Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Theology and Doxology

Part 7 of Questioning God

Text: Romans 11:25-36




Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (v. 33). 


THE SALVATION OF ISRAEL 

Paul has an intense desire that Israel be saved.
  • “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen, according to the flesh” (9:1-3). 
  • “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (10:1). 

In verse 25, Paul brings up a “mystery” about Israel: “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers…” (v. 25). In the NT, a “mystery” is truth that has previously been hidden but now revealed. So what’s this mystery? The mystery is this: “a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. [1] And in this way all Israel will be saved” (vv. 25-26).
  • Who will be saved? The context makes it clear—in my opinion—that “all Israel” refers to the nation of Israel (as opposed to the “remnant”). Does “all Israel” mean every single Jew? No, but it does mean the majority of Jews. 
  • How will they be saved? Israel will be saved the same way everyone else is saved. There aren’t different ways to be saved. Jesus declared, “I am the way” (John 14:6). The apostle Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else” (Acts 4:12). 
  • When will they be saved? Israel will be saved around the time of the second coming. “The Deliverer [i.e., Jesus] will come from Zion [2] [i.e., heaven], he will banish ungodliness from Jacob [i.e., Israel]” (v. 26; cf. Isa. 59:20-21). 

Is it really possible that “all Israel will be saved”? Doesn’t that seem unlikely? It does seem unlikely, but is it less likely than the resurrection of Jesus or his second coming? If we believe Jesus rose from the dead and that he is coming again, then we can believe that Israel will be saved.

Why does Paul use the word “now” in verse 32? “So they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.” If Israel will not be saved until around the time of the second coming, why does Paul say they “now receive mercy”? “The best explanation is that Paul wants to emphasize the imminence of Israel’s salvation. As the next item on the agenda of God’s plan, the return of Christ and the conversion of Israel can take place at any time.” [3]

What about “all” in verse 32? It means “all” without distinction—in other words, all kinds of people—not “all” without exception. This verse is not teaching universalism—the belief that everyone will eventually be saved.


DOXOLOGY 

[Read verses 33-36.] Is Paul expressing frustration in these verses? It’s true that there’s so much about God that we don’t understand: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares 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).

Paul is not filled with frustration because of what he doesn’t know about God; he’s filled with praise because of what he does know about God. We can’t understand everything about God, but what we can understand should cause us to be amazed!

It’s not completely clear in the original Greek if Paul is referring to three or two of God’s attributes in verse 33. The ESV says, “Oh, the depth of the riches [i.e., riches of God’s kindness] and wisdom and knowledge of God!” The NIV says, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” If the three-attribute translation is correct, then each of the three rhetorical questions in verses 34 and 35 can be seen as corresponding to one of these attributes.
  • Since God is infinite in knowledge, “who has known the mind of the Lord”? 
  • Since God is infinite in wisdom, “who has been his counselor”? 
  • Since God is infinite in riches, “who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid”? 

From him and through him and to him are all things” (v. 36). “God is the creator, sustainer and heir of everything, its source, means and goal.” [4]

Theology (our belief about God) and doxology (our worship of God) should never be separated. “To him be glory forever. Amen” (v. 36).
  • There should be no worship that is without truth. 
  • There should be no teaching or study of truth without worship. 

Learning about God should always lead to worship of God.

____________________

[1] “God has determined the number of Gentiles to be saved. Once that number is reached, Israel’s hardening comes to an end” (Douglas J. Moo, Romans, p. 377).
[2] Isaiah 59:20 actually says, “And a Redeemer will come to Zion.” “Zion” in this verse refers to Jerusalem. Jesus will come “from Zion”—the heavenly Jerusalem (see Heb. 12:22)—“to Zion”—the earthly Jerusalem.
[3] Douglas J. Moo, Romans, p. 381.
[4] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 311.

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