The Glory of God in the Gospel - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Romans 11:33-36

  • 2019-09-22 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons

PDF

I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to Romans chapter 11. This passage that we're examining together, the end of Romans 11, is really a sort of hinge on which this book turns. In the first eleven chapters you have Paul celebrating the gospel that he preached; explaining it to us, giving us a detailed explanation of exactly what's involved in the gospel in all of its intricacies. And then he comes to the end of chapter 11, and it's as if he just can't help himself as he thinks about and contemplates all of those things, he just breaks out in doxology, he breaks out in praise, he finds himself on his face before God in worship; which is, if you've come to understand the gospel, if you come to embrace it, you perfectly understand.

In this doxology we see the greatness of God. You know, there are so many different ways that we can understand something of the greatness and majesty of God. One of those is in the creation. A number of years ago, David Coppedge who was a scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, wrote an article in ICR's magazine Acts and Facts entitled "How Big is God?". How big is God? In that article, Coppedge tries to give us a sense of the greatness of God by looking at the size of the universe, which admittedly is a very hard thing for us to grasp. But this is what he writes, speaking of the size of just our solar system. He says: "If the distance from our sun to Pluto were represented by a one-foot ruler, on that scale, the nearest star beyond our solar system would be over a mile away", just to give you a scope of the magnitude of space. He goes on: "As for the earth, if the Milky Way galaxy", the galaxy in which our solar system is and where the earth is, he said, "if the Milky Way galaxy were represented as the size of North America, our entire solar system would fit in a coffee cup somewhere in Idaho." Why you'd want, well never mind, I won't say it, I don't want to offend anybody from Idaho. Just a joke, it's a joke. He goes on to say this: "Astronomers estimate that there are as many galaxies outside the Milky Way", now listen to that, "there's as many galaxies outside our Milky Way galaxy as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The Hubble ultra-deep Field taken in 2004", he says, "imaged 10,000 galaxies in a cone of space so slim that if you took a grain of sand and held that grain of sand at arm's length, the grain of sand would cover that portion of space that's in this image." Okay, so a very tiny little sliver of space, you're covering it with a grain of sand. He says: "If you did that, you would, in that grain of sand, you're covering some 10,000 galaxies that were seen by the Hubble telescope in that little tiny piece of space on the horizon." He goes on to say: "Integrated over the entire sky, that would mean there are more than one hundred billion galaxies in the visible", that is the observable universe, "100 billion galaxies, many with more than one hundred billion stars each."

This begins to stretch our minds beyond limits.

Well, what about the size of the observable universe? Well as you know, it's measured in light-years. A light year is the distance that light, traveling at 186,000 miles a second, can cover in one year. It's about six trillion miles. To travel across the observable universe, they estimate would take 93 billion light-years, the observable universe. Now we don't know what the size is of the whole universe; there's a lot of discussion and debate about that; but the latest estimate based on some algorithms and other mathematical, you know, sort of figures that I would not be able to explain to you, the latest estimate is that the whole universe may be 250 times larger than the observable universe. So, one legitimate way to measure the glory of God is by looking at the universe. Psalm 19:1: "The heavens are telling the glory of God."

But in Romans chapter 11, Paul tells us there's another way to measure God's glory. Not only by looking at the vastness of the universe, but by looking at God's greatness displayed in man's salvation. You can see something of the glory of God in that. Let's read it together. Romans, chapter 11, verses 33 to 36. You follow along in your copy of the Scriptures. "Oh, the depth", and I'm going to read this the way we have come to understand it through our study,

Oh, the depth of the riches of God's mercy, the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

This magnificent doxology has a very simple point that Paul is making. It's this: the gospel displays the glory of God and therefore demands the worship of God. The gospel displays the glory of God and therefore demands the worship of God.

Now we are considering how the gospel displays the glory of God; that's really the message of verses 33 to 35. The gospel displays God's glory. How? Well we've we noted two ways that the gospel displays God's glory. First of all, in God's inexhaustible attributes. Verse 33: "Oh", or we could say I am amazed at, "the depth", that is, the incomprehensible, inexhaustible truth about God. And he names three attributes of God, verse 33, "The riches of God", in context, the riches of God's mercy, secondly, "of God's wisdom"; and thirdly, "of God's knowledge." The gospel displays the glory of God because it highlights His inexhaustible attributes, and we looked at that together.

