Tonight I want us to come to Romans chapter 11 and sort of wrap up our understanding of this very, very marvelous chapter. In going through this great epistle of Romans I feel like I'm walking a well-worn path. Many preachers, far greater than I, throughout the history of the church have dealt with this marvelous book. Many commentators have written and rewritten of its great truths. I suppose of all the books of the Bible, it is the most studied, the most preached, the most taught, the most commented on, the most written about of all books. And yet even with all of that and all of the times I've studied it and this the second time I've preached it here at Grace Church, I took it in seminary, I went through it in college, it still holds for me tremendous, fresh, rich, new insights. And I trust that tonight as we cover what for some of us will be somewhat familiar ground, it will come through to our hearts and minds in a new and refreshing and sanctifying way.
In looking at the end of chapter 11, particularly verses 25 through 36, we're looking at the culmination of Paul's whole argument relative to salvation by grace through faith in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the climax of everything that he has been saying. And the culmination comes really in verse 36 when he says, "Of Him” that is Christ “and through Him and to Him are all things to whom be glory forever, amen." The whole of his presentation culminates in the glory of the Lord. That is the ultimate goal of the redemptive plan. God is saving Gentiles, saving Jews by grace through faith to the end that He may receive the glory. And I think it's important for us to be reminded of that, that the whole unfolding of the plan of God is not so much for the salvation of man as it is for the glory of God. And what happens to men whether it is condemnation in hell or exaltation in heaven works to the praise of the glory of God. God is glorified even in condemning, as we saw earlier, didn't we, in chapter 9. For when God condemns sinners to hell, when God condemns unbelieving souls to endless eternity without Him, He demonstrates His holiness and He demonstrates His wrath and that is a manifestation of His glorious being.
And when God redeems and when God saves, and when God takes people into His presence in eternal heaven He is also demonstrating His power to save, His power to forgive sin, His power to raise from the deadness and the darkness of evil to the glorious light of goodness in His presence. So all that is occurring in all of Paul's sweeping argument and presentation ultimately culminates in the matter of glorifying God. That is the reason for everything. That is the theme of everything in the Scripture. Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, he says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, do it all to the glory of God. Back in Joshua 7:19 the Scripture says, "Confess your sin and give glory to God." And in Psalm 50 it says, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me." And throughout Scripture, one way or another, men are designed in the plan of God for the purpose of giving Him glory. We are called to that end.
Back in 1 Chronicles in the very, very wonderful portion, chapter 16, I want to read you what I think to be as important a mandate as is given anywhere in Scripture, 1 Chronicles 16:24, actually we'll start in verse 23, "Sing unto the Lord, all the earth. Show forth from day to day His salvation. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all peoples, for great is the Lord and greatly to praised. He also is to be feared above all gods, for all the gods of the people are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Glory and honor are in His presence, strength and gladness are in His place. Give unto the Lord, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name. Bring an offering and come before Him, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Fear before Him all the earth, the world also shall be stable that it be not moved, let the heavens be glad and let the earth rejoice, and let men say among the nations, The Lord reigneth." And then verse 34, "O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good for His mercy endureth forever. And say ye, save us, O God of our salvation, and gather us together and deliver us from the nations that we may give thanks to Thy name, Thy holy name, and glory in Thy praise. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel forever and ever and all the people said amen and praised the Lord."
What a great call to give God glory. And that call is echoed and reiterated throughout Scripture and I'll not take the time to look at all of the myriad of places where a call to glory is given. But I am reminded of a New Testament counterpart, in a sense, in 1 Timothy 1:17 where in a great benediction Paul says, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever amen." All that is is what it is in order to bring God glory. And we are to glorify Him for His redemptive work. The fact that He has saved us by His grace in such a masterful way, in such a marvelous plan that He has ordered history and providence and circumstance and time and eternity and all that is to come together to work out our redemption is cause for giving Him glory. And for eleven chapters now Paul has been giving a masterful Holy Spirit- inspired treatise on the great features of redemption and having come to the conclusion that God not only will redeem the Gentiles but ultimately redeem the Jews, he then breaks into a doxology of praise to the God of salvation to close the section and that begins in verse 33 and runs to verse 36.
And, beloved, the entire plan of salvation is primarily for the glory of God. And if you need to be reminded, then be reminded of Romans 1:7 where it says that we are the beloved of God, called to be saints. But what is the purpose of that? Back up to verse 5, Paul says, "We have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith," that is for those who believe the faith and become saints, "among all nations” here it is “for His name." In other words, salvation is not stated for us but for Him. It is for His name that we have believed in the faith. It is for His name that we have become saints. It is for His name, verse 6, that we are the called of Jesus Christ. It is for His glory.
I'm thinking also of Philippians, just as another comparative passage, Philippians chapter 1. And he says, "I pray that your love may abound," verse 9, "yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment that you may approve things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense until the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God." In other words, that we should be saved, that we should abound in love and knowledge and judgment, that we should approve excellent things, being sincere and without offense and filled with righteousness not for our sake but for His sake, for the sake of the glory of God.
In 2 Corinthians 4:15 Paul says, "All things are for your sakes, we minister for your sake, we preach the gospel for your sake, we endure all kinds of persecution for your sake," he's talked about that in the earlier verses, "in order that the abundant grace” that comes to you, is what he's saying “might through your thanksgiving redound to the glory of God." It's as if he says we come to you with the gospel so that you can praise God having received it. In other words, it's as if He sent...He sent the gospel out to bring people into a position to glorify Himself. That is exactly what Paul is saying.
In Ephe...pardon me, in Acts chapter 15, I'm going to skip a few of them, but in Acts 15 verse 14, you remember we looked at this last time. "Simeon hath declared how God did first visit the Gentiles,” or the nations. In other words, God sent the gospel to the Gentiles, "to take out of them a people." Why? "For His name, for His glory, for His own sake, for His majesty." And Philippians 1 does tell us that we have been adopted, predestinated, forgiven to be to the praise of the glory of His grace. And it goes on and on like that throughout the Old and the New Testament.
The point that I want to make is just to summarize the thought that we've been saved for the glory of God, not for our own sake, not so that we should get all that we need and all that we want although we are blessed, but that we should glorify God. That is the issue. Salvation is for God's glory, more so than for our satisfaction, very important truth.
In fact, in Ephesians 3, I want you to look at it for a moment, we might sort of get a picture here that's a little more graphic. In Ephesians 3 verse 9 Paul says that he is an apostle sent with the mystery and the mystery which is hidden from the beginning of ages, that mystery of Jew and Gentile, one in Christ, the mystery of salvation and the church. And why has he come to preach that mystery, that message of the one body with Jew and Gentile partaking of a common salvation? Verse 10: For the reason, or for the intent, or the purpose “that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies.” That's angels. The reason we have come to preach the mystery and to see the body built and Jew and Gentile redeemed is so that the angels will know by looking at the church the manifold wisdom of God. In other words, your salvation is not only so that you can give God glory but so that the angels, in seeing Him redeem you, can also glorify God. So the redemption of man is to call man to give God glory and to cause the angels to give God glory who see what God has done with man, who is such a vile and wretched sinner.
So, salvation then is for the glory of God. We're not surprised then, back to Romans chapter 11, we're not surprised that it ends with a doxology giving the glory to God. And as I said last time, I believe that doxology is intended not only to be the conclusion of Romans 9 to 11 but of Romans 1 to 11. The whole redemptive plan is cause for glorifying God.
Now to bring that idea of God's glory into bold relief and to give us a clear understanding of it, Paul leads up to the doxology and leads through the doxology by giving us some of the attributes of God which cause Him to be worthy of our praise. He speaks of God's sovereignty, God's integrity, God's generosity, and God's incomprehensibility. Those four great characteristics of God are cause for his doxology of praise and glory.
Now remember last time we mentioned, first of all, God's sovereignty in verses 25 and 26. "And so all Israel shall be saved, as it is written, there shall come out of Zion the deliverer and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob for this is My covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins." In verse 25 he said, "I don't want you to be ignorant.” I don't want you to miss, to be blind to what is happening. Israel is only blind in part and Israel is only blind temporarily. Ultimately all Israel shall be saved. And a deliverer will come out of Zion, this will fulfill God's covenant. And you remember last time we pointed out the fact that Paul is saying here God is sovereign. God controls history. The temporary setting aside of Israel is under the control of God. And ultimately God will bring back Israel to the place of blessing. He has always had a remnant of true, believing Jews, but in the future the whole nation will come to salvation. So God is not victimized by their unbelief, God is not victimized by their hardness of heart. God is not victimized by their rejection. But rather working with their hardness, their rejection, and their blindness He will accomplish His own holy purpose because He is absolutely sovereign. And as marvelous and amazing and unbelievable as it might seem verse 26 says it very plainly, "So all Israel shall be saved.” And there will come a deliverer who will turn away ungodliness from Jacob because that is what sovereign God is working out. That is what His plan calls for.
