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Romans 11:33

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

O the depth … - This passage should have been translated “O the depth of the riches, and of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God.” The apostle has three subjects of admiration. Our translation, by the word “both” introduced here, confines it to two. The apostle wishes to express his admiration of the riches and the wisdom, and the knowledge of God. So the Syriac, Arabic, etc. Our translation has followed the Latin Vulgate. The word “depth” is applied in the Scriptures to anything vast and incomprehensible. As the abyss or the ocean is unfathomable, so the word comes to denote what words cannot express, or what we cannot comprehend; Psalm 36:6, “Thy judgments are a great deep;” 1 Corinthians 2:10,” The Spirit searcheth … the deep things of God;” Revelation 2:24, “The depths of Satan” - the deep, profound, cunning, and wicked plans of Satan.

Riches - See the note at Romans 11:12. The word denotes the abundant blessings and mercies which had been conferred on sinful people by the gospel. These were vast and wonderful. The pardon of sin; the atonement; the hope of heaven; the peace of the gospel; all bestowed on the sinful, the poor, the wretched, and the dying; all bespeak the great mercy and rich grace of God. So every pardoned sinner may still exclaim. The grace of God which pardons him is felt to be indeed wonderful, and past comprehension. It is beyond the power of language to express; and all that the Christian can do, is to follow the example of the apostle, and sit down in profound admiration of the rich grace of God. The expression “the depth of the riches” is a Hebraism, meaning the deep or profound riches.

The wisdom - Wisdom is the choice of the best means to accomplish the best ends. The end or design which God had in view was to bestow mercy on all; i. e., to save people by grace, and not by their own works; Romans 11:32. He intended to establish a glorious system that should present his mercy as the prominent attribute, standing out in living colors in all the scheme of salvation. This was to be alike shown in relation to Jews and Gentiles. The wonderful wisdom with which this was done, is the object of the apostle‘s profound admiration. This wisdom was seen,

(1) In adapting the plan to the condition of man. All were sinners. The apostle in this Epistle has fully shown that all had come short of the glory of God. Man had no power to save himself by his own wisdom. The Jews and Gentiles in different ways had sought to justify themselves, and had both failed God had suffered both to make the experiment in the most favorable circumstances. He had left the world for four thousand years to make the trial, and then introduced the plan of divine wisdom, just so as to meet the manifest wants and woes of people.

(2) this was shown in his making the Jews the occasion of spreading the system among the Gentiles. They were cast off, and rejected; but the God of wisdom had made even this an occasion of spreading his truth.

(3) the same wisdom was yet to be seen in his appointing the Gentiles to carry the gospel back to the Jews. Thus, they were to be mutual aids; until all their interests should be blended, and the entire race should be united in the love of the same gospel, and the service of the same God and Saviour. When, therefore, this profound and wonderful plan is contemplated, and its history traced from the commencement to the end of time, no wonder that the apostle was fixed in admiration at the amazing wisdom of him who devised it, and who has made all events subservient to its establishment and spread among people.

And knowledge - That is, foreknowledge, or omniscience. This knowledge was manifest,

(1)In the profound view of man, and acquaintance with all his wants and woes.

(2)in a view of the precise scheme that would be suited to recover and save.

(3)in a view of the time and circumstances in which it would be best to introduce the scheme.

(4)in a discernment of the effect of the rejection of the Jews, and of the preaching of the gospel among the Gentiles.

Who but God could see that such effects would follow the rejection of the Jews? Who but he could know that the gospel should yet prevail among all the nations? We have only to think of the changes in human affairs; the obstacles to the gospel; the difficulties to be surmounted; and the vast work yet to be done, to be amazed at the knowledge which can adapt such a scheme to people, and which can certainly predict its complete and final spread among all the families of man.

How unsearchable - The word “unsearchable” means what cannot be investigated or fully understood.

His judgments - This word in this place evidently means his arrangement, his plan, or proceeding. It sometimes refers to laws; at other times to the decision or determination of God; at others to the inflictions of his justice. In this last sense it is now commonly used. But in the case before us, it means his arrangements for conferring the gospel on people compare Psalm 36:7,” His judgments are a great deep.”

His ways - The word rendered “ways” properly denotes a path, or road on which one travels. Hence, it comes also to denote the course or manner of life in which one moves; or his principles, or morals; his doctrine, or teaching, etc. Applied to God, it denotes his mode or manner of doing things; the order, etc. of his divine Providence; his movements, in his great plans, through the universe; Acts 13:10, “Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” to oppose, or to render vain, his plan of guiding and saving man; Hebrews 3:10,” They have not known my ways;” Psalm 77:19, “Thy way is in the sea, thy footsteps are not known.” Here it refers particularly to his way or plan of bringing all nations within the reach of his mercy in the gospel.

