Friday, 9 August 2013
For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,… Romans 9:3
Here we have the explanation for Paul’s comments in verses 1 & 2 which stated that he was being truthful in Christ and that his conscience bore witness in the Holy Spirit concerning his sorrow and grief of heart. And what was the reason? It was for the sake of his fellow “countrymen according to the flesh,” meaning his Jewish brethren, the people of Israel.
His burden was so great for them that he says, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren.” It is astonishing how many scholars come to this verse and reject the plain sense of what Paul is saying. It is simple, direct, and to the point. If he could, he would trade his own place in Christ for the sake of the salvation of his people. Scholars simply cannot conceive that he means what he says and they go into great and lengthy discourses on why he doesn’t really mean this.
The verb Paul uses for “I could wish” is ēuchomēn. It is in the imperfect tense, indicative mood, and middle or passive voice. The translation “I could wish” is exactly what he is saying, not “I did wish” or “I would, but” or any other forced translation. Paul truly meant what he said, just as Moses meant the same thing after Israel’s great sin of idolatry at the base of Mount Sinai –
“Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.'” Exodus 32:31, 32
Paul was fully aware that one cannot take the place of another in eternal damnation. However, it didn’t change the feelings he had concerning the matter. This is the reason for invoking the name of Christ and the witness of the Spirit in the first two verses of chapter 9. The person who truly understands the state of the afterlife for those who fail to receive Christ’s gift is then impelled by the highest sense of responsibility to share that message. And his heart should be so broken for their state that they would likewise be willing to take their place rather than see them perish.
As we move through chapters 9-11, we will see Paul’s thoughts on Israel, both in his present and into the future. When one sees the church as replacing Israel, then of course they would try to force a translation other than what Paul clearly intended. But when we see that their rejection of Christ is not the end of the story for them, Paul’s words make all the more sense.
Life application: How broken is your heart for the lost around you? And not just those whom you love or are close to, but those with whom you have no affiliation at all except the bond of humanity. When we look at ourselves as sinners saved by grace, then how can we not look at those around us and feel the pain of a broken heart at their fallen state?
Heavenly Father, I may not share the same politics or ideologies of those around me, but I share the common bond of humanity. I once was blind to the truth of Your word and was on the wide path leading to destruction. Now that my destiny has changed, give me the desire and the ability to lead others onto the narrow path which leads to life. Break my heart for the lost around me, O God. Amen.