The riches, wisdom & knowledge of God

The depth of god’s riches

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 57a of 83

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).  

We have just completed our study of the apostle Paul’s dissertation on how God is dealing with the nation of Israel under the new covenant.

In this chapter, he shows us how God in His wisdom cast away the nation of Israel to punish them for their apostasy. But He did so, also so that the apostles would be thrust out into the world to call in His elect Gentiles. Then He grafts in the Gentiles to provoke the ethnic Jews to anger and jealousy as part of their punishment. But He also did so in order that His elect Jews might be brought in to the Olive Tree again in a way that is unmistakably by God’s mercy and grace, —so that no one can boast!

With this, the apostle Paul has completed the section of this letter in which his focus has largely been on theology and doctrine.

We can imagine how Paul must have felt. He has been, as it were, pouring out all that the Lord has taught him concerning Himself. As he did so, his heart must have been filling up with amazement and gratitude as he put to writing all that the Lord was revealing to Him.

Therefore, now as he completes his last sentence in the doctrinal section of this letter, his heart must have been like a dam ready to burst forth.

And burst forth, it did—in the form of a doxology, even a word of praise overflowing from a heart overwhelmed with awe and wonder.

This doxology would, no doubt, have been in response to the whole of Romans 11, and to the whole of 9-11—in which God reveals how He had from all eternity appointed some to life and others to death.

Indeed, this doxology must also have been in response to the whole counsel of God’s revelation in this book up till now.  Chapter 11, after all, caps the doctrinal section of this book!

So the doxology which are considering is an eruption of praise on account of God wisdom and power displayed in His wonderful work of redeeming us —whether in election, regeneration, justification, sanctification, adoption or glorification.

Now, because this doxology is an overflow if the heart, it is difficult to expound on it systematically without spoiling its beauty.

But there are essentially three inter-related ideas presented in it.

Consider first,…

1.  The DEPTH 
of God’s Riches, Wisdom & Knowledge

The apostle is standing at the edge of the well that contains all that God has revealed concerning himself.

He is peering into it. He is amazed by what he sees. He cannot see the bottom of the well, for the well is very deep. But what he sees fills his heart with wonder. His heart overflows with praise.

33a O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

Or literally in the Greek: “O the depth of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.”

The words “both of” in our version is a simple ‘and’ (καὶ, kai) in the Greek.

Three things about God amaze Paul.

First, he sees how deep God’s riches are. What are God’s riches?

God’s riches are not merely what He possesses outside himself. Yes, the psalmist speaks of God owning the cattle upon a thousand hills. Yes, all things in this entire universe belong to God for He made all things.

But Paul is, no doubt, speaking of riches that go beyond the created things in this universe—whether seen or unseen. Surely he is speaking rather of God perfections or virtues. Material things are not true riches. God’s grace, love, mercy, justice, holiness, righteousness, long-suffering: these are the true riches. No man is truly rich until he comes into possession of these things.

God has revealed His true riches in His Word as well as His work in our salvation.

God alone can give us true riches in Christ. Paul puts forward this truth beautifully in Ephesians 1:6-7 where he declares that God…

“…hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

And again in Ephesians 2:6-7, he asserts that God…

“…hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

Paul’s heart is overwhelmed as he contemplates on the depth of God’s riches which he is ready to bestow upon His Church through Christ. “O the depth of the riches … of God!

And that is not only of the riches of God in general. Paul is also amazed at the depth of the knowledge and wisdom of God.

There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. To know is to penetrate into the nature and purpose of things.

God knows all things because He decreed all things, made all things and brings all things to past. God has all things in His mind eternally… whether of things past, present or future, seen or unseen. God knows them perfectly. His knowledge is perfect and complete. He cannot know more than what He already knows! He learns nothing new for He knows all things before they are revealed. We cannot hide anything from Him. He knows our heart and our thought more we do ourselves. He is omniscient.

Wisdom is different from knowledge. God is wise in that He exercises perfect prudence and forethought in His ordering of all things to serve His holy purposes.

We catch a glimpse of God’s wisdom when we see how God makes the worst things imaginable turn out for the good of His saints. By inexplicable heat and pressure, God makes coal into diamonds. Joseph must go from prison to palace. Israel must go from slavish toil to lavish enjoyment in the land flowing with milk and honey. Jonah must be swallowed by a whale to be saved.

God works in mysterious ways, which redounds to the glory of His wisdom. He brings order out of confusion; harmony out of discord; good out of evil; and riches out of poverty.

Do you not see it? Through the jealousy of the priests and the treachery of Judas, God brought redemption to the world. He makes us rich, by making Christ poor. He makes us His sons and daughters by heaping His wrath upon His only begotten Son. He makes us hope by making us despair of ourselves.

He cast away the Jews that He might call the Gentile. He engraft the Gentiles into the Olive Tree that to provoke the elect Jews to repentance and faith.

O the depth of riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!

Is this not how you feel about God dear reader? As you see the truth that is revealed in the Scriptures unfolding before your eyes is not your heart overwhelmed as the apostle’s heart is.

As you look at the depth and beauty of all that God is revealing, are you not amazed and thrilled in your heart? Do you not find yourself speechless, and struck with awe and wonder?

Do you not find your heart and mind so overwhelmed with such marvel that you just want to sing praises to our Great God of wonder.

The apostle seems to have felt this way even as he pens this doxology.

But after his very terse statement, he expands on it to express how God is entirely independent of man or any other creature.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim