Sermon:The Olive Tree and God’s Amazing Grace Romans 11:11-24

The Olive Tree and God’s Amazing Grace

Romans 11:11-24

Truth Taught- God will cause Jew and Gentile alike to one day bear fruit by grace through faith in Jesus Christ

Introduction

As I scroll through and thumb through various commentaries on the Book of Romans I discovered something very peculiar. Some of them were going strong until they came to Chapter 8. It seems that at chapter 8 some commentators and some preachers skipped from chapter 7 to chapter 12 leaving out 8-11. Now I’m convinced the reasons are basically two. These are the chapters that deal very strongly with election and God’s foreknowledge and these commentators rather than dealing with those doctrines would rather pretend they weren’t there than to have to teach them because if they taught them their people could easily see what the Bible says and their theology would be shaken. So, they skip them.

The next reason is that 8-11 involves some very difficult material. Rather than spend time dissecting and studying the passages it’s easier to just skip them and get back to the easier material than to delve into the hard things of God’s Word. And it is this second reason we’ll be skipping over the rest of Chapter 11…Just kidding, sort of.

What we see in this passage is the amazing wisdom and grace of God. He has been extremely long suffering with the Jews and He could have simply cut them off and left it there. Instead, He fills the olive tree with Gentile branches, which is wonderful news for us. God has taken those who were strangers and made us family.

Ephesians 2:11–20 (ESV)

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,

While we should be excited to be God’s children we must not get puffed up and forget what took place to allow us to be grafted into the olive tree, namely, God broke off the natural branches, His covenant people were torn away. So we praise God in humility and we pray to God for the Jewish people that He would move and cause them to believe the gospel of their Messiah.

So, lets launch out to the deep and see what God has for us today…

To help us understand this passage before us we need to understand a little about pruning and grafting trees.

All over Palestine there are olive groves or orchards. The olive tree is the accepted symbol of Israel. It’s on most of their coins and has appeared as an emblem for Israel in other places. It was a symbol for Israel even in Paul’s day.

In our text today the Apostle uses this image of the olive tree to explain the relationship between Jew and Gentile within the church and the relationship between Christian Gentile and the unbelieving Jew.

It’s important for us to understand this dynamic and symbolism before we look at the passage…

Cultivated Olive Tree- People of God

Roots- The Patriarchs and Prophets OT

Broken Off Branches- Unbelieving Jews

Wild Olive Shoots/Grafted in Branches- Believing Gentiles

We will see the issue of the unbelieving Jews broken off and in contrast the believing Gentiles grafted in.

Another important part of this passage is some ancient practices of grafting in branches into an olive tree. Some theologians have made fun of Paul, calling him a city boy because, according to them, he didn’t understand how grafting works. They say that normal horticulture procedure calls for cultivated branches to be grafted into a wild tree not the way Paul’s allegory is set up with its wild branches grafted into a cultivated tree. However, there was another ancient practice that, I believe, Paul is referring to and which sheds light on what Paul is telling us here. There was the ancient practice of causing a cultivated tree that wasn’t bearing fruit to bear fruit by grafting in a wild olive branch. What this did was cause the olive tree to begin to bear fruit when before it was fruitless.

So, the purpose is to graft wild branches into the tree which causes the entire tree to bear fruit which was previously not fruit bearing.

This purpose would fit very nicely with things Paul tells us.

Romans 11:11–12 (ESV)

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Romans 11:14 (ESV)

14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

Romans 11:26 (ESV)

26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

       “The Deliverer will come from Zion,

he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

So, the grafting in of Gentiles will invigorate the Jews and the tree will one day bear the fruit it was intended to bear all along. In the mean time the wild branches grafted in will enjoy the blessings from the roots of the tree. The wild branches will receive spiritual nourishment through the root system of Judaism, which is the Patriarchs and the Prophets.

Paul addresses two issues to Gentiles: First is that we could become proud while God works out His sovereign plan and Second, realize that this hardening is just for a time, one day the Jews will discover who their Messiah truly is.

Romans 11:11–24 (ESV)

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

  1. Christians Must Not Be Arrogant Toward the Jews (17-22)

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Here Paul is showing us that the firstfruit as stated in

16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

If the original lump of dough is holy as the yeast permeates the other lump be

The charge Paul gives us, as Gentile believers, to not become arrogant and think we are better than those Jews who were taken away or broken off from the root.

