The next three chapters of Romans deal with the question of the Jews. What are we to make of them in this new covenant involving righteousness apart from the Law? Once they were called Godís chosen people, what are we to call them now? Have they been separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?
One might wonder, why bring the Jewish question in now? But why not? Paul has just spoken of the elect being secure in Jesus Christ and that Godís election shall stand. Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ! Oh really? What about the Jews?
They were chosen by God, and as we will read here in this section, they were broken off of the tree while the branch of the Gentiles was grafted on. Did God fail to keep His promises to Israel? If HE is not faithful to the Jews, how do we know He will be faithful to us? The very character of God could be questioned here!
But Paul will show the spotless character of God by showing how Israelís past history actually magnified the attributes of God namely His faithfulness, His righteousness, His justice, His grace, and yes, His patience.
And through this dissertation on the Jewish question, I hope we will all get a deeper appreciation and love for His chosen ones, namely the elect of old and the elect of new....for they are one and the same. Saved by grace through faith. All believed Godís promise and it was accounted to them as righteousness.
Dwight Kiefert is a member of the evangelism commission of the AFLC. This past Friday he gave his testimony to those assembled for the Summer Institute of Theology. Dwight had no religious training at all as he was growing up in the Dakotas.
The only time he was in church was for weddings and funerals. He thought that child molesters and other criminals die and go to hell, and all the other good people go to heaven.
On his 30th birthday, he sent his son and daughter off to school and shortly afterward received a phone call to say that there had been a terrible accident. He and his wife rushed to the scene where his little son Matthew was fatally injured.
He and his wife were understandably decimated. They had absolutely no comfort and no hope. At this time a caring Christian neighbor and a local pastor introduced Dwight and his wife to the Lord Jesus Christ. After receiving Christ and his unspeakable peace, they wondered why no one had ever taken the time to introduce them to Christ before.
Now, both of them have a tremendous burden for the lost. They brought their story to Pacific Garden Mission and it has been broadcast around the world on the radio program ďUnshackled.Ē God has used this tragedy in their lives to lead them and others to Jesus.
I share this story with you today because it ties in with our Scripture reading as we learn of the burden that Paul had for his lost brethren, and my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will use these words to ignite a similar fire in each one of us. Friends, itís not about us, itís about saving others.
Ro 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, (NKJV)
Ro 9:1 I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
Well, criss cross my heart and hope to die! And any other oath you can think of to boot. Paul is obviously very serious about what he is going to say! He calls in every personal witness that knows the real Paul.
He could tell us these things and we would have no way of knowing if he really meant it. But when he brings in Christ, (who is the truth) the Holy Spirit, and Paulís own conscience. He is bringing in those witnesses who know the real Paul.
What he is about to say is going to be hard to believe, and so he needs to call on these witnesses to convince us that he is sincere, that this is not just idle talk on his part. He starts out by telling us that he has a heavy heart. By the testimony of these three witnesses, he says,
2 ďthat I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. ď
Imagine that! Sorrow and grief Paulís continual companions. I donít like this verse because I think we have too many doleful Christians walking around now! Iím afraid some may take this as license to be a sourpuss. The word ďcontinualĒ here means just that. It is unintermittent. There is no break, it is always there. Itís an undercurrent of his life.
Is it okay for a Christian to be forever sorrowful and grief-stricken? Yes! If itís for the right reason. Itís not for the reason most of us use. The ďwoe is me reason.Ē Thatís illegitimate! We may have occasion for intermittent sorrow, but the Christian must also have an undercurrent of constant joy or have you forgotten that your sins are forgiven and that you are a child of God by grace through faith?
Do you rejoice in your forgiveness? Do you live in it? Do you celebrate it?
Php 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (NKJV)
1Pe 1:8 believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, (NKJV)
If you are not celebrating your forgiveness on a regular basis, then I suggest to you that you have not yet realized forgiveness. Maybe, youíve never experienced it! Maybe you donít believe itís possible! Maybe you donít believe God could save a wretch like you!
Most of you donít know my story, but if he can save a wretch like me, he can save a wretch like you! I canít make you experience Godís forgiveness. I can only tell you what Godís word says about it, and pray that the Holy Spirit will convince you of itís truth, and bring you into joy.
Because once you are convinced of itís truth, I guarantee you, that you canít help but celebrate it!
Ps 32:1 O the happiness of him whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.
Know this. Jesus died to pay for the sins of the world, and that includes all of yours!
1Ti 1:15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,.... (NKJV)
You are part of that world and if you receive Christ, you receive the forgiveness He won for you on the cross. How do you receive Him? You receive Him only with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Acknowledge your sinfulness and humbly pray with the lowly tax collector of Luke 18:13,14
Lu 18:13 "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (NKJV)
Why did God hear the prayer of the tax collector? Because he humbly admitted he was a sinner and asked for mercy.
Jas 4:6 "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." (NKJV)
And how are we saved? How are we forgiven? By grace!
Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (NKJV)
And what happens to our sins when we are saved? How completely are they forgiven?
Ps 103:12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Isa 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
Isa 44:22 I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." (NKJV)
Ac 3:19 "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, (NKJV)
As far as East is from the West. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, blotted out like something on the other side of a thick cloud. They are gone! Believe it and celebrate their disappearance! If there is any ďwoeĒ in your spirit, let it be for those who have not yet received the gift!
That is the reason that Paul gives us here for his sorrow. His heart is breaking for the unregenerate Jew.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,
Paul was a Jew, and are we to believe that he loves his fellow Jews so much that he wishes he were cut off from Christ. Would he trade his salvation to win his lost brethren? Thatís what it sounds like he is saying, but I donít think so....
That would be the witness of a bag of wind, or a madman, for who would want to spend eternity in hell? Furthermore, this would not be the witness of Christ, the Holy, Spirit, or a quickened conscience, that longs for the day of redemption!.
No, he must mean something else here. The word in the Greek for accursed is anathema. The simplest definition in the context of Scripture I can give you is the idea of someone who devotes themselves to physical destruction for the public good.
There are several examples of this in the Bible, the most notable being Jonah. Remember Jonah? Called to Ninevah to preach repentance, he runs the other way. Just as a side note, Ninevah was a city of the Assyrians and they were one of the most frightening nations on the earth. If they didnít like you they would make a public example of you by skinning you alive.
No wonder Jonah fled.
Anyway, you remember the account. A horrific storm overtakes the ship And Jonah tells the men to cast him overboard because he was the problem. He was willing to lay down his life for the safety of the crew. In essence this is what Paul was saying.
ďThrow me overboard Lord for the sake of the Jews!
It is not without precedence. Moses felt the same way about the Israelites:
Ex 32:32 "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin-but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." (NKJV) (The one that had all my days written in it before there were any.)
Moses too, was willing to lay his life down for his sheep. And of course, in a sense, this is what Jesus did when he died on the tree. He died for the public good...the good of the entire world. The Bible says:
Ga 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree") (NKJV)
Joh 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
Itís interesting that the high priest had this type of sacrifice in mind when he sought to kill Jesus:
Joh 18:14 Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. (NKJV)
Of course he was thinking in terms of saving his own neck and the necks of the Jewish rulers and preserving their lifestyle, but Jesus was interested in saving the world from eternal destruction.
So Paul is saying, ďseriously folks, if my death would play a part in the salvation of my fellow Jews, I would gladly die. I would give up everything in this life that I might see them in the next. Understand the depth of that statement.
Paul is willing to make the highest temporal sacrifice, and that means that he is willing to not only let go of his physical life, but everything connected to it. His possessions and every other connection with this world if it would play into the salvation of his Jewish family.
The words of Jim Eliot once again ring in our ears: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.Ē
Is there any sorrow in your heart for the lost? What would you be willing to give up in order to see your family and friends in the next life? What would the Holy Spirit, your conscience, and Jesus say about your sorrow over your lost loved ones?
Is sorrow your continual companion when it comes to the lost in your circle of acquaintances?
Again, let me say, that Christians are to possess great joy and indescribable peace, if all we carried around is sorrow, we would not be emitting the fragrance of Christ, but sorrow for lost loved ones should also always be near. Just under the surface...a constant companion because hell is an awful place.
Jesus looked over Jerusalem and wept because of the lost, have you ever wept for your unsaved family members? Spouse? Children? Parents? Neighbors? Co-workers? African? Asian? European? Etc? People are dying and going to hell every day! Where is your passion for the lost?
What can you do? You canít hold a gun to their head and tell them to believe. (Although some have tried that method of evangelism) But you canít just shrug your shoulders and say, ďwhatís the use?Ē What can you do?
First of all, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle or light a passion in us for the lost. We can help the process by going to the Word and recapture the correct image of hell in our heart and mind. Be convinced of the reality of hell as spelled out in the Word of God.
Jesus spoke of hell often! He told of the rich man who begged for a drop of waster to be placed on his tongue. He told of what will happen when He comes again to all unbelievers:
Mt 13:41 "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 "and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (NKJV)
We confess our faith by reciting the Apostleís Creed every week. In that Creed we say that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into a figment of our imagination. He descended into a figure of speech, NO! He descended into hell, it is a real, frightening place of eternal torment.
And people that you and I know and interact with in our daily routines are going there unless something happens to them spiritually! Believe In hell!
Secondly, (and maybe this should be first) Believe in a just God! Believe in the God of thunder and lightning, and truth! The God who judges, the God who says he will not acquit the wicked.
Na 1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; The LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies;
3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, And will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD has His way In the whirlwind and in the storm, And the clouds are the dust of His feet.
4 He rebukes the sea and makes it dry, And dries up all the rivers. Bashan and Carmel wither, And the flower of Lebanon wilts. 5 The mountains quake before Him, The hills melt, And the earth heaves at His presence, Yes, the world and all who dwell in it.
6 Who can stand before His indignation? And who can endure the fierceness of His anger? His fury is poured out like fire, And the rocks are thrown down by Him.
He will send your unbelieving acquaintances and loved ones to hell unless they repent! Nahum goes on to assure us that judgement is not the case for those who trust in Him.
7 The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.
Unless you and I start taking God seriously in this matter of judgement and hell, we will not have the attitude of Paul toward his lost brethren.
Next, realize that you canít save anyone. You can be used of God to save someone, but you canít save anyone. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. What does that tell you?
It tells me that I need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit if those people I care about are going to be saved. That speaks of prayer and personal commitment to obedience to Godís Word. You can care for the lost as deeply as Paul loved his countrymen. Ask God to give you a supernatural love for them.
When you love them, you will do whatever it takes to win them to Christ. You will pray, you will fast, you will live a life that reflects your own celebration of Godís free gift of forgiveness! Do those around you sense your joy and peace in Christ? If they donít, chances are you have lost sight of your forgiveness. Donít lose sight of your forgiveness!
Listen to some of the things Paul did as an individual to win others to Christ:
1Co 9:19 ¶ For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;
He served others.
1Co 9:20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;
1Co 9:21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;
He participated in the activities and customs of the Jews and the Gentiles, being careful not to engage in sin. Sometimes Christians will mingle with unbelievers, but also participate in their sin.....getting drunk, using foul language, or telling off color jokes....believe me, you are not helping your cause when you offend the only one who can help your cause!
Eph 4:28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (NKJV)
Furthermore Paul took extra care not to offend others:
1Co 9:22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.(NKJV)
The only thing that he offended people with was the gospel, but thatís not his fault. We are told to share the gospel and the gospel is offensive to many! People donít like the idea of salvation apart from works.
What about a church? What can we do? As a church, we need to examine our hearts in the area of sorrow for the lost. We need to guard against the attitude of feeding ourselves with spiritual knowledge and ignoring those who are on the path to hell.
What can we do to lead others to Christ? What can we throw overboard, (give up) to make a difference? As I pondered that question this week, I kept coming up with this answer:
Joh 13:35 "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
I believe this is something Living Word Lutheran can bring to the table. But itís going to take some effort. Itís going to take some sacrifice. Itís going to take patience. But isnít that what real love is all about? And wouldnít it be worth it, if by our acts of love and concern toward each other, just one person was snatched from the jaws of hell?
Maybe one of your children as they grow up in the Holy Spirit rich atmosphere of genuine Christian love will be saved from eternal destruction.
When a visitor comes to this church they should sense two things. (1) That we love God and that we love each other. Neither one of those loves will be evident if we only have begrudging or dutiful contact with the object of our love once a week. So it is vital that we seek additional areas or points of contact.
It is vital that we get involved with small group/relational Bible studies. That doesnít mean that we look for Bible Study material on building relationships. What it means is that you seek to gather around the word of God. Just read it together, let the Holy Spirit speak to you and discuss it.
The relational part comes in as we learn to be honest with each other and share our needs, and our concerns, and then seek to meet them through prayer and practical help. Where are such Bible studies at Living Word? You tell me. Who will step up to the plate and begin one?
Donít say thatís the pastorís job. Itís not. Itís my job to get you fired up enough to begin such relational groups. I remember our days at good Shepherd in Two Rivers. Pastor Dowdy had the revolutionary idea to allow the people of the congregation the freedom to start their own Bible Studies without direct pastoral supervision.
This was almost unheard of in Missouri Synod churches. Do you know that in the short time he was there, he turned out four men that are now full time pastors, one worship leader, and an activist who among other things was able to have pornography removed from his workplace.
Why all this success? I believe it was because he allowed his sheep the opportunity to get into the Word of God on their own, praying for each other and building relationships. The history of the AFLC church is linked to small groups of Christians gathering for study and prayer.
Please let me know when you would like to get started, so I can put an announcement in the bulletin!
If we have sorrow over the lost, and if we believe that the world will know that we are Christians by our love for each other, then we need to start throwing some things overboard in our life to make room for these relational activities.
Summer is winding down, letís purpose in our heart to become part of a small group Bible Study this fall and beyond! And letís not waver on this. Set our hearts like flints to git r done. Let our purpose be threefold. That we might grow in our love of the Word, our love of God, and our love for each other.
In this way, our immediate families and our neighbors and those who visit our church will know that we are followers of Jesus as they witness our love for Him and one another.
The real reason we do not have small group Bible Studies or a Sunday School program for the Matthew Kiefertís of this world, is because we do not have an undercurrent of sorrow for the lost. Lord, give us the heart of Paul in this matter. Let us be willing to be thrown overboard for the sake of the lost in this world.