Roman Epistle Doxology

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August 16, 2015

Romans 11:33-36

Allen Burns

Scripture reading: Isaiah 40:9-31

Sermon Title: Praise the God who saves

Sermon Text: Romans 11:33-36

Key verse: Romans 11:36 36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

MAIN IDEA: Give praise to the glorious God of Salvation

Three Exclamations of God’s Surpassing Wisdom (v.33)

Three Questions Revealing God’s Supremacy (v.34-35)

Three Truths of God’s Sovereign Dominion (V.36)


We come to the place in the letter to Romans where Paul breaks out into a doxology.
A doxology as “an expression of praise to God; a short hymn sung as part of Christian worship.”
The word doxology comes from the Greek doxa, which means glory or splendor and logos which means word or speaking. Literally, the word means glory speaking, or speaking of glory.
A doxology is a response to God's salvation.
The most famous and commonly heard doxology is “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” written in 1674. The words are “Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”
Paul has six doxologies in his letters. They are easily identified because they end with “Amen.” They all have the same phrase in common, “To God be the glory.”
Paul ascribes to God the glory. Thus, the phrase, glory speaking.
The Apostle Paul has been writing of the glories of salvation for the Jews and the Gentiles. As he is writing, his spirit is moved to worship.
Paul could have just sat and worshipped in his heart, or perhaps verbalize his worship with others who were with him at the time, and then he could have just continued with writing. Instead, Paul is intent to have the reader pause with him and contemplate the greatness and glory of God.
This is what the Holy Spirit would have us do as we come to our text this morning.
Let’s pause and consider the wonders of our salvation by grace given us by our glorious God.
The doxology is made up of three strophes. A strophe is a section of a Greek ode or hymn.
The strophes are divided as 1) 33, 2) 34-35, and 3) 36.
Romans 11:33-36 33Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
MAIN IDEA: Give praise to the glorious God of Salvation
We need to view the doxology in view of the preeminence of Jesus Christ.
In doing this, we will gain the greatest depth of the doxology.
Turn to Colossians 1:15-20. In this passage, we find many of the principles of this doxology.
I want to look at this passage because in Colossians 2:3, Paul writes, in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
As Paul expounds upon the riches of God’s wisdom, mind, ways, and how all things are from, through and to Him, recognize the connection of the doxology with Christ; particularly the phrase from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things.
Colossians 1:15-20 15And He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
God’s purpose in all that He thinks, says, or does, is to give Jesus Christ first-place in all things.
We find this principle of God’s penultimate will stated in a number of places in the New Testament. For example, we find it clearly stated in Ephesians.
Ephesians 1:9-10 He made known to us the mystery of His will, … that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
Let’s examine the doxology with God’s purpose with Christ in mind.
The first strophe consists of …
The strophe begins with an exclamation, “Oh” which is an emotional assertion of awe. It is a sound which one makes when our breath is taken away.
Oh! Oh, how wonderful is God’s wisdom and knowledge; His judgments, and His ways.
The first exclamation is about of God’s wisdom and knowledge
Think of everything that God does which requires wisdom and knowledge
His wisdom and knowledge of the Physical Realm
• The laying of the foundation of the earth
• determining the height of mountains
• creating weather for different areas of the world
• the placement of the stars
• the creation of plants, fish and birds
Anthropological Realm, His wisdom and knowledge of man
• establishment of nations and governments
• making of languages of man
• economic forces and technological developments
• music, arts and literature
Certainly there are more areas to think of beyond the physical realm and anthropology (you get the idea).
Everything we know and see is being orchestrated by God for the sole purpose of establishing the Lordship of Jesus Christ; the glorification of His Son.
How amazing to think of the star of Bethlehem used to declare Christ’s glory.
God caused a storm which made men throw Jonah overboard so Jonah would be in the belly of the fish three days; allowing Jesus to say, just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days so the Son of man will be in the grave three days.
God caused a storm Jesus could calm so His disciples could ask, “What kind of man is this?”
God in His wisdom created economies so Christ may be buried with the rich.
God created a turtledove for Joseph and Mary to sacrifice at His birth; a fish in the sea so the disciples could get a coin out of its mouth to pay the tax to the government God made. A fig tree was grown so Christ could wither it as an object lesson about bearing fruit.
Languages were created so disciples of Jesus may be gathered from every tribe and tongue.
Music, art, and literature were created so man would have a way to worship and praise Christ.
Kings were given power so Christ may be the King of kings.
A Roman government was established, Roman centurions were put in place, and a Romans system of Law was shaped so Christ would be crucified for our sins.
Virtually all that God knows and all God’s wisdom is employed for the glorification of His Son.
Jesus is the purpose of all knowledge.
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Of course God’s wisdom and knowledge has such rich depth, it is all of Christ.
The second exclamation God’s judgments are unsearchable
We face an impossible task. The words unsearchable and unfathomable in this verse signify they are inaccessible to humans. In other words, I am supposed to share what is unsearchable and unfathomable and you are to understand that which is unsearchable and unfathomable.
Yes, unsearchable and unfathomable, but we can know enough to know it is such.
God’s unsearchable judgments refer to God’s decisions and declaring what is good and evil.
God has made judgments throughout history. He began at Creation by declaring all things to be very good. God judged Lucifer and God judged Adam and Eve as guilty.
Think of the countless judgments God has made. God made the judgment to choose Israel and banish Gentiles from the Promised Land. God made the judgment to harden the hearts of the Israelites so He may show mercy to all.
God may harden the heart of an Israelite or a Gentile and still be just. In even what seems to be the harshest of all judgments, something that may appear the most unfair, the condemnation of people to hell eternally, God is perfectly just.
His judgments are unsearchable.
The third exclamation is God’s ways are unfathomable
God’s ways are His work, His methods and manner of doing things.
God’s ways include gravity, governments, Gethsemane, and the gospel.
How often has God put an event in our life and we later see how that event shaped us to be like Christ. A storm might cause one to think of God’s protection. Perhaps you decided to go to a concert and there you met that friend who told you about Jesus. Maybe your truck broke down and God sent Darren to fix it and share the Gospel with you. We call them divine appointments.
Maybe you had an event like my grandfather who saw Billy Graham on TV, heard the gospel, and gave his life to Christ.
For Peter, God’s way was to use three rooster crows to teach him a valuable lesson.
God’s way was to use four messengers to tell Job of God’s sovereignty over all things.
God’s way was to give John on the island of Patmos a vision of seven churches as an introduction to Revelation.
For Pharaoh, God used ten plagues to reveal His glory.
How many events do you think took place and in which had no idea how the event glorified Jesus Christ? The number is unfathomable.
Here is what makes all this even more unfathomable; God combines all these events, all of history, all the universe to demonstrate His love toward us. Everything is for Jesus and His glory, but the Bible also says God demonstrates His own love toward us, while we were sinners, in sending His Son to die for us.
God’s ways are profoundly unselfish and perfectly loving.
Who else could have thought of such an amazing way to display mercy?
Isaiah 55:8-9 8 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
The depth of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge. How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.
All this is beyond the Apostle Paul’s comprehension and it is beyond ours. All we can do is say, “Oh!”
MAIN IDEA: Give praise to the glorious God of Salvation
The second strophe of the doxology has …
Romans 11:34 34For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again?
The answer to these questions is obviously no one. Nobody.
First question asks who knows God’s supreme mind?
One of the great passages in Scripture is the one in Job 38 when God speaks.
Job 38:2-3 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 “Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
God asks countless Job and his friends questions such as:
• Where is the place light dwells? Or, do you know where the storehouses of hail are kept?
• Does the rain have a father?
• Who set the wild donkey free?
The mind of the Lord is beyond ours.
Job 38:36 tells us it is God who has put wisdom in the innermost of our being and given understanding to our mind. All that we know has been revealed to us by God. If you have more wisdom or understanding than another person, thank God because it is not something you did.
Sure, we will always find a person with a more superior mind than ours, however, we will never find a mind which comes close to the mind of the Lord.
To whom then will we compare to God?
Isaiah 40:25-26 25 “To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.
Isaiah 40:28 The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
We all grow weary and tired. Some of you may be sleepy right now.
I walk from one room to another and forget why I went into the room. Imagine if my mind was responsible, not for the entire world, but just Plainfield! We would all be doomed.
The moment I go to sleep, all of Plainfield would have to come to a halt. Nothing could happen. No tree could grow, no raindrop fall, no police on duty, absolutely everything would have to be in a standstill until I awaken once again. Then, I’d be on overload for the first second. Smoke would literally pour out of my brain.
Mankind needs instant replays just to watch sporting events because we miss more than half the action. We have to have it replayed, in slow-motion to see if the guy at first base was out.
The second question is, who is God’s supreme counselor?
This portion of the verse quotes Isaiah 40:13. Let me read 13 and 14.
Isaiah 40:13 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? 14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?
Having the mind of the Lord is definitely out of our reach. Of course then, having a superior mind that is smarter and wiser than God so as to qualify as God’s counselor is clearly impossible.
However, people try to counsel God all the time. People question God’s ways.
• God, why did you make me like this? Which implies they know more about how they should have been made than God.
• God, I can’t believe you allowed this to happen! Which implies they know more about what should have happened than God.
• God, please don’t let it rain on Saturday. Which implies knowing more about the need for rain than God.
• God, please don’t let me get sick, give me that job, find me a husband, fix my car, give me safe travel, and the countless other event related requests God gets.
I understand praying for conveniences in life and I am not saying it is wrong, but it is sometimes shallow. Of course I desire God to give me safe travel or to keep me healthy.
But, if God desires my travels to be stopped or for me to get sick, I know why it happens. Somehow, in His infinite wisdom, it is for the glorification of Christ. And, the glorification of Christ, is better for me than safe travels and perfect health.
Don’t attempt to counsel God and suggest how He should or should not do something.
God has already determined every event in the universe. Knowing this, how might we live?
How might we pray? Pray for sanctification. Pray we receive all events and circumstances with gladness; without grumbling and complaining. Pray for patience in difficult circumstances. Pray for wisdom in how to spend money when you don’t have much income. Pray not to fight with your spouse when the car breaks down or things don’t go your way.
