Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Romans 9:1-2, “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, was a man who had great love for his own people.  But not all of his kinsmen believed that.  His message of salvation by faith alone was contrary to the way of thinking of many of his Jewish brethren.  In their deep-seated animosity towards the Gentiles they recoiled at the notion of the salvation of the “heathen” by grace alone.  They disliked the message and hated the messenger.  They opposed him, persecuted him, and—on more than one occasion—even tried to kill him.

But Paul loved his Jewish brethren.  He was well aware of the rich heritage and great privileges they possessed—“the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Romans 9:4).  The patriarchs belonged to their race and from their race came the Christ (Cf. Romans 9:5).  The fact that so many of his brethren had rejected Christ anguished Paul (Cf. Romans 9:1-3).

He loved his kinsmen and wanted them to know that.  He called upon two witnesses in affirming his love for them—both himself, in Christ, and his conscience, in the Spirit.  Despite their opposition, persecution, and attacks—the Apostle Paul loved them.  They hated him, but he loved them.

Paul used two words in expressing his heart-felt compassion.  “I have great sorrow” translates the Greek lupe which means “pain, grief, or mourning.”  It is the same word used to describe the feelings of the disciples when they were warned by Christ of His pending departure (Cf. John 16:6).  “And unceasing anguish” translates the Greek odune which means “intense pain, anguish, or torment.”  It is the same word used to describe Lazarus’ anguish and agony in the midst of the flames of hades (Cf. Luke 16:24).  Paul was saying that he was experiencing an intense, unceasing, sorrow and agony in the knowledge of the truth that his kinsmen were doomed in their unbelief.  Where do such emotions come from?  They come from God.  They are in the heart of God—who take no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Cf. Ezekiel 18:23); who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son (Cf. John 3:16); “who desires all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 1:4).  They come from Christ—who felt compassion for the distressed and downcast multitudes (Cf. Matthew 9:36), who came to seek and to save that which was lost (Cf. Luke 19:10).  In Christ, by the Spirit, Paul heart’s was filled with God’s compassion for lost souls.  To the degree in which we are filled with the Spirit we will experience a similar degree of compassionate concern.

The Apostle Paul loved his people so much that he wished that he could exchange his salvation for theirs.  The Greek term translated “accursed” means “to be devoted to destruction.”  He was willing to suffer the loss of his own salvation so that his people might gain theirs.  He was, of course, speaking emotionally and hypothetically, not theologically.  He had already denied the possibility of that which he wished for (Cf. Romans 8:37-39).  But he was nevertheless willing, if possible, to give up that which was most dear to him, for the sake of those who were dear to him.  Moses had spoken of that kind of sacrifice (Cf. Exodus 32:32).  Christ made that kind of sacrifice (Cf. Galatians 3:13).  In following in Christ’s steps Paul shared in Christ’s perspective.

The Apostle Paul had two things that are essential to every would-be witness for Christ.  He had a Spirit-borne compassionate concern for the lost.  He also possessed a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of reaching them.  He followed in the footsteps of Jesus, and was willing to endure much for the sake of the gospel.  His example is both commendable and instructive.  Others may hate us for the message we bear, but as ambassadors for Christ we are ambassadors of love.

“Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,

Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.”

No comments: