Sunday, August 18, 2013
Vol. II — Chapter 11 — Romans 11: 28 – 36
Vol. II — Chapter 11 — Romans 11: 28 – 36
HATED YET BELOVED: THE SOVEREIGN GOD
Romans 11:28-36 (28) As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. (29) For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (30) For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief. (31) Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. (32) For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (33) O the depths 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 counselor? (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. A-men. These last 9 verses of Romans 11 describe the salvation of Jew and Gentile during the last 2,000 plus years and their being joined in the one Christian body, the Church — the body of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. “As concerning the gospel” of Christ — that instrument of free grace by which a new nation composed of Jew and Gentile is called out of the world and has taken the place of the disinherited national Israel, the Jewish nation has become an enemy of God (Matt. 21:42; 1 Thes. 2:15-16). . But “as touching the election” the elect remnant of the nation which is regenerated while the rest of the nation is blinded, they are beloved, and ever will be “beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” (1 Pet. 2:9-10). Being eager to promote their flawed theory of the idea of Jewish privilege unaltered by any fact of history or prophetical act of God, the opponents of what is here set forth will attempt to say that the “election” of verse 28 is not the same election of grace as in verse 5 of this chapter. They attempt to take this description from the elect to whom it belongs and give it to the nation as a whole, but seeing their theory falling to the ground they make an unscriptural attempt to ward off the fatal blow by saying this is only the “natural election” of the Jew to his original privileges. Such a position ignores the individual salvation of the hapless Jew who lives between A.D. 70 and whatever other date they deem to be convenient.
They fall into even greater problems, however, because the word is, “As touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.” What they are trying to say is that because the Jews are the direct descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the nation as a nation is still elect and beloved by God. In their application they mistake wrath and judgment for love. What kind of “love” is this which condemns an embittered, ungodly nation of proud unbelievers to 2,000+ years of dire temporal judgment, and then to eternal judgment? Is this to be “beloved for the fathers' sakes?” No, for the apostle consistently uses the word “election” throughout this chapter, this epistle, and all his writings as pertaining to all God’s chosen ones, Jew and Gentile. This verse is speaking as descriptive of that continuing “remnant according to the election of grace” of which the apostle had spoken a few verses before. These are truly beloved for the fathers’ sakes, as they are grafted back in generation after generation, into the Olive Tree of the everlasting covenant of the Divine mercy in Christ, that the light of Abraham in his earthly seed might not be altogether gone out.
Verse 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. “For the gifts” of God are the special gifts of God, the gifts of grace, that Paul has been dealing with throughout this epistle. These are spiritual gifts, the saving benefits conferred by our Lord God on His elect (Rom. 5:15-16; 6:23). Justification, Sanctification, Election, Adoption, and in particular, effectual calling, are God’s love gifts wrought in the elect and they are all irrevocable. God never repents or changes His mind in the giving of them, nor do the elect in receiving them. It is certainly otherwise with the common gifts of God given to even natural men (1 Sam. 55:11).
In the good words of Herman Hoeksema, “They are all the blessings of God in Christ which He bestows upon His people to lift them out of the depth of their sin and shame and misery to the heights of heavenly perfection and glory. They include the gifts which Christ already merited and obtained for them through His suffering and death, His resurrection and exaltation: atonement, the blotting out of sin, eternal righteousness and life, the adoption unto children and heirs. And they also include the subjective application and realization of this glorious grace unto all the elect through the Spirit of Christ, so that they are quickened from death unto life, translated from darkness into light, justified by faith, sanctified through the indwelling Spirit, preserved in the power of God, so that they persevere unto the end, and, finally, glorified in the resurrection of life and made possessors of the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that fadeth not away.”
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” This is proven by the continuing and sure mercy of God to all the elect, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Will our opponents deny that this calling is “effectual calling” and “final perseverance”? Are they going to say that this is a national gift and calling to the earthly Jew? Where is the evidence of it in 2,000+ years past, and what worth is it to those countless millions of Jews who have perished in unbelief during that period of time—a period that has lasted longer than their previous “national history”?
“And calling of God,” the call which the sinner called “hears” with his innermost being so distinctly that he knows that he has heard from the Lord, and it causes him to cry out as Paul on the road to Damascus, “Who art thou, Lord . . . what wilt thou have me to do?” This call, which is spoken as “heavenly” (Heb. 3:1), as “holy” (1 Tim. 1:9), as” being without repentance” (Rom. 11:29), is “according to God’s purpose” (Rom. 8:28), is “from above in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Phil. 3:14). He that calls by this call is God in Christ (John 5:25), not the minister. It is only and always effectual as “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (John 6:37). When Paul uses the term “calling” he is always referring to efficacious calling which is joined to regeneration by the Holy Ghost.
“Without repentance” here speaks of the irretractable nature of the gifts and calling of God in the elect. God does withdraw benefits when they are abused, but they are not so by the true spiritual Israel, Jew and Gentile. To them the gifts and calling of God is without repentance or change of mind (Num. 23:19). True believers are certainly preserved unto eternal salvation by the power of God, and never shall one of them fall from grace, and finally perish (1 Pet. 1:4-5). All of those whom God foreknew, and ordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, He also called, and justified, and glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). Absolutely nothing can separate real believers from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39). Our Lord Christ came to do the will of the Father that sent Him; “and this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:39). His sheep hear His voice, and He knows them, and they shall follow Him; and He gives them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man ever plunk them out of His hand. The Father Who gave Him the sheep is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of His Father’s hand. He and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30).
God, Who began the good work in His people, will perform and perfect it, until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). The deepest source and ground of this truth of the assurance and certain perseverance of the saints is the truth of sovereign election.
Verse 30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief. “For as ye in times past have not believed God. The Gentile mercy is the free Gospel grace extended to the elect of all nations in Christ. The Jewish remnant of believers (as an election of grace indeed) has obtained mercy at the same place where it is freely opened to the elect Gentiles. There is, for both, a common mercy seat where all questions of birth and privilege are obliterated, and where they are received who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13). That order will never be put aside, and under it the Jew can never regain his lost precedence!
“For as ye in times past have not believed God.” Ye, Gentiles, in the time past have not believed God (Eph. 2:2, 12). Their case was similar to that of the branches that are now broken off out of the covenant olive tree. The times referred to are the times of ignorance, idolatry, and superstition: when God suffered the Gentiles, for many hundreds of years, to walk in their own ways (see Romans 1:18-32). They had “not believed,” for although the Word of God came to them in times past, they refused both to believe and obey (Col. 3:6-7). And when Christ came to earth to lighten the Gentiles and sent His Gospel among them, they were found to be covenant breakers.
“Yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief.” Although the elect were “children of wrath even as others” (Eph. 2:2-3), disobedient, unbelieving, enemies according to the holy Word of God, they were beloved according to God’s election. By His pure sovereign grace and rich and abundant mercy they were regenerated, effectually called and converted; granted repentance unto life; and saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ was wrought by the Holy Ghost in their hearts, as the Lord applied pardoning grace through the blood of the Lamb to them. This came to the Gentiles through the unbelief of the Jews, but their unbelief certainly was not the cause of the elect Gentiles obtaining mercy. The Jews, rejecting the Messiah and refusing to “have this God-Man spiritually reign over them” (Luke 14:27), hating, contradicting, and blaspheming His Gospel, had it taken from them, and carried to the Gentiles. As John Gill said, “the unbelief of the Jews was the occasion and means, in Providence, of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, whereby faith came. (see Romans 11:11 ) . This mercy they are said to enjoy "now"; for the present time of the Gospel is the dispensation of mercy to the Gentiles.” We simply add, this present time of the Gospel is the time of mercy to all the elect, Jews and Gentiles alike.
Verse 31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. “Even so have these also now not believed.” Just as the Gentiles in times past have not believed, neither have the Jews. They both refused to believe and obey, and they will not be persuaded by the preached Word of God, and none ever will by nature (Rom. 10:16). They are spiritually blind; the veil is over their hearts. Though they believe there is a God, only one true God, yet they do not believe God in Christ, or that Christ is the only begotten Son of God, the true Messiah and Saviour of the elect world.
“That through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.” God in His mercy raises the sinner out of the depth of his misery and death into the blessedness of eternal life and Heavenly glory through Jesus Christ our Lord. “Your mercy” is the mercy of God that the elect sinner has received. It is not through the mercy the Gentiles show to others, but which they have received of God; and principally intends faith, which springs from the mercy of God, and is a gift of his pure, free, rich grace; and stands opposed to the unbelief of the Jews, through which the Gentiles are said to obtain mercy; and the meaning: is, that in time to come, the Jews, observing the mercy obtained and enjoyed by the Gentiles, will be provoked to jealousy, and stirred up to an emulation of them, to seek for the same mercy at the same hands, and in the same way, they have had it; (Rom. 11:11). The calling of the redeemed is to show forth the wondrous grace our Lord has shown us, to speak of it, to profess it, to glorify it, to rejoice in it, to manifest the fruits of God’s mercy in our confession and walk, to declare it, that although in times past we have not believed God, yet according to His sovereign election, effectual call, and redeeming grace we have now obtained mercy. So by the instrumentality of believing Gentiles shall all Israel, elect Jews and elect Gentiles, be saved.
Verse 32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. “God hath concluded them all in unbelief:” God is not the Author of unbelief or any other sin in man, but finding them in it, leaves them in such a state. To be “concluded in unbelief” is the same as to be “concluded under sin” (gal. 3:22), or thoroughly convinced of sin — in its captivity, and see that there is no way to escape the deserved punishment, or to obtain salvation, but by fleeing to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scripture here tells us that the entire world, Jew and Gentile, has been shut up together in a state of unbelief, that all the elect, regardless of national origin or who their fathers were, may obtain from salvation by the sovereign mercy of God. God’s election of grace and salvation has in it no precedence, privilege or national history.
“For it is the mercy of God alone which saves; and this offers itself to both. This sentence then corresponds with the testimony of Hosea, which he had before quoted, “I will call those my people who were not my people.” But he does not mean, that God so blinds all men that their unbelief is to be imputed to him; but that he hath so arranged by his providence, that all should be guilty of unbelief, in order that he might have them subject to his judgment, and for this end, — that all merits being buried, salvation might proceed from his goodness alone. Paul then intends here to teach two things — that there is nothing in any man why he should be preferred to others, apart from the mere favor of God; and that God in the dispensation of his grace, is under no restraint that he should not grant it to whom he pleases. There is an emphasis in the word mercy; for it intimates that God is bound to none, and that he therefore saves all freely, for they are all equally lost. But extremely gross is their folly who hence concludes that all shall be saved; for Paul simply means that both Jews and Gentiles do not otherwise obtain salvation than through the mercy of God, and thus he leaves to none any reason for complaint. It is indeed true that this mercy is without any difference proclaimed to all, but every one must seek it by faith.” (John Calvin).
