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1294. The God I Cannot Fully Understand

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University
The Truth Network Radio
July 14, 2022 7:00 pm

1294. The God I Cannot Fully Understand

The Daily Platform / Bob Jones University

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July 14, 2022 7:00 pm

Dr. Kerry McGonigal continues the series entitled “Our Great God.”

The post 1294. The God I Cannot Fully Understand appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.

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Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. Today on The Daily Platform, we're continuing a series called Our Great God. Today's message will be preached by Bible professor, Dr. Kerry McGonigal. Romans chapter 11 this morning. Romans chapter 11. Paul ends his exposition of the Gospel in Romans 1 through 11 with these words, oh, the depth of the riches. This is verse 33. Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.

How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counselor, or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again. For of him and through him and to him are all things, to whom be glory forever.

Amen. Paul uses the word depth to describe God's riches and his wisdom and his knowledge. And he uses words like unsearchable and past finding out to describe God's judgments and God's ways. How many of you are taking a class right now where you feel like you're kind of in over your head? Like you're totally lost.

All right, teachers, look around. We've got some work to do. It's almost like Paul is in over his head here as he thinks about the God of the Gospel. It's almost like he's lost track of God after 11 chapters of trying to follow him. I've been asked to speak this morning as part of our doctrinal series on the God I cannot fully understand. So thankfully God has made himself known to us. Thankfully we can know him, but we cannot know him fully or exhaustively because he's God and we're not. And that's even true for those of us who've grown up in Christian homes and who've gone to Christian schools, who've read the Bible from cover to cover, who've taken and aced Bible doctrines and who have advanced degrees in theology and who pastor churches. So that's actually the big idea for my message this morning and that is I want us to respond to the incomprehensibility of God in a certain way. And I'll get to these later, but primarily I'm thinking in terms of four responses.

Wow, whoa, work and wait. Because no matter how much you know about God, you can never fully know him. At some point you're going to find yourself in over your heads and you're going to lose track of God. And there are a lot of places that we could go in the Bible to develop this theme, but I'd like to take verse 33 of Romans 11 as our text and consider this subject from two vantage points. You see there, there are two exclamations that Paul makes in verse 33. The first one I'm going to summarize as in over our heads with God, his inexhaustible attributes. The second one, losing track of God, his incomprehensible ways.

So let's begin with the first of those in over our heads with God. So recently Mr. Charles Lacey of our math faculty shared with me that there are infinite series of numbers in math that all sum to a finite value like this. So he said we really can't explain how an infinite quantity can actually equal a finite number.

So I started looking at that. You've got this infinite series represented by the ellipses and then you've got a finite number as the sum. Now, if you just heard a popping noise, that was, that was like the circuit. That was a circuit in my brain that just popped.

Something blew there as I tried to think about this. It's a math fact, but like Lacey says, we can't really explain how it's, it's true, but it's unexplainable. It's really hard for our minds, isn't it, to grasp this concept of infinity.

Well, the word depth that Paul uses here in verse 33 means inexhaustible magnitude, according to New Testament scholar Doug Moo. I mean, how many things can you think of that are truly inexhaustible, right? Natural resource managers speak of exhaustible resources, inexhaustible resources like coal and petroleum are exhaustible because they eventually run out. They speak of inexhaustible resources like air and sunlight because they're large, they're available in large and a continuous supply. So imagine if air were like the data plan for your phone, right?

You know, the one that you're always kind of concerned, should I watch this YouTube video and eat up all my data? Imagine if air were like that, but it's not. So go ahead and breathe.

Go and breathe again. Still more air available, thankfully. When it comes to God's riches and wisdom and knowledge, think of air, inexhaustible, unlimited, continuous supply. They can't be depleted.

They can't run out. So let's take a look at the depth of God's attributes this morning. And as we do, let me just point out the fact that you have two ways of translating it at the beginning of verse 33. Some translations have, oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. So if you understand it that way, depth of riches kind of stays together for emphasis. And Paul is primarily exclaiming over God's wisdom and God's knowledge in terms of depth of riches. The other way to look at it is as it's translated here in the ESV, oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. So if you understand it that way, Paul is exclaiming over the depth of God's riches, the depth of God's wisdom and the depth of God's knowledge. So riches and wisdom and knowledge are all parallel.

Grammatically, it could go either way, and I wouldn't be dogmatic about this. I just want for the sake of full disclosure to let you know that I'm understanding it as it's translated here in the ESV. So let's begin with the depth of God's riches. Okay, look at that word riches there. In general, the word riches refers to the richness of spiritual blessing.

