Robert Jeffress - Paul's Praise Chorus - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The God of the Bible is unlike any other deity defined by any other world religion. Our God, the true God, is holy yet merciful. He is just, yet loving. He is eternal and unchanging, yet forgiving. And for those reasons and more God alone is worthy of our praise. Today we're turning to Romans 11 for a stirring call to worship. My message is titled, "Paul's Praise Chorus", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Perhaps you remember the so-called worship wars from the last decade in which many churches battled within themselves over the right kind of music to use in worship. Should it be hymns or should it be praise choruses? And the bullets were flying from both sides. Some people said, well, hymns are too old to be relevant. Other people said, well, praise choruses are too repetitious to be meaningful. And of course both charges are ridiculous when you think about it. I mean, if something is irrelevant because it's old, we might as well throw out the scriptures. If something is meaningless because it's repetitive, well, then we ought to get rid of the very first praise chorus I guess ever written. It was written by Handel, it's called "The Hallelujah Chorus". Remember the words? Hallelujah-hallelujah-hallelujah-hallelujah-hallelujah. I mean that's mind-numbing repetition, isn't it?
No, if you've noticed around in our church we sing all kinds of music here because we realized that the real issue of music is not its style, is its substance. It's not its date of origin, is its direction. Is the music pointing God-ward or is it pointing man-ward? Does it exalt man or does it exalt God? Unfortunately, much of the music and the preaching in many churches today is man-centered rather than God-centered.
Michael Horton has written about that not-so-subtle shift and the focus that has occurred in many evangelical churches today. He writes, "By the end of the 20th century, we have become God's demanding little brats. In church, we must be entertained. Our emotions must be charged. We must be offered amusing programs. After all, we gave up a lot to become Christians. And what little teaching we do get must cater to our pragmatic self-centered interest. The preaching must be filled with clever anecdotes and colorful illustrations with nothing more than a passing reference to doctrine. I want to know what this means for me and my daily experience, we declare. We have forgotten that God is a monarch. He is the king by whom and for whom all things were made and by whose sovereign power they are sustained. We exist for his pleasure, not he for ours. We are on this earth to entertain him, please him, adore him, to bring him satisfaction, excitement, and joy. Any Gospel which seeks to answer the question, what's in it for me, has it all backwards. The real question is, what's in it for God"?
I have a sneaking suspicion that if the apostle Paul were to attend our worship services today he would like the music we sing. And the reason I say that is because of his own hymn, his own praise chorus that he penned, and we find it in the very last chapter of Romans 11. It is a song, a doxology, if you will, that focuses our attention on God rather than ourselves, and it is a hymn that we come to now in our study of the book of Romans. If you have Bibles, turn to Romans 11 as we look today for just a few minutes at what I call Paul's praise chorus. Now we are coming to the end of the fourth section of the book of Romans and this is the section about God's program of righteousness and we have been in these deep theological waters for a number of weeks right now.
Remember, this is the section of Romans that's talking about how God originally gave the Gospel to Israel, but Israel rejected the Gospel and therefore gentiles have an opportunity in this present age to come to faith in Christ. But amazingly God is going to use Israel's rejection of Christ not only to bring about the salvation of the gentiles, but the salvation of the gentiles will in turn result in Israel's salvation. Remember the last verses, Romans 11:25-26, Paul said, "I don't want you to be ignorant of this mystery". That is that a partial hardening has come to Israel until the fullness of the gentiles comes in and then will come about all Israel will be saved. One day, God's elect among Israel will be saved, just as God has promised.
And Paul said, "This is a mystery that was given to me as Paul to proclaim the mystery of the church of gentile salvation". But the fact that Paul had an understanding of both election and eschatology, the study of end times, that didn't lead him to pride. It led him to praise. And that's why Paul ends this chapter not talking about Jews or gentiles, but talking about God himself. Notice how he closes here these words out of Romans 11, beginning with verse 33. "Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God. How unsearchable are his judgments, how unfathomable his ways. For who has known the mind of the Lord or become his counselor? Or who has first given to him that it might be paid back to him again? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever, amen".
Spurgeon once said, "The proper study of God's elect is God". That's where our attention in the doctrine of election ought to go back to, it is to God himself. And that's why Paul closes this chapter with this praise chorus, reminding us of four attributes, characteristics of God that are deserving of our deepest devotion and our highest praise. Notice first of all Paul says we ought to praise God for his knowledge, for the knowledge of God is unsurpassed. Look at verse 33, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God".
I read somewhere recently that man's knowledge is doubling every three to five years. I mean everything we know about biology and astronomy, science, everything, mathematics, that knowledge add it all together and it doubles every three to five years, that's amazing. But think about this. God's knowledge never increases. Somebody once said it this way. God has never learned anything from anyone. You can't tell God anything he doesn't already know. His knowledge is complete. He knows everything that happens in the universe. He knows every tragedy that comes into your life before it happens. He knows every action you commit before the thought to commit it even entered your mind. God's knowledge is unsurpassed. How should we react to the knowledge of God, the completeness of his knowledge?
James Boyce suggests three ramifications of God's knowledge. First of all, God's unsurpassed knowledge should humble us. It should humble us. Do you remember the story of job? We've talked about it before. Job was a righteous man who feared God and turned away from evil, then one day the roof fell in. Literally, it fell in. It killed his 10 children. A freak storm caused his 10 children to die. And not only that, he lost all of his possessions. And not only that, he lost his health. And how did job respond? It's a remarkable response. He knelt down and worshiped God and said, "Naked I came into this world, naked I shall leave. The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord". Through all of this, the Bible says, job neither sinned with his lips nor blamed God.
Now that's a remarkable response when you think about it. But that was his initial response, that wasn't his ultimate response. You know, I find a lot of times Christians who go through the loss of a maid or a child or some other loss, reflexively, initially they express great faith in God. Many times, it's coming out of shock, a natural shock to the system. But the longer they think about it and as the days and months pass, their faith turns into severe questioning of God. That happened with job, by the way. A lot of times preachers stop with chapter two of job and they don't finish the rest of the story, because job's initial faith in God was replaced by his severe questioning of God. He started asking the question, "God, why would you allow bad things to happen to a righteous man like myself"? And so you find that all throughout job until finally in job 38 God comes back to reply to job's questioning.
It's interesting that God never explains the answer to the why question. In fact, job died without knowing the answer to the why question. But notice what God does say to job after job questioned him. It begins in verse 2 of job 38. "Who is this," God said, "That darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins and act like a man, and I will ask you, and why don't you instruct me. Where were you, job, when I laid the foundations of the world"? And on and on and on God goes. He lets job have it talking about his unsurpassed knowledge. And when God is finally finished, in 42:3 job humbles himself before God and says, "I have declared that which I do not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know".
God's unsurpassed knowledge should humble us. Secondly, it should comfort us. The fact that God knows everything about us, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and he loves us anyway, that ought to be a comfort to us. But it also ought to comfort us to know that he knows everything that is happening to us, nothing takes him by surprise. Do you remember the story of Hagar? It's in Genesis 16, we talked about it a few weeks ago. Hagar was Sarah's servant, and Sarah and Abraham concocted this plan to bring about the child of promise when God didn't act according to their timetable, and the plan was for Abraham to have sexual intercourse with Sarah's servant, Hagar. And so he did that. And even though Sarah blessed the plan, she became angry later on, she banished Hagar from among them and sent her into the Wilderness. Hagar had not done anything wrong, she'd simply done what she was told to do.
God came and ministered to her in the desert. He comforted her, he promised her that she too would be the mother of a great nation. And God's graciousness to Hagar calls Hagar to worship God and to give God a new name. In Genesis 16:13 she said, "You are the God who sees me. Even though I'm out here in the desert, God, you see me, you're watching over me". And what's true about Hagar is true about you. It doesn't matter where you are, if you feel like you've been banished to the desert, God sees everything that is happening to you. A woman who was angry over the death of her son in a car accident went to her pastor and angrily said, "Where was your God when my son was killed"? The pastor answered softly he was the same place he was when his son was killed. God knows everything that is happening to you, and that knowledge should comfort us.
Thirdly, God's unsurpassed knowledge should motivate us to Godliness. Listen to Psalm 139:1-4 about God's knowledge of us. David wrote, "Oh Lord, thou hast searched me and known me, thou hast known when I sit down and when I rise up, thou hast understand my thoughts from afar, thou hast scrutinized my path and my lying down and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there's a word on my tongue, behold, oh Lord, thou does know it all". But interestingly, David takes that theological truth and he gives a very practical application to it, look at verses 33 and 34. "Therefore, Lord, search me and know my heart. Try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way". David is saying, "God, since you know everything about me anyway, look into my heart, see if there's anything displeasing to you, so that I might turn from my evil way".
