I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit—
(Romans 9:1 ESV)
- I am speaking the truth in Christ:
- Truth: (What actually happened)
- In Christ: Paul’s union with Christ is the fountain from which the spring of his emotions overflows. This is because union with Christ is the basis upon which justification, sanctification and every other work of God in our lives is founded. Paul knows that he is in Christ, set free from the penalty and power of sin. He is in Christ and there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. The truth that Paul is speaking to the Roman believers in this letter is based upon his own status of being in Christ.
- I am not lying: This is the negative restatement of the positive phrase, “I am speaking the truth.”
- My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit:
- Conscience: Puritan author Richard Sibbes said that the conscience is the soul reflecting upon itself. John MacArthur says that the conscience is “the soul’s automatic warning system, the innate ability to sense right and wrong”. It is not the voice of God or anything mystical. It is the understanding and knowledge of oneself. Please be aware that the natural human conscience is far from reliable. We can sear our conscience, defiling our ability to discern right and wrong. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled” (Titus 1:15 ESV).
- Holy Spirit: The activity of the Holy Spirit upon the conscience is critical to understand in this sentence of Paul’s. The Holy Spirit, through Scripture, engages the conscience with truth and convicts of sin. Thus, if one is open to the working of the Holy Spirit, confessing sin, seeking to glorify God, saturated with the Scriptures, the conscience becomes a viable witness. A Holy Spirit-controlled conscience is a conscience devoted to the glory of God. Paul’s sincerity comes through, both in his union with Christ and in his devotion to the glory of God through the conviction of his conscience in the activity of the Holy Spirit.
- Why is he so sincere? He has to show his audience that he isn’t trying to be merely dramatic for effect. He genuinely feels this way.
…that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. (Romans 9:2 ESV)
There are three ways for us to see the intensity of Paul’s sorrow:
- Greatness: “Great sorrow” basically means mega pain. The word is actually “megalay” which is the prefix that we use when we talk about all things large. A mega-city is a huge city. In the 80’s we started using the term as a descriptor. “They are mega-rich; that guy is mega-smart.” So think mega-pain here. The greatness of Paul’s sorrow.
- Continuance: “Unceasing anguish” carries with it the idea that his pain and emotional distress and anxiety never ends. He is constantly thinking about the rejection of the gospel by the people who should know it best.
- Depth: The words used by Paul here are intense words. He says that he has great sorrow, which we already talked about as pain, or anxiety. The word for anguish is even more intense. The word means severe emotional distress and intense anxiety.
- Paul is a prophet of the Old Testament stripe, isn’t he? “Hear and give ear; be not proud, for the LORD has spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness. But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive. (Jeremiah 13:15-17 ESV)
It gets more intense tomorrow. By God’s grace we will apply these things to our hearts.