“Because I have two young daughters, . . . I am regularly reading and rereading, watching and rewatching children’s literature and movies,” says Steve DeWitt, holding up a copy of the book Horton Hears a Who from the pulpit. DeWitt, pastor of Bethel Church, Crown Point, Indiana, closed out the 2020 GARBC Conference Tuesday, June 30, with his last of three messages on the theme “Perspective.”
Like the Whos of Whoville in Horton Hears a Who, who had no idea that they were as small as specks of dust compared to the elephant Horton, we have no idea that we are as small as specks compared to our great God. “We, like the Whos, live our lives and we assume that the things we’re doing and things we’re about are incredibly important,” DeWitt says. “We often fail to realize how incredibly small we are, and there are passages in the Bible that put us in our place.”
Speaking from Romans 11:33–36, DeWitt points out the wonder of the gospel and the grandeur and greatness of God. The wisdom and knowledge of God “are way beyond our comprehension.” And that, DeWitt says, is the main point of this passage: “The God that you think you know is greater than you can begin to imagine.”
In this passage Paul highlights that God is complete. God’s “knowledge is complete of all things, all time, all options, matched then with perfect wisdom, which is directing and guiding and purposing all things to their greatest possible goal.” That greatest possible goal is found in verse 36: “to him be the glory forever.”
“Everything that God purposes is towards the ultimate end of His own glory,” DeWitt says, reiterating this key truth: “God is the combination of the highest possible knowledge, matched with the greatest possible wisdom, directed towards the greatest possible goal, which is the glory of God.”
Romans 11:33–36 has much to say to believers, especially to pastors and teachers in churches, DeWitt says. He points out three principles from this passage.
1. Right theology should always lead to doxology.
Doxology means “glory,” or to worship or praise something. For 11 chapters in Romans—“the richest 11 chapters in all of the Bible,” DeWitt says—Paul explains the doctrines of the gospel and “unfolds this amazing story of how God makes sinners righteous. Paul’s response to those truths is not just to move on to the next point but to stop and praise God. The joy and gladness well up in Paul, and he bursts out, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”
“The deepest explanation of the gospel produced the greatest apostolic joy,” DeWitt says. Do the doctrines of God move you? he asks, and he issues this warning: “When doxology is low, division is high.”
“The deep things of God are not only mind-blowing, but they produce a greater quality of worship,” DeWitt says. Doctrine “humbles us into a state of wonder that such a God, such a great and glorious God would extend His kindness and His grace into our lives and would save someone like me. You can know your doctrine is real in your heart when it bubbles out in worship.”
He adds, “May God build up churches in the GARBC grounded in the deep end of the pool.”
2. Right theology should always lead to wonder.
If we think we grasp Biblical truths, we must beware. We must approach the Bible with humility, realizing that we don’t have God and His ways figured out. That position of doctrinal humility “might indicate that we actually understand some of these things.”
When pastors think they have God completely figured out, that attitude leads to prideful congregations, DeWitt says. Rather than approaching theology thinking they have it all figured out, pastors should approach it with wonder, with awe. Paul’s example in Romans 11 “is not a know-it-all but a know-it-barely,” DeWitt says. “Know it with wonder; know it with awe.”
“Cultivate wonder in your churches,” DeWitt says to pastors. One way pastors can cultivate wonder is by letting people see them as readers, as learners. When pastors admit that they can’t fully grasp a deep truth of Scripture, the humility of that attitude “produces a wonder in the congregation that God would save sinners like me.”
3. The doctrines of grace put us in our place.
The doctrines of grace—that God saves sinners and is sovereign over all of creation—put us in our place. God’s sovereignty “doesn’t make us bigger; it makes us smaller and reveals God as bigger than anything we could begin to understand,” DeWitt says. “It is there in that place of smallness, that place of vulnerability, that place of weakness that the expanse of God’s love and grace for us blows our mind.”
If we were to hear Horton Hears a Who and then Romans 11, who would we see ourselves as: Horton the elephant or the Whos of Whoville? DeWitt asks. “We are the tiny people: the Whos in Whoville.” But we’re even less than that, he points out, because the Whos were closer to the elephant than we can ever be to God. Why? he asks. “Because ‘from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever’ (Rom. 11:36).
May God make us smaller, DeWitt prays. And from that point of smallness, may we see the greatness and grandeur of Who God is and together make His name great.