Calvary Road Baptist Church

(Delivered to the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle in the civic center of Los Angeles, with the members of Calvary Road Baptist Church in attendance)


“THE PRAISE OF AN ASTOUNDED MAN”

Romans 11.33-36

 

Second Timothy 3.16 declares, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” That same verse goes on to declare that Scripture is profitable. Understand, however, that although all Scripture is inspired and is profitable, not all Scripture is equally profitable. There are certain passages containing truths which are more profound than other passages.

For example: John 3.16, which tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son to save us from perishing in a devil’s Hell when we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, is no more inspired than is John 11.35. No one would argue with me, however, when I assert that what John 3.16 teaches us is far more profound and important to us than is the simple phrase, “Jesus wept.” I use this as an example to show you why certain passages need to be preached more frequently than other passages. They are simply more important.

My text for today, Romans 11.33-36, is one of those more important passages in God’s Word:

 

33     O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

34     For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

35     Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

36     For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

 

Imagine yourself, for just a moment, to be one of the first Romans to hear Paul’s letter to the Romans read aloud. You are a Roman listening to a fellow Roman read Paul’s letter. He has been reading loudly, lifting his voice above the background noise of the largest city in the world. Occasionally pausing when the clatter and the profanity succeeds in intruding from just beyond the wall that defines the courtyard where you and others have gathered. As our brother read from the scroll brought from Cenchrea by this woman named Phoebe, we marveled as we heard what Paul wrote about God’s sovereign plan for individual salvation. The concerns of our Jewish brothers were put to rest as Paul went on to deal with the national salvation and deliverance of God’s elect nation of Israel.

Now the reader stops. We are amazed. We are all profoundly moved because Paul, himself, has erupted in what can only be described as the praise of an astounded man. Recognizing the utter frustration of being limited to mere words to express that which cannot be properly expressed by words, we reflect on Paul’s rejoicing before the mystery of God and His incomprehensible ways.

My friends, I stand before you mindful of both Job and Isaiah this evening. Like Paul, they were men who had seen but a brief glimpse of the majesty and the might, the wonder and the wisdom, the greatness and the glory, of both the awesome God and His awe-inspiring decree to involve Himself in the welfare of His creatures. Like Paul, they remained forever altered by their brief glimpse. With that in mind, understand that I recognize that neither I nor anyone else I know has any business commenting on this passage for any other reason than because God has called me to do it. With that said, let us examine the three parts of Paul’s hymn of praise.

 

IN VERSE 33, PAUL DECLARES ADMIRATION FOR GOD

 

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”

 

Truly, has it been observed that God’s Word declares Him to be worthy of praise. And praise God we ought. Praise God we must. For to praise God we exist. The psalmist tells us that God inhabits the praise of His people. But what is praise? Is not praise the verbal aspect of all true worship? Is not praise that exercise wherein God’s people state the obvious? To be sure. But to give balance to our praise we must recognize that Scripture seems to give us two reasons to praise our God, if reasons we need. First, He is worthy to be praised for Who He is. Had our God never done anything for us He is still worthy of our undying praise and adoration. But He has done for us incomprehensible things. And it is this second reason, what He has and is and will accomplish, that Paul includes in his praise of God for us to see. Let us consider the two aspects of Paul’s admiration of our great God.

First, there is His glorious person. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” An examination of the Greek text will reveal that the word “both” translates the Greek conjunction that is usually translated “and.” This leads most conservative scholars, with whom I happen to agree, to believe that Paul is remarking on three aspects of the divine nature, not two. Paul is remarking to his readers that the depth of God’s riches, and the depth of God’s wisdom, and the depth of God’s knowledge, are unfathomable. The resources of God are limitless. The wisdom of God is incomprehensible. The knowledge God possesses about all things extends to the nth degree. No wonder Paul moans “O!” from the depths of his heart and soul. With these three statements of truth about the nature of God, Paul is not summarizing in a neat little package what he had written over the previous 11 chapters. Not at all. What he has begun to do with this opening remark is point out that after all that he has said he barely scratched the surface of comprehending that great and holy being that we refer to as God. Worship and praise His grand and majestic personage because, both quantitatively and qualitatively, He is infinitely beyond our most speculative reasonings and our wildest imaginations. Truly, our God is an awesome God.

