Romans 9, Israel and Today (1/4)

Israel’s Rejection of Christ

Romans 9:1-5, 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, 4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Paul’s Overall Message

Paul is pouring out his heart to the Romans about Israel’s rejection of Christ.  He comes with a message of truth in Christ of something that is laying a great deal of continual sorrow in his heart.  The message is that he wishes he could be accursed from Christ for his countrymen. The people of Rome, of which Paul was a citizen.  

Why does he wish this?  He had a deep love for them all so much that he would gladly take a curse if they would change their hearts and accept Christ as their savior.  He finishes this piece of the letter by emphasizing it all with an “Amen” (so be it).  

9:1-2 – “I tell you the truth in Christ”

Paul revives “I tell you the truth”, but adds “in Christ”.  Why? Paul cannot declare truth. That was Jesus’ authority.  Paul is an apostle and witness of Jesus Christ. He is continuing on Jesus’ ministry, not redefining or adding to it.

After declaring truth in Christ, he says “I am not lying.” Paul then reminds us that the Holy Spirit will also convict him, so in that regards he’s building a case for Christ’s truth that he’s giving witness of and taking the focus off of himself. 

Truth is a word, or even concept, being kicked around the mud a lot today.  The younger generations are being raised to question what truth is and to live out their own truths.

I heard one argument over the color of a man’s coat.  He was wearing a white coat. The person he was talking to used that coat to make a point.  When he told him that his truth was that he was wearing a red coat, the guy stuttered and stumbled.

You can’t refute what is truth if you dive into the gospels and listen to what Jesus had to say about truth.

John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Just like only God is good, Jesus is the truth. Whatever Jesus spoke and did is what we should lean on.  Jesus also told us how to understand the truth. 

John 8:31-32, 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

The world has a very open opinion of what “the truth” is these days.  Some are saying “there are no truths”. Others claim “truth is what you want it to be”.  Here, Jesus tells us that the way to the truth is through Him, and if we abide in His word, we will be His disciples.  After that, we will know the truth.

I would challenge you to read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) and count the number of times Jesus said things like “Verily”, “I tell you the truth”, or even just do a word search for “truth”.  In that study you can find all the truths in life. You may find it easier to start by searching different translations and comparing. 

Paul spent two verses emphasizing that what he was saying was genuine.  He was telling the truth in Christ and he pointed to the Holy Spirit to keep him in line.  To me, this shows that Paul clearly understood the need to emphasize all of this to get the attention of his readers, the Roman people.  It also tells me that Paul was genuine in wanting to preach the gospel, not his own message. 

Paul finally gets to his main point that he has great sorrow and continual grief in his heart.  This is why he comes on so heavy in verse one and puts such an emphasis on things. Imagine if you were worked up and very upset about something.  Imagine the dramatic outpouring that you might give to people listening to what you have to say.

12:3-5, “Paul Would Rather Be Accursed“

The word “accursed” means “under a curse”.  Paul cared so much for the Roman people that he would have given himself up to a curse if it would make them repent and turn to Christ.

Have you ever prayed begging God to take away a sickness from your child, a family member, friend, and give it to you instead?  This is what Paul is feeling here.

Paul saw the Israelites as the ones who had the adoption of the laws, the covenant, the law, the temple, the services, and the promises.  This goes all the way back to Abraham, Moses and others. We’ll focus a little bit on Abraham and Moses in just a minute.  

Paul could never forgive himself for all the persecution he dished out.  He labelled himself as less than the least of all.

Ephesians 3:8, To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Let’s revisit the list of things God chose for the Israelites.  The law, the covenants, the adoption, the glory, the law, and the Service of God.  Here Paul makes his point; These are God’s chosen people; Here is why; Here is how badly I want them to accept Christ.  

I mentioned Abraham and Moses.  Let’s talk about the covenant first.  This goes back to Abraham and the Abrahamic covenant. God promised that his descendants would always have a very large piece of land. This piece of land is described by God as a much bigger area that Israel occupies today.  God isn’t done with Israel yet. 

You can read more on this covenant in Genesis 15:18-21.  Got Questions also has a great write up on the subject.

Now let’s focus on The Law.  Moses was called by God at age 80 to lead his people out of Egypt.  They were to follow God (literally) to the promised land. Along the way, they grumbled, worshipped idols, and even drove Moses completely nuts.  Along this journey is where Moses was given the ten commandments. 

You can learn more about Moses’ journey and leading his people plus more on the ten commandments as you read Exodus and Deuteronomy.  The first five books of the Bible are referred to by the Jews as the Torah, or The Law. Got Questions also has a great write up on the subject of the Ten Commandments.

Applying This To Today

Paul is speaking to his countrymen when he writes this letter, but we can apply the same approach to our own people today.  We can deliver the truth that is Jesus to everyone around us.

We should love these people so much that we’d give anything to see them saved. Backing away from a tough situation or avoiding someone because they’re not like us doesn’t give us reason to not show them this kind of love.  When you hear stories of people rejecting Christ, it should grieve you just as Paul was grieved. You should long to see everyone around you accept Christ, not shy away from a situation.

Imagine how you’d feel if you avoided someone for months. They were always coming into your path, but they were a little bit too talkative, or a little bit too needy.  Then you found out they passed away never knowing Christ and his gift of eternity. Please don’t take this as a scare tactic, it isn’t meant to be one. It’s a harsh reality of how the Christian world is today.

I know I’m laying it on a bit heavy, but these are real situations. We should want to take as many people with us into eternity with Christ as we can. Pouring out our hearts to them is how we can do that. 

Review Questions:

  1. What does Paul mean when he says he wants to be accursed?
  2. Why does he gives us the truth “in Christ”?
  3. What is Paul addressing in this passage?
  4. Who have you been avoiding that doesn’t know Christ?

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe the Abrahamic covenant.
  2. Why is this covenant so important?
  3. What is The Law?
  4. Why is this so important?
  5. Do you feel the same way about “your people” that Paul felt about his?  Should you?

About This Series

This is my new series breaking down Romans 9 and applying it to your life today.  In this part of the epistle, Paul is talking directly to Israelites in Rome.  In this 4 part series, I’ll break down each section of chapter 9, challenge you, and show you show you can apply it to today’s life.  I’ve included discussion questions and review questions to make you think even further at the end of each part.  This is a 4 series.  Here’s the schedule:

Part 1 – Romans 9:1-5, September 3, 2019

Part 2 – Romans 9:6-13, TBD

Part 3 – Romans 9:14-29, TBD

Part 4 – Romans 9:30-33, TBD

Written by Dan
This is my collection of bible study lessons and book reviews. I am the Executive Pastor of Cross Waves Church and graduate of the Willmington School of the Bible, part of the Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity.