(from a manuscript of a sermon preached on 8/16/15 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Please turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 11. I’ll be reading verses 33 through 36:
Romans 11: (33) O [the] depth of [the] riches and of [the] wisdom and [the] knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! (34) For who has known the mind of [the] Lord? Or who came to be His counselor? (35) Or who first gave to Him, and it will be repaid to him? (36) Because of Him, and through Him, and to Him [are] all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
Here the apostle Paul breaks forth into an exclamation of wonder and praise for the mind and ways of God. Some commentators think that this is in light of what Paul just said in Romans 11, while some think that this is in light of what Paul said in Romans 9 through 11, and others think that this is the grand doxology that concludes the so-called “doctrinal” part of the epistle that goes all the way from chapter one through chapter 11. I can see the merits of each of the interpretations, but I don’t want to focus on the arguments for or against any of these; instead, I want us to meditate on the words of this passage that show what an awesome God we have.
The first word is “O,” which is a word that serves to add a strong exclamation when it is put in front of a phrase. The next word is “depth.” The Greek word for “depth” is BATH-os, which comes from a root meaning “down.” Words with the same root include bath-OOS, which is an adjective meaning “going down” or “deep,” and bath-OO-no, which is a verb meaning “to deepen” or “to go down deep.” When combined with the exclamation “O,” it is talking about a profound depth. Have you ever heard of the word “unfathomable”? This comes from the word “fathom,” which is a unit of six feet that was used to measure the depth of bodies of water. If a body of water is “unfathomable,” it is so deep that it cannot be measured. And the word “unfathomable” is used to mean something that cannot be completely comprehended. So you get the picture of the deepness that Paul is talking about here. O the unfathomableness! You think that certain canyons or oceans are deep, you think that outer space is deep, but we’re talking about unfathomable depths so much greater than these when we talk about God.
The next word is “riches.” The Greek word is PLOO-tos, which comes from the base of PLAY-tho, which is a verb meaning to fill. PLOO-tos means fullness, abundance, or richness. Think of something that is filled to overflowing.
Put depth and riches together, and you have a picture of unfathomable deep going downward, and fullness to overflowing going upward. Do you get that picture? It is unbounded, unlimited, immeasurable, incalculable, inexhaustible, endless, and infinite. O the DEPTH, the unfathomableness, of the RICHES, the overflowing abundance.
The LITV then uses the word “and.” The Greek word can be translated “and,” but it can also be translated “both” or “then” or “yea” or “indeed.” I tend to think that what follows – the wisdom and knowledge of God – are tied to the entire phrase “the depth of the riches,” given the context of the remainder of the passage. But even if “wisdom” and “knowledge” are only tied to “depth,” it doesn’t significantly change the meaning of the passage.
The Greek word for “wisdom” is so-FEE-ah, which comes from the adjective SO-fos, meaning wise, skilled, or intelligent. The Greek word for “knowledge” is GNO-sis, which comes from the verb ghin-OH-sko, which means to know, to perceive, to understand.
Now let’s put all of this together into Paul’s exclamation: O the unfathomableness of the fullness, O the unbounded, unlimited, immeasurable, infinite intelligence and understanding of God! God’s wisdom and knowledge are so deep and high that they cannot be measured. God is INFINITE in His wisdom and knowledge!
The next sentence is a continuation of Paul’s exclamation: “How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” In this sentence, Paul turns to our ability to fully search out the decisions and actions of God that come from His wisdom and knowledge. The Greek word for “unsearchable” is ahn-ex-er-YOO-nay-toss, which comes from the negative particle AH, the preposition EX, which means from or out or after, and the verb er-you-NAH-oh, which means to seek or to search. So ahn-ex-er-YOO-nay-toss means an inability to search out. This is the only time this Greek word is used in the Bible. But the Greek word for “past finding out” is very similar. It’s ahn-ex-ik-NEE-as-toss, which comes from the negative particle AH, the preposition EX, and the noun IK-noss, meaning a track or a footprint. So ahn-ex-ik-NEE-as-toss means an inability to track out or trace out – it means untrackable or untraceable. This word is used one other time in the Bible. It’s in Ephesians 3:8. Let’s turn over there:
Ephesians 3: (8) This grace was given to me, [I being] less than the least of all the saints, to preach the gospel of the incomprehensible riches of Christ among the nations
The word for “riches” here is the same word used for “riches” in our text in Romans 11:33. Paul is here talking about the gospel of the untraceable riches of Christ – riches that are so profound that they cannot be marked out. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “unsearchable” as “not capable of being searched or explored: inscrutable.” The word “inscrutable” means not able to be scrutinized. The same dictionary defines “inscrutable” as “not readily investigated, interpreted, or understood: mysterious.” “Untraceable” means “not able to be found or traced.”
