Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2
July 22, 2008
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 "Unbelievable" Truth.
- A. It's essence.
- 1. "Great heaviness/sorrow".
- a. The word translated "sorrow" is used by Jesus in John 16:20 as the antithesis to joy (the essence of Life). As an antithetical entity, it must be either the actual opposite, or a primary mechanism of the opposite. In other words, "sorrow" is the same thing as non-joy or it is a fundamental tool for the blocking of joy. We know that the primary "mechanisms" of Life and Death are Peace and Conflict, respectively so that it is unlikely that "sorrow" is being introduced as a "tool".
- b. Thus, there is no particular reason to discount the most obvious conclusion that Jesus was putting two actual alternatives before His disciples. Joy is the essence of Life and, thus, if an actual alternative, "Sorrow" is the essence of Death. This tends to a great explanation for the uses of "sorrow" ( luph ) in the New Testament. In Luke 22:45 the disciples are so overwhelmed by "sorrow" that they fall asleep. What was actually going on was that they were so tired that they could not stay awake. The question of what was driving their "tiredness" is an issue, but the fact is that they had entered into the regions of "sleep" (where neither body nor mind are under the control of their consciousness). Thus we have an illustration of "death" -- the inability of the "person" to control his mental and physical realities so that there is a major "conflict" between the "controllers" of the reality and the "person" is on the losing end. Unless, or until, the person "awakes" his mental and physical state will be determined by something other than his own conscious awareness.
- c. That Paul calls this sorrow "great" signifies that he cannot divest himself of it. It is an integral aspect of his experience and it is caused by his own values in conflict with his reality. He declares this conflict with his words regarding the lostness of his "brethren" and his own heart which desires their salvation. Thus he lives with values and reality in conflict to the degree that he has "great sorrow".
- 2. "Unceasing pain".
- a. This phrase is built out of a word that is only used twice in the New Testament . Paul's only other use of it is found in 1 Timothy 6:10 where he describes the condition of the idolater who has replaced God with money. His description is of one who has riddled himself with multiple spears/arrows so that his pain is intense and his Life is ebbing away as his blood runs out of the wounds.
- b. Paul's terminology is intense: he claims that these "feelings" are "uninterrupted". The major question that arises is the one that we addressed in the notes for our immediately previous study<416>: how does one have any "Life" if he is experiencing unremitting pain in his "heart"? Paul was the apostle of the Gospel of Life, yet he claims that his experience is that of "unceasing pain". For lack of better understanding, it appears that Paul is declaring that "Life" and "Death" can coexist in a person's experience in such a way as to make one ecstatic about "Life" while simultaneously feeling a potent reality of "Death". This is a significant element of what Paul calls "the mystery of godliness".
- c. It seems apparent that God does not "wish" this upon His people since the descriptions of the Absolute Future all have "exclusion" claims regarding all of the experiences of "Death" [Note Revelation 21:4]. How will Paul "handle it" in the final end when he has to accept the lostness of his "brethren"? How does God "handle it" when He casts His "beloved ones" into the eternal Lake of Death? There is something here that escapes us. Paul spent 9:1 attempting to get his readers to not simply reject this description of his reality because he knew that that would be their tendency once he claimed to have a love of this kind for the lost among his fellow Jews. Apparently it is so unusual for people to care about others when those others have nothing to provide for the one doing the caring that Paul knew that his readers would simply discount his words if he did not prejudice the case by claiming that he was not "lying". But the Bible claims that God is like this: He loves His enemies to the point of self sacrifice to the degree of eternal Death. Thus we can only conclude that Paul was sharing in "godliness" when he looked into his heart and found unceasing pain.
- 3. Willingness to be "accursed" for the sake of "brethren".
- a. This is the heart of the "unbelievableness" of Paul's claim. It is a claim to be willing to be shut out of the Life of God and to be subject to the Wrath of God for the sake of another.
