NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION!

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ALERT! VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

IT’S SUMMER BREAK TIME!

In all the years my wife and I have been married we’ve never been on a real vacation. Now that I’m 80 years old we’re finally going to take one.

We will be visiting her brother and sisters and nieces and nephews and their families out in California. We are looking to have a great time.

While I’m gone, I won’t have my PC with me so the Lessons on Romans, our Serendipity for Saturday, and Points of Ponder for Sunday will take a rest.

But as soon as the vacation is over, we’ll start up again with new energy and excitement.

Also, at that time we’ll be able to share some very important news with all of you. So keep your eyes open for my next post.

God bless you, take care of you, and keep you safe until we get together again here on the Internet.

Dr. Robert & Aurora Seyda

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German poet, zoologist, botanist, and geologist once said: “Our friends show us what we can do, our enemies teach us what we must do.” Goethe goes on to say that a man cannot live with everyone, and, therefore, he cannot live for everyone. To see this truth clearly is to place a high value on one’s friends, and not to hate or persecute those who try to do us harm. In fact, take every opportunity to find out, if you can, the worthiness or worthlessness of your opponents; it will give you a decided advantage over them.1

One of the first things we can learn from those who oppose us is that we may need to change. Yes, there are things that can go wrong in life. We can either try to escape it, deny it, or find out what’s not right. After all, on a cold winter day, if there’s no heat in your house, you don’t complain because it’s the middle of winter, you find out why the heater is not working. The conflict between you and someone else may not be due to external circumstances but an internal attitude or bias. These things don’t always happen to us, but for us. By making the necessary changes we can become a better person.

Another thing we can learn from the opposition is that while we can’t always control life, we can control ourselves. Having to work with a hard-to-get-along-with person may not be our fault, or having to work under a new boss who is very controlling and even bullying was not our choice but that of the company we work for. So instead of seeing these as problems that irritate us, we can see them as opportunities to learn new skills. Don’t see yourself as the loser or the victim, but as someone who is ready to meet a challenge and show they have what it takes to survive.

We can also learn from what we are up against, that we may not be able to change the situation, but we can certainly change the way we look at the situation. The first thing we need to tell ourselves is that the situation is not out of control, only that we need to take control of the situation. Remember, when we learn by experience how to master change, then change will not master us. We can either use pain and disappointment to motivate us to find higher ground, or allow pain and disappointment keep us in the valley of despair.

An additional thing we can learn when facing obstacles is that it will help us find out where we are weak and where we are strong. The stronger we become, the less afraid we will be when sudden changes come into our lives. We know that no matter what happens, we have more going for us than against us. Strength does not come all at once, it is built up over the years to become one of life’s most valuable assets.

Believe it or not, sometimes we can be our own worst enemy or our own best friend. Buddha once said that your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts. Sometimes when unexpected things come at us, we hate ourselves for not seeing it headed our way ahead of time. Why didn’t we notice what was happening? So we end up hating ourselves for letting something that could have been avoided from throwing us off track. If we don’t learn how to forgive ourselves, feeling sad, upset, and angry, will cause us to keep thinking about this over and over.

Also, when we find ourselves caught in an embarrassing situation, we will quickly learn who our true friends are. There will be many people who prove to be great friends to be around when times are easy, but take note of the people who remain in our lives when times get hard. Those are friends that are willing to sacrifice their time and the resources they have in their life to help improve ours. Those are our real friends. A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.

And finally, having to deal with hardships and disappointments will help us realize what matters and what doesn’t in life. When things don’t go right and we can’t function the way we’re used to living, there will be some things we’ll have to learn to live without. We can spend our time feeling sad about the situation and missing the things we used to enjoy. But that will not make us happy. But if we learn to enjoy the simple things in life, little by little, and appreciate what we do have, then we will realize that life is not too bad after all.

King Solomon said that if what you are doing is right, God will cause your enemies to try and make peace with you.2 In other words, treating an opponent with disdain and arrogance will only make them despise you more. But returning good for evil will cause them to think differently about you. Perhaps that’s why the Apostle Peter said that if someone insults you, find a way to compliment them. Don’t throw back the pie they threw in your face. Rather, have them sit down and eat it with you and tell them how good it tastes. You are not trying to convict them that what they did to you was wrong, but helping them to convict themselves. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe: Translated by Bailey Saunders, The MacMillan Company, New York, 1906, p. 201

2 Proverbs 16:7

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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A LITTLE ANT WITH A BIG MESSAGE

Although I’m not a rock climber, after I read this true story written by Josh and Karen Zarandona, it struck me that sometimes there are things that nature can teach us that have spiritual meanings. I hope you find the same when you read what happened on one rock-climbing expedition.

A young lady named Brenda was invited to go rock climbing. Although she was very scared, she went with her group to a tremendous granite cliff. In spite of her fear, she put on the gear, took hold of the rope, and started up the face of that rock. After a somewhat strenuous climb, she reached a ledge where she could take a breather. As she was hanging on there, as others climbed up ahead, the safety rope snapped against Brenda’s eye and knocked out one of her contact lenses.

Well, there she stood, on a rock ledge, hundreds of feet above the ground. Of course, she looked and looked and looked, hoping it had landed on the ledge, but it just wasn’t there. Here she was, far from home, her sight now blurry in one eye. She was desperate and began to get upset, so she prayed to the Lord to help her to find the lens.

When she got to the top, a friend examined her eye and her clothing for the lens, but there was nothing to be found. She sat down, despondent, with the rest of the party, waiting for everyone else to make it up the face of the cliff.

But as she looked out across range after range of mountains, she thought of the verse that says, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” As she meditated, in her mind she said, “Lord, You can see all these mountains. You know every stone and leaf, and You know exactly where my contact lens is. Please help me find it.

Finally, they walked down the trail to the bottom. And there stood a new party of climbers getting ready to start up the face of the cliff. One of them shouted out, “Hey, you guys! Anybody lose a contact lens?” Well, Brenda could hardly believe her ears. So she hollered, “Yes, I did!” But then she could hardly believe what came next. The climber who found the lens saw an ant moving slowly across the face of the rock, carrying it on it’s back!

When Brenda got home she told her father, who was a cartoonist, about the incredible story of the ant, the prayer, and the contact lens. He was so inspired that he drew the cartoon below of an ant lugging that contact lens with a message some believer might have prayed to the Lord if they too were asked to carry what someone else needed badly to find in order to see life more clearly.

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

SUMMARY OF CHAPTER ELEVEN

Paul had three objectives when he started this chapter, First, to understand why God has not totally rejected His people, Israel. Secondly, to see the possibility of ungrateful Gentiles deserting the truth in the last days, And thirdly, to accept this as a summary and conclusion for Chapters 9-11.

In looking back we see that Paul concluded chapter ten with a quotation from Isaiah describing the nation of Israel as “a disobedient and contrary people.” He then begins chapter eleven by giving several examples to show that despite this rebellion God has not totally rejected His people.

However, what God has done hardened the hearts of the rebellious Israelites. But the outcome of this “hardening” led to the salvation message being sent out to the Gentiles, which in turn, God was using to provoke Israel to jealousy in an attempt to win them back to Him. This is also why Paul magnified his ministry to the Gentiles, hoping to save some of his countrymen by provoking them to jealousy.

Paul then directs his attention to the Gentile believers, explaining that their obedience allowed them to be “grafted” into the true olive tree of Israel to replace those removed by their own disobedience. This “grafting,” however, is permanent only as long as they remain faithful. In addition, if any Israelites repent of their unbelief, they too can be grafted back in.

As Paul draws to a conclusion, he explains that this is how “all Israel” will eventually be saved. Through a “temporary hardening” of their hearts, mercy can now be shown to the Gentiles, and by showing mercy to the Gentiles mercy will be available to disobedient Israel in the end. In this way, Paul says, that “God will let the Jews stew in disobedience so that He might have mercy on the rest of the world,” proving that God is no respecter of persons and makes His plan of salvation available to all.

Paul ends this section with a doxology praising the wisdom and knowledge of God in establishing such a gracious and merciful plan of salvation.

So where does that leave things? Yes, God has temporarily thrown aside the Jewish people so that He can reach the rest of the world. But this must not be understood as a total and irreversible rejection of His people, Israel. God did too much by calling them out of the world as a special people, then rescuing them from Egypt and planting them in the Promised Land, and keeping them alive down through the ages, despite persecution and torment, to just throw them away.

To illustrate, Paul tells us the story of Elijah. When Elijah’s whole community had turned against Elohim and started worshiping other gods, God told him that it was not all over. God had stowed away a remnant of the faithful that will still be saved. The same is true now. As a whole, the Jews have stumbled a bit when it comes to believing in Jesus. But Paul is careful to note that doesn’t mean God has given up on them ever coming around to believe in His Son as the Messiah.

Look, at it this way: Jesus came to bring God’s message to the Jews. Now, because the all Jews didn’t believe in Him, God decided to spread His message out to non-Jews. Paul says that God did this to make the Jews jealous. That’s why Paul was called and sent out to reach the Gentiles even though he himself was once an unbelieving Jew.

In order for Paul to explain this both to his fellow Jews and the Gentiles, Paul says that the Jews are like a tree with holy roots. Each individual person is a branch on that tree. But some of the branches have died and fallen off. In their place, God grafted in some wild olive branches that didn’t belong on the tree, to begin with. But they’re growing and fitting in nicely, so it has worked out well so far. And Paul warns the new branches not to become egotistical because that’s what caused the original branches to fall off in the first place.

But don’t forget, God is not finished yet, He still has plans for those branches that fell off because of pride and hardheartedness. He will offer them another opportunity to become part of the holy tree once more. Only this time, their spiritual life will not come from Abraham but from Yeshua, the Messiah, God’s only Son. Then both Jews and Gentiles will belong to the same tree with the same roots.

When will that day come? Only God knows. But the fact that it has been promised by a God who never changes is enough to make it real. In the meantime, the Gentiles are to be both evangelists to their fellow Gentiles as well as to the Jews. As Paul looks back on this he is overcome with joy and begins to shout praises of honor and glory to God who is our hope forever and ever. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

I’m already excited about what we are going to learn as we travel through the verses of Chapter Twelve. It is going to be an exciting journey. I Can hardly wait to start. I hope you are excited too.

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER ELEVEN (Lesson XXXIX)

Albert Barnes feels that the English Bible reader is somewhat disadvantaged in understanding Paul’s quote here of Isaiah: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God.” He feels that it should be translated “O the depth of the riches, and of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God.” In fact, the English translation from the Aramaic text by James Murdock (1852) reads that way, as does the Complete Jewish Bible. For Barnes, the Apostle has three subjects of admiration, not two. The Apostle wishes to express his admiration for the riches, wisdom, and knowledge exhibited by God.

Barnes then goes on to explain what Paul meant by “riches.” The expression “the depth of the riches” is a Hebraism, meaning riches that are too great to count. 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 God; all bestowed on the sinful, the poor, the wretched, and the dying; all signal the great mercy and rich grace of God. So every pardoned sinner may still exclaim that the grace of God which pardoned them is indeed wonderful and past their 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 bow down in profound admiration for the rich grace of God.1

Henry Alford agrees with Barnes. There is some doubt whether the words wisdom and knowledge are nouns that modify riches. In the Greek Testament it can be concluded the three nouns are all coördinate: denoting the riches of the Divine goodness.2 Alford then adds an interesting exegesis of what Paul quotes in verse 36. As he sees it, Paul uses these last words to establish what he has alluded to in all that he has said above, the mystery of the Trinity. Alford says that this agrees with what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 8:6, and that all things are revealed by the Spirit of God; so when he says, “O the depth of the riches!” he signifies the Father, of whom are all things; and “the depth of the wisdom,” he signifies Christ, who is the wisdom of God; and “the depth of the knowledge,” he signifies the Holy Spirit, who knows even the deepest things of God. For Alford, while this is not a formal allusion to the three Persons in the Holy Trinity, they are an implicit reference to the three attributes of Elohim respectively manifested to us by the three Co-equal and Co-eternal Persons.3

H. A. Ironside taught that the last four verses in this chapter are in the nature of a Doxology. The Apostle’s heart is filled with worship, and praise, and admiration as the full blaze of the divine plan fills the horizon of his soul. Apart from revelation, none could have known God’s mind, just as no created being could ever have been His counselor. No one ever earned grace by first giving to Him, in order that blessings might be received in return; but everything is of Him, and through Him, and to Him, to whom be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen.4

Charles Hodge agrees with the above scholars in that riches, wisdom, and knowledge are genitives that stand in the same relation to the word “depth.” He then goes on to give a long exposition of this doxology. From a doctrinal point of view, it is a radical principle of the Bible, and consequently of all our true faith. Namely, that God is all and in all; that of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things eternal. It is the tendency of all truth to exalt God and to humble creation; it is characteristic of true righteousness to feel that all good comes from God, and to desire that all glory should be given to Him.5 It is the tendency of many and the result of all correct views of Christian doctrine to duplicate the same feelings expressed by the Apostle at the close of this chapter. However, any views that might have the tendency to lead us to ascribe, in any form, our salvation to our own merit or power cannot be scriptural.6

Charles Ellicott also comments on any reference to the Trinity in verse 36. He notes that even though all things proceed from God, that all things are made or wrought by Him, and that all things exist for His glory, and to carry out His purpose and will, it is a mistake to see in this, (as some of the older commentators have done), any allusion to the Trinity. The subject of the whole verse appears to be God the Father, and the prominent idea is the unity of creation corresponding to the unity of the Godhead. The whole system of all created things issues from Him and returns to Him. They are meant to accomplish in their course of existence to operate according to His charitable designs. Ellicott does admit, however, that the use of the prepositions that bind these nouns together could be understood as expressing the threefold relation (origin, causation, and returning) which the doctrine of the Trinity embodies.7

F. F. Bruce disagrees with Hodge and others that riches, wisdom, and knowledge are three genitive nouns. For Bruce, instead of treating these three as separate divine properties, we may take “wisdom and knowledge” as dependent on “riches.”8 Then with regard to verse 36, Bruce hints that the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) may have had access either to the writings of Paul or the same source quoted by Paul. For instance, in his “Meditations,” we read where Aurelius writes: “From thee are all things, in thee are all things, to thee all things return.910

Douglas Moo gives us something to consider. The three questions in verses 34–35 are taken from the First Covenant. The first two from Isaiah 40:13 and the third may come from Job 41:3. The questions may correspond, in reverse order, to the three attributes in verse 33: “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” – knowledge. “Who has been His counselor?” – wisdom. “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” – riches. These questions are obviously rhetorical and expected the answer is, “no one.

But the wisdom tradition Paul reflects taught that wisdom was able to do what no person was able to do: understand and interpret the mind of God. As the embodiment of wisdom, then, Christ, through His work of salvation, reveals God’s plan to us. If the first two questions remind us how far we are from fully understanding God, the final question reminds us of God’s grace, a great theme of these chapters. What God does in His plan of salvation He does not do because anyone has earned His favor or deserves His kindness, but solely out of His own great love for us.11

Jewish scholar David Stern makes the point that the three chief areas in which God manifests His nature and His power are alluded to here: creation (from Him), revelation (through Him), and redemption (to Him). Orthodox Judaism has observed that these same themes pervade the whole Bible and find expression in the traditional ways of celebrating the Sabbath and the other Jewish holidays.12 Also, the word, “Amen,” instructs the congregation hearing the letter read aloud to say, “Amen” in response to, and in agreement with, Paul’s praise of God.13

Preacher Charles Simeon believes that from all that Paul says here in this chapter we can learn three important things that will affect our attitude toward God: First, learn to be submissive. These were the words of the High Priest Eli to young Samuel, “It is ADONAI; let Him do what seems good to Him.14 Second, learn to be thankful. As the Psalmist said, “God, how I prize your thoughts! How many of them there are! If I count them, there are more than grains of sand.”15 And the third, learn to be confident. Again the Psalmist tells us, “Though clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.16

How many times have we already seen that, in numberless instances, God brought good out of evil. This should give us even more reason to bless Him as much for things which have been contrary to our desires, as for things which have been gratifying and brought us comfort. Learn, then, to trust Him for the future; and, in your darkest hour learn to exclaim with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him17.18

THE END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN

1 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

2 Henry Alford: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 108

3 Alford: ibid., p. 109

4 Harry A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

5 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 592

6 Hodge: ibid., p. 594

7 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

8 F. F. Bruce: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. 6, p. 220

9 The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Translated by George Long, F. M. Lupton Publishing Co., New York, 1862, 4:23, p. 72

