My Kinsmen According to the Flesh
November 7th, 1954 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11/7/54 7:30 p.m.
In our preaching through the Word we have come to a very distinct and separate section in the Book of Romans. If you have your Bible, turn to the ninth, the tenth, and the eleventh chapters of the Book of Romans. In the last message that the pastor brought to the church, we concluded with the climatic peroration of the eighth chapter of the book. The first part of the Book of Romans, the first eight chapters, concerns the plan of salvation, the God-kind of righteousness. Not a man’s kind, that cannot save, but a God-kind of righteousness – the kind that God will accept: the justification by faith, how a man is saved. The theology of that, the discussion of that, is the first eight chapters of the Book of Romans.
Now the next three chapters, the ninth, the tenth, and the eleventh chapters, concern an altogether different thing. In the ninth, the tenth, and the eleventh chapters of the Book of Romans, Paul discusses the problem of Israel’s unbelief – why it is that the chosen people of God refuse the Savior; why they’re lost; what it would be if they were saved. And for these next several Sundays, now, we’re going to preach about Israel and the promises of God to the chosen people.
Now in the message tonight, it’s a heartthrob. It’s a lament. It’s an opening of the heart of Paul as he cries unto God in behalf of his own people. Now let’s begin in the ninth chapter and read through the fifth [verse]. Then in the tenth chapter, he begins the same way, and we’ll read through the twelfth [verse]. The ninth of Romans:
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ . . .
I could wish that my own soul were damned and forever in perdition if by that I could be the instrument of saving my brethren:
My kinsmen according to the flesh,
Who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises;
Who are the fathers and of whom, concerning the flesh, Jesus came . . .
Now, in the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans, he begins the same way: "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is," in the King James Version, you have "Israel;" in the Greek, he says "for my people":
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is
– for Israel is –
that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
For they being without knowledge of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.
For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, "Say not in thine heart, ‘Who shall ascend into heaven?’" (to bring it down from above)
– as though it hadn’t been brought –
Or, "’Who shall descend into the deep?’" (that is, to bring it up again from the dead, as though Christ were not risen).
But what saith it? "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
Namely, if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the Scripture says, "Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed."
For there is no difference now, no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.
For "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
I say, it begins with a lament on the part of the Apostle Paul in behalf of his own family, and his own people, and his own race.
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,
That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh . . .
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is that they might be saved.
[Romans 9:1-3, 10:1]
The first thing that comes to my heart as I read that prayer and lament of Apostle Paul is this: that he wrote this letter to a Gentile church. The letter is addressed to the church of God in the city of Rome [Romans 1:7]; and it was a Gentile church, and Paul was the called apostle of God to the Gentiles [Romans 1:5, 15:15-16; Ephesians 3:1-2, 8; 1 Timothy 2:7].
Simon Peter, James the Lord’s brother, John the son of Zebedee, in the great conference in Jerusalem with Paul and with Barnabas, divided up the civilized world. And in that division Paul was to go to the Gentiles, and Simon Peter and James and John and the rest of the apostles were to go to the Jews, to the nation of Israel [Galatians 2:1-10]. But when I pick up the Book of Romans and read Paul’s letter to a Gentile church, I find in there not lamenting and weeping and crying over the lost among the Gentiles; but in the letter, he laments, and weeps, and cries, and prays in behalf of his own people and his own nation [Romans 9:1-15, 10:1].
I think that’s altogether understandable and explicable and pardonable. I think all of us are made like that. However we are interested in other nations and other lands and other tribes and other families and other peoples, our first prayer and our first lament and our first burden and our first cry for God is always in behalf of our own.
In our trip around the world, I could hardly describe to you what a feeling it is in your heart when, after days and weeks you’ve heard nobody speak the English language, you come across somebody from your own country speaking your language. You could never forget going through those lands where our men have fought, where they died on foreign fields, and where their bodies have been gathered together and are there buried in an American military cemetery; and the American flag flies overhead, and there’ll be three or four attendants there from our native land taking care of the graves, the memorial places of our fallen men.
However we may be interested in foreign missions – is the Chinese, is he saved? Is the Indian, is he saved? Is the African, is he saved? However much our church may pour itself into an intercession and into an appeal for the great foreign mission enterprise, I say it is altogether understandable and explicable when a man writes and says, "But my first prayer and my first intercession and my first burden is always in behalf of my own people that they might be saved."
I tell you truly, under God, and according to this Word, however this church might be accountable to God in its great missionary enterprises, if the people who live up and down our streets, who speak our language, who belong to our families, who name our names, who breathe our air, who live in this city, and who abide under the shelter of our native land, if they are lost, however we may be successful in our great missionary teaching, and giving, and enterprise, in God’s sight and in the sight of this holy Apostle who wrote this Bible, we still, we still are derelict and fallen short of the great glory and expectation of God.
I ought to be interested in the foreign mission field, but my first interest ought to be of my own people here in this city. I have often, I’ve often wondered about some of our, about some of our families and some of our people. I’ve often wondered at them in their tremendous interest and prayers in behalf of people a long way off, far, far away, but never are interested at all in people who are close by.
I went to the Foreign Mission Board one time and watched them receive eleven appointees there for the foreign field, and one of them was to the Jewish nation in Israeli. And the president of the Foreign Mission Board asked this missionary appointee, "You’re going to Israel. You’re going to preach the gospel in Israel. You’re going over there to the Jew over there in Palestine. Tell me, did you ever win a Jew here in America? Did you ever seek them? Did you ever search them out? Did you ever try to win them to Christ here in America?"
And to my amazement, to my amazement, there at the Foreign Mission Board, that appointee broke down, cried, and answered that question and said, "No, I never have. I never did." With great reluctance, the president of our Foreign Mission Board said, "I don’t know whether this man ought to be appointed or not." And as I watched it there, I felt the same thing in my heart. How is it that we could be so interested in our Jewish mission in Israeli and never take time to interest ourselves in the Jews who are here in our city? Ah, my friend, it would surprise you with what open heartedness most of them will talk to you about the things of Christ. I say, as Paul found, we don’t win many of them, but some of them we do [Romans 9:27, 11:5, 13, 14].
Not long ago, at a midweek prayer service, there came down the aisle in our church here a Jewish doctor; and I baptized him several weeks ago. Not many of them will respond, but most of them will be vitally interested, and a few of them will be saved.
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness . . . that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart . . . for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" [Romans 9:1-3]. And as Paul was with his people there, we ought to be with our people here – day and night, a consecrated, earnest, prayerful intercession that God will take our Sunday school, and the energy of our people, and the consecration of this congregation and turn it to the holy and blessed end that people might be saved. Everything we do here ought to be turned to that holy and blessed end. When we teach, it ought to be to teach that people know Christ; when we visit that we visit that they might know Christ; when we have our congregational meetings here on the Lord’s Day morning and evening that we’re gathered here that people might come to know Christ.
And whatever we do that is not sanctified and hallowed by that holy and heavenly purpose, we could well do without; all of our organization, all of our assembling, all of our gathering, all of our praying, all of our intercession that the people who are lost might be saved, "for I could wish that myself were damned, accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" [Romans 9:3].
Then Paul discusses why they’re not saved – God’s own chosen people.
"I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge" [Romans 10:2]. And that’s my record. After two thousand years since Paul wrote that, as I look at those people, "a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." I don’t mean all of them, but I mean some of them, many of them.
There’s only one part of Old Jerusalem, the Old City, that Israeli has. They have the little end of Mount Zion. They have the tomb of David, and that’s all. All the rest of the Holy City of Jerusalem is in Moslem, Mohammedan, Islamic hands; but Israeli, the Jews, have one little piece. They have this end of Mount Zion, and they have King David’s tomb; and King David’s tomb is a synagogue. And I went up there and stayed in that synagogue for a long time and watched those Jewish people as they worshiped God in that synagogue built over King David’s tomb. It made a tremendous impression upon me.
When they pray, they do not have public prayer like we do. We all bow our heads and somebody leads in the prayer. But anybody prays who cares to pray; and when he prays, he prays out loud. And they pray facing the side of Solomon’s Temple which is just over the way, now the Mosque of Omar. And they pray fervently – pray out loud, pray like I’m talking now – in a large room there, maybe 15 or 20 of them praying at the same time, earnestly, earnestly pouring out their hearts to God with their faces toward Mount Moriah, the site of Solomon’s Temple.
Then while I was there I saw them take out of that sacred ark the Torah, the Books of Moses, and they pursued it. It was an ancient, ancient manuscript on a scroll, and they turned it and read it. And then when they rolled it back again, they kissed it there, there, there, there and there. From the top to the bottom, all the way down, those men kissed that roll, that Book, God’s holy Law; and then they put it in its case, in its sheath, and then they kissed the sheath there, there and there, and then sacredly, carefully placed it back in the holy ark.
And as I stood there and felt their zeal and the earnestness of their prayers, and the care by which they love the Old Testament part of that Book, I felt in my heart that same heaviness that Paul speaks of here when he says, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart . . . for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" [Romans 9:1-3].
To me they are another nation, another people, another language, another seed; but Paul, who belonged to them, I can just conceive the tremendous care by which his heart overflowed in behalf of his own. For I say, as a stranger and as a Gentile, I felt it myself in their midst: people who know the true God, who call His name, who read out of that same Old Testament Scriptures that I have here in my hand, who love God, who have a zeal for God, but not according to the revelation of Jesus Christ.
They cry without any hope. They pray. They plead. They intercede, but heaven is brass; the whole ramparts of glory have turned to iron. Why? Because, in their zeal of God they seek Him not according to knowledge. How important it is, everlastingly vital it is, that in our work we are careful to teach the truth of God to the people.
A physician here, I see several of you here tonight, a physician could make a mistake and lose a man’s life. That is tragic. It’s tragic. The wrong diagnosis, treating the man for the wrong ailment, giving him the wrong medicine, and the man dies; but that’s just his physical body. What if we teach the man wrong? We haven’t explained the way. We haven’t showed it to him according to the revelation of God. Of all of the people in the world upon whom the burden of a right message and a right teaching, the first is always ours. "A zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being without knowledge of God’s righteousness, going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves" unto the God-kind of righteousness, the justification by faith in Jesus Christ [Romans 10:2-3].
And this is the way that Paul says many of them do. Some of them, he says, say, "Now, the way to be saved is to study, and to study, and to study; to descend into the deep; to ferret out the will and the words and the way of God. For a man to be saved, he has to be a theologian. He has to be a learned man. He has to study. He has to read." And, oh my soul – if you’ve ever been around the rabbis, all of that vast Talmudic literature, all of those rabbinical sayings by which they study and study and study and study trying to find the Word and the will of God. "The way to be saved," some of them says, as Paul is saying it here, "is to go down deep, go down deep, deeper still. We must study and study and study and learn and learn if we’re ever to be saved!"
By the way, could I make a comment here that arises out of a meeting I had this past week with a state convention? Some of us were talking together and talking about our foreign mission enterprise. And I said to them, "This is my persuasion about the foreign field. On the foreign field, they make converts; and sometimes they will take one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, a dozen years before they ever receive, and most of them are never received. Practically all, practically all of them are never taken by baptism into the church." I said if we did that thing in America, I felt our churches would die. This thing of becoming a Christian is not a matter of a man being learned. It’s a matter of a man being shown the few simple truths of the Lord Jesus Christ; and if a man is willing to stake his soul upon them, then he’s ready to be received, and he’s ready to be baptized, and he’s ready to become a member of the church.
I said, "If I did that here in this church, what kind of a church would we have?" The people coming down this aisle here – wisdom: "How much do you know about theology? How much do you know about all of these things that we study that Dr. Sigler teaches there in the seminary?" How many of us know? Most of us know hardly any of it at all, but we know enough to trust the Lord Jesus. We know enough to commit our lives to Him. What did the Ethiopian eunuch know? And Philip baptized him right there on the spot [Acts 8:26-39]. How much did the Philippian jailer know? And Paul baptized him right there on the spot [Acts 16:22-33].
Of all those hundreds and hundreds that I saw coming in Japan, I would have asked them, "Sir, you, do you take the Lord Jesus as your Savior? And do you commit your life to Him? And are you ready to follow Him all the way?" And I’d have baptized them and then trust God to teach them in the way of the Lord, as we do our best to instruct them, just like we do here.
This thing of being a Christian is not something that a man has to ferret out, and dig out, and dig out. It’s a few simple things that a child can understand, that a heathen can understand, that a pagan can give his life to, that you can give your life to tonight. The way to be saved is not down and down, nor is the way to be saved up and up and up, as to say in thine heart, "Who shall ascend into heaven and bring it down from above?" [Romans 10:6-8]
This thing of being saved is not a matter of being better every day. "Preacher, I’m not coming down that aisle. I’m not ready to come. I’ve got to do this, and I’ve got to do that, and I’ve got to do the other. I’ve got to patch up this and patch up that. I’ve got to change this, and I’ve got to change the other." Oh, then you’ll never come. You’ll never get good enough to come. You’ll never repair it enough to come. You’ll never climb up high enough to come. For the way to be saved is not by rungs going up and up and up and finally we land into heaven. No, sir. Paul says the way to be saved is this:
". . . The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
It’s nearer than your hands. It’s closer than breath.
"For with the heart one believeth unto righteousness" [Romans 10:10a]. You’ll never be good enough. You never achieve salvation by merit, by our worth; but in our hearts we believe unto righteousness. God gives us the righteousness. "And with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" [Romans 10:10b]. I am saved by trusting in the Lord Jesus in my heart and by confessing the Lord Jesus with my mouth. And whoever we are – bad and good, learned and unlearned, wise and unwise – whoever we are, wherever we are, we’re all saved exactly alike: by looking to the Lord Jesus, trusting Him in our hearts, and making confession of Him with our mouths.
All of us saved alike. This man, poor as he can be, who’s here tonight, how’s he saved? He’s saved by trusting the Lord Jesus and confessing Him with his mouth, coming down that aisle, standing by the side of the preacher. This man here tonight, well-to-do and successful in this world, how is he saved? He’s saved by trusting in the Lord Jesus in his heart and confessing the Lord with his mouth, coming down here, and standing by my side. This learned man, this unlearned man, this little boy, that man experienced with the years of the world, how are they saved? All alike – in our hearts trusting in the Lord Jesus, and making confession of Him with our mouths, standing down here at the front, by the side of the pastor: "This day, this night, this hour, I give my heart in trust to the Lord Jesus."
The ark had one door, just one door [Genesis 6:16]. And in that one door the great elephant lumbered in. And in that one door the little snail crawled in. And in that one door the great eagle swooped out of the blue of the sky and went in. And in that one door the little wren hopped in. And in that one door Noah, and Noah’s wife, and his three boys, and their wives – all of them went in, all of them saved alike [Genesis 7:13-19].
No matter who we are – a Greek, a Jew, wise, unwise, learned, not learned, rich, poor, old, young – all of us alike are saved alike, in our hearts trusting in the Lord Jesus, looking to the Lord Jesus; and with our mouths making confession unto salvation, coming down that aisle, standing before the people, unafraid, unashamed [Romans 1:16, 3:29-30, 10:12-13; 1 Corinthians 12:13]. "This day, this hour, I give my heart to the Lord." And that saves us. That’s what makes us a Christian. That’s what it is to be justified by faith.
I have a wonderful friend that I see once in a while when I go to these Southern conventions and these Southern meetings. He’s a very learned boy. He’s the author of several books and has several degrees, was a brilliant fellow when I went to school with him, and has studied and continued to rise in scholastic and academic power. And I’m proud of him, and our whole Baptist people everywhere are proud of him.
