About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 11:11 - 24

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Ingrafted Branches (ch. 11:11 Ė 24)


Let me remind you that all the way through Paulís letter to the Romans he presents a number of questions that he anticipates people asking.  Then he answers the questing. Paul is being very lawyerly like here.  For that reason many laws schools have used Paul's letter to the Romans to teach how the use of questions is a good way to make a legal point. Once again Paul is building his case as if he were in a court room.  He makes a point.  He asks a logical question that one might ask in response to his point.  He then answers the question and goes on to the next point, all in an attempt to lay out in clear fashion what he wants to say.


So here again in verse 11 we have another logical question.  "Did they (the Jews) stumble so far as to fall beyond recovery?"  Paul answers by saying, "not at all."  Can you see the pattern Paul has been using?  He asks the question.  He gives a short and concise three word answer, and then he proceeds to explain his answer. 


The answer to this question is important in the discussion of Israel , and its place in history.  Some hold to the idea that Israel has lost all significance in the sight of God and have no more relevance in history, especially Biblical prophetic history.  This doctrine is called Replacement Theology.  The church has replaced Israel in the mind of God and all Old Testament passages and prophecies that once were spoken to and about Israel are now directed to the church.  That means that if God predicted the restoration of Israel in the Old Testament, that prediction no longer applies to Israel but the church.  It's the church that will be restored prior to the return of Jesus, not Israel.  Paul refutes this thinking in the verses ahead. 


Others hold to the idea that God is not finished with Israel and that it still has a particular role to play in God's plans and in Biblical prophetic history.  This is the position I take.    


Verse 11 tells us that Israel indeed has a role to play in Godís plans in prophetic history.  The fact that Israel transgressed, meaning rejected Jesus, means that salvation could come to the rest of the world to make Israel envious as Paul says here.  He also says that because of Israelís loss, this would bring riches to the rest of the Gentile world.  I believe Paul is talking about the blessing God grants a nation who follows Him and does His will.  These blessing should make Israel envious.       


Note the singular noun "transgression" in verse 11.  It was of this transgression that paved the way for the salvation of the Gentiles.  The question needs to be asked, "What transgression" did Paul have in mind.  Because transgression is a singular noun, I think it must be one specific transgression, which I believe is the rejection of Jesus. 


In verse 12 Paul says, "How much greater riches will their fullness bring?"  Do you see what Paul is saying here?  He uses the word "fullness" in relation to the Jewish restoration to their God.  He will also use the same word in relation to the Gentiles in Romans 11:25.


Paul is saying that there is going to be a remnant of Jews who come to the Lord and when the full number comes, their will be even greater riches for the Jews than there were for the Gentile world.  I believe these riches will be realized when Jesus returns to  Israel and makes His throne in Jerusalem.  At that time, Israel will be the leading nation of the world. 


This is important to understand, so I will say it again.   God rejected national Israel when national Israel rejected Jesus.  God did not reject all Jews because many, like Paul became true believers.  Israel's rejection of Jesus led Gentiles to the gospel, Paul being one of the main spokesmen on behalf of God to the Gentile world.  The result is that many Gentiles got saved and will get saved right up to the end of this age.  The number of Gentile conversions were so great that the church soon became more Gentile than Jewish, which had many good and not so good implications.  God thus blessed the Gentile world, but, as the Old Testament prophet Hosea predicts in Hosea 2, God will turn back to Israel in the last days.  They will also return to Him and be the nation that God wanted them to be all along.  This will take place at the end of what is called the Great Tribulation.  The 144,000 Jewish evangelists of Revelation 7 will help in the proclamation of the gospel to the world during the last seven years of this age.  There will be one last great world wide revival that includes the salvation of a great number of Jews.       


I think it is important to note that concerning this end time revival (see Revelation 5 - the great multitude) there is still a distinction between Jew and Gentile in the mind of God at the end of this age. Yes, in one sense of the word, we are all children of God.  There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile pertaining to salvation, but there is a distinction when it comes to prophetic history and the end of this age. 