Secondly, the gospel displays the glory of God because it reveals God's unfathomable decisions and ways. Notice verse 33, "How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways." Last week, we discovered that we can never fathom the judgments, the ideas, the decrees of God, the executive decisions of God, the plans of God; we can never fathom them and we can never understand. Notice, "His ways," that is His ways of operating. In fact, the Greek word Paul uses is essentially to say that God's ways are un-trackable, untraceable; you can't follow the footprints of God in the means that He has for carrying out His decisions.

Now, in verse 33, Paul expresses his praise in his own words. But as he always does, Paul quickly comes back to the Scripture; even his praise and worship was framed by the Scripture; and so having made the point that the gospel displays the glory of God in those two ways, he now sets out to show the Biblical evidence to support that. The biblical evidence is found in verses 34 and 35. Read it again with me, verse 34: "For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?"

Now most of you, I think, understand this; but just in case you're still getting up to speed with this, in our English translations, when you see words like these in all capitals in the New Testament, it means that this is a quotation from the Old Testament. So verses 34 and 35 are quotations, two of them actually, two different passages from the Old Testament Scripture. Now you'll notice Paul adds the word at the beginning of verse 34 to introduce this quote, the little word 'For', 'because'. And that's because these quotations are the biblical support of the theological affirmations he just made in verse 33. Now I have argued, in a past message, that in verse 33, Paul focuses not on two attributes of God, but three attributes of God. It's clear in the ESV; not as clear in the NAS that we use. "The riches" is the riches of God's mercy, that's number one. Number two, "God's wisdom; and number three, God's knowledge. And I've given you a couple of arguments to support the fact that there are three attributes and not two. But in these quotations in verses 34 and 35, there's a third argument because Paul cites these Old Testament passages that prove not two attributes of God, but three attributes of God, and they're clear here; they're just in reverse order. Look again at verse 33 and note the order. You have one, "the riches," that is the riches of God's mercy and grace; two, "the wisdom" of God; and three, the "knowledge of God."

Now, look at the reverse order in verses 34 to 35. Verse 34, "For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD?" There's God's knowledge. "OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?" There is God's wisdom. Verse 35, "WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?" There's the riches of God's mercy and grace. So then verses 34 and 35 provide Biblical evidence of the depth; that is the incomprehensibility and the inexhaustibility of the knowledge of God, and the wisdom of God, and the mercy and grace of God.

Now these quotations come in the form of three rhetorical questions from the Old Testament. The three questions come from two Old Testament passages, I'll note those when we get there, but all three of these rhetorical questions have exactly the same answer, and that answer is absolutely no one! "WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD?" Nobody! "Who has served as God's counselor?" Nobody! "Who has first given to God that God needs to repay him?" Nobody!

So, with that background, let's look at these rhetorical questions together that amount to the biblical evidence for Paul's worship of God and His glory in the gospel.

Notice the first piece of biblical evidence underscores this: God's knowledge is too deep to know His mind. God's knowledge is too deep to know His mind. Verse 34 begins, "For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD?" That is almost an exact quotation of the Septuagint, that's the Bible that was used primarily in the first century, it was a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. It's almost an exact quotation of the Septuagint of Isaiah 40, verse 13.

I want you to turn back with me to Isaiah 40, because I want you to see this passage in its context. The book of Isaiah is about God as the Savior. Really, its theme is salvation. It's the nearest equivalent to the Gospels in our New Testament of any book in the Old Testament. The book of Isaiah is about salvation, but the first thirty-nine chapters are about judgment, they're about the need for salvation. Primarily, they focus on the judgment that's coming on Israel, God's people, as well as on the nations surrounding them, and it punctuates, like Romans 1 to 3 does, the need for the gospel.

When you come to chapter 40, however, things turn, and now you have God speaking comfort to His people. God's saying: "There is a promise of future comfort when Messiah comes", and you see those references that are familiar in the New Testament. Notice verse 1, "Comfort, O comfort My people…Speak kindly to Jerusalem." Notice how this is going to happen, verse 3: "A voice is calling, 'Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness'"; the Lord is coming, "'Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God'."

Of course, this is what John the Baptist claimed for himself as he announced the coming of Christ. Verse 5, "Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together." This is going to happen. The mouth of the Lord has spoken, it's going to happen. So there is this promise of future comfort when Messiah comes fulfilled in the first coming of the Messiah and ultimately and permanently fulfilled in the second coming of the Messiah.

Now, how can God's people, who will find themselves in captivity, find that comfort in this promise? Are you sure this is going to happen? Well, starting in verse 12 and running through the end of the chapter, Isaiah punctuates that God's greatness guarantees the promise will actually be fulfilled; God can and will fulfill this promise. Notice how he begins in verse 12,

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,

And marked off the heavens by the span,

And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,

And weighed the mountains in a balance

And the hills in a pair of scales?

Of course, this is focusing on creation; it's saying, "Look at God's work in creation." Listen, there is no limit to what God can do; so of course he's going to fulfill the promise He's made. But notice specifically two points verse 12 makes. First of all, it makes the point that God's craftsmanship was amazing in the perfect balancing of the universe and especially the earth. He carefully distributed the weight of the seas and the mountains on this planet so that it could smoothly pass through space and smoothly rotate on its axis. It's amazing what God did in creating this planet. But there's another point in verse 12, and that is the immensity of God. Notice the smallness of the earth compared to God, and notice the instruments God uses to sort of measure the earth. They're all small. "Who has measured the waters?" All of the waters on this planet. "Who has measured those waters?" God has "in the hollow of His hand."

Now obviously God doesn't have physical features. This is an anthropomorphism, that is it's an image used to help us picture God who is a Spirit; and if God had a hand, it would be as if He measured every ocean on this planet, all the lakes and all the rivers in the hollow of His hand. That's all it took, just the hollow of His hand. And He marked off the heavens by the span. A span in the ancient world, just like a fathom, you use your body to measure. There were other measurements; the hollow of your hand was a measurement. Another measurement was a span. A span is the distance when your thumb is fully stretched out from your little finger, so you've stretched your thumb and little finger as far apart as they'll go; on the average person that's about 9 inches. It says, "God has marked off the heavens by spans." God is so huge that He can mark off the heavens by, you know, the distance between His thumb and His little finger like you do the chair in front of you. And then it says, "And He's "calculated the dust of the earth by thirds", is literally what it says. The idea is probably like a third of a bushel. You know, He's calculated all the dirt on this planet; and to Him, it's like a third of a bushel. And He "weighed the mountains in a balance, And the hills in a pair of scales." You get the idea of the immensity of God? It's like all God needed to accomplish this was His little workshop, just a little workshop, and that was plenty of space for God to do this. Again, it's giving you the idea of His immensity.

And then he turns the corner in verse 13, to talk about the fact that God did this without any direction. Verse 13, "Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD?" The word 'Spirit' here is probably not the Holy Spirit, but rather the mind of God. That's why it's translated that way in the Septuagint. Paul quotes it that way in Romans 11. But the word, look at the word 'directed.' You'll see there's a marginal note in the NAS saying, "marked off." It's the same Hebrew word that appears in the previous verse where it says "God marked off the heavens by spans."

The question is "Who has marked off the mind of God, who has measured the mind of God?" And of course the answer is no one. Now you can see why the translation "WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD?" Nobody's marked off God's mind; nobody's measured God's mind. Verse 13 goes on to say, "Or as His counselor has informed Him?" Who came along and said, "You know, Lord, there's something you need to know before you make that decision"? No! Nobody needed to inform Him of anything. "With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? Who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?"

Now go back to Romans, chapter 11; that's the context. Now, here in Romans 11, Paul captures that same idea, and he says, "Who has marked off? Who has measured? WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD?" And the mind here is the idea of the product of His mind, His thoughts. Who has measured all the thoughts of God? Who knows everything God knows? is the idea. The obvious answer is no one! No one knows God's mind. In fact, our human knowledge is extremely limited. Let me just give you, as a kind of an aside here, briefly what the Bible says about human knowledge. Let me just give you a couple of affirmations.

First of all, the Bible teaches that everything we know that's true is from God. Everything we know that's true is from God. I mean there are only three possible sources of truth in the universe. If there's truth, it either comes from man, it comes from Satan, or it comes from God. Well, it's not man. Man isn't the source of one solitary truth. We are informed, we discover. Psalm 116:11 says, we're also, "All men are liars." Romans 3:13 says, "WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING." Man hasn't created or originated a single truth. At best, we have discovered some truths about how the universe works, although we're often wrong. At worst, and this is what the Bible teaches, man has marginalized, dismissed, and ridiculed God's truth and believed a lie, so man's not the source of it. Satan, what about Satan? Well, clearly Satan doesn't deal in the truth. Our Lord said in John 8:44, listen to this, "The devil does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." So truth doesn't come from Satan.

That means that if something is true, it comes from God. God is the ultimate source of all truth. That's true for everything in the universe that ultimately proves to be true, whether it's the axioms of mathematics, the laws of science, the basic rules of logic, the mathematical structure of music, every other sphere of knowledge. All truth is God's truth! Now, as soon as I say that, let me say that that expression has been grossly abused because people will come up with some faulty human knowledge and say, "Well, this is God's truth so we can use it." Well, that has a terrible flaw, it assumes that is true when we don't know that's true. So let me put it this way: it's still true that all truth, that is all that will ultimately turn out to be true in eternity, is God's truth.

Secondly, when we think about human knowledge, we know nothing unless God has revealed it. We know absolutely nothing unless God has revealed it. Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 2, this is Paul's point here. He's saying, look, we preach, we minister, and we do so, "we speak", verse 7, 1 Corinthians 2, "God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory." And now verse 9: "Just as it is written, 'THINGS WHICH THE EYE HAS NOT SEEN, EAR HAS NOT HEARD, WHICH HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM'."

When I was growing up, people used to quote that verse out of its context and say, "See, we don't know what God has prepared." Well, read the next verse, "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit." He's talking here about revelation, he's saying, "We have God's mind right here in this book because God chose to reveal to us what we needed to know." We know nothing unless God has revealed it. He goes on to say, verse 10 goes on to say,

For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

And we have now received, from God's spirit, an explanation of the very mind of God right here in this book. Now, don't misunderstand; this isn't all the mind of God, this is what God wanted us to know about Him, but we know nothing unless God has revealed it.

Thirdly, we know nothing that God has revealed unless His Spirit grants us illumination. In other words, it's not enough to have the Bible. There is a lot of people who have the Bible and don't know it; they don't know what it really means, what it really teaches. And that's what he says and the rest of 1 Corinthians 2, notice verse 14, "a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him", and then notice this, "he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." In other words, it takes the work of the Spirit in the soul of man to open up his understanding and give him true knowledge from the knowledge that's already been revealed in this book.

Notice how he ends, and he quotes from the same passage that he quotes from in Romans 11, "For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ." He's not talking about something mystical; he's talking about that book you hold in your hand. We have the mind of Christ, not all that's in the mind of Christ, but what we have in this book is reflective of the mind of Christ. And only the Spirit can grant us the ability to understand it. That's why Paul prays in Ephesians 1, "Open the eyes of their heart to see and to comprehend, to understand the revelation that's been given."

A fourth sort of tenet, I would say about human knowledge and this is the point, we will never know everything God knows, we will never know everything God knows. Back in Romans 11, verse 33: "How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND?". That is, all the thoughts of God.

When I was in seminary, one of my professors did something that I've never forgotten. He walked up to the blackboard, yes, we had blackboards in those days. He walked up to the blackboard, and he said, "I want you to", and I'm about to stretch some of you in a mathematical way here; just prepare yourselves. He said, "Imagine that that blackboard is not just the plane you see, but it is an infinite plane that extends in every direction." So if you could imagine that blackboard doesn't stop at the edge of the blackboard, but it just keeps going in all directions, it's a plane that goes forever. He said, "That is what can be known of God, an infinite plane." And then he walked up, and he made as small a dot on that blackboard as a piece of chalk could make, and he says, "That is what we know about God." So don't misunderstand, when I say we have in this book the mind of Christ, we have that dot. It's true, it's accurate, it tells us exactly what the mind of Christ is, but it tells us a dot on that infinite plane that is the mind of Christ, that is, the mind of God.

No human being can or ever will know all of God's decisions, all of God's decrees, all of God's reasons behind those decisions, or the means that God chose to carry that out. Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God." Or, think about what God says to Job in Job 38 through 42. God basically says this to Job, he says "Look, you don't know my ways in creation. How in the world do you think you have the right to think you know my ways in your life and what I'm doing in your life?" God's knowledge is too deep to know His mind.

