Faced with the reality that most of his Jewish kindred have not accepted Jesus, Paul utilized his own experience and education in creating a solution to this painful situation. Drawing on the heritage of the Old Testament, as well as Hellenistic forms of rhetoric, Paul concluded that God’s salvation would extend to everyone. Yet, even after all his complicated explanation, Paul seemed to realize that his arguments couldn’t answer all his questions; the mystery of God’s saving plan is beyond human comprehension. God’s judgements, Paul says, are inscrutable; God’s ways are unsearchable.
Just as he had found images in the Old Testament to conclude that God will have mercy on all (Romans 11:32), Paul also found biblical passages that pointed to the difficulty of comprehending God’s ways. Not surprisingly, he relied on Isaiah, the prophet most frequently cited by New Testament writers. Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13-14, part of a longer passage where the prophet asks questions about creation, God, and humanity’s relationship with God. Both Isaiah and Paul pose questions in order to push their audiences to reflect more and more deeply on the grandeur, the immensity, and, “…the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” Having exhausted his capacity to provide a universally accepted explanation about God’s plan of salvation, Paul shifts his focus to give praise and glory to God.
Ultimately, it is not logical explanation of the great mysteries, but lived participation in them, enhanced by prayer, that is most important for Paul and for all who believe in Jesus.