Romans 11:33-36 — A God who is beyond us

One of the things that amazes me is the people who think that if they were to argue with God, they could win.

More than a few atheists, when posed with the question, “If God exists, what would you say when you stood before him in heaven,” respond by saying they could argue why they didn’t believe in God while they were on earth.  And they seem to think they could reasonable argue their position before God.

But in this passage, Paul shows the utter foolishness and futility of that way of thinking.  In chapters 10 and 11, he talks about how God used the disobedience of the Jews to bring the Gentiles to salvation, and how the result of the Gentiles coming to Christ will be the salvation of the Jews.  In short,

Just as you (Gentiles) who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their (the Jews’) disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.  (30-32)

It’s here that you see a glimpse of how God’s foreknowledge works with predestination.  He knew how the Jews would react to Jesus, and he thus made plans to bring Gentiles into his kingdom.  But he also knew that if he did that, the Jews would then feel a longing for God, and thus turn to Jesus and be saved as well.

In short, God knows what his endgame is on the chessboard of the universe, and he knows how to achieve it.  Taking into account our free will and all our possible choices, he knows how to respond to each of our choices so that his will can be ultimately done.  People thus retain their free will and he maintains his.

As he contemplated this, Paul was simply overwhelmed, singing,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  “Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?”  (34)

In other words, no one can match the wisdom and knowledge of God. It’s hard to match all wisdom and all knowledge, after all.  And because he knows all things and we don’t, it’s impossible for us to understand all his decisions unless he reveals it to us.  And even if he does reveal it, we’re still limited as to how much we can truly understand.

So when people argue, for example, about how a good God could allow evil in the world, they do so from ignorance.  They don’t have all the information that God has, and so all their arguments against him essentially amount to nothing.

Yet people argue as if they do know everything.  As if their arguments are unanswerable.  And so they boast that they could debate against God and win.  But when they stand before him, he will lay out on the table all the motivations of their heart, all that they knew or should have known had they taken the time to find out, he will lay out all the facts as they are, not as we perceived them in our pride, and ultimately, every mouth will be silenced and every person held accountable.  (Romans 3:19).

There is nothing that we can bring to the table that will stun God and make him say, “I never knew that.”

Nor will there be anything that we can point to in our lives to say, “Look at what I did.  I deserve heaven.”

For as Paul concludes,

“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”  For from him and through him and to him are all things.

Everything we have is from him.  All things came through him.  And all things will return to him.  That includes us.   

So we have two choices.  We can give glory to him, as Paul did, saying,

To him be the glory forever! Amen. (36b)

Or we can continue to rebel against him until the day come when we are silent before him.

How about you?  What will you choose?



About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください:
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