And Paul has already used this term. If you just glance back at chapter 11, verse 12, he says, now, if the fall of them, speaking of Israel in this context, if the fall of them be the riches of the world and the diminishing of them, again, speaking of Israel, the riches of the Gentiles, how much more the fullness of the Gentiles. In other words, Israel's failure to believe has resulted in abundant spiritual blessings, riches, benefits for the world for these Gentiles. But in particular, I think we could say that Paul also uses the term riches to refer to those attributes of God behind the abundant spiritual blessings, namely God's kindness and God's grace and God's mercy, all aspects of his goodness. In fact, if you were to look earlier in this letter, Romans chapter two, verse four, Paul says, do you presume on the riches of God's kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance. And Paul uses this term riches elsewhere in his epistles to describe the grace of God. So Ephesians 1 7, the riches of his grace, Ephesians 2 7, the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. In other words, the riches that are these spiritual blessings point back to the source, and the source is a God who is abundant in mercy and grace and kindness.

So again, I want to point out that these attributes are pictured in terms of riches, in terms of abundance, in terms of wealth. I watched a YouTube video recently of a 2014 interview between Wall Street Journal's Evelyn Rustley and former NBA great Shaquille O'Neal Shaq. In that interview, Shaq told Rustley that he probably spends $1,000 on apps a week. Okay.

He said last week, I bought like 20 deer hunter games. When I'm not working, I spend all my money on apps. Okay, so you guys ready to do the calculations? $1,000 a week, 52 weeks in a year, that's $52,000 a year on apps.

Okay. How many of you can fathom that? That is mind boggling to the average person, which that number probably represents a salary or a yearly salary or more. I can't fully understand or comprehend having that much money. But you know, for a guy whose net worth is $400 million, that's chump change.

It's nothing. For Paul, when he thinks of spiritual blessings, he thinks of God's kindness and his grace and his mercy. He thinks of them in terms of immeasurable riches. God is just doling out thousands and thousands and millions and millions of dollars, as it were, in kindness and grace and mercy and salvation. It's almost like God has kindness to burn. It's almost like he has grace to throw away because in no way could that begin to deplete his immeasurable resources, his riches, his mercy, his grace.

That's impressive. That deep. Then Paul goes on to explain the depth of his wisdom. Again, Paul writes in verse 33, oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God. What is God's wisdom? It's God's skill. His skill in devising the best means to the best ends or goals.

Particularly here in the context of Romans 11, we're talking about his devising the plan of salvation. You know, many of us, I think, are pulled in by a good puzzle or challenge, I think wordle. Sudoku is a logic-based number puzzle. This is supposed to be the hardest Sudoku puzzle ever created. Basically, you start with this grid partially filled in and then you have to work with each column in each row so that they all have all the numbers from one to nine. That's also true of the subgrids, those three by three boxes that you see there. How many of you have done Sudoku? Okay, so you know what I'm talking about. This particular puzzle was done by a Finnish mathematician in 2012. It took him three months to create it.

It has only one solution. One source said it would take genius-level intelligence or limitless patience to figure it out. So let's say that one of you, let's see, what's your name, sir? Trey? Okay, so let's say that Trey, during the time that I've had this posted on the screen, has already figured it out. What would you think of Trey? Trey is awesome, right? Trey is amazing. Everybody's going to want to be with Trey. Not that that's not already the case. Okay.

That would be pretty impressive to figure out a complicated puzzle like that, especially so quickly. Well, in Romans chapters 9 through 11, as I understand it, as I was taught by my professors here in the seminary, Paul is dealing with three big problems, three big puzzles in these chapters. The big problem is Israel's failure to obtain salvation. The bigger problem is the security of people to whom God makes promises. And the biggest problem has to do with whether God himself is righteous. And yet by the time Paul comes to the end of this section, he's bursting out in praise.

Why? Because God has solved these impossible puzzles with remarkable skill. It's like one author says, who but God could have conceived a plan that would turn disobedience, the disobedience of Israel into an occasion for mercy.

God displaying mercy to Gentiles and in the process, reaching out universally to all who would believe. And this is just one example in the Bible of the amazing skill, the amazing, immeasurable wisdom of God. So again, let me remind you, I'm calling you to respond to the incomprehensibility of God in a certain way with a wow and a whoa, with working and waiting, because no matter how much you know about God, or how much you think you know about God, you can never know him fully.

At some point, you're going to be in over your heads, and you're going to lose track of God. And then lastly, Paul exclaims the depth of his knowledge in verse 33. In this context, God's infinite knowledge includes the fact that he knows all things, of course, but it likely entails in the context, as Tom Shriner points out, that God ordains all that comes to pass.