Verse 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! “The great chapter ends with verses 33-36, and it “concludes with one of the grandest perorations in all literature, human or Divine, as Paul praises and extols the vast wisdom of God in thus working out through all the chequered history of our race, a sure, perfect and eternal salvation, to the praise of the glory of Divine grace eternally.” (Charles D. Alexander).
“O the depth of the riches” — in Scripture when “riches” is employed in connection with spiritual and Divine things, it is for the purpose of emphasizing the excellency and copiousness of them. Therefore we read of God being “rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4), of the “riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7), of the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8), and “the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” The “riches” of God is properly expressive of the immense possessions of the Divinity.
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom;” the profoundest creature wisdom deserves not the name of it when compared with the wisdom of God, which is an unfathomable deep. All creature wisdom is imparted by the Lord, while His wisdom is original, essential, and incapable of addition or diminution. The “wisdom” of God is that attribute by which He chooses the best ends, and seeks these by the best means. His wisdom being infinite leads Him to choose good and proper ends, also fit and appropriate means to accomplish His ends. In creation His wisdom made all (Psa. 104:24), and in redemption He abounded towards His elect in all wisdom (Eph. 1:8). In His infinite wisdom He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), as He is wise in counsel.
In the hidden wisdom of the Eternal God, all is comprehended and arranged, yet without relieving the creature of moral responsibility, so that by His vast and majestic control all things contribute at last to the display of the Divine glory and the working out of the plan of the redemption of His elect. This survey of God’s Divine purpose evoked in Paul a profound feeling of awe and worship and adoration. When finite understanding encounters Infinite Wisdom the only proper response is one of unqualified wonder and worship.
Jonathan Edwards explained why Jesus Christ must be understood to be the wisdom of God. Consider carefully the Scripture proofs to which he appeals, and then compare them to what Paul says in Colossians 2:2-3: “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” “Christ is called ‘the wisdom of God.’ If we are taught in the Scripture that Christ is the same with God’s wisdom or knowledge, then it teaches us that He is the same with God’s perfect and eternal idea. They are the same as we have already observed and I suppose none will deny. But Christ is said to be the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:24, Luke 11:49, compare with Matt. 23:34); and how much doth Christ speak in Proverbs under the name of Wisdom, especially in the 8th chapter.” (Jonathan Edwards).
How full of consolation is the doctrine, that God’s infinite wisdom directs every event, brings order out of confusion, and light out of darkness, and, to the saints of God who love Him, causes all things, whatever be their present aspect and apparent tendency, to work together for good (Rom. 8:28).
“And knowledge of God.” God knows everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events, all creatures, of the past, present, and future. The God of creation, the God of the Bible, is omniscient. Nothing escapes His notice, nothing can be hidden from Him, and there is nothing forgotten by Him. His knowledge is perfect. He never errs, never changes, and never overlooks anything. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). In His “knowledge” He possess perfect acquaintance with the nature, properties, and connections of all beings and events. He “Knoweth all things” (1 John 3:20). The extent of His knowledge is unlimited. The thoughts of every mind He understands, and the secrets of every heart he fully searches (Isa. 66:18; Psa. 44:21).
“How unsearchable are his judgments.” God’s judgments are His eternal determinations — His eternal plan of procedure — His purpose, purposed in Himself. They are His decrees, His just, wise, and holy purpose or plan by which eternally, and within Himself, He determines all things whatsoever that come to pass. And His judgments are unsearchable. It is impossible for us to discover them or know them unless He reveals them to us. Even when He is pleased to reveal them to us there is a depth of wisdom in them which even the redeemed human intellect cannot fathom or grasp. It is impossible for any created intelligence to comprehend the variety and extent of God’s decreed designs.
For the following we leaned heavily upon J. P. Boyce. God’s decrees are: I. Eternal (Acts 15:18; Eph. 3:11; 1 Pet. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:9). II. Immutable (Psa. 33:11; Isa 46:9). III. Comprehend all events (Dan 4:34-35; Acts 17:26); Includes fortuitous events (Prov. 16:33; Matt. 10:29-30); the free acts of men (Eph. 2:10-11; Phil. 2:13); the wicked actions of men (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 13:29; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4). IV. The decrees of God are not conditional. (Psa. 33:11; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 14: 24, 27; 46:10; Rom. 9:11). V. They are sovereign (Isa. 40:13-14; Dan. 4:35; Matt. 11: 25-26; Eph. 1: 5, 11). VI. They include the means ((Eph. 1:4; 2 Thes. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2). VII. God Himself works faith, repentance and obedience in His people (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 2:13; 2 Tim. 2:25). VIII. The decree renders the event certain (Matt. 16:21; Luke 18:31-33; 24:46; Acts 2:23; 13:29; 1 Cor. 11:19). IX. God decrees the acts of men and these men are responsible (Gen. 50:20; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27-28).
