Dear Radio Friends,
My turn for speaking on the Reformed Witness Hour has come to its close again. Next week Rev. Rodney Kleyn will once again take up his labors. It has been a blessing for me to share the Word of God with you.
I thought it fitting in this broadcast to consider the doxology found in Romans 11:33-36. These verses read: “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! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”
Paul speaks God’s praise in this doxology as a result of the deep truths he taught in chapters 9-11 of Romans. In these chapters the Holy Spirit teaches us through Paul the great wonder of God’s sovereign predestination of some to eternal glory and others to eternal condemnation. He ends this discourse with what we have before us today, “O, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! To Him be glory forever!”
Here is an expression of praise to God we do not hear very much anymore in the realm of modern Christianity. There is so much emphasis on man, and what man must do to make this world a better place, that the deep truths of God are forgotten. Forgotten is what God has sovereignly decreed in our salvation. Man today—within the church—has robbed God of His true glory in order to give the glory to man. God does not control all things. Man controls his own destiny in this world. God, so it is thought, does not choose man—man chooses God. Christ does not powerfully save through His death. Man saves by accepting Christ. God does not control all things. Man is in control. Oh that the doxology of these verses would truly be on the lips of all those who call themselves Christians in this world. God’s is the glory! Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things!
The focus here is not on man—not in the least sense. It is wholly on God! How deep are His riches and wisdom and knowledge! They are past finding out!
Now we consider God and His glory—an important theme restored by the theology of the Reformation—in particular the branch known as Calvinism.
As we mentioned, these verses conclude the section of Romans that addresses the sovereignty of God in predestination. We cannot in our broadcast today begin to explain the glorious truth of God’s eternal plan for all things, and His plan before time began according to which He chose some unto salvation while others He rejected unto everlasting perdition. I invite you on your own to do a thorough study of Romans 9-11. Then consider the doxology we have before us today.
Questions of Wonder
A few years ago my family and I visited Niagara Falls. For those of you who have done the same, you know that, on the Canadian side, there is a place where you can stand that is only a few feet away from the Horseshoe Falls. I remember standing there and experiencing a thrill of wonder and dread mixed. The power of those Falls was amazing! I knew that if I were to take but a few steps beyond that rail and into the water that was plummeting over the falls, there would be no resisting the power of that water. It filled my heart with awe. And certainly a part of that awe was the fear I had of those falls. How small and helpless they made me feel. But the child of God is awestruck not simply by the force of nature itself. We view these wonders of creation with believing hearts. When we are filled with this sense of dread or this amazing, exciting admiration, this is directed toward God, the Creator and Governor of these things. We stand in awesome wonder and exclaim of God, “How great Thou art!”
This feeling of awe, this feeling of wonder and amazement at what God has done, is what Paul is expressing in the words of this doxology before us. We need to capture that sense of awe and wonder at what is expressed in these verses before us.
That which causes the wonder of Paul in these verses is not God’s powerful and glorious works in this creation. Paul here is considering what he has just taught us concerning God’s sovereign decree of predestination—the deep truths of God’s eternal counsel and will for all things. The Word of God here at the end of verse 33 expresses for us what it is that causes such awe in the hearts of believers: “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” That is why there is this expression of amazement of God. God’s judgments are unsearchable. The term “judgment” is often times used in Scripture to denote the condemnation and punishment of evil doers, but that is not the sense in which it is used here. It is true that we stand in awe at God’s judgment in that sense too, but the idea here in these verses is that of God’s decrees, that is, what God has purposed to do and accomplish in His eternal plan. It refers to the decisions He came to in His plan: the why and the how of God’s eternal thoughts. These are unsearchable. Man is not able to plumb the depths of the decrees of God by which He governs everything that takes place in this world.
In that connection, too, God’s ways are past finding out. The term “ways” used here in Romans 11:33 denotes the manner or way in which God works out what He has planned. In other words, in this phrase Paul makes reference to God’s providential control over all things: the actual working out of His decrees in time. The mode of God’s operation, the manner in which He rules over all creatures, is past finding out. Man’s puny, finite mind cannot begin to understand what God does in this world. This is why we stand in awe at what God’s does. This is exactly what causes the feeling of dread and fear, the excitement and amazement, the admiration of God. How small and insignificant a creature is man in the sight of this God.
According to God’s eternal will and purpose for all things, He chose in the Old Testament a certain nation that He called His own: the nation of Israel. Out of all the nations of this world God chose only Israel. Why? Because this is what He willed or planned to do in eternity—sovereignly, freely. But then, as Paul points out at the beginning of Romans 9, not all the people of Israel were chosen by God either! They are not all Israel that are called Israel. God chose out of this nation a certain people unto Himself. He chose Jacob, and not Esau. Sovereignly God loved Jacob and hated Esau. God’s sovereign decree of election and reprobation was being fulfilled. Then Paul explains this sovereign decree in detail. It is not of man that wills, but only of God that shows mercy, that some are chosen to life eternal and others are rejected to death eternal. God is the divine Potter who makes some people as vessels of honor and others as vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
Then, according to that same will and good pleasure of God, God cuts the nation of Israel out of the vine of His covenant and church and grafts in peoples from the nations of this world. No, God’s decree of election still stands. There are still those believers in Israel that belong to the church, but the nation of Israel no longer is favored by God. The chaff is cast away, while the remnant of God’s elect in Israel remain. But now God sovereignly grafts in the Gentiles. Why? Because so it seems good in God’s sight!
Why does God find fault in the reprobate man, since God already decreed his destruction anyway, and man is powerless to thwart the will of God? God is not fair! He is not righteous and just! “Who are you, O man, that replies against God?” God is in the heavens. He does what pleases Him. And man has no right to sit in judgment upon God! Here is the truth: “How unsearchable are God’s judgments! And his ways past finding out!” Do not overstep your bounds, O man! We do not understand and comprehend all the decrees of God nor the way He works them out in His providence in perfect righteousness. Instead, let us marvel at God! Let us stand in awe and amazement before Him and give praise to His name.
The great truth of God’s sovereignty is that which prompts the questions of verses 34, 35: “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” Examine the questions of this doxology, you who believe. Who has known the mind of the Lord? God sits in the heavens, far out of the reach of man. He is the transcendent One, the incomprehensible One. In fact, we would not even know God existed except that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. We must understand our place as man; we are but puny creatures in the sight of God. Isaiah states it this way in Isaiah 40:17, 18: all men together, all who are in this world, are less than the fine dust of the balance in comparison to God! Do we really think we can know the mind of God? Do we really think we can fully understand what God is doing?
Who is God’s counselor? Did God sit down with man sometime in eternity, and did man help God in determining what He was going to do with this world? Did God need man to assist Him in His decision making? Is man so wise and so knowledgeable that God sought out man’s counsel in order to determine what He wanted to do? Come now, man! Who are you, but a creature of the hand of God! We are nothing more than an ant. Do you need an ant to help you determine what you want to do? Do you stoop down on the sidewalk and ask advice of an ant? Why would God need man, to ask of him counsel!
Or maybe man thinks that God owes him something, so that God ought to consult him first before making decisions regarding our destiny. Who has first given to God and it shall be recompensed unto him again? That is the idea of this question of verse 35. Have we given something of such great value to God that He owes us an explanation for what He does? We have not even given something of little value to God. He owes you and me nothing. Certainly He does not owe us an explanation for His sovereign decree of predestination! God chooses whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens in sin. And what goes beyond our human understanding in this we have no business asking. God is God! We stand in awe before Him. We stand in dread before Him. We stand in amazement before Him! How little we are and how great He is!
