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29for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

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

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29. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. He has mentioned gifts and calling; which are to be understood, according to a figure in grammar, 369369     Hypallage — transposition, a change in the arrangement of a sentence. as meaning the gift of calling: and this is not to be taken for any sort of calling but of that, by which God had adopted the posterity of Abraham into covenant; since this is especially the subject here, as he has previously, by the word, election, designated the secret purpose of God, by which he had formerly made a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. 370370     It is not desirable to amalgamate words in this manner; nor is it necessary. The Apostle ascends; he mentions first the “gifts,” the free promises which God made to the Jews; and then he refers to the origin of them, the calling or the election of God, and says that both are irreversible, or, as Castellio well explains the word ἀμεταμέλητα, irrevocable. See a similar instance in Romans 13:13
   Calvin seems to regard “the gifts and calling” as having reference to the adoption of the Jewish nation, and their adoption to certain privileges included in the Abrahamic covenant, probably those mentioned in Romans 9:4. But Pareus, Mede, and others, extend the meaning farther, and consider “the gifts” as including those of “faith, remission of sins, sanctification, perseverance and salvation;” and they understand by “calling,” not the external, which often fails, but the internal, made by the Spirit, and every efficacious, of which the Apostle had spoken, when he said, “Those whom he has predestinated, he has called, justified, and glorified.” According to this view the Apostle must be considered to mean, that according to what is said in Romans 11:5, the gifts and callings of God shall be effectual towards some of the Jews throughout all ages, and towards the whole nation, when the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in; or, that though they may be suspended, they shall yet be made evident at the appointed time; so that what secures and renders certain the restoration of the Jews is the covenant of free grace which God made with their fathers.

   Some, as Pareus informs us, have concluded from what is here said, that no Gentile nation, once favored with “the gifts and calling of God,” shall be wholly forsaken; and that though religion may for a long season be in a degenerated state, God will yet, in his own appointed time, renew his gifts and his calling, and restore true religion. The ground of hope is the irrevocability of his gifts and calling. — Ed.
For we must bear this in mind, — that he speaks not now of the election of individuals, but of the common adoption of the whole nation, which might seem for a time, according to the outward appearance, to have failed, but had not been cut up by the roots. As the Jews had fallen from their privilege and the salvation promised them, that some hope might remain to the remnant, Paul maintains that the purpose of God stands firm and immovable, by which he had once deigned to choose them for himself as a peculiar nation. Since then it cannot possibly be, that the Lord will depart from that covenant which he made with Abraham,

“I will be the God of thy seed,” (Genesis 17:7,)

it is evident that he has not wholly turned away his kindness from the Jewish nation.

He does not oppose the gospel to election, as though they were contrary the one to the other, for whom God has chosen he calls; but inasmuch as the gospel had been proclaimed to the Gentiles beyond the expectation of the world, he justly compares this favor with the ancient election of the Jews, which had been manifested so many ages before: and so election derives its name from antiquity; for God had in past ages of the world chosen one people for himself.

On account of the Fathers, he says not, because they gave any cause for love, but because God’s favor had descended from them to their posterity, according to the tenor of the covenant, “Thy God and the God of thy seed.” How the Gentiles had obtained mercy through the unbelief of the Jews, has been before stated, namely, that God, being angry with the Jews for their unbelief, turned his kindness to them. What immediately follows, that they became unbelievers through the mercy manifested to the Gentiles, seems rather strange; and yet there is in it nothing unreasonable; for Paul assigns not the cause of blindness, but only declares, that what God transferred to the Gentiles had been taken away from the Jews. But lest what they had lost through unbelief, should be thought by the Gentiles to have been gained by them through the merit of faith, mention is made only of mercy. What is substantially said then is, — that as God purposed to show mercy to the Gentiles, the Jews were on this account deprived of the light of faith.

32. For God has shut up, etc. A remarkable conclusion, by which he shows that there is no reason why they who have a hope of salvation should despair of others; for whatever they may now be, they have been like all the rest. If they have emerged from unbelief through God’s mercy alone, they ought to leave place for it as to others also. For he makes the Jews equal in guilt with the Gentiles, that both might understand that the avenue to salvation is no less open to others than to them. For it is the mercy of God alone which saves; and this offers itself to both. This sentence then corresponds with the testimony of Hosea, which he had before quoted, “I will call those my people who were not my people.” But he does not mean, that God so blinds all men that their unbelief is to be imputed to him; but that he hath so arranged by his providence, that all should be guilty of unbelief, in order that he might have them subject to his judgment, and for this end, — that all merits being buried, salvation might proceed from his goodness alone. 371371     The verb which Calvin renders conclusi, συνέκλεισε means to shut up together. The paraphrase of Chrysostom is, that “God has proved (ἤλεγξεν) all to be unbelieving.” Wolfius considers the meaning the same with Romans 3:9, and with Galatians 3:22. God has in his providence, as well as in his word, proved and demonstrated, that all mankind are by nature in a state of unbelief and of sin and of condemnation.
   God has shut up together, etc., “how?” asks Pareus; then he answers, “by manifesting, accusing, and condemning unbelief, but not by effecting or approving it.” — Ed.