So, back in our text, we’re talking about the profoundly unsearchable, untraceable judgments and ways of Almighty God. The Greek word for “judgment” is KREE-mah, which means “a decision,” and it comes from the verb KREE-no, which means “to distinguish, to decide, to think, to conclude, to decree, to determine, to ordain.” So Paul is talking about God’s thoughts, which include His decisions, decrees, and determinations. The Greek word for “way” is hod-OS, which means “a path, a road, a progress, or a journey.” Other words coming from the same root mean “to travel,” “to lead,” “to show the way,” “leader,” “guide,” “traveler,” and “traveling.” So Paul is talking about the way in which God moves, the way in which God does things. By implication, it is talking about means. So God’s thoughts and actions, His decrees and the way He fulfills His decrees, are unsearchable and untraceable.
Paul then references two passages from the Old Testament in verses 34 and 35. Here’s where I don’t like what the LITV does when it puts quotes around a passage and puts the Old Testament passage in italics. This gives the reader the impression that Paul is directly quoting from these passages. Verse 34 might be a direct quote from the Septuagint or just a reference to Isaiah 40:13 without a direct quote. We know for sure that he’s not directly quoting from Job 41:11 in verse 35, because the passage in Job has God speaking in the first person. Now let’s read the passages in Isaiah and Job in context. First, let’s turn to Isaiah chapter 40 and read verses 12 through 28:
Isaiah 40: (12) [He] who has measured in the [palm] of His hand the waters and the heavens by a span meted out; and enclosed in the measure the dust of the earth, and weighed in the balance the mountains, and the hills in the scales, (13) Who has meted out the Spirit of Jehovah, or a man His counsel taught Him? (14) With whom did He take counsel, and [who] trained Him and taught Him in the path of judgment; and taught Him knowledge, and made known to Him the way of discernment? (15) Behold, nations [are] as a drop from a bucket, and are reckoned as dust of the scales. Behold, He takes up isles as a little thing. (16) And Lebanon [is] not enough to burn, nor are its beasts enough [for] a burnt offering. (17) All the nations [are] as nothing before Him; to Him they are reckoned less than nothing and emptiness. (18) And to whom will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? (19) The craftsman pours out the molten image, the smelter spreads it with gold; and he casts the chains of silver. (20) He [too] poor for [that] offering chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks a skilled craftsman for him, to prepare a carved image that will not be shaken. (21) Have you not known? Have you not heard? Was it not told to you from the beginning? Did you not discern [from] the foundations of the earth? (22) He abiding over the circle of the earth [sees] and [ones] living [in it are] like grasshoppers; He who stretches the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; (23) who gives potentates into nothing. He makes judges of the earth as nothing. (24) Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they are not sown; yea, their stem [is] not taking root in the earth. And He also blows on them, and they shall wither, and the tempest shall lift them up like stubble. (25) To whom then will you liken Me, or [am] I to be equated, says the Holy One? (26) Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who has created these? Who brings out their host by number? By greatness of vigor, and mighty of power, He calls them all by names; not one is lacking. (27) Why will you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel; My way is hidden from Jehovah, and my judgment is passed over by my God? (28) Have you not known? Have you not heard? Jehovah, the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth; He is not faint, nor does [He] grow weary; [there is] no searching to His understanding.
Now let’s turn to Job chapter 41 and read the entire chapter, which is about the leviathan. Please keep in mind that this is also in context of God’s response to Job that goes from chapter 38 through chapter 41, so I would recommend that you read that entire passage in light of what Paul said regarding the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God and the unsearchableness of God’s judgments and the untraceableness of God’s ways.
Job 41: (1) Can you draw out the leviathan with a hook, or hold down his tongue with a cord? (2) Can you put a reed rope into his nose, or pierce his jaw with a thorn? (3) Will he multiply supplications to you; or will he speak soft words to you? (4) Will he cut a covenant with you; will you take him for a slave forever? (5) Will you play with him as with a bird; or will you tie him up for your maidens? (6) Shall [your] partners bargain over him; shall they divide him among the merchants? (7) Can you fill his skin with barbs, or his head with fishing spears? (8) Put your palm on him; remember the battle; you will not do it again! (9) Behold, his hope has been made false; will one not be cast down at the sight of him? (10) None [is so] fierce as to dare to stir him up; and who [is] able to stand before Me? (11) Who has gone before Me that I should repay? [All] under the heavens, it [is] to Me! (12) I will not keep silent as to his limbs, or the matter of [his] powers, or the grace of his frame. (13) Who can take off the face of his covering; who can enter within his double bridle? (14) Who can [pry] open the doors of his face? Terror is round about his teeth. (15) The rows of shields [are his] pride, shut up with a tight seal; (16) each [one] is close to another that no air can come between them; (17) they are joined to one another; they clasp each other, and they cannot be separated. (18) His sneezings flash forth light, and his eyes [are] as the eyelids of the dawn. (19) Out of his mouth go burning torches; sparks of fire fly out. (20) Smoke goes out of his nostrils like a pot breathed out and reeds. (21) His breath kindles coals and the flame goes out from his mouth. (22) Strength abides in his neck and before him leaps dismay. (23) The hanging parts of flesh cleave together firmly on him; he cannot be moved. (24) His heart is firm as a stone, even firm as a piece of a lower [millstone]. (25) The mighty ones are afraid from his arising; from the crashings they miss the way. (26) The sword overtakes him, [but] will not hold firm, the spear, the dart, or the javelin. (27) He counts iron as straw, bronze as rotten wood. (28) A son of a bow cannot make him flee; slingstones are turned to stubble by him; (29) clubs are counted as stubble; he laughs at the shaking of a javelin. (30) Points of potsherds [are] under him; he spreads sharp [marks] on the mire. (31) He makes the deep boil like a pot; he makes the sea like a pot of ointment; (32) he makes a path to shine after him; one would think the deep [to be] grayheaded. (33) There is nothing like him on earth, one made without fear. (34) He beholds all high [things]; he [is] king over all the sons of pride.
I’d also like us to turn to Job chapter 9 and read verses 5-10:
Job 9: (5) [He] who moves the mountains, and they do not know when He overturns them in His anger; (6) who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; (7) [the One] speaking to the sun and it does not rise; and for the stars He sets a seal; (8) stretching out the heavens by Himself, and walking on the high place of the sea; (9) Who made the Ursa Major, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; (10) doing great things past finding out; yea, wonderful things until there is no number?
So from these Old Testament passages, we see the infinite power and glory and strength and wisdom and majesty of God that cannot be searched out.
Now back to our passage in Romans 11. I want to say some things about what this does not mean. This does not mean that we cannot know anything about God. For example, from what Paul just said, we know that the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge are unfathomable and His judgments are unsearchable and His ways are untraceable. That’s knowing something about God. That’s knowing that God is infinite and all-wise and all-knowing and all-powerful. Yet in knowing that, we are also admitting how much we DON’T know. For example, we know that God is infinite. But can we fathom the infinity of God? Can we fully understand a being who had no beginning? We can’t understand eternity past. We are finite beings, and we cannot grasp the concept of infinity going in both directions, including no beginning. God is impossible for finite beings to fully comprehend. Yet God is not completely unknowable. God has given us His Word in which He shows us some of Himself – He shows us in His Word what He wants us to know about Him, no more and no less. He has purposed to glorify Himself among His people by imparting the fear of God to them; that is, causing them to understand His infinite glory, divine nature, and perfect attributes through the Scriptures. Yet we cannot fathom the DEPTHS of God’s glory, divine nature, and perfect attributes. Even in heaven, we will continually be in awe of the depths of God’s glory, divine nature, and perfect attributes.
This passage also does not mean that God or the knowledge that He gives in His Word is illogical or contradictory or nonsensical. One of the attributes of God is that He is perfectly logical. Now can He look illogical or contradictory or nonsensical to the natural unregenerate mind? Of course. But that’s not because GOD is illogical; that’s because natural unregenerate MAN, when it comes to the things of God, is illogical. Turn to 1 Corinthians 2:14:
1 Corinthians 2: (14) But a natural man does not receive the things of [the] Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.
Why does the natural unregenerate man not receive the things of the Spirit of God? Is it because these things are unknowable? No – it is because the natural man cannot discern spiritual things.
