I’m so excited to read passages of scripture I’ve read before, only this time to see something new for me. In my reading the other day, I came across a passage of scripture that I’m confident I have read before, several times; however, this time it hit me squarely in the chest. But, before we get to that passage in Romans, lets start with one of Jesus’ messages found in John which I believe serves as the backdrop for Paul’s discussion:
John 15:1-11 (NASB) 15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Jesus came first to the Jews… but He came also for the Gentiles. Sometime in the Middle Ages, the notion that Christians were somehow favored by God over the Jews who crucified Jesus. I’m not interested in delving into the history of how such false doctrine could take root, but given the state of the Roman Catholic Church at the time… well… let us move on. In contemporary Christianity, I still catch hints of disdain or scoffing at Israel. In fact, just yesterday I saw a detestable headline from a self-described Christian blog declaring “Israel is no longer God’s chosen people”. Such a dangerous thing to proclaim, and such a pity. But this is not a new thing (it amazes me how every decade in this country people think they’ve discovered something new… something that makes the Bible obsolete, or portions of it).
The Apostle Paul had to confront such ideology in his letter to the Romans. After the exploring the last post about how Paul explains that salvation by faith is present in the Old Testament, I continued reading. What struck me next was just how awesomely Paul addresses what was going to be a major problem in Centuries to come (arguably, that could be said of the whole of Scriptures, but this point of Christians thinking ill of the Jews is what struck me this time). Lets turn to Romans 11, to see what Paul says about having been grafted into the True Vine, that is, Jesus Christ.
Romans 11:14-27 (NASB)
14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is 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, He will not spare you, either. 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?
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,
Israel remains the first-born son of God (not to be confused with Jacob, who was in-fact the second-born son, but to whom Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew; rather, the descendants of Abraham are first described as God’s chosen people) and we, the Gentiles are adopted through Jesus Christ… Grafted into the True Vine. Notice the warning in verse 25, “so that you will not be wise in your own estimation“. Paul is warning the redeemed Gentiles not to misunderstand the partial hardening that happened to Israel. Jesus came when He did, at a time when Israel was partially hardened and Rome was in power so that He might lay down His Life as payment for all of our sins… to remove ungodliness from Jacob and to take away their sins. Praise the Lord.