Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Reason for Setting Aside the Nation Israel

 (39) Reason for Setting Aside the Nation Israel
Romans 11:11-21


“Fate says the thing is and must be, so it is decreed. But the true doctrine is—God has appointed this and that, not because it must be, but because it is best that it should be. Fate is blind, but the destiny of Scripture is full of eyes. Fate is stern and adamantine, and has no tears for human sorrow. But the arrangements of providence are kind and good.”
Charles Spurgeon

 

11 I 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 Gentiles.
12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.
15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 And 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,
18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

 

Commentary

11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, [1]salvation has come to the [2]Gentiles.

I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall?

Paul now raises another rhetorical question to prove a point; which the apostle proceeds to answer.  Have they stumbled that they should fall? Here we should add the word finally or forever. Did they stumble so that they may possibly fall and never be restored? Are they, as a nation, utterly irrecoverable? The meaning of Paul’s question becomes clear when it is worded this way: “Is it the design of God that the Jews should totally and irrecoverably be cast off? Even admitting that they are now unbelieving, that they have rejected the Messiah, that they have stumbled, is it the purpose of God finally to exclude them from mercy?” No!  God has not forgotten is people.  Abraham asked, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).  The answer is “yes!” Jehovah God made a covenant with Abraham that was everlasting.  Every promise God made to his people, Israel, will be fulfilled in its entirety.  The expression to stumble is used because he had just mentioned a stumbling-stone. It does not mean to fall down to the ground, or to fall so that a man may not get up again; but to strike the foot against an obstacle, to be prevented from going, and to be in danger of falling. Hence it means to err, to sin, to be in danger.

The Jews stumbled over Christ, but their fall was not irreparable. That is the first part of Paul’s answer. Now the apostle proceeds to the second branch of his argument, and shows that God, for wise reasons, has cast off Israel for a time, but that finally the nation will be converted.

Certainly not!

God forbid. The apostle denies such a suggestion emphatically. “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (11.1).

But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation  has come to the Gentiles.

God’s purpose is restorative. His purpose is that as a result of their fall, salvation might come to the Gentiles, thus provoking Israel to jealousy. This jealousy is designed to bring Israel back to God eventually by arousing them to emulate Gentile Christians, and to a desire for a recovery of divine favor. When the Jews see the Gentiles feasting on bread from the banquet table of God and enjoying the salvation which could have been theirs, they will be convinced of their apostasy and foolish rejection of Jesus as their Messiah.

The call of the Gentiles and the rejection of the gospel by the majority of Jews should not have come as a surprise to the nation of Israel. Their own Scriptures foretold exactly what would happen. For example God warned that He would provoke Israel to jealousy by a non-nation (the Gentiles), and anger Israel by a foolish, idolatrous nation.  Moses made this prediction in [3]Deuteronomy 32:21, and evidently Paul knew the verse, for he wrote; “But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you” (10:19). The rejection and fall of the Jews contributed to the reception of the Gentiles in the following manner:
1. It broke down the barrier which had long existed between Jews and Gentiles.
2. It made it appropriate, because they had rejected the Messiah, to make Christ known to others.
3. It was connected with the destruction of the temple: and the rites and rituals of the Mosaic law; and taught them, and all others, that the worship of God was not to be confined to any single place.
4. The calamities that came upon the Jewish nation scattered the inhabitants of Judea and with the Jews also those who had become Christians, and as a result the gospel was carried to other lands.
5. These calamities, and the conduct of the Jews, and the end of the Jewish nation, were the means of giving to apostles, and other Christians, the correct views of the true objectives of the Mosaic institutions. If the temple had remained; if the nation had continued to flourish, it would have been a long time before they would have been effectively separated from those rites. Experience showed that they were slow in learning that the Jewish ceremonies were to cease. Some of the most agitating questions in the early church pertained to this; and if the temple had not been destroyed, the “fall” of the Jewish nation would have taken much longer and been more difficult.

The Church of God cannot fail; if the Jews have broken the everlasting covenant, referred to in [4]Isaiah 24:5, the Gentiles will be taken into it; and this will ultimately be the means of stimulating them to seek and claim a share in the blessings of the new covenant; and this is what the apostle terms provoking them to jealousy, i.e. exciting them to emulation. We should take note here of a very important truth, that the fall of the Jews was not in itself the cause or reason of the calling of the Gentiles; for whether the Jews had stood or fallen, whether they had embraced or rejected the Gospel, it was the original purpose of God to take the Gentiles into the Church; for this was absolutely implied in the covenant made with Abraham: and it was in virtue of that covenant that the Gentiles were now called, and not BECAUSE of the unbelief of the Jews. And that's why we see that their fall was not the necessary means of the salvation of the Gentiles; and certainly the unbelief of the Jews could never produce faith in the Gentiles. The simple reality is: the Jews, in the most obstinate and unprincipled manner, rejected Jesus Christ and the salvation offered them in his name; then the apostles turned to the Gentiles, and they heard and believed. The Jews themselves perceived that the Gentiles were to receive similar privileges to those which they, as the peculiar people of God, had enjoyed; and this they could not bear, and so they put forth all their strength in opposition to the Christian faith and persecuting its followers. The calling of the Gentiles, which existed in the original purpose of God, became in a certain way accelerated by the unbelief of the Jews, through which they forfeited all their privileges, and fell from that state of glory and dignity in which they had long ago been placed, as the peculiar people of God.

The word rendered “fall,” is different than “fall” in the question Paul has asked.  It denotes a moral trespass, as in [5]Romans 5:15 . The trespass was that they rejected Christ as their Messiah. The fall was the breaking up of their nation, the destruction of their city and temple; the ceasing of their ceremonial rites; and the rejection and dispersion of their nation by the Romans: all these factors enter into the meaning of the word fall here.

But through their fall…salvation has come unto the Gentiles. The stumbling of the Jews did not result in their utter and final ruin, but instead it facilitated the advancement of the Gospel among the Gentiles. Therefore, it was not intended to lead to the destruction of the nation, but to bring the Gentiles into a covenant relationship with Almighty God. From this very plan it is probable that the Jews will finally be restored, because the natural effect of the conversion of the Gentiles is to provoke the Jews to be envious of the Gentile Christians. That the rejection of the gospel by the Jews was the catalyst for its wider and more rapid spread among the Gentiles seems to be clearly implied in several passages of the New Testament. “It was necessary,” Paul says to the Jews, “that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). And in Acts 28:28, after saying that the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in their unbelief; he adds, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles.” Compare to [6]Isaiah 49:4-6. The Jews, even those who professed to be Christians, were very slow to allow the gospel to be preached to the Gentiles; they appear almost uniformly to have desired to clog the gospel with the ceremonial observances of the law. This was one of the greatest hindrances to the progress of the cause of Christ during the apostolic age, and would, in all human probability, have been a thousand-fold greater, had the Jews, as a nation, embraced the Christian faith. The rejection of the Jews was definitely a means of facilitating the progress of the gospel. Besides this, the punishment which took place on account of their unbelief, involving the destruction of their nation and power, of course prevented their being able to forbid the general preaching of the gospel, which they earnestly desired to do. 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16, bears this out; “They please not God, and are contrary to all men; forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved.”

Christ said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” He referred, to the cross. Rejected by the Jewish nation, and sent to the cross, he became the Savior of all mankind, Gentiles as well as Jews. So, too, the rejection of the gospel by the Jews accelerated the preaching among the Gentiles. (See [7]Acts 8:4) What's more, when the Jews crucified Christ, “the handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross,” and the “partition wall” between Jews and Gentiles was broken down. So the result of the Jews hardening themselves and rejecting Christ was, under the providence of God, so that the Gentiles would be saved; saved to provoke them to jealousy. The elder brother, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, was filled with jealousy when he saw the younger son accepted by the father.

________________________________verse 11 notes_________________________________

[1](Salvation.) The Christian religion, with all its saving benefits. It does not mean that all the Gentiles were to be saved, but that the way was open; they might have access to God, and obtain His favor through the Messiah. 
[2](The Gentiles.) All the world that were not Jews.
[3](Deuteronomy 32:21) “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.”  After setting Israel aside, God acted in grace toward the Gentiles, seeking to provoke Israel to jealousy (as in the present Church Age). Israel in the meantime would be scattered and persecuted. The people would not be totally destroyed, though, because Jehovah did not want Israel’s enemies to misinterpret the nation’s downfall. It was not that their enemies’ rock was stronger, but that Israel’s Rock had surrendered them to slaughter because of their wickedness.
[4](Isaiah 24:5) “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” The cause of worldwide pollution is that men have broken the everlasting covenant. Some take this to refer to the Noahic covenant (Gen. 9:16), but that unconditional covenant depended entirely on God. Others think that the Mosaic Law is referred to, but that was given only to Israel, and is not said to be an everlasting covenant. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says it is “the covenant people implicitly with God to obey His Word.
[5](Romans 5:15) But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
[6](Isaiah 49:4-6) Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. 5And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. 6And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

[7](Acts 8:4) “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.” The dispersal of the Christians did not silence their testimony. Everywhere they went they carried the good news of salvation.

12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

Now if their fall is [8]riches  for the world.

As a result of Israel’s rejection of the gospel, and their consequential rejection by God, the nation was temporarily set aside and the gospel went out to the Gentiles. In this sense the fall of the Jews has meant spiritual riches for the world, and Israel’s loss has been the Gentiles’ gain.

And their failure, riches for the Gentiles.

