In an inspired attempt to communicate accurately his intense passion for the eternal spiritual well-being and bliss of his beloved Jewish kinsmen, Paul affirms in the strongest possible way the intense emotional distress and unceasing anguish of his heart when he writes: “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart” (Romans 9:1-2).
The words of his next sentence are not hyperbole. Paul is not striving to make an exaggerated declaration which is obviously contrary to reality. Rather, he is earnestly attempting to express his immense and genuine love for his physical kinsmen when he writes: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh…” (Romans 9:3).
The word “accursed” in verse 3 is anathema, “a thing devoted to destruction”; i.e., a person eternally separated from God and His presence in Gehenna. Like any of the Bible’s somber topics, eternal condemnation in hell is no light, frivolous, or laughing matter. It is a furnace of fire and brimstone prepared by God Himself to be the just place of eternal punishment for the devil, his angels, and all the wicked (including everyone who does not obey the gospel—2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). It is a fearful thing to be pronounced as “anathema” by God.
Yet, if such an eternal sentence of anguish and punishment would be given to Paul in exchange for the eternal bliss of his countrymen according to the flesh, he would agree to it.
Such an exchange is impossible.
Such love is extraordinary.