My friend John stopped by my house one day in his pickup truck. I noticed that a bracket was broken on the truck causing the tail pipe to rattle against the frame. Having just obtained an electric welder which I loved to use at the slightest excuse, I offered to fix the bracket. John seemed grateful for my offer, and I set out to weld the broken piece.
But the task was not easy. The position of the break, along with my inexperience and lack of skill, made the repair difficult. As I proceeded to blunder along, my friend tried to look impressed and appreciative. After a while, I turned to John and asked, “Do you know how to weld?” When he admitted that he did know a little about welding, I suddenly recalled with considerable embarrassment that John had been a teacher of industrial arts. He not only knew how to weld; he had taught others to weld.
It is easy for us to think we are better than we really are. The Jews, to whom God had given the Law, along with the promise of being a great nation and the source of great blessing to others, thought they were better than the Gentiles. The Gentiles who then came to faith began to look down on the Jews who rejected salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s words in Romans 11 are intended to bring the Gentiles back down to reality. Paul’s purpose is to teach them the truth, which should turn them from arrogance to humility and from self-congratulation to heart-felt worship.
The Jews had rejected Jesus as their Messiah and, as a nation, they were in a state of unbelief. Already, they were experiencing the judgment of God in the form of hardened hearts, and they would soon suffer a great calamity in the sacking of Jerusalem. A number of Gentiles, on the other hand, were coming to faith in Jesus. The complexion of the churches was changing from an almost exclusively Jewish constituency to a predominantly Gentile membership.
In chapters 9-11 of Romans, Paul explains what is taking place. While Israel has failed, the Word of God has not (see 9:6ff.). Rather, God’s Word has been fulfilled in all that has happened. The principle of divine election, taught in the Old Testament, is demonstrated in the experience of Israel in Paul’s day. Those Jews who have not believed were not chosen (Romans 9). Furthermore, those Jews who are under divine judgment have rejected the gospel, which had been plainly proclaimed among them (Romans 10).
Nevertheless Israel’s future blessings are certain and secure, because God’s promises are not frustrated by man’s disobedience (Romans 11:1-12). Israel’s disobedience is sin, but it is also a fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. Because God’s promises are a matter of sovereign grace and not of human works (11:5-6), Israel’s hope is secure. God has always maintained a faithful remnant, preserving the line He will someday restore and bless.
God’s purpose of bringing the good news of the gospel to the Gentiles, so that men from every nation might be saved, has been accomplished through Israel’s unbelief. If such blessings can come from Israel’s disobedience, one can hardly imagine what blessings will flow from Israel’s restoration (11:12, 15).
Israel’s history is no mere academic exercise, a few facts to be learned by the Gentiles. Neither is her failure to become the basis of Gentile pride. The Gentiles should learn from the mistakes of God’s chosen people, Israel, and they should be humbled. If God has not overlooked the transgressions of His chosen people, surely He will not take the Gentiles sin lightly either. Faith alone is the basis for abiding in God’s promised blessings, and unbelief leads to divine judgment. When the Gentiles begin to be proud, they reveal the same symptoms which led to Israel’s demise. Let them be warned.
There are yet other reasons why the Gentiles should be humbled as they contemplate God’s work among them and among the Jews. These reasons are given in verses 25-32. On the basis of what Paul has said to this point (chapters 1-11), the entire Book of Romans concludes in the praise of God, whose mighty hand and unfathomable wisdom require men to fall before Him in worship with Paul (verses 33-36.)
Essentially our text falls into two major divisions. Verses 25-32 outline Israel’s future and the principles on which it is based. Verses 33-36 are Paul’s concluding words of worship and praise, based upon the wisdom and the works of God, as seen in His gracious dealings with the Jews and with the Gentiles. We can thus summarize the structure in this way:
(1) Israel’s future, as it relates to the Gentiles — Verses 25-32
(2) Concluding praise — Verses 33-36
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” 28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.
Paul has already indicated to his Gentile readers that he believes they are guilty, or in immediate danger, of an attitude of arrogance toward the unbelieving Jews (see 11:18, 20). Paul assumes such arrogance will be based upon the Jews’ blind ignorance and the Gentiles’ greater knowledge of the gospel. In truth, any such arrogance Paul believes to be based upon ignorance and not knowledge. For Paul, ignorance is the basis of arrogance. Conversely, humility is based upon knowledge. Arrogance is a distorted view of oneself and of reality; humility is seeing matters as they really are.
Paul’s prescription for Gentile arrogance is to expose and to expound a mystery. Do these Gentiles think they know so much? Then Paul will show them something they are not aware of, something to humble them and lead them to worship and praise God rather than patting themselves on the back.