The expression riches for the Gentiles relates to the conferring of significant blessings on the Gentiles. These blessings came to the Gentiles, from Christian Jews, in a roundabout way:
1. They are scattered in all nations, and have access to all people.
2. Their conversion, after so long a period of unbelief, would have all the power and influence of a miracle performed in view of all nations; it would also be an obvious fulfillment of the prophecies.
3. They are familiar with the languages of the world, and their conversion would immediately establish many Christian missionaries in the heart of all the kingdoms of the world.
4. The Jews have shown that they are well fitted to spread the true religion. It was by Jews, converted to Christianity, that the gospel was first spread. Each of the apostles was a Jew; and they have lost none of the dedication, enterprise, and zeal, that always characterized their nation. Their conversion would, therefore, give to the Christian church a host of missionaries prepared for their work, familiar with all customs, languages, and citizenry, and already in the heart of all the kingdoms.

How much more their fullness!

It Is God’s plan to bless the whole wide world through the Jew—and God will do this in His own appointed time, according to his own blueprint of the ages: “he shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” (Isaiah 27:6).  If that is true, that Israel’s fall and subsequent loss of her special privileges will bring riches to the world, how much more will Israel’s restoration result in rich blessings for all the world! Another way to put this is: "If an event as unpleasant as Israel's fall was the cause of such unspeakable good to the Gentile world, of how much greater good may we expect an event so blessed as their full recovery to be a blessing to the Gentiles?" Everything worthwhile that has come to the Gentile world has come through Israel; and when Israel turns to the Lord at the close of the Great Tribulation, she will become the channel of blessing to the nations. The Divine riches will then be bestowed not merely on individuals as is now the case, but upon the nations of the world as a whole. At that time there will be full and national prosperity. Verse 12 sums up the whole subject as regards the Divine dealings with nations.

The word “fullness” means, “that which fills up, or completes anything.” Therefore, it is applied to that which fills a vessel or cup; also to the piece of cloth which is put in to fill up the rent in a garment [9](Matthew 9:16); and to the fragments which were left when Christ had fed the five thousand [10](Mark 8:20). We are told in Romans 13:10, "Love is the fulfilling of the law," i.e., it is the filling up of the law (See [11]Galatians 5:14). Here it stands in contrast to their fall, and their decline, and evidently means their complete restoration to the favor of God; their recovery from unbelief and apostasy. How much more shall we expect when they shall be restored-when the energy and zeal of the Jewish nation shall unite with the efforts of others in spreading the knowledge of the true Messiah? In what way, or when it will be, we do not know. But it is easy to see, that if the Jewish people would be converted to the Christian faith, they would have facilities for spreading the truth which the church has never had without them.

________________________________verse 12 notes____________________________________

[8](Riches) The word riches means wealth, abundance of property; more than is necessary to the supply of our wants. Hence it means, also, anything that may promote our comfort or happiness, as wealth is the means of securing our welfare. The gospel is called riches, as it is the means of our highest enjoyment and eternal welfare. It is the means of conferring numberless spiritual blessings on the Gentile world; and as this was done by the fall of the Jews, so it could be said that their fall was the riches of the world. It was the occasion or means without which the blessings of the gospel could not be conferred on the world.

[9](Matthew 9:16) “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.” The apostle is talking about trying to mix law and grace. He said that it would be like using a piece of new, unshrunk cloth to patch an old garment. When washed, the patch would shrink, ripping itself away from the old cloth. The disrepair would be worse than ever. 
[10](Mark 8:20) And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.
[11](Galatians 5:14) For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

 
13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
For I speak to you Gentiles.

Here, the apostle addresses the Gentiles directly. Some think he is speaking to the Gentile Christians in Rome, but the passage demands a different audience—that is, the Gentile nations as such. It will greatly help one to understand this passage if he sees Paul as speaking of Israel nationally and of the Gentiles as such. He is not speaking of the church of God; otherwise we face the possibility of the church’s being cut off [12](Romans 11:22), and this is unscriptural.

Since Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, it was quite natural for him to speak to them very candidly. In doing so, he was only fulfilling his ministry. The speech he is giving is in response to their anticipated question, “Paul, as the apostle to the Gentiles why are you concerned about the salvation of Jews?” Paul’s answer reflects both his conviction concerning his divine calling and the compassion he has for his own people. Since Paul was appointed by God to preach to them, he had a right to speak to them with authority.

Inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles,

Paul is expressing his appreciation that the ministry of the gospel to the Gentiles was essentially entrusted to him. He wished to show them the glory and blessedness to which they had been called, so that they might have an appropriate sense of God's mercy in calling them to salvation; and that they might vigilant, lest they should fall as the Jews had done before them.

Paul is called the apostle to the Gentiles, not because other apostles did not preach to Gentiles, for they all did, except perhaps James; nor because Paul did not himself preach occasionally among the Jews; but because he was especially called to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, and that this was his original commission, [13](Acts 9:15 ) because he was principally employed in collecting and organizing churches in heathen lands; and because the care of the Gentile churches was principally entrusted to him, while that of the Jewish churches was especially entrusted to Peter. See [14]Galatians 1:16, [15]Ephesians 3:8, [16]Galatians 2:7, 8. Seeing that Paul was especially appointed to this office, he claimed special authority to address, those who were gathered into the Christian church from heathen lands.