10 Bruce: ibid., Vol. 6, p. 221

11 Douglas J. Moo, On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

12 Acts of the Apostles 2:1

13 David H. Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

14 See 1 Samuel 3:18

15 Psalm 139:17-18a

16 Ibid. 97:2

17 Job 13:15

18 Charles Simeon, On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., Vol. XV, p. 466

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER ELEVEN (Lesson XXXVIII)

Martin Luther has an interesting philosophical view of Paul’s quote here from Isaiah concerning the unsearchable things of God. He says that we must know the correct distinction between wisdom and knowledge: Wisdom pertains to the contemplation of eternal things; knowledge to the study of temporal things. Luther goes on to remark that spiritual wisdom deals with the things which we can neither see nor understand without the help of the Holy Spirit, which we accept by faith. But knowledge deals with what God created. Therefore, it is by His wisdom that God viewed all things before they came into existence. It is by His omniscience that nothing happens that God does not recognize as things that were supposed to happen. Therefore, it is called God’s “spontaneous knowledge.”1 No doubt Luther’s point is that all we know about God is what He has revealed through the prophets and all that He has created. It is impossible to know God as He really is with the human mind, it is beyond our comprehension, as Paul says here in verse 34.

Rather than taking this final doxology as Paul’s message to his readers, John Calvin notices Paul’s own wonderment over the things of God which he just shared. Paul marveled as his devout consideration of God’s dealings with the faithful. Having spoken from the Word and by the Spirit of the Lord, Paul was overcome by the grandeur of so great a mystery as God’s plan of salvation by faith. So what else could he do except exclaim in wonder that the riches of God’s wisdom are higher than our human reasoning can ever explore. Calvin is also struck by Paul’s admission of how incomprehensible are the things of God. Therefore, he warns that we should never try to discover anything related to the Lord beyond what He has revealed of Himself in the Scriptures. Otherwise, we will enter a maze from which the escape is not easy. It must, however, be noticed that Paul does not speak not here of all God’s mysteries, but only those which are hid in Christ. Such things ought only be admired and adored by us because they are beyond our comprehension.2

Then Calvin finishes by saying that we cannot by our own faculties examine the secrets of God, so we are admitted into a certain and clear knowledge of them by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And if we follow the guidance of the Spirit to where He leads us, there we ought to stop and, as it were, fix our eyes on Christ until He moves us further on. There is no reason to speculate what might or might not be. If anyone will seek to know more than what God has graciously revealed, they will be overwhelmed with the immeasurable brightness of God’s blinding light. But we must bear in mind the distinction between the secret counsel and hidden counsel of God. The secret counsel is made known in Scripture. For although the whole doctrine of Scripture surpasses in its height the mind of man, yet an access to it is not closed against the faithful who reverently and soberly follow the Spirit as their guide. But the case is different with regard to His hidden counsel, the depth and height of which cannot by any investigation be reached.3

John Locke takes Paul’s citations from the Scriptures as a way of teaching the Jews modesty and submission to the over-ruling hand of the all-wise God. It was time that they made peace with God and themselves over His favorable dealing with the Gentiles. After all, His wisdom and ways were infinitely above their comprehension, so how could they take it upon themselves to advise Him on what to do with those who were formerly heathens? Did God owe them anything? No! They owed Him everything that had come to them through Abraham that made them eligible to receive the Messiah.4

When writing about the depth and riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge, John Bengel makes the point that the different meanings of biblical terms deserve to be noted and collected. “Knowledge” directs all things to the best end; “Wisdom” knows when it has reached that end. Bengel goes on to note that what we are reading in Scripture are all the things that the Lord has willed, and said, and done. It does not unfold the reasons for what God wills either in general or specifically. These often involve things too high for our infant conceptions because they refer to eternity5.6

In his writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith, Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards wrote that by way of the Holy Spirit the discernment of all good things promised in the Gospel is revealed. Therefore, it is easy to see the force of the Apostle’s argument in Galatians when he asked: “There is one thing I want to know. Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the Law? Or did you receive Him by hearing about Christ?78 Edwards goes on to say that in the offer of Redemption, it is God by whom any goodness we possess is purchased, and it is God that purchases it, and it is God also that is the good purchased. Therefore, all that is good within us is of God, through God, and in God, As Paul says here in verse 36, “For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”9

