Grafting and Pruning
11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! 13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
"The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob."
27 "And this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins."
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. NASB
All glory belongs to God. All things are from Him and through Him and to Him. What a statement. Think about that for a moment. All things come from Him. All things come through Him and therefore He is due all things in return. Is this your attitude? Are you thankful for what God has given you, for how He brought it to you? And do you recognize that all we have belongs to Him.
In speaking of the Israelites Paul says they are enemies for the sake of the Christians at Rome. The Jews as a nation, their leaders in particular were opposed to Christ and to this movement that sprang up after they had Jesus put to death. But as we saw last week, not all were lost. A remnant was saved. Those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah and put their faith in Him as Paul had were members of the church, those called out of the world to go and make disciples of all nations.
Paul uses an illustration here of an Olive tree. This tree is a picture of God and His followers. God is the root. His people are the branches. For Paul, the Israelites were the natural branches. Many were broken off and other branches were grafted in. The Gentiles were given room on the tree because the natural branches were broken off.
Why were they broken off? Because they refused to believe. They rebelled against God's plan of salvation and sought to save themselves by their own righteousness. They, like the rest of the world, thought they could earn their way into God's favor by being good, by following the rules.
But that was not God's way of salvation. His plan calls us to trust Him, to love Him to follow Him. When we put our trust in Him, He comes to live in our hearts and begins to live in us as Lord, as Father, as Teacher, as Master, as Brother. How unsearchable are His ways and unfathomable are His judgements. Can we truly comprehend the plan of salvation? We can only accept it by faith. We must believe that God loves us and wants to be in our lives.
Paul cautions his readers not to get too puffed up. If the natural branches were broken off because of their unbelief, we can be brokjen off as well if we begin to think that salvation and righteousness come from us instead of from God.
Jesus used a similar illustration as recorded by John in the fifteenth chapter of his gospel account. Jesus said that He was the vine and his followers are the branches. In His illustration, God is the vine dresser. He is the one who prunes the vine to make it more fruitful. It is the branches that do not bear fruit that are pruned from the grape vines to give more of the sap to those branches that do bear fruit.
We should not get too proud of ourselves, but rather trust God to produce in us the fruit of the Spirit. This is true humility. That is, to understand that all things come from God. We were created by Him. And He is the source of all things, as all things come through Him. He is the source of our righteousness and not we ourselves. When we produce our righteousness we are not trusting God, but putting our trust in ourselves to be what we think God wants us to be.
When we put our trust in God to develop within us His righteousness, we no longer have anything to boast about. It all comes from God.
We who were grafted into the the olive tree can be broken off if we are not trusting in the kindness and mercy of God. Unbelief such as this leads to pride and the glorifying of ourselves instead of to the glory of God.
It is not that we set aside the law, but we recognize that our obedience to the law needs to grow out of our love and gratitude to God, instead out of a desire to save ourselves from the wrath of God. God's wrath against the wicked of this world is very real and we need to have a healthy fear of God.
This fear should lead us to seek God, and learn to trust Him to love us and forgive us and lead us. He is Lord. When the fear leads us to trust only ourselves, we are in danger of taking God's place in our thinking, in our attitudes. We become, for ourselves, the means of our salvation. Such a false sense of what true righteousness is about leads to where many of the Jews found themselves, opposing the plan of God and crucifying the very One who came to save them.
Many of the Jews had missed the mystery that was fully revealed through Jesus Christ. God would deliver His people. He would send a deliverer who would remove ungodliness. He would take away their sins.
Paul quoted from Isaiah 59:20-21 which says:
20 "And a Redeemer will come to Zion,
And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob," declares the Lord.
21 "And as for Me, this is My covenant with them," says the Lord: "My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring," says the Lord, "from now and forever." NASB
He quotes from Jeremiah 31:33-34
33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
We cannot atone for our sin by trying harder to obey God on our own. He must do the work. All things must come from Him.
Paul cautions us, his readers, not to become arrogant and miss the mystery that was revealed through Jesus Christ who came to prove God's love for us in giving Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin. He forgives and also sends His Spirit into our hearts to lead us into all truth and guide us each day as we live in fellowship with Him. It is by the Spirit that God writes His law on our hearts. When we accept this then He is truly OUR GOD and we are His people. We no longer just know about Him, we know Him as Jeremiah foretold.
We need to learn from those who rejected the Truth with a capital T. They rejected Jesus. They missed the point that true righteousness comes from our relationship with God, not from our futile attempts to win His love and acceptance by following the law apart from the Spirit. It is God in us that brings about the changes in us that qualify us for an eternity lived in His presence.
Paul was heartbroken that so many of his people had missed the Redeemer who had been sent from God to take away their sin. They were still seeking to be loved and to get their strokes from people instead of from God. They prayed in public in order to be seen by men. Jesus has told us when we do so we already have our reward and we miss the reward of God's pleasure with us when we humbly accept Him as our means of salvation.
Joshua challenged the Israelites in his final words to them:
14 "Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." NASB
And so I challenge you today. We each have this choice to make. We can follow the flesh, the self life, or we can choose to follow the Lord. As it was put in the New Testament, today is the day of salvation. Choose whom you will serve, the flesh or the Spirit. You can choose to walk with God or to live as if He does not exist.
You can choose to live your own way or to live under the direction of God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to deny yourself and follow Him. We will either walk in the flesh, or walk in the Spirit. The choice is ours to make.
As for me, I will choose to live as if this good news is true. God loves me and He is my Lord. I will follow Him to the best of my ability every day. I choose to remained grafted into God's olive tree. What will you choose?