I magnify my ministry

The word rendered “I magnify”, means, first, to praise, and speak highly of a thing; secondly, to render glorious, as Romans 8:30 states, “Whom he justifies, them he also glorifies…” Either sense of the word suits this passage. The latter, however, is much better adapted to the following verse, and therefore it is the preferred translation.

He magnified his office through the faithful discharge of its duties, because he believes that the salvation of the Gentiles will rouse the Jews to jealousy and bring them to salvation as well. The swelling of the ranks of true believers among Paul’s own countrymen will also cause the swelling of the ranks among the Gentiles and the ministry of the apostle will then be a greater ministry.

_____________________________verse 13 notes_______________________________

[12](Romans 11:22)Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” Two great contrasting facets of God’s character are mentioned—His goodness and His severity. His severity is manifest in the removal of Israel from the favored-nation status. His goodness is seen in His turning to the Gentiles with the gospel (see Acts 13:46; 18:6). But that goodness must not be taken for granted. The Gentiles too could be cut off if they do not maintain that relative openness which the Savior found during His earthly ministry (Matt. 8:10; Luke 7:9).

It must be constantly borne in mind that Paul is not speaking of the church or of individual believers. He is speaking about the Gentiles as such. Nothing can ever separate the Body of Christ from the Head, and nothing can separate a believer from the love of God, but the Gentile peoples can be removed from their present position of special privilege. 
[13](Acts 9:15) “But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” Primarily Saul was to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and this commission would bring him before kings. But he would also preach to his countrymen according to the flesh, and here he would experience the keenest persecution. 
[14](Galatians 1:16) “To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:”

[15](Ephesians 3:8) Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 
[16](Galatians 2:7, 8) But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8(For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)


14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.

He sought by every means to provoke to jealousy those who were his countrymen, so that he might be used to save some of them. He knew and we know that he himself couldn’t save anyone. But the God of salvation identifies Himself so closely with His servants that He permits them to speak of their doing what only He can do.

It is implied here that conversions take place one by one and that the people of God should make the utmost effort to win souls. The apostle believed that some, but not all, of the Gentiles could be saved by his preaching, and that none were shut out from God’s mercy. His desire for his countrymen is that he would be able to awaken their zeal, so that they would have an earnest desire to obtain similar blessings. This was in accordance with the prediction of Moses, that the calling in of the Gentiles would excite their attention, and provoke them to have deep feelings. The apostle expected to do this by calling their attention to the ancient prophecies; by alarming their fears about their own danger; and by showing them the great privileges which Gentiles might enjoy under the gospel; there by appealing to them by every principle of kindness, and by their regard for God and man, to excite them to seek the same blessings.

The apostle often expressed this desire “to save some of them.” (See [17]Romans 9:2, 3 ; [18]10:1, 2 .) We may see here:
1. That it is the earnest wish of a Christ directed ministry to save the souls of men.
2. That they should use every argument and appeal to accomplish this objective.
3. That even the most awful and humbling truths may be used to this end. No truth could be more likely to irritate and offend the Jews than preaching that the Jews would be cast off; and yet the apostle used this so faithfully and so tenderly, that he expected and desired that it might be the means of saving the souls of his countrymen. Truth often irritates, enrages, and as a result gets the attention of the unconverted. Thinking logically or asking questions, however it may be brought about, may result in conversion.
4. It is right to use all the means in our power, not absolutely wicked, to save men. Paul was full of devices; and much of the success of any ministry will depend on a wise use of plans that may, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, arouse and save the souls of men.

_________________________________verse 14 notes__________________________________

[17](Romans 9:2, 3) “That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” When he thinks first of Israel’s glorious calling, and now of its rejection by God because it rejected the Messiah, his heart is filled with great sorrow and continual grief. He could even wish himself accursed or cut off from Christ if through the forfeiting of his own salvation his Jewish brothers might be saved.

[18](Romans 10:1, 2) Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

 
15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

This verse repeats the general idea of 11:12, except the language is different. When Israel was set aside as God’s chosen, earthly people, the Gentiles were brought into a position of favor with God, and therefore, in a figurative sense were reconciled. When Israel is restored during the Millennial Reign of Christ, it will be like worldwide regeneration or resurrection.

This may be illustrated in the experience of Jonah, who was a figure of the nation of Israel. When Jonah was cast out of the boat during the storm, this resulted in deliverance or salvation for a boatload of Gentiles. But when Jonah was restored and preached to Nineveh, it resulted in salvation for a city full of Gentiles. So Israel’s temporary rejection by God has resulted in the gospel going out to a handful of Gentiles, comparatively speaking. But when Israel is restored, vast hordes of Gentiles will be ushered into the kingdom of God.

Although Paul here returns to the viewpoint of the 12th verse, this passage is also logically connected with the preceding verse. The apostle had said, that even in laboring for the salvation of the Gentiles, he had in view the salvation of the Jews; for if their rejection had given rise to so much good, how desirable their restoration must be.

