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Paul’s Sorrow

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

We come now in our study of the Book of Romans to a completely new section: Chapters 9-11. The focus now shifts from the mountain peaks of the Christian experience to the lowlands of the rejection of Jesus Christ by the nation of Israel. Here, nestled between the everlasting security of the believer in Christ which concluded Chapter 8 and the practical instructions for the child of God in daily life beginning with Chapter 12, we have three chapters which deal with a people who have utterly rejected the will of God and have denied the grace of the Lord Jesus. Admittedly, this is a rather difficult portion of Romans to expound upon as it is at times seemingly wholly irrelevant to the day-to-day life of the Christian and tends to fit as snugly as a round peg in a square opening of the latticework of the Epistle.

It has been astutely observed that one could easily lift out the Ninth through Eleventh Chapters of Romans and seamlessly tie verse 8:39 to 12:1. If anything, this would probably make the book flow more fluently seeing that the Apostle’s admonition to present ourselves whole-heartedly for the use of God is a most natural and appropriate response to the sheer magnitude of what we have in Christ Jesus as expressed in Chapter 8. For those who teach that God has turned His back on Israel (since Israel has turned his back on Him), replacing Israel with the Church and transferring ownership of all covenants, promises, and inheritances from the Hebrews to the Body of Christ, such an omission of these three troublesome chapters would likely be a most welcome deletion.

Nevertheless, Chapters 9-11 do appear in the Bible and, while parenthetical to the theme of the Epistle to the Romans, belong within the canon of Scripture just as much as the Third Chapter of John or the Eighth Chapter of Romans which precedes them. And perhaps it is fitting, after all, that Paul, in his dictation of this letter for the believers in Rome to his secretary, Tertius, with cracking voice and a throat choked with tears of sorrow, should be unable to continue his expository of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for those which have accepted it until he has turned his attention towards his brethren who have not. For the Hebrews are Paul’s people; he himself is a Jew.

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” (Acts 13:46)

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37)

Neither Paul nor the Lord Jesus Christ rejected Israel. Israel rejected the coming of the Savior and the Gospel which Paul preached. Yet God has never ceased to love His son, Israel (Ex. 4:22), and the Apostle Paul never lost his love for his brethren. The heart of the Lord was broken as He looked out across the beloved city of Jerusalem, knowing that they would not accept the Salvation which He was offering. The Apostle Paul felt the same as they rejected the Good News he preached to them. Although he would turn to the Gentiles, bringing to them the Message that his own people would not accept, Paul would never lose his affection and concern for the people of Israel.

“And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.  Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin;  and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exodus 32:31-32)

The words of Moses are echoed here in Romans 9 as Paul suggests a similar proposal. Yet the Apostle knows that such a sacrificial exchange is not possible. Paul cannot be separated from Christ for the sake of his brethren. They rejected the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf, would they accept the sacrifice of Paul, even if it were possible? Even so, Paul’s heart is in anguish for his people, his nation, his brothers.

Chapter 12 will resume the Apostle’s teachings to those within the Church. For the next three chapters, he will turn his focus again to his own people. But before he proceeds to address the condition and predicament of the Hebrews, he wants to be certain that it is understood how great of love he has toward them. Happily he would trade them places if his own condemnation could purchase them life eternal. The depth of sorrow which Paul felt toward his people can surely only be truly understood by the One Whose own heart is filled with sorrow over their rejection of Himself.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

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2 responses

  1. I loved this, Loren, and know that what you write about these chapters is going to bless me. I have a love for Israel that I can’t explain. It’s just there. I was saddened when I learned that quite a few believers don’t . ..and think that the church has replaced them.
    God bless you as you proclaim His Word. :)

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  2. Thanks, Deb, for the encouragement!

    I know how much love you have for the people of Israel and how blessed you are to have gotten to know so much about their culture :)

    It blows me away, also, how so many believers claim to love Christ yet despise His brethren. God calls Jacob/Israel the apple of His eye (e.g., Deut 32:10)…how can we love God and hate those whom He loves? Makes no sense to me. Yet anti-Semitism is making an ugly comeback as many even within the Church are siding in their hearts with Israel’s enemies. Two of the best friends Israel had for many years were the United States and the Body of Christ…seems that both are turning their back on the Jewish nation more and more. How heartbreaking!

    I am excited to be looking at this wonderful section of Romans and to be exploring how God has not finished with Israel. Though the nation rejected their Messiah, the day will come when Israel will receive Him (Rom. 11:26-27, Isa. 66:7-8, Zech. 12:10).

    May the Lord bless you greatly!

    Loren

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