Paul’s long argument through eleven chapters has lacked neither theological milk nor meat. Now in this pericope, he steps back to take a breath and give praise to the God whose thoughts, plans, and accomplishments are so much deeper and greater than anything we could have imagined.
In good Jewish fashion, Paul draws together a montage of passages in 11:33-36 from the Hebrew Bible in didactic praise to God. It is didactic in that it teaches and edifies the readers of Romans, teaching them about the God to whom this praise is due, but also rehearses how Israel herself praised God through the ages. The greatest well from which to draw on both topics is the Psalms. But there is also the Proverbs and the book of Job revealing the wisdom, mystery, and love of God. Together all three sources declare that the God of creation and redemption is the God of providence. The Lord God has always been in control, moving the events and revolutions of the world to a historic apex — the advent of the Son of God. That is the picture Paul paints with his use of Job 5:9, 15:8, and 36:22-23, which echo beneath Romans 11:33 and 34; verse 35 quotes Job 41:11. The Apostle, through these well-known passages, depicts a Lord sovereign in all His dealings, that the Lord God is no respecter of persons, and no one can claim an obligation on the part of the Creator. Indeed, the Lord God acts by grace and mercy, and for this, He is most worthy of praise. In fact, as the final verse indicates in a triumphant sweep of thought, everything we are comes from Him. Paul, elsewhere citing even the Greek poets, would argue, “In Him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Everything that exists, the world of creation, is YHWH’s handiwork and is sustained in existence by His power and love. Everything traces itself back into His presence as the sovereign one before whom all human work and activity is, at best, loving service.
The Apostle is not a blind zealot. He has already explained how human rebellion contributes to the systemic problems of the world, to the point that the creation itself groans for the resurrection of the dead and the restoration of all things (Romans 8:22). Preachers need not address the sovereignty of God as if it were Pollyanna in nature. But these problems, and this is the point, the problems of sin, corruption, death, and decay have been addressed in a final and climactic way by God in Christ Jesus’ atonement and resurrection. Now a new creation is dawning and the Spirit of God dwells in mankind born anew in Jesus the Son. This has been the plan of God the Father with the Son and the Spirit that has been orchestrated throughout the ages. Praise Him! Praise Him above you heavenly hosts. Praise Him, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
The problems of sin, corruption, death, and decay have been addressed in a final and climactic way by God in Christ Jesus’ atonement and resurrection.
In the next section (Romans 12:1-8), Paul presses the point and makes poignant application: It has taken the exercise of divine sovereignty to providentially bring about the reconciliation of humanity and creation itself to God through Jesus Christ. In Galatians 4:4-5 he puts it this way: “In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem those who were under the Law so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Considering this climatic work of God, Paul calls for nothing less than to, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (12:2). Transformed to a right understanding and appreciation that God works through nature, not against it, and easily does so because He invented it, set its course, and knows its outcomes. At the same time, He has the power and purpose to recreate it because of what we have done to it. Transformed in our understanding that we are by nature sinful and unclean. Transformed to understand and own that only through the Lion of the Tribe of Judah is the truth of a long-fanged God who Judges sin reconciled through the Holy Cross the foundation, the unalterable foundation of the Christian proclamation. We have been reconciled to the King by the King because of the King so we may be for the King—not when it is convenient and more tasteful and fashionable, but as a bold and confident proclamation.
Note how God’s sovereignty that creates and recreates, redeems and restores, includes physicality — it includes our bodies. Therefore, he repeatedly returns to the reality of the resurrection. This “present evil age” is giving way to the “age to come” — the age of resurrection life. By offering our, “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (12:1), we are to practice living in the “age to come” as if it has already arrived, practice living, in other words, in resurrection life in the here and now. In doing so, we too participate in that rightful and fitting praise of God as the Israelites had done, but now we do so in light of the resurrection of Christ and the rebirth of our spirits in Holy Baptism. “This is your true and appropriate worship” (Romans 12:1).
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in Romans 11:33-12:8.
God’s Greater Story-Check out this wonderful sermon series on Romans 6-14 by our own David Schmitt.