Romans 11:33-36

As Paul finishes his explanation of God’s sovereignty with the Jewish people and the grace He has had with both the Jew and Gentile, Paul is literally overwhelmed as he considers what he has just written. Paul is amazed at the incredible wisdom and planning in how the Lord brought about His sovereign plan. He now stops and reflects about what he has just written in these 11 chapters, and he is overcome with praise for God and declares, Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! ‘For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?’ ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’  For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36). As you consider these words, it is my hope that you too will become overwhelmed and amazed as you consider what God has done for you! My expectation is that your heart will be broken and humbled, and that you will become thankful with praise to God just as Paul was. Remember, you too are a part of this gracious and wonderful plan God has brought to pass to redeem the world to Himself. 

What brought Paul to this place of praise before God?

The reason I ask this question is so you will be drawn into this same place of praise and thanksgiving that Paul offers. It is so easy to take all of God’s blessings for granted, and just assume you deserve them all. But this is the furthest thing from the truth. Each of us deserves the lake of fire for the sins we have committed in our lifetime. Jacob realized near the end of his life what he deserved. He said, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies” (Gen. 32:10). Jacob realized how much God had given to him even though he was far from a perfect man. Do you realize this fact? It is so important to stop periodically and take a good look at what God has done for you, and let it sink down inside of you so you can be thankful. Consider then why Paul praises God here at this moment, and then hopefully you will see why you should be just as thankful.

You should praise Him when you realize His sovereign grace toward all humanity.

Considering God’s sovereign grace toward humanity, and to you individually, is clearly one of the great messages in this epistle to the Romans. By bringing you into remembrance of these truths it will help to put you in the same mindset as Paul after he wrote these words.

  • God in His great grace has revealed His Son to the entire world by allowing Him to come into this world as a child. He then lived and walked among us, was crucified for our sins and raised to life again as proof of His claims. Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:1-4).
  • Even though all mankind had sinned and rebelled against God, He still redeemed the whole world through His grace, and will justify all who put their faith in Jesus. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-24).
  • God has chosen to demonstrate His love by dying for those who sinned against Him. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8).
  • Because of God’s grace there is now no condemnation for those who believe in Jesus and follow Him. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
  • Even though the Jews have rejected their Messiah, God has chosen in His grace to protect a remnant of Jews that He might continue to prove His grace to them. Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved” (Rom. 9:27).

These are just a few of the verses that would have reminded Paul of how gracious God has been to all mankind. When he realized how God in His wisdom had chosen not to condemn the world, but has rather done all in His power to save and redeem them, Paul is overwhelmed by God’s wisdom and love.

You should praise Him when you realize the wisdom of His counsel given to all men.

Making the correct decisions in the lives of every human being in this world may seem like an overwhelming task, but Paul was completely assured that God could do it. He trusted in God’s wisdom so much that he knew God needed no help from anyone to make the right decisions. Paul believed that God was able to handle all the needs of every person based on his understanding of God’s working in the nations of the world, and especially the nation of Israel.

When you contrast man’s decision-making with God’s, there is no contest. Human judges and prosecutors in our judicial system make decisions every day, but making righteous and fair decisions does not always occur. We have all heard of the unjust sentencing decisions made by judges today in our courts. I’m sure you have heard of judges who let a repeat offender off with probation, or with others who give a harsh sentence to a first-time offender, while other people never get charged at all because of their political connections. When this happens you think to yourself, This is just not right! But the reason this happens is that human judges don’t have what the God of heaven does have, which is the ability to see the heart of those they judge. In addition, some judges have hearts that are biased and corrupt, and are willing to do favors for the powerful and well connected. A human judge or prosecutor can also be fooled or manipulated by people, but God cannot. God always knows when to forgive and show mercy, when to mete out tough love, and when to judge righteously and then to punish.