“And his ways past finding out.” God’s ways are the executions of His judgments or purposes — His providential dispensations. His “ways” are “past finding out.” They are not as our ways, but differ from them as much as the heavens are higher than the earth. Both the regenerate man and the unregenerate are subject to certain limitations, not altogether the result of sin, but as inherent in the face that man is a creature. “Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?” (Job. 11:7). “Behold, God is great, and we know him not, neither can the number of his years be searched out” (Job. 26:26). “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psa. 139:6). “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9). “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in man? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11).
We must not reach the conclusion that man is totally ignorant and that no matter how diligently he searches the Scripture, he will never get the least glimmering of God’s thought. In the very passage which says that no man knows the things of God, there is clear statement that what the eye of man has not seen and what the heart of man has never grasped has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:9-12).
Verse 34. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Bringing to a close Paul’s long argument on pure, free sovereign grace, Paul asks, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?” The meaning of this is, is it impossible to bring the Almighty under obligations to the creature. This quote of Paul’s is in reference to Isaiah 40:13-14: “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” It is a negative question that demands the answer, “no man, no angel (good or bad), for there is none that can search out His judgments, or find out His ways. This is a rebuke to the unbelieving Jews and arrogant rebels of every race who would dare find fault with God’s method of justification — so different from anything which the puny, corrupt mind of man could conceive. How dare the creature criticize and quarrel with God’s plan, purpose and method of saving sinners, and take issue with Him and refuse to submit to Him. How dare sinful men refuse to bow in reverence of Him, and question and slight His wisdom and power, His righteousness and pure grace, and stand in arrogant, foolish admiration of their own supposed wisdom. God’s plans and methods in the dispensation of His grace have a reach of comprehension and wisdom stamped upon them which finite mortals cannot fathom.
"Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor hath taught him?" This strong statement shows the infinite wisdom and knowledge of God, by affirming that no being could teach Him, or counsel Him (Job 15:8). Earthly monarchs have counselors of state, whom they may consult in times of perplexity or danger. But God has no such council. He sits alone; nor does He call in any or all of His creatures to advise Him. All created beings are not qualified to contribute anything to enlighten or to direct Him. This statement is also designed to silence all opposition to our Lord’s plans, and to hush all murmurings. The apostle had proved that this was the plan of God. However mysterious and inscrutable it might appear to the Jew or the Gentile, yet it was his duty to submit to God, and to confide in His wisdom, though he was not able to trace the reason of His doings (1 Cor. 2:16)..
The intentions of our Lord’s mind, the thoughts of His heart, and the counsels of His will: these could never have been known, if he had not revealed them; nor can the doctrines relating to them, though externally revealed, be known by the natural man, but only by the light of the Spirit of God; who searches them, and makes them known in a spiritual manner to spiritual men, who have a spiritual, God given discerning of them; and yet even by these they are not known perfectly, only in part, and are seen through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12).
“As it is the tendency and result of all correct views of Christian doctrine to produce the feelings expressed by the apostle at the close of this chapter, those views cannot be scriptural which have a contrary tendency; or which lead us to ascribe, in any form, our salvation to our own merit or power” (Charles Hodge).
Verse 35. Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? The thought in this verse is found substantially in Job 41:11: “Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him.” The Hebrew word “prevented” means to anticipate, going before; and God asks who has anticipated me; who has conferred favors on me before I have on him; who has thus laid me under obligation to him. This is the sense in which the apostle uses the word here. Who has, by his services, laid God under obligation to recompense or pay him again? It is added in Job, “Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.” No man can give God anything, which the Lord has not first given to him, or which the man has a prior right to. Thus Paul, contrary to the prevailing doctrine of the Jews, shows that no one could plead his own merits, or advance with a claim on God. All the good works of man, their best duties and services, give nothing to God, nor lay Him under any manner of obligation to them. All the favors of salvation must be bestowed by sovereign mercy or grace. God owned them all; and He had a right to bestow them when and where He pleased. The same claim to all things is repeatedly made by God (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1; Psalm 50:12).
“Now this is a remarkable passage; for we are here taught, that it is not in our power to constrain God by our good works to bestow salvation on us, but that he anticipates the undeserving by his gratuitous goodness. But if we desire to make an honest examination, we shall not only find, that God is in no way a debtor to us, but that we are all subject to his judgment, — that we not only deserve no layout, but that we are worthy of eternal death. And Paul not only concludes, that God owes us nothing, on account of our corrupt and sinful nature; but he denies, that if man were perfect, he could bring anything before God, by which he could gain his favor; for as soon as he begins to exist, he is already by the right of creation so much indebted to his Maker, that he has nothing of his own. In vain then shall we try to take from him his own right, that he should not, as he pleases, freely determine respecting his own creatures, as though there was mutual debt and credit” (John Calvin).
