Theology To Doxology

In all of your meditations and contemplations, have you ever been so overwhelmed by who God is and what he has done that there really are no adequate words? Maybe you experience a sudden change of events in which God surprises you with something good after a long, dark night of the soul. Maybe the Spirit opens your mind to the Scriptures in a new and fresh way to see the grace of God. Maybe you are overwhelmed with the beauty of God and his plan; you are like a man who reaches the peak of a mountain and feels the exhilaration, joy, and the smallness of who he is but enjoys the majesty in which he is now immersed.

The only thing to do in times like these is to break out in praise. This is where Paul finds himself at the end of a long exposition of the revelation of the gospel of Christ Jesus at the end of chapter 11 in his letter to the Roman church:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”  “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

The first eleven chapters of Romans contains profound and deep theology that has been the object of study in the church for nearly two millennia. Tomes have been written mining the biblical teachings of God, sin, and salvation from the book of Romans. Scholarly debates continue over the overall interpretation of Romans as well as the implications of words and phrases contained therein.

It can be easy to get lost in all of this and begin to think that what Paul writes is a playground for professional theologians. But if our reading of Romans doesn’t lead the entire church–professional and lay theologian, ordained ministers as well as non-ordained Christians–right to where Paul is in praise at this point in the letter, then we have not read Romans correctly.

Theology’s end is doxology. Loving delight in worship is the goal of all knowledge of God. Whether in Sunday School or seminary, whether in private reading or public study of the Scriptures, if our knowledge doesn’t lead us to praise, then we haven’t really understood God.

I am quite aware that many of us pastors can turn orthodoxy into orthodusty in our theologically substantive teachings. Some of us like the intellectual stimulation and the thought of being right and, in course, can bore people to death. Shame on us if we do not lead our people through the depths of a letter like Romans and give our people every reason to explode in praise.

For Pastor Paul this is not a matter of cold, dead philosophical theology. It is not merely some mind game or just a laying out of the facts. This is the revelation of a personal God whose purpose in the gospel is revealed to create a unified family and a beautiful place in which they can all dwell together; a place of love, happiness, and wonder. Paul has worked through the plan of God (i.e., theology) like a musician playing through or listening to a great work of music that takes you here and there on a journey that involves the whole person; the tones and rhythms physically penetrating the body, the intricacies of the music stimulating the mind, the beauty of the music overwhelming the emotions. Then, at the end of this work of art, you feel a deep sense of joy, satisfaction, relief, exhilaration, refreshment, longing, and hope. At the end, all he can do is explode in grateful praise of the Musician and his music.

So it should be with us as we listen, read, and work through the deep wisdom and knowledge of God revealed in Christ Jesus. As the truths of God penetrate and transform our minds, doxology is the reflex reaction.