Before exploring the specific mystery Paul has in mind for his readers, we should arrive at a biblical definition for a mystery, at least as Paul uses this term.35 In its broadest terms, a mystery is that truth which mortal men would never have imagined and which they are unable and unwilling to believe, even when it is revealed to them.
As I have reflected on Paul’s use of this term, I believe God’s “mysteries” have four phases. We might call the first phase of a biblical mystery the “unrevealed phase.” This phase begins in eternity past. The mysteries of God are those plans and purposes God has planned and predestined which have not yet been made known to men. The second phase of a biblical mystery is that phase during which God foretells that which He has eternally decreed. This second phase is a prophetic phase. The fulfillment is yet future, but the revelation of the plan is prophetically revealed. The third phase of a biblical mystery is its actual fulfillment. That which God has purposed, of which He has prophesied, He now brings to pass. The fourth and final phase of a mystery is the proclamation phase: God proclaims to men that which He has purposed, promised, and produced.
A mystery, at each and every phase, is a mystery: fallen men would not have predicted God’s purpose, they would not believe it when it was prophetically revealed, they cannot grasp it even when it is taking place, and they refuse to believe it when its fulfillment is proclaimed.
The greatest mystery of the Bible is the mystery of Christ. In ages past, long before man was even created and placed in the Garden of Eden, God purposed to send His Son to the earth to die for the sins of men and to bring about the salvation of God’s elect. No one would ever have imagined such an amazing gift of grace. No one did. No mortal man existed at the time to even expect it.36
God began to unveil His previously unrevealed plan of sending His Son to atone for the sins of fallen men (see Genesis 3:15) when He created Adam and Eve and they fell into sin in the Garden of Eden. As time passed, more and more clues were revealed concerning the Christ and His coming, until even the place of His birth was revealed (see Micah 5:2). Even so, it was a mystery to men. Even the prophets who foretold of the coming of the Christ were perplexed at what God had revealed through them (1 Peter 1:10-12). Specifically, these prophets could not put together the two streams of revelation: (1) that the Christ would suffer; and (2) that the Christ would reign triumphantly in glory. God’s plan and purpose, though prophetically foretold, was still a mystery to men.
Then, at last, the Christ came to earth. John the Baptist introduced Him as the Savior, the Lamb of God. Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God, God’s Messiah. God the Father bore witness that this One was His beloved Son. In spite of all this, men could not recognize Him as the Messiah, apart from divine illumination. And so He was rejected and crucified, which was also the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
When Jesus rose from the grave, His resurrection from the dead was positive proof that He was the Christ, just as He said. In spite of the empty tomb, the transformed lives of the disciples, and the many miracles performed in His name, men would not and could not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. It was still a mystery. And so it is still a mystery, both to Jews and to Gentiles. Only by divine illumination, the illumination of God’s Spirit, can men grasp the work of salvation which God has accomplished and made available in Christ.37 Even Christians can only understand God’s mysteries by means of His Spirit:
Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart (2 Corinthians 3:12-15).
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:21-25).
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND WHICH HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM” (1 Corinthians 2:6-9).
I have come to the conclusion that the term “mystery” applies not to isolated portions of truth, but to all truth which pertains to the gospel. God’s plan and purpose to save men, including both Jews and Gentiles, is one men would never have imagined, would not have asked for, did not understand when it was prophetically foretold, did not recognize as it was being fulfilled, and failed to grasp even when it happened in history. God’s gracious dealings with men are all mysteries which men would never believe or receive unless God divinely intervened and enabled them to do so.
The very mention of revealing a mystery to these Gentiles should prove humbling. Rather than priding themselves in knowing truth which is concealed from others, they must humbly admit that this truth is that which they would never have believed, apart from revelation and divine illumination. The revelation of this truth is a matter of grace and not a matter for which men can take credit.
What then is the “mystery” which Paul reveals to these Gentiles? It is simply this: Israel’s failure is neither full nor final, but rather partial and temporary, and that Israel’s “fall” is not only the occasion for God’s saving the Gentiles, but also for God’s mercy to be poured out on His chosen people.
The Gentiles seemed tempted to conclude that Israel’s fall was full and final. They appear, as some do today, to want to think of themselves as having replaced Israel as “God’s favorites.” They were wrong! God’s purpose was that Israel would only partially and temporarily be hardened. The hardening was partial, because God always preserves a faithful remnant (see 9:27-29; 11:4-6). The blindness of Israel is only temporary, just long enough for God to save the full measure of those Gentiles whom He has chosen.
