Gentiles Grafted In (Romans 11:11-24)

Gentiles Grafted In (Romans 11:11-24)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 29, 2021

Albert Einstein wrote things that suggested he had some sort of belief in God, but he also wrote of his own unbelief. James Randerson says:

Einstein penned [a] letter on January 3, 1954, to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. The letter went on public sale a year later and has remained in private hands ever since.

In the letter, he states: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

Einstein, who was Jewish and who declined an offer to be the state of Israel’s second president, also rejected the idea that the Jews are God’s favoured people.

“For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”[1]

My theme today is:

Gentiles are grafted in to a rich faith going back to the Patriarchs.

My applications are:

Don’t be arrogant about your salvation and do not take God’s kindness lightly. Persevere in the faith. 

  1. Context
    1. Beginning in Romans 9:1-6 Paul has been answering the question of the people of Israel, the Jewish people.
    2. Why would they reject Jesus?
    3. In the beginning of Romans 9, Paul said that he would be willing to be accursed for the sake of his brethren (Romans 9:3).
    4. In Romans 10:1-2 Paul also shared his heart for Israel.
    5. In Romans 9 and 10 Paul was showing that God is being consistent with His promises. God had spoken through the prophets that gentiles would be grafted in and that Jesus would be a stumbling block to the Jewish people (Romans 9:30-33 specific about Jesus being a stumbling block).
    6.  In Romans 11:1-10 Paul shared that God did preserve a remnant.
  2. Salvation comes to the gentiles to make Israel desire a relationship with Jesus (verses 11-12).
    1. In verse 11 Paul begins with a question and this question refers back to the previous section.
    2. Look at verse 11 (Romans 11:11): So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.
    3. In the previous verses Paul had written about the hardness of heart the Israelites were under.
    4. Now, Paul is answering the question, did they stumble and fall?
    5. Now, they stumbled, but this led to the gentiles salvation. If they had fallen, there would have been no Messiah and further no salvation for the gentiles.
    6. God had a purpose. Through their stumbling, through their hardness of heart, the gentiles have been saved.
    7. The gentiles are to make the Israelites jealous, that is to desire salvation.
    8. Look at verse 12 (Romans 11:12): Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
    9. Now Paul uses a “how much more” argument.
    10. If their trespass means riches for the world…
    11. If their failure means riches for the gentiles…
    12. How much more will their full inclusion mean. This is meaning, if by their sin rejecting the Messiah means that others are saved, how much greater will it be when this partial hardening is over and the Jewish people are again included in God’s plan.
    13. Dr Constable: Paul here anticipated the national repentance of Israel that he articulated later (v. 26). God promised to bless the world through Israel (Gen. 12:1–3). How much more blessing will come to the world when Israel turns back to God than is coming to the world now while she is in rebellion against God![2]
    14. Remember this is about God’s plan.
    15. CSB: The future reception of Jews by God will result in world blessing. If their unbelief brought riches to the Gentiles, their future faith in Jesus as Messiah will enrich the world (cp. Is 2:2–4).[3]
  3. Paul addresses the gentiles; don’t forget you are grafted into Judaism (verses 13-16).
    1. Let’s read verses 13-14 (Romans 11:13-14): Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.
    2. I always love how direct Paul is. In this case he is addressing the gentiles and he says that he is an apostle to the gentiles.
    3. In Acts 9:15 when Paul is saved God tells Ananias that Paul is a “chosen instrument of Mine [God’s] to bear My name before the gentiles…”
    4. Paul says that he “magnifies” his ministry. How does he magnify his ministry?
    5. The answer is if he can provoke his people, that is the Jewish people, to jealousy and save some of them, that magnifies his ministry. How does that magnify his ministry?
    6. I think the answer is that then he is a missionary to the gentiles and the Jewish people. His ministry expands.
    7. Let’s look at verses 15-16 (Romans 11:15-16): For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
    8. Their rejection, that is the Jewish people’s rejection, means the reconciliation of the world. Does this mean the whole world is reconciled to God? Of course not. It means the reconciliation of those who accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation. Romans 5:11 shares that when we believe in Jesus we are reconciled to God. We are friends with God. The hostility created by our sin is taken away. 
    9. What does their acceptance mean? What does the acceptance of Jesus by the Jewish people mean? It means life from the dead. It means life from the dead for those that accept the Gospel. But how is this greater?
    10. Paul is saying that the gentiles are grafted in. He is going to build on that beginning in verse 17. So, Judaism is the tree, and the gentiles are wild branches. If the tree is holy because more Jewish people are saved, he is saying that the tree is more alive from the dead. Specifically, in verse 16 he is saying if the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, who would that be? That would be Israelites, the Jewish people. If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the lump. He is saying the foundation is holy, so the rest is holy. Further, if the root is holy, so are the branches. If more Jewish people accept Jesus that is life from the dead, and this is because the foundation, dough, the root, is holy.
    11. New American Commentary: …it would appear that what Paul was speaking of here was a great spiritual awakening of Israel to take place at the end of human history.[4]
    12. Dr Constable: When Israel returns to God and He accepts her, the results for all humankind are comparable to life from the dead (cf. Ezek. 37). God’s blessings on humanity now will pale by comparison with what the world will experience then (i.e., during the Millennium).[5]
    13. Paul will build on this in the next section.
    14. New American Commentary: Numbers 15:17–21 describes an offering made from the first grain harvested and ground. The cake presented to the Lord consecrated the rest of the batch. Paul wrote that if the dough offered as firstfruits was holy, then the entire batch was holy. In this metaphor the “dough” represents the Jewish believers who had accepted Christ (the remnant of v. 5), and the “whole batch” would be those who would come to believe. The metaphor changes to a tree with its branches. If the root is holy, so are the branches. In this case the “root” represents the patriarchs (esp. Abraham); and the “branches,” the nation that follows. The point is that if the patriarchs were holy (and they were), so also were the Jewish people (in the sense that the positive effects of the patriarchs reached to them (cf. 1 Cor 7:14). God’s rejection of the Jewish nation was neither complete (Rom 11:1–10) nor final (11:11–24).[6]
  4. The gentiles were grafted into Judaism, but they can be cut off (verses 17-24).
    1. New American Commentary: The normal process of grafting called for cultivated shoots to be joined to the branches of a wild olive tree that had been cut back. The exposed ends were smeared with clay and bound with cloth or date straw.103[7]
    2. IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Grafting of trees (adding a shoot of one tree to another tree) is reported in both Jewish and Greco-Roman literature. Sometimes shoots from a wild olive tree would be grafted onto a domestic olive tree that was bearing little fruit in an attempt to strengthen or save the life of the tree. The unproductive original branches would be pruned off, and the new graft was considered “contrary to nature” (as in 11:24—NASB).[8]
    3. Paul is about to expand on his metaphor about a root and a branch. Paul writes about an olive tree.
    4. Dr. Constable: The cultivated olive tree was a symbol of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament (Jer. 11:16–17; Hos. 14:4–6).[9]
    5. The Jewish people are the natural branches.
    6. The gentiles are unnatural branches, wild branches.
    7. Paul seems to be thinking of a heavenly olive tree. All of these branches are on this heavenly tree. Some of the branches belong all the way down to the root. These are the Jewish branches. Others come from a wild olive tree. These branches are added because they believe in Jesus. However, some of the natural heavenly branches are cut off because they reject Jesus, but they can be grafted back in.
    8. We must persevere in the faith.
    9. Another illustration would be a train heading for heaven and a train headed for hell. The train heading for heaven is made up of cars which are natural. The natural cars are Jewish. But some of these natural cars quit believing that the Engine is taking them to heaven and so they fall off the tracks. But then some of the cars from the train heading to hell start believing the Engine of the train heading for heaven will take them to Heaven. They are then attached to the train heading to Heaven. Still, if they do not keep believing and do not stay attached they will be cut off. Likewise, the cars that fell off the tracks can still be re-attached if they believe in Jesus.
    10. Let’s read verses 17-18 (Romans 11:17-18): But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
    11. Imagine this. We have this olive tree. Some branches are broken off. Then there is a wild olive shoot and it is grafted in. The wild olive shoot that is grafted in now shares in the nourishing root from the olive tree.
    12. That is the gentiles. That would be us. We are grafted in. We receive the nourishing roots of the natural olive tree of Judaism.
    13. Verse 18 is challenging the gentiles are not to be arrogant toward the natural branches. We must not be arrogant towards the Jewish people. Remember Judaism supports us, not the other way around.
    14. Jeremiah 11:16ff addresses Israel as a green olive tree.
    15. Verse 19 reads (Romans 11:19): Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.
    16. Paul is not anticipating their response. These branches were broken off. These Israelites rejected the Messiah. This gave a spot for me.
    17. Then in verses 20-21 Paul responds (Romans 11:20-21): That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.
    18. Paul shares that is correct. They were broken off, but why were they broken off? They were broken off because of their unbelief.
    19. BUT… this is a strong contrast. In contrast to those broken off, you must stand fast through faith. Do not become proud. Instead, fear. You may bring up the many times in the Bible we are told not to fear. You may bring up Deuteronomy 31:8; Isaiah 43:1; Matthew 10:31; 1 John 4:18; and others. But this is a different type of fear. We do not need to fear when we are doing what God calls us to do. This is a fear of sinning, this is a fear of NOT trusting God. This is a fear of backsliding, or falling away.