Our passage in Romans also does not mean that we cannot know or understand the gospel that reveals the righteousness of God. We’ve already seen in Romans 10:1-4 that those who do not have epignosis – full knowledge – of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel are necessarily not submitted to the righteousness of God and are going about to establish their own righteousness. So God gives knowledge of His righteousness, knowledge of the gospel, to every one of the people He saves. He reveals Himself not only as a just, righteous, and holy God, but also as a loving, gracious, and merciful God, through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Hopefully you’re still in 1 Corinthians 2. Let’s read the entire chapter:
1 Corinthians 2: (1) And when I came to you, brothers, I did not come with excellency of word or wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of God. (2) For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him being crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my word and my preaching [was] not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in proof of [the] Spirit and of power, (5) that your faith might not be in [the] wisdom of men, but in [the] power of God. (6) But we speak wisdom among the perfect, but not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, the [ones] being caused to cease. (7) But we speak [the] wisdom of God having been hidden in a mystery, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, (8) which none of the rulers of this age has known. For if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; (9) but even as it is written, The things [which] an eye did not see, and an ear did not hear, and did not come up on [the] heart of man, the [things] which God has prepared for the [ones] loving Him. (10) But God revealed [them] to us through His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. (11) For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of a man within him? So also no one has known the things of God if not the Spirit of God. (12) But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit from God, so that we might know the things freely given to us by God. (13) Which things we also speak, not in words taught in human wisdom, but in [words] taught of [the] Holy Spirit, comparing spiritual [things] with spiritual [things]. (14) But a natural man does not receive the things of [the] Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he is not able to know [them], because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But the spiritual [one] discerns all things, but he is discerned by no one. (16) For who has known [the] mind of [the] Lord? Who will instruct Him? But we have [the] mind of Christ.
In contrast with the natural man who cannot know spiritual things, the spiritual man can and does know spiritual things, because God has revealed them to us through His Spirit, so we might know the things that are freely given to us by God. Notice that Paul again references Isaiah 40 verse 13. No one has fully comprehended the mind of God, and no one can teach God anything because God has infinite wisdom and knowledge. But we who are saved DO have the mind of Christ, which means that we DO know the gospel of salvation freely given to us through the work of Jesus Christ alone. And then over to 2 Corinthians 4:6:
2 Corinthians 4: (6) Because [it is] God who said, Out of darkness Light shall shine, the [One] who shone in our hearts to [give the] illumination of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is something that all regenerate people DO know. Yet can we fathom the DEPTHS of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? Can we fathom the DEPTHS of God’s justice, righteousness, holiness, love, grace, and mercy? As we saw in Ephesians 3:8, the gospel shows the incomprehensible, untraceable riches of Christ.
Now let’s go further into what this passage DOES mean. Think about what we’ve read about God throughout the book of Romans. We saw God’s eternal power and divinity in creation; even unbelievers can clearly see and know that it must be created and ordered by an eternal force, a being that is infinitely more intelligent than we are. We’ve already seen passages in Isaiah and Job that relate to this. I’d like to give to examples from creation that show the unfathomableness of God’s wisdom, knowledge, thoughts, and ways. We are told in the Bible that God spoke the universe into existence, but we don’t know HOW that happened, do we? We just know that it happened. And speaking of the universe, let’s think of this. We can understand what an inch or a centimeter is, right? We can look at it and put our thumb and index finger like this to show how much it is. With a foot or a meter, we can put our hands out like this and understand how long it is. With a mile or a kilometer, we have to use something like a car’s odometer, but we can still grasp what distance that is. It gets more difficult when you think of the greatest distance between any two points within the lower 48 states, which is 2,892 miles or 4,654 kilometers. Then you have the circumference of the earth, which is 24,850 miles or 40,008 kilometers. Can you comprehend that? Maybe. How about the average distance from the earth to the moon? It’s 238,900 miles or 384,400 kilometers, which is almost 10 times the circumference of the earth. How about the average distance from the earth to Mars? 140 million miles or 225 million kilometers, which is about 6,000 times the circumference of the earth. Can you comprehend that? We’re just at our neighbor planet. The closest Neptune gets to us is 2.7 billion miles or 4.3 billion kilometers. That’s about 109,000 times the circumference of the earth. At the speed of the space shuttle, which was 28,000 miles per hour, it would take over 11 years to get to Neptune. And we’re not even out of the solar system yet. How about the distance to the closest star outside of our solar system? Now we have to get into light-years, which is equivalent to the distance that light travels in one year, which is nearly 6 trillion miles or 9 trillion kilometers. Can you get your head around even one light-year? Well, the distance to the nearest star outside of our solar system is 4.3 light-years away. At 35,000 miles an hour, it would take over 81,000 years to reach the nearest star outside of our solar system. Can you grasp that? But we’re not even out of our own galaxy yet! Our galaxy is about 100,000 light years across. And in just one image from the Hubble Telescope that comprised less than one-tenth of one-millionth of the sky, there were about 10,000 visible galaxies. It is estimated that there are 100 octillion stars in the universe, or a 1 with 29 zeroes after it. Can you comprehend that? Yet what did we read from Isaiah 40? Verse 26 says, “Lift up your eyes and see: Who has created these? Who brings out their host by number? By greatness of vigor, and mighty of power, He calls them all by names; not one is lacking.” O the unsearchableness of God!
And from the vastness of the universe we now go down to a common insect – the monarch butterfly. It hatches out of an egg as a caterpillar that has twelve eyes, six short legs, and ten prolegs. After three weeks, it spins a silk pad onto a solid surface and grabs the pad with two of its prolegs and hangs upside-down. It covers itself with a liquid that hardens into a chrysalis. Dr. Lincoln Brower, who has been described as the world’s foremost monarch butterfly expert who has studied monarchs longer than anyone else, describes what then goes on in this way: “However, the newly formed chrysalid would fall to the ground if it did not have the cremaster post with its barbed hooks to thrust into the silk. It embeds the cremasters' barbs by the twisting motion of the abdomen and the cremaster post. Once the cremaster's barbs are safely into the silk pad, ONLY then can it pull out the unbarbed larval hooks and toss off the old larval skin ... What is happening is a biological miracle going on inside that caterpillar. Enzymes are being released that digest all the caterpillar tissue, so that the caterpillar is being converted into a rich culture medium. Inside the caterpillar are several sets of little cells that are in different parts of the body and they're called ‘imaginal disks.’ These are really like little groups of embryonic cells. And as soon as the metamorphosis gets going and as that chrysalid forms the skin is shed off the larva, and now the larva has turned into a chrysalid. These little cells start growing like crazy. And one imaginal disk will become a wing (so there are at least 4 imaginal disks because there are 4 wings in the butterfly). There are imaginal disks that form the legs, the antennae and all the organs of the adult butterfly. And so inside that chrysalis, during the first 3-4 days is literally a bag of rich fluid media that these cells are growing on. And so the transformation of metamorphosis goes. Nothing like this happens in vertebrates — ever. It's a phenomenon of insects and it truly is a miraculous biological process of transformation. These little groups of cells that start developing very early in the caterpillar's life but then they stall, and so they're just in there waiting, and they don't start growing until the very end of the 5th instar (the last caterpillar stage). Then they start growing really rapidly and differentiating into the different tissues, so that literally the entire internal contents of the caterpillar — the muscles, the entire digestive system, even the heart, even the nervous system — is totally rebuilt.” Out comes a butterfly that looks nothing like the caterpillar, that is a completely different creature than the caterpillar, with two compound eyes, a proboscis, six long legs, and four wings. Can you figure this out? Even the foremost monarch expert has to call it a miracle. No one has been able to explain how this could have evolved by chance. O the unsearchableness of God!
Then further in Romans we saw the plan of salvation. From before the foundation of the world, God chose to save certain people through the work of Jesus Christ. Sin entered the world through one man, and all whom that one man represented are born in sin – there is no one righteous, not even one. By works of law no one will be justified before God. But in the gospel, God’s righteousness is revealed through the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ that saves all whom Jesus Christ represented. Jesus Christ, the Word, who was not only with God but was God from before the foundation of the world, through whom all things came into being, including the planets and stars and galaxies and the butterflies, became flesh. The Holy Spirit impregnated a virgin named Mary or Mariam, and inside Mariam was God the Son who existed before time began, but whose divine nature was permanently joined to a human nature, the one and only God-Man. Do you completely understand that? Do you fully understand how God Himself became part of His own creation? Or even the concept of the Trinity, which is also essential gospel doctrine? Do you fully understand how there can be one God existing in three persons? How one of these persons became man, subjected to human infirmities, while He was still part of the Godhead? Do you fully understand how God the Father imputed sin to and poured out His wrath on His only begotten Son whom He loved, to the point where Jesus Christ cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Can you fully grasp God the Father forsaking God the Son – God forsaking God? Can you fully grasp what Jesus Christ went through when He suffered the just wrath of God the Father and endured the equivalent of eternity in hell on the cross? Here is the central part of the gospel, and yet we cannot fully understand what happened. 1 Timothy 3:16 says, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in flesh, was justified in Spirit, was seen by angels, was proclaimed among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” We can’t fully understand it, but we know it has to be, because without it there is no salvation. To the Jews, Jesus Christ was a Stone-of-Stumbling and a Rock-of-Offense, and the Gentiles were grafted in. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for the same Lord of all is rich toward ALL the ones calling on Him. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision has any strength or uncircumcision, but a new creation. All those in Christ are made a new creation, like the butterfly – old things are passed away, and all things have become new! We have died with Christ and have died to sin, and we have been raised with Christ and have been remade in the image of Christ and no longer serve sin! O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
What should be our attitude with regard to things that we do not understand that are not revealed in God’s Word? Are we to hypothesize or conjecture or speculate on such matters? Let’s read Psalm 131:
Psalm 131: (1) O Jehovah, my heart is not proud, nor have my eyes been lofty; nor have I walked in great things, and not in things too wonderful for me. (2) If not I have set [myself] and have quieted my soul, like one weaned by its mother; my soul on me [is] as [one] weaned. (3) Let Israel hope in Jehovah, from now and till forever.
Here are the perfect God-inspired words of David saying that his heart is not arrogant and his eyes are not lofty, and he has not walked in great things or in things that are too wonderful for him. He compares himself to a child. This is an attitude of humility. He’s not going to go searching into things that are too great or wonderful; instead, he is going to walk in God’s revealed Word. A study on the Hebrew word for “wonderful” was very interesting and helpful for me. The word is paw-LAW, which can mean wonder, marvel, great, high, difficult, hard, or hidden. So it could also mean that he does not walk in things high, difficult, hard, or hidden. If God does not reveal it to us in His Word, if it is something that our finite minds cannot comprehend, then we are to humbly acknowledge that we do not know and are to refrain from vain speculation. There are some times that we just have to sit back in awe and wonder and amazement and not go any further.
We’ve gotten accused of adding all kinds of knowledge-based requirements for judging someone saved or lost. I want to make it clear that we strive to go only so far as God goes, no more and no less. Of course there is some knowledge that all believers have, and we make our judgments based on this. But there is plenty that believers do not know. I want to especially address this to the children in the audience. There are many things in the Bible that we believe but that we don’t fully understand. I’ve talked about some of these today, like God’s never having a beginning, like the Trinity of one God in three persons, like God the Son becoming part of His creation and being both fully God and fully man, like God the Father forsaking His only Son when He poured out His wrath on Him. We do not expect you to fully understand these things. WE don’t even fully understand these things! We don’t understand exactly HOW God did and does many things. Those things are not revealed to us in the Bible. We believe that God did and does do these things, but we just don’t know how. Understanding those things that are not revealed to us are NOT part of the belief that is called faith. Believing that Jesus Christ is both God and man IS part of faith, but completely understanding the “how” of this is NOT part of faith. Believing in Christ’s atonement IS part of faith, but understanding exactly how God the Father forsook God the Son is NOT part of faith. We don’t expect you to understand those things. We don’t expect ANYONE to understand those things. Let’s turn over to Luke 18 and read verses 15 through 17:
Luke 18: (15) And they brought infants to Him also, that He might touch them. But seeing, the disciples rebuked them. (16) But Jesus called them near, saying, Allow the children to come to Me, and do not stop them. For of such is the kingdom of God. (17) Truly I say to you, Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child, will not enter into it, [not ever].
These are some strong words. A person who does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter the kingdom of God. In Matthew 18, Jesus Christ said that if you are not converted and become as the little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ was talking about a simple, child-like faith. The kingdom of God is not for those who consider themselves superior, intellectually or otherwise. Believing the gospel is not a matter of being more intellectual than a person who does not believe the gospel. In fact, Jesus Christ said that those who do not become as the little children and do not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter! Child-like faith believes the simple gospel of God’s promise of salvation based on the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. Any of the other “deeper” things are not part of the gospel. None of us can fully comprehend many things, including everything about who God is and what and how He does things. Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:
1 Corinthians 1: (26) For you see your calling, brothers, that [there are] not many wise [ones] according to flesh, not many powerful [ones], not many wellborn [ones]. (27) But God chose the foolish [things] of the world that the wise might be put to shame, and God chose the weak [things] of the world so that He might put to shame the strong [things]. (28) And God chose the low-born [ones] of the world, and the things being despised, and the things not being, so that He might nullify the things being, (29) so that no flesh might glory in His presence. (30) But of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption, (31) so that even as it has been written, He that glories, let him glory in [the] Lord.
Now let’s finish by looking at the final verse of Romans chapter 11. It is Paul’s doxology as he contemplates the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God and the unsearchable judgments and untraceable ways of God:
Romans 11: (36) Because of Him, and through Him, and to Him [are] all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.
He first says “because” to connect this to what he had just said – God’s wisdom and knowledge and judgments and ways are unfathomable, unsearchable, and untraceable BECAUSE of what he is about to say. He then uses three prepositions: “of,” “through,” and “to.” This is to emphasize the completeness of God creating and ordering all things to His glory. God has made everything, God controls everything, and everything is done for the glory of God. There is nothing that God did not make, there is nothing that God does not control, and there is nothing that exists or happens that is not for His glory. John 1:3 says, “All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being.” Let’s turn to Acts 17:24-28:
Acts 17: (24) God, the [One] who made the world and all things in it, this One being Lord of Heaven and of earth, does not dwell in temples made by hand, (25) nor is served by hands of men, [as] having need of anything. [For] He is giving life and breath and all things to all. (26) And He made every nation of men of one blood, to live on all the face of the earth, having determined fore-appointed seasons and boundaries of their dwelling, (27) to seek the Lord, if perhaps they might feel after Him and might find [Him], though indeed [He] not being far from each one of us. (28) For in Him we live and move and exist, as also some of the poets among you have said, For we are also His offspring.
God made everything and sovereignly and actively upholds, controls, and sustains it. In God we live and move and exist. God is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. All glory belongs to God and God alone forever and ever.
I’d like to read three passages to close. The first is Isaiah 55:6-11:
Isaiah 55: (6) Seek Jehovah while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. (7) Let the wicked [one] forsake his way and the man of iniquity his thoughts, and let him turn back to Jehovah, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will multiply to pardon. (8) For My thoughts [are] not your thoughts, and My ways [are] not your ways, a statement of Jehovah. (9) For [as] the heavens are high from the earth, so My ways are high from your ways, and My thoughts from your thoughts. (10) For as the shower and the snow comes down from the heavens and do not return there, except it waters the earth and make it bring forth and bud, and give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, (11) so shall My Word be, which goes out of My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall do that which I please, and it shall prosper [in] that which I sent it [to do]!
Now to Ephesians 1:16-23:
Ephesians 1: (16) [I also] do not cease giving thanks on your behalf, making mention of you in my prayers, (17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in [the] full knowledge of Him, (18) the eyes of your mind having been enlightened, for you to know what is the hope of His calling, and what [are] the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (19) and what [is] the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the [ones] believing according to the working of His mighty strength (20) which He worked in Christ [in] raising Him from [the] dead [ones]; yea, [He] seated [Him] at His right [hand] in the heavenly [realms], (21) far above all rule, and authority, and power, and lordship, and every name being named, not only in this age, but also in the coming [age]; (22) and He put all [things] under His feet and gave Him [to be] Head over all [things] to the Assembly, (23) which is His body: the fullness of the [One] filling all things in all
And finally Ephesians 3:14-21:
Ephesians 3: (14) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) of whom every family in Heaven and on earth is named, (16) that He may give you, according to the riches of His glory, by [His] power to be empowered in the inward man through His Spirit, (17) that through faith Christ may dwell in your hearts, having been rooted and founded in love, (18) that you may have full strength to grasp, with all the saints, what [is] the breadth and length and depth and height, (19) and to know the surpassing knowledge and love of Christ, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God. (20) Now to the [One] being able to do beyond all things exceedingly above [all of] which we ask or think, according to the power [of] the [One] working in us, (21) to Him [be] the glory in the Assembly in Christ Jesus, to all the generations of the age of the ages. Amen.