Children Of The Promise
Paul’s Love For Israel

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 43a of 83

1  I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2  That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3  For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: …” (Romans 9:1-13)

The book of Romans is centred on the theme of justification by grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. Fallen man is by nature totally depraved. By nature, we cannot have any relationship with God, nor can we be acceptable God in anyway. But God reconciled His own to himself by sending His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to live, suffer and die on their behalf. God justifies us on account of the death and righteousness of Christ.

But as we saw, justification is not an end in itself. We are justified in order that we might be adopted as the sons and daughters of God. Adoption is therefore the climax of the book of Romans. For the last several studies we have been seeing how the apostle Paul develops the doctrine. He tells us that we have been given the spirit of adoption whereby we cry “Abba, Father.” But he also shows us that this is not the end of our adoption process. “We ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom 8:23), says Paul. And not only are we groaning, but Creation and the Comforter Himself groans in sympathy with us.

But in so far as there is still some time to go before the glory of Christ is revealed in us, Paul ends the chapter by assuring us that even now, God is working all thing together for our good; and that He will see to it that nothing will separate us from His love and that we will one day enjoy the fullness of our status as the sons and daughters of God in glory.

With this we came to the end of Paul’s discussion of what God is doing in the lives of His children.

Beginning with chapter 9 and for the next 3 chapters, the apostle Paul enters into a couple of important doctrines which we need to know in addition to the doctrine of justification and adoption. In particular, we will see Paul dealing with the subject of God’s sovereign predestination as well as the position of the nation of Israel.

He begins by expressing his love for the nation of Israel; explicating the special privilege that Israel enjoys and explaining why Israel is in the state she is in despite the promises of God made to the fathers.

1. Paul’s Love for Israel

Paul enters the subject by speaking about something that touches his heart deeply, namely the situation in regard to his “kinsmen according to the flesh.”

1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

This statement has intrigued many commentators. Paul is about to say something about God’s rejection of Israel. It is something that grieves him deeply. It is not something that he enjoys talking about. But in case the Jews or anyone should,—for some reason,—find it hard to believe what he is saying, Paul makes it abundantly clear what is in his heart.

He speaks in the language of oath.

·  I speak the truth in Christ.” I am speaking as a Christian, as one who for Christ’s sake will not tell a lie.

·  My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost.” My conscience is clear. I am telling the truth. You cannot see my heart. You do not know my conscience, but the Holy Spirit is my witness. He is the searcher of my heart. He knows that what I say is true. Should I be telling a lie, I am prepared to be exposed and severely chastised by Him.

What does Paul want his hearers to be assured about concerning his heart? He wants them to know His deep feelings for His kinsmen.

2b I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren…

Paul is grieved that his kinsmen according to the flesh have largely remained in unbelief. So deeply does he feel for them, that he is prepared to suffer the greatest misery if that could bring them unto salvation. He could almost wish that he himself were accursed from Christ for their sakes.

Paul is speaking hypothetically, of course. If it were possible that he could be accursed so that his kinsmen could be saved, he would gladly forgo his own happiness for their sakes. So deeply does Paul feel for his kinsmen.

This is especially noble since his own kinsmen hated him deeply and were thirsting for his blood. They persecuted him and counted him the most obnoxious person. They called him the filth of the world, and the offscouring of all things (1 Cor 4:13; Acts 22:22).

But Paul loved them too much to take offence at what they said. He was prepared to be cut off from Christ, if that might be a means of their salvation.

 We may learn a couple of lessons from Paul’s example.

First, we must learn something about brotherly love. Our love for our family members who remain out of Christ should be as intense as that of Paul.

·  We should be prepared not only to pray for them. We should be prepared to suffer wrong, lost and even humiliation for their sake.

·  So we must restraint our tongues from quarrelling with our unbelieving parents and siblings so that they would not be put off from the Gospel by our behaviour.

·  So we should be prepared not to return tit for tat in any exchange with unbelieving members of our family.

·  If as a Christian you would fight like a cat over a piece of rotting fish,—do not expect your unbelieving family member to seek what you are supposed to have that they do not have.

But secondly, let us learn that we must never rejoice in the damnation and reprobation of anyone—whether we like them or not, or whether they have done evil to us or not. Our hearts must be full of sorrow whenever we think of the perishing of the wicked. If you look at the multitude of people scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd and hope,— and your heart is not moved at all, then you must know that your heart is not like the heart of Christ who wept over Jerusalem or of Paul who is willing to be accursed for their sakes. Oh will you not pray that the Lord will melt your heart? Will you not pray that you do not become salt that has lost its saltiness or light hidden under a bushel?

With this we must move on to consider Paul’s explication of the special relationship that Israel enjoyed with God.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim