Romans 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh
HIS GREAT CONCERN (1-3)
9:1–2 Verses 1 and 2 form one sentence in Greek. Paul is giving several reasons how they (the church at Rome) could know that he was telling the truth: (1) his Spirit-led conscience, v. 1; (2) his union with Christ, v. 1; and (3) his deep feelings for Israel, v. 2.
It was the tragic contrast between the Jews’ fierce unbelief and the joys of the gospel that brought tears to the eyes of both Jesus of Nazareth and the apostle Paul.
Ro 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, 9:2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
- Christ, his conscience and the Holy Spirit bear witness to his great sorrow and grief (1-2)
Paul states three reasons why he believed he spoke the truth.
- his conscience
- Holy Spirit (cf. 8:14, 16
- He would even be willing to be cut off from Christ for their sakes (3)
It is true that Paul knows he cannot actually be separated from Christ. That is what the previous chapter has proclaimed so forcefully. Paul’s words in chapter 9 are only hypothetical. But they are genuine nevertheless. For he is saying that, if it were possible, he could wish himself accursed from Christ if only his condemnation could achieve the salvation of the people he so fervently loved.
When Paul looked at Christ, he rejoiced; but when he looked at the lost people of Israel, he wept. Like Moses (Ex. 32:30–35), he was willing to be cursed and separated from Christ if it would mean the salvation of Israel.
What a man this Paul was! He was willing to stay out of heaven for the sake of the saved (Phil. 1:22–24), and willing to go to hell for the sake of the lost.
Philippians 1:22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
Ex 32:32 "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin-but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written."33 And the LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
God had been giving the 10 commandments, but the people whom he had freed from slavery were doing precisely what he was prohibiting. They were even ascribing their liberation to the idol. Besides, their idolatrous celebration was undoubtedly leading to transgressions of each of the other commandments, too. They were dishonoring their parents, committing adultery, coveting, and doing many other evil things.
God said, “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (Exod. 32:10).
Instead, Moses interceded for the people, saying, (v. 11) Why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand. If the situation were not so grim, the words would be funny, because God had just spoken to Moses of “your people” and here Moses was speaking to God of “your people.” It was as if neither wanted to be identified with the nation in its rebellious state.
Moses offered to give himself for his people to save them. But Moses could not save even himself, let alone them. He, too, was a sinner. On one occasion he had even committed murder. He could not be a substitute for his people. He could not die for them.
But there was one who could. Thus, “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). This was the only adequate substitute for sinners, the Son of God himself. And Jesus’ future, yet foreseen death was the reason God did not destroy the people then and why he does not destroy people who believe on Jesus Christ today. Paul knew this, which is why he speaks hypothetically and not exactly as Moses did, though he echoes his words. He knew that Jesus died to receive the full outpouring of God’s wrath against sin so that those who come to God through faith in him might not experience God’s just wrath but rather grace. He knew it was the only way God saves anyone.