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©Bonnie LaBelle

Chapter 9:1-5 (ESV)

Posted on January 01, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 9:1-5 (ESV) - 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.They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Question to consider: Why do you think Paul had such a deep desire for the salvation of those who persecuted him?

At the point in which Paul was writing this letter, the tribulation, distress, and persecution of which he spoke was primarily imposed upon Christians by the Jews. Remember that this letter was written at the time the Jews were recently allowed back into Rome after being banished for these actions. A few years later, as Nero descended more and more into madness, he would blame Christians for the great fire in Rome and unleash a terrible persecution against them.

Paul’s comment here was to express the sincere anguish he felt that his own kinsmen would reject their Messiah and hold such hatred for the gospel message. The danger of a chapter break is that we tend to forget Paul’s discourse leading up to this when in fact, it should be understood in light of it.

Paul was reassuring the Christians that the tribulations they faced were not a sign that they were wrong to put their faith in Christ, but in fact it was a sign that the love of Christ was stronger than anything the enemies of God could throw at them. One of the greatest sources of anger among the Jews towards Christians was the idea that the Law couldn’t save them but only the work of Christ in keeping the Law on their behalf. The idea that they would be baptized like dirty Gentiles and receive the same inheritance in Christ was unthinkable.

Even today, there are those who treat the gospel going out to the Gentiles as God’s “plan B” because Jesus was rejected by His own. However, Paul’s arguments leading up to this passage were really clear that all believers (whether Jew or Gentile) were predestined, called, justified and glorified by the work of God alone. We should understand “predestined” as this being God’s plan since before time began. This will become more apparent as we continue through the next few chapters.

People argue over whether Paul was being hyperbolic when he wrote that he wished he could be accursed and cut off from Christ if it meant that his kinsmen would come to faith. It is hard to argue one way or the other on this since Paul wrote it knowing that this was not possible. So I think it’s best to understand it as a deep expression of the anguish he felt that his own people would reject their Messiah. After all, he was once among them before encountering Christ on the road to Damascus. They were willing to listen to him when he was persecuting the church. He wished with every fiber of his being that they were willing to listen to him now that he knew the truth.

They had been adopted as God’s people, been given the shekinah glory of God in the temple, the covenants and promises, the Law, and the instructions for worship. Christ (who Paul proclaims as the God over all) even was descended from their own kinsmen. The patriarchs would have recognized their Messiah. If only they would as well. The great stumbling block was that Christ was crucified, and being hung on a tree was clearly stated as being cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). While it is true that Jesus was cursed by God on the cross, the curse He bore was our own.


Dear heavenly Father, thank You for initiating a redemption plan for all people after Adam rebelled against You in the garden. How wonderful it is that Christ reigns with You on high after bearing our curse on the tree. May all who read this understand their need for Him and receive His gift of righteousness. Amen.