Edwards then goes on to note that it is so great and amazing that God designed this whole plan of future events in His own mind! This means that everything He planned has always been laid out before His eyes and that nothing has ever come into being to surprise Him or make things too difficult for Him to understand or caused Him to be perplexed as to why it happened. He has already from eternity set up the framework and established the boundaries in which all things were to operate. How incomprehensible and wonderful in planning and excellent in working it out is God! That’s the reason we exclaim with Paul, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!10

Bible commentator Adam Clarke was awed by the scripture Paul chose to quote and makes the observation that the Apostle clearly considers the designs of God inscrutable, and His mode of governing the world incomprehensible. His designs, strategy, and goals are all infinite, and consequently unfathomable. It is impossible to account for the dispensations either of His justice or mercy. He does things under both these which far surpass the comprehension of mankind. But although His workings are of great depth, yet they are never self-contradictory: though they far surpass our reasoning, yet they never contradict reason; nor are they ever opposite to those ideas which God has implanted in mankind of goodness, justice, mercy, and truth. But it is worthy of remark, that we can more easily account for the enforcement of His justice than we can for the display of His mercy. We can see everywhere ten thousand reasons why He should implement His justice, but scarcely can we find one reason why He should show His mercy. And yet, these displays of mercy for which we can scarcely find a reason, are infinitely greater and more numerous than His displays of justice, for which the reasons are, in a vast majority of cases, obvious for apparent reasons.11

When Paul exclaims how deep and unsearchable are the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge, and how impossible it is for mankind to fathom what God thinks and know fully what He has done, does now, and will do in the future, that it should bring praises from people everywhere, Robert Haldane feels that in concluding his discussion of those deep and awesome subjects which, in the earlier part of this Epistle, had caught his attention, Paul emphatically declares the impossibility of comprehending how limitless are God’s attributes.

But far from judging, like some do, that we have nothing to do with such mysteries as the sovereignty of God in justifying “the ungodly,” and choosing or rejecting sinners according to His own good pleasure, Paul delighted in elaborating on the glorious perfections of Elohim as displayed in these doctrines. And as they bear most directly upon the state and security of Christians, he designates them at the beginning of the next chapter as the “mercies of God,” involving all the blessings in store for Jews and Gentiles, and constituting the foundation and support of all his exhortations for practical living. He thus teaches that these doctrines are conducive in the highest degree to the advancement of holiness, and that in no respect do they interfere with the responsibility of any individual.

Haldane then explains that Paul, by no means, denies that these great truths are “hard to be understood” by mere humans who consider themselves “wise and discreet,” yet refuse to receive the kingdom of God as “little children.” On the contrary, he lays out the absolute impossibility of any person being able to define the boundless and unfathomable incomprehensibility of the Divine attributes as manifested in God’s dealings with the children of mankind. How often does the profane ingenuity of man pretend to fathom, and sometimes even dares to accuse, the inscrutable ways of Elohim! But what a contrast does the Apostle’s language, in these concluding verses of this chapter, present to the vain and presumptuous speculations of some interpreters of Scripture! Multitudes receive the testimony of God only so far as they can satisfactorily account for all the reasons and grounds of His conduct, when measured according to the petty scale of their limited mental capacity. How unbecoming is such a creature as mankind! Will he who is but “of yesterday,” and “knows nothing,” who is born “like a wild donkey’s colt,” pretend to penetrate the wise intellect of the Omniscient Creator of the universe?12

1 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 163-164

2 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

3 Ibid., Calvin

4 John Locke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 359

5 1 Corinthians 13:9

6 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 336-338

7 Galatians 3:2

8 David S. Lovi. The Power of God: A Jonathan Edwards Commentary on the Book of Romans (pp. 272-273)

9 See The Bibliotheca Sacra: Edited by Edwards A. Park, Published by Warren F. Draper, Andover, 1881, Vol 38, p.169

10 David S. Lovi. The Power of God: A Jonathan Edwards Commentary on the Book of Romans (p. 269).

11 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 232

12 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 549

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER ELEVEN (Lesson XXXVII)

John Locke points out that God’s actions as stated here by Paul in verse 32, was not due to His putting the Jews out of His kingdom, but it was in response to their putting themselves out of His kingdom. In other words, they were acting like the prodigal son.1 So God lumped them together will all those who still didn’t believe in His Son as the Savior of the world. This way, He could deal with them as disobedient sinners through His love, grace, and mercy. So now, when they come to Him, it will be through Christ, the Gospel, and the cross, not by way of Abraham and their claim as being part of the original covenant.