There is no question that Israel has fallen into sin, but this does not diminish Israel’s future hope. The Old Testament Scriptures which spoke of Israel’s future salvation spoke of her salvation from her sins. The text Paul quotes in verses 26 and 27 (Isaiah 59:20-21)38 emphasizes Israel’s sin and ungodliness. Her salvation is not by works, due to her righteousness, but by grace, because of her great sin. Israel’s future restoration was prophesied as God’s gracious dealings which removed Israel’s sin and made possible the outpouring of His blessings. Israel’s condition in Paul’s day did not therefore present any problem unforeseen by God’s sovereign decree.
Paul presents a new and very different perspective by which his readers should look upon their fallen Jewish opponents. Actually, he presents two perspectives, both of which must be maintained. The first perspective is from the “standpoint of the gospel”; the second perspective is from the “standpoint of God’s sovereign choice.”
From the “standpoint of the gospel,” unbelieving Israelites should be viewed as “beloved enemies.” The Jews did oppose Christianity. Most of all, they opposed God. But their opposition, while ungodly, worked out (Romans 8:28) for the benefit and blessing of the Gentiles. The rejection of the gospel by the Jews opened the door for the salvation of the Gentiles. And so, these “enemies” performed a very friendly service to the Gentiles. The Jews became God’s enemies for the sake of the Gentiles.
The Jews, though God’s enemies, are also beloved of God because of the patriarchs. God made a covenant with Abraham, which He renewed with Isaac and Jacob (Israel). While the Jews had set themselves against God, God was still committed to bless this people because of His promise to their forefathers. God’s judgment on Israel was temporary. His blessings were still to come.
The reason for the security and certainty of Israel’s future blessings is given in verse 29: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
This truth was the basis for the appeal of Moses as recorded in Exodus 33. God produces what He promises. God finishes what He starts. God’s commitments to the patriarchs were literal, and so will their fulfillment be. God keeps His promises. He promised to set this people apart, to sanctify them, and through them to bless the whole world. This He has done, in part, through their disobedience. This He will do, in total, through their salvation and restoration.
Two dominant themes are found in verses 30-32. The first is disobedience, and the second is mercy. Both are referred to four times in these verses. Paul wishes to highlight some very important points here.
First, Paul emphasizes that disobedience is the occasion for God’s grace and mercy. As Paul has said earlier, “where sin abounds, grace abounds even more” (see Romans 5:20). The disobedience of men sets the scene for God to display His grace toward sinners by saving them from their sins.
Second, Paul emphasizes that there is really no distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles in that both were disobedient sinners saved by grace.
Third, Paul explains why sin is allowed to persist: so that grace might abound in the salvation of unworthy sinners. Since grace is demonstrated toward sinners, both sin and sinners are allowed to exist so that God may deal graciously with some. Here is one explanation of why a good God would allow sin to exist.
What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Romans 9:22-24).
Viewed another way, Paul stresses that God has chosen to save both Jews and Gentiles by grace. Salvation does not come about as the result of fallen man’s obedience but due to man’s disobedience and God’s grace. Grace is not overcome by sin; sin is overcome by grace. Sin is our enemy. But our sovereign God is able to use sin as though it were His ally, when it is an enemy. God is not limited to using only obedient people in order to accomplish His will. He accomplishes His will through those who are disobedient. There is no basis for pride in this.
Were the Gentiles hopelessly lost in their sins, so lost that they were without hope? So the Jews thought. But God purposed to save Gentiles in spite of their disobedience and by means of Israel’s disobedience. Are the Jews now hopelessly lost in their disobedience? So some Gentiles may wish to believe. But God has purposed to shut the Jews up in their disobedience so that He may save them by His grace.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 OR WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
The text of our lesson began in verse 25 by focusing on the puffed up minds of men. Here in verses 33-36 it ends with Paul falling before God in praise, based upon the infinite and unfathomable wisdom of God. These words are a most appropriate conclusion. They conclude not only the argument of chapter 11, and of chapters 9-11, but also the entire argument of chapters 1-11. These words turn our attention to Him who alone is worthy of our praise.
The punctuation of this portion offers a clue to its structure and argument. The statements of verse 33 end with an exclamation mark. These statements are about God. The sentences in verses 34 and 35 end with a question mark. These questions show how far short of God’s wisdom human wisdom falls. Man’s ignorance is thereby contrasted with God’s wisdom. All basis for human pride is swept aside. Verse 36 is almost a benediction, ascribing all glory to God for all eternity.
If history has shown the Word of God to be absolutely trustworthy, both the Scriptures and history have shown God’s wisdom to be infinitely above that of mortal men. All that has happened to Israel and through Israel to the Gentiles is precisely what God purposed and promised in His Word. All of this was, is, and will be a mystery to fallen men, because the wisdom of God is vastly higher and infinitely superior to the wisdom of men.
