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Sermon #100 — Romans Series


Title:                                       A Matter of Great

 Heaviness and Continual Sorrow


Text:                            Romans 9:1-3

Subject:                     Paul’s Love for His Kinsmen

Date:                          Sunday Morning — October 23, 2016

Reading:       Exodus 32:1-35



The title of my message is A Matter of Great Heaviness and Continual Sorrow. The words of my text express the burden of my soul, the great heaviness and sorrow of my heart for you who are yet without Christ, under the wrath of God, upon the brink of eternal destruction. —— Read Romans 9:1-3 with me.


(Romans 9:1-3) “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.”


Those words are an expression of Paul’s intense love and concern for his people, the Jews, his own kinsmen, and his great desire that they might be saved (Romans 10:1). He could not bear the thought of people he loved people perishing under the wrath of God.


(Romans 10:1) “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”


Paul’s Meaning


What do the words of our text mean? What was Paul saying, when he wrote these three verses of Holy Scripture?


Some say that Paul is here reflecting upon his unregenerate state as a persecutor of Christ and his Church. But I rather doubt that Paul would have called Christ, his own conscience, and the Spirit of God to bear witness to such a thing. Besides, all who knew Paul knew what he had been and done. Everyone knew how much Saul of Tarsus hated Christ, his Gospel, and his people before the Lord saved him. — I am certain that Paul is not talking about his previous hatred of Christ, because that would not have been any expression of his love and concern for the Jews and of his great desire for their salvation.


Many argue that Paul is here expressing a willingness to be eternally cut off from Christ, eternally damned, that the people he so dearly loved might be saved. While that interpretation of Paul’s words appeals to human emotions and sentiments, I am certain that it is not the meaning of Paul’s words. What he wrote here he wrote by Divine inspiration. It cannot be interpreted to mean something totally contrary to revealed truth.

  1. Paul knew that it was impossible for him to be separated from Christ and forever cursed of God (Romans 8:32-39).
  2. He knew that he could not satisfy the wrath of God for the sins of others, for he was himself a sinner. — Christ alone can be the sinner’s Substitute. — Christ alone could make atonement for sin. — Christ alone is our propitiation (Romans 3:24-26).
  3. To wish himself forever separated from Christ for others, even for those dearest to his heart, would be totally inconsistent with his love for Christ. That would make his love for his countrymen idolatry. It would put them before Christ (Luke 14:26).


Paul was not expressing a desire to be eternally separated from Christ for his kinsmen. Much as he loved them, he loved Christ more, and rightfully so.


Others say that the words of our text are a hyperbole, an over statement, an exaggeration. We all know that is not so. There are no exaggerations of truth in the Word of God. Had Paul been lying he would not have taken an oath in God’s name to swear to it!


What then do these words in verse 3 mean? Paul was not talking about his unregenerate condition. He was not expressing a desire to go to hell and be cut off from Christ for the salvation of others. And he was not lying, exaggerating the truth! What do these words mean?


The word “accursed” is the word “anathema.” It is a term commonly used to refer to excommunication. It sometimes refers to eternal punishment. But the word simply means, “to separate, to banish, or to cut off.” And the word “from” is a preposition that is commonly translated “by.” Verse 3 might be better translated — “For I was wishing that myself were cut off (slain) by Christ for (instead of) my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” That is a literal translation of the Greek text. The word translated “could wish” (was wishing) is what A. T. Robertson called “idiomatic imperfect.” — Paul is referring to a past action that continues and will continue. But his words are idiomatic and cannot be translated word for word without confusion.


So, this 3rd verse might be read – “For I could wish that myself were cut off (or slain) by Christ for (or instead of) my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” My best sense of what Paul is saying here is, — I would rather die than see my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, perish under the wrath of God! Paul so loved the souls of men that he was willing to lay down his life for them.


John Gill gives this interpretation of Paul’s words — “I 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, might they but be saved.”


Proposition: Paul so loved the souls of men that he was willing to die to see them saved.


I repeat — This is not an exaggeration, an overstatement, or hyperbole. Paul did, in fact, die seeking the salvation of eternity bound sinners.


Illustration: My conversation with Bro. Todd Nibert — Bro. Nibert said to me, “Wouldn’t it be an honor to die for Christ? To die as a martyr for Christ?” —— That would be a great honor; but here is an honor few consider: “What a great honor it would be if God would give us grace to live as martyrs for Christ, laying down our lives in the cause of Christ, laying down our lives that others might know Christ and be saved by him.”


That is exactly what this man, Paul did. He lived as a martyr, laying down his life in the cause of Christ, dying daily that others might be saved (Acts 20:22-24; 21:8-14).


