, the writer of Ecclesiastes, also pondered the ways of God. He tried to apply his mind to wisdom and to understand the significance of man’s labor, but when he began analyzing, he saw all God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun, the writer says. Despite all human efforts to search out reality, humans cannot understand its meaning. Even if the wise man claims he knows the mysteries of life, he doesn’t really understand (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17).
Isaiah cried out to Israel, asking them why they complained that God has disregarded their cause. The everlasting God, he assured them, does not grow weary or tired; no one can fathom His understanding (Isaiah 40:27-28).
“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). God assured Israel that His word goes out from His mouth and does not return to Him empty. It yields a harvest, just as rain germinates seeds and produces crops. “[My word] will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it,” God assures us (Isaiah 55:11).
When Paul praises God for his “unsearchable judgments” and “his paths beyond tracing out,” He is acknowledging what humanity has known from its beginning: God is sovereign. We cannot understand Him; His word is alive and powerful, and it accomplishes God’s will. None of us can thwart God’s plans or change what He wills for creation. We cannot explain how God works nor alter His mind—yet He is personal, and He understands us and never disregards us and our needs.
We can relax our grip on our need to control things and trust that God is in charge. He will accomplish His purposes, and we can trust Him to be just and merciful.
The mind of God
Paul moves in verse 34 from declaring the unsearchable riches of God to asking rhetorical questions pointing out our inability to plumb or fathom God. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” he asks first. Typically of Paul, he quotes the Old Testament. This questions comes from Isaiah 40:13. Now, in light of the new covenant mystery of the risen Christ in us and His blood destroying the barrier between Jews, Gentiles, and God, Isaiah’s question is even more poignant.
God’s people, however, have always known they could not explain God’s ways. Isaiah 29:14-16 gives us God’s words declaring that He would “confound these people with wonder upon wonder.” The wisdom and intelligence of the wise and intelligent people will perish, God says. Further, woe will come to those who think they can hide their plans from the Lord. “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay; shall what is formed say, “He did not make me?’ Can the pot say of the potter, 'He knows nothing’?”
At the end of the book of Job when God confronts Job with His unlimited greatness he asks Job, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me” (Job 41:11). Even from a human perspective, Job’s friend Elihu asked, “If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand?” (Job 35 7) In other words, God is so far above humanity that it is foolish for us to think we can give Him anything significant or contend with Him. He is sovereign over all, and we are merely part of His creation. To think we can understand God is simply foolishness.
The New Testament explores God’s sovereign power from a position of seeing God revealed in Jesus. Romans 9:22-24 records Paul’s words asserting God sovereign right to extend grace and justice. God, he says, has born with patience the “objects of His wrath prepared for destruction.” He did this in order “to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, prepared in advance for glory.” We don’t like to think that God chooses people for His purposes without considering what we think is “fair” from a human perspective. We are not, however, asked to understand God; we are asked to trust Him.
God’s sovereign decisions include the unprecedented gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit for all who believe in Jesus. In John 14:16-17 Jesus promised His disciples that He would ask the Father, and the Father would give them “another Counselor” who is the “Spirit of truth”. The world can’t accept the Holy Spirit, Jesus explained, because it neither sees nor knows Him. “But you know him,” He said; “He lives with you and will be in you.” God doesn’t expect us to have adequate insight or wisdom to make decisions for life without the help of His own wisdom and counsel. The Holy Spirit give us Jesus’ own mind.
Paul discusses this fact in 1 Corinthians in 1:20-22 he sates that God made the wisdom of the world to be foolishness. The Jews want signs, He said, and the Greeks want wisdom, but we don’t give them what they demand. Instead, we preach Christ crucified. This truth is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles. To all those God has called, however, this message is the power and wisdom of God. In other words, the power and significance of Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection depend upon God’s call and awakening in the individual. Natural, hostile humanity will not understand Him.
In 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 Paul says we don’t speak the wisdom of this age, but we speak God’s “secret wisdom” that has heretofore been hidden. This secret wisdom is what God destined for our glory before time began. In verses 9-10 Paul continues, saying that no eye, ear, or mind has seen, heard, or conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. Yet this unseen, cognitively unknown reality God has revealed to us by His Spirit. In the next two verses Paul says even more astonishing things. We have receive God’s Spirit that we may understand what God has freely given us. Without the Holy Spirit, God’s gift of Jesus would be inscrutable and would seem to be nonsense. When He gives us His Spirit, however, we discover the miracle of Jesus and our security.
In 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 Paul pointedly explains the reason so many people argue with Biblical truth. The person without the Holy Spirit cannot accept the things of God. They are foolishness to such a person because they are spiritually, as opposed to intellectually, discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, he says, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment. The reason for this apparent imbalance is that a natural man cannot discern or evaluate the things of God. A person with the Holy Spirit, however, has insight and spiritual discernment that enables him to accurately assess spiritual issues around him.
We as Christ-followers, Paul concludes, “have the mind of Christ.” God gives us His own Spirit—He Himself indwells us—and gives us the ability to see as He sees, know as He knows, and understand from a Godly perspective the things going on around us.
The second part of Paul’s question in verse 34 is, “Who has been [God’s] counselor?” There is an interesting progression from the Old Testament to the New regarding the counsel of God. While the Old Testament establishes that no one can tell God what to do nor even perceive the depths of His ways and will, the New Testament reveals that God shares His counsels with us through the Holy Spirit in a new, personal way. This question in Romans 11 quotes Isaiah 40:13-14 where the prophet asks rhetorically who has understood the Lord’s mind or has instructed Him as a counselor. He continues by asking whom the Lord consulted to enlighten Him, or who taught God the right ways to do things—who taught God knowledge or gave Him understanding? Isaiah’s point is that no creation has ever nor could ever enlighten God. Passages such as this one in Isaiah reveal the ignorance of philosophies that proclaim the “openness of God” in which He learns by observing us what it means to be human. The Creator —who Himself became human—is not dependent upon any man to instruct Him in the intricacies of created life.
In the book of Job, Eliphaz (who doesn’t earn many points as a comfort to his suffering friend) nonetheless asks the bottom-line questions: was Job the first man born? Did he listen in on God’s council meetings? Why has his human heart carried him away so that he rages at God?
Isaiah 9:6 contains a poetic and profound prophecy of Jesus. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” In this passage the coming Baby is identified with the name of all three members of the Trinity: Wonderful Counselor, or the Holy Spirit; the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. This prophecy foretells the mystery revealed in the incarnate Jesus, that it was God’s pleasure for “all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Colossians 1:19). This passage further identifies all wisdom and counsel as being inherent in the Lord God.
In Isaiah 28:28-29 the prophet outlines the mysteries of farming and harvesting and explains that all knowledge of these skills and gifts come for the Lord Almighty who is “wonderful in counsel” and “magnificent in wisdom”. The psalmist also said that he will praise “the Lord who counsels me.” “I have set him always before me,” he concludes (Psalms 10:7-8).
All the Old Testament prophets understood that in God dwelt all wisdom, counsel, knowledge, and instruction. There is nothing humans could tell Him which He did not know, and there is nothing we know which does not originate with God.
The New Testament reveals that as a result of Jesus’ atoning death and resurrection, God has given us Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. On this side of the cross we have received a new level of intimacy with God. No longer does He merely inspire us from outside, but He literally indwells us and give us His mind. 1 Corinthians 2:16 specifically states this miracle. First Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13, the same passage he quotes in Romans 11:34: “Who has known the mind of the Lord to instruct Him? “ he inquires. “But we have the mind of Christ,” Paul concludes. God gives us the knowledge of His will and His wisdom by becoming one with us, putting His mind in us as part of His gifting us with the seal of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus foretold His sending us Himself in this way. Shortly before His death He told His disciples that He would ask the Father, and He would give them another Counselor after He was gone. This Counselor would be with them forever. They would know Him, Jesus assured them, because this Counselor was with them and would be IN them, and He is the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17). Jesus continued explaining this astonishing promise in verses 25-27: all these things He had told them while He was with them, he said, but this Counselor, the Holy Spirit whom the Father would send in Jesus’ name, would teach them all things and would remind them of everything Jesus had said to them.