Let us not put ourselves in the shoes of being God’s counselor. It’s not a job we qualify for.
The third question is, who is God’s supreme supplier? Who does God owe?
Who has given to God that it might be paid back to Him again?
God does not get His stuff from another source; He is the source.
Listen to what Paul told the men of Athens at the Areopagus.
Acts 17:25-26 24 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things
God does not dwell in a place we can make for Him. Nor do we give Him food from our gardens. God will not fill out an application for financial assistance because He may not have enough heating oil this winter.
God is not served by human hands. We do not need to help God move or fix His car. There is nothing too heavy he needs help lifting or a task too complicated He has to ask the experts how to get it done.
God gives us life, breath, and all things. It is ludicrous to see ourselves as being a help to God. Or, even more ludicrous to think God owes us anything.
But, isn’t this how we sometimes think?
God I worked two hours a week in the nursery; don’t you owe me a break? God, I’ve been reading my Bible every day; isn’t my life supposed to get easier? God I served you as a VBS helper, shouldn’t Your church recognize me for my efforts; God, you owe me some recognition.
God doesn’t depend upon our giving in the offering. His whole plan of giving the Gospel will not fall short because the offering fell short.
God does not work on a quip pro quo system.
I thought my going to Africa as a missionary was to benefit God’s plan. God didn’t need me in Africa. God sent me as a missionary to Africa for my benefit; not Africa’s and certainly not God’s.
We are all dispensable.
The quicker all of us can understand God does not need us the better off we will all be and we will have our priorities in the right place. God doesn’t need our advice and God doesn’t need our service.
God owes no man or any other being in the Universe.
Serving and giving is for our benefit and joy; not God’s
Praise God this is the God we serve. Imagine serving a God whose plan falls short because mankind falls short? How pitiful such a situation would be for the Universe.
God is supreme over all things. His mind is supreme, He receives no counsel His counsel is supreme, and God’s supply is supreme, He receives from nobody.
Lastly, the doxology provides
Romans 11:36 36For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
From Him: God is the source of all things; through Him: God is the sustainer who keeps all things going and moving; and to Him: God is the goal, the purpose, all things are for God.
This is the same thing Paul says of Christ in Colossians.
Colossians 1:16-17 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created by Him and for Him.
This brings everything to where we started.
God’s purpose in the universe; His greatest desire and will is the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.
Jesus Christ created all things; salvation is through Him; and all things are to live for Him.
All for Jesus, all I am and have and ever hope to be.
God is placing all things back under the feet of Christ. All things are to Him.
God is restoring the universe to the rightful order of things.
To Him be the glory!
As believers, we are to have the same will as God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 31Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Is God a megalomaniac?
In other words, why does God desire so much glory? Why is it all to Him? Why should we give Him glory for all things? Doesn’t that sound a bit self-centered? Doesn’t it sound like God is a megalomaniac; a self-important, power-hungry, dictatorial, prideful being?
To answer this question, I turn to John Piper who says he spent 40 years seeking to answer this very question. He gives two reasons:
That solution, as far as I have been able to see through my dark glass, is this: God must uphold his own glory as the supreme value of the universe because 1) he is true, and it would be false to hold up any other glory as supreme; and 2) he is loving, and it would be unloving to offer us as supremely satisfying anything less than what is infinitely and eternally satisfying—namely, himself.
Because God is perfectly loving, God desires we find satisfaction in Him because He alone is able to meet that need.
The problem with the world is mankind turned away from finding satisfaction in God. Mankind, each and every one of us, has sought to do things our own way and not God’s way. Man does not live to God.
Many people recognize God is the giver of life and God holds our life together and is our provider. However, the vast majority of people, even as we seek to live as Christians, fail to live to Him. Mankind, and sometimes us as believers, live for our own glory, for our own purposes.
God is not the selfish being; we are the selfish being. The fact we might even have the question, “isn’t God self-centered in seeking all this glory” implies an incredible arrogance that somebody else deserves the glory or something else is more satisfying.
The fallen nature of mankind seeks to have a legacy, to acquire fame, to have monuments erected with our name on them, to have others appreciate us and all that we do. We all seek to be on American Idol; which is a very fitting name.
2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us, “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Lucifer sought his own glory and does everything in his power to blind the world to true glory. In doing this, Jesus said he steals, kills, and destroys.
Mankind is much the same. Much has been stolen, killed, and destroyed as man seeks to establish glory in himself or things other than God.
What does God do for His glory? God saves people from seeking false glory by showing mercy.
The Psalmists understood this.
Psalm 21:5 His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
Psalm 79:9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!
It is because we are not great, we need a great God. If we were great, we could save ourselves.
Praise God, we have a God whose glory is about mercy. God declared His glory to Moses as He passed before him saying,
Exodus 34:6-7 “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
We have no concept of how incredibly amazing is God.
He is supreme, unfathomable, unsearchable, and all satisfying.
Find everlasting joy in living to Him and giving praise to the glorious God of salvation.