- b. Many people have set up a kind of idolatry that makes them miserable in the midst of great good. Some have even accused Paul of doing this in this text. There is, however, a key difference between Paul and those wrapped up in idolatry. Idolaters are simply wrapped up in themselves and their desire is to escape their "pain" by "having" their lusts fulfilled. Paul, on the other hand, is not trying to "escape" anything. He is actively willing to "plunge into" a kind of pain that has no end in order to provide an escape for someone else from that very pain. The issue here requires a kind of precision of thought. It is true that it is Paul's value system that is driving his "pain" because reality is contrary to his "values". In this sense he is no different from an idolater who is also in pain over frustrated values. But, an idolater's "value system" begins and ends with him/her self so that the main consideration of "fulfillment" of the value(s) is the self -- joy out of self-determination. For Paul, the issue is not himself. His is the value of true sacrifice in which someone other than himself is profited by his action as it plunges him into loss. But, here is the problem: how can one feel "pain" when he gets what he wants? If Paul goes to eternal Hell for another to satisfy his own desire, how is Hell Hell? In what sense is there real loss in the acquiring of the deepest desire of the heart? This is, ultimately, a "T"heological issue. If it can be said that there is "pain" in obtaining what is most valued, it can also be said that Christ "died" when He, as God, actually got what He wanted -- the restoration of His people. But, where is that pain"? In what sense did Christ "die" by doing the very thing that would get Him what He valued the most? The answer has to lie in the reality of exclusive, but equal, values. Death is the end result of an unresolved conflict between mutually exclusive, but equal, values. When the Bible tells us that the Father abandoned the Son ("My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?") for the sake of reunion with the children of men, it is telling us that there was a real violation of a significant value in order to obtain the fulfillment of another real value. This has to mean that, even for God, there is such a thing as mutually exclusive values, and that, when a situation arises which pits those values against each other, resolution can only be had by the denial of one and the indulgence of the other. However, according to the Gospel, God "faced" the issue of the supreme value of "Justice" in conflict with the equally supreme value of "Mercy" by satisfying both by means of satisfying the value of "Justice" by denying the value of unity with His Son in order to satisfy the value of "Mercy" by establishing the value of unity with His creatures. In other words, the resolution of "Justice" and "Mercy" was at least as "valuable" to God as maintaining His unity with His Son...equal, but exclusive, values. This is where Paul's self-description comes into play as an illumination of the issue: he simultaneously possesses the high, ecstatic, joy of the fulfillment of his value upon a unity with God which cannot be broken (8:38-39 as a summation of 8:31-37) while also experiencing the incessant heaviness/pain of the denial of his value upon his lost brethren. If it is true of Paul, must it not also be true of God? Is there an inner unresolved conflict because of the outer resolution of a massive conflict? In the Cross, Justice and Mercy found resolution, but what of the broken unity between Father and Son? Here seems to be the heart of the "mystery of godliness". On the "surface" of things, "resurrection" stands as a real-time example and illustration of the end of Death, but on that same "surface", if resurrection ended Death, what does that do to the significance of the death of Christ? Does the fact that He was only "dead" a few hours minimize the sacrifice? If He could resolve a massive problem that extended over thousands of years in a few hours, how great is the love that made such a "small" sacrifice? Men have loved and lost sons and have "lived" with it for the remainder of their lives but God loved and lost His Son and got Him back in a matter of a short three days? Apparently there is something beneath the "surface" here. Personally, I think that what is beneath the surface is the reality of the eternality of God in all of His attributes, which include what men see as polar opposites. To begin, eternality means that God does not "get over" the impact of the events He experiences -- whatever "happens" to Him is a "forever" event. Then, there are no "lesser loves" with God: what He loves He loves with the same intensity as every other "what" that He loves. There is no "I love this more than I love that" with God. Thus, any denial of any "love" is an eternally massive "sacrifice" on His part, Who, at least before creation, did not "have" to deny Himself anything. The unanswered question, for men, is this: Why did God create so that the possibility became inescapable that Death would raise its head?
- B. Its significance: to the same degree as that of Christ.