Verse 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. A-men. The apostle Paul concludes the doctrinal part of this epistle with this magnificence, sublime doxology. This is the most comprehensive account of our God, in His relation to His works, that is anywhere to be met with. This grand truth lies at the foundation of pure religion. All things are “of him,” for He is the Author of all (Psa. 33:6). He is of none; He is the origin of them all; they originate in His will which is the origin of all existence (Acts 17:25, 26, 28). If they are creatures, He made them; if they are events, He ordered them; if they are causes, He rules them; if they are great, He is infinitely greater; if they are minute, they cannot escape His notice or His power (1 Cor. 8:6). But for Him they would have never been. All things are by or “through Him,” for He is Grand Agent that created all. He created all; He sustains all. All things are through Him, through His power, wisdom, justice or goodness (Col. 1:15-17).. All things are “to him,” and for Him, for all things are intended to manifest His glory, and will ultimately serve His purpose. For His pleasure and to show forth His glory all worlds and creatures were made, all causes are controlled, all events shaped, and all things tend. Our sovereign Creators will is Law, His glory the end, of the universe, of which He is the Creator, Supporter, and Proprietor (Psa. 96:7-8; 115:1).
“Are all things,” inasmuch as He brings all to pass which in His eternal counsels He purposed. That which pertains to the whole of creation applies with equal force to all the workings of Divine Providence. The beginning and the end, and the whole intervening career, of each person has been determined by his Maker. The rise, the progress, the height attained, and the entire history of every nation has been foreordained of God. Nations are but the aggregate of individuals comprising them.
“To whom be glory for ever.” The end and design of every Divine decree and act of Providence is God’s own glory (1 Tim. 1:17). A greater and grander end cannot be proposed that His own glory, God has set up that as the end of all His decrees and works. “The Lord hath made all things for himself” (Prov. 16:4) — for His own glory. As all things are made from Him as the first cause, so all things are to Him as the final end. The good of His people is but the secondary end; His own glory is the supreme end, and everything else is subordinate thereto. Regarding the elect, it is God’s amazing grace which will be magnified; regarding the reprobate His justice will be glorified (Heb. 13:21).
“All things therefore serve the glory of God, and there is a warranty written into creation that the will of God should finally and always prevail. What is the promise of the coming Redeemer in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament but the supreme example of Divine predestination? That Christ must die and that He must not die in vain but should have that for which He suffered is as certain a destiny as the life of God itself.
“There is no need to fear the doctrine of God’s eternal choice, when the alternative is total human apostasy. As to that which determines the Divine choice of the elect, it lies within ‘the good pleasure of His will.’ One thing is certain, and that is that it involves nothing of human merit but is all of grace.
“All mysteries will be solved in eternity. Till then the soul leans upon the Apostles conclusion of the whole matter (Rom. 11:33-36)” (Charles D. Alexander).
Worthy Doctrinal and Spiritual Notes and Quotes on Romans 11:28-36
Verse 28. So great is the depravity of unregenerate man that, although there is nothing that he needs more than the Gospel, there is nothing that he despises less. — R. B. Kuiper (1886-1966).
In whatever dunghill God’s jewels be hid, election will both find them out and fetch them out from hence. — John Arrowsmith (1602-1659).
ROM.11:5 ... This ‘remnant according to the election of grace’ is not cause for disputing and argument, but is the ground for much praise. There is in Heaven at this moment a precious Book, containing the names of all who were loved of the Father, redeemed by the Son and who have been or will be made partakers of the Holy Ghost. See Rev.20:15. Remember, this Book of Life is not only inclusive but exclusive as well. Just as there is a great multitude of elect sinners whose names were written in love in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, so there is a host of sinners who were never loved of God and whose names never appeared in this Book of Redemption. This is known as the doctrine of Reprobation; it is not man’s ‘hard doctrine’ or ‘high doctrine’ but is the manner of Jehovah’s sovereign, free dealing with His creature man. This is not based upon the deserts of fallen man, but upon God’s pure and absolute sovereignty. ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ — Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
Eternal love devised the plan; eternal wisdom drew the model; eternal grace comes down to build it. — Henry Law (1797-1884).
I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I would have never chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterward. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
The marvel of marvels is not that God, in His infinite love, has not elected all of this guilty race to be saved, but that He has elected any. — Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921).
Verse 29. God our Father hath given the Church nothing to have and hold forever but His dear Son; and this first and best comprehensive gift, which includes other, is given never to be recalled. — Robert Hawker (1753-1827).
A man may have much knowledge, much light; he may know much of God and His will, much of Christ and His ways, and yet be but almost a Christian. For though there can be no grace without knowledge, yet there may be much knowledge where there is no grace; illumination often goes before, when conversion never follows after. The subject of knowledge is the understanding; the subject of holiness is the will. Now a man may have his understanding enlightened, and yet his will not at all sanctified. How many have an understanding to know God, and yet lack a will to obey God. The apostle tells us of some that ‘when they knew God, they glorified him not as God.’
To make a man altogether a Christian, there must be light in the head, and heat in the heart; knowledge in the understanding, and zeal in the affections. Some have zeal and no knowledge, that is blind devotion; some have knowledge and no zeal, that is fruitless speculation; but where knowledge is joined with zeal, that makes a true Christian.
The saving knowledge of God and Christ includes the assent of the mind, and consent of the will; this is a knowledge that implies faith; ‘By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many.’ And this is that knowledge that leads to life eternal: now whatever that measure of knowledge is, which a man may have of God and of Jesus Christ, yet if it be not this saving knowledge — knowledge joined with affection and application — he is but almost a Christian. — Matthew Mead (1629-1699).
