Charles Simeon Commentary - Romans 11:34 - 11:36

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Romans 11:34 - 11:36

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Rom_11:34-36. Who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 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 for ever. Amen.

GOD is represented in the Scriptures as “a jealous God.” And well he may be so: for it is not fit that any portion of “his glory should be given to another.” But man is ready, on all occasions, to arrogate something to himself. Hence it becomes the servants of God to exercise extreme vigilance in relation to this matter; and to claim for God the honour due unto his name.

In the chapter before us, the Apostle has been setting forth the mysterious designs of God in relation both to Jews and Gentiles. It had pleased God, for two thousand years, to confine the knowledge of himself to Abraham and his descendants: but at length he saw fit to cast off them, and to transfer his blessings to the Gentiles. In due season, however, it is his purpose to restore to his favour his ancient people, and, through their instrumentality, to diffuse the knowledge of himself over the face of the whole earth. Now, in the whole of this work, it is obvious that God has acted “according to the counsel of his own will;” and that to no creature in the universe is there left any room to boast. Hence St. Paul, in the words which we have read, ascribes all the glory to God alone.

Let me call your attention to the component parts of this sublime passage:

I.       His unrestricted challenge—

Who will venture to claim any merit to himself in reference to redemption at large?—

[Of whom did God take counsel, when he determined to save a ruined world? Who suggested to him a hint respecting the substitution of his own Son in the place of sinful man? Who proposed to him so strange a way of reconciling all his own glorious perfections, and of making all the rights of justice, and truth, and holiness, to consist with the exercise of mercy? — — — Or who ever did any thing to merit at his hands such an interposition in his favour? If there be any one so vain as to arrogate any thing to himself in this respect, let him bring forward his claim, and substantiate it before God, “that he may be recompensed” according to it. But we have no fear that this challenge will be accepted by any upon earth, or any one in heaven itself. The whole work of salvation is God’s, and God’s alone—the result of his wisdom, and the gift of his grace — — —]

Who will venture to claim any merit to himself, in reference to the application of this redemption to his own soul?—

[Who can ascribe any thing to his own wisdom? or who to his own goodness? Who will venture to reverse the saying of our Lord; and, in direct opposition to him, to assert, that “he first chose the Lord, and not the Lord him [Note: Joh_15:16.]?” What disposition or ability had any one of you to turn unto the Lord, till “He, of his own good pleasure, gave you both to will and to do [Note: Php_2:13.]?” Or what had you done for him, that merited this favour at his hands? The salvation itself, and the faith by which you have embraced it, have been both, and equally, the gift of God [Note: Eph_2:8.]; and, whatever you may have attained, “by the grace of God you are what you are [Note: 1Co_15:10.].”]

In connexion with this, let us consider,

II.      His unqualified assertion—

Every good thing the Apostle refers to God, distinctly asserting him to be,

1.       The Source of all—

[God is the one fountain of all good. The fallen angels could as easily have devised a way of salvation as we. We must, of necessity, go back to the period when God proposed to his Son to become our substitute and surety, and promised to him a seed, who should, if I may so speak, remunerate all the sufferings he should endure for us [Note: Isa_53:10.]: from that covenant must all our blessings be traced; and in accordance with it shall they all be vouchsafed — — —]

2.       The Author of all—

[Not only did every thing spring from God, as the fruit of his sovereign love; but every thing was wrought in us by. his power and grace. We could as easily form a new world, as we could form the new creature in our own bosoms: “He that must work us to this self-same thing, is God [Note: 2Co_5:5.].” In its rise, its progress, and its consummation, no other hand can be seen but His. Nor is good alone to be traced to him; for he is, so far as permission goes, the author of evil also. Moral evil indeed cannot be ascribed to him, any further than as permitting it for wise and gracious ends: but penal evil, in whatever way it comes, and from whatever hand it proceeds, may be referred to him, as its proper author. The Sabeans and Chaldeans destroyed the property of Job; yet Job regarded them only as instruments in God’s hands, and received the visitation precisely as if it had proceeded from God himself, without the intervention of any secondary cause [Note: Job_1:21.] Thus must we also do: for “there is not either good or evil in the city, but the Lord hath done it [Note: Amo_3:6.].”]

3.       The End of all—

[God in every thing seeks his own glory, and from every thing will assuredly bring glory to himself. From the fall of man, from the very crucifixion of Christ himself, has his glory been educed: but never has he designed that man should glory [Note: 1Co_1:29.]. Be it so, then, that you are enjoying salvation in all its fulness: you must, to the latest hour of your life, say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name, be the praise [Note: Psa_115:1.]” — — —]

A just view of the two former points will prepare us for,

III.     His appropriate acknowledgment—

To God he gives the glory. And who amongst us will not cordially add his “Amen?”

We must do it upon earth—

[Our hearts should be duly sensible of our obligations to him, whether for temporal or spiritual blessings. To whom can we ascribe it, that we were brought into the world in a Christian land, where the light of revelation shines; and not in the midst of heathen darkness? To whom do we owe it, that we were made to hear the glad tidings of salvation, which are so faintly proclaimed even by the established messengers of Christ; and that we were enabled to receive them into our hearts, when so many pour contempt upon them, as of no value? Surely, “it is God who has made you to differ;” and to him must you ascribe all the praise.]

You will do it in heaven—

[Do you hear amongst the heavenly hosts one who is taking honour to himself? No: there is but one sound amongst all the celestial choir: all are singing praises to God and to the Lamb. And doubtless the saints in glory now see how much they are indebted to God “for events which once they deemed calamitous and adverse.” Anticipate, then, that time; and now begin to acknowledge, in every thing, whether painful or pleasing, the wisdom, and goodness, and power, and faithfulness, of your God. And remember, that the more you have been enabled to do for God, the more you are indebted to God, by whose grace alone you have been empowered even to think a good thought [Note: 1Ch_29:13-14.].]

Now, from this subject you may surely learn,

1.       Submission—

[“The ways of God are a great deep,” and “his paths past finding out.” But when you reflect that neither men nor devils can exceed the commission they have received from him, surely you should say in all things, “It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good [Note: 1Sa_3:18.]” — — —]

2.       Gratitude—

[View your mercies, which are more in number than the sands upon the sea-shore; and see if you can trace them to any source but God. And are they all the fruits of his love, and the effects of his power, and do they not call for gratitude at your hands? Methinks your every word should be thanksgiving, and your every breath be praise.]

3.       Affiance—

[Doubtless there will be many circumstances that will be dark, and at present inexplicable: but you must never forget, that “though clouds and darkness be round about him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne [Note: Psa_97:2.].” You have seen already, that, in numberless instances, he has brought good out of evil; and that you have had reason to bless him as much for things which have been contrary to your desires, as for things which have been gratifying to flesh and blood. Learn, then, to trust him for the future; and, under the darkest dispensations, learn to say with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”]