He determines all that happens. The point is, God's saving plan, revealed in passages like Romans nine through 11, is just bursting forth with the radiance of God's deep riches and God's deep wisdom and God's deep knowledge like fireworks exploding in the night sky. And this reflection leads Paul to ooh and ah at the amazing depth of God. Oh, the depth. There's a great profundity to God.

God is truly deep. Deep in the Arctic Circle is what some have called the entrance to hell. It's a 40,230 foot deep hole in the earth called the Cola Superdeep Borehole. It took almost 20 years to drill it. So we're talking 7.6 miles here.

So if you were to go out front campus and hang a right on the Wade Hampton and drive all the way to the Chick-fil-A in Greer, that's about 7.6 miles. That's a stinking big hole. In fact, according to BBC report, locals swear you can hear the screams of souls tortured in hell.

I don't know about that. But all that to say, as impressively deep as the Cola Superdeep Borehole is, it's just scratching the surface because if I understand things correctly, the crust of the earth goes on another 17 miles and then another 1800 miles until you get to the earth's core. So as impressively deep as that hole is, it's just scratching the surface of the earth. And no matter how far you go, no matter how far you penetrate into the depths of God's riches and his wisdom and knowledge, you're just scratching the surface.

You have endless miles to go. So what is Paul's point here in Romans 11, 33? One commentator, Leon Morris, sums it up nicely. He says, Paul is simply pronouncing on the impossibility of our understanding fully what God is doing. He goes on to say, God's great plan of salvation is one that no one could have conceived. No one would have anticipated that God would affect salvation through the death of his son on a cross.

No one would have anticipated that God would bring salvation to Gentiles through the disobedience of Israel or that the blessings enjoyed by Gentiles would then eventually lead to the salvation of Israel? That is deep riches. That is deep wisdom. That is deep knowledge.

And guess what? Those are only three of a host of other attributes or characteristics or perfections of God. And every one of them points to another facet of God's glorious character. God is also self-existent. God is unchangeable. He's eternal. He's omnipotent. He's omniscient. He's omnipresent.

He's invisible. He's righteous. He's truthful. He's faithful.

He's good. He's just. He's loving. He's holy. He's jealous. He's beautiful.

He's glorious. There's so many of these that theologians have tried to organize or classify them to kind of put them in different buckets. Like when you do your laundry, right? You guys are doing your laundry, right?

Because I was recently in the guy's dorm and I smelled something and I began to wonder. Anyways, when you're doing your laundry, you take your towels, you put those in one pile. You take your t-shirts, you put those in another pile. So what would that look like if we were trying to organize and classify the attributes of God? Let's think for a second about the classification of God's attributes.

So there's one pile. We could call that the attributes that God shares with us. And then the second pile would consist of attributes that God does not share with us. Sometimes people refer to the first group as God's communicable attributes. And the second group is God's incommunicable attributes.

Let me try to illustrate here. My wife has four valet black nose, black face, cross sheet. So here she is with Rolex and just behind her to the right is coriander or curly top. If I were to compare myself with one of these sheep, there are things that we share in common and things that we don't. Sheep are selfish. So they'll look around to see who's got the biggest portion of food and then they'll push the other ones out.

Well, guess what? I can be selfish too. Sheep like peace in their environment.

I like peace in my environment. They have cool hair. I have cool hair.

Maybe I should say curly hair, especially when it grows out. Okay, anyways, you get the point. There are some things that we share in common, but there's also a big difference between me and these sheep. Even the characteristics that I may share in common are different in degree and expression. So yes, I am selfish just like they are, but I don't push people out of the dinner table.

I like peace and quiet, but I don't run away from running water. But at the fundamental level, the biggest difference between me and the sheep is the fact that I'm a human being and they're animals. Even so with God, there are characteristics or attributes of God that we share in common with him, like his love and his faithfulness. But even then, there's a huge difference in degree and quality because God's love is perfect. God's love is infinite.

God's faithfulness never fails. And that's because of that greater fundamental essential difference between us and that is God is God and we are not. So in thinking about God's communicable attributes, if we go back to verse 33, here are some that we share in common with God, right? And yet we don't possess or display wisdom and knowledge and kindness and grace and mercy the way God does.

Here's my point. Even though we may know through our own experience what kindness or what grace is, it's impossible for us to fully understand the kindness of God. That's a unique kindness. It's impossible for us to fully grasp the skill and wisdom of God because it's a unique wisdom. It's immeasurable. So imagine how much more challenging it would be then when we start talking about ways in which God is completely fundamentally different from humanity. I'm talking about his incommunicable attributes at this point.

That's when theologians start piling up the omnis and the alls, right? God is omnipotent. He's all powerful. He's omnipresent. He's present everywhere. He's omniscience. He's all knowing. He's omnibenevolent.

He's all good, right? And in some cases they even have to use negatives to describe God because there's nothing in our experience that parallels that God is self-existent or God is independent. Well, we know what it is to be dependent on things outside of ourselves like food and water. That experience, yeah, God is not like that. He is independent. He is infinite. He is unchangeable. So regardless of what labels you use, the point is that God is incomprehensible because God is God. And no matter how much we know about God, we'll never fully know him. So let's transition now to that second idea, from in over our heads with God to losing track of God because Paul's second exclamation here in verse 33 is this, how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out? That word unsearchable there means incomprehensible, something that we can't fully understand. That's the point that I've been making. It's not something that can be measured. The word translated past finding out means indeliniable.

I love that. It can't be delineated. You can't determine the exact border or boundary of it. It's impossible to plot. It's impossible to travel to the end of it.

It's impossible to trace or track to the end of it. Several years ago, I was sitting in my tree stand one late afternoon during deer season and a buck came into view across a small creek. I pulled the trigger. He jumped.

He went immediately down into the tall thicket. I waited a few minutes, probably not long enough, and made my way across the creek through the thorny brambles and came to the spot where the deer had been, but it wasn't there. I looked around. I saw signs, but he was gone. I started circling that area looking for traces of blood, but the sun was going down.

My battery on my phone was dying, of course. I called my wife. I told her what was happening and asked if she could bring a charger, a better spotlight. Bless her heart, she did. She and my daughter were actually dressed and getting ready for art of series, but they pulled on some boots and literally in their dresses, they came down into the woods to help me track that deer. Yeah, she's awesome.

They're awesome. We followed and followed the blood trail and signs until we couldn't follow anymore because it was like the deer had just disappeared. We would backtrack to the place where he had last seen something and then go from there, but it was gone. At a certain point, it was completely dark and there were no signs of him. His ways were past finding out, so we eventually had to give up. My wife and daughter changed their shoes. They brushed the leaves off, and they came to art of series and made it at intermission. I left the woods that night completely bewildered, completely perplexed.

Where in the world did that deer go? His ways were past finding out until the next morning when I went back up and there was enough daylight for me to find him not too far from where we were looking. So this is what Paul is saying in Romans 11 33, that God's judgments are unsearchable and his ways past finding out. It's like when you start to follow God's plan of salvation, you not only get in over your heads, but at a certain point you lose track of God. Like we're tracking and we're tracking and we're tracking and it's like at some point off into the distance, God just disappears.

He's gone. It's a mystery. And if you want that personal experience for yourself, let me encourage you to study Romans 9, 10, and 11. But I'm calling you this morning to respond to God's incomprehensibility with wow, whoa, work, and wait, because no matter how much you know about God, you can never know him fully.

At some point you will be in over your heads and lose track of him. So I'm not going to take the time to develop all of these in detail, but I do want to call you to the wow response, standing in awe of God's incomprehensibility. If you didn't have a chance to watch the doubleheader this past Saturday where the Bruins played Carolina University, it was a great game. It was a phenomenal game. There was so much drama. The other coaches running out in the field and screaming and yelling and the crowd is going nuts and the Bruins came back from a 7-3 deficit to tie the game at 7-7.

It was an awesome game. I met a lady this week in town and she had the audacity to tell me that baseball was boring. In fact, she said that somebody purchased World Series tickets for her and she went and she fell asleep during the game. I don't even know how that's possible.

Right? Because clearly the problem is not with baseball. The problem is with her.

I'm being facetious. So if we can interact with the study of God, the doctrine of God, if we can trace out his ways through the Scriptures, if we can interact with his attributes and we find God to be boring, I can assure you the problem is not with God. God is incomprehensible and the right response is really to stand in awe of his incomprehensible ability to acknowledge the mystery and humility but to keep tracking God as far as you can and to anticipate the day when the partial, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, will be made more complete. Let's pray. Father, we are grateful that you've given us this revelation of yourself. There are these things that have been revealed and given to us and yet there are the secret things and I pray that you give us wisdom to know when we have reached the secret things and in humility that we would fall on our knees and worship you for your glory but that we would also be diligent in our pursuit of increasing in the knowledge of God, going after you, digging and digging and digging for the sake of unearthing that treasure which is to know you. I pray that that would be our experience in Jesus' name. We've been listening to a sermon preached by Bible Professor Dr. Kerry McGonigal, which is part of the series called Our Great God. Listen again tomorrow as we continue this series on The Daily Platform.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-24 11:45:12 / 2023-03-24 11:55:15 / 10

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