Once they are willing to accept God’s unquestionable sovereignty over humanity, then their worship of Him will take on a new meaning. It frustrated Paul to see their continued rebellion against accepting their promised Deliverer and King. Even His miracles were not enough to convince them. So God decided to remove the roadblock in their thinking by appealing to them as sinners and not His sons. Since they had never been born again, this was not a case of backsliding so that they would think they were starting over again. Therefore, the Gospel message that had been designed for the Gentiles was now going to be used for the Jews as well.2

Adam Clarke makes a similar point by saying that this refers to the guilty state of both Jews and Gentiles. They had all broken God‘s law. The Jews were disobedient to the written law; the Gentiles were disobedient to the law written in their hearts. They are all represented here as having been accused of many transgressions. As they stood before God in His courtroom, they were found guilty on all charges; given the death sentence that they rightly deserved and then ordered to be incarcerated in the sinner’s prison of unbelief to await their execution. Once there, they were hoping that God would change His mind and commute their sentence. Then the Good News came! God, in His own compassion, moved by no merit found in either party, caused a general pardon by the Gospel to be proclaimed to all as a result of the sacrifice of His Son on their account. All they had to do was to repent and receive their forgiveness by faith.3

But, says Clarke, the Jews refused to receive this pardon on the terms which God proposed, and, therefore, continue locked up in their unbelief. But as the offers of mercy continues to be made to all indiscriminately, the time will come when the Jews, seeing the vast increase of the Gentiles going into the kingdom of the Messiah, and the glorious privileges which they enjoy will also lay hold of the hope set before them, and thus become united with the Gentiles as one flock under one shepherd and one bishop of all their souls. Clarke feels that this is a fine and well-chosen metaphor under these circumstances to expresses the guilty, helpless, wretched state of both Jews and Gentiles in need of salvation.4

Frédéric Godet also touches on the subjects of common salvation and universal salvation. In his mind, the domain of disobedience, within which God has successively detained all sinners, leaves both Jews and Gentiles with only one choice. They can humbly accept salvation from the hand of mercy or refuse it as being unnecessary. There is, therefore, no inference to be drawn from this passage in favor of a final universal salvation for all without exception. Paul teaches only one thing here: that at the close of the history of mankind on this earth there will be a dispensation of grace in which salvation will be extended to the totality of the nations living here below, and that the magnificent result will be that the humiliating periods through which the two halves of mankind, Jews and Gentiles, will have successively come to an end. The Apostle had begun this vast exposition of salvation with the fact of universal condemnation; he closes it with that of universal mercy. What could remain for him to do now but start singing the hymn of adoration and praise to a merciful and loving God?5 What we need to notice here is that Godet does not go on to say that God’s universal mercy will lead to universal salvation. That is an individual, not a group, decision.

Charles Ellicott sees Paul’s writing here as a persuasive matter embracing the whole course of human history and summing up the divine philosophy of the whole matter. The goal of God’s plan was that absolutely everything He created was to work in absolute harmony so that it resulted in fulfilling His divine will. We are able to see only a part of God’s ways, and the direction things are going now makes it difficult for anyone to believe that in the end “all things will work together for good,” because the full process by which this will happen is still not clearly seen.6 What Ellicott is talking about here is exactly how and when will the Jews as a nation turn to Christ as their Savior. All they can do is speculate based on their understanding of dispensational prophecy.

John Stott also has some interesting things to say along the same lines as Godet. For him, disobedience is likened to a dungeon in which God has incarcerated all human beings so that they have no possibility of escape except as God’s mercy releases them.7 This has been the argument of this letter to the Romans. Starting in the first three chapters, Paul demonstrated that all human beings are sinful, guilty and without excuse, and then from chapter 3:21 onward unfolded the way of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. He writes something similar in Galatians. “The Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin… We were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge (the Revised Standard Version renders it, “was our custodian”) to lead us to Christ.8 Thus human disobedience is the prison from which divine mercy liberates us.

