Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 1 Study # 1
July 1, 2008
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
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:
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit,
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. Paul's Radical Subject Shift.
- A. In one breath the apostle went from the enormously encouraging declaration of God's absolute commitment to us without exception to a declaration that he has "great heaviness and continual sorrow in [his] heart."
- B. How does one simultaneously entertain the high exultation of having no adversary who can triumph over us and great heaviness and continual sorrow? Perhaps it is the same thing as being "counted as a sheep for slaughter" and knowing that nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ. In that scenario, one must deal with being the sheep while also understanding its enormously limited impact.
- C. Emotional experience is complex. There does not seem to be room for simultaneous and contradictory emotions in our souls. We are either aware of joy, or we are aware of grief; or, at least, if there is room for both, there is a predominate awareness of one over the other.
- D. There does seem to be this: wherever the mind is focused the emotions follow. However, there is a difference between where the mind is led by external input and what its true focus is. When one is terribly afraid, another's words, "Fear not; all will be ok", attempt to direct the mind from an external source but often have little, to no, effect.
- E. Then there is this question: if Paul has such heaviness and sorrow now, how will he be delivered into the fullness of joy later when the very thing he grieves over has become a final reality? What is the truth about emotional reality in the face of human disaster? If there is joy in the presence of the angels over each sinner who repents, what of the grief over each one who does not? And how does one grieve now over impenitent sinners as an expression of godliness and not grieve even more later when godliness in an uncorrupted form is the fact? Where is the truth about God's own "love" for sinners and their eternal destruction? How does one grieve over sinners for where they are headed before they get there and not grieve over them after they have arrived? Is the truth this: there is no elimination over grief ... ever? Are we headed for an eternity in which we will be less godly in our unconcern for those in Gehenna and more joyful, or we will be more godly and less joyful? What??
- F. The "mystery of godliness" is very great. In God the balance of what humans see as adversarial realities "lie down together" in perfect harmony. Wrath and Mercy are not at odds in God; neither are Patience and Explosive Vengeance. Somehow it is the very same Jesus Who was the Lamb of God in actual historical expression Who will be the Lion of Judah in actual historical expression. The "somehow" does not answer the questions, but it is a statement of the factual reality. "Somehow" God sent His Son to die because of His love for sinners and "somehow" He will consign the majority of those sinners to an eternal destruction. The question of "how" God can both love and destroy is not resolved in respect to humanity until it is resolved in Christ who is "Beloved" but also "Destroyed". In some way the fact that God is willing to experience the fierceness of His animosity toward Sin Himself "justifies" His expression of that animosity toward sinners. In fact, it may be "reality" that God does not "satisfy" His own wrath by venting it upon others. It is only "satisfied" by "internal" things in Himself. And, it may well be that human beings do not find "life" outside of themselves either: they may well have to find it by an internal possession of the same character as their God. When God has sufficiently reproduced Himself in His personal creatures that they share His essential holiness, they will have the same Life He experiences. Perhaps the greatest challenge to this process is the unwillingness of the creature to accept the same fierceness of animosity toward Sin upon themselves as it is expressed toward others who sin.
- II. Paul's Words.
- A. There are three expressions of Paul's truth-telling.
- 1. "I say the truth in Christ..."
- 2. "I am not lying..."
- 3. "my conscience is bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit..."
- B. The implication is that the majority of people would not "easily accept" what he was about to write.
- 1. This means that what he was about to write was significantly "out of the expectation loop".
- 2. The question is this: why did Paul think it necessary to tell the Romans how he felt about the "Jewish question" when he knew that they were not likely to believe him? This question is intensified by the next paragraph where he splits hairs over just who are "Israelites" and who are not. When Paul said he was in such grief over his "kinsmen according to the flesh" and said of them that they "are Israelites" and then made a serious distinction between those who are not "Israel" that are "of Israel" and those who are "Israel" because they are "the children of the promise", was he saying that his unceasing grief was focused not upon those "of Israel" who were not "of promise" but upon those who are true Israelites? And what difference does it make in any case?
- 3. Apparently, Paul was regularly accused of being "anti-Israel" because of his ministry to the Gentiles and because of his hard words to "Jews" who had rejected the Christ. Because a person's perception of another is a governing factor in whether that other will accept the influences upon himself that the perceived is wielding, Paul needed to make sure, if he could, that the Romans -- particularly those who were Jewish -- were not put off by any suggestion that his message arose out of a heart of antagonized hatred. Whether people embrace Paul's "gospel of God" is of the most crucial of all issues: eternal life and death are at stake. For this cause, nothing should be allowed to stand that might become a basis for a rejection of the message. In addition, the material to come (Romans 9-11) is so antagonizing to the natural human heart that if it is allowed to be perceived as arising out of "prejudice" or "disgust" or "animosity", it will be rejected out of hand.