Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Now Paul focuses on Israel’s future. He begins this passage with a question: “Did they (Israel) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?” Paul’s answer is, “Not at all!” God created Israel to be a nation through which all the other nations should be blessed. Despite their failure, God does not allow the outside nations to suffer. But rather, in infinite grace, He works through the fall of His people toward blessing the whole world. In fact, Paul tells us that God will use the salvation of the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy. And when, at last, Israel is ready to acknowledge their Messiah (Jesus), words will not be able to describe the blessing which Israel’s restoration will mean to the world.
Paul now uses a parable to illustrate his point. He writes concerning two olive trees—a cultivated one (Israel) and a wild one (Gentiles). The wild tree produced poor fruit, which contained little or no oil. The cultivated tree produced good fruit. The cultivated tree began to grow weak and unproductive; old branches were therefore cut away, and a graft was made from the wild olive tree. The cutting away of the old branches was required to admit air and light to the graft. The graft of the wild branches represents all Gentile believers, now incorporated into the family of God. The branches that were cut away are those Jews who declined to accept the Gospel. Paul then warns the Gentile believers not to despise the Jews. But for the grace of God, which engrafted them among His people and made them fellow citizens with the saints, the Gentiles would have remained ever lifeless and fruitless. The new life which enables them to produce fruit for God is the life of the old stock of Israel onto which they have been grafted.
Why was Israel cut off? Because of unbelief. And if the spirit of pride leads the new graft (Gentiles) to forget its reliance on divine grace, it will suffer the same fate as the old branches; it, too, will be cut off. This is a stern warning to the church. God’s complete plan of redemption is still being played out. In the verses that follow (vs. 25-29), Paul makes it clear that God is not through with Israel. In His sovereign plan, God will restore Israel (spiritual) to a place of prominence in His eternal kingdom.
Since God accepted Gentiles who had no merit, surely God can restore Israel who likewise has no merit. In the end, Israel will turn to God in repentance, and God will save them just as He saves us—by His marvelous, infinite mercy and grace.
Questions to Ponder:
How do you feel about God’s sending the Gospel to the Gentiles as a means of provoking the Jews to jealousy? How is this an act of grace? What does this tell you about the “mysterious ways” in which God often works in order to exact His plan for mankind? What implications does this have for how you relate to your Jewish friends?
- Focus your attention on the Lord. Set your gaze upon Him. Tell Him how much you love Him. Thank Him for what is on your heart.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart and mind and reveal to you any offensive way in you. Be still before Him by focusing your attention on Him, and as He convicts you, confess that sin and tell Him you are sorry. Receive His grace and mercy.
- Oh, what depths of love, what a sweet Savior we have who is so merciful, gracious, and kind. Rest in His grace, unfailing love, and goodness.
Abba, tell me again how You love me. Tell me again how You, the Creator of all things, no longer call me desolate or forsaken but call me Your own. You have given me a new name. You are Holy, perfect, and righteous, and yet Your Word tells me You delight in me! You take pleasure in me and found a home to dwell inside of me by Your Holy Spirit. I am Your temple. Help me, Lord, to think on things that are pleasing to You. Take the coals from Your alter and touch my lips and words. Make me a burning and shining lamp for You, oh Lord, so when people are with me, they see You. Oh God, I ask for Your church that You would make us mature and fully assured of all of Your will, oh God. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.