Romans 11:17


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

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,… Romans 11:17

From the symbolism of this verse, if from nothing else, it should be evident that the church has not replaced Israel. The tree is symbolizing the faith of Abraham and the spiritual covenant blessings associated with that. If individual branches are individual believers but which represent the whole, as must be the case here, then these spiritual blessings can be given to different types of branches on the same tree.

The Bible makes it clear that there is now no distinction between Jew and gentile when in Christ. This is speaking of the benefit of being in Christ, not the individual who is in Christ. In other words, the terms “Jew” and “gentile” indicate a difference in individual. Likewise, different types of branches indicate a difference in nature.

Paul uses this symbolism to show us that “some of the branches were broken off.” From the surrounding context, this is certainly speaking of the disbelieving Jews. They failed to accept the work of God in Christ, and they were cast off as rejected branches. This has opened space for the gentiles. Paul, speaking to the gentiles in this portion of his letter, says “you.” This is only speaking of gentiles who, “being a wild olive tree” are not the same as the Jew (in individual nature, not spiritual benefit – as will be seen).

The gentile converts are not a part of the holy tree by nature. They are distinct and separate from it. However, nature when combined with wisdom in gardening allows something to occur apart from the natural order of things. Wild branches can be grafted into cultivated trees. The reason for grafting, as was discovered many millennia ago, is that certain trees are hardier than other trees. They can withstand harsher climates, defend against bugs, produce a variety of tastes within the same fruit type, etc.

The hardy spiritual tree – that of the spiritual blessings which came through Abraham, has “natural branches” from the line of promise: Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Israel. However, at select times prior to Christ’s coming, such as the Moabite Ruth, and more especially since Christ’s advent, something unusual and wonderful has happened. Wild branches have been “grafted in among them.”

Any believing gentiles, by faith in the promises of Christ, “became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree.” So there, on the one tree of spiritual nourishment, are branches of different types and which will produce a variety of traits while being sustained by the same life-giving sap. Again, as noted above, this doesn’t show a “replacement” but an “addition.” The gentiles are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel’s spiritual blessings because these blessings flow from the holy root, not because the gentiles have replaced Israel.

Life application: Through faith in God’s provision, all are one in the Messiah. Let us thank God for the immense blessing and honor of eternal life, granted because of the work of our Lord Jesus.

Lord God, I know what mercy truly is when I think about the conduct of my life. How many times have I fallen short of Your holy standard? But despite my ways, you haven’t just snuffed me out. Instead, you have allowed me to continue… waiting patiently for me to turn and call on You. And since the day I did, I’ve continued to err in what You would expect of an obedient child. Thank You for Your patient mercy on me. Amen.

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