Now the fact that we will never know all that God knows leads to a simple conclusion: we can't inform God of anything. Therefore, we're not going to change His mind about anything. You can't come up to God and say: "Excuse me, Lord, there's something you need to know." Therefore, He knew everything He needed to know when He made that decision, you're not going to change that decision, especially in context here about salvation.

Paul's second piece of biblical evidence makes the point that God's wisdom is too deep to give Him counsel. God's knowledge is too deep for us to fully fathom and know; God's wisdom is too deep to give Him counsel. Verse 34, "FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD", and here's the second point, "OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?" This also is from Isaiah 40, verse 13. The Greek word for 'counselor' is used only here in the New Testament, that's a good translation. It means to give advice, to give counsel. So, who has become God's counselor or God's advisor? Again, the obvious answer is: no one! Because everything we know is from God, we can't contribute to God's wisdom because we don't have any knowledge beyond His to offer Him. You can't go up to God and say: "Excuse me, Lord, I know something you need to know before you take that step." So nobody can serve as His counselor. Job understood this early in his story. Go back to Job, chapter 9, verse 1:

Then Job answered,

"In truth I know that this is so;

But how can a man be in the right before God?

If one wished to dispute with Him,

He could not answer Him once in a thousand times.

Why? Because, God is "Wise in heart and mighty in strength", verse 10:

He does great things, unfathomable,

And wondrous works without number.

Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him;

Were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him.

Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him?

And then he says this at the end of verse 12: "Who could say to Him, 'What are you doing?'" You see, we don't have the wisdom to question God, to be His counselor, to be His advisor. Now sadly, Job turns out to do exactly that in the very next chapter. But by the end of the story, I think you understand, Job humbled himself; he admitted his ignorance before God and repented. Look at Job 42, verse 1, here's how the story ends. So he does end up questioning God, he does end up trying to give God counsel and advice, but here's the end of the story by the time God's finished setting him straight in chapters 38 to 41, 42:1:

Then Job answered the LORD and said,

"I know that You can do all things,

And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?'

"It's me", that's what he says, "It's me",

Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,

Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."

'Hear, now, and I will speak;

I will ask You, and You instruct me.'

"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;

But now my eye sees You;

Therefore I retract,

And I repent in dust and ashes."

He said, "Lord, it was wrong of me to try to give you counsel about my life." By the way, this was the issue God had with Job's friends as well. They thought they knew what was going on, but they lacked the knowledge of what was going on between God and Satan; and because they didn't know that, they didn't give him good counsel. That's why God starts out His speech in Job 38:2, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" Who became God's counselor?"

Matthew Henry, the English Puritan and commentator wrote this:

His wisdom is unsearchable and what no creature can give, either information or direction to, as none can do what God has done and does so none can assist Him in the doing of it or suggest anything to Him which He thought not of.

And yet fallen man, in his ignorance and arrogance, like Job, unbelieving man is always trying to give God advice. I think the greatest example of that is throughout human history, all of mankind has tried to give God, this advice: "God, you really should accept us based on our good works. That really should be the plan." But if God were to accept man's advice on just that issue, not one person would ever be saved. Lloyd Jones writes: "If God adopted man's advice, the whole of mankind would be irretrievably doomed and damned."

But you know what? The unfortunate reality is we all have a bad track record of offering advice with insufficient knowledge. I mean, that happens on the Internet every day. And all of us who are sports fans, we do this every weekend. We sit in our lounge chairs with our feet propped up with something cool to drink, watching our favorite football team; and as we watch, or maybe I'm the only does this, we give counsel to the coaches and to the athletes, professionals who have done this their entire lives. Counsel like this, "What were you thinking, calling a running play in that situation? You should have passed the ball!" Or, "Why are you in a prevent defense? Everybody in the world knows that doesn't work!"

Other times, we desperately want to offer our counsel and advice; but because of various reasons, we choose not to. One of those is when you're a kid growing up in a home, at least that was true in my home. You know, when I was growing up, like every kid, I remember questioning some of my dad's decisions, never out loud, mind you, always to myself, that's the way it worked in my house. And as I look back on my years growing up, I mean, my dad was a fallible human being; there were times when I think he was wrong, he made bad decisions. But also, as I've grown up, I have realized increasingly that many of those decisions that I thought were wrong, that I questioned when I was a kid, I now see were actually extremely wise; but I lacked the knowledge to give my dad counsel and advice. But in my heart, I wanted to. We do exactly the same thing with God. We are, even as believers, tempted to give God our counsel. When? I don't want to spend a lot of time here; this will be available for you, you know, online later, but let me just give you a little list I came up with from the Scripture.

