Sunday After The Nativity-The Deep Riches Of The Wisdom And Knowledge Of God
Romans 11:33 “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!”
The riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God are described here as indescribably “deep.”
"Oh, the depth!” means: The depth is very deep. It is so deep that as St. Paul peers into the ravine of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge, it evokes from him, an undefined “Oh!” Or if he was alive today he would look into the depth and say “Wow”! The deeps here are indescribably deep.
Three things come to mind with this expression of the depths of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge.
First, hiddenness. Daniel 2:21–22 says, “[God] giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that have understanding. He revealeth deep and hidden things, and knoweth what is in darkness.”
Notice the connection between “deep” and “hidden.” “Oh, the depth!” means that there are hidden dimensions to God’s wisdom and knowledge. They are deep in the sense that they are out of our sight, unreachable. We can’t go down there. There will always be depths of God we do not know, because he is infinite and we are finite. We will always be seeing more forever.
Second, after “hiddenness,” “depth” implies objective reality. There is something down there. If there is nothing really down there, then the riches and wisdom and knowledge are not deep. They are a delusion. I mention this even though it is obvious because of how many public denials of the obvious happen today.
When Paul says, “Oh the depth!” he means there is something down there. He has revealed some of it. He knows there’s more. He is speaking of objective reality — that God knows and we know in part.
Third, the words “Oh the depth!” signify that this reality is foundational. He could have said, “Oh, the heights of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” That would be true as well. But here Paul is saying that God is at the bottom of things. It is true that God is also at the top of things. All things are rooted in God, and all things are moving toward God. As verse 36 of our Epistle reading for the day says, “For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things” The infinite depths are his, and the infinite heights are his. He is the foundation, and he is the destination of all things. There is no explanation beneath God. No matter how deep you go, there is only God. He is the last explanation whether you go down to causes or go up to purposes.
So his initial words, “Oh, the depth!” signify at least: unspeakable hiddenness, objective reality, and ultimate foundation. Then Paul mentions the two things about God that elicit this exultation: The riches of wisdom and knowledge. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”
St. Paul says first, “O the depth of the riches” God is rich in at least three senses.
First, God owns all that exists that is not God. Psalm 24:1 is the most familiar statement of this truth: “The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein.”
Deuteronomy 10:14 says: “Behold heaven is the Lord's thy God, and the heaven of heaven, the earth and all things that are therein.”
So not only does God own the earth and all that is in it, including you, but he also owns the reaches of space and the heavens beyond the heavens with all their angelic armies. In other words, nothing exists outside of God that is not God’s. He owns it, and, as his possession, he may do with it as he pleases. Human wealth compared to God’s wealth is ridiculously tiny and laughable to boast in. And because we are sons of God, St. Paul says in Romans 8:17 that we are also heirs of God also. “and joint heirs with Christ”. Bill Gates is a pauper and has nothing compared to us who are heirs of God.
Second, God is rich in the sense that he made all that is and can make anything he pleases and as much as he pleases out of nothing. “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) “I will behold thy heavens, the works of thy fingers: the moon and the stars which thou hast founded.” (Psalm 8:3) “How great are thy works, O Lord? thou hast made all things in wisdom: the earth is filled with thy riches.” (Psalms 104:24).
In other words, his resources are infinite because the resources out of which he can make anything is nothingness, and there is an untold “amount” of nothingness.
Or to say it more simply, if you can make what you please effortlessly out of nothing, then your riches are limitless, because your creativity is not limited by raw materials. You don’t need raw materials. God is infinitely rich, because he owns all that is, and because he can make more of anything that he pleases out of nothing.
Third, God is rich in the sense that he himself is the infinite Treasure of the universe. God does not have to create anything or to own anything in order to be rich. He is himself of infinite value. And since he exists as a Trinity of persons in one Godhead, he has been able to enjoy the riches of his own glory from all eternity existing in the other persons of the Godhead.