Paul then intends here to teach two things — that there is nothing in any man why he should be preferred to others, apart from the mere favor of God; and that God in the dispensation of his grace, is under no restraint that he should not grant it to whom he pleases. There is an emphasis in the word mercy; for it intimates that God is bound to none, and that he therefore saves all freely, for they are all equally lost. But extremely gross is their folly who hence conclude that all shall be saved; for Paul simply means that both Jews and Gentiles do not otherwise obtain salvation than through the mercy of God, and thus he leaves to none any reason for complaint. It is indeed true that this mercy is without any difference offered to all, but every one must seek it by faith.

33. Oh! the depth, etc. Here first the Apostle bursts into an exclamation, which arose spontaneously from a devout consideration of God’s dealings with the faithful; then in passing he checks the boldness of impiety, which is wont to clamor against the judgments of God. When therefore we hear, Oh! the depth, this expression of wonder ought greatly to avail to the beating down of the presumption of our flesh; for after having spoken from the word and by the Spirit of the Lord, being at length overcome by the sublimity of so great a mystery, he could not do otherwise than wonder and exclaim, that, the riches of God’s wisdom are deeper than our reason can penetrate to. Whenever then we enter on a discourse respecting the eternal counsels of God, let a bridle be always set on our thoughts and tongue, so that after having spoken soberly and within the limits of God’s word, our reasoning may at last end in admiration. Nor ought we to be ashamed, that if we are not wiser than he, who, having been taken into the third heaven, saw mysteries to man ineffable, and who yet could find in this instance no other end designed but that he should thus humble himself.

Some render the words of Paul thus, “Oh! the deep riches, and wisdom, and knowledge of God!” as though the word βάθος was an adjective; and they take riches for abundance, but this seems to me strained, and I have therefore no doubt but that he extols God’s deep riches of wisdom and knowledge. 374374     It has indeed been thought by many that πλούτου, riches, is a noun belonging to wisdom and knowledge, used, after the Hebrew manner, instead of an adjective. It means abundance or exuberance. The sentence, according to our idiom, would then be, “O the profundity of the abounding wisdom and knowledge of God!” The Apostle, as in the words, “the gifts and calling of God,” adopts an ascending scale, and mentions wisdom first, and then knowledge, which in point of order precedes it. Then in the following clause, according to his usual practice, he retrogrades, and states first what belongs to knowledge — “judgments,” decisions, divine decrees, such as knowledge determines; and then “ways,” actual proceedings, for the guiding of which wisdom is necessary. Thus we see that his style is thoroughly Hebraistic.
   It appears from Poole’s Syn., that Origen, Chrysostom, and Theodoret connected “riches” with “depth,” “O the abounding depth,” etc.; but that Ambrose and Augustine connected it with “wisdom,” etc. The use of the term in Ephesians 1:7, favors the last; for “the riches of his grace” mean clearly “his abounding grace.”

   But some, with Stuart, suppose that by “riches” here is meant God’s goodness or mercy, according to Romans 11:12, and Ephesians 3:8. And Stuart gives this version, “O the boundless goodness, and wisdom, and knowledge of God!” But this destroys the evident correspondence that is to be found in the latter clause of the verse, except we take in the remaining portion of the chapter, and this perhaps is what ought to be done. But if we do this, then πλούτου means “treasures, or blessings,” or copia beneficiorum,” as Schleusner expresses it. “Riches of Christ” mean the abounding blessings laid up in him, Ephesians 3:8. God may be viewed as set forth here as the source of all things, and as infinite in wisdom and knowledge; and these three things are the subjects to the end of the chapter, the two last verses referring to the first, and the end of the thirty-third and the thirty-fourth to the two others, and in an inverted order. The depth or vastness of his wealth or bounty is such, that he has nothing but his own, no one having given him anything, (Romans 11:35,) and from him, and through him, and to him are all things, (Romans 11:36.) Then as to the vastness of his wisdom and of his knowledge; what his knowledge has decided cannot be searched out, and what his wisdom has devised, as to the manner of executing his purposes, cannot be investigated; and no one can measure the extent of his knowledge, and no one has been his counselor, so as to add to the stores of his wisdom, (Romans 11:34.) That we may see the whole passage in lines —

   33. Oh the depth of God’s bounty and wisdom and knowledge!
How inscrutable his judgments
And untraceable his ways!

   34. Who indeed hath known the Lord’s mind,
Or who has become his counselor?

   35. Or who has first given to him?
And it shall be repayed to him:

   36. For from him and through him and to him are all things:
To him the glory for ever. — Amen. — Ed.

How incomprehensible, etc. By different words, according to a practice common in Hebrew, he expresses the same thing. For he speaks of judgments, then he subjoins ways, which mean appointments or the mode of acting, or the manner of ruling. But he still continues his exclamation, and thus the more he elevates the height of the divine mystery, the more he deters us from the curiosity of investigating it. Let us then learn to make no searchings respecting the Lord, except as far as he has revealed himself in the Scriptures; for otherwise we shall enter a labyrinth, from which the retreat is not easy. It must however be noticed, that he speaks not here of all God’s mysteries, but of those which are hid with God himself, and ought to be only admired and adored by us.