5) Rom 11:33–36: Paul wrote this letter to a church struggling to re-incorporate its Jewish members after their return from five years of exile under the emperor Claudius.[1]

Nero repealed the edict upon Claudius’s death in 54 AD (Acts 18:2; Rom 16:3).[2]

Due to the return of Jewish followers of Christ into purely Gentile congregations, conflict erupted over the differing practices of the two factions. Paul sought to mediate their disputes. He appears to have written this epistle within five years after the exile ended.[3]

These verses come at the end of what many consider the greatest theological treatise in Scripture (Rom 1–11). They form a hymn of praise to God which bears some resemblance to Job 42:1–5.[4]

It begins with “O!” to express strong emotion,[5] a reaction to what Paul had just written concerning the infinite depths and riches of God’s mercy, wisdom, and knowledge (Rom 11:25–32). The Lord’s plan of salvation reveals his majestic attributes for both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 11:12; 1 Cor 2:10–13;Gal 3:26–29).[6]

Structurally, the second sentence suggests the form of a hymn,[7] with two highly alliterative adjectives meaning “unsearchable” (anexeraunētos) and “beyond tracing out” (anexichniastos).” “Judgments” (krima) refers to God’s decisions in redemptive history (Ps 19:9; Ps 36:6; Ps 119:75).[8]

The Lord’s purposes and activity enfold far more than our human minds can comprehend.[9]

Paul followed his exclamation with a series of rhetorical questions in which he anticipated the answer, “No one.”

He employed an A–B–B–A chiasm with the qualities listed in Rom 11:33. “Who has known the mind of the Lord?” alludes to knowledge. “Who has been his counselor?” addresses the Lord’s wisdom (Isa 40:13). Finally, “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Job 41:11) refers to his riches.[10]

            In Rom 11:35, Paul deviated from his normal practice of quoting the Greek translation of the Old Testament and went directly to the Hebrew text of Job 41:11. Here “repay” (antapodidōmi) has positive connotations as in Luke 14:13–4 and Col 3:24.[11]

None of us can earn the Lord’s favor or kindness (Rom 3:21–30). Our salvation results solely from God’s great love for us (Rom 5:6–11).[12]

He is no one’s debtor.[13]

Paul expressed the supreme majesty of the creator and sustainer of the universe, for he comprises everything from beginning to end (1 Cor 8:5–6). Note that in the Corinthians passage, the functions which Paul here ascribes to God describe both the Father and the Son.[14]

Thus, Paul extolled the Lord’s self-sufficiency and boundless prudence.[15] As the personification of God’s wisdom, Christ revealed God’s plan of salvation to us.[16]

Yet, for our finite minds, these mysteries remain too vast for us to fully comprehend.[17]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

a) Read Rom 11:33–36. How did Paul describe the fathomless mysteries of God’s plan of redemption? Why doesn’t God owe us anything despite our offerings to him? How does this passage resonate with your experience of God?

 

 

 

 

Go to A Living Sacrifice

 

[Related posts include A Living Sacrifice (Rom 12:1); Transformed Minds (Rom 12:2); A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); Delivered from this Body of Death (Rom 7:14–25); Set Free from Sin’s Dominion (Rom 8:1–14); and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

[Click here to go to Chapter 1: A Tale of Two Brothers (Genesis 4:1‒16)]

 

[1] Charles D. Myers Jr., “Romans, Epistle to the,” ABD 5:816–26, 817.

[2] Keener, “Romans Situation,” IVPBBCNT, Rom.

[3]Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 13; Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 13.

[4]James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9–16 (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1998), 703.

[5]Frederick W. Danker, et al., “ὠ” (ō), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Ed. (BDAG) (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1101.

[6]Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 389.

[7] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 699.

[8] Moo, Romans, 390.

[9] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 700.

[10] Moo, Romans, 390.

[11] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2 Vols. (New York: T & T Clark, 2004), 2:591.

[12] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 701.

[13] Moo, Romans, 390.

[14] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 704.

[15]C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:590–1.

[16] Moo, Romans, 390.

[17] Dunn, Romans 9–16, 703.