Back in verse 12 of this great chapter he says, "If the fall of them be the riches of the world and the lessening of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fullness?" And he implies there that there is coming a time when Israel in fullness will be redeemed. And now in verse 26 he says it and He is the sovereign God who is working it out.
In Isaiah 46:10 the Bible says, "My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure." In Daniel 4:35 it says, "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can halt His hand." In Ephesians 1:11, "He works all things after the counsel of His own will." In Psalm 135 and verse 6 it says, "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven and in earth and in the sea and in all deep places." So, the testimony of Scripture is that God does what He wants. In 2 Timothy 2:19 it says, "The foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knows them that are His” and He will redeem those in His sovereign plan. And that includes Israel.
So part of Paul's praise, or I should say, a contributor to his praise is this idea of God's sovereignly working out a master plan that will result not only in the salvation of Gentiles but finally in the salvation of His covenant people Israel to whom He gave His promise.
Now the second attribute that we see in this text is God's integrity. And that takes us to verse 27 and following again. Look at it there. "There will come out of Zion a deliverer." Why? Verse 27, "For this is My covenant” or promise “unto them when I shall take away their sins." It's stated as a fact in the future, not if but when He is ready to do it. "As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes, but as touching the election they are beloved for the fathers' sake." Why? "For the gifts and callings of God are without repentance."
Remember we talked about verse 28 last time, that they are the beloved enemy. In one sense Israel is the enemy of God because of present unbelief. In another sense they are the beloved of God because of past covenant promise to be fulfilled in the future. So they are the beloved enemy. And this is how it has to be. Verse 27 and 29 are the key, "This is My covenant," then verse 29, "And the gifts and callings of God are without repentance." The point is, God keeps His word. He keeps His word. He made a promise to the fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to bless the nation that came out of their loins. And He will do that, He will fulfill that promise. He is a covenant- keeping God. "Know therefore," says Deuteronomy 7:9, "that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful God." What a wonderful thought.
And 2 Timothy 2:13 says, "If we believe not yet He remains faithful." He cannot deny Himself. He can't change His promise. Psalm 36:5, "Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens and Thy faithfulness unto the clouds." Psalm 119:138, "Thy testimonies which Thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful." And do you remember 1 Thessalonians 5:24? "Faithful is He who calls you who will do it.” Who will do it. He never forgets. He never fails. He never falters. He never forfeits His word. “God is not a man that He should lie, neither the son of man that He should repent. Hath He said and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken and shall He not make it good?" Numbers 23:19.
So, Paul here is seeing not only the sovereignty of God as he works history to the salvation of Israel, but the integrity of God as He fulfills His promise. He has the integrity to keep His word. So we do not judge God by the standard of men. We don't worry about whether God can pull the plan off. And we don't worry whether God can keep His promise, like we do about men, because God is a covenant-keeping God who is absolutely sovereign. And those two fit together so beautifully.
You say, "Well it's one thing to want to fulfill your promise, maybe He wants to but can't." That's why you have to have in the character of God sovereignty as well as integrity. I might want to keep a promise made but be unable to do it. That's not God's problem. God has the character to keep His promise and the power to be able to fulfill what He desires to keep. And so those two, God's sovereignty and God's integrity, are bound into the gospel, bound into the plan of salvation and cause for Paul's great doxology. He is praising a God who is sovereign and has created a sovereign and a working out to ultimate fulfillment plan of salvation. And he also is praising God who keeps His promise.
Now let's look at the third, God's generosity. Another thing that is cause for us to praise God, and this is such a wonderful glorious truth is God's generosity. And the key word in this section, verses 30 to 32, is the word "mercy." It's used several times. "For as ye in time past have not believed God yet now have obtained mercy through their unbelief, even so have these also now not believed that through Your mercy they also may obtain mercy, for God hath included them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all." Now the word "mercy" speaks of God's generosity. It implies here that salvation is not something we deserve but something we don't deserve, undeserved goodness. Mercy is God withholding punishment when it is deserved. Mercy is God granting forgiveness when it is not deserved. Mercy is tender compassion and love.
