This is a sermon I did during my college internship at my home church in Colorado in the summer of 2010. I’ve added a few things and reworked some of it.
Let me start by asking you question. Would you be willing to go to hell and feel the wrath of God for an eternity so someone else can heaven? How about two people? Three? How about your neighborhood, city, county or even the state? What about the nation? Romans 5:6-8 says ‘For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person — though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!’. Now you’re asking yourself, “what’s this got to do with anything?” Well, if we are going to be good witnesses, evangelists even, we have to start with a heart for those close to us. Let’s look at our text, Romans 9:-15.
1. Paul’s Heart of Sorrow vv1-3
Paul is really showing us a glimpse of his heart here. In verse one he is really stressing a point to us, he says, “I tell the truth” now if someone comes up to you and says the they are telling the truth you’re not going to think they are lying to you. Now, generally, no one is going to not believe someone when they say they are telling the truth. Paul takes it one step further by adding “in Christ”. Now he’s saying “I’m a Christian and am telling the truth.” Now you’re going to put more stock into what that person has to say right? Paul goes further, “I am not lying”, and further, “my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit”. Paul we get it, you’re a truthful Christian, who isn’t lying and is confident that God Himself knows that your conscience is allowing you to say this, now, what do you want to say? Paul saying, “not only is he making this statement and not lying, but his conscience also, enlightened by the Spirit, is saying Amen to this; it is agreeing, there is no condemnation in him” (©1991, Lloyd-Jones, Dr Martyn; Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 9: God’s Sovereign Purpose, p17). What is it he is wanting to stress to his readers? Let’s keep reading.
Paul tells us that he has “great sorrow”. The word for sorrow can be translated grief or pain as well. So Paul is in pain. We read on and find that it is continual. That is a good translation, it can also mean unceasing, that is how the NASB translated it. The word he used for grief here is not the same word as he used for sorrow, this one means, pain, It implies the anguish or smart of the heart which is the result of sorrow. So Paul emphatically tells us that he is being truthful when he says he has a deep sorrow that will not go away. So what is this pain and sorrow?
Verse three gives us the cause of Paul’s great sorrow. The phrase “For I could wish” might have been kind of idiomatic and meaning, “I was on the point of wishing”. The verb translated “wish” means to “pray, wish, or long”. Paul was longing, though he knew it could not happen, if all of Israel would accept the gospel and their Messiah, he would gladly have been separated from Christ and sent to hell. The word here for “accursed” is “anathema”, now this means, “under the curse of God”. This is what Paul was willing to do if it meant the nation of Israel would be saved.
Warren Wiersbe in the Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers wrote, “One Sunday evening, William Booth was walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a saloon! The place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were poisonous. ‘Willie,’ Booth said to his son, ‘These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ.’ Years later, Bramwell Booth wrote, ‘The impression never left me.’”
If we are going to be evangelistic we need to start with a heart for those close to us. The question that verse three leaves us with then is, why? Why would make Paul want to go to hell if it meant they were saved? Verses four and five give us the answer.
2. What Israel Had vv4-5
What did Israel have? Israel was already adopted by the Lord. Many times in the Old Testament the Lord refers to the children of Israel as His children. In Exodus 4:22 He claims them as His firstborn. And in Deuteronomy 7:6 God says He has chosen them above all the people of the earth. MacArthur puts it this way, “Not in the sense of providing salvation to every person born a Jew, but sovereignly selecting an entire nation to receive His special calling, covenant, and blessing and to serve as His witness nation” (©2005. John MacArthur, MacArthur Bible Commentary, p1535).
What glory is Paul talking about? This is referring to the Shekinah glory that lead the people through the wilderness, that dwelt in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon. This was the representation of God’s presence with the nation of Israel. No other nation was ever so visited, was ever so blessed. The covenants go back to Abraham and David and the New Covenant promised in Joel. The Abrahamic covenant was the promise of land, which has not been fulfilled yet, the promise of a descendant (Christ) and many descendants. You can find these in Genesis 15 and 22. The Davidic covenant was a promise that a descendant of David (Christ) would sit on the throne of David forever this is found in 2 Samuel 7:8-17. The New Covenant was a promise that the people would receive eternal blessings, a new heart that would never wander from the Lord.
Israel had an other special blessing that was just theirs. They had received the Law of God. In Romans 3:2 Paul says that the Jews had a great advantage, as they had been entrusted with the oracles of God, which is the Law. Remember, every writer of the Old Testament was an Israelite. They were the only ones to receive direct messages from God, except Egypt and Nineveh but they warned by Jewish messengers. They also had a sacred service to God to perform. Their temple worship was prophetic, until Christ came, the Temple practice will be established once again in the millennium as a memorial of Christ. We see this in the last nine chapters of Ezekiel. They, also, were the recipients of the promises. William Newell says this, “God’s salvation promises were lodged in Abraham; His kingdom promises, in David. No promises were made to Gentile nations as such. For the gospel now proclaimed is not a promise, but the announcement of a fact to be believed; and it is not preached to nations as such, but to individuals – good news to sinners everywhere. But to Israel, promises, thousands of them, were committed, – as a nation”(©1945 Newell, William R. Romans: Verse by Verse, 360).
Paul’s point of mentioning all these things of Israeli history is because it was their Messiah that had come. They were to receive Him, believe Him, and all the promises and covenants would have been fulfilled 2000 years ago. As Paul will talk about a couple of chapters later, the Gentiles who are being saved are being grafted into the plan of God and Israel is being put on hold. This is Paul’s sorrow and pain in his heart.
Verse five points out that these six things were given to the fathers. We’ve talked a little about them already, but listen to what Newell says, “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are directly referred to; and Jacob’s sons also, especially Joseph, and Judah the vessel of royal promise and blessing to Israel. Our hearts include Moses, Samuel, David, and the prophets when we think of Israel and remember ‘the fathers.’ But it is especially to Abraham, ‘the father of all them that believe,’ that our grateful memory turns; for, although we have no connection with Israel, but we have indeed a vital connection with Abraham, as his ‘children’” (Newell, 360-1). The rest of verse of five shows the greatest honor that Israel had received, [read, “and from whom, according…”] The Messiah had come. God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity had come in human form, fully God and fully human ready to save His people and fulfill the prophecies of Himself and complete the promises. The phrase “over all, the eternally blessed God” is another reminder Who Jesus Christ is, what He has done, and continues to do. We see other verses in the New Testament making this claim as well, 1 Corinthians 15:27; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-20.
Israel had everything going for them spiritually. They were God’s chosen people, they knew it. Israel had the fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They had Moses and Joshua. They had judges like Ehud, Gideon, Samson, and Samuel. They had Kings like David, Solomon, Josiah. They had prophets like Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Micah. They had courageous leaders like Nehemiah, and priests like Ezra. They had the Law, the Psalms and Proverbs, they had the writings of the Prophets. And yet they did not accept their King, their Messiah. They rejected the gospel, the rejected Christ, they once again turned their back on God. This is Paul’s sorrow and unceasing grief.
Now after that history lesson you’re wondering, “What’s this got to do with me?” Two things really. The first is that, like Paul we need to have a burden in our hearts for those close to us. Remember he said of these people we just read about, were his kinsman according to the flesh. We need to have a heart for people, but we need to start with those close to us. Paul’s heart beats with our Lord’s heart on this matter. In Luke 13 Jesus, heartbroken, laments over Jerusalem and the nation as a whole when He cries, “‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!'”. Paul lived this desire out throughout his journeys recorded in the book of Acts. Every time he went to a city he always started at the synagogue, or, as in Philippi, when there was no synagogue he started where the Jewish community would meet. (Acts 16:11-15) Why? Because Jesus was and is their Messiah, and Paul wanted his countrymen to come to that knowledge.
Second, and this is more broad, but we need to be concerned for the salvation the Jewish people. That is what Paul is getting after in chapters 9-11 of Romans. We need to be concerned with what happens in the Middle-East. We need to find Jewish communities and be praying for their souls as well as for that neighbor who thinks you are nuts for believing in the Bible or “intolerant” for saying Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.