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The Highest Peak of Divine Truth

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 11:33–36

It is impossible with our finite minds to fully grasp the mind and ways of God. But the Bible makes this much very clear: Who God is and what He has done—and is doing—demands that we give Him all glory, forever.


The apostle Paul has spent eleven chapters on the Christian’s beliefs; now he is ready to begin writing about the Christian’s behavior. He is going to move from principles to practices. But first, we need to sail back, one more time, into Romans 11 and the last few verses.

It is as if Paul has climbed a mountain range so far. He has scaled one doctrinal challenge after another; but now he has made it to the highest peak of divine truth, and it seems like he just wants to take it all in. 

He cannot move on just yet; he has seen the guilt of mankind and the grace of God; he has witnessed the corruption of society and the compassion of the Savior. Paul just seems a bit overwhelmed with the grace and power and justice and sovereignty and love and mercy of God.

So, Paul will end this major section of inspired Scripture with a burst of joy and a grand doxology of praise.

The first thing Paul celebrates about God is this: When it comes to the wisdom of God, it is immeasurable. Paul writes in verse 33, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”

His divine knowledge is comprehensive. God knows everything there is to know, and He has always known it. Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God? God has never learned anything—He has always known everything.

Paul cries down from the mountain peak of inspiration—down to where you and I are muddling through the shadows—and he says, “Take courage!” While you cannot measure the depth of God’s wisdom, you can be sure He knows everything about you—where you live, where you work, who you are married to, and everything about your children. He is never surprised. And you will never be abandoned.

Second, Paul effectively celebrates this thought: When it comes to the decisions of God, they are unsearchable. Paul writes in verse 33, “How unsearchable are his judgments!”

The word for “judgments” (krima) generally stands for judicial verdicts or decrees of God. Paul says they are unsearchable. This is another way of saying there is no way you can fully figure out the decision-making process of God.

We are bound by time; He is boundless in eternity. We are like spiritual kindergartners, trying to spell out the mystery of God with alphabet blocks—and we are missing some of the letters.

Be encouraged. Paul is missing some letter blocks too. He cannot fully explain the mystery of God’s decrees; he can only express the truth of it. When it comes to the mind of God, it is immeasurable. When it comes to the decisions of God, they are unsearchable.

Here is a third celebration: When it comes to the ways of God, they are untraceable. Paul writes here at the end of verse 33, “How inscrutable [are] his ways!”

The Greek word for “inscrutable” literally refers to footprints that cannot be tracked. David writes about God this way in Psalm 77:19: “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”

It is as if Paul surveys the content of these first eleven chapters and concludes, “We haven’t seen anything yet. There is so much about God we have yet to learn!”

No wonder James Denney, the revered Scottish theologian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, used to warn his seminary students against thinking they could learn all there is to know about God. He would often say, “Gentlemen, to study infinity will require eternity.”[1]

Paul then asks two questions, quoting from two Old Testament books.

He refers first to Isaiah 40:13, as he writes, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34). Who has ever given God advice? Well, sometimes we do when we do not like what He is doing in our lives. We suggest His timing is late, His decisions are missing the mark. We can develop an attitude that we know better than God—a know-it-all air that betrays our pride.

I am reminded of Clifton Fadiman’s Little Brown Book of Anecdotes, where he tells the story of the heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, who was on an airplane that was preparing to take off. The stewardess came by and reminded him to fasten his seat belt. Ali looked up at her and said, “Superman doesn’t need a seat belt.” To which the quick-thinking stewardess replied, “Superman doesn’t need an airplane, either.” With that, the boxing champion buckled his seat belt.[2] And so should we.

The apostle Paul next draws upon Job 41:11 when he writes, “Who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” (verse 35). In other words, when did God ever borrow strength or resources from mankind that He must pay us back? Beloved, God does not owe us anything; we owe Him everything.

This reminded me of the missionary William Carey. After plodding twenty years translating the Bible into several languages in India, a fire destroyed all his work in one afternoon. Manuscripts of books and Bible translations—literally, decades of hard work—went up in the flames. Listen to what he wrote later:

To me, the consideration of God’s sovereignty and wisdom have [supported me] . . . by reading from Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God,” I meditated on two ideas:

First, that God has a sovereign right to do as He pleases.

And second, that I am to submit to whatever God does with me and to me.[3]

That is the kind of perspective you get on the mountaintop of inspired doctrine.

Paul now ends his doxology with familiar words: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (verse 36).

Paul praises God for three more things. First, he says God is the original source: “For from him”—literally, “out of Him”—“are all things.” He is the original source.

Second, Paul says God is the only channel: “For from him and through him.”

Third, God is the ultimate goal of all things. “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” That is, all the glory and praise go back to Him.

Beloved, we have to make a radical shift in our perspective. We are too earth-bound, too limited. We do not think enough of God’s glory.

Why did God create the heavens and the earth? Was it to give us a beautiful place to live? Yes, but greater than that, David wrote in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”

Why did Jesus Christ come into the world, live a sinless life, die on the cross, and rise from the dead? We would probably answer, “To save us from our sins.” And that is true, but there is a higher purpose, as Jesus Himself indicated. When He prayed in John 17:4, Jesus said to God the Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” The triune God received glory from the obedience of Christ.

What will we be saying one day when we stand before the throne of God? Will we be singing praises for how good God has been to us? Absolutely. But the lyrics of our song have already been provided in Revelation 5:13. We will be singing with all the redeemed, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever.”[4]

That is going to be our perspective from the mountain peaks of heaven. So, in the meantime, let us join Paul here as he ends his doxology to God the only appropriate way: “To him be glory forever. Amen.”

[1] Robert Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 351.

[2] Quoted in Charles Swindoll, Shedding Light on our Dark Side (Insight for Living, 1993), 85.

[3] Bill Mills and Craig Parro, Finishing Well (Leadership Resources, 1999), 101.

[4] See James Montgomery Boice, Romans: An Expositional Commentary, Volume 3 (Baker, 1993), 1435.

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