(Acts 20:22-24) “And now, behold, I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: (23) Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. (24) But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God.”


(Acts 21:8-14) “And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. (9) And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. (10) And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. (11) And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. (12) And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. (13) Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (14) And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.”




When Paul wrote these words, I am sure he had in mind another man, like himself, who so greatly loved his kinsmen that he was willing to die for them Moses (Exodus 32:31-32).


(Exodus 32:31-32) “And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. (32) Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”


The Spirit of God holds these two men before us in the Bible as examples to follow, two men who were honestly prepared to die for the salvation of their people and said so Moses and Paul. That kind of love is not natural to the hearts of men. It is the gift of God our Savior. It comes only from that man who is God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ alone could accomplish what both Moses and Paul were prepared to do. He alone could secure the salvation of the people he loved by his own death. Yet, all who are saved by his blood are taught by his grace to love as he loved (1 John 3:16; 4:10-11).


(1 John 3:16) “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”


(1 John 4:10-11) “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (11) Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”


Look at Moses, the prophet of God, in Exodus 32. Here is a man who truly loved the souls of men, so much so that he was willing to die that they might be spared the wrath of God.


The sin of Israel was great. Without question, that nation fully deserved the wrath of God which threatened to destroy them. They had forgotten the Lord God, his great deliverance and boundless mercies to them.

  • God had brought them up out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and to Mount Sinai, where he would give them his law.
  • The Lord God called Moses up into the mountain, where he spoke to him face to face.


The scene was astonishing! No one was allowed to touch the mountain. A thick, dark cloud covered it. Brilliant lightning and terrifying thunder were seen and heard. All the people feared and trembled. — But there God appeared to Moses! For 40 days and nights Moses was in the mountain. God wrote the law with his own finger in tables of stone and gave it to Moses.


While Moses was in the mountain, the people grew restless and committed a great sin (Exodus 32:1-6).

  • They called on Aaron to make them gods.
  • Aaron complied with the wishes of the people.
  • They proclaimed a feast to the Lord and offered sacrifices.
  • God saw the whole thing and threatened to kill the whole nation; but Moses interceded for them (Exodus 32:7-14).


When the Lord said to Moses, “Let me alone….that I may consume them,” Moses was inspired with hope that if he refused to let God alone he might spare them. Listen to the intercession he made for Israel.

  • Moses reminded God of his relation to his people (v. 11). — “And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
  • He pleaded for Israel on the ground of God’s own honor (v. 12). — “Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
  • He put God in remembrance of his covenant (v. 13). — “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.”
  • And God spared the nation (v. 14). — “And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.


When Moses came down from Sinai and saw the sin of the people and the greatness of it, he dealt with it as God’s servant (vv. 19-30). The sin had to be dealt with. It must be punished. Moses knew it.

  • He broke the tables of the law before their eyes, to show the people their crime (v. 19).
  • He ground the golden calf to powder, scattered the dust upon the water, and made Israel drink it (v. 20).
  • He called for repentance (v. 26).
  • He killed the three thousand men who had led Israel into idolatry (vv. 27-28).
  • Then, Moses told the people to consecrate themselves to God and make atonement for their sins by a blood sacrifice (vv. 29-30).


After this, Moses went back to the Mt. Sinai and made his intercession for Israel again, that they might be spared (vv. 31-32).

  • He humbly confessed the greatness of Israel’s sin.
  • He begged God to forgive their sin.
  • With fear and trembling, he desired that God might kill him instead of the people.


(Exodus 32:31-32) “And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. (32) Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.”


Thy book,” in this place obviously refers to the book of the living, not the Lamb’s Book of Life! God had threatened to kill the nation. And Moses prays that instead, he might die. We know that this is the correct interpretation of Moses’ prayer for the same reasons that Paul’s statement in our text (Romans 9:3) could not imply a willingness to perish in hell.


Here is a man who so loved the souls of men that he was willing to die for them, that they might be spared the wrath of God that they so fully deserved.


Look at God’s reply to Moses’ prayer (vv. 33-35).


(Exodus 32:33-35) “And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. (34) Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. (35) And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.”


  • The Lord God declared to his servant, Moses, the strictness and certainty of his justice (v. 33). — God will neither condemn the just or justify the wicked. — “The soul that sinneth, it shall die!”
  • God turned from his wrath.
  • And God sent his Angel (Christ) before the people. — What mercy!


“What an amazing view does this give us of the condescension of God, and the efficacy of fervent prayer! The prayer of one single person availed for the procuring of pardon for two millions of people….notwithstanding the enormity of their sin.” — Charles Simeon


When Paul wrote the words of our text, I am sure he must have thought about Moses and his prayer of intercession for Israel. Then, about 1800 years later, Paul found himself in great heaviness and sorrow for the same people.


Jerusalem Destroyed


Paul knew what was about to happen to Jerusalem. He knew what the Lord Jesus had said about that nation (Matthew 22:7). He knew that the prophecy of Daniel was about to be fulfilled (Daniel 9:26-27).


(Daniel 9:24-27)Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (25) Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. ———(26) And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (27) And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”


In less than 10 years after Paul wrote his Epistle to the saints at Rome, the Roman general Titus, as an instrument in the hands of God, rode into Jerusalem and destroyed it in 70 AD. And Paul knew how severe God’s punishment of the city would be. He knew what God was about to do to those people who had crucified his Son. He knew what was about to happen, because he knew the prophets. — (Read Deuteronomy 28:49-68.)


(Deuteronomy 28:49-68) “The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; (50) A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor shew favour to the young: (51) And he shall eat the fruit of thy cattle, and the fruit of thy land, until thou be destroyed: which also shall not leave thee either corn, wine, or oil, or the increase of thy kine, or flocks of thy sheep, until he have destroyed thee. (52) And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates throughout all thy land, which the LORD thy God hath given thee. (53) And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee: (54) So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate, his eye shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he shall leave: (55) So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates. (56) The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, (57) And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates. (58) If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD; (59) Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance. (60) Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. (61) Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed. (62) And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the LORD thy God. (63) And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to nought; and ye shall be plucked from off the land whither thou goest to possess it. (64) And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. (65) And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: (66) And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: (67) In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. (68) And the LORD shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there ye shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you.”


When Paul thought on these things, it was more than he could bear. His brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, were about to perish under the wrath of God. His people, his nation was about to suffer the consequence of their sin. Paul was not a man of stone! When he thought on these things, his heart broke within him. — (Read Romans 9:1-3.)


(Romans 9:1-3) “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.”


This is the cry of a man who loved immortal souls running headlong to hell. This is the cry of a man who had been in the same condition and under the same curse. This is the cry of a man who knew what lay ahead. Like Moses before him, Paul put himself between God and his own guilty kinsmen, and says, “I could wish that I might be cut off and slain by my Lord, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” — This is the cry of a loving, heavy, broken, helpless heart for poor, lost, doomed, damned sinners!


Paul knew his helplessness. He was as helpless to save his brethren as they were to save themselves. In these 9th, 10th, and 11th chapters of Romans he is telling us all that, “Salvation is of the Lord!

  • Salvation comes by God’s sovereign purpose, not by the will of man.
  • Salvation comes by God’s sovereign grace, not by heredity, or rituals, or works.
  • Salvation is found only in God’s dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • And Paul’s kinsmen had rejected, despised, and crucified God’s Son. They would not believe on Christ. Therefore, Paul was bearing great heaviness and sorrow for them.


Christ Alone


Neither Paul nor Moses could die for the people and save them. Paul and Moses were only men, guilty, sinful men. They could not atone for their own sins. They, too, had to be redeemed. But, blessed be God, there is One who can save, who has saved, who does save sinners by the merits of his death in the place of sinners. There is One who was cursed a cut off that hell-bent, hell-deserving sinners like us might be saved The Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:10-14).


(Galatians 3:10-14) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (11) But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. (12) And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. (13) Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”


There was none other good enough

To pay the price of sin;

Only Christ could pay my debt

And put away my sin!


  • Christ saw our guilt and our danger.
  • Christ put himself between the holy Lord God and guilty sinners.
  • Christ was made sin, made a curse, and died. — He was cut off, that we might live!
  • Christ satisfied the wrath of God.
  • Christ lives again to make intercession for the transgressors.
  • The Lord God promises eternal salvation to every sinner who comes to him by Christ Jesus.




  • How indebted we are to the Lord Jesus Christ!
  • The grace we have experienced makes us debtors to all men. He who has great wealth is a debtor to he who has none (Romans 1:14-17).


(Romans 1:14-17) “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. (15) So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”


Shall we not lay down our lives for the souls of men, to bring sinners to Christ, and to bring Christ to lost sinners? — O Spirit of God, give me grace to live as a martyr, laying down my life in the cause of Christ, dying daily that sinners may hear the Gospel and be saved by Christ (Revelation 12:10-11).


(Revelation 12:10-11) “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. (11) And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”


With such a great Savior as Christ is set before you, “Why will ye die?”

  • Dare you face eternity without Christ?
  • Will you despise the blood of God’s dear Son?
  • How can you turn your heart against such a Savior?
  • Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!








Don Fortner








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