In John 15:26-27 Jesus explained the coming Counselor even further. He is the Spirit of truth that goes out from the Father; He would testify about Jesus, and Jesus’ disciple must also testify of Him. Unless Jesus went away, however, the Counselor could not come. But, Jesus promised, if He goes away He will send the Counselor. The Counselor would convict the world of guilt, sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:5-11).
There is nothing we can teach God. He is omnipotent and sovereign, and He knows from eternity all things about us and about all of creation. The mystery is that because of the atonement of Jesus’ blood, God has given us His own Spirit and placed His own mind in us. Rather than God “growing” by watching us, we are changed by His own Spirit and mind being in us.
Payback from God
In verse 35 Paul asks, “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”
In this question, Paul hits at the core of natural humanity’s arrogance and pride. We naturally feel that if we behave ourselves and “do good”, we deserve salvation and honor from God. If we do great works for Him, we’re entitled to honor and respect and divine affirmation.
This question, however, suggests two facts which humans don’t like. First, Paul, in quoting Job 41:11, reveals that there’s nothing any human can give God—not service, not offerings, not great accomplishments, not impressive temples—nothing. Second, God owes mankind nothing. He does not owe us rewards or payment for what we self-centeredly attempt to give Him.
Everything under heaven belongs to God (Job 41:11), and we simply can’t offer anything to Him because, as He says, everything belongs to Him. Job’s friend Elihu further says in Job 35:5-8 that one man’s wickedness or righteousness doesn’t affect God; it only affects the man himself. God is far above all human actions and reactions. While He loves us, our behaviors do not change Him or His will. In Job 22:2-3 Eliphaz asks what a wise man can do to benefit God. What pleasure or gain would God have from our righteousness?
Jesus even illustrated the futility of mankind thinking he can benefit God or earn a response from Him. In his example of a master and a servant in Luke 17:7-10, Jesus pointed out that a master would not thank a servant for doing the normal requirements of his job. He would not give him special honor for carrying out his duties. Similarly, Jesus says, “You also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” When God assigns us work to do, that is only our duty; it is not special honor entitling us to privilege or special recognition. We don’t earn favor with God by anything we can do—not even by carrying out His instructions.
In 1 Corinthians 9:16-18 Paul says he is compelled to preach, and his reward in this assignment is his offering the gospel free of charge. Paul did not see himself as deserving of special honor or reward. He was merely carrying out his duty to God. In Ephesians 2:8-9 he further explained that we are saved by grace through faith so that none of us can boast.
When God led Israel into Canaan He emphasized His sovereign purposes for good and evil. Israel was ready to take the land God had promised them, but in Deuteronomy 9:9-6 God set them straight regarding their rightful place in His divine plan. “Don’t think I’m bringing you into Canaan because of your righteousness,” God essentially said to Israel. “I’m driving out the Canaanites and bringing you in because of the Canaanites’ great wickedness. I’m not bringing you in because of your righteousness; no, you are stiff-necked people.” Even though Israel was God’s special creation and God had prepared them to inhabit Canaan, still He wanted them to understand that His appointment was not because they were deserving. It was entirely on the basis of His sovereign choice, and the time had come for God’s judgment on the Canaanites’ intractable evil.
Romans 4:4-6 emphasizes that when a man works, the money he receives are wages, an obligation from the employer. When responding to God, however, one receives God’s justification and righteousness by NOT working. Only by responding to God in faith in His eternal promises can we be counted righteous.