Who could ever have conceived of such a plan by which sinners, both Jews and Gentiles, would be saved? Who could have been so wise as to devise a means of saving men in spite of their disobedience, rather than based upon their obedience? Who could have planned a means for saving sinful men which would not violate God’s righteousness but would express His grace and mercy? Who could ever have thought of a plan so wise as that which Scripture has foretold and which history has unfolded?
If Paul is lost in verse 33 in the depths of the wisdom of God, in verses 34 and 35 Paul challenges those Gentiles inclined toward arrogance to compare their ignorance with God’s wisdom. These words could be used to rebuke prideful men, but they are employed in worship instead. Man worships God because He is infinitely greater, wiser, and more gracious than men. Seeing ourselves in the light of who God is humbles us. Seeing God in the light of who and what we are necessitates our praise and worship.
Paul’s words of praise are borrowed. The expressions of verse 34 come from Isaiah 40 which deals with the salvation of Israel from her sins. It does not speak of Israel’s salvation in a way that would flatter this rebellious people or incite them to pride. Nevertheless, much of its thrust is against the arrogance of the Gentiles, who prevail for a time over God’s people and who begin to be puffed up with pride, not understanding God’s purposes, nor that He has used them to accomplish His purposes:
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance, And the hills in a pair of scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, And informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering, All the nations are as nothing before Him, They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless (Isaiah 40:12-17 emphasis mine).
The words Paul quotes in verse 35 come from the lips of Elihu, spoken to Job as recorded in Job 35:
Then Elihu continued and said, “Do you think this is according to justice? Do you say, ‘My righteousness is more than God’s’? For you say, ‘What advantage will it be to You? What profit shall I have, more than if I had sinned?’ I will answer you, And your friends with you. Look at the heavens and see; And behold the clouds—they are higher than you. If you have sinned, what do you accomplish against Him? And if your transgressions are many, what do you do to Him? If you are righteous, what do you give to Him? Or what does He receive from your hand? Your righteousness is for a man like yourself, And your righteousness is for a son of man” (Job 35:1-8).
Sin and righteousness are in view in this text. It shows that righteousness is in spite of our sin and without any contribution from us that is righteous. God’s salvation has not come to us because we initiated it or because we earned it. His salvation comes to us by grace alone. The grace and the wisdom of God not only lead to the praise of God, they strike a death blow to human pride.
One more thing may be said of this text from the Book of Job and from the lips of Elihu. Elihu, along with his other two friends, were wrong in the assessment of Job’s situation. They were not commended by God but rebuked for their words. And yet Paul finds the words of Elihu appropriate to what he is teaching in Romans. Even when Elihu was wrong, his words were right, when correctly applied by Paul. Once again, we see that God is able to use even the failures of men to achieve His purposes.
The final words of this chapter recorded in verse 36 sum up all of human history and show that God is sovereign and in control of history. He is the source, the means, and the goal of all things. This means He is “the author and the finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). It means He is the One who began the good work in us, and He is the One who will also complete it (Philippians 1:6).
But it means much more. This statement goes even further than Romans 8:28. In Romans 8:28, God is seen as the One who is sovereign in the life of the Christian, who controls all that comes into the life of the one who loves God and who is called according to His purpose. Romans 11:36 extends the expression of God’s control to “all things.” God is sovereign in history. While He does not cause men to sin, He has purposed to allow it, and even more to use it to accomplish His purposes and to bring praise and glory to Himself.
What should these words mean to us? What can we learn from them? Much, in every way (to borrow Paul’s words). Let us conclude by considering some of the implications and applications of Paul’s words.
First, we learn that truth is the basis for humility. The Gentiles’ arrogance which Paul sought to correct was not based upon truth but upon a mistaken perception. Arrogance is evident in a “know-it-all” attitude. When once we begin to grasp the infinite depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God, we realize how little we do know. When we begin to grasp the depth of our own depravity, we also begin to understand our resistance to the truth, even when it is revealed. How often Paul attacked arrogance and pride with the words, “Do you not know …?”
True knowledge—a knowledge of the mysteries of God, beginning with the mystery of salvation—should bring us to our knees. False knowledge tempts us to set ourselves above others and even equal with God (see Genesis 3:5). And the humility which true knowledge produces inclines our hearts toward God and our ears to listen to Him. Thus, knowledge produces humility, and humility seeks the wisdom of God (see Psalm 119).
