Agonizing Apostle Paul Over The Lost
Romans 9:1-5 KJV. I tell the truth in Christ, I do not lie, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, (2) that I have great heaviness and continual pain in my heart. (3) For I myself was wishing to be accursed from Christ for my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh, (4) who are Israelites; to whom belong the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises; (5) whose are the fathers, and of whom is the Christ according to flesh, He being God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
The Jews had a wonderful, deep and lasting spiritual heritage: to whom belong the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises; (5) whose are the fathers, and of whom is the Christ according to flesh
However, they had taken this heritage and turned it into a system based on human pride and spiritual achievement. They set up their own standards of righteousness, based on rule-keeping and respectability – and they failed to accept the grace and faith-based righteousness that was offered by Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:1-4 KJV Brothers, truly my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is for it to be saved. (2) For I bear record to them that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. (3) For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.
Despite their zeal for God, Israel still needed salvation. Earnestness was not enough. Good intentions and sincerity was not enough. And fastidious law-keeping was not enough. The Jews needed – and still need the salvation that is found only in Christ Jesus.
This has bearing on inter-faith dialogue today for if the Jews are not saved, then neither will the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sufis, Sikhs, Jainists, or Zoroastrians be saved! In fact no one can be saved apart from faith in Christ Jesus! The following verses back this up:
Acts 4:12 MKJV And there is salvation in no other One; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
1 John 5:11-12 MKJV And this is the record, that God has given to us everlasting life, and this life is in His Son. (12) He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1 Timothy 2:3-6 MKJV For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, (4) who will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (5) For God is one, and there is one Mediator of God and of men, the Man Christ Jesus, (6) who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
Out of the kindness of their hearts most Christians would like the Jews and the sincere Muslims and the nice peaceful Buddhists to be saved. It seems unfair that they are not saved. Indeed the lack of salvation of the Jews caused Paul deep pain and unceasing agony in his heart! And who is kinder than God who desires that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the Truth! So, if God is so kind why are not the good, respectable, nice, clean-living Jews saved?
Firstly salvation is not so much about getting into Heaven as it is about getting to know God and becoming like Him. And so if we refuse relationship with God, then we can go no further, no matter how nice we are. In fact, our niceness can even get in the way of our salvation. It may lead us to become smug and proud and to lack repentance and faith and thus ultimately to rely on our own good works instead of relying on what Christ has done for us.
Paul was so desperate for the salvation of the Jews that he would have foregone his own salvation if that sacrifice would have brought the Jews to faith in Jesus Christ. But it could not and would not. The Jews would have to make their own decision for or against Jesus.
We are to be intercessors for the unreached, unceasingly crying out to God that they may be saved: Brothers, truly my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is for it to be saved. We can put Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists or the people group that the Lord has placed in our heart into that verse e.g Brothers, truly my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Kazakhs is for them to be saved.
Intercession and salvation are closely linked in Scripture, whether it be physical salvation from an approaching enemy or from a storm or the spiritual salvation from sin that is in Christ Jesus - and history tells us every great outbreak of salvation has been preceded by prevailing prayer!
We need to pray that proud hearts will be broken down and that people will put aside self-righteousness and accept the righteousness that is in Christ Jesus for self-righteousness stops salvation in its tracks:
Romans 10:3-4 (3) For they, being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. (4) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.
Galatians 5:2-6 MKJV Behold, I, Paul, say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. (3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do all the Law, (4) you who are justified by Law are deprived of all effect from Christ; you fell from grace. (5) For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness out of faith. (6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any strength, but faith working through love.
[The problem with Jewish circumcision being that it was an attempt to gain righteousness from ceremony and tradition rather than through faith.]
This is why Islam is so resistant to Christ – for it is a system of self-righteous works without assured forgiveness or grace.
We should agonize over the lost, and not “just vaguely hope” they will be saved, but rather we should pray for them and go to them, and ensure that they hear the gospel !
Romans 10:12-15 MKJV For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord over all
is rich to all who call on Him. (13) For everyone, "whoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved." (14) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without preaching? (15) And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!"
Nicodemus was at the top of the Jewish theological, social and ecclesiastical tree but he had to be born-again in order to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:1-12) and in the very next chapter of John's gospel we find someone who was as far in the other direction as possible, a Samaritan woman who had five marriages and now living in sin, also entering the Kingdom of God. The side by side comparison of Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman is a deliberate teaching tool by John the Apostle and shows us that social position, up or down, male or female, educated or uneducated, Jew or Samaritan, insider or outsider, is irrelevant, even utterly irrelevant. What matters is believing in Christ Jesus and entering into the Kingdom of God!
So physical descent did not entitle the Jews to automatic salvation – they still had to believe. And having Moses and the prophets and the law and the Temple and the sacrifices did not entitle the Jews to automatic salvation – they still had to believe.
God's promises work for those who believe and they do not come about for those who refuse to believe. If Israel had all believed, then all Israel would have been saved, and indeed this will happen one day! (We will see that, and why it has been delayed as we go through Romans 9-11)
Why then does God not compel all to believe? Because belief must be related in some way to character, and especially to repentance. If even the defiant rogue was compelled to believe, and did not abandon being a defiant rogue, but increased in treachery while still believing in God, then Heaven would quickly become Hell. Giving eternal life to wicked hearts is a recipe for disaster – which is why after the Fall, Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden and the tree of life was put out of reach, guarded by a flaming cherub.
And so repentance and faith must go hand in hand. The wicked must not enter the Kingdom of God, but only the truly repentant must go in, who accept the cost of becoming like Christ.