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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Wisdom and Knowledge of God
Text:Romans 11:33-36 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Purpose
 
Preached:05/18/2008
Added:2014-01-09
Updated:2014-03-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray

“The Wisdom and Knowledge of God”

Romans 11:33-36

Arthur W. Pink is well known for his commentaries on the Bible. He had a series called “Gleanings” in which he gleaned wisdom from the various books of the Bible. But he also wrote a book on the attributes of God. The attributes of God are the characteristics that He possesses. He has both incommunicable attributes - meaning they belong to God alone and no one can share in them - such as His self existence, His immutability, His infinity, including His absolute perfection, His omniscience, omnipresence and omnipo- tence. And God has communicable attributes, characteristics that by His grace and Spirit’s power, we too possess to some degree: His knowledge, wisdom, and goodness; His love, holiness, righteousness and truthfulness.

So what title did AW Pink give His book on these attributes of God?  -  The short title,  well known by most theology students, is simply “The Attributes of God.”  But the full title is: “The Attributes of God: A Solemn and Blessed Contemplation on Some of the Wondrous and Lovely Perfections of the Divine Character.”   Isn’t that a neat title...?

Although it is indeed a Solemn and Blessed Contemplation to think on the character and attributes of God, very little time is spent in most of our lives as Christians - and even in the visible church, - thinking on the character and the attributes of God. Most of us, if we are honest, will admit that we think more about ourselves - our own goals, ambitions, activities and needs, than we spend in reflection on the attributes of God.  That is true even in church services. Many churches today seek to meet “the felt needs” of people rather than to contemplate the “Wondrous and Lovely Perfections of the Divine Character,”  as AW Pink put it. But when the church, and we as individuals, focus on our felt needs instead of the glorious character of God, we deprive ourselves, instead of enriching ourselves.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon recognized that, and in his sermon, “The Immutability of God,” writes: “The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”

The Apostle Paul, had he lived in the time frame of either AW Pink or CH Spurgeon, would have agreed with their assessment of where our focus should be: away from ourselves and onto the character of our God. That is, after all, what the Apostle Paul does here in these verses that conclude chapter 11.  He records a doxology praising the character and attributes - the divine perfections of our Lord. For instance, verse 33 speaks of “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”  The depth of those riches are seen everywhere:

God’s Wisdom in Creation

We certainly see them in creation, and this in a fallen world, blighted and stained by sin.  Yet even though all creation is “subject to frustration” (Rom. 8:20) it cannot mask the glory of God. His wisdom and knowledge is displayed in the majesty of creation.      

If you ever wondered about of “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God”  in creation consider this: Even as we sit here this morning, we are moving along at a little over 1000 mph. That is the speed of the earth’s rotation at the equator.... But before looking for a seat belt in the pew, be glad that we are moving at 1000 mile per hour. If the earth turned any slower it would drift into the sun. If it rotated any faster our planet would spin off into the solar system and be destroyed. There is good reason why the Lord designed the earth to rotate at a little over a 1000 mph.

As we move we are tilted... - Seems straight, - but in actuality we are at a 23% angle... - Before trying to straighten up, be glad that the earth is on its axis at just the right angle. If it weren’t our planet would be scorched from the sun and there would be no seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall.

No wonder the account of creation, in Genesis 1, says: “God saw all that He had made, and  it was very good.”  No wonder the Apostle Paul, reflecting back in awe and wonder, writes, in Romans 1:20 “Since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood  from what has been made so that men are without excuse.”   It is abundantly clear, as the Psalmist declares not once, but twice (Psalm 14:1, 53:1), that it is  “the fool (who) says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”   

God’s Wisdom in Redemption

We see the “depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” not only in creation, but also in God’s redemptive plan as well. We often think of the plan of salvation in simplistic terms.  That in itself is not wrong. The plan of salvation, on the one hand, is very simple. It is simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation as we confess our sins. It necessitates a child-like faith. Jesus Himself taught that unless one has faith like a child, he or she cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

But on the other hand, the plan of salvation is very complicated, especially in that it presents a great dilemma: God chose to save a remnant of people by His grace, as Paul has explained in Romans 9-11, to live to the praise of His glory, but since He is a just God, He could not just wipe our slate clean - forgive us our sins - without paying the penalty for that sin.

