Romans 11:36


Monday, 4 November 2013

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36

Three Greek prepositions are used in this last verse of Romans 11 – ek, dia, and eis – “of,” “through,” and “to.” It is an all-encompassing statement concerning God, His creation, and all that creation holds. It is God, not a “big bang,” which created the universe. In fact, a big-bang is a logical contradiction. For the universe to “bang” into existence means that it would have to have existed before it existed because nothing cannot create something. The universe is not a self-existent entity, and therefore if there was nothing, there would still be – for all eternity – nothing.

But there is a self-existent God who is the Source of all things. And despite the constant assault against Him and against His authority, He owes nothing to man. Though we argue against His goodness, claim that we deserve His favor, and act as if He isn’t even there until we get into a bad patch, none of our actions changes His sovereign rule.

“For of Him” indicates that He is the Creator and the Source of everything. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If there was a beginning, and there was (thanking Einstein for demonstrating this), then there must have been a beginner. For of Him are all things.

For “through Him” indicates that God is the Sustainer of all things. He is the unseen agency of our continued existence. “And *he* is before all, and all things subsist together by him” Colossians 1:17 (Darby). He is the One who holds all things together. But even more, He is the One who allows all things to continue from moment to moment. This is why Jesus, speaking to the leaders of Israel, was able to make this statement –

“But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.'” John 5:17

God’s creative effort ended on the sixth day, but His sustaining effort does (and must) continue on without ceasing. Without this continued sustaining power, all things would simply cease to exist. For through Him are all things.

For “to Him” shows that He is the end-purpose and goal of all things. He is the final and ultimate reason of every created thing. As the Source and Sustainer, this can be the only logical conclusion. Because He created time, He is therefore outside of time – eternally before and after. All things find their conclusion in Him. And, amazingly, because he participated in His creation by entering the stream of humanity, all things are directed toward their completion in the Person of Jesus. Hebrews 1:2, speaking of Christ Jesus, says that He is “appointed heir of all things.” Christ is the recipient of all power, rule, and authority; a state which will exist as long as God exists, which is eternally. For to Him are all things.

“To Him be glory forever” can be analyzed and spoken of until words run out and yet there will be more to say. The praises shall never end, the marvel shall never cease, the awe at beholding the incomprehensible greatness of God will never get old. From Him flows an eternal stream of delight and majesty. In the new heavens and the new earth, we shall behold this with our eyes and the praises of God will know no end. And it was all made possible by His own wisdom and splendor, displayed in the most amazing way of all –

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:15-20

Life application: If you are planning on boasting, do so in the cross of Jesus Christ.

From Your wisdom came the universe and all it contains. By Your skill, You created man in Your image. With Your approval, we exercised our free will against You. In Your mercy, You withheld our demise. In Your goodness, You entered into Your creation. And with the greatest display of love, You went to the cross to redeem us. May I boast in nothing but the cross of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Romans 11:35


Saturday, 3 November 2013

“Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” Romans 11:35

Here we have Paul’s final Old Testament quote of chapter 11. He reaches back to Job and the Lord’s words there –

“Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine.” Job 41:11

The question that the Lord is asking of Job is “Who has paid me first (preceded Me), that I should (re)pay him?”

Paul uses this quote as if he is asking each of us in order to consider it. The answer is obvious. God is the Creator and thus the Source of all things. There is nothing that we possessed before He possessed it and therefore, there is nothing that isn’t His. And this isn’t only speaking of tangible things like gold and silver, but of all things that come from the material creation and which are found in man – grace, mercy, love, devotion, etc.

When God constructed us, He did so in a way which allows us to participate in His creation in a cognitive way. We have understanding and reason, we have emotions and desires, etc. But all of these came from the same Source. This is why John can state, “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We can’t even claim that our love preceded His. He is eternal in nature and love is one of His many attributes. Therefore, His love is. It doesn’t increase or decrease. He is love and this love has always been. We have been the object of His love in His eternal mind before creation itself stood firm.

No matter what we offer to Him, it came as a result of His creative effort and therefore there is nothing which needs to be repaid by Him. From this spoken word to Job, the Lord follows with the statement, “Everything under heaven is mine.” He is God; the Source and Possessor of all things.

Life application: At times, we may feel we’ve done something great for the Lord. And from a human perspective it may be so. But our deeds can never precede the Lord and therefore we are owed nothing. This shows us the immense grace of the judgment seat of Christ where “rewards” will be handed out for our faithful acts (see 1 Corinthians 3:9-15). Despite not owing us a thing, He still has reserved rewards for our faithfulness. What a great God!

Lord, I’m told in Your word that there will be heavenly rewards for my faithful deeds. This is a point of excitement and anticipation. And yet, to see Your face is the greatest reward of all because You are the Source of all things. My greatest hope, my deepest longing, and my eternal desire is but to behold Your beauty for all eternity. With this, my cup will always be full. Amen.

Romans 11:34


Saturday, 2 November 2013

For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Romans 11:34

Paul cites a verse from Isaiah 40. Taken with its surrounding verses, we get a glimpse at the “depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” There Isaiah records the Lord’s majesty to Israel –

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has taught Him? With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding?” Isaiah 30:12-14

Unlike human rulers – kings, dictators, presidents, emperors, etc., the Lord needs no counselor, nor is there anything that He lacks in wisdom or knowledge. If someone were to attempt to advise the Lord, that attempt would be futile. All things were created by Him and so all knowledge to be discerned from within creation by a created being is already known to Him. His mind is infinitely higher than the individual knowledge of man as well as the sum of the accumulated knowledge of man. In fact, if the storehouse of man’s knowledge were to be maintained and updated for all eternity, it would still be infinitely less than the knowledge of the infinite Creator; a finite can never attain to the infinite.

Because of this, there is none who can advise God on what to do. Our prayers which attempt to “help God along” in His decision process are futile. And our prayers which attempt to “mandate” or “claim” something from God border on blasphemy. He sees the end, we don’t. Therefore, to make a claim from God in essence assumes that the claim is in line with His future intentions; something we cannot know. If we claim prosperity or healing and God intended that we are to be poor or sick, then we have essentially usurped His divine will through our prayer.

And this avenue follows through with the subject matter of Romans 9-11. Whether we agree with Israel’s return; whether we accept God’s mercy upon Israel or not; and whether we like or don’t like the people of Israel – none of that matters. God has shown us in His word the state of the nation, the extent of His mercy, and the love He has for His disobedient people. For us to work against these things, or to pray against them, is only a sign of our own rebellion against Him. God is working out an immensely detailed and marvelous plan. Let us be found in accord with it, not striving against it!

Life application: In your prayers, don’t “advise” God on what He should do. And, in your prayers, don’t “mandate” to God what is right. Rather, petition the Lord for that which You desire and be ready to accept His answer – be it yes or be it no. He is God; the answer belongs to Him alone.

Lord, today I realize that not all things are centered around me. In fact, I don’t know if I will be alive tomorrow. Because of this, I see that I am wholly dependent on You for all things and that I have no right to claim anything from You. Forgive me for my presumptuous prayers of the past. In the future, I will ask and wait on Your answer, knowing that You have the best plan in mind for me. Amen.

Romans 11:33


Friday, 1 November 2013

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! Romans 11:33

For the second time in this epistle, Paul enters into an open expression of worship of God. In chapters 1-8, he gave instruction on doctrinal matters and finished that with a praise concerning the relationship which has been established between God and man because of the work of Christ. In chapters 9-11, Paul has conducted a lesson into dispensational matters – the church age and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles during that age. Showing that God is in complete control of what is happening and what will come about, He finished this section with his “mercy verses.”

Now with a resounding note of praise, adoration, and awe he breaks into a doxology which shows finite man’s inability to comprehend the magnificence and greatness of God. He begins with an interjection which is the Greek letter “Omega.” This translates directly to “O!” It is as if he looked at the previous discussion and was unable to grasp what just flowed from his pen – the immensity of understanding the grafting in of the gentiles, the rejection of the Jews, and yet the return of the Jews to their high position at some point in the future – all of this suddenly dawning on him. “Oh! The depth of the riches…”

He speaks of the riches of God being poured out upon undeserving man. God’s treasure trove of goodness is unlimited and eternal. There is no end to the blessings which can come from Him and there is, for those who are the objects of His favor, no end to the blessings that will come from Him. God is pleased to bestow these riches upon His creatures so that they may in turn glorify Him. Because God is eternal, the stream of these riches will proceed ceaselessly and endlessly to those who are His called, chosen, and elect.

Paul then turns to “both the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” There is debate on the reading here. Two options are:

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” or
“Oh, the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!”

It is either “depth” describing “riches” and then “riches” describing “the wisdom and the knowledge,” or each is an individual tenet. The difference isn’t small, and one should contemplate both options because both fill the mind with a different type of wonder at what Paul is saying.

“The wisdom” of God and the “knowledge” of God are introduced separately because they reflect different characteristics which are too often incorrectly mixed together in our thoughts. “Wisdom” is the proper application of the will in order to meet a good end. In the context of Romans 9-11, it is speaking of that use of God’s will which will bring about the “mercy” on all people. This was seen in the preceding verses. The plan of redemption is so wise that it is beyond our ability to fully grasp. We can read the words, understand their meaning, but never come to fully understand how God has or will continue to exercise His will, while at the same time allowing man the free will he has been given.

The knowledge of God is certainly speaking on several levels – His intelligence, which is infinite; and His foreknowledge, which is timeless. Because He knows all things, both immediately and intuitively, God is able to anticipate every possibility that could occur in every part of His creation. There is nothing which could surprise Him and nothing which could break down in what He has constructed. From the minutest atom to the grandest galaxy, all things are working harmoniously because of the intellect which created and sustains these things.

Because of the depth of these tenets of God – the riches, the wisdom, and the knowledge, Paul’s pen issues ink into words which are insufficient to relate the concept he is trying to convey, which is in turn insufficient to relate what that thought is trying to grasp. “How unsearchable are His judgments!” Here he uses a term found nowhere else in Scripture, anexeraunēta, to describe God’s judgments.

The word means to search out or investigate, but it begins with a negative. His judgments cannot searched out; they are beyond the ability of man to even locate. What He has determined can be studied, contemplated, charted, graphed, argued over, and communicated, and yet none of this is or could be sufficient to fully explain them. In the end, there will always be questions which, even if answered, will only lead to more questions. The finite mind will never fully search out what has been determined in the execution of His infinite plan.

“And His ways past finding out” brings in another term which begins with a negative, anexichniastoi. It is used only one other time in Scripture. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, uses it concerning the work of God in Christ –

“To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” Ephesians 3:8

This word, similar to the preceding one, means to “trace out” or to “track.” We can search high and low, near and far, and never fully understand the ways of God. Isaiah speaks of this wisdom when quoting the Lord –

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For 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

In the end, redeemed man will eternally be in the presence of God, beholding His splendor and marveling at what He has done. We will forever contemplate, but never fully grasp, the magnificence of the glory of God. Eternity itself will reveal that we will need eternity to pursue this glorious Creator.

Life application: What will we do in heaven? How can we live forever without getting bored? Don’t worry about that! The infinite glory of God will be ceaselessly revealed to us. There will be no end to the discovery of His majesty. Eternity itself will be needed to search out the depths of our eternal God.

Heavenly Father, because You are infinite in Your wisdom and knowledge, I will need eternity to search out Your glory. I thank You that because of Jesus, the eternal life that I need to contemplate You is available. I look forward to an endless, ceaseless procession of Your wisdom, knowledge, and goodness. Thank You for Christ in me, the hope of glory! Amen.

Romans 11:32


Thursday, 31 October 2013

For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Romans 11:32

Again, Paul uses his common conjunction “for” in order to explain the previous two “mercy verses” with this concluding thought before he moves on to his stirring doxology. “For God has committed them all to disobedience” refers to the previous disobedience of the gentiles who now have obtained mercy and the currently-disobedient Jews who will obtain that same mercy.

The word for “has committed” is one which gives the thought of imprisonment. A comparable concept would be fish caught up in a net. God has thus bound both categories of men, Jew and Gentile, so “that He might have mercy on all.” In essence, He imprisons so that He may set free; He binds so that He may release; He confines so that He may lead to broad spaces.

All who come to Christ were first found to be in Adam; all who are forgiven were first under sin; all who are adopted as sons were once orphans. Because of this, each will understand the freedom and privilege which they have been granted. It is through contrast that we learn to discern the differences.

In this thought of committing all to disobedience, it cannot be inferred that this was actively done by God. Rather, from Adam’s free-will choice, all came under condemnation and so all were bound under sin. From that, God had mercy on a select group of people and called them to Himself. Their eventual rejection of Christ was voluntary. At the same time, the gentiles voluntarily streamed to the gospel. Thus the committing of the Jews to disobedience was a self-inflicted imprisonment while at the same time the voluntary choice of the gentile people brought us to God’s mercy.

When an offense is committed, the judge is right in sentencing the criminal, the jailer is right in executing his duties of imprisoning the offender, and the executioner is not guilty when he flips the switch on “Old Sparky” to put those who commit capital crimes to death. In the same manner, God is not to blame when His instructions, which were plain and clear, are violated or ignored.

Moreover, He provides sufficient data for what He expects so that all who are so bound are without excuse when the evidence is presented. One cannot stand before God and use the claim that their sentence is unfair. Not knowing about Jesus doesn’t condemn a person. Being a human being, born of Adam condemns a person. Being presented with Jesus and rejecting Jesus only increases condemnation. And being presented with Jesus and accepting Him frees Adam’s seed from condemnation. Therefore, all are bound under disobedience that God might (not will) have mercy on all.

Life application: A common question, and what is often used as an indictment against God’s fairness, involves those who have never heard the news about Jesus. How can God condemn such a person? Be ready to answer this. Man is “already condemned” according to John 3:18. We need nothing to be separated from God; that already is the case. In His mercy, God sent Jesus. The choice is ours to accept or reject the offer. Ensure they know to choose wisely.

Heavenly Father, how rich and wonderful are the blessings found in Christ. There is freedom from the law, freedom from sin, freedom as a child in Your house. Instead of attempting to please You by my own work, I stand by faith in the work of Christ. I know that in Him, I shall be accepted on that great Day which all men are destined for. Thank You for the freedom only He can provide. Amen.