    20. Why would we fear? We must fear falling away. We must fear losing the faith. We must fear not persevering in the faith.
    21. Paul gives the main reason to fear. Verse 21 says that God did not spare the natural branches. That means that God did not spare the natural born Israelites, so he definitely will NOT spare us.
    22. Now let’s look at the next verse.
    23. Verse 22 (Romans 11:22): Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
    24. Paul wants them to take notice.
    25. Take notice of the kindness of the Lord.
    26. But also notice the severity of the Lord.
    27. God is severe toward those who have fallen. But God is kind towards them, the gentiles, as long as they continue in His kindness.
    28. This is a passage about perseverance.
    29. We must persevere in the faith, or be cutoff.
    30. In Romans 2:4 Paul says that God’s kindness is to lead to repentance. Heb 3:6, 14 are about holding fast the faith.
    31. Remember John 15:2 about bearing fruit or else we will be cutoff?
    32. Now, let’s look at verses 23-24 (Romans 11:23-24): And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
    33. Paul is now saying that the Jewish people that repent will be grafted back in. If they do not continue in their unbelief, that is if they repent they will be grafted in.
    34. God is able to graft them in again.
    35. I read the following: Science writer Hope Jahren shares an interesting fact about plants, especially how a tiny seed starts to put down roots—the most essential thing for a plant’s survival. She writes,
    36. No risk is more terrifying than that taken by the first root. A lucky root will eventually find water, but its first job is to anchor … Once the first root is extended, the plant will never again enjoy any hope of relocating to a place less cold, less dry, less dangerous. Indeed, it will face frost, drought, and greedy jaws without any possibility of flight.
    37. She calls taking root a big “gamble,” but if the seed takes root it can go down twelve, thirty, forty meters. The results are powerful. The tree’s roots can “swell and split bedrock, and move gallons of water daily for years, much more efficiently than any pump yet invented by man.” If the root takes root, then the plant becomes all but indestructible: “Tear apart everything aboveground—everything—and most plants can still grow rebelliously back from just one intact root. More than once. More than twice.”[10]
    38. If you were cut off from a wild olive tree, that is the gentile olive tree, and grafted into a cultivated olive tree, that is a Jewish olive tree, then how much more can the natural branches be grafted back in. They can be grafted back into their cultivated tree.
    39. I want to repeat the following for emphasis:
    40. Paul seems to be thinking of a heavenly olive tree. All of these branches are on this heavenly tree. Some of the branches belong all the way down to the root. These are the Jewish branches. Others come from a wild olive tree. These branches are added because they believe in Jesus. However, some of the natural heavenly branches are cut off because they reject Jesus, but they can be grafted back in.
    41. We must persevere in the faith.
    42. Another illustration would be a train heading for heaven and a train headed for hell. The train heading for heaven is made up of cars which are natural. The natural cars are Jewish. But some of these natural cars quit believing that the Engine is taking them to heaven and so they fall off the tracks. But then some of the cars from the train heading to hell start believing the Engine of the train heading for heaven will take them to Heaven. They are then attached to the train heading to Heaven. Still, if they do not keep believing and do not stay attached they will be cut off. Likewise, the cars that fell off the tracks can still be re-attached if they believe in Jesus.
    43. A key point of this illustration is to encourage the gentiles not to be arrogant. They must understand when they are grafted in their roots are in Israel. They are still gentiles but the roots of their salvation are in Israel.
  5. Applications:
    • We must understand that God is not finished with Israel (verse 11).
    • We must understand that Israel has stumbled, but not fallen (verse 11).
    • We must understand that God is at work saving gentiles in order to make Israel jealous for salvation (verse 11).
    • We must understand that there will be a great inclusion of Israel at some point (verse 12).
    • We must understand that salvation is from the Jewish people (John 4:22), meaning the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (verses 16-24)).
    • We must not be prideful of our salvation (verse 18).
    • We must understand that we are grafted into a rich heritage from the Jewish people going back to the patriarchs.
    • I see stern warnings about perseverance in verses 21-22. If God cuts off Israelites who do not believe and accept Jesus, what will He do to us if we do not persevere in the faith.
    • We must understand the kindness of God, but also the severity of God. God does not tolerate those who do not persevere following Him.
      • Some of us really must take this warning.
      • Some of us may well realize the kindness of God, but often forget His holiness.
      • God’s holiness is not to be trifled with.
      • We must be devoted to Him.
      • He is Lord of all or not Lord at all.
    • Understand, that all of the applications recently have been more about beliefs, but soon when we get to Romans 12 they will transition to behavior. 