The ‘god’ of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday san. The ‘god’ who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible Conferences is the figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form ‘gods’ out of wood and stone, while the millions of heathens inside Christendom manufacture a ‘god’ out of their own carnal mind. In reality, they are but atheists, for there is no other possible alternative between an absolutely supreme God, and no God at all. A ‘god’ whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits naught but contempt. — A. W. Pink (1886-1952).
HOLY SPIRIT CONVICTION is not a little burden that you ought to do something, such as walk the aisle and make a decision; but true CONVICTION is the sinner facing the grim reality that he ought to be something that he isn’t — something that only God’s saving grace can make him to be.— Wylie W. Fulton (b. 1939).
Verse 30. I suppose that you are by this time convinced of your guilt and condemnation, and of your own inability to recover yourself. Let me nevertheless urge you to feel that conviction yet more deeply, and to impress it with yet greater weight upon your soul, that you have ‘undone yourself,’ and that ‘in yourself is not your help found’ (Hos. 13:9). Be persuaded therefore, expressly and solemnly and sincerely, to give up all self-dependence —which, if you do not guard against it, will be ready to return secretly before it is observed, and will lead you to at-tempt building up what you have just been destroying.
Be assured that if ever you are saved, you must ascribe that salvation entirely to the free grace of God. Guilty and miserable as you are, if you are not only accepted but crowned, you must ‘lay down your crown,’ with all humble acknowledgment, ‘before the throne’ (Rev. 4:10). ‘That no flesh should glory in his presence; but of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord’ (1 Cor. 1:29-31). And you must be sensible you are in such a state as, having none of these in yourself, you need them in Another. You must therefore be sensible that you are ignorant and guilty, polluted and enslaved; or as our Lord expresses it, with regard to some who were under a Christian profession, that as a sinner ‘you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked’ (Rev. 3:17).
If these views be deeply impressed upon your mind you will be prepared to receive what I am to say [on the way of salvation]. — Philip Doddridge (1702-1751).
WHO it is that convinces of sin — it is the Spirit of God. ‘He shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not in me,’ says our Lord. It is curious to remark, that wherever the Holy Ghost is spoken of in the Bible, He is spoken of in terms of gentleness and love. We often read of the wrath of God the Father, as in Romans 1: ‘The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.’ And we often read of the wrath of God the Son: ‘Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way;’ or that (He is to be) ‘Revealed from heaven in flaming wrath, taking vengeance.’ But we nowhere read of the wrath of God the Holy Ghost. He is compared to a dove, the gentlest of all creatures. He is warm and gentle as the breath: ‘Jesus breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.’ He is gentle as the falling dew: ‘I will be as the dew unto Israel.’ He is soft and gentle as oil, for He is called ‘The oil of gladness.’ The fine oil wherewith the high priest was anointed was a type of the Spirit. He is gentle and refreshing as the springing well: ‘The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life.’ He is called ‘the Spirit of grace and of supplications.’ He is nowhere called the Spirit of wrath. He is called the ‘Holy Ghost, which is the Comforter’ … Nowhere will you find one mark of anger or of vengeance attributed to Him; and yet, brethren, when this blessed Spirit begins His work of love, mark how He begins — He convinces of sin. Even He, all-wise, almighty, all-gentle and loving though He be, cannot persuade a poor sinful heart to embrace the Saviour, without first opening up His wounds, and convincing Him that He is lost.
Now brethren, I ask of you, Should not the faithful minister of Christ just do the very same? Ah! brethren, if the Spirit, whose very breath is all gentleness and love — whom Jesus hath sent into the world to bring men to eternal life — if He begins His work in every soul that is to be saved by convincing of sin, why should you blame the minister of Christ if he begins in the very same way? Why should you say that we are harsh, and cruel, and severe, when we begin to deal with your souls by convincing you of sin? ‘Am I become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?’ When the surgeon comes to cure a corrupted wound — when he tears off the vile bandages which unskillful hands had wrapped around it — when he lays open the deepest recesses of your wound, and shows you all its venom and its virulence — do you call him cruel? May not his hands be all the time the hands of gentleness and love? Or, when a house is on fire — when the flames are bursting out from every window — when some courageous man ventures to alarm the sleeping inmates — bursts through the barred door, tears aside the close-drawn curtains, and with eager handshakes the sleeper — bids him awake and flee — a moment longer, and you may be lost! — do you call him cruel? Or do you say this messenger of mercy spoke too loud, too plain? Ah, no. Why then, brethren, will you blame the minister of Christ when he begins by convincing you of sin? Think you that the wound of sin is less venomous or deadly than a wound in the flesh? Think you the flames of hell are less hard to bear than the flames of earth? The very Spirit of love begins by convincing you of sin; and are we less the messengers of love because we begin by doing the same thing? Oh, then, do not say that we are become your enemy because we tell you the truth! — Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843).
If the second birth hath no place in you, the second death shall have power over you. — William Dyer (1609-1676).
Verse 31. It is by the work of the Holy Spirit within us that we obtain a personal interest in the work wrought on Calvary for us. If our sins are cancelled, they are also crucified. If we are reconciled in Christ, we fight against our God no more. This is the fruit of faith. ‘With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.’ May the Lord inspire in every one of us that saving principle! — Christmas Evans (1766-1838).
