Studies in Romans


by Dean H. Hough

ALL is out of God and through Him and for Him (Rom.11:36). This is the summation of all that Paul has been saying in Romans 9, 10 and 11. But not only that, this is the summation of one of the most basic themes of Romans, first introduced in chapters 1-8 and then related to our service and walk in chapters 12-16. Once we grasp the evangel, we realize that it is all of God and is under His control and is for His glory, and only with that understanding can we begin to live that life which is well pleasing to Him.

Concerning Romans 11:36, Brother A. E. Knoch wrote, "This is the most comprehensive statement which can be uttered. God is the source of all, the channel of all, and the object of all. The universe sprang out of Him, it has its course in Him, and He will be its ultimate. This settles all speculation as to the origin of all things. Creation is out of God, not out of nothing. This explains universal history. God is the One back of all the movements of mankind. This reveals the goal of all things. God is so guiding all His creatures that, eventually, He will become their All. To Him, indeed, be glory for the eons!"(CONCORDANT COMMENTARY, p.242.)


Many believers have seen the words "the all" as solely referring to creation, or even more restricted, to Israel only, or Israel and the nations. It would be better if we could see that while creation is certainly included in "the all," much more is involved; the context has considered Israel and the nations, but the real attention has been given to God's operations regarding these peoples. Now in the hymn of praise given in Romans 11:33-36, the glories of God in His wisdom and actions are emphasized. Consequently, we must see "the all" as encompassing both things and actions, with special attention given to actions, that is, to the events and experiences of the eons. Not only all that exists, but also all that occurs is out of God, and through Him and for Him.

ROMANS 9, 10 AND 11

All of Israel's history, the present experiences and their future are ultimately out of, through and for God. But Paul has not treated this matter in a detached and academic way in Romans 9-11; rather he has shown himself as involved in it all, and we are caught up in it as well. Not that the apostle confuses our callings or the distinctions between the Circumcision evangel and that of the Uncircumcision (Gal.2:7), but God is One (Rom.3:30), and His operations with Israel and with the nations have many important parallels with His operations on our behalf. We are learning about God in these chapters, and in ways that are not less significant than the lessons of chapters 1-8.

Hence, when we read of Israel's blindness or of their eventual salvation, we are learning about God's ways. God has locked them up in stubbornness, and this supports the fact that all is out of God. We also see here that this stubbornness is temporary and is a means to a good end, and this helps us understand the nature of our own failings and frustrations. For Israel the good end is the experience and appreciation of God's mercy, and this strengthens us in assurance and joy concerning the certain triumph of God's love over all present distress (as Paul pointed out in Romans 8).

All that happens to Israel is out of God, "that the purpose of God may be remaining as a choice, not out of acts, but [out] of Him Who is calling ..." (Rom.9:11). This makes evident to us that all the occurrences of our lives are also out of God. "Consequently, then, it is not of him who is willing, nor of him who is racing, but of God, the Merciful" (9:16).

Similarly, all the events in Israel's history are channeled through God's plannings and operations. Their experiences in Egypt under Pharaoh (see Romans 9:17,18) and during the days of Elijah (see Romans 11:2-5) were not accidents. Nor does Paul mention these things as though they have no relationship to our own experiences. "Perceive, then, the kindness and severity of God" (11:22). Note the importance even of divine severity, and then see that it is not an end in itself, neither is it eternal.

Everything that occurs in Israel's and the nations' experience is for God. This finally is the great lesson of Romans 9, 10 and 11. All Israel's calloused pride and all their afflictions, all the nations' indifference as well as their benefits from the conciliation, have their end in the glory of God. This, in turn, means that all the peoples of the earth will surely be blessed. It all is summed up in the startling words of Romans 11:32, "For God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all."


As we have observed, this conclusion to Romans 9-11 also has an essential relationship to the earlier chapters of the epistle. Romans 11:36 states a basic theme that has undergirded the presentation of the evangel in the first eight chapters: that God is in control, and, by means of the death and resurrection of Christ, He has determined a glorious goal for His creation. In God's grace, we have been given a very important part in the working out of this purpose, but this part would be impossible were it not for the fact that all is out of God, and through Him and for Him.

At the very beginning of Romans we are told that the evangel focuses on "God's power" and "God's righteousness" (1:16,17). We first see what God is able to do and what, in fact, He is actually doing, as well as the way in which He is doing it. That we are being justified is a corollary matter to the primary fact that God is the righteous justifier. That we shall be saved is settled by the truth that Christ's blood was shed on our behalf. All our blessings are granted on the basis of God's activity. "Surely, He Who spares not His own Son, but gives Him up for us all, how shall He not together with Him, also, be graciously granting us all?" (Rom.8:32).

Even the subject of God's indignation, expounded in detail in Romans 1:18-3:20 is to be viewed eventually in light of Romans 11:32-36. This too is out of God and through His operations, and this also will ultimately lead to His glory.

On this matter, however, some have strangely concluded that the sentence of Romans 2:9 will last forever and will be "for God" in the sense of eternally manifesting "divine justice" to the universe. God's righteousness (that is, His justice, for the words are the same in Greek) is manifested only through the death of the cross. His judgments are just, but this cannot be seen or exhibited apart from the work of the cross, and in no way could everlasting torment serve to manifest divine righteousness, nor could it contribute in any manner whatsoever to His glory.

How fitting, therefore, are the words at the end of Romans 8, which conclude the presentation of the evangel. Nothing can separate us from God's love; even future displays of God's indignation cannot stop the operation of His love or keep Him from His goal as described in 8:21 as "the glorious freedom of the sons of God."

ROMANS 12-16

Probably, had it been up to us, we would have hastened on to the practical matters brought up in Romans 12 soon after considering Romans 8. As far as understanding the specific features of our calling is concerned, it perhaps would not have been a great loss, but as far as spiritual growth and preparation for "divine service" is concerned, we need the lessons of Romans 9-11.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in ourselves, especially when we consider all the blessings directly and specifically related to us, as presented in Romans 3:21-8:39. The corrective to this is not so much a consideration of Israel's calling or matters relating to the nations, as it is a focusing on God and what He is doing with respect to others. Romans 9, 10 and 11 is an ideal portion of Scripture for learning the lesson of the deity of God, the central and vital place He holds in the universe and in the events of time.

Having seen that all is indeed out of God, through and for Him, we are prepared for the entreaties of Romans 12-16 in a truly effective way. Ideal service is impossible where there is human pride and selfish ambition. jealousy and anger cannot be present in the faithful walk. In addition, if we are fearful about our standing and are distracted by the anxieties of the eon, we will not be able to endure with unfeigned love and the joy of expectation (cf Rom.12:9-13).


Our expectation is "the glory of God" (Rom.5:2). In truth, there is no expectation for anyone apart from the glory of God. All that is created and all that happens, ultimately will be for His glory. Christ's emptying of Himself even to the death of the cross, His exaltation and the bowing of every knee and acclaiming of every tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord, is all "for the glory of God the Father" (Phil.2:6-11).

This is not fatalism, for the only fatalism is that which conceives that some portion of God's creation will never be saved from their lack of the glory of God (Rom.3:23), or that some experience of the eons will remain meaningless and vanity forever. All is for God! This is good news that invigorates us, lifts up our spirits and strengthens us in joy and peace for useful lives and service. And so we say again, "To God be the glory for the eons! Amen!"

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