Romans 11:33-36 The words of Scripture that we have before this morning as the text for our meditation stand as the dividing line between the two major sections of Paul’s letter to the Romans. They are praise and thanksgiving for what has come before in this letter—and they are the foundation and motivation for what follows.
What comes before these words is the whole story of our salvation: our sin—the impossibility of saving ourselves by works of the law—the sacrifice of Jesus that has reconciled us to God—the gift of Word and Sacraments that the Spirit uses to bring us to faith—the peace and comfort that comes from knowing that we are saved-- and the promise that nothing can separate us form God’s love.
These words of praise and awe are the voice of every Christian who sees and understands just exactly the greatness of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
What follows these words is the call to Christian living—that we do the things that God asks of us—not out of fear or some sense of burdensome obligation—but out of profound, heartfelt gratitude for what God has done for us-- and so these words are the motivation and foundation for the Christian life: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
The words of our text are perfectly suited for Trinity Sunday—the only Sunday of the church year devoted to a doctrine-- because they call us, not so much to probe the inner workings of the Holy Trinity, but to praise him and stand in awe and wonder at the greatness and goodness of our Savior God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul wrote: Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
In the first few chapters of Romans Paul sets out the human condition: the poverty of our spiritual resources—our foolish trust in ourselves—and our blind ignorance of those things that really matter—just the opposite of God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge.
He doesn’t do this to drag us through the mud or to destroy our humanity—but to show us our great need for a Savior God whose riches and wisdom and knowledge far exceed our own—a Savior God who is the LORD.
Out of the riches of his grace he showers us with blessings of both body and soul. He has given us our lives and everything we need to support them. He has given us his Son Jesus Christ who saved us with us with something much more precious than gold or silver and that is his own blood. And he continues to bless us out of the riches of his grace with the forgiveness and peace and hope we need.
He has wisely ordered the affairs of all creation so that all things work together for our good. That we have life—that we have faith—that we have an eternal future-- is only because of God’s loving wisdom that has guided our lives each step of the way to bring us to faith and keep us in faith and deliver us to our eternal home.
And when it comes to knowledge, he knows us better than we could ever know ourselves. He listens to our prayers with a wise and loving Father’s heart, granting us only those things that he knows are for our good. He knows the plans he has for us, plans to bless us and prosper us. And he knows the plans of those who are opposed to him and his people and the perfect way to work all things for our eternal good.
When we consider the poverty of our own resources and the riches of God’s gracious love how can we not join our voice to that of the Apostle Paul and proclaim the praises of the LORD, our Savior God:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
After reviewing all that God has done for our salvation—after carefully detailing God’s perfect plan to rescue us from sin and death—it seems odd to hear Paul says that God’s judgments are unsearchable and his ways inscrutable. After all…
Aren’t the mighty judgments of God matters of the historical record? The flood- and the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt- and the rise and fall of Assyria and Babylon- and the death of Jesus- and the destruction of Jerusalem. These mighty judgments of the LORD are historical fact.
And aren’t the ways of God clearly revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture? How God had a plan for our salvation from the very beginning—how God deals graciously with men, not treating us as our sins deserve—how God has carefully ordered salvation history over thousands of years to bring us to a crib in
Bethlehem and a cross
and an empty tomb in ? His saving plan is anything but hidden! Jerusalem
And so what does Paul mean that God’s judgments are unsearchable and his ways inscrutable? He means that we would never in a million years ever be able to devise anything like it—that God’s work of creation and salvation are completely his own and stand in stark contrast to the ways of men.
He means that we would never in a million years be able to figure it out if God had not written it out in the pages of Holy Scripture—that we could never know any of it if he had not revealed it to us.
And finally he means that we could never in a million years believe it-- if he did not work that faith in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
We can know God and believe in God and have a life with God—not only because God the Father has created us-- and not only because God the Son has redeemed us-- but also because God the Holy Spirit has done his work to cause the scriptures to be written- and then worked in our hearts so that we can believe them and build our lives upon them.
From beginning to end, we are utterly dependent upon the greatness and goodness of our Savior God for our life in this world and in the world to come and in the words that follow, Paul wants to make sure that we recognize this important truth: that our life with God is wholly dependent upon his gracious love for us. He writes:
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”
Paul asks us three rhetorical questions with one obvious answer: Who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been God’s counselor? Who has ever given something to God so that God is in his debt, beholden to him? And of course the answer to each of these questions is: No one!
The greatest scientists who have ever lived can only discover what they can observe and measure in God’s creation. The wisest philosophers and smartest scholars can only hope to think God’s thoughts after him. And there is nothing—absolutely nothing-- that we can offer up to God that he has not first bestowed upon us as a gift of his gracious love.
This does not mean that the achievements and accomplishments of man do not matter—it simply means that we recognize our limits as creatures so that we can stand in awe of the greatness of our Creator and the goodness of his love for us and understand that: the story of God’s love for the world and for us begins and ends in him—not in us. Paul said: For from HIM and through HIM and to HIM are all things.
In the beginning, when God called forth the world into existence and created man, it was his own love—the love that existed between the three person of the Holy Trinity- that brought us forth. True love is always creative and life-giving!
It was love that caused God to send his Son into the world to be our Savior and it was love that caused the Holy Spirit to take us (who were God’s enemies by nature) and make us God’s children.
Our life with God has come from him and through him and (thanks be to God) it is leading back to him.
When Adam and Eve sinned the very first thing they did was flee from God and that was the direction of sinful man and a broken creation from then on.
But that all changed when Jesus rose from the dead. The entire direction of the cosmos has been changed from destruction and death-- towards a new heaven and earth and life everlasting for God’s people.
When we look at a broken world, and when we see the suffering around us, and when we experience our own frailty, we don’t have to despair because we know the direction that it is all going and that is back to God—back to the way it was in the beginning where God and man lived together in perfect fellowship—back to a beautiful, untarnished creation, back to life without end.
All things are from God the Father and have been redeemed through God the Son and are going back to God by the power of the Holy Spirit and that perfect plan is what inspired Paul to write these words of praise to give the LORD, our Savior God all the glory for his great goodness. He said: To him be glory forever. Amen.
As Christian people we are called to glorify God in all that we say and do. This means that first of all we believe in him and trust him and confess him truly.
When we confess our faith in the creeds, like we do today in the Athanasian Creed, it is not some burdensome duty. Instead, it is our chief delight to confess that we know who God is and what he has done for us. There is nothing more important or meaningful in our lives than these two things!
That we give him the glory means that our entire lives are given over to his service—our worship first of all-- but also our work and our leisure and our family and our marriages—all of our day-to-day life is lived out in such a way that God is given the praise and adoration and thanks that are rightfully his,
Trinity Sunday is not set aside for the explanation of some dry doctrine with little connection to our lives. It is set aside for the praise and worship and confession of the one true God who has made himself known to us as our Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier so that we might live with him forever. Amen.