I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.~ Romans 9:1-3
This is such a unique transition here from chapter 8 into chapter 9. Reflect on this with me for a moment. At the end of chapter 8 it is as though you’ve reached the summit of the mountain. It is there you enjoy some of the grandest views of the Gospel one could ever possibly think upon. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus!
There is nothing so sweet, so comforting, so joyful as this! And there you stand on that mountain top for a while, simply basking in beautiful rays of the love of God for us. But then you turn the page of your Bible to Romans 9 and immediately we see Paul saying, “WHAT SORROW!” It is somewhat startling.
Dear reader, we can bask in the love of God and we should camp out there. Please, by all means necessary, camp out there! But hear me now. The more we do so, the more our hearts will fill with compassion. And the more our hearts will be filled with a burden for perishing souls. That seems to be the instruction which is being shouted from that white area between Romans 8:39 and Romans 9:1. Paul arrived at the point where he could say what he does say here in these opening verses of Romans 9 only because he so deeply and consistently experienced the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And now we will see the Apostle Paul struggle to put into words the deep pain that resides in his heart. You see in verses 2-3 Paul trying to put into words what is simply impossible to fully express. He is attempting to describe his heart sorrow and scrambling to find words for it. This ‘sorrow’ is an afflicting sorrow, one painful in nature. His heart really hurts for his kinsmen. He is stricken with grief on their behalf. He is not up in his ivory tower gloating over his position in Christ. He is weeping over their position outside of Christ!
And in addition to this great sorrow, Paul experiences this unceasing anguish as well. This anguish is intense. The word speaks to feeling distressed. He has opened up his own heart to the Saints in Rome and to us reading the epistle today. This same heart that knows ‘joy and peace in believing’ also knows ‘great sorrow and unceasing anguish’. And this is true to some degree of all who are united to Jesus Christ.
It reminds me so much of the heart of the Lord Jesus.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.~ Matthew 9:36
Jesus was so moved in His being with pity and compassion, he tirelessly labored for the souls of men. Or we see our Lord standing at the outskirts of Jerusalem, overlooking the city, knowing of the judgment to come upon them.
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”~ Luke 19:41-44
Paul, clearly shares in this sorrow with His Lord. He, too, is burdened to see his people come to Christ and count all their religious privilege as dung.
I’ve never yet loved enough to feel as Paul feels here. But I long to love more, to love sinners better. I’ve got a long way to go…God help me!