23 April 2016

Romans 11:25-36

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever.” (v. 36)

Psalm: Psalm 77


As Paul brings to a conclusion his reflections on the Israelites' continuing relationship with God in the light of their rejection of God's Son, some of his arguments may seem difficult to entirely understand, or may even feel unpalatable. For Paul seems to be saying that God played a part in hardening the hearts of the Israelites in order that it is clear that salvation is entirely dependent on God's mercy and not through anything that people may achieve or work for on their own. We may wish to continue wrestling with Paul's argument, and he acknowledges that we cannot fully comprehend God's ways (verses 33-34), but his fundamental point should not be lost: God's purposes will not be defeated and God's purposes are for salvation. The day will come when God's love will reign supreme.

The final verses of this chapter are poetic words of praise. Ultimately our knowledge and experience of God are limited and there comes a point when we encounter the mystery of God. Our response, and our hope, is to trust and have faith in the God who is beyond our comprehension and whose love is beyond our understanding. This is not to devalue nor discourage our theological wrestling or our works of love or costly acts of discipleship, but to remind us again of the God who is greater than all and who has given us salvation through Jesus. Ultimately nothing is dependent on us, and we have the assurance that God's purposes will be fulfilled because God has already acted. The question we are left with is the question that echoes through these passages: do we have faith?

To Ponder

  • Do you find contemplating the mystery of God reassuring or challenging? Why?
  • Paul's underlying question is challenging: do you have faith? How do you respond?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Price-Tebbutt

Nicola Price-Tebbutt is a presbyter in the Methodist Church. She has previously served in circuit in Sheffield and as a tutor at Hartley Victoria College in Manchester.