When are we tempted to give God our counselor advice? When we're suffering. Job 10, the very next chapter after the one I read from a moment ago, Job says, "I will give full vent to my complaint." He says, "God, this is wrong; you're treating me wrong. I don't deserve this."

We're tempted to give God counsel when those we love die. In John 11, you remember the sisters of Lazarus send to Jesus, and say, "The one you love, Lazarus, is sick, come." And Jesus deliberately stays where He is four more days. And then He comes; and when He gets to them, you remember Martha, she chastises Him; she says, "Lord, if you had come when we called, if you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died." We are all tempted to question God when those we love die.

Thirdly, when God's ways or God's paths are different than our expectations. Jonah did this in Jonah 4, you remember, when he preaches and Nineveh believes and God relents, Jonah is like, "See, this is why I didn't want to come. This is why I fled. Because, this isn't right God; it's not right for you to save these people; they are too wicked, they have hurt your people too much. They're not the kind of people you ought to be doing this for." God didn't meet Jonah's expectations; he wanted wrath! Peter is always a great example. In Matthew, chapter 16, verses 21 to 23, Jesus announces, He gives a prophecy of His impending death, torture and death and resurrection. And this, just listen to this, okay? This is Matthew, chapter 16, verse 22, "Peter took Jesus aside". Do you see this? "Excuse me, Jesus, could you come here a minute? I need to talk to you about something." He "took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You'." To which Jesus says, "Satan, get behind Me." But Peter, as he looked at this unfolding circumstance, says, "That doesn't meet my expectations." He questioned Christ. Again, Peter's a great example, John 13:8, he says, when Jesus wanted to wash the disciple's feet, "Never shall You wash my feet." We are also tempted to question God and to give Him advice when God acts contrary to our expectations.

When we feel, number four, discouraged and defeated. This is Elijah in 1 Kings 19, where he has that great event on Mount Caramel and kills the 400 prophets of Baal the 400 prophets of Asherah, and you see the victory there. And then the next day, Jezebel sends him a note, and says, "By this time tomorrow, you're dead." And he feels like, "Okay, the victory is not won; God's people aren't willing to turn back to Yahweh," and he becomes discouraged, defeated, and he goes to the desert and says, "Lord, why don't you just take my life?" And he basically says, "Lord, you sent me here, and this hasn't worked out; this isn't a good idea." He questions God.

When we have or believe we have, number five, been treated unjustly. Isaiah 40, verse 27, this is what happened to the Israelites in captivity. They said, "Our way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice that's due us has escaped the knowledge of our God." "God, we're not getting treated rightly; we're not being treated justly." It's easy to find ourselves questioning God's wisdom with questions like: Why did this happen to me? Why did I get this disease and not others? Why didn't I get that promotion? Why did I get laid off? Why are my kids responding this way to the gospel? And so forth and so forth? Behind such questions, there can be the implication that God had somehow treated us unjustly. Abraham says in Genesis 18:25, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal in justice?" And the answer is, "Yes, He will."

Number six, when our circumstances are not what we want. Things like: "If only I was better looking, wealthier, more intelligent. If only I was married. Or if only I wasn't married. Or if only I had a different spouse. Or if I had a better job." We're tempted to question God's wisdom; and when we are, like Job, we ultimately need to respond the way he did in Job 42:3, "Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?" Me! "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." Folks, how foolish of us to criticize God for how He runs our lives or to think that He could benefit from our advice. If He would just do what I think ought to be done in this situation, this would work out well.