Stott has a question about the term “all mankind” that Paul uses here. What exactly is he pointing out by saying that all mankind is on-hold because of their disobedience to God, but that all will receive mercy in the end? Some people have taken this verse upon which to build their theory of universal salvation for everyone without any fear of retribution. But this letter to the Romans will not allow this interpretation since in it Paul declares that there is to be a day of God’s wrath.9 on which some will experience God’s fierce anger.10 What, then, is the alternative? It is to note that in both halves of verse 32, regarding those whom God has imprisoned in disobedience and those on whom He will have mercy, Paul does not actually write of “all mankind” as an indication that it will include every single one. Rather, that mankind as a whole has been under the curse of sin and that the offer of salvation will be made to all. However, not everyone will accept God’s offer of salvation to be among the called and chosen, so they who refuse will then suffer the consequences.11

Verses 33-36: O the depth of the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God!12 How inscrutable are His judgments! How unsearchable are His ways!13 For, ‘Who has comprehended what is in the Lord’s mind? Who has been His counselor?’14 Or, ‘Who has given Him anything and made Him pay it back?’15 For from Him and through Him16 and to Him are all things.17

The writings of Paul are rich with what appears to be ancient creeds, declarations of faith, and portions of early hymns. This text could possibly be one of those. If we look at these words as a prose or anthem of faith, drawn from different scriptures, they ring with such certainty that it causes our faith to rise and our hearts to beat so strongly that we want to stand up and cry out, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!

What Paul says here is something most modern liberal theologians, agnostics, and individuals with little spiritual knowledge who try to serve as interpreters of Scriptures never really fathom. The only place in the Bible where I find that God came to man for assistance was when He asked Adam to name the animals,18 and that was before sin took over. If we mortals, with finite minds, can fully conceive and predetermine events as our immortal, infinite God did, then He isn’t God after all! At most, we can only scratch the surface of one infinitesimal speck of knowledge He has graciously given for brilliant minds to conquer. When a person rises in their conceit in an effort to explain just why or how or what God did, the Lord only chuckles at man’s ignorance. But beware lest your vanity and pride go off the rails at the expense of not meeting God’s Son. “Except you be converted and become as a little child you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

When my children were small, they took for granted what I told them about the sun, moon, stars, galaxies, nature and animals, ethics and virtues, etc., as being true. As they grew older and learned more on their own, it was a joy when I would hear one of them say, “You know dad, you were right!” Jesus said that this is the kind of faith we need to have in what He has told us. For sure, when we get to heaven all of us will exclaim to Him, “You know, Father, You were right!

1 Luke 15:11-32

2 John Locke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. pp. 358-359

3 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 230

4 Clarke: ibid

5 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

7 See A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans by C. E. B. Cranfield, T & T Clark International, New York, 1979, Vol. II, p. 587

8 Galatians 3:22ff

9 Romans 2:5

10 Ibid. 2:8

11 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

12 Isaiah 33:6; cf. Ephesians 3:18; 1:7; 2:7; 3:8, 10, 16; Col 1:27; 2:2-3

13 Psalm 36:6; cf. Job 5:9; 9:10; Job 11:7-9; 26:14; 33:13; 37:19,23; Psalms 40:5; 77:19; 92:5; 97:2; Ecclesiastes 3:11; Daniel 4:35

14 Isaiah 40:13; cf. Job 15:8; 36:22; Jeremiah 23:18; 1 Corinthians 2:16

15 Job 41:3; cf. Job 35:7; 41:11; Matthew 20:15; 1 Corinthians 4:7

16 1 Chronicles 29:11,12; Psalms 33:6; Proverbs 16:4; Daniel 2:20-23; 4:3,34; Matthew 6:13; Acts 17:25,26,28; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6-10; Colossians 1:15-17; Revelation 21:6

17 Psalms 29:1,2; 96:7,8; 115:1; Isaiah 42:12; Luke 2:14; 19:38; Galatians 1:5; Ephesians 3:21; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 6:16; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 5:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 1:25; Revelation 1:5,6; 4:10,11; 5:12-14; 7:10; 19:1,6,7

18 Genesis 2:20

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