Thesis:The exuberance of being rightly related to God is rooted in the awareness that the relationship is with One Whose wisdom and knowledge are "rich" beyond measure.
Introduction:This evening we are coming to the last paragraph of Romans 11. As the last paragraph, it is an expression of the pent-up enthusiasm of one who takes his own advice seriously. The issue of the section is the question of whether Paul's readers will be siphoned off into one of the myriad paths that lead to the disintegration of a productive, personal, relationship with God. At the root of all such siphoning tactics is the nefarious suggestion that God cannot be trusted to the max. And, at the root of that suggestion there will always be some "plausible arguments" put forward to deflect us from the path of Life. In this section of Romans the "plausible argument" focuses upon the present plight of national Israel in view of its "election" by God and the fact that the present plight does not bode well for those who have been "elected". This argument may seem to us, two thousand years later, to be a bit of "out of touch theological rambling", but the bottom line is that it is simply the current-to-the-time argument against drifting because of plausible delusion. The fact is that God is a God of integrity and not only can be trusted to the maximum, but must be if Life is to be the unvarnished experience. Paul's outburst here at the end of this extended argument for trusting God is his expression of pent-up enthusiasm for what God has given to him by grace.
In order that we also might share in that enthusiasm, we are going to look into its roots.
I. The Roots Begin With a Concept of Unbounded Wealth.
A. The initial issue of the outburst is what Paul calls "the depth of the riches".
1. The issue of the word 'depth' is 'a significant expanse below the surface'.
a. 'Depth' is the measure of the distance from the surface to the bottom of a thing.
b. The word used by Paul is used as a figure of speech for the part of a body of water that is significantly over the head of the one calling it "deep" (Luke 5:4).
1) It is a "relative" term in the sense that what is "deep" for a toddler may not be considered "deep" by his/her parent.
2) As a metaphor, it calls upon us to understand that it is our "life" that is involved in the measurement in that "the deep" contains both a latent threat for all "air-breathers" as well as a latent promise for provision.
c. The word is used by Paul and John in metaphorical terms to describe doctrinal realities that are far beneath the superficial appearance of reality.
1) Paul uses it so in 1 Corinthians 2:10 in reference to "the deep things of God".
2) John uses it so in Revelation 2:24 in reference to "the deep things of Satan".
d. The point is that Paul used the word here because he wanted his readers to think in terms of a vast expanse beneath their superficial experience of reality through the senses.
2. The interesting fact is that this "vast expanse" is supposed to be viewed as "filled with riches".
a. That Paul used "riches" is interesting in light of the biblical opposition to man's deceived notions regarding "wealth".
1) Jesus pointedly said that it is enormously difficult for those who possess "wealth" to enter into God's Kingdom (Luke 18:24).
2) James, the Lord's half-brother according to the flesh, picked up on this thesis by calling upon the "wealthy" to weep and howl for the eternal miseries that are coming to them (James 5:1).
3) In a kind of direct contrast with the records of the Old Testament, the New Testament makes "wealth" a huge liability, yet Paul deliberately chose to use this term in this text.
b. That Paul used "riches" indicates that he wanted to capitalize upon one aspect of the human delusion: the aspect of motivation.
1) "Riches" are presented everywhere in the Scriptures as a very enticing objective that generally gets a high level of pursuit from highly motivated men.
2) Paul, one of the "poorest" of men, following the example of Jesus Who had no place upon which to lay His head, wanted to capitalize upon this issue of extreme motivation.
3) This word picture, then, was Paul's way of attempting to stop his readers in their tracks for a brief time in order to consider the "depths of God's riches" ... a vast subterranean ocean of extreme wealth.
3. The point of Paul's use of "the depth of the riches" is the issue of "Life" and the offer of wealth to enhance the experience of it.
a. The deception for men exists most fundamentally in the attempt to apply material wealth to an immaterial "Life": it is a most fundamental mismatch that simply cannot "work".
b. But, if a man begins to understand God as a "vast expanse of wealth", the possibilities are enormous for a relational richness through the application of Relationship to relationship, a most fundamental match.
B. The follow-up to the "depth of wealth" thesis is the focus upon "the wisdom and knowledge of God".
1. Now we know what the vast subterranean ocean holds: wisdom and knowledge.
2. The order is instructive: wisdom precedes knowledge.
a. The order is a reverse of the typical cause/effect way of thinking (knowledge precedes wisdom in the cause/effect way of thinking).
b. "Wisdom", defined, is "the ability to use information in the application to a given process so that what is desired is the result."
1) In terms of Paul's outburst, this means that he saw God as a vast subterranean ocean of "skill" in the application of data to processes with given purposes in view.
2) This means that Paul's view of God was most fundamentally triumphal: He cannot be defeated.
3) This means that Paul's view of God was most fundamentally trustworthy: He is to be regarded as able to do everything that He has declared are His intentions.
4) This means that Paul's view of God was most fundamentally Life-giving: He applies His vast ocean of wisdom to purposes that are rooted in His nature as the Living God so that all of His intentions are directed toward the production of Life for those who are in harmony with these intentions.
c. "Knowledge", defined, is "data possessed and accessible".
1) The vast ocean of wealth is a combination of possessed and accessible knowledge floating in an equally vast skill in the use of that data.
2) This means that there is no "data" in the omniscience of God that is not wedded, side by side, to an equivalent skill in the use of it for the purposes for which it exists in the nature of the Living God.
II. The Roots Continue With a Concept of Fundamental Theology.
A. Paul is completely focused upon "God" as the vast ocean of wealth.
B. He is not at all involved in attempting to make "man" the root of his outburst of enthusiasm.
C. He does have a correlation in mind: because God is this vast ocean of wealth and has made His willingness to share Himself with men known by the Gospel, man can reap the benefits of the vast ocean of wealth by faith.
1. If man will trust the God of wisdom and knowledge, he will share in the Life of the Living God.
2. That man is given the opportunity of trust by divine revelation of His Plan and Methods is at the root of Paul's enthusiasm.