Israel’s Role in God’s Plan for Salvation (11:1-24)
God Planned Ahead of Time that Gentiles would be Saved (11:11-24), cont’d.
Romans 11:22-24-Paul says that there is yet opportunity for those Jews who have not accepted Christ. If they chose to accept Christ, then they would be grafted back into the olive tree.
The Olive Tree
If some of the branches - The illustration here is taken from the practice of those who ingraft trees. The useless branches, or those which bear poor fruit, are cut off, and a better kind inserted. "If some of the natural descendants of Abraham, the holy root, are cast off because they are unfruitful, that is, because of unbelief and sin."
And thou - The word "thou" here is used to denote the Gentile, whom Paul was then particularly addressing.
Being a wild olive-tree - From this passage it would seem that the olive-tree was sometimes cultivated, and that cultivation was necessary in order to render it fruitful. The cultivated olive-tree is "of the a moderate height, its trunk knotty, its bark smooth and ash-colored, its wood is solid and yellowish, the leaves are oblong, and almost like those of the willow, of a green color, etc. The wild olive is smaller in all its parts." (Calmet.) The wild olive was unfruitful, or its fruit very imperfect and useless. The ancient writers explain this word by "unfruitful, barren." (Sehleusner.) This was used, therefore, as the emblem of unfruitfulness and barrenness, while the cultivated olive produced much fruit. The meaning here is, that the Gentiles had been like the wild olive, unfruitful in holiness; that they had been uncultivated by the institutions of the true religion, and consequently had grown up in the wildness and sin of nature. The Jews had been like a cultivated olive, long under the training and blessing of God.
Wert grafted in - The process of grafting consists in inserting a scion or a young shoot into another tree. To do this, a useless limb is removed; and the ingrafted limb produces fruit according to its new nature or kind, and not according to the tree in which it is inserted. In this way a tree which bears no fruit, or whose branches are decaying, may be recovered, and become valuable. The figure of the apostle is a very vivid and beautiful one. The ancient root or stock, that of Abraham, etc. was good. The branches - the Jews in the time of the apostle - had become decayed and unfruitful, and broken off. The Gentiles had been grafted into this stock, and had restored the decayed vigor of the ancient people of God; and a fruitless church had become vigorous and flourishing. But the apostle soon proceeds to keep the Gentiles from exaltation on account of this.
Among them - Among the branches, so as to partake with them of the juices of the root.
Partakest of the root - The ingrafted limb would derive nourishment from the root as much as though it were a natural branch of the tree. The Gentiles derived now the benefit of Abraham's faith and holy labors, and of the promises made to him and to his seed.
Fatness of the olive-tree - The word "fatness" here means "fertility, fruitfulness" - the rich juices of the olive producing fruit; see Judges 9:9.
(Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/romans/11-17.htm)
It might be helpful to read this passage in the New Living Translation…
- And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.
- But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. 18. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.
- “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.” 20. Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. 21. For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t spare you either.
- Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. 23. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief, they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree. 24. You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.
God Determined Ahead of Time the Deadline to be Saved (11:25-36)
Romans 11:25-32-Paul says that at this time, in general, the Jewish people have not received Jesus as the Messiah. However, at a future time that he refers to as when “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (which speaks of the time when Jesus returns), then there will be a movement among the Jewish people and many will come to Christ…and “all Israel” (“all”, meaning the rest of those who are part of spiritual Israel) will be saved.
The Jews were “enemies” to the Gentiles from the perspective that they were the very ones who had crucified Jesus. And yet, they are “beloved” from the perspective that they were used by God to fulfill His purpose in sending Jesus to die for sin.
God uses the disobedience of Jew and Gentile alike, to draw people to Himself. How? When people see His mercy even when they are disobedient...then they are drawn to Him. Just as God has found all people to be guilty of sin…even so His mercy is available to all people.
Romans 11:33-36-Paul speaks of the greatness of God's wisdom and knowledge in this matter. He is amazed that God would even use something like the disobedience of people in such a way that it would be productive for the kingdom. It is as if he is saying, “Who would ever have thought of doing things this way? Only God is wise enough to have come up with this plan for salvation!”
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You gave me mercy...even when I was a sinner...a terrible sinner. Help me to always be aware of the two things that Paul mentions here...the extent of Your kindness, and Your severity. Help me to never become casual with sin, or Your salvation...but to always seek to live for You.