27 August – Proper 16 – Romans 11:33-36
The knowledge of God is deeper than our understanding
Bigger than Bigger – Romans 11:33-36
In his letter to the Romans. Paul does his best job. In giving us a systematic, organized and logical account of the Christian faith.
Yet, when he comes to the end of the 11th chapter. He takes another look at God. And he realizes. How little he knows and understands about God. He ends his explanation with a doxology of praise. To God. Who is far above all he could think or say.
In our day. We are tempted to localize and minimize God. There is a temptation to have “God” fit into the mold of our humanity. Even a personal appearance by the Almighty wouldn’t do the trick for some.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Well, I wouldn’t believe in a God who…” or “That’s not the God I want to believe in…” Others may simply conclude, “I just can’t figure God out!”
Some simply terminate the discussion saying, “If God proved He existed, I still wouldn’t believe in him!” For many. God is too small. Too small to handle the problems of the individual. Let alone the world. Paul would think otherwise.
Consider the greatness of God.
His possessions are unlimited – Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! - V. 33 Paul begins this section with a doxology of praise. Paul worships as he reflects on the grace of God which is lived out in the life of the Christian. That is the essence of your spiritual worship. Reflecting the mercies of God in your day to day living. We come to a worship service. And in service. We worship God.
And our worship finds its roots in the Savior’s mercy. Which is bottomless. God's riches, wisdom and knowledge are beyond measure. How could man ever understand the reasons for His action? Or explain the methods of His working?
Depth. (βάθος) V. 33 – We know God only to the extent that He has revealed Himself. Paul reminds us that what we know is infinitesimal. So tiny. Only a tip of the iceberg. Who can plumb the depths of God’s wisdom? Or His judgment? His will and His grace?
When Paul mentions God’s judgments. He says they are “incomprehensible.” They cannot be tracked out. They are beyond description.
We need Paul’s corrective in reminding us that God is totally-other. He is the hidden, incomprehensible God. Our finite minds are unable to grasp even the smallest part of God’s total truth. And yet, we praise Him. For His acts of mercy and grace.
Man worships God because He is infinitely greater, wiser, and more gracious than men. Seeing ourselves in the light of who God is humbles us. Seeing God in the light of whom and what we are necessitates our praise. We are compelled to worship.
His ways are beyond understanding – Paul, quoting Isaiah 40:13, and Job 41:11a, asks three questions. Which express the transcendent wisdom and self-sufficiency of God. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” - V. 34
Who has known the mind (νοῦν) of the Lord? The greatness of God far surpasses the sum of all of humanity. To God, “The nations are as a drop in a bucket.” (Isaiah 40:15). How do followers of Christ have the “mind of Christ”? The mind of Christ comes to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. You come to a correct knowledge of Christ through the revelation of His Holy Word. Jesus said He and His Father will come to you. So that you may know Him. And love Him. And keep His word. He will come to you, “and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).
Paul encourages us to “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). He reminds us, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20). As the Lord comes to you. You can begin to know and understand His will and His ways.
Yet we must remember. We are to know His will and His ways. Paul asks, “Who has been His counselor?” (σύμβουλος)? “Who has been His mentor?” “Who is able to give Him advice?” Are you smart enough to tell Him what to do? The answer to all of these questions of course, is no one. Therefore we are simply asked to petition God as we do in the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “Thy will be done, Lord. Thy will be done.”
His gifts are un-repayable –
Paul finally asks, “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” - V. 35 Put another way, we could ask, “Who first gave to God? Who paid God?” The answer is simple. God owes no man.
God does not declare us righteous and free from guilt in a vacuum, as if He just ignores our sin. No, we have a great debt we owe God due to our sin, a debt that must be paid. God’s justice demands it. Yet this is a debt none of us can pay.
So, God in His great grace planned for your salvation. For God’s grace is more than a character in God. God’s grace is also active—active in Christ. In His grace God sent forth His Son to become flesh and pay the debt we owe Him.
The Father sent Christ Jesus to offer His righteous life in exchange for our sinful lives upon the cross and to take upon Himself the guilt of our sin, our debt. Jesus Christ paid for the sin of the world “with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” Through God’s grace alone we sinners are forgiven and justified because of Christ (propter Christum). 1
His being is all in all – For from him and through him and to him are all things. - V. 36 The end of all things is God. All things were created for Him. What happened before, now and what is to come finds its root in God. Everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by His power. And everything for His glory. God is the creator. The sustainer. The ruler. And the goal of everything. Paul concludes with a simple yet profound doxology - A statement of praise to God. To him be glory (δόξα) forever Amen.
The final words of this chapter sum up all of human history and show that God is in control of history. He is the source, the means, and the goal of all things. This means He is “the author and the finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). It means He is the One who began the good work in us, and He is the One who will also complete it (Philippians 1:6).
Paul has come to the end of his greatest work on theology. He has systematically worked out a theology of the Christian faith. When he comes to the end. He realizes how little he knows of God. Contrasted to all God is. Theology is of the mind. And no man can fully grasp the whole truth of God. Thus, theologies come and go. When the mind goes as far as it can. The person contemplating God turns to a worship and praise. God is so great and good. We can only explode in a doxology of praise. We offer unto God ourselves. “As a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 12:1)
Words – 1,385
Passive Sentences –3%
Readability – 81.2
Reading Level -4.0
Luther’s Seal © Ed Riojas Higher Things
All Scriptural references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Points to Ponder for further discussion
1. In what sense is the knowledge of God "deep"?
2. Consider the three elements of v36a. Each speaks of God's divinity. How is this important?
3. Have you ever glimpsed the wonder of God's hand upon your life? If so, how might you your share your experience?