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Defining God: Romans 11.33-36



You’ll notice this passage is like a poem, a song, a time of praise.  God will use our disobedience as an opportunity to show us mercy and grace.  Sometimes we have to define words.  Sometimes words had a different meaning long ago than they do today.  For example, if I say today, “I put something in the cloud.”  It means I placed it in a data storage base.  Or, if I ask someone, “Are you following so and so?”  This doesn’t mean are you driving around following that person.  It asks if you’re following them on social media.  I can also ask if you liked what someone said, meaning did you click “like” on social media.  It’s good to define!

Paul breaks into praise and defines God.  Good teaching and theology will lead us to worship.

God has deep knowledge and wisdom.

33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! (ESV)

Knowledge and wisdom are similar.  Paul breaks into praise about who God is.  Paul cannot hold it in any longer.  For example I recently encountered a guy working in a store.  He was singing and praising as he went along.  When we think about god it leads to these moments.  God has a treasury that has no bottom.  There’s no limit to what God is able to do.  God’s bank account is never depleted.  We are all limited but God isn’t limited.  Paul thinks about the future and knows God isn’t bound by it.  Knowledge is knowing how things should end.  Wisdom is how to get there.  God knows where we are headed and God has the wisdom to guide where we need to go.  We usually lack one or the other.  Sometimes we are in need of one or the other or both.  We have a God who knows both knowledge and wisdom.  Even if Paul doesn’t know, he knows that God knows.  God knows us deeply.  We don’t even fully understand ourselves but God knows our heart. 

Think about all God knows!  God knows all the brown bears in the world and what they ate for breakfast today.  The blue whale is a massive animal that is 200 feet long and weighs over 200 tons!  God knows their thoughts.  God knows all these things and knows you.  God knows what you’re thinking.  We can say with Paul, “oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”  What brings Paul to this moment?  God saves us and intervenes in our lives.  God brings us to salvation so He will be glorified.  God brought things to happen so we will know Him.  We can proclaim this verse with Paul.

God’s ways are too high for us to fully comprehend.

It is beyond our capacity to understand how God knows.  We get glimpses of this and it leads us to praise.  How exciting to think about what God will reveal to us!    Have you ever gone into an ice cream shop and tried a sample?  Samples make us want even more!  Paul has a glimpse and says he wants more like when we taste ice cream. 

33How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! 34 For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? (NLT)

We don’t understand how and why God does what He does.  This is beyond our ability to understand.  Why would God invest in us?  What’s happening around the world?  There’s an explosion of new churches in Northern Thailand!  Verse 34 asks, who can know?  We don’t know God’s process.  God knows what He is doing even when we don’t know the whole picture.  If we knew, we’d be terrified!  God gives us enough just to take the next step.  In Acts 16, Paul is in Philippi.  God instructs him to go to the center of the city and share the Gospel.  We have a certain way we expect things to go in situations like these.  I imagine this will turn out well.  People will come to Jesus.  Paul obeys and people do come to Jesus but it’s not a happy church experience.  He is arrested, beaten and put in jail.  In prison, Paul and Silas sing out praises to God. AN earthquake comes and their chains fall off.  As a result the jailor and his whole household comes to God and the jailor praises too!  There’s a church started in Philippi.  As we read these verses all of this is in Paul’s mind.  We also know God brings things together.  We don’t a=know all the steps to God’s plan.  I don’t understand my cell phone fully but I use it.  It makes my life simpler.  We don’t have to understand everything about God to come to Him.   Our human nature is we want to know all the details.  Sometimes we tell God he needs to tell us.  As in verse 34, we like to give God advice and say we need to know what’s going on.  Who does God go to for advice?  Can you even imagine God asking someone for advice?  God is independent and doesn’t need any of us.  A moment of praise can come when we realize we don’t need to know everything.

God does not need anything.

35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” (ESV)

A banking term is used here.  Think through your life in banking terms.  Do you keep track of what people owe you?  How many times have you loaned money to God?  Add that up…  How much have you loaned to God?  It’s never happened!  Paul says, “God doesn’t need anything from me!”  No one has ever given God a loan!  Here in 2019, God doesn’t owe us anything.  We think God owes us.  He doesn’t.  You haven’t given God anything.  Well, we can think, “I’ve given God my time,” etc…  Paul has sacrificed.  He was shipwrecked and here Paul says no one has ever given God anything.

In 1 Chronicles 29:14 David prays.  No one has ever given God a gift that wasn’t already His.  Imagine for a second you’re growing tomatoes in your backyard.  You have a lot coming in well and they look beautiful.  Someone knocks at your door and is holding a bag of tomatoes.  You ask, “Where’d you get those?”  They say they picked them from your backyard and then state you owe them $10.00.  Absurd!  There’s nothing in this world that God doesn’t already own.  We cannot say God owes us.  God is independent.  God will never need anything from us.  We are used to people doing things for us because they owe us.  God does things for us every day.  Jesus does because we are disobedient.  Why does God step into our lives and rescue us?  God loves us!  God loves you and that’s a reason to praise!  God loves you enough to step into your life and intervene.  All we have comes from God.  Romans 1:18 tells us all of creation has rebelled against God.  God is the Creator.

Every blessing we have comes from God.

36For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. (NLT)

All we have exists because God wants it to.  Why are we here?  What’s the meaning of life?  What’s the purpose of life?  God created everything.  People years and years ago were asking these question in Westminster.  The reason we are here is to enjoy God and to glorify Him.  This is what life is all about, says Paul.  Paul experienced great hardships.  The purpose is to bring glory to God.  Why?

God is worthy.

36To him be glory forever. Amen. (ESV)

We won’t have all the answers.  God is good and loves us and gives us salvation.  Even if we do not understand it’s enough to know God does.  We can rest in the fact that God knows.  It is enough for you and I to stand in God’s presence and say, “to God be the glory!”  Amen!

Sermon notes are taken, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.

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