A third piece of biblical evidence confirms that God's grace is too deep to earn His favor, God's grace is too deep to earn His favor. Verse 35 of Romans 11, "WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?" This final Old Testament quotation comes from Job 41:11. Here's what Job 41:11 says: "Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine." In context, God tells Job, He's talking about Leviathan and the other animals He cares for, and he says, "Listen, I own and care for all creatures including you, Job, and so I don't owe you anything including an explanation of my ways." The foundation of God's point to Job and therefore of Paul's here in Romans 11, is that God owns all things, "Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine." If God owns all things, that means all good things come from Him. James 1:17, listen to the absolute inclusiveness of this statement, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights." Every good thing you enjoy is from God's hand. He has generously given you all things. In fact, you have never given God anything that wasn't His. Think about that for a moment; you have never given God anything that wasn't His. Job 35:7 "If you are righteous, what do you give to Him, Or what does He receive from your hand? David in 1 Chronicles** 29 where he is praying and praising God for the response, the generous response of the people to give for the building of the temple, and he says this in 1 Chronicles 29:14, "Who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this?" Listen, "For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given to You." It's like, "God, you put it in our hands and we gave it back to you." That's how it is with everything. God has never owed us anything. He is no man's debtor. In fact, let me ask this question, what have you and I earned from God? It's a short answer: nothing but condemnation. That's the only thing you have ever earned from God; it's the only thing I've ever earned, nothing but condemnation. Romans 3:23, "All have sinned." And what is the result of that? Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin", here's what we've earned, "is death." It's spiritual death, it's physical death, and its eternal death. That's what we've earned.

But what have we received from God without any dessert or merit? What we earned is condemnation. What have we received without any dessert or merit? First of all, everyone, without exception, has received God's common grace and His provision in this life. Every single one of us. If you're not a follower of Jesus Christ, you have received this; every one of us, every human being has received God's common grace and His provision in this life. There's so many passages I could turn to; just turn to Acts in the interest of time. Look at Acts 14, Paul is talking to a bunch of idolaters, trying to convince them not to worship him and Barnabas. And he says, "Listen, I'm talking to you," this is Acts 14:15, the end of the verse, I'm talking to you about the "living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. In generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet", verse 17, "He did not leave Himself without witness", not only the creation, but also "in that He did good and He gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." God has done good to every single one of us, He has filled our lives with those things, and we didn't earn it, and we didn't deserve it; that's the point. Look at chapter 17. Again, Paul is speaking to a bunch of idolaters on Mars Hill, philosophers in this case, and he says this to them in Acts 17:25: God isn't "served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since", now watch this, "He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things." So what exactly isn't included in all things? This isn't a trick question. He's given us everything we have. You see, God has lavished you with goodness in this life, and He's lavished me with goodness in this life, and He's done so, but not one little gift from God is some kind of a repayment that God owed us. "WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?"

But if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, if you're a believer, if you've repented and believed in Him, you have also received salvation in exactly the same way. This was Paul's primary point in Romans 11. God didn't owe us salvation; we didn't do something that earned it or deserved it. Go back to Romans, chapter 3, and look at verse 23, "for all have sinned." By the way, the verb tense Paul uses here in the Greek text is like a snapshot, it's like a still picture. If you take a picture of people on this planet, and you develop that picture, of course that's kind of old language now, isn't it? But if you look at that picture you've taken, what you're going to find is that they're sinning. That's just the reality. And then he uses the video language, verse 23, "for all have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God." If you took a video, displaying a longer segment of someone's life or their whole life, you would find that they consistently were falling short of what God demands of the glory of God.

So how do we get out of that? Verse 24, those who are "justified" are justified. That is that's the opposite of condemned; they are declared right before God's Law. How? As a what? "As a gift." As a gift! How can He do that? By His grace! How can God extend a gift by His grace? It's through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus and specifically the redemption, verse 25, that was accomplished on the cross as He became a propitiation; that is, He satisfied God's justice with His own death; it's a gift! Look at chapter 6, another very familiar verse, chapter 6, verse 23, "For the wages of sin is death." That's what we earned; we earned condemnation, we earned death. "But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Listen, if you're here this morning and you're not a believer in Jesus Christ, you've not repented and believed in Him, you need to give up any hope that you're going to be able to earn your way into God's favor. No one has ever given to God that God needs to repay him; that God owes him something, and you won't be the first. Your only hope is to receive the free gift that is offered in Jesus Christ. How do you receive that gift? Well, Jesus described it like this in two places. In Matthew 5, He begins the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, by saying, "Blessed (happy) are the beggars in spirit, for there's will be the kingdom of God." It will belong to them. How do you get into God's kingdom? How to get into Christ's Kingdom? You become a beggar; you come to God like a beggar, saying, "I don't have anything to pay you that you're going to have to pay me back. I don't have any works, I have any merit, I'm not giving you my baptism, I'm not giving you my church membership, I'm not giving you these things and saying, 'Now, you owe me.' I'm here as a beggar saying 'Please'." And that's the other picture that Jesus uses in Luke 18. He says there was this tax collector who went up to the temple to pray and he simply prayed this. He said, "God, be merciful to me the sinner." And Jesus says, "That man went down to his house right with God, justified." So you have to become a beggar; that's the only way, that's how you get the gift. You have to repent of your sins, turn from your rebellion, and put your faith in Jesus Christ, in His life, in His death, and in His resurrection.