REGENERATION is God's own work and is as unconditional in every case as it was in the case of Saul of Tarsus. God ‘for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ’ (Eph. 2:4-5). The apostle explains how this could be done — ‘by grace ye are saved.’ To save by grace means to save one who has no merit. The promise of old was, ‘For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more’ (Heb. 8:12) ... This is all made certain by the purpose of God, the atonement of Jesus, and the effectual work of the Holy Spirit in REGENERATION. — Walter Cash (1856-1937).
Conversion is a deep work — a heart-work. It goes throughout the man, throughout the mind, throughout the members, throughout the entire life. — Joseph Alleine (1634-1668).
As the wind blows where it wills, “so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The only kind of people who ever find God are those who sought Him not (Isaiah 65:1). And this finding happens only in that hour when He says, “Behold me, behold me!” This is spoken as “the day of His power,” and it is in that day, and that day alone, that they “shall be willing” (Psalm 110:3) — willing to be led by His Spirit and governed by His precepts. — R. E. Harris.
Verse 32. Salvation is the work of God — He sets aside the sinner and puts him under the darkness of condemnation. — M. R. DeHaan (1891-1965).
"Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up" (Hosea 6:1). It is the LORD's way to tear before He heals. This is the honest love of His heart and the sure surgery of His hand. He also bruises before He binds up, or else it would be uncertain work. The law comes before the gospel, the sense of need before the supply of it. Is the reader now under the convincing, crushing hand of the Spirit? Has he received the spirit of bondage again to fear? This is a salutary preliminary to real Gospel healing and binding up.
Do not despair, dear heart, but come to the LORD with all thy jagged wounds, black bruises, and running sores. He alone can heal, and He delights to do it. It is our LORD's office to bind up the brokenhearted, and He is gloriously at home at it. Let us not linger but at once return unto the LORD from whom we have gone astray. Let us show Him our gaping wounds and beseech him to know His own work and complete it. Will a surgeon make an incision and then leave his patient to bleed to death? Will the LORD pull down our old house and then refuse to build us a better one? Dost Thou ever wantonly increase the misery of poor anxious souls? That be far from Thee, O LORD. — C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892).
Let not any people, now in the enjoyment of the Gospel, imagine that God saw anything meritorious in them or in their ancestors to cause them to be called to the knowledge of His dear Son. . . . Men cannot merit anything before God. They cannot o0blige God to anything. His choice and His acts are all free. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
Paul here intends to teach two things — that there is nothing in man why he should be preferred to others, apart from the mere favor of God; and that God, in the dispensation of His grace, is under no restraint that He should not grant it to whom He pleases. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Verse 33. If we look at God’s general dealings in the world and in the Church, and if our minds are enlightened by Divine grace, we shall see much to confound our feeble wisdom, and to call forth our humility, gratitude, wonder and praise. Ourselves, as the subject of mercy, will ever be an enigma we must be unable to solve. — Ingram Cobbin (1777-1851).
Christ is the wisdom of God; and in the knowledge of this Christ there is wisdom for you. Not wisdom only, but life, forgiveness, peace, glory, and an endless kingdom! Study Him! Acquaint yourself with Him! Whatever you are ignorant of, be not ignorant of Him. Whatever you overlook, overlook not Him. What ever you lose, lose not Him. To gain Him is to gain eternal life, to gain a kingdom, to gain everlasting blessedness. To lose Him is to lose your soul, to lose God, to lose God's favour, to lose God's heaven, to lose the eternal crown. — Horatius Bonar (1808-1889).
In his Unpublished Essay on the Trinity, Jonathan Edwards explained why Jesus Christ must be understood to be the wisdom of God. Consider carefully the Scripture proofs to which he appeals, and then compare them to what Paul says in Colossians 2:2-3:
“Christ is called ‘the wisdom of God.’ If we are taught in the Scripture that Christ is the same with God’s wisdom or knowledge, then it teaches us that He is the same with God’s perfect and eternal idea. They are the same as we have already observed and I suppose none will deny. But Christ is said to be the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:24, Luke 11:49, compare with Matt. 23:34); and how much doth Christ speak in Proverbs under the name of Wisdom especially in the 8th chapter.” — Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
Besides, all that follows to the end of the chapter seems to show that while the grace of God to guilty men in Christ Jesus is presupposed to be the whole theme of this chapter, that which called forth the special admiration of the apostle, after sketching at some length the Divine purposes and methods in the bestowment of this grace, was the “depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge” in these purposes and methods. The “knowledge,” then, points probably to the vast sweep of Divine comprehension herein displayed: the “wisdom” to that fitness to accomplish the ends intended, which is stamped on all His procedure. — David Brown (1803-1897).
All that is intended when we say that God decrees all that comes to pass, is, that all events are subject to the disposals of Providence, or that God orders all things in His Providence; and that He intended from eternity to order all things in Providence, and intended to order them as He does. — Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
Verse 34. All the works of God are, in some respects, unsearchable: but the Scripture often represents the works of the Spirit of God as peculiarly so. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor, hath taught him” Isa. 40:13). “As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; so thou knowest not the works of God, who maketh all” (Eccl. 11:5). “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). . . . It is to be feared that some have gone too far towards directing the Spirit of the Lord, and making out His footsteps for Him, and limiting Him to certain steps and methods. Experience plainly shows, that God’s Spirit is unsearchable and untraceable, in some of the best of Christians, in the method of His operations, in their conversion. — Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
These question, it will be thus be seen, are just quotations from the Old Testament, as if to show how familiar to God’s ancient people was the great truth which the apostle himself had just uttered, that God plans and methods in the dispensation of His grace, have a reach of comprehension and wisdom stamped upon them which finite mortals cannot fathom, much less could ever have imagined before they were disclosed. — David Brown (1803-1897).