Now notice verse 30 as we look into this passage. "For as ye in times past have not believed, God yet now have obtained mercy through their unbelief." The “ye” are the Gentiles and the “they” or “their” are the Jews. Now remember how Paul has put his argument together? Yes, chapter 9 says, Israel is set aside, that's in the plan of God, temporarily and partially. Chapter 10 says they are set aside because of their unbelief. But chapter 11 says they're not set aside altogether because there's a remnant of believers, right? And secondly, they're not set aside permanently. They've only been set aside temporarily. And they've been set aside temporarily because of their unbelief, that is the Jewish nation. They are not the nation of witness now. They are not the nation of blessing as a nation, though individual Jews are surely redeemed who believe in Christ. They are not the nation of blessing. They are not the nation of testimony and witness. They are not God's special people to take the gospel to the world. They have been set aside because of unbelief. And the Gentile church has been brought into the place of blessing. We now are the witness people. We now are the people of blessing.
And so in verse 30 he says of us, and by the way, this indicates that the majority of the congregation in the Roman church was indeed Gentile, he addresses them as such, "For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have not obtained mercy through their unbelief." Now you understand what he's saying? The reason the gospel went to the Gentiles was because the Jews rejected it. So in a sense we owe our salvation to Jewish unbelief, don't we. That's what Paul is saying here. We have no reason to boast, we have no reason to be proud, we have no reason to look down on a Jew. The truth of the matter is, instead of despairing on them because of their unbelief, in a sense we sort of can be thankful because through their unbelief we were grafted into the place of blessing. By the hardness of their hearts we were brought to the gospel. So in time past we who didn't believe God, we who were not the people of the covenant, read Ephesians 2, we were strangers to the promises of God, we were aliens, we were outcasts, we were despised, we were non- believers. We had none of their privileges. But because of their unbelief we have been brought in and the gospel turned to the Gentiles.
Now notice what verse 30 is saying then in reference to our point about God's generosity. We are what we are by God's mercy. That's his point. By His mercy. It's not because we were more worthy than anyone else. No. The only reason we've even come into the place of blessing is because of Jewish unbelief. We're no more worthy than they are. And if we did not believe, we would be cast out as well, as we saw earlier in the chapter.
So the idea here is really a marvelous idea. Salvation is all of mercy. And then verse 31, "Even so have these” that is the Jews “also now not believed” they're in a state of unbelief as a nation “in order that through Your mercy they also may obtain mercy." Remember that argument? He's been giving it all through the chapter. Now let me give it to you very simply. Jewish unbelief brought Gentile blessing. Gentile blessing creates Jewish jealousy, right? And out of their jealousy they will be drawn back into the place of salvation. Mercy will be shown to them by the mercy shown to us. There's going to come a day when the Gentiles desire...pardon me, when the Jews desire to possess what the Gentiles possess, when they desire the blessing that we who know Christ possess. And that's going to be the attraction. That's been a very strong part of his argument. Back in verse 11, "Have they stumbled that they should fall?" Israel? "God forbid, but rather through their fall salvation is come to Gentiles to provoke them to jealousy, to bring them back to the place of salvation." Verse 15 says the same thing, "If the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world, what will the receiving of them be but life from the dead."
In other words, they're cast aside, we're brought in to make them jealous that they might come to salvation. And then as a result of their salvation comes the glorious promised kingdom.
And so, the Gentiles were saved out of mercy. That's humbling, isn't it? Just mercy. It was God's mercy that saved us because we did not believe either, verse 30 says. "In time past you have not believed,” only God's mercy saved you. And in time present, verse 31, the Jews do not believe but only God's mercy also will save them. Salvation is an act of mercy. Our salvation is not by merit, it is by mercy. It is not because we are worthy but rather because we are unworthy. And this, people, levels everybody. It levels the Gentile and it levels the Jew. The Gentile would like to look down at a Jew and say, "You were set aside, you used to be God's people, now you're set aside," and perhaps boast in the fact that we as Gentiles have been grafted in to the place of blessing. Listen, we're not there because we were worthy, we're there because God in mercy granted us to believe. And the day will come when God grants that in mercy to the Jew and the Jew will be grafted back into the place of blessing. The issue in both cases is mercy and nothing beyond mercy. It is mercy to the Gentiles. It is mercy to the Jew. It is merit in neither case.
And so we say then that salvation is based on the generosity of God, nothing more. Paul says in his own personal testimony in 1 Timothy 1, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath enabled me in that He counted me faithful putting me into the ministry, who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious but I obtained mercy." Isn't that a beautiful testimony? It's mercy. It's as if you're drawn into a court of law and the judge says you are guilty of every single count, but the court forgives you and dismisses the case. That's mercy.
And God's mercy is so marvelous that the Bible tells us in Psalm 136 that His mercy is forever. In 1 Kings 3 verse 6, His mercy is great. In Psalm 86 verse 5, His mercy is plenteous. In Luke 1:78 His mercy is tender. In 1 Peter 1:3 it is abundant. And in Romans 9:15 we learn that His mercy is even selective, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy."
So we are the recipients of a forever, great, plenteous, tender, abundant, selective mercy. No wonder, no wonder the psalmist said in Psalm 59:16, "I will sing out loud of Thy mercy." I mean, if you ever come in your life to the point where you're smug about your salvation, boy, have you lost touch with this point. If you ever for one moment think there's something that commends you to God, you have missed it. There is nothing in the past, there is nothing in the future and there is nothing in the present that commends you to God other than the mercy granted to you because of Jesus Christ and your faith in Him. That's why in 2 Corinthians 1:3 God is called the Father of mercies. "When all Thy mercies, O my God, my rising soul surveys, transported with the view, I'm lost on wonder, love and praise."
Have you forgotten what it would be to spend an eternity in hell, burning in that place forever and ever without hope and escape? Have you forgotten what it would be like to be burdened down with the sinfulness of your sin forever and ever, endlessly? Have you forgotten what it would be like to have no sense of peace, no sense of forgiveness, no sense of joy, no sense of hope in life or life after death? If you have forgotten that, God help you and God help me. We ought to remember that so we understand what it is to be mercifully delivered. And not because of anything we are or have done. No, it's all God's generosity.
And the sum of it comes in verse 32, "For God hath concluded," that word means to shut up in a prison. "God has imprisoned them all in unbelief in order that He might have (What?) mercy on all." Now let me tell you, this is a little lesson in theology. And theologians through the centuries have struggled with what is known as the problem of theodicy, or the problem of the origination of sin and why God allowed it. I think this is one of the great answers in all of Scripture. You know why God allowed sin? Because God has in His nature an attribute and the attribute that God possesses in His nature is an attribute of mercy. And because God is a God of mercy, and God must reveal that mercy and must be glorified for that mercy, God has to exercise that mercy. And the only way that mercy can be exercised is where there is sin. So in order for God to reveal Himself as a merciful God, God must permit sin so that He can show His mercy toward the sinner. Understand that? A very essential understanding.
In fact, you can ask question after question after question about why God does this and why God allowed this and why does this happen. And the ultimate answer you will go back to time and time and time again is that it is because God must allow that to happen in order to demonstrate and reveal a characteristic that He possesses so that He may receive the full glory due His name. And there needs to be no other answer. You see, he says it there in verse 32, "God has concluded them all in unbelief." What do you mean by "them all?" Jew and Gentile. He's wrapped the whole world up in unbelief.
And we saw that, didn't we? Back in Romans chapter 3 where it says in verse 9, "Jew and Greeks (or Gentiles) are all under sin, there's none righteous, no not one, there's none that understands, none that seeks after God, they're all gone out of the way. They are together become unprofitable. (That means to go sour.) There is none that does good, no not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher, (smelly grave). With their tongues they have used deceit, the poison of snakes is under their lips. Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery in their way. The way of peace have they not known. There's no fear of God in their eyes." I mean, that's a characterization of the whole world. All men. Why? Verse 19, "God has done this that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God."
Now why does God want the whole world guilty? Why does God want the whole world convicted of sin? Why does God stop every mouth? So that all men may be seen to be unworthy and wherever God moves in with salvation, He is then demonstrating the attribute of mercy. You see? Very important. He shut them up in the prison of sin. He shut them up in the prison of guilt, verse 32 is saying. He shut them up in the prison of judgment so that He might demonstrate His mercy.
You say, "Yes, but not all received mercy." Yes, that's right because He also needed to demonstrate His wrath. The reason there's a hell is that God may reveal His wrath and be glorified. All that exists in terms of attitudes, in terms of thoughts, in terms of created physical things, all that exists ultimately is existing for the purpose of allowing God to display His glory. And so, he concludes the whole world in unbelief.