It happened in just a blink with a quarter mile to go at the 2005 running of the Preakness. Afleet Alex had battled his way to the front of the pack when another horse cut in front of him, and their heels clipped each other. Afleet Alex stumbled, his knees buckled, his nose nearly went into the dirt, and his jockey, Jeremy Rose, hung on.

“That’s the closest I’ve ever been without falling. I thought for sure we were going down,” Rose said. “The thought process was, I was going to get run over. Luckily, he came right back up underneath me.”

Afleet Alex not only recovered, he went on to win the race by nearly five lengths.

The Bible sometimes refers to the Christian life as running a race in which we all stumble, and yet if we hold on, the Lord provides us sure footing and balance so that we will not fall.[11]

Let’s persevere in the faith!

Prayer


[1] Source: James Randerson, “Childish superstition: Einstein’s letter makes view of religion relatively clear,” http://www.guardian.co.uk (5-13-08)

[2] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 11:12.

cp. compare

[3] Paige Patterson, “Salvation in the Old Testament,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1799.

[4] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 219.

[5] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 11:15.

[6] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 220.

103 J. A. Patch, “Graft,” ISBE, rev., 2.553.

[7] Robert H. Mounce, Romans, vol. 27, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 220.

NASB New American Standard Bible

[8] Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 11:17–24.

[9] Tom Constable, Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Bible (Galaxie Software, 2003), Ro 11:17.

[10] Source: Adapted from Hope Jahren, Lab Girl (Kopf, 2016), pages 45-46

[11] Source: “Afleet Alex Averts Disaster,” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7774053/displaymode/1107/s/1/framenumber/1/vaar1/btn_0 http://www.msnbc.msn.com (5-23-05)

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