Let us avoid all curious and presumptuous prying into the secrets of the Most High. That God’s nature and ways are a depth any one may see; but how great a depth they are, none can see. When men think or speak as if they had been the counselors, or as if, or as if, had they been consulted, they could have arranged things better than we find them to be, they are simply stark fools. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
Verse 35. Now this is a remarkable passage; for we are here taught, that it is not in our power to constrain God by our good works to bestow salvation on us, but that he anticipates the undeserving by his gratuitous goodness. But if we desire to make an honest examination, we shall not only find, that God is in no way a debtor to us, but that we are all subject to his judgment, — that we not only deserve no layout, but that we are worthy of eternal death. And Paul not only concludes, that God owes us nothing, on account of our corrupt and sinful nature; but he denies, that if man were perfect, he could bring anything before God, by which he could gain his favor; for as soon as he begins to exist, he is already by the right of creation so much indebted to his Maker, that he has nothing of his own. In vain then shall we try to take from him his own right, that he should not, as he pleases, freely determine respecting his own creatures, as though there was mutual debt and credit. — John Calvin (1509-1564).
Let us never forget that we have given nothing to God demanding any recompense. What God has done for us, He has done out of His own infinite resources. No man receives any good thing at the hand of God, or can without lying say, This have I procured by my own merits. — William S. Plumer (1802-1880).
That God has contrived to exclude our glorying; that we should be wholly and every way dependent on God, for the moral and natural good that belongs to salvation; and that we have all from the hand of God, by His power and grace. And certainly He is wholly inconsistent with the idea that our holiness is wholly from ourselves; and, that we are interested in the benefits of Christ rather than others, is wholly of our own decision. And that such a universal dependence is what takes away occasion of taking glory to ourselves, and is a proper ground of an ascription of all the glory of the things belonging to man’s salvation to God, is manifest from Rom. 11:35-36. — Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).
Verse 36. Nothing out of God can move Him; or be a motive to Him; His will is His rule, His glory His ultimate end. — A. W. Pink (1888-1952).
The question God asks in Isa. 40:13 is taken up by Paul in Rom. 11:34-36. Let that “A-men” silence all the preaching and the writing which for too long have placed man before God in the weak evangelical theology of today. . . . In short the triumph is Christ’s and not ours. Alone He bore the curse which lay heavy upon all creation. Alone He died and carried our condemnation with Him down to the tomb. Alone He has led and still leads His Church through the historic avenue of time. We are a passing few, here today and gone tomorrow. He alone carries on His work in the invisibility, treading down principalities and powers and dominations and oppositions, staining His garments with the blood of His foes as He marches on to the ultimate triumph when He shall have put down all rule, authority and power. — Charles D. Alexander (1904-1991).
As the Apostle Paul finished his greatest task of making the highest contribution of all time as to the mystery of God’s holy purpose in creation, His spirit rose to the loftiest height of praise, admiration, and worship ever attained on earth. In adoring submission to the whole of the Divine mystery, he dipped his pen in an ocean of glory and set down on his parchments this imperishable verdict — a verdict which all creation will endorse at the last judgment, the words of Romans 11:33-36. — Charles D. Alexander (1904-1991).
In these closing verses Paul reminds us of the impossibility of our comprehending the wisdom, knowledge, judgment and mind of the Lord. We are foolish to try to put the infinite God in a mould or try to chart His unsearchable ways and designs. He will do what He will, with whom He will, when He will, and all that He does will be right because He does it. When we think that we have all the answers and understand the ways of God, we have but revealed our ignorance and foolishness. Let our faith be summed up in the words of Eli: It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good” (1 Sam. 3:18). — Henry T. Mahan (b. 1926).
Whose glory is it that we seek? The glory of an earthly nation grown old in its wickedness and pride, or the glory of a Redeemer to whom is given as a reward of His merits and obedience a world-wide dominion, a new Israel gathered from all quarters of the earth and from the utmost limits of time. — Charles D. Alexander (1904-1991).
Such is the conclusion of the doctrinal part of our epistle — a powerful expression of profound wonder, reverence, and adoration, in regard to the unsearchable ways of God in His dealings with men; and an assertion of the highest intensity respecting His sovereign right to control all things, so as to accomplish His own designs, inasmuch as all spring from Him — “live, and move, and have their being in Him” and are for His glory. Sovereignty in God does not imply that He does anything without the best of reasons. It only implies that those reasons are often not known to us; and that it is meet that they should be concealed from us, that we may be impressed with a sense of our humble condition, and limited faculties and information, and have room for the exercise of implicit, affectionate, child-like confidence in Him, who so well deserves to be trusted. Let us bow our hearts down to the dust humbly and rejoice in the glorious truth that “of God, and through Him, and for Him, are all things.” To Him, then be the glory, for ever and ever. — Moses Stuart (1780-1852).