The word "unbelief" is kind of an interesting word. It's not maybe the normal word that you would anticipate, coming from the root of pisteu, it is the word apeithe and it basically means “not to allow oneself to be convinced.” He basically — and this is really interesting — he basically has allowed man intellectually and morally to fall into a state where he does not allow himself to be convinced of the truth of God and the Scripture, so that the only way he can be saved is outside of his own power by the mercy of God. If you're a Christian you're a Christian because God has been merciful to you. That's the reason, so that all the glory goes to Him, all the praise goes to Him. Marvelous thought, marvelous thought.
Now would you notice one other note in verse 32? It says at the end that He might have mercy on all. That does not teach universalism or the salvation of the whole of mankind. It simply means all in the sense of the Gentile church and the Jewish nation. He has concluded them all, Jew and Gentile, in unbelief that He might have mercy on all Jew and Gentile. It is the ethnic all, Jew and Gentile. That's the thrust of what he is saying, without distinction, "For in Christ there's neither Jew nor Gentile."
So, you see, He brought equal misery and unbelief to the Jew and the Gentile that He might save both and get the glory in both cases. And so, for that, Paul says, we give Him glory, for His sovereignty, for His integrity, and for His generosity.
I can't help but praise the Lord for being merciful to me, can you? When I think of the alternative, and when I know that there was nothing in me that I could have to save myself, there was nothing in me to draw me to Him. I was shut up in the prison of sin, unable to be persuaded of the truth by my own darkened mind, the God of this world having blinded the mind, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine unto me. And the only reason I believed to this day is because God wanted to demonstrate His mercy to wretched sinners. So you ask the question, why did God allow sin? He had to allow sin because if He hadn't allowed sin He never would have been able to reveal His wrath against it and that's a part of His nature to be revealed for which He is to be glorified. And if God had never allowed sin He never would have been able to allow mercy. And if there was no mercy He would have been therefore unable to reveal that attribute that He possesses which is cause for giving Him glory. And so He allowed sin. Bless His name. He is merciful to those who call upon Him.
And finally, Paul breaks into the doxology in verse 33 and in that doxology itself we see one other characteristic of God which we'll see very readily and that is God's incomprehensibility. Now this is staggering to the mind. We really can't spend very much time discussing it because we're out beyond our comprehension. But having completed his argument and having affirmed at the end God's sovereignty and God's integrity and God's generosity to Jew and Gentile and that the plan comes all the way to completion, ultimately the Gentile church is redeemed and ultimately the Jewish nation is redeemed and the whole plan is going to work out marvelously and beautifully and gloriously, and having identified God in a lofty strain of praise as the sovereign, faithful, merciful saving God who controls history, who fulfills His promise, who is merciful to undeserving sinners, he then breaks into song in verse 33. And theology becomes song. And he says, "O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out."
He is saying, "O what a God we have. What a plan He is unfolding." He sees the distinctiveness of God's plan as it culminates in the salvation of Israel. And like a mountain climber, he has climbed the peak of his argument, the peak of his thought and he stands at the summit of the Alps and he looks down and surveys everything that is beneath him, all that he has covered. And he is in absolute awe of this unbelievable unfolding redemptive plan and he bursts into wonder and praise. It must have been a happy moment when you compare it with the beginning of this section, chapter 9, verse 1, where he talked about continual sorrow and heaviness of heart, as he thought about the present lostness of Israel. But now as he thinks about the future salvation of that nation, he rejoices.
I might say as a footnote. The future salvation of the nation Israel does not act retroactively. Any Jew up to that time who lives and dies without Christ lives and dies without Christ, without a second chance. Paul has sorrow because of that. But he has joy to realize that ultimately there will be a nation of Jews who will believe and God's plan comes to fulfillment. And he is filled with awe and wonder and praise.
Look at verse 33 a little more closely. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God." O the depth, deep, inexhaustible, unfathomable fullness, if you will, inconceivable profundity, unthinkable thoughts. As somebody said, "It's impossible to unscrew the unscrutable." So profound it's beyond him. In Psalm 92:5 the psalmist says, and I love this simple thought, "Thy thoughts are very deep." Very deep. You don't go even into them very far before you get the bends. Have you experienced that? And you're crying for mercy and you're nowhere near the bottom. I mean, some things that I begin to think about relative to God and His person, I stop thinking about, I bail out, it's too profound for me.
