Scripture Text: Romans 9:1–5
What are you willing to die for? What is so important to you, that you would give up everything to have it? Or maybe more importantly, who is so important to you, that you would give up everything you have in order to save that person? Parents will often sacrifice themselves in order to save their children. Husbands will give themselves in order to save their wives. Soldiers will die for their country and their fellow soldiers. Would you die for someone that they may know Christ? Would you give up everything in order for someone else to have eternal life with God? That is the essence of this passage. In this passage, we catch a glimpse of the heart of the Apostle Paul, a servant of God who desperately wanted to see his Jewish brothers and sisters know Christ.
So far in the letter to the Romans, Paul has described our sinful nature. Paul has told us that sin leads to death. All mankind, everyone of us, earns death through our sinful nature. God’s Law reveals what God requires of each of us, yet, none of us can follow the Law completely. If we try to pursue righteousness by following the Law, we will only end in failure. This leaves us in a terrible predicament. We know what we are supposed to do, but we are not capable of actually doing it. Not following the Law, however, leads to eternal separation from God. That is when Paul revealed to us God’s plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. By trusting in Jesus and His righteous sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, we can be forgiven and declared right by God. Not only that, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Once we are adopted into God’s family, forever will we remain, even through there may be many troubles in this world.
That was where we left Romans the last time we were here. Now, we are in chapter nine, and Paul shifts his attention to his fellow brethren, the Jewish people. In this chapter, Paul expressed his sorrow that many of his fellow Israelites had not embraced the Gospel — the good news of Jesus Christ that is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16) In the next few chapters, Paul asks whether all the promises God made to Israel in the past will be fulfilled. Can they trust God to keep His Word? If His promises to the Jews remain unfulfilled, if God has somehow turned His back on the Jewish people and instead focused on the Gentiles (everyone else in the world), how can Gentile Christians be sure that he will fulfill those great promises that we just read in chapter eight? These are the issues Paul is wrestling, but first he must assure his readers that he is sincere. They need to know that he cares for them.
Great Concern for Others
Paul began the passage with the following words:
Romans 9:1 1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit.
Why would Paul begin this section of the letter with those words? Why would he be concerned about people believing him? Was Paul a liar? Did he have trouble telling the truth? No, but his Jewish readers may not have believed that he really cared about them. Remember what Paul has already written in this letter to the Romans. Paul has essentially leveled the playing field. Earlier in the letter, Paul wrote that just because they are Jewish by blood does not mean they are right with God. Just because they are a descendants of Abraham does not secure them a place in Heaven. Just because they know the Law of God, does not guarantee they have a place in the Kingdom of God. To the Jewish people reading this letter, it might have sounded like Paul was attacking them. It might have sounded like Paul was rejecting his Jewish heritage or throwing them under the proverbial bus. So, he wanted to assure them that he did care for them.
We should understand what Paul said to the Jewish people and see it within our own lives. Paul’s words to them are just as relevant to us as they were to his Jewish readers. Just because you come to church every Sunday does not make you right with God. There are plenty of hypocrites, false prophets, and down right devils in the church of God. Just because you know your Bible does not mean you know God. Satan knows the Bible and he used it to tempt Christ. Just because your name is on the church membership roll does not mean your name if on God’s membership roll — the Lamb’s Book of Life. The only thing that matters is whether you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. The only thing that matters is whether you are a follower of Jesus Christ. If you do not have that, then the rest is worthless. So, Paul’s care for his Jewish brothers and sisters was genuine. He wanted them to turn from a religion of works and turn to a relationship with Jesus Christ Who has already worked for them on the cross.
Great Sorrow for the Lost
We see just how much Paul cared for his Jewish brethren. Paul spoke of an intense sorry he had for Israel. We see this in verses two and three.
Romans 9:2-3 2 …I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 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.
Hear the words Paul was saying: great sorrow, unceasing anguish. Paul was saying, “I swear to you that I am a burdened man, that I walk around with great sorrow and with a constant sense of grief in my heart.” Even though Paul has been hard on his Jewish people, he wanted them to know that he was very concerned for them. So concerned was Paul for his fellow Israelites that he would willingly undergo a curse for the sake of them coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Paul was so concerned for them that he was willing to be cut off from Christ so that they could know Christ. Is there anyone for whom you have the same concern? Is there anyone that you would willingly give up your relationship with God if it meant that they would be saved? We see a similar attitude by someone in the Old Testament. There was someone who was willing to be cut off from God if his people would not be saved. That person was Moses.
Exodus 32:31–32 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”
Moses was willing to die with his people. God was about to destroy Israel for rejecting Him and worshipping a Golden Calf, but Moses interceded. Moses was willing to die with them if God would not forgive them. Paul had a similar attitude. If there was ever a man who would have been justified in being angry with his kinsmen, though, it was Paul. When you consider their bitterness and rejection of him, their persecution of him and other Christians, and their attempt to kill him, you might think that Paul should have had utter contempt for them. You might think that Paul would just think that they are getting their comeuppance. But that was not Paul’s attitude. Paul had compassion. Paul was willing to be cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his people.
