The Riches, Wisdom & Knowledge Of God
God’s Absolute Independence

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 57b 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 are looking at the concluding doxology of the doctrinal section of Paul’s letter to the Romans. In our previous instalment, we considered what Paul means in the first half of verse 33 where he declares: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” In this second instalment, we will study the rest of verse 33 until verse 35. In particular we want to appreciate Paul declaration of God’s absolute independence]

2. God’s Absolute Independence

Man is a finite creature of dust. But he is made of proud dust—soft clay that is always thinking that he is as great as God. But when we consider who God really is, we are humbled to the dust. Thus as soon as Paul speaks of the depth of the riches, knowledge and wisdom of God, so soon he would have us know that we contribute precisely nothing to God’s riches, knowledge and wisdom.

Consider the knowledge of God. God’s knowledge is so deep it cannot be fathomed by man. No one can fully know everything that God knows.

Indeed no one even knows fully all that God has done and is doing, not to mention understands God’s ways.

This is a truth that God’s people have always acknowledged. No one who knows God will think that God is comprehensible to finite mind. No one who has contemplated about God will exclaim: Eureka! I have figured Him out completely.

33b how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.

Paul is, no doubt, conflating a few passages in the Old Testament.  Zophar says in Job 11:7-9—

7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? 8 It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?  9 The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.

How true. If we want to find out God, we must know all by which God reveals himself, such as His judgements.

What are God’s judgements? They are His decisions with regard to men—including his reasons for sending against men calamities such as earthquake, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes, accidents, etc. God sends these things in judgement. O how little we understand of these extraordinary events! His ways are incomprehensible. We can have a taste or appreciation of it, but no one can fully comprehend all that God is doing.

Consider the words of Job in response to Bildad, Job 26:13—

13 By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent. 14 Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?

God makes the stars to shine. He makes the serpents to glide. Even if we can understand how these things work, we would still have known only a little sliver of God’s wisdom. His wisdom is like the loud explosion of thunder, but we hear only a whisper.

Many millennium have passed by since God created man. Man has expended no effort to try to understand how things work. We have made great advances. But still we know next to nothing when we consider how much there is that remains to be discovered in the universe.

 “O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep” (Ps 92:5).

O the depth of the knowledge of God! How then can we presume to teach God anything or inform God of anything?

But consider also His wisdom—

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Paul is quoting from Isaiah 40:13—

“Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” (Isa 40:13).

Not only are we unable to plumb the depth of God’s knowledge, we are not able to understand why God does what He does.

No one can know the mind of the Lord.

And no one “has been God’s counsellor” for no one can know as much as God, or is as wise as God. So no one can nor should attempt to advise God.

When we understand this truth, we would not pray in a way as to tell God what to do. We can only pour out our desire to the Lord and say: “Not my will but thy will be done!”

We must never be arrogant in prayer: “Lord: shrink her tumour by the end of this week!” “Lord, convert him this night because it may be his last chance!” “Lord, give me this job: You can see that this is the best job for me.” God will never answer prayers like this. We must never presume to teach God what to do. We don’t know His mind, we cannot be His counsellor.

And neither can we add to the riches of God.

35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again.

The apostle is paraphrasing the words of God in Job 41:11—

“Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.”

God owes no one anything. He does not owe me anything. He does not owe you anything.

He receives nothing from anyone. Instead, all that we have come from Him. When we know that all that we have come from God, we understand how foolish it is to speak of giving to the Lord or doing anything for the Lord. In the final analysis, we give nothing to the Lord; we do nothing for the Lord.

Our Lord teaches us this truth in Luke 17:10—

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

We are unprofitable servants. We can never go to God and say: “I have done this for you” or “I have given that!” Whatever you can give to God is but a dew drop against an ocean. Whatever you can do for God you do it with the strength He gives you.

Dear reader, have you come to understand this truth in our study of the book of Romans?

All correct view of Christian doctrine should produce the feelings of awe and wonder expressed by the apostle in these words.

True doctrine humbles man and brings him to marvel at God’s glory. False doctrine exalts man by ascribing their salvation, at least in part, to his own power and merit.

True doctrine acknowledges that God is everything while man is nothing. False doctrine deifies man and makes God an idol.

If God is not as great as can be in your thinking, you do not know the God of the Bible. If your god is dependent upon you and needs you, He is not the God of the Bible. I once heard a preacher says that you like a premature baby in God’s hand, and yet he needs you. The picture is powerful: it is true that we are that helpless. But no, no; God does not need us. We are nothing, He is everything.

The very fact that we can know Him and enjoy Him is by His gracious condescension. Nothing comes from us, we deserve nothing, and are nothing.

On the other hand,…

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim