Do you love lost people? Consider Rom 9:1-3. These verses are incredible for at least two reasons. This is the Paul who commanded “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” ( Phil 4:4 ) How can he then speak of his own “unceasing” sorrow and anguish? This is the Paul who calls it “far better” to die if it means being with Christ. (Phil 1:23) How then does he say here that he could wish to be cut off from Christ if it could save his kinsmen? Let's take these issues in turn. 1. How can Paul speak of his own “unceasing” sorrow and anguish, when other places he commands Christians to rejoice always? God's heart is not simplistic and so too he calls our hearts to a both-and complexity of joy and sorrow. Is that not what is implied from 2Cor 6:10 and Rom 12:15? We must not oversimplify things that are complex in God's heart! God always hates sin, has pity on the downcast and rejoices over his children—all at the same time. And the truth of the matter is that he has made our hearts to work this way as well. Paul did have unceasing anguish while at the same time rejoicing, and we ought to also. The lost in our families and communities are sons of wrath, marching toward a horror of judgment beyond imagination. So be sorrowful. And the brightness of the glory of God is more pure than mountain air, more invigorating than running a race, more powerful than an earthquake—and has been given to us to behold by grace. So rejoice! Both are our calling. 2. How can Paul say that he could wish to be cut off from Christ to save his kinsmen, when other places he indicates Christ is more precious to him than everything else? Paul glorifies Christ both by counting him as more precious than all, as well as in embodying Christ's heart to give up himself to save others. Paul has the heart of the Messiah! Jesus was cut off from the Father on the cross because of his great love to save a people from the horrible reality of Hell. This is ultimate love that glorifies God to the utmost because it displays God's love. And it is not idolatry. For Jesus, it was not idolatry because it was not forever—he laid his life down that he might take it back up again. (John 10:17) For Paul it was not idolatry since it is not really possible ("I could wish"); only Jesus can be cut off in place of sinners. But Paul speaks in the extreme to show us how unspeakably far his heart reaches. He was not able to die for them in order to pay for their sin, but he was able to worry about them, to labor for them, to go through hardship for them, to pray for them, to lose sleep for them, to be mocked for them, to be mistreated for them, to be endangered for them, to go hungry for them, to be whipped for them, to be beaten for them, to sit in prison for them, and to lay down his life to bring them the only message of salvation. (2 Cor 11:23-28) What sacrifices does your love for the lost empower you to make? Do you have a degree of anxiety for people who are cut off from Christ? Have you labored to bring the gospel to the lost recently? Have you paid the price of hardship as a result of evangelism? Do you daily pray for the lost to come to faith in the gospel? Have you gone to bed late and gotten up early for the sake of sharing the gospel? Have you been mocked in your attempts to share about Jesus? Have you been mistreated because you sought to invite people into the grace of God? Has gospel work brought you into danger (rivers, robbers, your own people, other people, in the city, in the wilderness, at sea, from false brothers - 2Cor 11:26 )? Have you fasted for the lost? Has ambition to share the offer of salvation in Christ brought upon you physical assault ? Have you faced legal problems because of your witness? Have you gone to prison for the sake of the spread of the gospel? Have you risked death in your efforts to share about Jesus? Are you willing to?
I am speaking the truth
I am not lying;
my conscience bears me witness
in the Holy Spirit—
that I have great sorrow
and unceasing anguish
in my heart.
For I could wish
that I myself were accursed
and cut off
for the sake of my brothers,
according to the flesh.
a I am speaking the truth in Christ—
Ἀλήθειαν λέγω ἐν Χριστῷ,
I am not lying;
my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—
συμμαρτυρούσης μοι τῆς συνειδήσεώς μου ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ,
that I have great sorrow
ὅτι λύπη μοί ἐστιν μεγάλη
and unceasing anguish in my heart.
καὶ ἀδιάλειπτος ὀδύνη τῇ καρδίᾳ μου.
For b I could wish that I myself were c accursed and cut off from Christ
ηὐχόμην γὰρ ἀνάθεμα εἶναι αὐτὸς ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοῦ Χριστοῦ
for the sake of my brothers, 1 my kinsmen d according to the flesh.
ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν συγγενῶν μου κατὰ σάρκα,