Because He is just He could not do as so many human judges do and give the offender a slap on the wrist, or 30 days of probation, or worse yet, wink and look the other way. As a just and holy God He must judge sin, yet no mere mortal could take the punishment for sin and live,  for the wages of sin is death.

Consequently, in the Council of Redemption, held before the world was even created, God the Father agreed to offer His only Son as the sacrifice for sinners. The Son willingly became the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). And the Holy Spirit offered - before the world was ever formed, or began to spin on its axis at a little over 1000 mph, before all this, the Spirit also offered to bring conviction and faith in the life of God’s elect, and then to live in our bodies, making them His temple as He serves as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. That’s why the Scripture reminds us “...This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time...” (2 Tim. 1:9b).

You see, the plan of salvation, so simple on the surface, took great care and planning by all three persons of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It took the “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” to work out every detail of the plan of salvation.

God’s Wisdom in Providence

We see that same “depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God” in God’s work of  Providence, as He works out all things for the good of those who love Him.  Our world seems to be upside down, chaotic and at times meaningless. Because of the fall into sin we see the repercussions of sin all around us, yet God, in depths of wisdom and knowledge, is working out all things for His own purposes. Proverbs 16:4: “The Lord works out everything for His own ends, even the wicked for the day of disaster.”

Although we cannot understand why God allows what He allows to happen in this world,  and at times in our lives, we know that in sovereign providence He works all things for our good (Romans 8:28). Furthermore, He gives us His Word so that we have an infallible guide as we journey through the desert of this earthly existence.

In the old days, before the techniques of modern navigation were known, every ship that crossed the ocean was equipped with two compasses. One compass was on the deck where the captain could see it at a glance. The other compass was on a mast high above the ship deck,  and often a sailor was seen climbing the mast to check the compass.

On one voyage a passenger asked the captain,  “Why do you have two compasses?” The Captain replied, “This ship is filled with metal. The compass on the deck is often affected by its surroundings. Such is not the case with the compass on the masthead; that one is above the influence of the metal.  We steer by the compass above.”

As Christians, we also steer by “the compass above.” In all the troubles and perplexities of life we can be sure of the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God in providence as well as creation and redemption.  - And we steer through the perils of this life by the guidance of  God’s divine compass as the Holy Spirit works through the Word in our lives.

Our Response

How are we to respond to such a God? How do we respond to the God whose divine perfections are seen in everything, - in creation, redemption and in providence?  First, we are to recognize His greatness through the three rhetorical questions there in verse 34-35:  

                                  34 Who has known the mind of the Lord?

                                       Or who has been His counselor?

                                  35 Who has ever given to God,

                                       that God should repay him?

The questions are rhetorical, meaning that the answer is clear. The answer is self evident. The answer to each question - 3 times over is - “No one.”  - Who has known the mind of the Lord?  “No one”  Who has been His counselor? “No one.” Who has ever given to God that God should repay him?  “No one.”

The first question, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” reminds us that all we know about the Lord, all the wealth of information in the Bible, and all the commentaries written about the Bible, all the sermons produced and preached, all the Bible studies held during the week, - all these are a glimmer of the rainbow’s depth, just a scratching of the surface of an unfathomable mine of treasures, just the tip of the proverbial ice berg.

Oh, it’s wonderful to learn about the mind of the Lord. I appreciate AW Pink’s book title: “The Attributes of God: A Solemn and Blessed Contemplation on Some of the Wondrous and Lovely Perfections of the Divine Character.”  And the book itself, like most of Pink’s writing, is excellent. But it only scratches the surface. In this life none of us knows fully the mind of the Lord. And one of the joys of the life to come, - for those of us who believe in Jesus for salvation, - is that throughout all eternity we will be growing in our knowledge of  “the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.”

