Click here for the reading: Romans 11:33-36.
Paul bursts into a hymn of praise as he concludes his treatment of election (Ro. 9-11). What prompts his doxology is this mystery, which he sums up in v. 32: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” That God has chosen to have mercy and how his mercy is delivered are beyond human comprehension. It is wisdom that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart imagined (1 Cor. 2:9), but it has been revealed by the Spirit of God to those who believe.
Unfathomable, unsearchable, inscrutable – these absolutes remove every bound from the unapproachable light of divine glory, as Isaiah experienced in the throne-room of God. And yet, in Christ, the outcome of this mystery is made plainly visible. His Spirit, whom he poured out generously on the day of Pentecost and again and again in the washing of regeneration and renewal (Titus 3:5), grants wisdom and understanding, knowledge and the fear of the LORD (Is. 11:2). These are not gifts that enable the Christian to plumb the depths of God. They are gifts that enable the Christian to receive the benefits of a grace that he cannot understand, to rejoice in a salvation that his flesh would reject. Though none has known the mind of the Lord, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:13).
Paul’s expression of the divine origin and sustenance and goal of everything (v. 36) does not resolve the mystery into the speculations of a philosopher. God is not right under our noses, nor is everything under our noses all that there is. Paul’s outlook is eschatological and this time of wondering about the mystery of the Godhead is provisional. Because the will of God has been revealed in Christ and the personality of God has been made known in the revelation of Father, Son, and Spirit, it does not suffice to know God generically. It does not suffice to bend the knee to an unknown God. The Lord does not desire that we seek him out as though our reason can honor him simply by acknowledging his transcendence. He desires that we look for him where he may be found, that we offer prayers to him in the certainty that he hears them (Ps. 32:6), that our worship of him is not merely the worship of Zeus or Jove, but the worship of Emmanuel.
It is to that God, now made known in the flesh, to whom we ought to give glory forever. His is the only name that can command every knee to bow. It is to him that all authority in heaven and earth belong. And it is his glory that surpasses the glory of kings and nations and powers in the earth. Paul gives voice to the breathless awe that we must experience at the revelation of God’s mercy in Christ crucified for sinners. The resolution to Isaiah’s, “Woe is me!” is found here in Paul’s exclamation: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”