Lord, today I want to have the faith to see you as you are, so I might praise you as I ought.
Read ROMANS 11:11–24
11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
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‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’1
Paul asks again, has God given up on the Israelites? He identifies a dynamic of envy and, as always, he is aware of the biblical stories of jealous struggles between brothers (e.g. Jacob and Esau; the elder brother in Jesus’ parable). Perhaps such sibling rivalry was a problem for the Roman church (as it may be for us), between the Jewish and Gentile believers. Or perhaps there is hope in this distress. Paul explains: if the Israelites’ rejection of Christ means riches for others, then maybe their envy of what Christians now have will lead to their full inclusion (vs 11,12). Wouldn’t it be great if Paul’s ministry to Gentiles meant that Jews saw, heard, and were saved too (v 14)? (Wouldn’t it be great if our own lives today drew people to Jesus, rather than excluding them?)
Paul’s image of ingrafted branches is powerful for understanding how we, as God’s people, are united in Christ (v 17). The Jewish people knew from their Scriptures that after God’s judgement, ‘a stump of Jesse’2 would remain from which new life would grow. The disciples heard from Jesus that he is the vine and they are the branches.3 Here Paul uses the idea of an olive root. All branches grafted in share in the nourishment of the one root. No room for pride here. We Gentile Christians are dependent on faith in Christ alone (v 20).
There is no room for complacency – ‘we’re all right and they failed God!’ No, Paul reminds his listeners of the kindness of God (v 22). We should be thankful – after all, we Gentiles are the ‘wild’ branches (v 17) who have been grafted into the cultivated olive tree.4 Those ‘natural’ broken branches (v 21) may be grafted in again more easily than we think by the Master Gardener (v 24).
‘Thank you, Father, for your kindness to me through your Son Jesus.’
Loving Lord, I stand amazed that your grace touched me and I became your child. May I never take your amazing grace for granted.
1 John 15:5 2 Isa 11:1 3 John 15:1–8 4 John Stott, The Message of Romans, IVP, 1994, p299–302