Second, there is His grand program. “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.” You have read the Bible through? You have spent your entire life studying God’s Word? You can name the 66 books of the Bible in order? And you can systematically exegete from both the Old Testament and the New Testament? That is wonderful. The Word of God is worthy to be studied for a lifetime. Second Timothy 2.15 exhorts us to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Is God’s Word the subject of your meditation both day and night? It ought to be. Have you moved beyond spiritual infancy to the point that you now have senses exercised to discern both good and evil? Thank God for His blessing you in that way. That is marvelous. Still, you must understand two things. I say this in all reverence for God and His Word. First, I want you to recognize that the Word of God does not claim to tell you everything about God there is to know. The Bible is inspired and without error. The Bible is God-breathed. Holy men of God did pen the pages of this book as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. However, for all the glorious and wonderful things that are found in Scripture, the Bible does not contain all there is about God’s judgments and God’s ways. Does that shock you? Well, perhaps this second consideration will provide some perspective on what I am saying for you. The second thing you must understand is that the judgments of God and the ways of God are not discoverable. That means you will never search out God’s judgments. They are unsearchable. That also means you will never discover God’s ways. They are past finding out. Know what this means? It means that what little we do know about God’s judgments and God’s ways must be revealed to us. How does God reveal to us what little our minds can comprehend? Through the infallible Word of God. You can rightly say along with me that that portion of the grand program of God that is revealed in the Bible is far and away more than I will ever be able to understand. So, realizing that what has not been revealed in God’s Word, either about His person or His program, is infinitely greater than what has been revealed . . . no wonder Paul’s praise is the praise of an astounded man for his admiration of his God.

 

IN VERSES 34 AND 35, PAUL DECRIES THE AUDACITY OF MEN

 

34     For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

35     Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

 

Three revealing questions that echo the sentiments of both Job and Isaiah, men who themselves had been tutored by God into having a special insight into God’s greatness, as had Paul.

As to the thoughts of men. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord?” Is it not audacious for man to think that he, with his puny and infinitesimal capacity, with his darkened lack of perspective, has known the mind of God? Or that he may even have a clue regarding the mind of God? I know what some of you may be thinking. “Pastor, Paul said that we have the mind of Christ.” We do have the mind of Christ. However, understand that our possession of the mind of Christ has to do with only an extremely narrow and sharply focused portion of the thoughts of God that have to do with a specific aspect of God’s plan of redemption. This does not take anything away from the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. But possessing the mind of Christ is the result of God’s divine revelation. And remember, what God reveals He reveals through His Word. And He does not reveal everything there is through His Word, just what He wants us to know. And what is not found in His Word is quite undiscoverable. No wonder Paul echoes sentiments that are found in the Old Testament, that any man who thinks he knows the mind of God is audacious.

As to the speech of men. Paul continues, “Or who hath been his counselor?” Quite obviously, a person’s speech proceeds from his thoughts. That person, then, who would be counselor to God, must be someone whose speech is predicated upon the delusion that he knows the mind of God. We already know the folly of that reasoning. Can we not see that, although few people seem to be so audacious as to claim that they have the mind of God, there are many, many people whose speech betrays their wish to be God’s counselor? “God, I wish you would do it this way instead of that way.” “If there really is a God how could He let this happen?” “God, how could you allow this to happen? You don’t love me.” These are examples of unadulterated audacity. People who talk like this are people who openly question the wisdom of God, are offering their counsel to God. If thinking you know the mind of God is audacious, seeking to be God’s counselor is even more outrageous.

As to the actions of men. Paul then writes, “Or who hath given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” What Paul is asking here is, “Who thinks that he has given anything to God so that what he receives from God is merely a payback?” Think about the answer to that question while considering this penetrating question that Paul asks in First Corinthians: “What hast thou that thou hast not received?” The intelligence that you do or do not have, the beauty that you do or do not have, the grace that you do or do not have, the salvation that you do or do not have. From the air you breathe, to the lungs that you have been given to breathe that air, it has all come from God. What is man that thou art mindful of him, Lord? We, who are so infinitesimally small and limited in our capacities, have deceived ourselves into thinking that we are significant and that You are understandable, comprehensible, and discoverable. If the gulf between God and mankind were measurable, it would be seen to be infinitely greater than the gulf that separates humanity and the euglena, the paramecium, and the amoeba. And they are not antagonistic or arrogant toward us. Therefore, Lord, that You have the patience to tolerate the existence of such a race we are, is in itself a notable thing.