The reality of living for Jesus on this still-sinful earth is that we will suffer for Him. To be sure, we are blessed beyond telling with His peace and spiritual insight and comfort and His constant presence, but we struggle in the physical world. We do not deserve God’s favor or honor or special notice because of our loyalty to Him. In 2 Timothy 2:8-9 Paul wrote to his protégé that he was suffering in chains for the gospel of Christ, “but God’s word is not chained,” he declared. Paul’s reward as he suffered in prison was the certain knowledge that although he might be locked up, God’s word could not be, and it would increase and spread no matter what happened to him. Paul’s devotion to the Lord Jesus was so deep that his own pleasure and desire was for God’s word to increase and for people to be brought into new life in Jesus.
To Titus, another of Paul’s protégé’s, he wrote that Christ saved us by the washing of rebirth and by the renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). In other words, God doesn’t honor us with salvation because we have pleased Him or fawned over Him. His eternal gift to us is the result of His sovereign grace. In no way is God obligated or beholden to us. We do not deserve His blessings or love or honor. Rather, we are the surprised recipients of His sovereign call on our lives and of His forgiveness, righteousness, and new birth.
From, through, and to God
Paul begins the ending of his doxology by saying, “For from him and through him and to him are all things,” From our time-bound perspective, this statement as hard to understand. People often recoil from God’s sovereign ownership because they think He seems “self-centered and arbitrary. The problem, however, is perspective. We forget that we are merely part of God’s creation; He is the center of all reality, not we ourselves. He is the value to Whom all creations brings glory and praise. We are not the objects of honor and praise.
The Bible is full of declarations of God’s centrality. In 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 Paul states that even if there are many so-called gods and lords, there is but one God the Father from whom all things come and for whom we live. There is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we live. The prepositions are significant in this passage; All things come from the Father and through Christ; we live for the Father and through Christ. All is for the glory of God, and in Christ we broken sinners can participate in bringing Him glory.
In 1 Corinthians 11:12 Paul states that the woman comes from man and man is born of women—but everything comes from God. In the same book, chapter 12:4 Paul discusses what we call the gifts of the Spirit. We tend to think of these things as being the work of the Spirit in us, but the Bible portrays them as being from the entire Trinity. There are different gifts, Paul says, but the same Spirit; different kinds of service, but the same Lord; different kinds of working, but the same God who works all of the in all men. In other words, we cannot isolate any part of the Trinity from itself when we talk about the works and gifts of God. He is One, and the three persons of the Trinity work together to equip us for His purposes.
In Colossians 1:16 Paul says by Him all things are created; both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. Further, all things are reconciled to God through Jesus who has made peace through the blood of His cross.
Hebrews 2:10 states that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, made Jesus, the Author of our salvation, perfect through suffering. In other words, even Jesus’ suffering and obedience was ordained by God and for His glory.
Ephesians has many statements of God’s sovereignty over us and over salvation and the fact that this miracle occurs through Him. In 1:4-6 Paul explains that God chose us in Him to be holy and blameless, and He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ to the praise of His glorious grace given us in the One He loves. In verses 7-8 he continues explaining that we have redemption through His blood.
In 2:18 Paul states that through Jesus we have access to the Father by one Spirit—again, our access to God cannot be separated from the work of the entire Trinity. Also, in 3:16 Paul prays that the Father will strengthen the Ephesians with power through His Spirit in their inner beings, that Christ may live in their hearts through faith. In verses 20-21 he says, “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever.” In this verse, Paul articulates the astonishing reality that the church, those who are born of the Spirit, are, along with Jesus Christ our head, the bearers of glory to the Father.
