If you will recall our study of Acts last year, Paul and Peter repeatedly had to make the point to the Jews that God now accepts the Gentiles as His children. Now, in chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans, Paul really drives home a point that is obviously dear to him. God will accept Jews as His children, also.
As we look at chapter 11 we see a shift of thought beginning in verse 33. A song of praise arises from the apostle Paul. If you are like me, the mind gets so bogged down with Paul's reasoning in chapter 11 that this section of praise really catches one off guard and poses the question, "Where did that come from?" We need to pull back and look at the bigger picture than what is in chapter 11.
Obviously, Paul has just finished one of his major points. He has climbed to the top of the summit and is ready for his downhill slide. Perhaps he took the time to look back over his document as it now stands. If so, he sees that:
As Jane Fisher reminded us, when a branch is grafted onto a plant, it must be bandaged for a while. It needs support while growing into the plant. After all these passionate yearnings Paul has expressed for his fellow Jews, don't you just picture Paul with pockets and suitcases bulging with bandages and gauze (figuratively), ready to support anyone who comes to believe in God's Son? He truly loves them. We need to be ready to support young believers new to the faith.
Then with all these things in Paul's mind--the beauty of God's saving plan (i.e., grace with belief and faith - not works or laws or circumcision) and the problems with the Jews and the Gentiles--Paul leaves that raging current for calm waters and smooth sailing in Romans 11:33. With the blessed assurance of God's mercy for them that believe, Paul pens these wonderful words:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements 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 for ever. Amen.
Usually, we think of Romans as the book on grace. God does a wonderful job supplying grace. We leave that to God. But obviously, Paul is highlighting belief and faith for man. What kind of belief does God expect? We learned from Romans 10 that this belief will lead to a continual confession from the heart. From James 2 we see that belief will be evidenced by works or actions. From Romans 4 we know that belief is more than action. Outward actions alone will not make us right with God. But right actions will follow naturally because of that belief. True faith always results in a changed life and good deeds.
Believers are characterized by Christlike living. From Colossians 3:1-17 we are told more about those characteristics:
Believers develop a faith in God that He will fulfill His promises of redemption of sinful man. This faith depends solely on God for salvation. It is not an outward show for others, but it is a faith that will keep us ready to do His will. Our faith rests on what Christ has done - not on ourselves. This faith will grow under pressure and sufferings and will become stronger through endurance.
Two words describe a Christian's faith - SURE and CERTAIN. This is a faith that believes in God's character - He is who He says He is. And a faith that believes in God's promises - He will do what He says. When we believe that God will fulfill His promises, even though we don't see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith.
From here until the end of the book, Paul will concentrate on the lives of those who already share this belief and these words of praise for our almighty God and the Blessed Redeemer, whether they be Jew or Gentile. He'll call them to surrender all to God, to love one another as themselves, not to judge others or to cause others to stumble, and to follow Christ's example.
Paul truly was not ashamed of the gospel. He saw its beauty and its power. He saw it as the only power from God for salvation to everyone who has faith.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR