An excerpt from chapter 18, “Meditation on Romans 11:33-36”
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33–36)
So Paul’s theology in Romans is personal, and devotional. Further, there is a profound humility about it. We would certainly excuse Paul if he showed a bit of pride at being the author of Romans. Couldn’t you be just a little proud about that? So it wouldn’t be hard for us to imagine a theological writer saying, “We have presented our doctrine of sin and salvation and provided adequate answers to several problems. Now we must turn to the ethical implications of what we have said.” Not too much pride there, just a standard academic transition between one argument well made and the next. Now we understand this; now we will seek to understand that. But Paul pauses to note how much he doesn’t know. “How unsearchable . . . and how inscrutable . . . . ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ” (Rom. 11:33–34).
That’s such good theology. This is a proof text for our doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God. A proper proof text. Yet it is not set forth as a doctrine, but as an exclamation. Paul is not just saying that God is incomprehensible in general, as we might do in expounding a doctrine of analogy or accommodation. He finds God’s incomprehensibility in his own teaching. He says in effect: “Folks, I’ve done my best to expound the gospel, to solve some problems, but I’ve only scratched the surface. What I’ve said was true, but there’s so much more to it. God understands justification, sanctification, the history of redemption so much better than I do that there is no comparison. And the more we explore his plan in depth, the more we see how much we don’t know, the more we are exposed to the mystery of God.” (pp. 159-160)
Editor’s Note: We talked to John Frame about his Selected Shorter Writings in our Author Interviews here and here.