Scripture Passage: Romans 9:1-5
A man named Saul persecuted the church of Jesus Christ. Yet this man ultimately became a great man of God, the Apostle Paul. He was an unlikely candidate for sainthood…
4 “The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee … 9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the
saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. 11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them. (Acts 26:4-5, 9-11, NIV)
12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 About noon … as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. 14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me … ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ” ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. (Acts 26:12-15, NIV)
“‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. (Acts 22:10, NIV)
16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of Me and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’ (Acts 26:16-18, NIV)
The persecutor Saul was changed into passionate Paul – he had a passion for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost. The lost are all people whose lives have been marred by sin and thus have no relationship with our holy and righteous God. In spite of his past, Paul found forgiveness and eternal life through the LORD Jesus. And he was passionate about sharing what Jesus can do for you.
Like Paul, we all have a past we would like to forget. Yet forgiveness and eternal life is a gift of God’s grace. Looking at people through the compassionate eyes of God and remembering what he has done for us should inspire the same passion for the lost that Paul embraced.
- Realize God’s Concern
- Reflect God’s Concern
1. Realize God’s Concern – a Passion for the Lost.
When the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus encountered the living Christ, he placed his faith in Christ and committed his life to following Christ as LORD. After that, he became known as the Apostle Paul. God saved Paul and turned his life completely around.
To the Jewish people it must have seemed like Paul turned his back on them. “Saul of Tarsus has abandoned his Jewish heritage and his people!” they might have said.
Here we see that is not true at all – quite the opposite in fact! Paul had a passion for the lost people of Israel:
1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (Romans 9:1-5, NIV)
Did I read this right – did Paul actually want his people to be saved so badly that he was willing to give up his salvation? Yes, he had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” over their separation from God. Paul knew that his salvation was secure – not in his desires or emotions or goodness – but in the promise and power of God. Eternal life is … eternal. Paul could not bargain away his salvation and neither can we.
This is a figure of speech called hyperbole – using a huge exaggeration to make a point.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NIV) Paul was trying to convey how much he loved his people and longed for them to know the living Christ.
What was so special or unique about the Jewish people that God chose them out of all the nations of the world? Nothing and everything…
- Nothing – in that they were not a nation; God created the nation of Israel.
- Everything – in that they received such great revelation from God.
In Genesis chapter 11, God saw mankind rise up to rebel against Him at the tower of Babel. He confused their language and thus established people groups we call nations. Out of this confused, rebellious world, God chose one man – Abraham – to be the father of a new nation. This people group, who were not even a people group before God called Abraham, would be given great revelation from God to declare His holiness to the world.
Paul noted 8 distinctions for the Jewish people (Romans 9:4-5, NIV):
- Adoption as sons
- Theirs the divine glory
- The covenants
- The receiving of the law
- The temple worship
- The promises
- Theirs are the patriarchs
- From them is traced the human ancestry of Christ
The Jewish people, out of all the nations in the world, had more revelation and opportunity from God to be saved. Paul longed for their salvation because:
- They were his people.
- They had received such great blessings from God.
- They needed God’s mercy.
How does your heart yearn for the salvation of your people? Do you have the same concern that God has for His people?
God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Timothy 2:4-6, NIV)
This says that God desired salvation for all of us and He has given Himself to make provision for everyone to be saved. Your people may be the people you work with everyday. Your people may be the ball team you coach. Your people may be your schoolmates. Your people may be the people in your neighborhood. Whatever your sphere of influence – Do you realize God’s concern for the lost? And will you give yourself to this same yearning? Will your people find God’s salvation through your sacrifice or will they wander aimlessly?
2. Reflect God’s Concern – a Passion for the Lost
How do you develop or acquire a passion for the lost? Here are eight action points to stoke the fire of passion in your soul:
(1) Sober reality
Ponder where you would really be without the LORD Jesus in your life.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV)
(2) Need for mercy
Believe that apart from God’s grace and power poured out on a lost person, there is no hope (1 Corinthians 3:36).
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. (Titus 3:3-5, NIV)
(3) Mutual concern
Friends have similar interests and passions. Knowing God’s all-encompassing passion for the lost, set your heart on sharing His passion.
…God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4, NIV)
(4) Sufficiency of the cross
Believe that the cross of Christ is sufficient to pay for the sins of any and every lost person.
For Christ died for sins, once for all, the Righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (1 Peter 3:18, NIV)
(5) Power and Passion of the Holy Spirit
Believe that God is drawing people to Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit convicting and convincing (John 16:8-11; 13-14). Without the Holy Spirit, you would not have understood the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:12).
(6) Learn to share the gospel
Good news cannot wait to be shared. And faith grows through the word of God. Once you learn how to present the gospel, you will have good news to share that you will want to share with the lost (Colossians 1:3-7).
(7) Earnest prayer
Intercede for the lost in your sphere of influence through earnest prayer.
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. (Romans 10:1, NIV)
(8) Intentional friendship
Intentionally make friends with lost people instead of just Christians. Instead of being repelled by their behavior, remember that Christ gave His life for them and called you to follow Him.
Not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. (1 Corinthians 5:10, NIV)
Consider how fortunate you are that God had such incredible concern for your salvation! Realize that His concern is now your concern – this is why he has left you in the world. Prayerfully reflect on these action points and then put feet to your prayers. Passionately reach out to people you naturally meet during the week. And strive to reach further to people you do no normally encounter. People need the LORD Jesus!