But here and now we are reminded of God’s greatness, and our limited, finite condition, by that first question, “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” - and by the second question, “Who has been His counselor?”

It’s a sign of human depravity that we would think somehow that we could give God counsel in how to run the universe He has created.  Yet all of us try to do that, in subtle, if not obvious ways.  As Christians we subtly try to counsel God when we look in the mirror and ask, “Why did You create me this way...?” Or, “Why didn’t You give me a spouse...?” “Or why did You allow debilitating sickness in my life...?”  Or, “What right did God have to take a way someone I loved - especially if they were at a young age...?”

Job went through that whole experience. Initially Job did not sin against God when all that he had was taken from him.  His classic response was: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:20b).  Later his friends came, supposedly to console Job, but actually they accused him of bringing on the calamity by his sin. In the process of defending himself, Job became somewhat self- righteous, and seemed to think that God could have worked differently in his life after all.

But then in Job 38:1 we read: “The Lord answered Job out of the storm and said, ‘Who is this who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?’”  - Job 40:2, “The Lord said to Job, ‘Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?  - Let him who accuses God  answer Him!”

Finally Job stammers: (40:3) , “I am unworthy - how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once but have no answer - twice, but I will say no more.... (42:3) “You asked, ‘Who is this who obscures my counsel without knowledge? Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”... Therefore I despise myself, (vs 6) and repent in dust and ashes.”

“Who has known the mind of the Lord, or been His counselor?”  - No one. Absolutely no one.

The third question is “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” It should be obvious that none of us can begin to repay the Lord for all He has done for us, yet our depravity is so deep that we can subtly trick ourselves into thinking that God owes us for the good that we perceive ourselves doing.

Dr. RA Torrey, a pastor of Moody Church many years ago, was at a conference in Melbourne, Australia.  Torrey had preached at the conference and then opened it up for a question and answer period.  One of the questions was in the form of a hand written note.  The person who wrote the note was very perplexed. God had not answered his prayers as he wished. The writer explained that he had been a member of the Presbyterian Church for 30 years, that he had been the Superintendent of Sunday School for 25 years and also had served as an elder for 20 years.  He wrote. “Yet God does not answer my prayer, and I cannot understand it. Can you explain it to me?”

Torrey read the note out loud and replied, “It is very easy to explain it. This man thinks that because he has been a consistent church member for 30 years, a faithful  Sunday School superintendent for 25 years, and an elder for 20 years, that God is under obligation to answer his prayers. He really is  praying in his own name, and God will not hear our prayers when we approach Him in that way.”

After Torrey had finished speaking, a man came up to him and admitted that he had written the note.  He said, “You hit the nail square on the head. I see my mistake.”

“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” - Absolutely no one.

A Second Response: Praise!

As we recognize both God’s greatness through the three rhetorical questions, and our own finite helplessness, we are to praise Him, forever. - Verse 36:

                                 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.

                                     To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

And we are to praise Him, not only with our lips, but with our lives. As this 11th chapter draws to a close, it is yet linked to the next chapter. Romans 12:1 is one of the best known verses in the Bible, and it starts with the word “therefore.”  - “Therefore, I urge you, brothers,  in view of  God’s  mercy,  to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, - this is your spiritual act of worship.”

You see, God doesn’t just want the praises from your lips, He wants the praise from your life. He doesn’t just want your worship on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, but rather that your whole life - and mine- be lived as an act of worship to Him for what He has done, - for who He is - in grateful acknowledgment of the attributes He possesses.

He wants your life and mine to be whole heartedly committed to Him, for He is the One who owes us nothing but judgment, but has given us all things, salvation and every other blessing of this life and the next - at the cost of His Son.

AW Pink was very perceptive in titling his book, “The Attributes of God: A Solemn and Blessed Contemplation on Some of the Wondrous and Lovely Perfections of the Divine Character.”  My prayer is that we think often and seriously on the character, - the attributes - of our God. And as we see His greatness, may we live to the praise of His glorious grace, -  now and always, singing His praises with our lips and demonstrating our thankfulness with our lives.  Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 05/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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