Past finding out - Literally, which cannot be tracked or traced out. The footsteps cannot be followed. As if his path were in the sea Psalm 77:19, and the waves closed immediately, leaving no track, it cannot be followed or sought out. It is known that he has passed, but there is no way of tracing his goings. This is a beautiful and striking figure. It denotes that God‘s plans are deep, and beyond our comprehension. We can see the proofs that he is everywhere; but how it is, we cannot comprehend. We are permitted to see the vast movements around us; but the invisible hand we cannot see, nor trace the footsteps of that mighty God who performs his wonders on the ocean and on the land,

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle Paul knew the mysteries of the kingdom of God as well as ever any man; yet he confesses himself at a loss; and despairing to find the bottom, he humbly sits down at the brink, and adores the depth. Those who know most in this imperfect state, feel their own weakness most. There is not only depth in the Divine counsels, but riches; abundance of that which is precious and valuable. The Divine counsels are complete; they have not only depth and height, but breadth and length, Eph 3:18, and that passing knowledge. There is that vast distance and disproportion between God and man, between the Creator and the creature, which for ever shuts us from knowledge of his ways. What man shall teach God how to govern the world? The apostle adores the sovereignty of the Divine counsels. All things in heaven and earth, especially those which relate to our salvation, that belong to our peace, are all of him by way of creation, through him by way of providence, that they may be to him in their end. Of God, as the Spring and Fountain of all; through Christ, to God, as the end. These include all God's relations to his creatures; if all are of Him, and through Him, all should be to Him, and for Him. Whatever begins, let God's glory be the end: especially let us adore him when we talk of the Divine counsels and actings. The saints in heaven never dispute, but always praise.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! - This is a very proper conclusion of the whole preceding discourse. Wisdom may here refer to the designs of God; knowledge, to the means which he employs to accomplish these designs. The designs are the offspring of infinite wisdom, and therefore they are all right; the means are the most proper, as being the choice of an infinite knowledge that cannot err; we may safely credit the goodness of the design, founded in infinite wisdom; we may rely on the due accomplishment of the end, because the means are chosen and applied by infinite knowledge and skill.

Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3 (EGW), 1141

(Romans 11:33.) God Asks Questions Scholars Cannot Answer—Men of the greatest intellect cannot understand the mysteries of Jehovah as revealed in nature. Divine inspiration asks many questions which the most profound scholar cannot answer. These questions were not asked, supposing that we could answer them, but to call our attention to the deep mysteries of God, and to make men know that their wisdom is limited; that in the common things of daily life there are mysteries past the comprehension of finite minds; that the judgment and purposes of God are past finding out, His wisdom unsearchable. If He reveals Himself to man, it is by shrouding Himself in the thick cloud of mystery. 3BC 1141.1

God's purpose is to conceal more of Himself than He makes known to man. Could men fully understand the ways and works of God, they would not then believe Him to be the infinite One. He is not to be comprehended by man in His wisdom, and reasons, and purposes. “His ways are past finding out” [Romans 11:33]. His love can never be explained upon natural principles. If this could be done, we would not feel that we could trust Him with the interests of our souls. Skeptics refuse to believe, because with their finite minds they cannot comprehend the infinite power by which God reveals Himself to men. Even the mechanism of the human body cannot be fully understood; it presents mysteries that baffle the most intelligent. 3BC 1141.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 287

The revelation of God's love to men centers in the cross. Its full significance tongue cannot utter; pen cannot portray; the mind of man cannot comprehend. Looking upon the cross of Calvary we can only say: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. 8T 287.1

Christ crucified for our sins, Christ risen from the dead, Christ ascended on high, is the science of salvation that we are to learn and to teach. 8T 287.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, 301

The man is to be regarded and honored only as God's ambassador. To praise the man is not pleasing to God. The message he brings is to be brought to the test of the Bible. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” But the word of the Lord is not to be judged by a human standard. It will be seen that those whose minds have the mold of earthliness, those who have a limited Christian experience and know but little of the things of God, are the ones who have the least respect for God's servants and the least reverence for the message He bids them bear. They listen to a searching discourse and go to their homes prepared to sit in judgment on it, and the impression disappears from their minds like the morning dew before the sun. If the preaching is of an emotional character, it will affect the feelings, but not the heart and conscience. Such preaching results in no lasting good, but it often wins the hearts of the people and calls out their affections for the man who pleases them. They forget that God has said: “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils.” 5T 301.1

Jesus is waiting with longing desire to open before His people the glory that will attend His second advent, and to carry them forward to a contemplation of the landscapes of bliss. There are wonders to be revealed. A long lifetime of prayer and research will leave much unexplored and unexplained. But what we know not now will be revealed hereafter. The work of instruction begun here will be carried on to all eternity. The Lamb, as He leads the hosts of the redeemed to the Fountain of living waters, will impart rich stores of knowledge; He will unravel mysteries in the works and providence of God that have never before been understood. 5T 301.2

We can never by searching find out God. He does not lay open His plans to prying, inquisitive minds. We must not attempt to lift with presumptuous hand the curtain behind which He veils His majesty. The apostle exclaims: “How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” It is a proof of His mercy that there is the hiding of His power, that He is enshrouded in the awful clouds of mystery and obscurity; for to lift the curtain that conceals the divine presence is death. No mortal mind can penetrate the secrecy in which the Mighty One dwells and works. We can comprehend no more of His dealings with us and the motives that actuate Him than He sees fit to reveal. He orders everything in righteousness, and we are not to be dissatisfied and distrustful, but to bow in reverent submission. He will reveal to us as much of His purposes as it is for our good to know; and beyond that we must trust the hand that is omnipotent, the heart that is full of love. 5T 301.3

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