Yesterday, Pete Williamson preached on humility, using Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The takeaway from this parable is that there is only one route into God’s favor and salvation, and that is through his mercy towards undeserving sinners. There is not one route for the good, religious, have-it-mostly-together people, and one route for the screw-ups and “sinners.” Jesus, and his justice-satisfying, mercy-securing, death-conquering death and resurrection, is the only way.
Paul offers some insight into this in an astounding statement: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all” (Rom 11:32). Here we get a glimpse into God’s eternal wisdom and design: God ordained that all would be disobedient, rebellious sinners. Why? So that he could draw us into his love through his blood-bought mercy. So that all would see his goodness and give him glory. So that no one will have an ounce of justification for boasting—making much of themselves–before God (a point Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 1-4).
What this means from our end of things is that we must come to God in humility and repentance. If God’s mercy is required, our humility is required. Not that we have to be perfectly humble, and then our humility becomes the “good work” that we offer to God. We must be humble even about our lack of humility! But in a real sense, we have to die to ourselves: die to any thought that God owes us because of what we’ve done, or not done; die to any thought that our religion, our morality, our spirituality, our passion is sufficient to overcome and atone for our sin. Because all such thinking keeps us distant from God, because we don’t think we really need Him.
The point in this is not only that we would find God’s love and salvation, so that we would be in a better spot (although that is part of it). The point is also so that we might see God’s glory, wisdom, and power in what he has ordained. That we might be brought to worship and delight in Him. That’s how Paul concludes Romans 9, while also acknowledging our inability to fully grasp all that God has done:
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge
of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might
36 For from him and through him and to him are all
things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:33-36)