When Paul speaks in other places of “the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7) and “goodness, and patience, and longsuffering” (Romans 2:4) and “the riches of his glory” (Romans 9:23), this is the main thing: God freely giving himself in grace, goodness, patience, and longsuffering and of his own all-satisfying glory forever.
Or the most personal and ultimate way to speak of God’s wealth is to call it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (which St. Paul does in Ephesians 3:8) — not just riches that Christ GIVES, but the riches that Christ IS. As St. Paul says in Colossians 1:27, “To whom God would make known the riches of the glory of this mystery,... which is Christ, in you the hope of glory.” Christ himself is the present guarantee and the future gift of the glory of God. When Christ died, he bought and he became our greatest Treasure. He himself is the gift and the greatness of the glory of God. And that leads us from the term riches to the terms wisdom and knowledge here in Romans 11:33, because in Colossians 2:3 Paul says that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Part of what makes God so wealthy is the infinite wisdom and knowledge that he has.
What’s the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
Sometimes in the Bible they are almost interchangeable. But generally knowledge is awareness of facts and wisdom is awareness of how to use those facts for good goals.
Paul says that God’s knowledge is unfathomably deep. He knows all recorded facts — all the facts stored in all the computers and all the books in all the libraries in the world. But vastly more than that, he knows all events at the macro level — all that happens on earth and in the atmosphere and in all the farthest reaches of space in every galaxy and star and planet. And all events at the micro level — all that happens in molecules and atoms and electrons and protons and neutrons and quarks. He knows all their movements and every location and every condition of every particle of the universe at every nano-second of time. And he knows all events that happen in human minds and wills — all emotional and spiritual events — all thoughts and choices and feelings.
And that includes past, present, and future. He knows every event that has ever happened and ever will happen at every level of existence: physical and mental. And he knows how all facts and all events, of every kind, relate to each other and affect each other. When one event happens, he not only sees it, but he sees the eternal chain of effects that flow from it and from all the billions of events that are unleashed by every other event. He knows all this without the slightest strain on his mind. That is what it means to be God.
And Paul says that not only God’s knowledge but also God’s wisdom is unfathomably deep. God is infinitely wise. That is, he has always been able to conceive and carry out plans that have good goals and that make use of all that knowledge to bring to pass what he purposes. He knows how to use all the facts of the universe and guide all the events of the universe to achieve the best end, namely, the display of the fullness of his glory.
And all the treasures of this wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:3). Christ is the Creator of all created reality: “All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.” (John 1:3). And Christ is the sustainer of all created reality. Colossians 1:17: “And he is before all, and by him all things consist.”
Therefore, all knowledge and all wisdom and all riches originate in him, and are held in existence by him, and are for the purpose of making him known. Therefore, Christ is the final and ultimate meaning of all reality. Which means that nothing can be fully or rightly known that is not known in relation to Jesus Christ.
“In [Christ] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!” (Romans 11:33)
The riches are finally Jesus Christ himself offered to us as our all-satisfying Treasure.
“To whom God would make known the riches of the glory of this mystery which is Christ” (Colossians 1:27). “I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord [my Treasure, my Riches]; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ:” (Philippians 3:8).
The wisdom of God is finally Jesus Christ himself, crucified and risen and reigning — "unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness: But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:23–24). Christ is God’s way, God’s truth, and God’s life. He is the wise end and goal of all things.
And God’s unfathomable knowledge is also in Christ Jesus. All facts and events arise from him. All facts and events are sustained by him. All facts and events point to him. He is the meaning of all knowledge. There is no true knowledge that is not related to Christ. Every thought in a human mind, or in the mind of a demon, about any fact or any event in the world, that is not truly connected to Christ, is a thought in rebellion against the Truth and against God. There is no true knowledge apart from Christ. That is how radically Christ-exalting all of life should be.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” May the revelation of Jesus Gods Son and the revelation of his ways move you to stand in awe of him, and make him the beginning, the middle, and the end in all you think and feel and do.