From Reasoning to Adoration
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Regarding personal salvation, Paul wrote and thought as far as any mortal possibly could. In Romans we have followed him as he has grappled with mind-boggling truths. We have seen waves of intellectual genius flow from his pen.
He taught of lostness, imputation, redemption, sin, assurance; he enlightened us on predestination and the Jewish/Gentile puzzle. Now his mind had gone as far as it can go. He finally gave up the intellectual pursuit and turned to adoration.
Unable to delve any deeper into God’s blessed truths, Paul’s brilliant mind was exhausted. It was time for a diversion, to give up the effort awhile and rest. Much was yet unsolved and unknown, but Paul was content to leave that to God.
Paul was like a deep-sea diver who tried again and again to reach the bottom of a deep lake. Finally giving up, he sat on the shore, adoring the body of water’s depth. Having found a bottomless lake, he knew its riches will never be fathomed.
Paul found himself overwhelmed with God’s plan of salvation. The result is a doxology praising God’s wisdom, a tribute to the mind of God.
Romans 11:33a Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the
knowledge of God!
“Knowledge” refers to omniscience. God knows all things. Past, present, and future are always open before Him. “Wisdom” is the practical word; God is able to use His omniscience in ways that order things properly. God is very efficient. He always chooses the best ways to achieve His purposes with regard to salvation.
We may not fully understand God’s master plan, but He knows His own intents. This is all that matters. God knows all things and arranges events wisely.
It is good for us that much is unknown to us. Paul saw the unfathomableness of God’s mind and called it “riches.” He did not view the unknown as a problem or a dilemma. Rather, he deemed it a positive part of our experience with God.
God would not be God if He failed to surpass our understanding. It is the mysterious about Him that evokes within us a grander sense of awe. Anything that can be fully understood is very limited. If it can be comprehended completely, it no longer excites or evokes adoration. For instance, once we fully understand how a magic trick is done, it has no more wonder for us.
It is logical and blessed that we are unable to fathom all the mysteries of salvation. If we knew all that God knows, we could be God. Our finiteness and recognition of His infiniteness add to our adoration of Him.
Romans 11:33b How unsearchable His judgments…
We are unable to investigate fully the reasons for God’s decisions. Why does God love us? Why did He show grace? These are decisions made on the basis of reasons no human can ultimately explain.
God has allowed enough to be understood about salvation to satisfy honest curiosity. However, faith realizes that eventually intellect will exhaust itself and have to yield to awe and praise.
Unbelievers look at our faith, see much they cannot understand, and scowl. Believers, though, find more and more all the time they cannot understand, but respond by worshipping and adoring the Mind that surpasses comprehension.
One of the most beautiful traits of a believer is the willingness to acquiesce before decisions of God we do not understand. God grant us grace not to be overly curious. Some things are off-limits to our feeble brains. If we try to sift through every cloud we will finally be struck with lightning. Where God is silent, do not pry too deeply. Curiosity overcame the Bethshemethites. They could not resist the temptation to peek into the Ark of the Covenant. As a result 50,000 of them were slain by YHWH.
Remember, what precipitated the first sin, and brought a curse on us all, was an improper desire for forbidden knowledge. To this day, the fatal itch remains a temptation within us. Learn all you can, but once you reach something you do not understand, acquiesce. Be submissive. His judgments are unsearchable. Failure to understand does not give us the right to rebel against Him or to reject His word.
Romans 11:33c … and untraceable His ways!
Not only are we at a loss to understand God’s decisions. We also flounder in comprehending the ways He acts on His decision. God is always surprising us. People we expect to be saved often never repent. Those we write off often turn to the Lord. Very few of the Jews are being saved, though they are the descendants of Abraham. Gentiles are being brought in through they are “wild” olive branches.
God’s procedures cannot be “tracked” by human minds. He leaves few footprints or trail marks. His ways are untraceable. The word in our text can be used of a blood-hound that has lost the scent of a trail and is frantically trying to re-find it. That is the way we are when we try to track down God’s trail in His movements for salvation. Why did God do this? Why did He do that? Ultimately, we do not know.
We follow Paul in his efforts to fathom the Lake of God’s Mind with regard to salvation. Ultimately, we also have to sit down on the shore, next to Paul, and adore the body of water’s depth. The mystery of salvation is so enthralling that even angels wish to investigate it (1 Peter 1:12).
God has taught us the truths of salvation, and we accept them, but this does not mean we understand them fully. The very idea of salvation itself is beyond our comprehension. Why would Infinite God want to deal with sinners at all? The whole concept is an amazement.
None but God could have conceived the plan of salvation we enjoy. No human mind could have developed such a scheme for deliverance. What person would have dared to think God might die as a substitute for sinners?
Who would ever have the courage to think a completely spotless lamb could suffer and pay the sin-debt for a whole world of sinners? Who would dream of letting the Son of God die as a criminal? These are things only God Himself could have ever imagined.
We contemplate these truths and ponder them in our hearts. Our minds race to understand the deep thoughts of God. However, our feeble brains can run the gauntlet only so long. Eventually, we must cease running, give up, and say, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways!”