For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world,

The term “casting away,” differs from that in verses 1 and 2. Here it refers to the exclusion of the nation from its position of favor. What's more “the reconciling of the world” does not mean that all men will be reconciled, but that all who want it may be reconciled. The scope of reconciliation is the whole world and the instrument is the gospel. The apostle had denied that they were east away (11:1 ); but here he affirms it. Nevertheless both are true; they were cast away, but not totally or finally, and it is of this partial and temporary rejection that the apostle speaks of here.

The word reconciliation commonly means a pacification of opposing parties; a removing of the motivation for the discord, so that the parties are once again united. Paul wrote this to the church at Corinth: "Let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband" (1 Corinthians 7:11). It is commonly applied to the reconciliation, produced between man and God by the gospel. They are brought to union, to friendship, to peace, by the intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…” (Romans 5:10); “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18,19). And so, this word is used to express the atonement: “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (the reconciliation) (Romans 5:11). In this place it means, that many of the Gentiles—the world—had become reconciled to God as the result of the casting off of the Jews. By their unbelief, the way had been opened to preach the gospel to the Gentiles; it was the means by which God sent it to the nations of the earth.

The reconciliation that the apostle speaks of here is the same as he describes in Ephesians 2:11-22. It is a reconciliation by which those who were aliens and strangers have been brought close; reconciled at once to the church, the commonwealth of Israel, and to God himself, “by the blood of Christ.”

what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

The receiving is being contrasted with the casting away. The reception of the whole family of Israel, scattered as they are among all nations under heaven, and the most entrenched enemies of the Lord Jesus, will present such a amazing manifestation of the power of God upon the spirits of men, and of His glorious presence with the people of God, that it will not only kindle devout astonishment far and wide, but also change the dominant mode of thinking and feeling about spiritual things, that it will give the impression of a resurrection from the dead.

The rejected Messiah of Israel was taken by her to the cross and there He reconciled the world to Himself. But if Israel’s blindness brought salvation to the Gentile world, what will her reception by God bring? The ultimate reception of a repentant Israel will bring revival on an unprecedented scale. We may expect to see a mighty evangelistic movement in the last days which will be characterized by large numbers of Jews coming to receive Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Savior.  What a wonderful moment it will be when the Lord returns to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4 ) and “all Israel shall be saved” (Romans11: 26).

Life from the dead does not at this point signify physical resurrection, but a state of the worldwide enjoyment of the favor and blessing of God, instead of the present condition of alienation from Him.
It is clear here, first, that the apostle is speaking of a future conversion of the Jews to the gospel; and second, that he expected that their conversion would precede the universal conversion of the Gentiles to the Christian faith. There could be no event that would make so immediate and decisive an impression on the pagan world as the conversion of the Jews. They are scattered everywhere; they have access to all people; they understand all languages; and their conversion would be like turning on thousands of lights at once in the darkness of the pagan world.

Not only in the Scriptures, but also in secular literature, the transition from a state of depression and misery to one of prosperity is expressed by the familiar figure of speech, passing from death to life. The Old Testament prophets represented the condition of the theocracy (government by a god or by priests), following the coming of Christ, in contrast with its previous condition, as a rising from the dead. This interpretation of the passage before us is adopted by many of the best commentators, ancient and modern. It presumes the general spread and power of the gospel, the resurrection of spiritual life, the conversion of great multitudes of men, and the national conversion of Israel.

 

_____________________________verse 15 notes____________________________________

[19](Zechariah 14:4) And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

 

16 For if the firstfruit is [20]holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

For if the firstfruit is holy , the lump is also holy;

The word firstfruit is used here to denote the portion of fruit or grain which was separated from the harvest, and presented as an offering to God. The Jews were required to present such a portion of the first harvest to God, as an expression of gratitude, and of their sense of dependence. (See [21]Numbers 15:19-21). Until this was done, it was not lawful to partake of the harvest. This offering, was to be made first, from the harvest in its natural state [22](Exodus 23:19); and, secondly, from the meal, wine, oil, and dough, that was prepared for use from the yield. Numbers 15:21 says, “And that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough, and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.” Here, the first-fruits stand for the portion of dough offered to God, and the lump the dough remaining after the offering is removed. The offering of the firstfruit was looked upon as rendering the whole mass holy, i.e., it was lawful then to partake of it. The firstfruits were regarded as among the best portions of the harvest; and it was their duty to devote to God that which would be the best expression of their thanksgiving. This was the general practice in relation to all that the land produced. The expression here, however, speaks of dough, not of fruit. In [21]Numbers 15:19–21 we read that a piece of dough was consecrated to the Lord as a heave offering. The argument is that if the piece of dough becomes holy when it is set apart to the Lord, so is all the dough that the piece was taken from. The offering of a part has consecrated the whole.  

