For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
– Romans 11:36(NIV)
Paul the apostle seemed to have a real knack for encapsulating all of time and eternity into one or two short sentences. Romans 11:36 is certainly no exception. What more can be said to describe the reason for all things, past, present and future than what has been penned in the verse above? All things?! How Dare Paul claim to say with such intolerant absolute authority that he is able to tell us the origin, sustainer and purpose of all things. And yet he does.
I read this passage last night(8/27/09) and was struck by Paul’s prepositions, “From”, “through” and “to”. Struck so much, I figured I could start a somewhat sustainable blog built on the discussion and application of this rich passage. I’ll attempt to write about issues, struggles, questions and current events through the lens of Paul’s powerful words. Here are some opening thoughts on the verse itself:
From – All things are created by God. Plain and simple. He is the source of everything from beginning to end. His existence is assumed on every page of Scripture from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 and that He is the unmoved mover(to borrow Aristotle) who choose to create- is undisputable. He is the giver and taker of all life (Job 2:10). He rules over and is actively involved in not only what we call “good” things, but “bad” things as well. He sovereignly and sinlessly superintends all evil people, things and events. Most of us are eager to embrace the good and perfect gifts which come down from the Father, but do we so willingly accept evil from his hand? His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen in His creation, and ought to trigger joy in our hearts and praise from our lips. All things are from Him.
Matthew Henry comments:
“All things in heaven and earth, especially those which relate to our salvation, that belong to our peace, are all of him by way of creation…”
Through – All things are sustained by God. We worship and serve no deistic God who has wound the proverbial clock and left it to run down for itself. He sustains all things by the power of His word and if for one instant he was to stop his sustaining activity, all things would immediately cease to exist! What wonder, power and comfort we find in God’s continued activity in this universe. This portion of the passage seems to capture the “here and now” of every day life. God started it all, we all know that. He’ll bring it all to a most glorious conclusion, fair enough. But what about right now? What about the difficult job, strained marriage, rebellious children, stretched finances, college loans and ‘fun’ family members? Is God involved in any of this? Does he care?! All things are through Him! We can rest knowing there’s not a single maverick molecule (Thanks, Dr. Sproul!) in this sometimes chaotic looking existence. All things are sustained by God.
Again, Henry writes,
“All things in heaven and earth…are…through him by way of providence”
To – All things are aimed at bringing glory to God. He is the target at which all things are eternally pointed. Our hearts cry out, “why?!” in the tumultuous storms of life. There is but one answer that comforts the troubled soul: “for His glory.” Some things are to us more obviously God-glorifying such as the salvation of a once hopeless sinner, but others challenge our understanding as we wonder how they could bring him his due and be used to magnify him. Difficulty, suffering, war, injustice, death. How are these things “to him”? Ours is not to plum the depths in hopes of understanding all things, but to gaze at the ocean of providence and raise our hands in worship knowing that the King does all things well. All thing are aimed at his glory.
“…that they may be to him in their end. Of God, as the Spring and Fountain of all; through Christ, to God, as the end.”
I stand with Spurgeon in the ranks of the completely overwhelmed when it comes to this text. He once proclaimed from the pulpit,
“…there is no man living who can preach from my text a sermon worthy of it. No, among all the sacred orators and the eloquent pleaders for God, there never did live and never will live a man capable of reaching the height of the great argument contained in these few simple words.”
– Sermon No. 572 MAY 29, 1864
And yet he preached. And I will write. With a humbled heart, no less, knowing I’ll never search out his judgments, never fully trace out his paths, never give to God that he should repay me.
My prayer is that by running everything through the filtration system of Romans 11:36, the sand of life will sift and bring forth precious stones, specks of gold, treasures more wonderful than I could have asked or imagined. Enjoy the process, add to the discussion, share your applications. Together we can be changed into the image of God’s Son by collaboratively renewing our minds. To him be the glory forever. Amen!