WHAT IS THE MEANING OF ROMANS 9:1-3?
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:" †††††††† ††††††††††††††Romans 9:1-3
††††††††††† Whatever the proper interpretation of this text is, let it be clearly understood that Paulís language in these verses is an expression of his intense love and concern for his people, the Jews, and his great desire that they might be saved. (See Romans 10:1.) He could not bear the thought of his kinsmen perishing under the wrath of God.
††††††††††† Some say that Paul is here reflecting upon his unregenerate state, when he was a persecutor of Christ and his church. But I doubt the Apostle would have called for Christ, his own conscience, and the Spirit of God to bear witness to that. Besides, all who knew him knew these things. Everyone knew that Saul of Tarsus hated Christ, his gospel, and his people. I am certain that Paul is not describing his former hatred of Christ. Though, I am sure, that was a matter of great heaviness and continual sorrow to him, it had nothing to do with his love for his kinsmen and his great desire to see them saved.
††††††††††† The most common interpretation of Paulís words here is that they are an expression of a willingness on his part to be cut off from Christ and eternally damned, that the people he so dearly loved might be saved. Though in some ways appealing, this interpretation must also be rejected because it is totally contrary to revealed truth. What Paul wrote in Romans 9:1-3, he wrote by divine inspiration. His language here must not be interpreted in a manner inconsistent with any other part of the inspired writings. Paul knew that it was impossible for him to be separated from Christ and cursed of God (Rom. 8:32-39). He knew that he could not satisfy the wrath and justice of God for the sins of others, for he was himself a sinner. Christ alone can be the Substitute for sinners. Christ alone was able to satisfy the justice of God (Rom. 3:24-26). Moreover, to wish himself accursed from Christ for his brethren would be totally inconsistent with his great love for Christ. That would make his love for his countrymen idolatry. It would put them before Christ. Paulís words do not express a desire to be eternally separated from Christ for his kinsmen. Much as he loved them, he loved Christ more, and rightfully so.
††††††††††† Some even suggest that Paulís words in this text are a hyperbole, an overstatement, an exaggeration. That cannot be so. There are no exaggerations in the Word of God! Had Paul been lying, he would not have taken an oath in Godís name to swear to it!
††††††††††† The problem in interpreting Romans 9:1-3 is the translation of verse three. A better translation of that verse, one that is both textually accurate and consistent with the context, would be - ďFor I could wish that myself were cut off (or slain) by Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.Ē The only reasonable interpretation of Romans 9:1-3 is this - Paul so loved his kinsmen that he was willing and ready to lay down his life for them, to see them saved from the wrath of God. That is why he was determined to carry the gospel to Jerusalem, even though he knew it would result in his death (Acts 20:24; 21:13). An accurate paraphrase of verse three would be - ďI would rather die than see my brethren perish under the wrath of God.Ē John Gillís interpretation of Paulís words is exactly correct - ďI could wish that my dear Lord and Master would appoint and order me to die, might this nation of mine but escape the ruin and destruction I see coming upon them...I could be content to die the most accursed death, and be treated in the most ignominious manner, that they but be saved.Ē Oh, that God would raise up men with such zeal for the souls of men and the glory of Christ in this day!† ††††††††††††††††††††††† † Amen.
Grace Baptist Church of Danville - Grace For Today Radio Message #720
2734 Old Stanford Road - Danville, Kentucky 40422-9438
Donald S. Fortner, Pastor -Telephone 606-236-8235 - Email firstname.lastname@example.org