God knows everything in your heart. He knows what you're planning to do, he knows it before the thought ever enters your mind to do it. So instead of trying to hide from God, instead of trying to run away from God, instead of trying to rationalize your sin before God, why not agree with God about what he says about the sin in your life? And why not allow his complete knowledge of you motivate you to start living for him? God's unsurpassed knowledge should motivate us to Godliness. Paul praises God for his unsurpassed knowledge, secondly, he praises him for his wisdom, which is undeniable. The wisdom of God is undeniable. Again, look at verse 33. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God".
Now you understand there's a difference between knowledge and wisdom. I mean, people can have lots of knowledge and have not an ounce of wisdom. We call those people educated fools. It's a terrible thing to have a lot of knowledge and not know how to apply it, but you know what's worse? To have a lot of knowledge and apply that knowledge in an evil way. I mean, after all, the reason a lot of people are nervous about a national gun registry for our government where they have a registry of all of our guns, we're fearful that one day the government might use that information, that knowledge in an evil way and confiscate our arms. The reason we're nervous about insurance companies having access to our medical records is what they might do with our knowledge. Raise our insurance premiums or cancel our insurance policies. We're fearful about people's knowledge leading them to do what is evil, but we never have to worry about that with God.
You see, even though God has complete full knowledge, he also has the ability and the goodness to use that knowledge for good. And that's what wisdom is all about. And Paul says how deep, how unfathomable is God's wisdom. God using his knowledge in a way to achieve a good and perfect purpose. And you see God's wisdom on display all throughout the book of Romans. For example, you see God's wisdom in justification. For example, God had the knowledge that we are sinful. But God had the wisdom to take that knowledge and develop a plan for our justification. I mean, think about it. How could God take vile rebellious sinners like us and ever declare us not guilty without compromising his own righteousness? Only God could come up with a plan whereby he would come to earth in human form and he would suffer the consequences of our sin against him. I mean, that's a genius plan, and therefore by trusting in him we who are guilty are declared righteous and God has never compromised his holiness in doing so. John Stott said it this way, he said, "The essence of sin is man subsisting himself for God. The essence of salvation was God substituting himself for man".
Only an all-wise God could come up with that kind of a plan. Or think about what we've been talking about in Romans 9 through 11, the problem of Israel. God's elect nation, Israel, they rebel against him. How does God's purpose get accomplished? Only God could formulate a plan where Israel was given a free will to accept Christ, Israel rejects Christ, but God uses Israel's rebellion to save gentiles, and God uses the salvation of gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy and bring about Israel's conversion. Only God could come up with that kind of a plan. Now here's my point for you this morning. If God is able to solve massive problems, like our justification and Israel's salvation, don't you think he's capable of solving the relatively small problem you're facing today? I mean, if God's wisdom is sufficient to solve those humongous worldwide problems, don't you believe God can solve the problem you're facing at work or in your family or with your finances? God's wisdom, it is absolutely undeniable. And notice the progression here. God's knowledge is unsurpassed, his wisdom is undeniable, thirdly, his judgments are unknowable. His judgments are unknowable.
Again, back in verse 33, "How unsearchable," that's another word for unknowable, "Are his judgments, how unfathomable his ways". Now the word judgments refers to the decrees or the decisions of God. Write that down. God's judgments are his decrees or decisions that make up his plan. Judgments, will, and purpose. Let me explain that for you. God has made a number of decisions, and here's how they started. Let's talk about salvation. God, knowing of our sinful state and having the wisdom to design a plan to bring about our salvation, has made certain decrees, decisions, or judgments to institute his plan. He's made numerous judgments. For example, he made the judgment that Caesar Augusts would issue an order that all the world should be taxed. He made that decision, that decree to get Mary and Joseph exactly where they needed to be for the birth of Christ. He's made all of these various judgments, decisions, decrees that are all part of, secondly, his will, which is another word for his plan.
Now notice the word will is singular. Plan is singular. God does not have many wills, he has one will. God doesn't have many plans, he has one plan. God's will or God's plan is his secret plan, blueprint, that governs everything that happens in the universe. There are a lot of people today who think God has multiple plans or wills. For example, you've heard people say, well, there is the perfect will of God, that's what God wishes would happen, and then he has his permissive will, which is what actually ends up happening. Have you heard that before? There's a Hebrew word that describes that idea, baloney. God does not have two, three, four wills. He doesn't have a perfect will and a permissive will. He doesn't have plan A, plan B, plan C, plan D. He has one will, one plan, that governs everything. And God's plan was big enough to encompass the fall of Lucifer from heaven. It was sufficient to include the rebellion of Adam and Eve and the murder and torture of Jesus, God's own son Jesus Christ on a cross. God's plan encompasses all of those things.