More than Salvation
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh…” -the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:3 (NASB)
Something about this verse bothered me when I first encountered it. I was taken aback by the very premise. In this verse, Paul very clearly states a particular desire. Moreover, this is a desire that he values even above his relationship with Christ.
One could argue that Paul is merely using hyperbolic language to drive home a point. However, hyperbole to such an extreme would be borderline dishonest. I don’t think that is Paul’s intention. I think he means exactly what he’s saying.
Paul is demonstrating a desire to live as Christ. Remember that this is the same author who wrote “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, NASB). Keep in mind that it was Our Lord that “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7, NASB).
Paul is simply espousing the same heart as the heart of Christ; the heart of a complete servant. It is not that Christ is not the great joy in Paul’s life, indeed He is. However, Paul is even willing to give up this great joy in service of God.
I fear that this is a common misconception among many Christians today, my younger self included. We have put such an emphasis on being saved that it can feel as though that’s the point. Many individuals have a poor Scriptural and prayer life, and so there is a frequent focus on fixing that problem.
These are not bad things to focus on. Indeed, the Gospel of Christ ought to be the centerpiece of everything the Church does, and a large part of that is a call to individuals who are not saved. And those in Christ are to live a life bathed in Scripture and prayer.
However, I was not saved merely so that I can grow in personal holiness. My love of Scripture and prayer, my desire to fellowship with other believers, my growing in holiness- these are how I know that I am saved (1 John 5).
The point of my life is not merely being with Christ. No, if being saved was the point of life, Paul could never say what he said in Romans 9:3. The point of my life on this earth is to serve Christ.
Scripture, prayer and local church attendance are methods of equipping us to do good works. They are not the good works themselves.