A burden is a heavy thing to bear. As we begin reading this “parenthesis” in the letter of Romans we find Paul with a heavy heart. What has grieved his heart? What is this burden? It is the weight of the state of anathema which is on his countrymen – brethren – the Israelites.
A question could be asked why are they in such a curse? Due to their unbelief at the coming of Messiah. Their crucifixion, and putting to death the One who was foretold by the prophets, and the Law.
Another question comes to my mind; Am I, would I be willing to be accursed that another might be saved from that curse? Let us keep in mind this is a nation of people who have received many a blessing from the One whom they crucified. Those blessings are listed in verses four and five; and those are not exhaustive.
This “parenthesis” covers chapters nine through eleven. The ninth chapter shows us how God has dealt with Israel in the past; up to and including the time of Jesus Christ. The tenth chapter shows us how God is working with them in our current age – the Church age. The eleventh chapter shows us God restoring Israel in His future work with them.
I was once asked, “Why is this a parenthetical statement?” My answer is that Paul has through chapter eight been dealing with the sins of mankind (chapters 1-3); the wonderful work of the grace of God (chapters 4-8); and then in chapters 9-11 he begins dealing specifically with the nation of Israel. Then in chapter twelve he begins dealing with the fruits of grace in the believer’s life. I hope that explains it.
It seems to me that this parenthesis is used by the apostle to show quite clearly, that since God gave many unconditional promises to Israel, and His will to fulfill them; He gives His body – the Church – evidence that He doesn’t quit, or give up on His people. I like that kind of assurance. Israel is evidence of God’s fulfilling His Word.
I. THE WITNESS OF CONSCIENCE AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD (v. 1).
II. THE GRIEF, AND SORROW OF HEART FOR THE PEOPLE (vv. 2-3).
III. THE BLESSINGS OF A CONDEMNED PEOPLE (v. 4).
IV. THE ONE’S THROUGH WHOM CHRIST HAS COME INTO THE WORLD (v. 5).
THE WITNESS OF CONSCIENCE AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD (v. 1). Paul seems to have been quite aware of the problems of relying on conscience alone to make right and godly choices.
The conscience of an individual can be shaped and molded to reflect one’s culture; and not necessarily what is right and wrong according to Scripture or Christ. The conscience which is subject to the Spirit of God, and the Word of God will make Biblical, conscientious, godly decisions; and if they don’t the conscience will be burdened with guilt, until the transgression has been forgiven.
Paul’s conscience and the Spirit of God bore witness that he had a heavy burden for Israel concerning their curse.
The reason some people can make evil choices concerning right and wrong, or godly and ungodly decisions is because their conscience is not in tune with God or His Word.
Paul’s conscience was clear. He was burdened for his nation of people. They are his brethren “after the flesh” – meaning these are the people he was born into. What the apostle is about to say is one of the most profound statements he will ever make. This is the most Christlike statement anyone could make. It is even more Christlike to show it, and Paul demonstrates it quite vividly in the book of Acts when he is willing to give his life to be sure the people of Jerusalem hear the message of their Messiah.
THE GRIEF, AND SORROW OF HEART FOR THE PEOPLE (vv. 2-3). It is certain that from this statement that Paul knows of the curse on the nation due to their unbelief and rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. This word [accursed] is the word “Anathema”, and it conveys to us the most horrible and vile of cursing.
The MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE note states,
“9:3 accursed. The Gr. word is anathema, which means ‘to devote to destruction in eternal hell’ (cf. 1 Cor.12:3; 16:22; Gal.1:8,9). Although Paul understood the exchange he was suggesting was impossible (8:38,39; John 10:28), it was the sincere expression of his deep love for his fellow Jews (cf. Ex. 32:32).”
Paul knew that he himself was not spotless, holy, undefiled to be that sacrifice, and that the sacrifice had, indeed, already been given by Jesus Himself. The only spotless Lamb to ever be offered for the sins of man, and complete the offering was the offering of the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 36).
Could I love so deeply that I would be willing to take another’s place in hell? In the love of Christ I can. Isn’t that the essence of the love of Jesus Christ? To be willing to give one’s life that another might live. As Isaac was led by his father up the mountain, he went faithfully. When he arrived he allowed Abraham to bind him, and lay him on the altar. He had given his life for his father, and seemingly without any explanation; just trusting the father (Genesis 22). Three of King David’s chief men, went through enemy lines, hazarding their lives so their king could receive a drink of water from Bethlehem’s well –
“And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD. And he said, Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? therefore he would not drink it.” 2 Samuel 23:16-17 (KJV)
– Why not give one’s life for another?
Our lack of love is seen today in that we don’t tell others the gospel of Jesus because we are fearful we may not be accepted, we may not have time. How much time does that one God gives us opportunity for witness have?. We may not be popular. We might even be attacked physically, or at the least verbally. How is that for loving to give our lives? I cannot say with Paul, “I would wish myself accursed…” Even knowing that my “sacrifice” would be of no benefit. I am unworthy and unable to save myself. How can I save others, except through giving them the hope that is in Christ Jesus alone.
THE BLESSINGS OF A CONDEMNED PEOPLE (v. 4). “Israelites” were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and these were children of the promise. From the fall of Adam and Eve, yea, even from creation, and before in the heart of God there was the nation of God who would be the progenitor of the Savior of the world. Many nations would come to God, believing Him, calling on His name, worshipping Him, and glorifying His name.
The blessings of Israel were God’s “adoption” of them to be His witness nation to a condemned world. The Israelites were recipients of the covenants of God, the law of God through Moses, the service of God in the priesthood, the tabernacle furniture, and tools; the pictures and types of the future Messiah – the promises; and they were the one’s by whom came the Blessed One through the virgin Mary.
We must learn from the blessing of Israel as Gentiles who are believers in the Messiah Jesus Christ. They became hard hearted due to their “security” of the temple, arrogance in having the law, the adoption, the covenants, and believing the blessings were of the flesh, and not of the Spirit of God. We cannot follow their path to destruction in unbelief.
Followers of Jesus Christ are not to evilly think we have it made because we have earned the place of forgiveness, love, peace, and grace of God. We are not any different than any other individual upon this planet. We have sinned. We have transgressed the commandments, the laws of God, and He has given us forgiveness and grace through the finished work of His Son.
We are commanded to take this wonderful message of salvation to the world. When we don’t do that we fail, and become similar to the nation of Israel. Jesus Christ built, and continues to build His Church upon the confession that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the Living God. Every confession of faith in Christ adds another living stone to the building of His Church, and nothing can prevail against her. However, should we become arrogant, disobedient as individual believers or even as a local church; He can, He has, and will raise up another local church or individual to take our place. We do have His assurance that we are saved; “Yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).
That is not something we should or would look forward to.
THE ONE’S THROUGH WHOM CHRIST HAS COME INTO THE WORLD (v. 5). Through the mercy of God Mary, a virgin was chosen to bear the Son of God and birth Him into the human race. This was not an accident, a fluke of nature. Virgin births, little lone virgin conceptions do not happen by accident. They can only be planned by God, and that is what makes a miracle. The unnatural, impossible, and glorious happens by the hands of God. It happened as the fulfillment of His promises to send, this King, this Savior, this Messiah, this Great Physician, this Great High Priest, this Prophet of prophets; this God-man; the incarnate Son of God.
This One was born into this nation who would reject Him, make a false judgment of Him, crucify Him, put Him to death, bury Him in a borrowed tomb, and three days later rise from the grave; conquering sin, hell, death, and the grave.
Paul, here in this fifth verse is affirming the sovereignty, and the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ – “…The eternally blessed God. Amen.” (v. 5).
The Christians of today, the Body of Christ, the Church is the means of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ into the world. Let us be faithful with the message, the only message that will save and change the world; for the glory of our Lord and God. I am to be the messenger of the gospel of Christ Jesus that God has called me to be. I can do no better or worse than my love for Him. The same is true of all who have been called in Christ Jesus, “saints” (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1).
O for a heart like Jesus who was willing to endure separation from the Father to become sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), and to give His righteousness to us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. To have a heart like Paul we must know our Savior as Paul did.
O Lord our God; give us your heart, and a heart like your servant Paul; that souls who are lost might hear of YOUR wonderful grace and mercy displayed on the cross of Calvary.
-Tim A. Blankenship