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From the Word

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Romans 11:33, RSV

From Luther

These words show Christians that these sublime and divine mysteries — God’s actual divine essence and his will, administration and works — are absolutely beyond all human thought, human understanding or wisdom; that they are and ever will be incomprehensible, inscrutable, and altogether hidden to human reason. When reason presumptuously undertakes to solve, to teach and explain these matters, the result is worthless, yea, utter darkness and deception. If anything is to be ascertained, it must be through revelation alone; that is, the Word of God, which was sent from heaven.

We do not apply these words of Paul to the question of divine predestination—who will be saved and who will not. For into these things God would not have us curiously inquire. He has not given us any special revelation in regard to them, but refers all men here to the words of the gospel. By them they are to be guided. He would have them hear and learn the gospel, and believing in it they shall be saved. Therein have all the saints found comfort and assurance in regard to their election to eternal life; not in any special revelation in regard to their predestination, but in faith in Christ.

Paul speaks here of the marvelous ruling of God in the Church, according to which they who have the name and honor of being the people of God — the people of Israel — are rejected on account of their unbelief. On the other hand, those who formerly were not God’s people, but were unbelieving, are now become the true Church in the sight of God and are saved, since they have received the gospel and believe in Christ. Consequently it was on account of their own unbelief that the former were rejected. Such are God’s unsearchable judgments and ways past finding out. By “judgments” is meant that which is right or wrong, what pleases and what does not please him. By “his ways” is meant that which he will manifest unto men and how he will deal with them. These things men cannot and would not search out by their own intellect, and therefore should never oppose their judgments or speculations to God. It is not for them to say what is right or wrong, whether an act or ruling is divine.

Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 163–64.

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