Tuesday, 15 October 2013
For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. Romans 11:16
Firstfruit… lump… root… branches? Paul was just talking about Israel’s being cast away and then returned to favor. What is the connection?
“For” – This is a different conjunction than verse 15. It is actually two words which carry the idea of “if moreover.” He is adding to his previous thought and expanding on it. The imagery he will use is meant to show, with all certainty, that even though Israel was cast away, their return is assured; they are not utterly rejected.
And so, in order to substantiate this in a metaphorical way, Paul goes directly to the law which established Israel in the first place and he pulls out examples which actually verify that this is how God works. First he says, “if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy.” The concept of the “firstfruit” is a portion of something, such as grain or fruit, being offered to God. This portion then represents the whole. In the case of “the lump” a portion of the first dough which was made into bread after the harvest was cut off and offered to God. This is found in Numbers 15:18-21 –
“When you come into the land to which I bring you, then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the Lord. You shall offer up a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so shall you offer it up. Of the first of your ground meal you shall give to the Lord a heave offering throughout your generations.”
This “heave offering” is comparable to the “firstfruits.” If a portion of the lump is cut off and offered to God, which is then accepted as “holy,” then the whole offering becomes sanctified and is holy as well; the sacred portion makes the whole sacred. Bread is bread, but when a portion of a lump is deemed holy, then the whole lump is holy.
The second thought from Paul is that “if the root is holy, so are the branches.” Again, he has gone to the law to use a real precept to make a connection in how things work in spiritual matters. In Leviticus 19:23-25, the following is found –
“When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord. And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the Lord your God.”
A sapling may be planted anytime by anybody and in any location and it is just a sapling like any other. But in the land of Israel, a sapling is made holy when it is dedicated to God. If it is holy in its roots, which receive the water and nutrients from God’s land and His provision, then it is holy in its trunk, in its branches, in its sap, and in its fruit. The holiness permeates the plant.
In these two examples, which follow directly after his note concerning Israel, the intent is to tell us that the Jewish people, as a whole, have been set apart to God. If a portion of them has been sanctified as holy, then the whole is holy. This does not in any way imply that they are all saved, as he will note in the coming verses, but that the people, as a whole, are used for God’s purposes.
In support of this, Paul will use Jeremiah 11:6 as a basis for verses 16-24 –
“The Lord called your name, Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit. With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are broken.”
The dough and the tree are that which is holy. Each received its holiness from God. When a portion was deemed holy, the whole became holy. Psalm 105:6-15 shows this process. Abraham was selected and set apart by God. From him, that line went through Isaac and then to Jacob. From Jacob, all twelve sons received the sanctification; a collective group of people set apart by God for His service. As Christ is the fulfillment of the promises through this line, then those who are brought into Christ by faith are thus sanctified and made holy also.
Life application: 1 Corinthians 6:11 says that, in Christ you were washed, you were sanctified, and you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. If you are thus made holy, it is incumbent on you to act in a manner worthy of this sacred calling and state.
Heavenly Father, I cherish Your word because it is the gift You have given to instruct me on who You are and what You have done for us. Without it, I would be a ship tossed about on scary waters, but with it I know that I have a sure foundation in my knowledge of and obedience to Your wondrous Son. As Your child, I desire to be pleasing to You and so I’ll keep my nose in Your word and my eyes on Jesus. Amen.