Monday, October 29, 2007

Romans, Chapter 11

Romans 11 may be a bit confusing on the surface, but it is important to remember that Paul uses a great illustration of branches being grafted to show the joining together of the Israelites and the Gentiles. At the time this is written the Israelites had long been known as God's chosen people. Because of the oppression they faced they were naturally wary of outsiders. Here in Romans 11 Paul reminds them that they need not be wary, because God knew what He was doing.

God did set it up so all could be saved, Gentiles included. This made some Israelites nervous because they feared losing their national identity in the process. As usual, God had a plan in this, as the salvation of the Gentiles is used as a way of making the Israelites envious of this gift, and thereby draw them to Him. What God wants is to have everyone be His people, and the illustration of the branches grafting together is to show that we are stronger together than apart.

"13I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16If 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." – Romans 11:13-16

The root that Paul is referring to here is Christ, and the tree is his church. What he and God desire is that all come together to form this church in which the strong roots are based on the teachings of Christ. Each person is merely a branch, but in Christ, the root, we are made holy through grace. God longs for all to come to Him and join this tree because we are stronger together than apart. When we are bound together, rooted in the holiness and grace of Christ, we have little to fear.

We've spoken a lot lately about the power of sin and what it does to cut us off from God. We are saved only by grace, and because of our nature we continue to struggle with sin even after we accept the gift that is salvation. Is it then possible to lose our salvation? It is written that once our names are written in the book of life by Christ we are sealed and therefore cannot turn from Him.

"22Consider 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. 23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!" – Romans 11-22-24

Some may view this as a warning that we can lose our salvation, but I think it is different. You have to realize the difficulty of continuing in sin once you accept Christ as your Savior. It is a transaction that if truly made in the heart begins to transform you and your spirit. That is what it means to continue in kindness. If you continue to seek him, to love Him, and to know Him after you are granted salvation by grace you cannot be cutoff. Again, this does not make you perfect and immune to sin. As we are grafted into this root of Christ though, which is the cultivated olive tree here, our wildness is changed because we are rooted in Christ. It is a process I cannot explain or hope to fully understand, but that is the power of grace. We must remain faithful in order to grow away from our sinful nature and become what Christ longs for us to be.


  1. Why does God cut down the barriers between the Israelites and the Gentiles if he wanted to reach the Israelites?
  2. In your view, is it possible to lose one's salvation based on the second passage today?
  3. What does Paul mean when he later says all of Israel will be saved?

No comments: