I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
This is the first point in this fourth main section of Romans; and a curious point it is! Paul has made his grief and anguish clear; what he has not made clear is why he feels this way. We might even suspect that what Paul does not say here is as important as what he actually does say. There is a hint, for us in these verses, for Paul tells us that he could wish that he was cut off from Christ and cursed for the sake of Israel (v. 3). Could it be that Israel was cut off from Christ and cursed somehow?
Of all people, Paul would understand this whole situation, for he had been a Pharisee among Pharisees, a real up and comer you might say. His zeal for the Law and the traditions of his people was so great that he was a leader among those who persecuted the early church, not only in Judea, but in other areas as well. Yet one day on the Damascus road he had an encounter with Jesus Christ. While this part of Paul’s biography is remarkable, more remarkable still is the fact that of all people, Paul was the one called to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Pharisees were not known to care much for Gentiles; this we must understand.
Paul had been raised, educated and trained in Jewish Law, custom, culture and tradition; he loved everything Jewish. If any man understood the chasm that separated Jew from Gentile, it was Paul. If any man recognized what divided Jew from Christians, it was Paul. So what does God do with Paul? He sends Paul out as the Apostle to the Gentiles; amazing, simply amazing. I think that I am safe in saying that this move defies all human reasoning, but then God defies human reasoning quite a lot.
Having met Jesus on that road face-to-face, Paul has learned the truth of the Gospel message first hand, he recognizes like no other how the Scriptures have foretold of the coming of Jesus, and was perhaps the very first to fully comprehend the great error that his beloved people have made in rejecting Jesus, not to mention the consequences of their rejection, and when he thinks about it, he is filled with anguish and grief for their situation. Yet, he will answer his call to the Gentiles…
I have stated multiple times already that Romans is a persuasive essay on Christian teaching. In any persuasive argument that comprises a call to action, it is necessary for the author or speaker to establish that there is a problem, that there is a solution to the problem, and that the solution being offered is better than the current state. In the matter of Jewish versus Christian, Paul has just established that there is a problem for a person who is Jewish to come to grips with; they have turned away from God by their rejection of His Son. As this section moves forward, Paul will get into various facets of this problem, and it will become clear that accepting Jesus Christ is every bit as crucial for the Jew as it is for the Gentile, and in so doing I believe that he will also show that God is and always has been faithful in all of His dealings with Israel.