We may become arrogant as we consider things like…I cant believe the Jews crucified Jesus. I can’t believe that after all their Scriptures, when Jesus came they still missed Him. I can’t believe that they have no faith and are still trying to work their way to God. I can’t believe they think they’re children of Abraham when we Gentiles who believe are the real Israel. So how does Paul warn us to not become arrogant? He does this by three warnings…

  1. Remember, your life comes from Jewish roots

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,

Just like grafted in branches receive the sap and nourishment from the root system in the olive tree, now Gentiles will receive nourishment from the root of Israel, which is the Patriarchs and the Prophets. Beloved we are currently discovering the riches of Christ through the Psalms. King David in this case is the root that we receive nourishment from. The entire Old Testament is a wealth of nourishment for the Gentile believer. We can read about the Patriarchs and see what they did and learn from them. We can be warned through the Prophets of the very things we too may be guilty of. We can learn what God expects from His people. We can be those who delight in God’s Law and are nourished for eternal life through the pages of the OT.

2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ESV)

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

1 Corinthians 10:1–12 (ESV)

10 For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

God’s Word contains words of life for the Gentile believer. Much like being connected to the roots give nourishment to the branches so too being connected to God’s Word gives life to the believer. Even though people of Jewish descent wrote the entire OT, it is nourishment for the Gentile believer.

  1. Remember, we are grafted in by faith

19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.

We cannot be arrogant because our being grafted in and our stability remain by faith alone. The Jewish branches were broken off because of unbelief and Gentile branches grafted in by belief alone. Knowing this should cause us to remain humble and meek when considering that this is God’s work alone and not my works at all. We are saved by grace through faith not of works. When we consider that it is grace that grafted us and grace that keeps us all boasting must be put aside.

  1. Remember, we must serve God with fear and stand fast by faith

21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

We cannot forget what happened to the Jews who were hardened and cut off by God. If we are not careful the same could happen to us. The Jew thought he was in because of his ancestry. We must be careful to be superficial with our status in Christ. We are His provided we stand fast till the end.

Matthew 24:13 (ESV)

13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Hebrews 3:6 (ESV)

but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

In humility we stand fast.

  1. Jews Must Realize that God is Offering Salvation to Them

23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

So far we’ve seen that the exclusion of the Jews meant inclusion of the Gentiles. God is not finished with His covenant OT people. Here I think we can sense Paul’s spirits being uplifted as he considers the future hope Israel has.

At first he was encouraged that while his kinsmen were not being saved, at least God was using him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and they were being saved. Still there’s this underlying disappointment that his kinsmen were dying lost and without Christ. He even said

Romans 9:3 (ESV)

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.

As he considers the grace of God, Paul begins to realize something amazing. God’s grace will one day be poured out on the Jews and they will respond to the Gospel as well. When that day comes everything changes.

Notice his reasoning…

If the Jews believe they will be grafted in. God has the ability to regraft cultivated branches back into the cultivated olive tree. His language is that it will be much easier to graft natural branches back into their own tree than it was to graft wild branches into a cultivated tree.

Paul’s language is that of anticipation. Beloved Israel will be included again into God’s covenant. They will return to God through their Messiah, Jesus Christ. Also notice God is not offering the Jews plan B as some of our dispensational friends would try to teach us. No, they will come in the exact same way Gentiles do by grace through faith.

if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in.

What is the condition of their being grafted in? It’s not works is it? The condition is faith just like us.

All of this is designed by God to demonstrate, first, that he can and will save all Israel without being bound to save anyone in Israel who demands to be saved because he is part of Israel; and to demonstrate, secondly, that God can and will save Gentiles who are not in Israel if they trust Christ and do not boast over the broken off branches.

In other words, all of redemptive history is designed from beginning to end to put a stop to human boasting in Jewishness or over Jewishness, or in Gentile ethnicity or over Gentile ethnicity. Free and sovereign grace stops boasting, and leads to humble, brokenhearted gratitude and worship: “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen” (Romans 11:36). [1]

Application

Here’s our command by God…be humble!

Ephesians 4:2 (ESV)

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

Philippians 2:3 (ESV)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Be humble pray for the Jews that God would also grant them faith in Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

* Resources Used

Teaching Romans by Christopher Ash

John Piper Sermon on this text

Romans by John MacArthur

Romans by John Stott

Romans by Steele and Thomas

[1] John Piper

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