Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.…
I. A TITLE WHICH SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN. "Brethren" has in its surroundings here more than one lesson for us. Did we remember this in the world, what a very much better world it would be; how much more and truer interest we would take in each other; how much less selfishness, how much more sympathy there would be felt and manifested. And, then, if we remembered it in the church, how much liker Christ the Church and Christians would be.
II. A MARRIAGE WHICH NONE SHOULD DIVORCE. "My heart's desire and prayer to God." Let these two always be united. Then our heart's desires shall be right, and our prayers real; and then too our heart's desires shall be granted, our prayers answered. View the phrase for a moment from both sides. First, as it stands. Whatever is our heart's desire, let us make it our prayer to God. For several reasons we should do so; but to mention only two, one is, should our heart's desire be wrong, we shall find ourselves unable to pray for it; or in the very praying for it we shall discover its wrongness; and so praying against it we shall get rid of it, and rid too of the distraction which it causes. And the second is, if on the other hand our heart's desire be right, prayer to God is the true way and the sure way to secure it. Turn also the phrase about, and learn from it another lesson. Our prayer to God should be, and ever, our heart's desire, and we do not pray really until or unless it is so.
III. A PATRIOTISM ABOVE SUSPICION: "FOR ISRAEL." Not all so-called patriotism is above suspicion. Sometimes it is simply partyism, and the interests of a section are sought, not of the nation as a whole. Sometimes, again, patriotism is but personalism; apparently zealous for the country or for the party, some are simply seeking through the party to serve and secure their own individual interests. Such patriotism bears the name, but it is not the thing. The patriotism, however, here exemplified, is of another stamp. It is patriotism of the highest kind and type.
IV. A NEED WHICH IS THE MOST IMPERATIVE. "That they might be saved." Paul tells us elsewhere that he felt this need the most imperative for himself. He says, "I count all things but loss," etc. (Philippians 3:8, 9). And so here he speaks of it in the same way for others. And is it not so? Is this not the principal thing? What about health; what about wealth; what about all the gratification of earthly pleasures, the carrying out of earthly plans, the establishing of earthly prospects in comparison, or rather in contrast, with this? We need to be saved because we have sinned, and because we are already under sentence, and because we are utterly unable to remove or to escape that sentence by any merits or by any efforts of our own.. And let us rejoice that we may be saved. God is not willing that any should perish.
V. AN EARNESTNESS WHICH MAY BE AN ERROR. "For I bear them record," he continues, "that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." This may be said too about many of our countrymen. They put us to shame by the attention they pay to religious rights and duties. It might be said too about some amongst ourselves. But let us remember religiousness is not always religion. To be saved, we must come to a knowledge of the truth. Mere earnestness, mere sincerity will not avail.
VI. AN IGNORANCE WHICH IS QUITE INEXCUSABLE. "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness." God's righteousness means here, God's method of justification; and this phrase suggesting the question, what is that method? may I not characterise ignorance of it as quite, inexcusable. God has so plainly, and fully, and repeatedly revealed it in His Word, "that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein." See the succeeding verses here from the 5th to the 10th.
VII. AN EFFORT WHICH MUST ALWAYS BE A FAILURE. "And going about to establish their own righteousness." Many would like to be saved, but they do not like to be beholden to Christ for salvation; or at all events they do not like to be beholden to Him entirely. And so they "go about to establish their own righteousness," wearying themselves for very vanity. The apostles idea or image here would seem to be as if men in this attempt were trying continuously to set up upon its feet that which had no feet to stand upon; or as if they were persevering with stones unsquared, and mortar untempered to raise up, upon an insecure foundation, a wall which, ever as they raised it, tottered and toppled down again.
VIII. AN OBSTINACY WHICH MUST END IN RUIN. That is, it must do so if we continue it. If we wilt not submit ourselves to the righteousness of God; if, in other words, we will not consent to be saved through the redemption and righteousness of Christ; then we utterly shut the door of hope against ourselves, and leave God no alternative but to pronounce our doom. Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God through Him; but there is no salvation in any other.
IX. A DIRECTION WHICH IS SIMPLE AND CERTAIN. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." In order to salvation men can do nothing; but Christ has done all; He "has made an end of sin and brought in everlasting righteousness."
X. A sine qua non OF SALVATION. Many forget or fail to realise this: and therefore look for salvation to mercy alone. They do not take into account that if the sinner is to be saved, he cannot under the administration of God the righteous judge be so by any suspension of law, or setting aside of it; or by any failure to meet its just demands either of precept or punishment. In the salvation of the sinner, in other words, truth and mercy must meet together; and righteousness and peace embrace each other: and these can only meet, can only embrace in "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
XI. AN OPPORTUNITY ABUNDANTLY OPEN TO ALL. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
XII. A MEANS SUBLIMELY SIMPLE TO A SALVATION SUBLIMELY SURE AND GLORIOUS. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
(D. Jamison, B.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.