Paul was not speaking of excommunication from the church. He was not taking about removing his name from the church roll. Paul was referring to a final and fatal separation from Christ in the age to come. That, of course, was not possible. One cannot change the rules of salvation. There is only one Person who was able to die for us and to purchase salvation for us. That was Jesus Christ. As good as Paul may have been and as willing as he might have been to be cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of others, he could not. Paul could not make atonement for anybody. Notice the translation here: “I could wish” to be accursed. The point is that Paul’s grief was so great over the lostness of Israel that he was ready to be damned for their salvation, if it were possible. That was his feelings, but it was not possible. Only Jesus can save.
It is not your responsibility to save people. You cannot do that. That is something only God can do. It is your responsibility to tell others about Christ, though. It is your responsibility to be a witness, to tell others what Christ has done for you. But do we care enough to do even that? Do we have great sorrow for those who are lost? Do we care enough for others to at least tell them about the Savior Who can save them? Or, do we treat others with contempt? Do we come to church week after week, hear about God’s love and grace and then go into a world silent and uncaring? Or, do we get so upset with others who might deserve our contempt, that we forget we were also contemptible to God? Are we so careless to others because they have hurt us, that we choose to not forgive them? Who do you need to care for more?
Great Loss for the Chosen
Why did Paul care so much for the Israelites? Why did he grieve so much for their situation? Paul gave us a bit of a history lesson to remind us of their place in history.
Romans 9:4-5 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
God had chosen the Israelites out of all the people and nations of the world to be His people. God had saved the Israelites from Egypt and made them a nation. God placed His radiant glory in the tabernacle of the Israelites. God had made covenants with the Israelites, that they would be His people and He would be their God. God had revealed His commandments and wrote them with His own finger on tablets of stone, and gave them to Israel. God had given to Israel the priestly service and worship. God had also given promises about the redemption of the world that would come to Israel and would be given through Israel. This is all part of the heritage of the Jewish people. Israel was the means of salvation to the world. Salvation is of God, but it came through Israel.
Paul has already mentioned that he had great sorrow for his people and could wish that he were accursed. The real issue, however, is that Israel as a whole was accursed and cut off from Christ. Paul had great sorrow and grief for them, but the reality was unmistakable. The Jewish people were accursed and cut off from Christ. They were lost. They were on their way to hell under the judgment and wrath of God. They were accursed because they had rejected the only One who could save them from the curse of the Law. Christ became our curse and Christ became our sin and Christ became our righteousness. But many Jewish people would not accept Christ. And so they were accursed and cut off from Christ. What the Jewish people had failed to realize is that God had provided their Savior and the Savior of all mankind.
Another reason why Paul had great sorry for his brethren was because Jesus came from them and for them, and yet they rejected Him. If Jesus came to save His people, and He specifically came to the Jews and ministered primarily to them, how could they reject Him? He was the long awaited Messiah. He was the Savior who God sent to save them. He was the One prophesied by many prophets for hundreds of years who would come to save and to lead His people. How could they reject Him? How could they reject the very One Who God had sent to save them? And this is the point. Christ is Lord. Christ is Savior. Christ is over all. Apart from Christ, there is no salvation. Apart from Christ, there is no other way for a person to come to God. Salvation is found in no one else except through Jesus Christ. What a great loss it is to reject Christ! That is the message we must believe and the one we must take to the world.
In closing, it does not matter who your family is. It does not matter how long you have been going to church. It does not matter how much you have given to the church. It does not matter how much you have served in the church. If you do not know Jesus Christ, if you are not following Him, if He is not Lord of your life, you may as well be cursed. In fact, you are cursed. You are substituting Jesus, the Lord and Savior of the world, with temporary things that cannot save you. If you are still under the guilt of your sins and accursed and cut off from Christ, do not stay there. Christ has become a curse for us. He has died for our sins and risen from the dead. Trust Him as your only hope and you will be saved.
If you have accepted Christ, however, then how far are you willing to go for others to know Him? How much sorry do you have for someone else who may be lost and on the way to hell? Are those just words to you? Do you really believe it? Paul described an intense sorry for his fellow Israelites who rejected Christ. Paul wishes himself accursed and cut off from Christ if it meant that they would be saved. Of course, Paul could not sacrifice himself for others. Only Christ could do that, and He did that. But, Paul wanted them to know Christ as he knew him, and was willing to sacrifice himself for it. Do we have that kind of love for others? How far are you willing to go to see lost people know Jesus Christ? How much are you willing to sacrifice in order for people to know Him? How much do you care that someone else knows the name of Jesus Christ? It is Good News, but only if it is received in time.
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.