The indivisible nature of the Trinity and the consummate nature of God is again outlined in Ephesians 4:4-5 when Paul says there is one body, one spirit, one hope, one truth, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all in through all and in all. This eternal reality of God as the source and purpose of all that happens is reiterated in Ephesians 5:25-27 in Paul’s practical counsel to the Ephesians. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church which is His body. He gave Himself to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water through the word to present her to Himself holy and blameless and unblemished. Jesus gave Himself—He was not the voiceless “victim” of the Father as some think. He voluntarily gave Himself to cleanse us and perfect us—not for our own enjoyment, but so He could then present us to Himself as a spotless church, His bride. We are of Him and for Him, and our salvation is through Him.
God is the source and the destination of all creation, and we as His church are the recipients of both His personal sacrifice and His cleansing, and we are the vehicles of His glory.
Paul ends this doxology with the eternal cry, “To him be the glory forever! Amen.” This proclamation seems clear on the surface, but the Bible reveals details about what kinds of things will bring eternal glory to God. The end of Romans contains a declaration of praise to God. It calls for giving glory to God who establishes His people by the gospel and the revelation of Christ. This reality about Christ is the revelation of the mystery which had been hidden for ages past but which had been foretold by the prophetic writings by the command of God. This revealed mystery is that all nations—not just the Jews—would believe and obey Him. All glory will be to the only wise God through Jesus Christ forever and ever (Romans 16:25-27).
Ephesians 3:20-21 gives an amazing insight into our role as Christ-followers in participating in the eternal glory to God. “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever! Amen.” Our oneness with God through the miracle of new birth will be a source of eternal glory to God. We as Christ’s body along with him as our head will bring glory to God in ways we cannot even imagine. God’s purposes are being accomplished in and through us.
To Timothy Paul wrote that this is a trustworthy saying: Christ Jesus came to save sinners. For that reason Paul (the worst of sinners) was shown mercy so in him Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe and receive eternal life. “To the king eternal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:15-17). God’s patience with sinners and His mercy leads people to repentance and eternal life. To this patient, merciful, eternal, invisible King will come all honor and glory forever.
Peter wrote that God has called believers to eternal glory in Christ. He Himself will restore us after we’ve suffered; He will make us strong, steadfast, and firm. To this all-providing God will be power forever and ever (1 Peter 5:10-11). Jude also ended his letter with the affirmation, “to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord before all ages, now, and forevermore! Amen” (Jude 24-25). Both Peter and Jude affirmed that believers will participate in glory. God presents us to himself faultless and joyful, sharing in eternal glory in Christ.
In Revelation John wrote of every creature in heaven and on and under the earth and in the sea all singing, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, fore ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13-14). And all the angels standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures fell on their faces crying, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God fore ever and ever! Amen!” (7:11-12).
God is and will be eternally glorified because of His sacrifice for sin, His restoration of our fallen race, and our rebirth by His Spirit which qualifies us to be God’s adopted sons and daughters and sharers in His inheritance. The entire reality of salvation and its effect on humanity and its restoration of all creation is the source of eternal glory to God Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Paul ends this section of Romans with a doxology praising God for His sovereignty. He is beyond our figuring out. His judgments and knowledge and wisdom are greater and deeper than any human can comprehend; we cannot anticipate Him nor perceive why He does what He does. No creation of God could ever offer Him advice or counsel. Further, God owes us nothing. We have nothing He needs, nor can we indebt Him to us. He does not owe us gratitude or payment or reward for our offerings or service to Him. All things that exist, including us, are from Him. Everything comes through Him, and all exists to do Him honor.
All glory, honor and power belong to Him for eternity.
God wants you to praise Him for His sovereign intervention in your life. He awoke you to your need of Him and to your intrinsic hopelessness. Instead of thinking about what God “owes” you for your suffering and service, ask Him to give you a Biblical worldview and begin to see that God, not you, is the center of reality and life. His sovereign presence and mercy are the reasons you have hope and peace and provision.
Ask God to show you the ways in which you try to ingratiate yourself to Him, hoping for honor or reward or even eternal life in response to your hard work and self-denial. Ask Him to make your heart content and humble, bowing before Jesus in gratitude and praise for His power and faithfulness. Ask Him to provide what you need and to remove the arrogance, pride, and ego from your heart.
Ask God to awaken you to the reality of Jesus’ continual presence with you and to put a song in your heart. Ask Him to teach you to praise Him, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 4:20).
He is worthy!
Wisdom of God
Mind of the Lord
Paul has finished his examination of the history of Israel's calling, of Israel's hardened condition at the time of his writing, and of the people's eventual "unhardening" and re-entry into God's people. He ends, now, with a hymn of praise to God (again borrowing from the Old Testament) for His sovereign, inscrutable wisdom that brought about salvation to both the Jews and the Gentiles.
1. As Paul summarizes God's sovereign faithfulness to His promises, what does he understand the riches of God's wisdom and knowledge to be? (see Romans 2:4; 9:23; Ephesians 1:7-8; 18-19; 2:6-7; 3:8-12; 16-17; Colossians 2:2-3; 1 Corinthians 1:20-21; 25; 27-31)
2. Paul uses language evocative of several Old Testament writers when he calls God's judgments "unsearchable" and "his paths beyond tracing out." What have God's people always understood about His role in creation and in the lives of humans? (see Job 5:9; 11:7-9; Psalm 139:1-10; Ecclesiastes 8:16-17; Isaiah 40:27-28; 55:8-11)
3. Paul begins a series of three rhetorical questions in verse 34. Again, these questions are echoes of Old Testament passages. In Isaiah 40:13, the word translated "mind" in the NIV version of this Romans passage is instead translated "Spirit" in the NASB. What does the Bible teach about our ability to know God's Spirit or mind, and what does it say about God's obligation to us? (see Isaiah 40:13; 29:14-16; Job 41:11; 35:7; Romans 9:22-24; John 14:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:20-22; 2:6-7; 2:9-10; 11-12; 14-16; Romans 8:26-27)
4. "Whohas been [God's] counselor?" Paul now asks, quoting from Isaiah 40:13. What human weakness is Paul emphasizing given the Biblical statements about God and the concept of "counselor"? (see Isaiah 40:13-14; Job 15:7-13; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Isaiah 9:6; 27:28-29; Psalm 16:7-8; John 14:16-17, 25-27; 15:26-27; 16:5-11)
5. "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" Paul quotes next from Job 41:11. What common human idea is Paul exposing and debunking in this question? (see Job 41:1-11; 35:5-8; 22:2-3; Luke 17:7-10; 1 Corinthians 9:16-18; Ephesians 2:8-9; Deuteronomy 9:4-6; Romans 4:4-6; 2 Timothy 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7)
6. In verse 36 Paul praises the sovereign provision of God: "For from him and through him and to him are all things." What is significant about those three prepositions, "from", "through", and "to"; and what sorts of things come "from" and "through" God that are also "to" God? (see 1 Corinthians 8:5-6; 11:12; 12:4, 11; Colossians 1:16; 19; Hebrews 2:10; Ephesians 1:4-6; 7-8; 2:18; 3:16; 20-21; 4:4-5; 5:25-27)
7. Paul ends this doxology with these words: "To him be the glory forever! Amen." How will God be glorified forever? (see Romans 16:25-27; Ephesians 3:20-21; 1 Timothy 1:15-17; 1 Peter 5:10-11; Jude :24-25; Revelation 5:13-14; 7:11-12)
8. Based on what we have learned about God's election, sovereign plans, calling, faithfulness, and patience, for what "big picture" reality is Paul praising God?
9. How have God's wisdom and unsearchable judgments affected your life?
10. In what ways do you find yourself trying to "repay" God or to be worthy of His blessings?
11. Praise God for His intervention in your life; for His faithfulness, His provision, His revelation of Himself.
12. Ask God to awaken your heart to the miracle of His mercy and provision. Ask Him to put a song in your heart and to teach you to praise Him, "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 4:20).
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