March 3, 2024

Living the Doxology-Driven Life (Romans 11:33-36)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2023-2024) Topic: One Lord: No One Like You

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Children's Lesson (click here)

I. A 'Glory Word'

What might it mean to live the doxology-driven life? I'm guessing most of us can imagine, to one degree or another, what it would mean to live the wealth-driven life, or the reputation-driven life, or the suspicion-driven life, or the 'yolo'-driven life, or the pleasure-driven life, or the success-driven life. But what about the doxology-driven life? Well, to answer that initial question, we probably need to define the word doxology. That would be a good place to start, right? If we translate this compound word literally, a doxology is a 'glory-word', or a 'word of glory'. As one writer describes it, a doxology “is an eruptive statement of praise to the God who is worthy of all glory-words” (Zac Hicks) The Bible is full of these kinds of doxologies. They're usually at the end of a psalm or letter or section of Scripture. You might recognize many of these statements from the closing blessings we use every Sunday morning. For example, here are two from the Apostle Paul...

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17) [or even more familiar to many of you...]

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21) 

II. The Passage: “To Him Be the Glory Forever” (11:33-36)

But this morning, in light of that opening question about the doxology-driven life, the specific doxology I'd like us to focus on is the one we heard from Paul last week in Our Bible Reading Plan. It's found in the closing verses of Romans 11. This is verses 33-36. Paul writes...

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! [34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” [35] “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” [36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Very briefly, let's do two things with this passage: first, let's make sure we understand (in general) the verses themselves, but second, let's also make sure we understand these words in the context of chp. 11, which in turns points us to the larger context of chps 9-11, which in turns points to everything Paul has been writing about up to this point, beginning in chapter 1.

So, quickly, let me point out three things about our main text (vs. 33-36), First, Paul tells us here that like a mysterious ocean trench where you could never reach the bottom, the depth of God's “riches and wisdom and knowledge” simply cannot be measured. The “riches” mentioned here are the riches of God's glory and grace that Paul has been unpacking in this letter. We'll see in a few minutes how these “riches” are connected to God's “wisdom and knowledge”.

Second, Paul goes on to emphasize a humbling fact: God's “wisdom and knowledge” are immeasurably far above human wisdom and knowledge. As Paul expresses it in verse s 34-35: "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?" You see, every wise man or woman of understanding throughout history received at least some of their wisdom from someone else. They all had teachers. But God doesn't need a teacher or a counselor. It's silly for us to think that somehow we've got God figured out. God doesn't depend on us. He doesn't owe us anything. His wisdom and knowledge are so superior to human wisdom, no one could ever give him advice. Again, I believe Paul is calling his readers to humility in light of God's greatness.

A third point about these verses: Paul reminds us that God's wisdom and knowledge stand alone because He alone is the Creator. We see that expressed in the last line, verse 36: God owes no one anything, no one can be his counselor because “...from him and through him and to him are all things”. He made everything/one. He upholds everything. He has a purpose for everything. You see, all of that wonderful theological pressure that's been building up in Paul because of the absolute greatness of God explodes into this doxology, and arrives at its highest and most obvious expression in the closing words of verse 36: “To him be glory forever.”

But this is where we need to expand our perspective and think about these verses in terms of the broader context. For example, notice what drives Paul to burst out like this about “the depth of [God's] riches and wisdom and knowledge”. Look back at verses 30 through 32:

For just as you [Gentiles/non-Jews] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their [i.e., Israel's] disobedience, [31] so they too [the Jewish people] have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you [Gentiles] they also may now receive mercy. [32] For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

Now what in the world is Paul talking about here? Well this discussion actually starts at the beginning of chapter 9. Because the Jewish people, for the most part, rejected Jesus as the Messiah and often opposed the gospel (what Paul calls their "disobedience"), the gospel mission was often more focused on and was gaining ground among the Gentiles. But because of believing Gentiles like us, at some point, in some way, God will ultimately redeem a large number of Jewish people. So, as Paul describes in verse 32, God has allowed both Jews and Gentiles to become indicted/held captive under their disobedience, so that He might, according to his timing, his purposes, his “wisdom and knowledge,” he might have mercy on all humanity.

Now there is whole lot we could cover here. But I don't want us to get bogged down this morning by the specifics of just this section (i.e., chapters 9-11). I believe Paul's argument here is driven by everything he's already laid out in this letter. So I think that also means the doxology in 11:33-36 is not simply an eruption of praise based on chapters 9-11, but instead is inspired by chapter 1-8 as well. So think again about that phrase, “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God”. That statement in verse 33 is not simply a generic statement about the greatness of our Creator. It's a 'glory-word' about the greatness of God as stunningly manifested in the greatness of God's salvation; the greatness of the gospel of grace.

Paul is not simply in awe of God's timing in all this, and how he can soften hard hearts, using resistance to the gospel to bring about submission to the gospel. He's also in awe of a righteous-ness based on faith alone (3:21), of undeserved kindness for the guilty (3:24), and how God dispensed justice at the cross, but also justifies us through the cross (3:26). He's in awe of a “free gift following many trespasses” (5:16). He's in awe of “newness of life” (6:4). He's in awe of free-dom from the “body of death”, and “no condemnation” now for those who are in Christ (8:1). He's in awe of how God can cause everything to work together for the eternal good of his people (8:28), and how nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:39)

And yes, he is absolutely in awe how God has and will fulfill all his promises, through grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, by calling both Jew and Gentile, through the gospel, to be his people for all eternity. Whatever narrow perspectives and small categories and simplistic explanations Paul's readers wanted to cling to, in this letter he has pulled back the veil for them on the “unsearchable” and “inscrutable” depths of God's “riches and wisdom and knowledge” as manifested in his grand and glorious work of redemption. I believe his heart here is that his readers, in similar awe and humility and gratitude, would join him in declaring this 'glory-word'.

III. Testify to His Glory

But what about us? When you think about what Romans has revealed regarding God's rescue plan for us, and when you then think about how that rescue plan was worked out in your life specifically, from before the foundation of the world, how it was worked out through various people and various circumstances, how it will be worked out to completion, how nothing can stop it, and how you will feast on life in the presence of God forever and ever and ever, what does that inspire in you? Or we could ask, “What might it mean to live the doxology-driven life?”

First, like Paul, let us testify to the glory of God with our words. Inside and outside the church, may we never be ashamed to declare the greatness of God. As we read about and hear about and sing about about “so great a salvation”, let's erupt in praise and thanks to God. In certain church circles, I know it's quite common to hear things like, “Praise the Lord” or “Praise God” or “Hallelujah” or “Thanks be to God”. Those are all perfectly biblical expressions, but let's check our hearts when we choose to use them or not use them. Some use this language to fit in. Others recognize that, then avoid this language so they don't come across as fake. And for still others, that culture of usage is strange to them, so such things can sound canned or corny. My point is this: may our expressions of praise be shaped less by people and more by the God who inspires praise. Sure, anchored in Scripture, find your own way to glorify God with your words. Just don't settle for silence. Doxology is a precious part of new life in Jesus Christ.

Second, as Paul instructs us, let us testify to the glory of God with our lives. We don't have to speculate about the doxology-driven life. Why? Because there's a “therefore” in the very next verse. Look at how in 12:1 Paul goes from an exclamation of worship to an explanation of worship. He writes: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Using Old Testament imagery of an animal sacrifice, the inspired writer call us to offer to God each day your body for his purposes. If we agree that “from him and through him and to him are all things” and if we declare with Paul, “to him be glory forever”, then why would you not seek to honor him in the “all things” of your life? Brothers and sisters, in your seeing and hearing, in your going and getting, in your eating and drinking, in your pain and pleasure, glorify God with/thru your bodies.

But please remember (and may God always reminds us) that to testify to his glory, we need to first behold his glory. To promote his fame, to affirm his excellence, to point to his absolutely unique position over and claim on all things, we must behold his greatness regularly; and seek to grow in our understanding of his unsearchable depth. We do that through the word, don't we? But we also do that together. Brothers and sisters, friends, how big is your God? As big as the God of the Bible? Listen to Paul's desire for his readers and the similar language he uses in Colossians 2... he desired that they would “reach all the riches of full assurance of under-standing and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” More than anything, it is the greatness of our salvation AND the greatness of our Savior that reveal the greatness of God; the greatness that inspires every true 'glory-word'... and... the doxology-driven life to which we are called.