Not only is God not our debtor, but we were all hopelessly in debt to Him. I wish I had time take you to Matthew 18, where Jesus tells the story of the two debtors. You remember the one debtor who owed multiple lifetimes of debt? If he worked every moment of his life the rest of this life and several lifetimes, he could never pay back the debt he had accumulated. Jesus said, "That's you!". That's me. And God forgives the debt; He forgives the debt. Your salvation was entirely an unearned, undeserved gift from God. It was at God's initiative that He decided to redeem you; it was entirely of God from beginning to end, it was entirely of sovereign grace. One of the favorite verses of believers comes from Ephesians 2. That chapter begins in verse 1 by saying, "you were dead in your transgressions and sins." And then verse 8 says, "But, by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is", what? "the gift of God." It's a gift of God!

So here's the message of verses 34 and 35. Verse 34, "WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD?" God's knowledge is too deep to know His mind! "WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?" God's wisdom is too deep to give Him counsel! "WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?" God's grace is too deep to earn His favor.

How do we respond to this? Well, as we've walked through this passage, I've kind of given you a running list of responses. Let me add to that this morning. Our response to God's inexhaustible attributes, we said, should be exclamation. Paul begins, "Oh! I'm amazed by," and you and I should be amazed as well. There should be meditation; these verses are a poem, not just the portion quoted from the Old Testament, but Paul composed a poem. That means he thought about these things; he reflected on them. Our response should be adoration; because these verses are a response, a doxology to the eleven chapters of theology that have come so far. Adoration of God. Last week, we noted that our response to God's unfathomable decisions and ways should be submission. We should accept God's right to make the decisions about everything and God's right to determine the ways He accomplishes those decisions.

Let me give you, this morning, our response to the biblical evidence that we've examined this morning. How do we respond? These don't have 'ion' endings because I'd rather be clear than clever, okay? So here we go. Here's what our response to the biblical evidence that we've examined this morning should be. First of all, humility, humility. You will never know all that God knows, so be humble before Him. Acknowledge that He's God and you're not, and He has a right to do whatever He chooses because He has all knowledge and you don't. Humble yourself before God.

Number two, trust. Trust Him. Listen, God doesn't need your advice and counsel. He doesn't need you to say, "Lord, this is what you should be doing in my life." So instead of giving Him your advice and counsel, learn to trust Him. He is trustworthy, He is all-knowing, He is all-wise, and He has set His eternal love upon you. Do you really think He can't handle your life?

And then our response should be gratitude. Everything that you have or enjoy that's good is a gift of God's grace. In fact, I had this thought this week, and it's not that I haven't had it before, but hit me in a fresh way. You have not earned or merited one thing from God your entire life. You have not earned or merited one thing from God your entire life, and you never will the rest of this life, or in eternity. It'll always be one thing only, grace, grace. "WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?" This is how you can measure the glory of our God; not just the vastness of the universe, but the vastness of His wisdom and knowledge and mercy in our salvation. And it's far greater, it's much more vast than the universe!

Let's pray together. Father, thank you for this profound passage, for the impact that it's having on us and how we think about you. Lord, like Job, there was a time when we heard of you with a hearing of the ear, but now our eyes have seen you, and we repent in sackcloth and ashes. Father, help us to respond in humility, in trust; and Father, help us to respond in gratitude. And Lord, I pray for those here this morning who don't know you, help them to see any hope of earning their way into your heaven completely shattered by what we've studied together this morning. And may they instead come your way like a beggar, pleading for your riches, the riches of your mercy and grace in Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.

Romans