We were staying together one night, and I asked him about his conversion. When he replied, he never mentioned the Hebrew that he can read so well or the Greek that he knows so well. He never mentioned his degrees. He never spoke of his theological training. What he said was this: he said when he was a boy [he] went to a service, and the man preached about the Lord Jesus and gave an invitation; and he said, "They sang a song that I’ll never forget. They sang,
If you are tired of the load of your sin,
Let Jesus come into your heart;
If you would a new life begin,
Let Jesus come into your heart."
["Let Jesus Come Into Your Heart," by Leila N. Morris 1898]
And he said, "That day, the best I could, I opened my heart to the Lord Jesus and took Him as my Savior."
I would think any man, any Christian man that you would ever ask, any Christian man anywhere, if you’d ever ask him, he would reply to you that same humble way: "I didn’t get to be a Christian by studying the Hebrew language. I didn’t get to be a Christian by learning Greek, nor did I get to be a Christian by wading through all of the Talmudic and Christian literature. But there was a time in a service somewhere, like this tonight, when the preacher preached about the Lord Jesus and then gave an appeal and we sang an invitation hymn, I opened my heart to the Lord. I took Him as my Savior."
All of us saved alike: in our hearts trusting in the Lord Jesus and with our mouths making confession unto salvation.
And he closes, "For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For there’s no difference," all of us are alike, all of us lost alike, "and the same Lord over all is rich unto all," to save us alike, "for the same Lord over all is rich in all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [Romans 10:11-13].
I may sing about the Lord and be lost. I could even preach about the Lord and be lost. I could write books about the Lord and be lost. I could even become a theological professor in a seminary and be lost – teaching, handling the things of the Lord Jesus and be lost. I can be a member of the church and be lost. I can be baptized and be lost [Matthew 7:21-23].
But there’s one thing I cannot do and stay lost. I cannot bow before God and call on his name, "Lord, help. Lord, save. Lord, forgive. Lord, keep." I cannot call on His name and be lost [Romans 10:10]. Something happens. Something happens. God is sensitive to the cry of his people.
"Moses, come here. I’ve heard the cry of My people, and I am sending thee to deliver My people. I have heard their cry" [Exodus 3:2-10]. "Gabriel, come here. Come here. Look at Hezekiah down there on his knees crying in behalf of his people. Gabriel, I’m sending you tonight to go down there and to annihilate all of the forces of Sennacherib for I have heard the cry of My people" [Isaiah 37].
And upon a day, the Lord God in heaven called His only begotten Son, and said, "Son, I am sending You. I’m sending You into that planet below, into that earth below. I’m sending You into that world of sin below; for Son, I have heard the cry of My people" [John 3:16; Romans 5:10, 8:32; 1 John 4:9-10]. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" [Romans 10:13].
While we sing tonight, while we make appeal tonight, while our people in prayer, in intercession, while our people ask God for you tonight, into that aisle and down here to the front would you come? "Pastor, tonight, the best I know how, I give my heart and my life to the Lord Jesus. In my heart, I take Him as my Savior, and, Pastor, it is my commitment. It is my will. I’ll follow Him all of the way." Will you?
"If He wants me to be baptized, I’ll be baptized; wants me to be a member of His church, I’ll be a member of His church; wants me to worship Him with this precious and blessed people and congregation, I’ll do it, Pastor. In my heart, I will look to the Lord Jesus, the Lord and keeper of my life and soul. I’ll do it now. I’ll make it now."
And some of you into the fellowship of the church, "Pastor, here I come, and here’s my family. All of us are coming. Pastor, this puts our home together; one of us already here. I’m coming, and this puts our home together." Or, "Pastor, this is our son" or "our precious little girl. She’s coming; he’s coming to give his heart tonight to the Lord." However God shall say the word; however the Lord shall make the appeal; while we sing this song, into that aisle, down here to the front and by my side, "Here I come, Preacher, and here I am," while we stand and while we sing.