In verse 13 Paul reminds his readers that he is speaking to Gentile believers in Rome.  Remember, the Roman church is probably more Gentile than Jewish, but that doesn't mean there were no Jews in the church.  Due to Jewish persecution by the Roman authorities, many Jews were driven from the city of Rome during the time of Paul's writing. 


Paul specifically states that he is an apostle to the Gentiles, something some Jews, even some Jewish Christians struggled with.  God had called Paul to preach salvation to all people as we see in Acts 9 where He gave his life to Jesus. Right from day one, God told Paul that he would suffer many things as he preached the gospel all the way up the Roman chain of authority, right up to Caesar Himself.                            


We should note that even though Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, every new city in where he arrived, the first thing he always did was preach to the Jews.  Usually, many of the Jews would rejected his message and at that point he would turn to the Gentiles.  Therefore, even though his mission was to the Gentile world, he still put the Jews first.  Obviously he felt that the Jews still held a special place in the mind of God.  


The fact that Paul is speaking to Gentiles about Israel is important to those holding to Replacement Theology.  This tells me that Gentile Christians must believe that God has not replaced Israel with the church.       


Paul's preaching to the Gentiles is spoken of in verse 14.  He hopes that the Jews, his own people, will be jealous of Gentiles finding their God.  He hopes this jealousy will bring many Jews back to their God.  Paul has stated this a number of times before.  One thing to note here is that the Gentiles were being won over to the Jewish God, not a Gentile god.   That is often missed in our modern Christian world.  Christians serve the God of the Jews.  That being said this Israeli God is thee God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 


In verse 15 Paul repeats himself again, yet in another way.  He says, "For if their (IsraelĎs) rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their (Israel's) acceptance be, but life from the dead"?  When Paul uses the word "world" he is not implying that the whole world will be saved; only those Gentiles with faith will be saved.  He's been saying that all along. 


I see the words "life from the dead" to possibly mean the Jews being resurrected from their unbelief unto faith.  However, I think it might well speak of "resurrection day" when all saints of Christ will be raised from death to their new heavenly eternal bodies.  I say this because of all of the Old Testament prophecies stating that Israel at the end of this present age will return to their Lord and recognize Jesus as their Saviour.  At this point, Jesus will return and the dead in Christ will rise to a new and eternal life.  If you read Zechariah 12 through 14, you will gain great insight into these things.


Verse 16 may be somewhat hard to understand.  Paul says that if part of the dough is holy, then the whole batch of dough is holy.  He says the same about a root of a tree.  If the root is holy, the branches will be holy.  This means that the dough and the root will affect the whole loaf and all the branches.  In the end, God will have a holy loaf of bread, a holy tree.  I believe the dough and the root spoken of here by Paul is Israel.  I say this because of his use of the word "firstfruit".  Who were the firstfruits of God blessing?  They were the Jews in Old Testament times.  Who were the firstfruits of God's blessings in New Testament times?  They were the Jews as seen in Acts 2.  The Holy Spirit was first poured out on Jews, not Gentiles. Again, we have the Biblical principle that states "to the Jew first and then to the Gentile."            


Paul relates all of this to an olive tree in verses 17 and 18.  The original tree is the family of God, consisting of Israelis, children of Abraham.  Because of their unbelief some of the Jewish branches were cut off the tree.  This made room for Gentile believers to be grafted into the Jewish tree.  Paul tells the Gentile Christians not to be too arrogant about this blessing, because if they lose their faith, they could be cut off from the tree just as the original branches were cut off from the tree.  Even though some of the Jews were cut out of the tree, they can still be grafted back into the tree.  This is what Paul says will happen.  This fact alone tells us that God is not finished with the Jews yet. Replacement Theology is just bad doctrine. 


Verse 18 states that the Gentile branches don't support the olive tree.  It's the other way around.  The root of the olive tree supports all the branches, which includes the Gentile braches.  Paul says this to make sure the Gentiles don't go overboard and get arrogant, which throughout church history has happened. 


