Chapter # 11 Paragraph # 7 Study # 2
Thesis: Because of the Grace of God, His reactions to men in their sin cannot be determined by men.
Introduction: Last week we looked into the fact that Paul decided to conclude his extended argument that God is to be "believed" by expressing his exuberance in regard to the vast, subterranean ocean of both data and the skill to use it that is God. This is the outcome of "faith": exuberance in regard to God's omniscience and His infinite skill in the use of it. Those who share the "faith" can share in the exuberance.
However, the next part of Paul's sentence -- the part that deals with the "unsearchable judgments" and the "ways" that are "past finding out" -- throws somewhat of a "kink" in the issue of sharing in the exuberance. If, as the apostle seems to say, God's "judgments" and "ways" are out of our league, how are we to share in any exuberance, given the fact that we do not have a clue as to what He is doing, or will do? This is a question that we will attempt to address in our study this evening.
December 8, 2009
- I. First, We Must Understand What Paul Meant.
- A. In respect to the "unsearchable judgments"...
- 1. Paul is the only person in the New Testament to use the word translated "unsearchable" and he only used it this one time.
- a. However, the word is simply a "negated" form of a word that Peter used in 1 Peter 1:10, but he was the sole user of that word and he only used it once.
- 1) But, Peter's word was, itself, simply an intensified form of a word that is used multiple times by multiple writers in the New Testament.
- a) John's uses are three, and they are very enlightening.
- i. John 5:39 is a statement that people "search" the Scriptures as an intellectual exercise.
- ii. John 7:52 is a demand that people "search" so that they might "know" whether a given "claim" is "biblical" (this is, again, an intellectual exercise).
- iii. Revelation 2:23 is a declaration that God, Himself, is a "searcher" who ferrets out all of the facts (this is an anthropomorphism, but is, by that fact, instructive).
- b) Paul's uses are two (Romans 8:27 and 1 Corinthians 2:10); the first is in direct harmony with Revelation 2:23 and the second fits the current subject in that it posits the Spirit of God as a "searcher" of God's "deep things" prior to His enlightenment of us about some of those "depths".
- c) Peter uses the word once (1 Peter 1:11) with the same sense as John's uses.
- 2) The point: the basic term indicates the use of one's mental faculties in order to dig out detailed information so that decisions can be made with relative confidence.
- b. Thus, we can conclude that Paul used the negated, intensified form of a word that fundamentally means the use of one's mental faculties in order to dig out detailed information so that decisions can be made with relative confidence.
- 1) This would mean, first, that Paul had intense study in view.
- 2) And it would mean, second, that no matter how diligent any man, no matter how well intellectually endowed he be, would be able to figure out what God was going to decide if God did not simply come out and tell him (a la 1 Corinthians 2:10).
- 2. Paul's focus with his word "judgments" is not a hidden matter.
- a. This word is used by Paul six times in Romans and these are some facts about those uses...
- 1) The word signals two things: evaluation unto a decision and the imposition of the decision (this word for "judgment" goes beyond, but does not leave out, making decisions).
- 2) The contexts of this word in Romans are never "positive" in the sense of a decision to do someone "good"; the issue is always a decision that means terrible consequences for the one who has been evaluated.
- b. The conclusion we are forced to draw, then, is this: Paul has God's reaction to the fruitless branches in view and he is saying that no one could tell that He was about to prune them out of the tree.
- 1) An illustration of this exists in 2 Kings 21 when one focuses upon verse 11 and then backs up to verse 1.
- 2) The present situation was just as unpredictable: who knew that God was going to put Israel on the back burner and turn to the nations?
- 3. What Paul is saying, then, is this: no man can search out what God's reaction is going to be, or when He will implement it if God has not already declared it and preserved the declaration for the searchers.
- a. This implies that we are not to despair because God has not hidden everything from us.
- b. This implies that we are to be exuberant because God's opponents will never get the upper hand.
- c. We can believe what He has revealed and exult in His wisdom in keeping His opponents in the dark.
- B. In respect to the "ways" that are "past finding out".
- 1. The word for "ways" is a very widely used word in the New Testament (it is found in 99 verses) and it refers to a road, highway, path, or other route that is known by the impact of much traffic.
- 2. The word for "past finding out" is another combination word like "unsearchable" that is an intensified form of a more commonly used term that is "negated".
- a. The "common" word is used by Paul and Peter to refer to the "tracks" one makes as he moves along so that a "follower" can step in the same places.
- b. The intensifier would be like one who was determined to step in the very same places as if he might step on a land mine if he did not.
- c. The negator means that God has left no tracks.
- 3. What Paul is saying, then, is this: God has a very large "Atlas" of His movements with all manner of "roads" marked all over it, but He has not published it and no man knows where He has gone or is going (unless, of course, He tells him).
- II. Second, We Must Understand Why This is So.
- A. At the most obvious level, it is because of the infinity of God and the finitude of man.
- B. At the more contextual level, it is because Grace has been inserted into the region formerly dominated by Justice.
- III. Third, We Must Relate to Our Understanding Properly.
- A. We have a direct, revealed, declaration that, for those who believe and love God, there is nothing of which to be afraid: Romans 8:28.
- B. We have a Large Overview that makes some things absolutely certain and it is these certainties of which we are to have no doubt.
- C. We have the present context which explains how God cannot be defeated or legitimately charged with a breakdown of integrity, and is to be actively trusted unto exuberance.