I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ
Romans 9:1-5 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: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
This text expresses a sentiment (an impulse, a desire) of the heart of the not possible – that Paul might be accursed, devoted to destruction, in the stead of his kinsmen.[i] It is reminiscent of Moses’s intercession for his people, “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written” (Exodus 32:32). Matthew Henry writes, “Being about to discuss the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, and to show that the whole agrees with the sovereign electing love of God, the apostle expresses strongly his affection for his people.” His affection for his people is even more striking when we see the animosity of Paul’s people for him.
The religious Jews’ attitude and actions toward Paul.
After the young persecutor (Acts 9:2; 22:19) was converted on the road to Damascus, religious Jews[ii] began to persecute him and continued throughout his ministry.
- Jews at Damascus tried to kill him. Acts 9:22-25
- Jews in Jerusalem sought to kill him. Acts 9:28-30
- Jews at Antioch Pisidia had Paul expelled from the region. Acts 13:45-50
- Jews at Iconium stirred up an attempt to stone Paul and Barnabas. Acts 14:1-5
- Jews from Antioch Pisidia and Iconium persuaded the people at Lystra to stone Paul. Acts 14:6-7,19
- Jews at Thessalonica caused an uproar, and Paul and Barnabas were sent away for their safety. Acts 17:1-5
- Jews from Thessalonica stirred up trouble in Berea. Acts 17:13-14
- Jews at Corinth brought Paul before the judgment seat of Gallio. Acts 18:12-13
- Jews at Ephesus spread an evil report against Paul. Acts 19:8-9
- Jews in Greece tried to accost him. Acts 20:2-3
- Jews at Jerusalem assaulted Paul with the intention to kill him. Acts 21:27-31
- Jews at Jerusalem rejected his testimony and called for his execution. Acts 22:22-23
- Forty Jews at Jerusalem bound themselves under an oath with a curse to kill Paul. Acts 23:12,30
- Jews accused Paul in legal proceedings before the governor, Felix. Acts 24:1-6
- Jews informed Festus against Paul and asked he be brought back to Jerusalem. (Paul was still in Caesarea.) Acts 25:1-3
- Jews from Jerusalem come to Caesarea to (falsely) accuse Paul. Acts 25:6-7
- Paul related how they caught him and sought to kill him, and why. Acts 26:20-22
Paul’s attitude and actions toward the religious Jews.
God gave Paul an unique apostleship to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13), but he always loved and preached to Jews as well.
- Paul preached Christ at Damascus. Acts 9:20-22
- Paul preached in the synagogue at Salamis. Acts 13:5
- Paul preached in the synagogue at Antioch Pisidia. Acts 13:14-16
- Paul preached in the synagogue at Iconium. Acts 14:1
- Paul preached in the synagogue at Thessalonica. Acts 17:1
- Paul preached in the synagogue at Berea. Acts 17:10
- Paul preached in the synagogue at Corinth. Acts 18:4
- Paul preached in the synagogue at Ephesus. Acts 18:19
- Paul preached in the synagogue at Ephesus (again, when he came back). Acts 19:8
- Paul preached repentance and faith to the Jews (as well as the Gentiles). Acts 20:21
- Paul claims he did nothing wrong to the Jews. Acts 25:10
- Paul preached repentance and turning to God. Acts 26:20
- Paul preached to the Jews in Rome. Acts 28:17,23
Biblical considerations and conclusions
- Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
- Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
- 2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
- 2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
- Romans 8:35-37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
- Romans 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
Without question, Paul was a better man than I. Paul was called of God, he endured persecution from the beginning of his calling until the end, he was faithful to his calling in much tribulation, and he never lost his love for those who hindered and persecuted him. Who couldn’t use a dose of that? Many American Christians, under the first sniff of opposition, quickly lose their love for their enemies, for their fellow-citizens, and for their kinsmen according to the flesh. “Help us, O Lord our God… Help us, O God of our salvation.”
[ii] I struggled to find an apt description of these Jews. I chose this term because Paul described them as having a zeal toward God, but not according to knowledge. It was not all Jews that persecuted Paul. The apostles and most early disciples were Jews as well. Paul was a Jew himself, and he calls his persecutors his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” Certain zealous Jews who adhered to the Old Testament and rejected Jesus as the Messiah are those who opposed Paul.