We should also note that Gentile Christians are grafted into this Jewish tree.  It did not take the church long to forget about this truth.  Beginning in the second century the notion that Jews were no longer significant in the mind of God began to take root in Christian teaching.  This can't be because of the nature of the tree.  It's a Jewish tree with Jewish roots.  You cannot divorce the Jewishness of this tree.    


In some Christian circles today people teach that all Christians, Israeli and Gentile are saved by faith in Jesus, but once saved, must obey the Law of Moses to stay saved.  They use this passage about the olive tree being Jewish with Jewish roots to support their thinking.  They say that Gentiles have joined the Jewish tree.  Jews haven't joined a Gentile tree.  Therefore, Gentiles should take nourishment from the Jewish roots and follow Jewish tradition as seen in the Law of Moses.  I don't believe this thinking to be Biblical.  You will notice in verse 18 the reason why the Jews were cut off from the tree and the reason why the Gentiles were grafted into the tree.  It is a matter of faith, or, trusting Jesus with one's life.  The Jews were cut off because of unbelief in Jesus.  The Gentiles were grafted in because of faith in Jesus.  Obedience to the Law of Moses or even circumcision has nothing to do whether one is a branch or not.  Again, it is all a matter of faith, that is, trusting your life with Jesus.  Paul goes as far to tell the Gentiles who have been grafted into the Jewish tree to be afraid.  I think to be afraid means to be afraid.  I don't think we should weaken this statement to mean anything less.  This is a serious matter.  Gentile believers can be cut out of this Jewish tree, as many have been over the centuries.              


It's interesting to note that Jesus, in John 15:1 calls himself the vine.  Jesus isn't talking about a tree in John 15, but the idea is the same.  He tells the disciples that He is the vine and they are the branches.  He also says that God the Father is the gardener who if necessary will cut unbelievers off of the vine.  Jesus was talking to His Jewish disciples in John 15.  It sounds very similar to what Paul is saying here in Romans 7. 


In verse 21 Paul makes a bold statement.  The Greek verb tense makes it clear.  God will not spare any Gentile branch that rejects Jesus after being grafted into the tree.  He will be cut off.  To me, this suggests a loss of salvation.  I don't believe in eternal security.    


In verse 22 Paul asks the Roman Gentile believers to consider both the kindness and sternness of God.  The words "kindness" and "sternness" don't exactly fit into our modern new age concept of God.  Yes, He is kind, but He is also stern.  Paul says that God's sternness is seen in the fact that He cut some Jewish branches out of their own tree.  His kindness is seen in the fact that God has grafted some Gentile branches into the Jewish tree.        


In verse 23 we see that if the Jews do not remain in unbelief they can be, and really, will be, grafted back into their tree.  This is what will happen at the end of this age when Jesus returns and the remnant of Israel that Paul will speak of later in this chapter.    


In verse 24 Paul compares the Gentiles to a wild olive tree and the Jews to a cultivated olive tree.  He says that grafting a wild branch into a cultivated tree goes against nature, but God can do it.  If this is the case, there is no problem with a cultivated branch being grafted back in to its own cultivated tree. 


At this point we should know a bit about wild and cultivated olive trees.  Wild olive trees were almost like a bush.  Cultivated olive trees tended to grow taller.  They would produce much more olives and for that reason they were cultivated.  Part of the cultivation process was grafting of branches.  By the time Paul wrote these words, cultivated olive trees were well into existence.  To put a wild branch into a cultivated tree wasn't easy.  To put a cultivated branch into a cultivated tree was relatively easy.   


I think Paul is making his point clear here.  God is not finished with the Jews. That was the question he began chapter 11 with.  The family of God is seen by Paul here as an olive tree, a Jewish tree.  Gentile believers are grafted into this Jewish tree while Jewish unbelievers are cut out of the tree.  That being said, when Jews come back to faith in Jesus, they too will be grafted into their own Jewish tree again.  As I've been saying all along, this really points out that Replacement Theology, meaning, the church has replaced Israel in prophetic history, is bad doctrine.         


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