Romans Lesson 9: 11.17-32 - MERCY
LAST WEEK: We heard Paul share his prayer and desire that that Israel will accept Jesus Christ as Messiah. In summary, Paul said that Israel is ignorant of God's righteousness and has tried to establish their own righteousness by works of Law. Using OT references that Jews would understand, he made the following points: (1) Since people cannot meet the demands of the Law, they need a savior. They fail to grasp that they need God's grace to be saved, not works. (2) The plan of salvation does not require anyone to do what is impossible. Unlike the impossible idea of salvation by works, there are no miracles or other extraordinary human measures required in order for a person to become a Christian. (3) What the heart believes the mouth will confess. Paul's teachings confirm two items of content that we must believe: (a) That Jesus Christ is Lord and (b) God raised Him bodily from the dead. (4) The Christian's belief, confession, and hope in Jesus Christ will never be disappointed. But those without Christ will face utter humiliation before God Himself. (5) God is open to all people at all times. This is a universal truth, which means there is no valid excuse for rejecting Him. (6) People who know nothing about the Lord need someone to tell them. There are many people in this world, billions maybe, who have not "called on the name of the Lord" because they haven't heard of Him and don't know His name. (7) God calls every Christian to proclaim the truth of the Gospel. This is true for all believers, whether or not they are in full-time ministry.
THIS WEEK: In Romans 11, Paul concludes his examination of God's plan for His people Israel. While it's true that, as a nation, Israel has rejected faith in Jesus Christ, a remnant of Jews has believed in Him. He explains that God has hardened the rest in unbelief but will bring Israel back to faith when enough Gentiles have come to Him through Christ. When that happens many Israelites will also trust in Christ, and God will renew His covenant with them. In today's lesson, Rom. 11:17-32, Paul describes how God hardened Israel in her unbelief to make room on His metaphorical "olive tree" for the Gentile Christians. The old branches of the unbelieving Jews have been broken off for now, but when enough have believed, the old branches of Jewish believers will be grafted back. In Rom. 11:25-32, he wraps up the section about God's plans for the Israelites by describing, in short, God's plans to remove the hardening of unbelief and renew His covenant with Israel.
Read Rom. 11:17-21 - THE RICH ROOT OF THE OLIVE TREE
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, He will not spare you, either.
v. 17a: "But if some of the branches were broken off" - The metaphorical olive tree pictures the unbelieving nation of Israel as a whole. The broken off branches represent unbelieving Jews and the wild branches represent saved Gentiles. Except for the Jewish remnant who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, God "broke off" the unbelieving Jews as a nation for rejecting His grace.
v. 17b: "and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree" - The "you" refers to Gentile Christians, the Romans in particular. The phrase, "being a wild olive," is a figurative name for non-Jewish Gentiles. Using an agricultural analogy, Paul describes these Gentile as being "grafted in" by faith to the olive tree that was the Jewish theocratic (i.e., God-led) nation. By being grafted onto this olive tree, these Gentile
Christians have been supernaturally connected to the family of God-"the rich root"-going all the way back to the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 15:18-21). In saying this, Paul wants the Gentile believers to understand and appreciate that they are indebted to Israel who sent the Messiah to them.
v. 18: "do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember thatit is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you" - In this verse, Paul seeks to dispel any Gentile notion that they were more special in God's eyes than the Jews. In effect, Paul says, "don't forget where you came from." In the first instance, the Gentiles did nothing to deserve being grafted to the tree and received this blessing by God's grace. When Paul says, "the root supports you," he's telling the Gentiles that they owed their spiritual heritage to Israel, not themselves. Salvation of both Jews and Gentiles came by grace through the blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul isn't saying that the Gentile believers have become part of Israel but only took part in blessings given to Israel
v. 19: "You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in" - Anticipating how the Gentile believers would react to v. 18, Paul, put words in their mouth to the effect that God rejected the nation Israel because of her unbelief, which implies that any unbelieving Gentiles will be will be "broken off" as well.
v. 20a: "Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief" - Besides the Gentile claim of the previous verse, it was a fact that God broke off Israel as a nation because of her unbelief in Jesus as Messiah, but it wasn't true of all individual Jews because Jews scattered all over the Roman Empire had accepted Jesus as Lord, and these Jews were still connected to the spiritual olive tree.
v. 20b: "but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear" - Paul is saying that Gentile Christians were grafted onto the tree because they accepted the Messiah by faith. Because of this, They have absolutely nothing to brag about because God cut off the nation Israel from His program. God didn't save because of who they were but because of what they believe by faith. Finally, these Gentile believers should feel "fear" (reverence/respect) for God's plan of salvation rather than pride.
v. 21: "for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either" - Stating the what he implied in v. 19, Paul is saying that in the same way He "cut off" Israel as a nation for her unbelief, He would also cut off the Gentiles as a group. Gentile were being grafted to the tree as individuals, not as a corporate group.