Second, we dare not judge eternity by our circumstances at a moment in time. The Gentiles were tempted to look down on the Jews because of their blindness and unbelief. They were inclined to think that God had permanently set them aside. They judged Israel’s future by the present and not by God’s promises. The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews reminds us that the Christian dare not base his view of the future on what is seen at the moment but on what God has said.
Third, because God’s wisdom is infinitely above and beyond our knowledge or grasp, we should expect God to accomplish His will in a way we would never have imagined. I often hear people pray in a way which suggests that God should accomplish what they think He should and in the way they think He should. This comes dangerously close to attempting to limit God by our weakness. Much better for us to ask God to stretch our understanding and faith by leaving both the ends and the means to Him and asking for those things which He has promised. I suspect most of our prayers would be substantially improved by reducing our petitions and increasing our praise. Our petitions should be for those things that will bring Him praise.
Fourth, the life of faith is trusting God in the midst of the mystery. Because God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than ours, we will find that we are unable to reason out what He is doing at any particular moment in time. We shall only understand fully when we are with Him, in heaven. We must live out our lives, trusting God and obeying Him, when His workings are a total mystery to us. Did the Israelites know how they would survive trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s army? They did not. But when all was done, the sea was the instrument of Israel’s deliverance and Egypt’s destruction. Did Abraham understand what God was doing when He commanded him to leave his homeland and go to an unspecified place? Did he know what God was doing when He commanded him to sacrifice his son? He did not. All Abraham knew was that God was faithful and that He promised him a land, a host of descendants, and blessings for the whole world.
Job diligently worshipped God, and he faithfully offered up sacrifices for his children lest they should sin and God should punish them. And yet in spite of all his precautions, God took all of his children anyway. Job could not understand what God was doing. Throughout his entire life, he never knew why the hand of God had worked in his life at it did. But he did trust in God, and thus he could praise and worship Him when his personal world was in shambles (see Job 1). Job’s sufferings and God’s strategy were a mystery to him, but when he came to grips with God’s infinite wisdom, knowing that God was in control was enough (see Job 38:1–42:6).
Asaph, the psalmist in Psalm 73, could not understand what was happening around him. God had promised to bless the pure in heart (73:1), and yet Asaph observed that the wicked seemed to be prospering while the righteous suffered. It was a mystery which brought him near the brink of doubt and disaster. Only when he began to view time in the light of eternity did he come to his senses. He did not fully understand all that God was doing, but he knew that God was drawing him nearer to Himself, both for time and for eternity. This was enough.
I suspect that God’s work in your life is a mystery at this very moment. You may have lost your job or your mate. You may be facing circumstances which seem to promise only defeat or disaster. But if you are a child of God, you know that He is in control of all things. He is working out your good and His glory by means of the very circumstances that puzzle you. You do not need to know the secrets which God has chosen to conceal. You only need to know what God has promised and to trust and obey (see Deuteronomy 29:29). This is what the life of faith is all about. God is in control. He has promised to bring about wonderful things for His people. And because He is infinitely wise and powerful, He will do it in ways that will bring us to our knees in wonder and praise.
Finally, this text reminds us of the security of God’s chosen ones. Our security rests in our sovereign and all-wise God. It does not rest on our faithfulness or on our works, but on Him who is the Author, the Sustainer, and the Goal of our faith (see 11:36). The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (11:29). While this principle is applied to Israel collectively, it applies equally to each individual whom God has chosen and called to salvation. The blessings of God are a certainty, in spite of our sin and because of our sovereign God.
What a joy it will be to spend all of eternity exploring the wisdom of God and expressing our gratitude in worship and praise. To God be the glory!
35 Paul often uses the term mystery. It is employed by Paul in Romans 11:25; 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 4:1; 13:2; 14:2; 15:51; Ephesians 1:9; 3:3; 5:32; 6:19; Colossians 1:26-27; 2:2; 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 Timothy 3:9, 16.
36 Angels existed long before man was created. I believe the same things which mystify men are mysteries to the angels. Why else would angels stoop to look down, to try to learn what God is doing (see 1 Peter 1:12)? Why else would God be teaching the angels and celestial beings (see 1 Corinthians 11:10; Ephesians 3:10-11)? I believe those angels who announced the coming of the Christ child wondered at the words which they spoke, just as the Old Testament prophets pondered their words (see 1 Peter 1:10-12). I believe there must have been a great silence in heaven during those three days when our Lord’s body lay in the grave. I do not think the angels understood the mystery any more than men did.
37 See 1 Corinthians 2:10-14.
38 The citation from Isaiah 59:20 and 21 seems to end with the words, “And this is My covenant with them.” I am not as certain that Paul is directly quoting from Isaiah 27:9 as is indicated in the margin of the NASB.