Psalm 139, verse 6, the psalmist says, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is high, I cannot attain it." It is so high I can't reach it; it is so deep I can't descend to it. Only the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2:10, can plumb the mind of God. Not us, O the depth. And then he says, "Of the riches," limitless riches. Scripture talks so much about the riches of God's grace, the riches of God's mercy, the unspeakable riches that God provides, that Christ who was rich became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. And so all he's doing is just grasping for feeble human words to say that God's mind is beyond anything conceivable. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. Wisdom is the application of fact, knowledge is the fact. God knows everything and applies it perfectly. He has an infinite capacity to know and an infinite capacity to apply the knowledge. God knows everything, there is nothing He doesn't know and everything works out according to His plan.
And you know, it's kind of an interesting thing to think about it, but what is incomprehensible here is not what has not been revealed, but what has been revealed. Can you grab that thought? The thing that doesn't... It isn't that Paul is thrown by the things he doesn't know about God, it is that the things that are revealed have a depth to them that if you follow long enough you realize you can't reach, right? So the wonder in his mind is not the wonder of what is not revealed, but it is the inconceivable wonder of what is revealed. Like Mark Twain said one time, "It isn't the things I don't know that bother me, it's the things I do know." He's right. The doxology rises out of the reality that even in looking at what has been revealed in the plan of God one is absolutely overwhelmed with the mind of God, how that God could pull it all off and make it all happen and to try to plumb the depths of all of God's thinking and all of God's planning. He has been giving, for eleven chapters, great examples of the infinite incomprehensible knowledge and wisdom of God. The whole scheme of salvation is so grandiose, so profound, so deep, so filled with wonder that he's absolutely overwhelmed by it.
And he says, "How unsearchable are His judgments." “Judgments” has to do with decisions, like a judgment rendered in a court, a verdict, with sentences given. God's decisions, God's verdicts, God's judgments, God's sentences, I mean they're just unsearchable. God decides to do this and that, judges this way and that and we can't plumb the depths of comprehending how He could be so wise. And then he says, "His ways are past finding out." “Ways” has to do with His procedures, His providences, His dealings. On the one hand, His judgments are His counsels, His plans, His purposes. And His ways are how those things work out. So you could back all the way up and say it starts with knowledge and then the knowledge is applied in God's wisdom, as He puts together the right plan, the right procedure, the right...rather the right plan, the right purpose, the right counsel and then enacts the procedure. His ways are past finding out.
What He's doing we really can't know. That's true. It's really kind of an interesting way to say it because the term "past finding out" literally means that which cannot be traced. It is an untraceable path. It is a metaphor left to us from the world of the animals by the hunters who would track an animal but lose the path. If you try to follow what God's doing, you're going to lose the path. You know how the psalmist said this in Psalm 77:19? He said it this way, "Thy way is in the sea and Thy path in the great waters and Thy footsteps are not known." Ever try to follow a path in water? Ever try to follow footprints in the sea? God walks in the sea and you can't find His footprints. And so we are left with faith. We can't see where God's going, His way is untraceable. To begin with, His knowledge is beyond us, His wisdom is infinitely beyond our capacity, His decisions and counsels and plans and purposes are unsearchable to us. And even when He works them out, His path is untraceable, past finding out.
Thou art the unapproachable,
Whose height enables thee to stoop,
Whose holiness is undefiled
To handle hearts that droop.
How Thou canst think so well of me
And be the God Thou art
Is darkness to my intellect,
But sunshine to my heart.
So we live in faith. We must, for our God is unfathomable. And even what has been revealed to us is unfathomable and incomprehensible as to its wisdom, knowledge, and judgment and path.
Three questions are added to reinforce this. In verse 34, "For who hath known the mind of the Lord?" Anybody? Any volunteers? Anybody know God's mind perfectly? Oh, I understand exactly what He's doing. Oh you do? The Lord knows the mind of His creatures but the creatures don't know the mind of the Lord. I mean, do you think an ant understands your thought processes? Absurd. But not as absurd as to think you understand God's mind. Even when He's revealed Himself all you know is what He's revealed and that often leaves you with more mystery than you had before He revealed anything, right? "The natural man understandeth not the things of God. He cannot know them." And by the way, this is a quote from Isaiah 40 verse 13, out of the Septuagint version. He's quoting the Old Testament, "For who hath known the mind of the Lord?" And the answer is what? Nobody, nobody, nobody could know what God was doing until it unfolded and was revealed to them. No one is witness to the infinite depth of the mind of God, that's why it's so stupid when we second guess Him instead of praising Him, when we question Him, or when we think we've got Him in a box.