An Unalterable Reality
Three questions arise out of the wonder and amazement Paul has for the great God of heaven and earth. None of them he expects to be answered. They are rhetorical questions. All three are meant to be given one answer: no one. No one knows God’s mind. No one is His counselor. God owes no one an explanation. And this is true because of an unalterable reality: God is God. Paul states it this way in verse 36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Those three little prepositions say it all. All things are of God. That is to say, He is the origin of all things. All things in this world owe their existence to God. God has willed them all from eternity in His eternal plan. God has created them all in the beginning. All is creature except God, who alone is Creator. Who we are, what we are, why we are, all find their answers in God. Everything that we see taking place in this present world; everything that has taken place in this world; everything that will take place—all finds its origin in the plan of God. This is not only true of the works of God in creation. This is true of where each of us is going when we die. Our eternal destiny is determined for us by God in His plan for all things. If this were not true, then who, pray tell, determines the end of man? Either God is the origin of everything that takes place, or some things find their origin in someone or something other than God. And if that is the case, God is no longer God! Deny that all things are of God and you deny God. That, of course, is what has happened in our society and world today: God is denied!
Likewise, it is denied by the unbelieving world that all things are through God. There is the second preposition: all things are through Him. This means simply that everything that takes place in this world does so in the exact way that God has chosen for it. God’s hand of providence guides the working out of God’s eternal plan. Nothing happens in this world by chance—nothing. All things are through God. This is true of creation, the fall of man into sin, the coming of Jesus Christ into this world, and the end of this world. This is true of the salvation of each one of God’s people. All those brought to faith and repentance in Christ Jesus are saved because of God’s sovereign and free election—not on the basis of what man does but on the basis of what God does in Christ. Of God are all things, and through Him too. He has planned and He carries out His plan in the most excellent and just manner.
And this is why all things are to God as well. They are of Him, through Him, and to Him. Calvin writes about this last phrase: “The import of what is said is, that the whole order of nature would be strangely subverted, were not God, who is the beginning of all things, the end also.” God is the first and the last. God is the sole purpose of all things. He has willed and created all things for one end—to glorify Himself. That means that everything He has willed and everything that takes place in this world will ultimately end in Him. It cannot be otherwise. Look at this creation, people of God. Look at the events that take place in this world. Look at your own salvation in Christ. To what do they all point? Everything points to God! How can anyone begin to think that man and this present world is the goal of all things? God is the end of all things.
This is why Paul adds at the end of verse 36, “to whom be the glory forever.” God’s is the glory. If of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, then His is the glory. This is the unalterable reality of which these verses speak. God’s is the glory, no matter what happens. God’s glory is the shining forth of His virtues. It is the effulgence of all the perfections of God. God radiates righteousness and justice, holiness and goodness, mercy and grace. He glows with His perfections. That is His glory. And in everything that He has planned and that He executes in this world, those virtues of God shine forth. Even the wicked fulfill exactly what God has chosen for them to fulfill. God’s name is glorified in the earth. That does not change. It cannot change because God is God. Forever all glory belongs to God. Forever God’s name will be remembered among God’s people. God is King forever! Let the nations tremble. Praise the Lord, ye lands; nations, clap your hands. God is glorified among His people in this earth, and He will be glorified forever.
Doxology of Praise
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” God’s riches are His virtues. He is a God who is rich beyond all thought. He is exalted on high with all the riches of His Being. God’s wisdom is His ability by which He is able to carry out perfectly everything He has planned. God’s knowledge is that foreknowledge by which He has seen and known all things perfectly in the counsel of His will. O the depths of the riches, wisdom, and knowledge of God. When in Jamaica, our children discovered what was called a blue hole. It is said that this may have been the mouth of an ancient volcano. The water was crystal clear. You could look down into it and see its clearness, but it soon turned blue and then dark. The water was so deep that, even though it was perfectly clear, you were not able to see the bottom of it. What an eerie feeling it left a person, standing there on the edge of a hole filled with water not knowing how deep it is. That is the awe and amazement we have in our hearts today as we consider the depths of God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge. We will never in this life be able to fathom just how deep the mind of God is. We will never be able to scratch the surface of the knowledge that He gives to us of things eternal. Who among the race of man is able to see the bottom of God’s virtues? Who will ever understand the depths of God’s wisdom? Who can begin to imagine what God knows? This is the God whom we serve, fellow believers!
Amazing! Awesome! Wonderful! Do you believe in that God? He is a God of judgment! All men will stand before Him someday. No one escapes Him. Is your house in order? Are you right with God? The only way this is possible is through the blood of Christ. Let us bow together before the cross of Christ.
Dear Radio Friends,