Now when you realize that God has this kind of insight and knowledge of every person and every circumstance, and knows every motive of every heart, you can come to only one conclusion. You realize, I can’t tell God what to do. He knows more about everything that is happening in my life or anyone’s life than I could ever know. There is only one way to know if you truly believe that He doesn’t need our counsel. You will stop trying to tell God how to run your life. Failure to believe God’s great wisdom is why you try to bargain with God. You say, “Lord, don’t you see what I did? If You will do _____ for me, I’ll do _____ for You.” When the Lord hears these bargains, He must be very disappointed in our faith in His all-knowing wisdom. You must remember, you are not going to twist God’s arm to do what you want. You will never be God’s counselor! He needs to be your Mighty Counselor (Is. 9:6-7). When you read the book of Romans you see the plan God has ordained to be just with mankind, and yet justify all who will believe in Him from the penalty of their sin (Rom. 3:26). God has also chosen to devise a way to set His children free from the power of sin (Rom. 6:1-13). He had even brought about a way to save the Gentiles, and cause the Jewish people to become jealous that they might be saved too (Rom. 9-11). When you sit back and consider God’s wise plan, you should think to yourself, How amazing are you Lord to figure out how to do all this!

This is exactly what caused King David to declare, Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable” (Ps. 145:3). Think about how unsearchable is God’s greatness. He is an everlasting God who has created all things and who dwells in eternity. How can a finite human being ever tell an infinite God, who knows all things, what to do? His wisdom and judgments are unsearchable and His ways past finding out! Why are His ways past finding out? In comparison, I would have to have the same ability to see every person’s heart, know everything that they have ever done, or will ever do. In addition, I would have to be able to know God’s eternal plan for every person on the earth, and how each person’s life will affect all those around them to understand His ways. This means I should never tell God, “That wasn’t a good decision you just made in that person’s life.” To do so would reveal the height of your arrogance and lack of understanding of the God of heaven!

However, when I tell people that God’s judgments and ways are past finding out, sometimes a person will respond, “Well if this is true, then how can I know or find out anything about God’s plan?” The answer is very simple. It is by the grace of God that you come to know anything about Him or His plan for your life. How does the Lord reveal this grace toward you? The Lord first gives revelation to you by the people He sends to you that preach the Gospel to you (Rom. 10:14). Once you receive Christ by faith, He then reveals His truth by His Spirit through the Word of God, so you can know things that others cannot know (Eph. 3:19). Remember, you can’t entirely search out a matter or completely know God’s ways, but you can see them sufficiently to be humbled by what you do understand. Knowing yourself, you should wonder at the fact that He would ever love you, or that He still loves you after all your sinful practices (John 3:16). You should be amazed that He would choose to pursue you and redeem you (Eph. 1:4-7). You should be astounded by the fact that He is patient with you in spite of all your failings (Rom. 15:5). Therefore, the next time you are tempted to counsel God and tell Him what He should do, you should rather say to Him, “Lord, You know what is right. You know what is best, and I trust You to do that. Help me by your grace to hear what You are saying to me, and to be obedient to do it, and to trust You for the rest that I don’t understand.”

You should praise Him when you realize His unparalleled gifts can never be repaid.

When you realize the reality of who God is in all His power and greatness, you naturally conclude that you cannot counsel Him. You will also come to the understanding that you can never out give God. Why? Because God has already given to you His best and greatest gift that could ever be given, Jesus Christ. God has also declared that He will never be your debtor (Rom. 4:1-5; Eph. 2:8-9). This is why Paul declares in verse 35, “Who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” Now, consider, could you ever repay God for what He has given to you? There is no way you could even come close to repaying God for all He has bestowed upon you. He has given the greatest and the ultimate gift, Jesus Christ! Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” This is exactly what Jesus did. He has given to you the greatest love that could ever be given. There is no way that you could ever pay Him back with a gift equal to His. No one could ever equal His giving to them. This is why we praise Him for His unparalleled gift to us. This is why the psalmist asked, “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people” (Ps. 116:12-14). This is the question, and here is the answer. If you want to render something back to God for all His benefits toward you, then simply fall on your knees before Him, and call upon His Name. Take the salvation He is offering to you and fulfill the vows of love and service you have professed to Him.

There is one thing to remember when you consider giving to God. Listen to what the Lord says to Job. “Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11). This is quite a statement. Since there is no man who has preceded the Lord in existence, then God owes no man anything. Then God says, “Everything under heaven is Mine.” This makes it pretty clear to me that there is nothing I can ever give to God that He has not already first given to me, because it all belongs to Him. All that I possess belongs to God, because He is the One who created it. My life belongs to Him, my possessions and all my silver and gold is His (Eze. 18:4; Hag. 2:8; Ps. 50:12; Ps. 50:10). God repeats this message over and over again throughout the Scripture. If we truly understood this truth that all belongs to Him, giving back our tithe of ten percent to God, would be a natural and easy thing for those who believe.

We should praise Him because everything with salvation is through Him.

Last, Paul summarizes his thoughts by declaring, For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). What does Paul mean by this statement? I believe that this is one of the most important truths declared by Paul, and it should help us all to follow Him without stress. Paul is simply asserting that God is the source of all things, He is the means of all things, and He is the goal of all things. Everything is of Him, through Him, and brings Him glory forever and ever. Everything doesn’t come from me, but from Him. He is the One who is the source of the plan to save mankind. He is the One who worked that plan of salvation by coming to this world, living, revealing the truth to men, dying on a cross, and coming to life again. He thought the plan up, executed the plan, and brought ultimate glory to Himself by fulfilling His plan. He is the source of all things; He is the means by which all things find their fulfillment; and He and His glory are the ultimate goal of all things. 

The problem for us as human beings is that we get this exactly backwards. The natural man thinks that he is the source of all things, that man is sufficient in himself to do whatever he plans, and his own pleasure and fulfillment is the goal. Men think, I am the captain of my ship, and I can do as I please because it is my life. However, this thinking will only bring trouble to a person’s soul, trials to their life, and death to their eternal soul at the end of their lives. However, for a believer, when you understand this truth and recognize that the Lord is the source of your salvation, you will trust Him to work out His plan in your life. Then you will find real peace. You must come to the realization that you are not the center of all things. If you haven’t come to this conclusion yet, this is why your life is a struggle. This is why Jesus sought to redirect His disciple’s attention when He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” promising that all the rest of a person’s needs would be taken care of by Him (Matt. 6:33). In other words, Jesus was saying, “Put Me and My Kingdom first, trust Me as your source, trust Me to give you the power of My Spirit to be your means, and make pleasing Me the goal and the end of all that you do. When you do that, I’ll take care of the rest of the stuff that you are so concerned about.” That is where real life will begin. 

Some of you are thinking right now, How do I do this? All you need to do is surrender yourself in prayer to Him and acknowledge that He is the source and the One who has saved you. He is the One who is doing the work inside you to transform you, and He is the reason and the end purpose for which you live. It is important to notice the context of these words of Paul. What is Paul trying to get you to do? He wants you to surrender yourself to God. If you doubt that this is what Paul is trying to get you to do, simply look at the very next verse in Romans 12:1. What is God’s command there? Present and offer yourself as a living sacrifice to the Lord. This is the point of Paul’s closing message of Roman’s 11. The Lord wants you to acknowledge His position in your life. Do you see Him as your source of life and salvation? Do you acknowledge to Him daily that without Him you could not live the Christian life? Do you tell the Lord that all you want to do in life is to bring glory to Him? Does He have that position today in your life? If you are reading this and are not a Christian today, I encourage you to stop and consider what God has done for you. He can and will change your life and forgive your sins, if you will simply respond to His invitation to come to Him. You must willingly receive Him by faith, because He will not force His way into your life. You must ask for His mercy, and then receive His mercy! Scripture declares, “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). My encouragement to you is, please do not miss the grace and mercy God wants to give you because your pride won’t allow you to humble yourself to ask.

If you do recognize the Lord as the source of life, the means to gain life, and that the ultimate goal of your life is to bring glory to Him, then the fruit of the Spirit will be overflowing your heart at this moment. Yielding to a sovereign God who has all power and wisdom, and who loves you so much to send His Son to redeem you, you can be assured that He can be trusted to handle the affairs of your life. Praise Him for what He has done, and surrender to Him as Lord right now!