And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; (18) Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. (19) Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. (20) Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: (21) For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.Romans 11:17-21
In Romans 10 Paul had emphasized that salvation was possible to all who called on Christ for salvation, both jew and greek.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.Romans 10:12-13
This was potentially controversial to many jewish people because they thought of themselves as God’s chosen people. This is true. They are God’s chosen people, and not all of the promises made to ethnic Israel are for anyone but them.
It was also a concept that could make gentile believers have a heart of arrogance about themselves. They could begin to believe that now they were better than Israel, or that God was through with them.
Paul wanted to make it clear that God was not through with Israel. Earlier in the chapter of today’s hilighted text Paul addresses this concept:
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. (2) God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew.Romans 11:1-2a
He says in verse 3 that there are a remnant of Israel who believe in Christ by faith. They are saved by faith through grace just as the gentiles are (v5).
When we get to today’s higlighted text, Paul likens the scenario to two different olive trees. There is the cultivated olive tree (Israel) and the wild olive tree (Gentiles). The gentiles who believe in Christ are like branches of the wild tree that have been grafted to the cultivated tree.
1a: to cause (a scion) to unite with a stockMiriam Webster’s Dictionary
also : to unite (plants or scion and stock) to form a graft
b: to propagate (see PROPAGATE sense transitive 1) (a plant) by grafting
Here is a picture of an olive tree that has had branches grafted in:
He warns them to be careful not to be “highminded” or arrogant, but rather to be fearful or respectful of what God has done. Why? “Becaue of unbelief they were borken off”. He goes on to say, “if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”
One of the interpretive mistakes that people make in this text is to take this passage in an individual way rather than in the way Paul intended for the original readers to take it. He is not saying that if the individual gentile believer is prideful they will lose their salvation. He is making the statement that the gentile believers as a group ought to be careful not to be high minded and arrogant. Salvation came through the children of Abraham, through the lineage of David, to be obtained by the blood of the jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
Our salvation should in no way make us haughty or prideful. Ephesians 2:8-9 says this,
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.Ephesians 2:8-9
There is no boasting in anything but Jesus Christ in the life of the believer.
Today, I think it is appropriate to thank God for His plan of salvation that came through His working through the nation of Israel.