(The Call of the Gentiles)
Background Reading: Romans 11
Devotional Reading: Romans 10:5-13
Keep in Mind:
"Do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you." (Romans 11:18).
ANALYZE Paul’s metaphor of the olive tree with wild branches;
RECOGNIZE the price Jesus paid for all to be justified; and
DECIDE ways to walk in humility toward others.
Romans 11 caps off the expositional part of Paul’s magnificent summary of the Gospel. Romans 1-11 gives us the skeleton of the Gospel of grace, which then gives the Christian the foundation necessary to understand chapters 12-16, which explain the many ways to apply the knowledge that the Son of God has died to save all those who repent and rest in Him for salvation. In Romans 11, Paul, as the appointed apostle to the Gentiles, focuses specifically on how Jews and Gentiles ought to interact in the light of Christ’s coming, which has reoriented, expanded, and clarified what it means to be God’s chosen people.
The Jealousy of Israel n (Romans 11:11-16)
say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through
their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the
12Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
13For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
14if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.
15For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
16For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
The question looming behind this entire chapter is: Why has much of ethnic Israel rejected Christ as their Messiah? Does that mean that Israel is no longer elect? That is the import of Paul’s rhetorical question: “Have they stumbled that they should fall? (verse 11). Instead, however, the apostle tells us that his ministry to the Gentiles is for the good of the Jews as well! When they see Gentiles enjoying the benefits of union with Christ, jealousy will lead them back to Christ. Paul’s continuous reasoning (from the lesser to the greater of the “how much more” argument) suggest that somehow, the Lord will work the miracle of the full inclusion of the Jews in question. Theologians have gone back and forth as to what this means, but the end of the chapter suggests that many Jewish people will come to recognize Christ before His return. None of this gives Gentiles a reason to think that they are better than the Jews or “more susceptible to the Gospel” than the Jews. Rather, Paul is unfolding God’s salvific plan for both Jews and Gentiles.
1. How does excessive pride in worldly accomplishments contrast to God’s free flowing grace to all believers?
2. How does remembering God’s history with Israel help us be more humble?
3. Is there a promise that God has made in Scripture that seems impossible for you to believe?
4. In what ways might the light of your union with Christ bring others to faith? What are some of the visible aspects of a relationship with Christ?
The Meaning of Election (Romans 11:17-24)
if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were
grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness
of the olive tree,
18do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
19You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in."
20Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.
21For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
22Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
23And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
24For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
In these eight verses, Paul revisits a favorite theme of the book of Romans and the Gospel itself: There is no reason for the Christian to boast in him/herself. Here, the method of explanation is an extended metaphor of an olive tree. Paul makes a statement quite in line wit the epistle as a whole: “Do not be arrogant toward branches. If you are, remember it is not you who supports the root but the root that supports you.” Paul is careful to remind those of us who are Gentiles that we are the “wild olive shoots” grafted onto the olive tree. Prophets present the image of an olive tree (Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6), but it was not a common practice to graft wild olive shoots into cultivated trees. Instead, Paul uses this image to emphasize the unnatural reality of salvation in general and salvation of the Gentiles in particular.
The Old Testament provides the image of the people of God as largely confined to the Jewish people with a few exceptions. But the work of Christ and the subsequent revelation of the Holy Spirit through the apostles reveal to us the plan extended beyond the Jews to the Gentiles as well. For this reason, Gentiles have no reason to boast. Salvation is not anything that they, in any way, deserved. The root that nourishes and supports them is none other than Christ, the author and finisher of their salvation. To say that we are deserving of salvation is to suggest that Christ needs our support, which is wildly absurd. God is the one who grafts in and who cuts off in the case of unbelief. We remain in our salvation not because of our merit, but because of our God’s mercy. So, Paul says, “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.”
1. What events/people/gifts tempt you toward pride or its oft-misunderstood twin, self-pity?
2. Think of a time when you were prideful, jealous and /or boastful. What were your thoughts and actions based on? How did others react?
3. How has God “grafted” you into His family—naturally (culturally/ethnically) or supernaturally (by faith)? What has your response been to this reality?
Lesson in Our Society
Supersessionism, the idea that the new covenant has replaced the old covenant and render it null and void, has manifested itself in many ways, some of which have been violent and anti-Semitic. Christians must reject this way of seeing our faith and relating to Jewish neighbors; for as Paul argues it is not the will of God but the way of pride. Christians must be humble in understanding Judaism because we believe Jesus fulfills the Jewish covenants and all of the early disciples were Jews who received Jesus as the Messiah. Paul argues as a Jewish believer that Jews should not be prideful in thinking themselves more pleasing to God than non-Jews who have come to the faith. Yet as Christians, we must be driven by the fact that Christ is the identity and root from which we glean spiritual benefit. Salvation is found in Christ alone and for a human being to experience salvation it must be through Christ. The benefits of union with Christ are not confined in the life to come; rather, they permeate our earthly lives s well. The joy of that ought to bleed into our work, conversations, and every aspect of that life.
Daily Bible Readings
The Heritage Keepers – Romans
Testimony of God’s Grace – Acts
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Biblical Studies Press: The
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Dummelow, J. R., M.A. Rev. The One Volume Bible Commentary. New York: The Macmillan Company Publishers, 1961.
Dunn, James, D. G., Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 38a, Romans 1-8. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988
James Orr, M.A., D.D., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Electronic Edition, Parsons Technology, Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa 1998.
Keck Leander E., The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary, Volume X: Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, New York: Abingdon Press, 2015
Morris, William, ed., Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.
Mounce, Robert H.: Romans. electronic ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1995 (Logos Library System; The New American Commentary 27)
Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.): The Pulpit Commentary: Romans. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004
Strong, James, Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, Electronic Edition STEP Files, QuickVerse, a division of Findex.com, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska. 2003.
Vine, W.E. Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Edited by Merrill F. Unger and William White Jr., Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.