 

Finally, IN VERSE 36, PAUL DELIVERS AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD

 

“For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

 

He began his praise with admiration of God. He continued with a challenge to the audacity of man. He concludes with an acknowledgment of God.

As to God’s relationship. What is the relationship of God, not just to believers, not just to Israel, not just to mankind, but to everything? What relationship exists between Almighty God and everything that is? Paul mentions a threefold relationship here. First, God is the Creator of all things. “For of him.” Who is being referred to here, God the Father or Jesus Christ the Son of God? In this entire passage, Paul is looking at the Godhead. He makes no distinction between the Persons of the Trinity in this passage. He is stating a truth about the entire being of God, that everything that exists is distinct from God in that it is of Him. He created it. Second, God is the Sustainer of all things. “and through him.” By Him all things consist. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. That unexplainable force which physicists only scratch their heads in amazement trying to understand, the binding force of atomic nuclei, is nothing less than the sustaining power of God by which He holds together the physical universe which He in His infinite might created by His spoken word in six short days. He not only created it all, He keeps it all. Then, God is the Goal of all things. “And to him are all things.” Not just man, but the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. Why? Because there is estrangement. Because there is a curse on God’s creation because of sin. But the very material universe in which we live strains toward the deliverance from the bondage of this present corruption. Strains toward restoration by God, if you will. And so do we. That is why we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God, as did Paul. That is why we want, as children, to grow up spiritually and walk worthy of God. Because God is the Creator of all things, the Sustainer of all things, and the Goal of all things. Those essential relationships that God has to His creation must be recognized, and they will be honored. Those of us who know Christ are delighted to honor God as Creator, as Sustainer, and as the Goal of all things. And we who honor God now on earth will also honor God in heaven in the same way. Nevertheless, those who do not honor these relationships, who deny Him as Creator, who deny Him as Sustainer, and who deny Him as the Goal of all things, will honor Him still. However, they will do so in Hell, not on earth. They will do so in the lake of fire, not in heaven.

Finally, as to God’s right. It is because of Who He is and what He has done, His majestic Personage and His magnificent plan, that God has as His right, proper, and just due, “glory for ever.” I have a life verse. It is a verse that I have only miserably lived up to over the course of my years of walking with the Lord. But it parallels exactly the thrust of Paul’s final phrase of this, his hymn of praise. Listen to the words the four and twenty elders in heaven will someday sing. Notice how they will agree with what Paul has written. Revelation 4.11: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”

 

Imagine yourself being let in on a mystery that was so enormous, so fantastic, so profound, so amazing, so revolutionary, so sublime, so expansive, that you stagger under the weight of what you have been exposed to. Now imagine your reaction when you realize that the astounding mystery happens to be such a minuscule part of the whole that you are absolutely stupefied by the realization that your great and awesome God is infinitely greater and more wonderful than you had ever conceived in your mind.

My friends, almost every problem a Christian has is related to the size of his God. Small God, big problems. Big God, small problems. Not that your problems will ever go away or be completely solved this side of heaven. However, do you honestly think Isaiah thought much about his own problems as he beheld the LORD, high and lifted up? As well, was not Job’s attention completely focused on his own severe personal problems until His encounter with the Lord God Jehovah?

Understand, my friend, that God will face down neither you nor me as Job was. However, we can contemplate our great God and Creator. We can magnify Him. We can extol His virtues. We can look at our own situations against the backdrop of His majesty and power.

What kind of people will we become, Christian, when we mount up with wings of eagles, when we dwell on the fact that our God is an awesome God, that He reigns from heaven above? Will we not then be eager to humble ourselves before Him? Will we not then be delighted to serve Him? Will we not then be honored who are allowed to give to His cause? Will we not then flock to the house of God to learn of Him Who is our life?

Lost person? Compare who you value above all else to this One so poorly described in Romans 11.33-36. Is not the God of the Bible greater? Come to Him through His Son Jesus Christ for salvation.

And Christian? If this be true of your God, how dare you hesitate to commit yourself to His service? How can you be anything but excited at the thought of bringing men to His Son, at the thought of giving to Him, at the thought of praying to Him, and at the thought of teaching children of Him?



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org