3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: [Who are Israelites]
This is one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament, as it now stands in the English version. In the preceding chapter he had asked, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay," says he, "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Should all these things fail to make him accursed, and should the anxiety he felt for the salvation of his persecuting countrymen even hypothetically prevail? This cannot be. His wish to be accursed, or separated from the love of God to be manifested in full through Christ Jesus, must have some other import than this.
Mr. Frey, an Israelite who admits the claims of Jesus to Messiahship, has proposed the following solution of the difficulty: Read the second and third verses, omitting the words, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ;" then, afterwards replace them where they belong, and read them as in a parenthesis, with "I did wish" instead of "I could wish." Thus, "I have a great heaviness, and continued sorrow in my heart * * * for my brethren, my kinsmen according to flesh, who are Israelites:" then, "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart (for I did myself wish to be accursed from Christ) for my brethren, my kinsmen according to flesh, who are Israelites."
This exhibits the mind of the apostle very clearly. He had great heaviness and sorrow for Israel, because they were while he was dictating his letter, as he was before his conversion. He had doubtless wished himself accursed from Jesus; and was probably an individual of the crowd which cried out "His blood be on us, and on our children!" After Paul was enlightened, and came to measure his position at that crisis of Christ's affliction, he beheld it in all its hideousness, so as to create in him a poignant sympathy for his kinsmen, who still remained under that self imprecated curse.
Euchomeen, the original word, translated "could wish" in the common version, is the imperfect middle, and is rendered by "I was wishing," "I wished," or "I did wish." This accords with what we have said above. He imprecated a curse upon himself-a past action-while he was in an unconverted state-another thing in the past: but when enlightened, neither all Israelites, "nor any other created thing," could induce him to wish himself accursed again.
This part of Paul's experience well fitted him for sympathy with his unbelieving countrymen. Mr. Frey has well said, "He who has just been rescued from a dangerous fit of sickness, feels more for a sick person, than he who never knew what sickness means. Hence, even the Son of God himself needed to be tempted and tried, that he might be able to succour them that are tempted."
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to come, Feb 1853
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
To carry out the allegory, God has yet to make of the Ishmael-seed a great nation; for though Ishmael was an outcast and a wanderer in the wilderness, God promised that he should be great, and dwell in the presence of his brethren (Gen. 16:12; 17:20).
The children of Abraham according to the flesh are "the children of the kingdom," as well as the children of the promise; only these two classes of children stand in a different relation to the government and glory of the commonwealth, and to the dominion of the nations in the age to come. The Ishmael-children were cast out of the government by the Romans; but the children in Isaac will "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," when the kingdom is restored again to Israel (Acts 1:6).
"In the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory," the children in Isaac will reign as "sons" while the children of the flesh will be the King's subjects, or "servants." This distinction is apparent from the following testimony:
"Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes throughout all the earth" (Psalm 45:16); of whom it is said, "If the Prince give a gift unto any of His sons, the inheritance thereof shall be His sons'; it shall be their possesion by inheritance. But if He give a gift of His inheritance to one of His servants, then it shall be his to the year of liberty; and after it shall return to the Prince: but His inheritance shalt be His sons' for them" (Ezek. 46:16, 17).
The sons of the Prince are joint heirs with Him; but the servants of the Prince are only lease-holders for a certain number of years.
Elpis Israel 2.2.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
No one had the right, or the power, to appoint "the Heir of all things," but God. Abraham could not appoint Him, neither could He be self-appointed. Abraham wished that Ishmael might be the heir; or as he expressed it, "0 that Ishmael might live before Thee." But God would not consent to this. He therefore promised to give him one for the heir, whom be should call Isaac; and of whom He said, I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him" (Gen. 17:19).
But Isaac was not only born of promise; he believed the promises likewise; for the Scripture saith, "by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come." Now, it is written, "in Isaac shall thy seed be called ;" that is, Christ shall descend frorn him, and all who believe thcpromises, and put on Christ, shall be considered as "in Isaac;" and, being thus "the children of the promise," shall be "counted for the seed" (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 4:28), who shall inherit the land and the world for ever.
"The seed," then, is a phrase that must be understood in a twofold sense; first as referring to Christ, and secondly, to all who are constitutionally in Him. Isaac is representative of both; for Christ was in his loins, and all "in Him," must be constitutionally in Isaac also.
For want of understanding the Scripture doctrine of the two seeds some very fatal mistakes have been made by many well meaning persons. They have gone so far as to deny that the seed of Abraham after the flesh will ever be restored to the land of Canaan; which is in effect to deny the fulfilment of a vast proportion of "the testimony of God." The seed of the serpent, and the seed of the woman, indicated before the flood, were afterwards distinguished in the seed of Ishmael, and the seed of Isaac."
Elpis Israel 2.2.
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
We are the clay in the hand of the Potter. We are the material. He has made us as we are, and He will make us into whatever we shall be. We ask then, Is anything expected of us? Does God just pick some here and there haphazardly for His purpose? We do not entertain that idea for a moment.
Something is expected even of the potter's clay. It must be suitable material. First and above all, it must be workable. Not stiff and hard and crusted. It must yield itself to the hand of the potter. Clay that was satisfied with its present shapelessness and resisted the Potter, or wanted a shape of its own, would be useless.
Then it must have sufficient consistency to hold the shape into which the Potter forms it. Flabby material is no good. "God hath no pleasure in fools" (Ecc. 5:4). He knows our possibilities and will not be deceived, though we deceive ourselves.
Then, to fill a useful role, the clay must pass through the fire. It must be hardened -- not too much fire or it will forever be destroyed -- but just that degree that is necessary to achieve the best results. The All-wise Potter knows exactly how much each vessel needs, and exactly how much each can stand.
Bro Growcott - Holy and Blameless in Love