Truth 1: The only way any person, regardless of race or nationality, can access God's grace is through faith. God doesn't bless anyone based on their heritage, nationality, or even their personal goodness, but blesses those who by faith alone believe in Jesus Christ alone. God doesn't deal in double standards and would not hesitate to cut off a church that falls into apostasy. Mere "religion" can't save anyone, not even the children of Israel.
Read Rom. 11:22-24 - THE KINDNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD
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 will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
Comment: These next three verses summarize the plan of God's the temporary rejection of Israel as a nation. In eschatological terms (end times), God will restore the entire nation in the Millennium.
v. 22a: "Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity" - The word "kindness" carries the sense of compassion and grace, whereas "severity" in based on the principle of justice. As to the saved Gentiles, God's underserved kindness should humble them, completely cancel out any feelings of pride. On the other hand, God's severity fell on the unbelieving Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah and thereby, His grace, and the result was just. It's impossible for God to compromise the integrity of His character. If a person doesn't accept grace on principle, then God has no other option but to deal with them in judgment.
v. 22b: "but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off" - God's grace toward Gentiles who accepted His grace by believing in Jesus as Lord had nothing to do with their status as Gentiles or their works. Paul's point is that Christians cannot truly appreciate the extend of God's goodness in extending grace to us unless we also understand the severe judgment on those who do not accept grace. The last phrase indicates that the Gentiles, as a group could be "cut off" from God's plan like Israel. However, this doesn't include any Gentiles who individually come to accept God's grace by faith.
v. 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" - This is God's promise to Israel "if they do not continue in their unbelief." e "they also" refers to the nation of Israel. One day Israel as a nation will accept God grace and by faith will believe in Jesus as Messiah, and just as they were broken off, they will be grafted back in. In eschatological terms, this is God's condition for Israel to enter the Millennial Kingdom.
v. 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 will these who are the natural branchesbe grafted into their own olive tree" - Here, Paul completes the olive tree metaphor. First, God cut off Israel as a nation-the natural branches-and then grafted-in the church, which included both Jews and Gentiles. Because God did that, He can take the natural branches and graft them back in again.
TRUTH 2: God will one day reverse the destiny of the nation Israel. This grafting-in will happen at the end of the Great Tribulation. During this time great numbers of Jews will finally believe in Jesus as Messiah and will receive the fulfillment of the unconditional covenants of the OT. Belief by the Gentiles is what caused God the graft them in (v. 17), and Israel's belief in the Messiah is what will cause God to reinstate the nation.
Read Rom. 11:25-32 - SO YOU WILL NOT BE WISE IN YOUR OWN ESTIMATION
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery-so that you will not be wise in your own estimation-that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." 27 "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, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
v. 25: "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery-so that you will not be wise in your own estimation-that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" - You should recall from Eph. 3 last fall, that in the Biblical context, Paul defined a "mystery" as something that can only be known through God's revelation and cannot be understood by human reasoning or intuition. The "mystery" here is that God has only cut off Israel as a nation temporarily, so that believing Jews and Gentiles could be incorporated into the church.
v. 26: "and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB" - If Paul's writing seems to be repetitious, it's because he's using a familiar literary technique designed to emphasize certain points. Once God is finished with the Gentiles, the entire nation of Israel will be delivered into the Millennial Kingdom. The "Deliverer" from "Zion" is no less than Jesus Himself. To refresh our memories, there are three aspects of the second coming of Christ: (1) the rapture of the church; (2) the judgment of Israel in the Tribulation; and (3) the deliverance of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation.
v. 27: "THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS." - The unconditional promise of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12-15) was available to every generation of Jews. Jesus will establish a New Covenant with Israel that will know Christ as Messiah through a new heart of belief and regeneration; however, any unbelieving Jews will be barred from the Millennial Kingdom.
vv. 28-29: "From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the stand-point of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." - Paul further clarifies by repetition that God will intervene to save Israel in the future. While the hardened Jews may be regarded as enemies of Christ, they are still God's "beloved" people, and God's unconditional promise to them are irrevocable.
vv. 30-32: "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, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all." - Paul describes two time periods in these three verses, one for Israel and the other for Gentile. Paul compares the situation between Jews and Gentiles based on the principles of unbelief and "mercy." God's mercy in sending Jesus to die for us opened-up the Age of Grace that allowed the "once disobedient" Gentiles the opportunity to participate in God's eternal program. And during this NT Age, the nation of Israel didn't merit God's mercy because of their "disobedience," their rejection of grace. But in the Gentile era, God's plan to save Israel is simply put on hold and will take place when Jesus returns.
TRUTH 3: The principle that God will "show mercy to all" (v. 32) is not universal. It simply means that all people, regardless of race, nationality, or anything else, are eligible by grace to receive God's mercy by faith alone in Jesus Christ as Lord alone. No group deserves salvation, but all need God's mercy. We see mercy best in light of our sin: The better we understand our sin, all the greater will we be able to appreciate and understand the magnitude of God's mercy. God can extend His mercy to us only because He was satisfied with the death of Jesus Christ on the cross to pay for our sins.