Paul’s Passion for Souls
Scripture reading, Romans 9:1-5.
Certain forceful expressions that we find in this Scripture reading, such as, “Great heaviness,” “Continual sorrow,” and “I could wish myself accursed,” reveal to us Paul’s ardent passion for the souls of his fellow countrymen. From the moment, when on the Damascus road, he received the heavenly vision through which Christ was revealed to him as Saviour of men, Paul became all things to all men, that he might by all means save some. He affirms the reality of his burning desire by asserting that the Holy Ghost bore witness to the fact that he was speaking the truth in Christ. As we examine these pregnant words, may the same passion for souls be created in us by the Holy Spirit.
Let us notice his summing up of all the blessings which belonged to Israel as a nation: (a) the divine adoption belonged to them as a nation; (b) the glory which was the mark of God’s presence with them shone upon their encampment; (c) the covenants of God were formed with them; (d) the law was given to them through Moses; (e) the services of God in the tabernacle and the temple with all their spiritual significance belonged to Israel; (f) the promises found in the Word from Genesis to Malachi, were made to them and to their fathers; (g) the fathers, that is, the progenitors of the Jewish race, distinguished their ancestry; (h) the climax of this enumeration of blessings is reached as we read, “Of whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came.”
The thought that many of Israel still rejected Christ, caused Paul to here express his deep sorrow and his genuine concern for them.
There are three other passages in the Word of God comparable to his remarkable utterance, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” The first is Moses’ great prayer for the forgiveness of Israel when they had so shamefully bowed down to an idol made of gold (Ex. 32:29-33). They attributed delivering power to a god of their own making, instead of to the only true and living God.
When God proposed to blot them out as a nation, Moses pled with Him to blot out his name from the record of the living, and to spare sinful Israel.
The second is the request of Jonah to be thrown into the sea in order that those who sailed with him be saved (Jonah 1:12). The final word in this connection came from the lips of the Lord Jesus. As He was facing Calvary, He spoke of His death, saying, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit’’ (John 12:23-28). Praise God! He died as the corn of wheat, and the result is that a great harvest of souls will be garnered in glory.
In this statement, Paul expresses the yearning desire of a great winner of souls. As we bear in mind these salient words mentioned, let us ask ourselves, the meaning and the message of this passage. What does it teach us? May we suggest three things:
The Importance of a Deep Concern for the Salvation of Sinners.
The need of Israel as Paul sensed it is indicative of the need of all with whom we come in contact. Now compare the great concern of the Apostle with our own puny concern for the souls of the lost. We must feel humiliated by our lack of compassion for them, and we ought to pray that some of the passion of Paul might have a place in our hearts.
Paul had surely imbibed the spirit of His Lord Who, as He thought of their doom, wept over the sinners of Jerusalem. Think of Paul who was willing to go the length of being severed from Christ, if only he could ensure the salvation of his brethren according to the flesh. This intense desire has well been described by another as “a spark from the fire of Christ’s substitutionary love.” The gospel entrusted to us is for the whole world; may there be a revival of that yearning in our hearts for the perishing. May our prayer be:
“Lord give me a vision, a vision of Thee,
Lest people should perish who live around me.
A vision I pray Thee, a vision of love
To win those around me for heaven above.”
Loved Ones According to the Flesh Should be our First Concern
We owe to those relatives whom God has given us, our deepest concern for their salvation. The Lord’s words to Lot, when about to destroy Sodom, “Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place” (Gen. 19:12), should deeply move out hearts to supreme effort and earnest prayer on their behalf.
Israel was instructed to let none go out of the blood-sheltered house until the morning (Ex. 12:22). This indicates God’s gracious concern for the whole household. The promise of salvation to the jailor of Philippi was, “Thou and thy house.” Our loved ones should be influenced by our genuine concern for their eternal welfare. We should so live Christ before them that they may be won for the Saviour. Being associated with those who belong to Christ, augments their responsibility. This also should deepen our concern, lest their accumulated blessings bring greater judment upon them. Let us commit our loved ones to Christ, and although our faith and patience often be tried, and the worst of things happen, yet God is able and ready to grant the salvation for which we pray. When we have committed dear ones to the Lord, and have received the assurance that He hears and answers our prayers, there is nothing to be afraid of but doubting God.
Let this Concern for the Salvation of Sinners Become the Vehement Desire of our Lives
This concern will deepen if we do something about it. Let us be doers of the Word, and not hearers only.
Here are some suggestions whereby this concern may be increased:
(a) By giving ourselves to constant prayer for loved ones and others who need the Saviour.
(b) By making personal appeals to those whom we meet about their souls’ salvation.
(c) By the distribution of good sound gospel literature to those with whom we make contact, and also by enclosing good tracts in letters. Personally, I have received hundreds of requests for further gospel literature from those to whom tracts were first sent by mail.
The coming of the Lord draweth nigh; may the earnest consecration displayed in Paul’s life inspire us to gather in the lost ones for whom our Lord did die.
When the Lord comes, how blessed it will be to meet those in His presence whom we have helped to win for Christ. Paul in writing to the Thessalonians, reminds them that they would be his joy and crown of rejoicing in the presence of the Lord at His coming.
“When I am dying, how glad I shall be
That the lamp of my life has been blazed out for Thee:
I shall not mind in whatever I gave,
Labour or money — one sinner to save,
I shall not mind that the way has been rough:
That Thy dear feet led the way was enough.
When I am dying how glad I shall be
That the lamp of my life has been blazed out for Thee.”