And a second question and this one also taken from the Old Testament, "Or who hath been His counselor?" Who hath been the Lord's counselor? To whom does the Lord go for advice? Who does He check in with? Sumboulos is the word “counselor.” It means “fellow counselor.” Nobody stands at God's ear giving suggestions. Nobody is God's counselor. God doesn't look for help in outlining the program. In Proverbs 11:14 it says, "Where no counsel is, the people fall. In a multitude of counselors there is safety." That's true for men; we need counsel, we need to check in with as many folks as we can. In Proverbs 24:6 it says, "In a multitude of counselors there is safety." But God? Does God need a counselor? He needs no counselor at all, none at all. Why? Because God seeks no advice. Why? Because He knows everything there is to know. He knows how to apply everything there is to apply. He is sovereign in developing all the plans and He is powerful enough to work the plan out to absolute fulfillment. Unquestionably He knows everything there is to know from beginning to end. Therefore there's no purpose in seeking advice from anybody. That too is taken out of Isaiah 40 verse 13, I was just checking to be sure. And again is from the Old Testament.
In Job, isn't it chapter 42? We'll just draw this to a conclusion, but Job 42 verse 3, "Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that which I understood not, things too wonderful for me which I knew not." Job says I've been saying a whole lot of stuff about God, this and that, and now I realize I'm just talking about things I don't even understand, I don't even understand.
People, I guess the message for us is to be content with what we know and realize it's very limited. The wisest of men need counsel, God needs none.
And then a final question taken from Job 41:11, I love this. Verse 35, "Or who hath first given to Him and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" Oh I like that. What does that say? Who loaned something to God or gave something to God and now God is in His debt? Who has God in debt to Him? Anybody? Who has God under obligation to perform? Ridiculous.
Let me tell you something, people. That is a very important verse. God doesn't owe anybody what? Anything. Job 41:11, "Who first gave to Him and now God has to pay him back?" "What did you or I or any human being ever do to make God be in our debt?" Nothing, nothing. His favor is never, ever, ever, owed to anyone, never, ever, ever, earned by anyone, and never ever given as compensation from God. It is always infinite grace. In fact, the truth is we owe God an unpayable debt, don't we? Like the man in Matthew 18. Listen to me, there is no merit in us to put any constraint on God for anything. God is self-sufficient, sovereign, free from any obligation. He doesn't owe the Jew anything because of merit. He doesn't owe the Gentile anything because of merit.
You say, "Well then why is He going to fulfill His plan?" Because of His own character. Because He is a sovereign God who keeps His promise, who is gracious. But don't for one moment imagine that you've got Him figured out, He's incomprehensible, incomprehensible.
So, what is the end of it all? Verse 36, "For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever, so let it be." He is the source, for of Him; He is the means, and through Him; He is the goal, and to Him are all things. He made all things for Himself. "Thou art worthy, O Lord," it says in Revelation 4:11, "to receive glory and honor and power for Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they are and were created."
What a great climax. And I hope that you can join with the apostle in that last part of verse 36 and give Him glory forever. All praise, all glory. As Jude said it so beautifully, "To the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power both now and ever, amen."
Well let's bow in prayer.
Our Father, we have gathered here to glorify Thee, no less than that. We have been saved to Thy glory. And we desire to give Thee glory due Thy name. Thank You for helping us to see this wonderful climax to the eleven chapters on the truth of salvation and to see that it's all for Your glory. Bind these things to our hearts and may it be that in a fresh and new way, today and tomorrow and the days ahead we shall give Thee praise due Thy name in a new way.
And if there are some in our fellowship tonight who have not yet come to Christ. O what an affront it is, what an affront it is to deny the glory that is due to You. Change their hearts. O God, be merciful to them, save them, and may all of us come to the place where life for us is a life of praise for You, the God of all glory. We are amazed and awed that You have been gracious to us to grant us salvation who are so undeserving. And we thank You in Christ's name. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.