By this illustration Paul almost certainly means to say that the Jewish nation, as a people, was set apart to the service of God. Some have supposed that by the firstfruit the apostle intends to refer to the early converts made to the Christian faith by the preaching of the gospel. But it is more probable that he refers to the patriarchs, the pious men of old, as the firstfruits of the Jewish nation. (See [23]Romans 11:28). By their piety the nation was in a manner sanctified, or set apart to the service of God; implying that “in the end” a great mass of them would be reclaimed and saved.

and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

The second metaphor is the root and the branches. If the root is set apart (holy), so are the branches. We must not forget that the first converts to Christ were from among the Jews; they formed the root of the Christian Church: they were holy and consecrated to God, and those Gentiles who were converted through their testimony were also consecrated; but the reference here is to the ancestors of the Jewish people, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and, just as these were devoted to God and received into his covenant, all their posterity, the branches which proceeded from this root, became entitled to the same privileges. And, since the descendants from that root still remain: they still have a certain entitlement to the blessings of the covenant; however, because of their stubborn unbelief, these blessings are suspended, since they cannot, even on the ground of the old covenant, enjoy these blessings unless they come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It was only after Abraham believed God that it was accounted to him for righteousness; and thus he became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Maybe this will help clarify what I have just said. Abraham is the root of Israel in the sense that he was the first to be set apart by God to form a new society, distinct from the other nations. If Abraham was set apart, so are those who are descended from him in the chosen line. To him the promise was made regarding his descendants. Since he, as the firstfruit and the root, is holy, that is, belongs to God, then the nation which has sprung from him, the lump and the branches, must also belong to God.
In the next verse the figure of the root, the stalk and the tree, is expanded.

________________________________verse 16 notes______________________________________

[20](Be holy) To be set apart, or consecrated to God, as he commanded. 
[21](Numbers 15:19-21) Then it shall be, that, when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall offer up an heave offering unto the LORD. Ye shall offer up a cake of the first of your dough for an heave offering: as ye do the heave offering of the threshingfloor, so shall ye heave it. Of the first of your dough ye shall give unto the LORD an heave offering in your generations.
[22](Exodus 23:19) The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God.

[23](Romans 11:28) “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.” So we might summarize Israel’s present status by saying first that concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake. They are enemies in the sense of being cast off, set aside, and alienated from God’s favor so that the gospel might go forth to the Gentiles. But that is only half the picture. Concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers—that is, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.


17 And 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.

The object of this verse and those that follow is to make an application of the truths which Paul had just taught that would prevent any feeling of excitement or triumph of the Gentile Christians over the Jews. It is true that the Jews have been partially rejected from the church of God; that the Gentiles have been brought into it; and that the Jews are ultimately to be restored. These things, however, provide no grounds for boasting to the Gentiles, but rather they are the cause of thankfulness and caution. Paul illustrates these truths by a very appropriate metaphor.

And if some of the branches were broken off,

The nation of Israel was God’s ancient, chosen, earthly people, but some of her branches have been broken off through unbelief. Those branches are the unbelieving portion of the twelve tribes of Israel. Because of their rejection of the Messiah, they were removed from their place of privilege as God’s chosen people. But only some of the branches were removed. A remnant of the nation, including Paul himself, had received the Lord.
 
and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them,

The illustration here is taken from the practice of those who engraft trees. The process of grafting consists in inserting a slip or a young shoot into another tree. To do this, a useless limb is removed; and the engrafted 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 improved, and become valuable. The illustration provided by 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 were thus broken off. The Gentiles had been grafted into this stock, and had restored the decayed zeal of the ancient people of God; and a fruitless church had become vigorous and flourishing.

The wild olive was unfruitful, or its fruit very unsatisfactory and useless. The ancient writers described the condition as "unfruitful or barren." The wild olive was used, therefore, as the emblem of unfruitfulness and barrenness, while the cultivated olive produced a large amount 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 with an active sin nature. The Jews had, at one time, been like a cultivated olive, receiving training and blessing from God for a long time.

It is also important to remember that the wild olive branch is not the church but the Gentiles viewed collectively. Otherwise you face the possibility of true believers being cut off from God’s favor. Paul has already shown that this is impossible [24](Romans 8:38, 39 ).

From this passage it would seem that the olive tree was sometimes cultivated, and that cultivation was necessary in order to make it fruitful. The cultivated olive tree is "of 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.)

To understand the next four verses we must have a clear idea of what is meant by the olive tree. It stands for the chosen family of Abraham, not his natural children only, but his believing children, the heirs of the promise. The Jewish nation inherited the promises that God made to Abraham, because they were Abraham’s spiritual children.  We become heirs of the promise when we become his children by faith. (See [25]Gal 3:28, 29).

and with them became a partaker of the root and [26]fatness  of the olive tree.

It is clear from this verse, that the root in this passage cannot be the early converts from among the Jews, but are the ancient covenant people of God. The ancient theocracy was merged into the kingdom of Christ. The latter is but an enlargement and elevation of the former. There has, therefore, never been any other family of God on earth. This family was composed, in ancient times, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants. At the coming of Christ, its name and circumstances were changed; many of its old members were cast out, and others were brought into the family, but it is still the same family. Or, to return to the apostle’s illustration, it is the same tree, only some of its branches have changed.

The Gentiles were grafted into the olive tree and became partakers along with believing Jews of the root and fatness. The root points back to Abraham, with whom the family line of the nation began. The fatness of an olive tree refers to its productivity—that is, to its rich crop of olives and oil derived from them. Here the fatness signifies the privileges that flowed from union with the olive tree.

The engrafted limb would derive nourishment from the root as if it was a natural branch of the tree. The Gentiles would now have the benefit of Abraham's faith and holy labors, and of the promises made to him and to his seed. They became partakers of the spiritual life and blessing which belonged to Abraham and his descendants by divine covenant, and in that way received the “the root of the fatness of the olive tree.”

____________________________verse 17 notes_________________________________

[24](Rom. 8:38, 39) “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
[25](Gal 3:28, 29) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 
[26](Fatness) The word fatness means fertility, fruitfulness—the rich juices of the olive producing fruit.


18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

The apostle issues a strong warning to the Gentiles about their understanding of what has happened to unbelieving Jews.

do not boast against the branches.

This warning is for Gentile believers who regard themselves as being either better or in a better position than Jews who were broken off. There is still too much of this thinking in the prejudice against the Jewish race. We must bear in mind that “The root beareth thee;” the riches of grace of the Gentile Christian are due to the fact that he is “grafted in” upon the Abrahamic stock, and becomes a man of God by faith.

There is never any ground for a believer from among the Gentiles to disrespect the Jews and treat them as inferiors. The Gentiles should not take a holier-than-thou attitude toward the Jews, or boast of any superiority. Any such boasting overlooks the fact that they didn’t originate the line of privilege. Rather, it is the line of privilege that put them where they are, in a place of special favor.

But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

The tendency of man is to lord it over one that is fallen and rejected. The danger of pride and boasting on account of privileges is not less within the church than somewhere else. Paul saw that some of the Gentiles might be in danger of taking delight in the fallen Jews, and therefore, he cautions them against it. The engrafted shoot, which derives all its vigor and fruitfulness from the stock of another tree, should not boast against the branches.

Salvation came through the Jews; Our Lord said, “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Converted Gentiles, then, had no reason to take delight in Jews who became subjects of divine disfavor through unbelief. It is through Abraham and the promise that God’s mercy has come to Gentiles.

But if you are so inconsiderate and wicked, so devoid of humility, and lifted up with pride, that you do boast, remember that there is no reason for it. If there were it would certainly be in the root or stock which sustains the branches; but you (Gentiles) are not the root, nor do you support the root, but instead, the root supports you. You have not been the means of obtaining any blessing on the Jewish people; but through that very people, whom you may be tempted to despise, all the blessing and Excellencies which you enjoy have been communicated to you.

The great lesson of this passage is certainly that just as the Jews of the Old Testament became proud, assuming that they alone knew God, the same thing may happen to Gentiles in the New Testament era. Gentile believers must not yield to the temptation to disrespect the Jews. If it had not been for the grace of God, Gentiles would never have been grafted into the family of God along with believing Jews. The new life which enables them to produce fruit grows from the same root that the old stock of Israel grows. New Testament believers must not assume that they are better than the Jews because they were cut off for their unbelief. The Gentile church must never forget its reliance upon the divine grace of God, or else her end will be the same as that of the old branches. The process of being grafted into the life of God finds its basis in the grace of God. We must never lord the grace of God over those who have been cut from the tree, for it is much easier to put the natural branches back, than to graft different branches in their place. We therefore must rest totally on the grace of God for our salvation, as the remnant does.

 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”

You will say then,
Perhaps the Gentile believers might boast that they are better than the Jews. They may think they have reasons to feel that way; because it is a fact that God has been displeased with them, and therefore has broken them off; has cast them out of the Church, and put the Gentiles into their place. They may say, “The Jewish branches were broken off, so that we Gentiles might be grafted in.

“Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”

The apostle wants to guard against the Christian Gentiles becoming complacent and self-righteous, since they prided themselves on the notion that the branches were broken off, and that they were put in their place. However, the fact that the rejection of Israel gave rise to the saving of Gentiles and the building of the church provided no grounds for Gentiles bragging about being preferred over the Jews. Paul believes that the Gentiles may say, “Jewish branches were broken off so that Gentile branches might be grafted in.” To this Paul replies in the next verse, that this was not the reason why they were rejected, but their unbelief was the cause. The true reason for this new dispensation is also given in the next verse.

 

20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.

Well said.

The apostle admits that the statement is partially true. Jewish branches were broken off, and the Gentiles were grafted in.

Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.

But it was because of the unbelief of Israel and not because the Gentiles had any special claim on God; there was no personal merit in Gentiles by which they became recipients of the divine favor. That favor was bestowed on the condition of faith, and faith excludes boasting: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (3:27). Where is boasting then in this wonderful plan of salvation? It is excluded, shut out, banned. By what principle is boasting excluded? By the principle of works? No. If salvation were by works, that would allow room for all kinds of self-congratulation. But when salvation is on the principle of faith, there is no room for boasting. The justified person says, “I did all the sinning; Jesus did all the saving.” True faith disavows any possibility of self-help, self-improvement, or self-salvation, looking only to Christ as Savior. Oh, my Christian friends and family, you do not stand before God on your merit, your church membership, or your good life. You stand on one basis alone: your faith in Jesus Christ. The language of faith is:

In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace.
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

The Gentiles were grafted in because, as a people, they stood by faith. This expression, you stand by faith, seems to indicate that Paul is speaking about true believers. But that is not necessarily the meaning. The only way in which the Gentiles stood by faith was that, comparatively speaking, they demonstrated more faith than the Jews did. Thus Jesus said to a Gentile centurion, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel” (Luke 7:9). And Paul later said to the Jews at Rome, “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” (Acts 28:28). Notice, “they will hear it.” As a people they are more receptive to the gospel today than Israel. To stand here is the opposite of to fall. Israel had fallen from its place of privilege. The Gentiles had been grafted into that place.

Do not be haughty (high-minded), but fear.

“Let him who stands beware lest he fall.” Gentiles should not be puffed up with pride; but rather, they should fear stumbling, as Israel had done. High-mindedness is the forerunner of stumbling. A privilege granted provides no room for pride, boasting, and arrogance. On the contrary there is room for fear of the danger of stumbling, as Israel had done. This type of fear stands opposed to the spirit of boasting and self-confidence. It does not mean terror or horror, but instead, it indicates humility, watchfulness, and desire to abide in the faith. Do not be haughty and high-minded against the Jew, who has been cast off, but "demean yourself as a humble believer, and one who has need to be continually on his guard, and to fear lest he may fall through unbelief, and be cast off." (Stuart.)

We may learn here:

1. That there is danger that those who are blessed with privileges (wealth, fame, etc.) could become unduly puffed-up in their own estimation, and despise others. 
2. That the tendency of faith is to promote humility, and a sense of our dependence on God. 
3. That the means of salvation by faith produces that consideration, and careful guarding and watchfulness, which is necessary to safeguard us from apostasy and ruin.

There is a tremendous truth beginning to dawn here. As one great scholar put it: “No Church or people are saved in mass.” Admittedly, God has dealt with Israel on a national level throughout the Old Testament, but not with regard to salvation. They were a special people alright, and God blessed them in mass, but He also would occasionally give them up to their enemies. He was an awful God who spoke to them through their leaders and prophets; the only Hebrews that had a personal relationship with the Lord was the remnant of true believers.

Jerusalem was destroyed by a Roman army in A.D.70 and the Jews were scattered throughout the world. The Dispersion created a situation in which there was no longer a nation, and that lasted until 1949, and so God could no longer deal with them in mass. And that is also true today, since more Jews live outside Israel than are living in Israel. The idea of a chosen people who are saved on the basis of their nationality will not hold water for this basic reason. The relationship with God is an individual relationship. A man must give his own heart and surrender his own life to God. In this present dispensation of grace, salvation is by faith alone. God does not call men in crowds; He has “His own secrete stairway into every heart.” A man is not saved because He is a member of a nation or of a family, or because he has inherited righteousness and salvation from his ancestors; he is saved because he has made a personal decision for God. As it stands now, the whole nation is not lumped together as the Chosen People. It is those individual men and women who have given their hearts to God, of whom the remnant is composed.

 

21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

If God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you

If the natural descendants of Abraham, and partakers of the blessings of the covenant, were deprived of their privileges through unbelief, then it is true that the Gentile has reason to beware of the danger that God will not spare him, since he was a stranger from the covenant of promise. The situation of the Gentiles is not such as to give them any security over the condition of the rejected Jew.

As a matter of fact, the Gentile has even more reason to fear than the Jew had. It was in itself far more probable that God would spare a people who were connected with him in the most peculiar manner, than that he would spare those who had no such claims on his mercy. The idea intended to be expressed by this verse probably is, that the Jews, from their relation to God, were more likely to be spared than the Gentiles, inasmuch as God is accustomed to bear long with the recipients of his mercy, before he casts them off; even as a father bears long with a son, before he discards him and adopts another.

In verses 20 and 21 Paul is not speaking of an individual Gentile who boasts against the Jew being cut off, but if God spared not his own chosen people “because of unbelief” (20), why would he spare Gentiles’?
If verse 21 is interpreted to mean nations, it should be clear Paul is not speaking of individual saved Gentiles being cut off from their salvation, but the unsaved nation being cut-off Iike unsaved Israel was cut off in the Dispersion.

 

 

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