Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3
October 22, 2017
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 Who are Israelites; to whom [pertaineth] the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service [of God], and the promises;
5 Whose [are] the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ [came], who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
1901 ASV Translation:
2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service [of God], and the promises;
5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
- I. The Claim.
- A. Paul made many claims in his letters regarding his emotional state, both as sporadic, episodic states as well as "unceasing" realities.
- B. The intriguing claim of our text is that there was, apparently, a continual reality to his emotions as he went through each day's hours.
- C. The challenge for us is to understand how multiple, continual, but oppositional, realities co-exist in us.
- 1. A constant "pain in my heart" signals some sort of flowing factor that existed even though constant "rejoicing", "exulting", "thanksgiving", and unbounded "Life" also existed simultaneously.
- 2. One possible option is that some of these, if not all, continued their flow through his life even when he was not "aware" of them by reason of a focused, conscious, awareness in the function of the tasks of the minutes and hours of the days. We would typically call these "subconscious" realities that are below the surface of our particular focus of heart and mind, but surface at particular times when our conscious life crosses a point of contact with the underlying reality.
- 3. By this means we can posit the possibility that Paul had an underlying heaviness and pain that only became a poignant experience when something occurred that brought the root of that underlying emotional tide to the surface. Likewise, we can posit the alternative co-existing underlying emotional tides of joy, gratitude, exultant satisfaction, etc. which also exist but lie beneath our momentary awareness as long as the roots are not in mind.
- D. Thus, Paul is describing one of several emotional rivers that flowed through his heart/mind complex at all times, but only surfaced as the result of particular stimuli. That there were multiple rivers of complex emotional reactions within does not diminish the described reality. Each is real; just not exclusive of others. Thus, joy and grief can co-exist. Humiliation and exulting can co-exist. Hostile wrath and selfless love can co-exist. Justice and grace can flow along in parallel rivers.
- II. The Great Weight.
- A. The uses of this word in the New Testament are instructive.
- 1. Luke 22:45 indicates that it means something like "an overwhelming depression". The context is the disciples selected by Jesus to pray with Him in Gethsemane. Then, as He pulled away a short distance, instead of prayer, the disciples descended into sleep. Jesus had warned them that if they did not pray, they would "enter into temptation". Something had to have come along that allowed them to ignore His appeal/warning and sink into sleep. Luke, as a doctor, called it whatever this Greek word means. I have identified it as, first, "overwhelming" because their bodies "overwhelmed" whatever good intentions they may have had to pray with, and for, Jesus and themselves so that they would not "enter into temptation" (that is a pretty significant danger to simply ignore). And, I have called it "depression" because it "depressed" their good intentions by some means and actually carried them right into the maelstrom that Jesus warned them about. At Luke's level, this "heaviness" or "sorrow" or "overwhelming depression" was physical because it put their bodies to sleep in spite of the impossibly critical setting. So, the physical becomes a foundation for our understanding in some other realms.
- 2. John uses the word in the mouth of Jesus in 16:6 and 20-23 to address the emotional state of the disciples at His informing them of His coming, physical, departure from them. He goes on to contrast the meaning of the term with "rejoicing" and "joy" that no man can take from them. This is illuminating because it posits the "heaviness/sorrow" of the soul at the loss of a deeply beloved friend and contrasts it with the "rejoicing/joy" of the soul when that loss is permanently reversed [Note Philemon 2:17]. Thus, we can take the physical "overwhelming depression" and move it into the realm of the soul and see it for what it is there: an overwhelming depressive sadness.
- 3. Paul uses this word in three contexts in 2 Corinthians (2:1-7; 7:10; and 9:7) to address the emotional realities of relationships that are not working and creating "heaviness/sorrow" at the level of the soul and its tangled connections with others. It is in these contexts that Paul points out that the "world" has a sorrow that yields "death" and that "godly" sorrow works "repentance to salvation". The former hardens its victim in impenitence and turns depression into rage; the latter softens its possessor to turn to God in repentance and turns to joy.
- B. Paul's claim, then, is that whenever he ponders Israel in its condition in disbelief and hostility, it is not "hatred" that results, but, rather, an overwhelming depressive sadness.
- III. The Incessant Contradiction Between Values and the Constant Frustration of Them.
- A. The sorrow/pain is the word that describes the emotional reaction to deep frustration at being countered at every turn.
- B. The "in my heart" phrase is extremely helpful because it puts the "setting" in that place within us that governs all "agenda" issues under the "What is important?" question.
- 1. Paul's claim is that he considers Israel to be extremely important so that he is motivated to make attempts to fulfill his longings to see Israel in repentance.
- 2. The continual pain is simply that, at every turn, Israel vehemently resists his efforts.
- IV. Paul's Response/Rationale.
- A. Paul's "evidence" is his "response": "For I was praying...".
- 1. Paul's word is typically translated "wish", but it includes "prayer" because of its intensity.
- 2. The imperfect indicative indicates that it was an on-going former action. This would make no sense as a "wish" because the implication is that it has ceased. It would destroy Paul's argument to say "I no longer wish for Israel's salvation".
- 3. As "evidence" it means that Paul's love for Israel is given proof by the fact that, at least for a time, "he was praying that...". That he no longer prays that way simply means that he, like Moses, was rebuffed by God; not for the love motivation, but for the impossibility of the effectiveness of the action. What good would it actually do for Paul to be accursed from Christ for the sake of Israel?
- B. The request: that I might be accursed from The Christ for my brethren's sake.
- 1. The "accursedness" is indicated by the Scriptures to be eternal alienation.
- 2. The only purpose would be to bring about something really good.
- 3. The only Person Whose alienation from God would produce something good was that of The Christ, Himself. His alienation from The Father for the sake of the sinners made it possible for them to be redeemed. No one else could have made a sacrifice of that magnitude for sinners. Justice demanded too much of any finite human being.