Friday, June 27, 2014

INSCRUTABLE WAYS (Romans Chapter 11)

Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Paul concludes his setting forth of God’s great plan of salvation (Romans chapters 1-11), with a doxology (Cf. Romans 11:33-36).  This is something Paul was elsewhere prone to do (Cf. Romans 1:25, 9:5, 16:25-27; Galatians 1:4-5; Ephesians 3:20-21; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17, 6:14-16; 2 Timothy 4:18).  Instructive truth regarding the person and works of God should likewise compel us to break forth in praise to Him “from (whom) and through (whom) and to (whom) are all things” (Romans 11:36).  As John Piper has said, “Education about God precedes and serves exultation in God…Good theology is the foundation of great doxology.”

The immediate context of this particular doxology is Paul’s preceding dissertation regarding the past and future estate of Israel and how, according to God’s plan, “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).  God’s plan is literally a plan for the ages ultimately working to encompass people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).  The plan constituted an unforeseen “mystery,” which was “hidden for ages in God” (Romans 11:25).  In His plan, through the church, the “manifold wisdom of God” is made manifest “to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).

Two words are used to express the transcendence of God with respect to the nature of his ways.  The ESV translates them as “unsearchable” and “inscrutable.”  The word “unsearchable” translates a Greek term meaning “incapable of being searched out or examined.”  The word “inscrutable” translates another term better translated “past finding out” (KJV).  Collectively the two terms negate any possibility on the part of man, in his own efforts, for comprehending the doings of God.  As was stated by the prophet Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares 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; Cf. Job 5:9, 9:10, 26:14; Psalm 36:6, 40:5, 92:5, 139:6; Daniel 4:35).

His unsearchable ways are consistent to the “depths of the riches of (His) wisdom and knowledge.”  The terms “wisdom” and “knowledge” are cousins.  In his commentary on Romans, Frederic Godet commented on these two terms, “The second, gnosis (knowledge) refers especially in the context to divine foreknowledge, and in general to the complete view which God has of all the free determinations of men, whether as individuals or as nations.  The former, sophia (wisdom) denotes the admirable skill with which God weaves into His plan the free actions of man, and transforms them into so many means for the accomplishment of the excellent end which He set originally before Him.”

The preeminence of God with respect to His knowledge and wisdom is a good thing.  We ought never to think of God in terms of human wisdom amplified, in His omniscience He is infinitely transcendent.  As A. W. Tozer once wrote, “God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.”

In these difficult and precarious days someone might ask, “Does anybody here have a plan?”  And were we to forever search to the ends of the earth we’d not find sufficient wisdom in the minds of man to resolve that which troubles our world.  But God does indeed have a plan.  Creation and the cross testify to His great wisdom (Cf. Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 1:24-25, 30).  God knows what He’s doing.  He is absolutely trustworthy and praiseworthy! 

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