Sunday School Lessons
Adult and Children Lessons

 

Please sign our Guest Book.  
We love hearing from you!!
 
 
 

Sunday School Lesson

August 21

Grafted In

 

Devotional Reading:John 15:1-8

Background Scripture: Romans 11:11-36

 

Romans 11:11-24

 

11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

 

12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

 

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

 

14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

 

15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

 

16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

 

17 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.

 

22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

 

23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

 

24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

 

Key Verse

 

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. —Romans 11:22

 

Lesson Aims

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

 

1. Identify the wild and natural branches in Paul’s metaphor.

 

2. Explain the significance of faith in whether one is grafted into the tree or cut off.

 

3. Tell one way that he or she will continue in the Lord’s goodness.

 

 

Introduction

 

 

 

A. Grafting Branches

 

Humans have been experimenting with ways to improve cultivated food production for thousands of years. Ancient farmers discovered that trees had the potential of providing many nutritious fruits and nuts, but multiplying trees through seeds was a slow and unpredictable process. Those farmers discovered that better results could be obtained by taking cuttings from a healthy tree and allowing these cuttings to produce roots. These miniature trees could then be planted in soil and would grow quickly.

 

Around 1000 BC, farmers learned another way to use these cuttings. They discovered that a branch from one tree could be inserted into a cut on another tree, and this foreign branch would become part of the new tree. This allowed for the use of a mature root and trunk system in production of fruit different from the “host” tree.

 

We can only imagine the wonder this must have produced among ancient farmers, to have a tree with red apples on some branches and golden apples on others! This method, known as grafting, is an important part of orchard science today. Grafting is now done with fruit trees, with ornamental flowers such as roses, and with plants such as tomatoes. The process is similar in all cases: a healthy branch is joined to another plant, and the result is production that the host plant was incapable of previously.

 

Our lesson today relies on the awareness of grafting as a common practice among those who cultivated orchards. One of the most important and valued trees of Paul’s world was the olive tree. The readers of the book of Romans were familiar with orchards of olive trees in the countryside as well as the remarkable and valuable practice of grafting. Paul used these common sights and experiences to illustrate an important truth.

 

B. Lesson Background

 

In Romans 9, the apostle Paul began to discuss a situation that distressed him greatly: the unbelief of his fellow Jews. In last week’s lesson we saw him recap the scriptural history of Israel to demonstrate that God controlled the nation’s future. While we may not understand why God chooses certain nations and people as His instruments (Isaiah 7:18-20; etc.), Paul warned against considering God to be unjust in those decisions (Romans 9:14).

 

In the text just preceding that of today’s lesson, Paul asked and answered two questions concerning Israel. First, “Hath God cast away his people?” No, Paul said, that cannot possibly be true (Romans 11:1). He supported his conclusion with a theme common in the Old Testament prophets: that God had preserved a “remnant” of faithful Israelites (Romans 11:5; compare Isaiah 10:21). Paul considered himself to be part of that remnant.

 

Second, why didn’t more Jews believe in Jesus, as Paul did? His answer was that God had “blinded” many of the people of Israel in a way that precluded belief (Romans 11:7, 8). The apostle pointed out that this was nothing new for the people of Israel, and he quoted Scriptures to show this historical pattern of unbelief (a mixing of Deuteronomy 29:4; Psalm 69:22, 23; and Isaiah 29:10). All this led up to a further question, the one that begins today’s lesson.

 

I. Holy Root, Holy Branches

 

                                                              (Romans 11:11-16)

 

 

 

A. Jews and Jealousy (vv. 11, 12)

 

11a. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid.

 

Paul uses a metaphor all will recognize: stumbling while walking. We have all done this—tripped on something like an uneven sidewalk and staggered for a few steps. Sometimes we regain our balance; sometimes we go down. Paul pictures those of unrepentant Israel (they) as if in the middle of the stumble. They have been tripped up by their unbelief and rejection of Jesus. Will their stumbling result in a complete fall? Paul uses strong language to answer: God forbid.

 

How to Say It

 

Abraham Ay-bruh-ham.

 

Barnabas Bar-nuh-bus.

 

Gentiles Jen-tiles.

 

Isaac Eye-zuk.

 

Nehemiah Nee-huh-my-uh.

 

patriarchs pay-tree-arks.

 

 

 

What Do You Think?

 

What is most likely to make you stumble in your faith walk? How do you resist or recover when it happens?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding temptations of behavior

 

Regarding temptations of the tongue

 

Regarding temptations of thought

 

11b. But rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

 

Paul speaks as one who earnestly desires his fellow Jews to come to faith in Jesus. In this regard, he sees a useful purpose in their fall. (Note: the Greek noun behind the word fall in this half-verse and in verse 12 is elsewhere rendered “trespass[es]” or “offence[s]”; see Matthew 6:14, 15; Romans 4:25; 5:15-20; etc.) The long-simmering hostility toward Gentiles on the part of Jews is due to the latter’s self-image as being favored as God’s covenant people. As despised Gentiles now flock into the church and accept the Jewish Messiah as theirs, the result will be that Jews are provoked to jealousy.

 

The apostle predicts that this jealousy will eventually serve as a wake-up call for his fellow Jews, causing them to reevaluate their unbelief (compare Romans 10:19, quoting Deuteronomy 32:21). That unbelief is therefore a temporary rather than a final and ultimate rejection of Jesus.

 

12. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

 

Paul moves to an if/then argument using parallel phrases. If the fall of them (which = [if] the diminishing of them, that is, Jews) is resulting in the riches of the world (which = the riches of the Gentiles), then how much more their fulness?

 

In other words, Jewish unbelief has been the Gentiles’ gain. Given that the parallel if-phrases describe reality, Paul is marveling at how much greater still the benefits would be if all Jews were to join Gentiles in faith. Just think of how much more the riches of God would come to the entire world if all Israel decided to include itself in the family of faith in Jesus!

 

 

Paul knows that the spiritual blessings of God are not limited. There is an abundance of grace available, plenty for all believers. How blessed the entire world would be if Gentiles and Jews—everyone—named Jesus as Lord!

 

B. Rejection and Reconciliation (vv. 13-16)

 

13. For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.

 

Paul leaves no doubt regarding the identity of his audience at this point. Although the church in Rome consists of both Jewish and Gentile believers, he is speaking specifically now to you Gentiles. He claims special authority to do this, because he is the apostle of the Gentiles—a status that the Roman church knows about even though Paul has not yet visited Rome (see Acts 13:46; 18:6; Galatians 2:8). No one else is described this way, and Paul is using his unique status as a megaphone.

 

14. If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

 

Paul lays bare his plan: he will do anything to gain the attention and therefore the faith of his fellow Jews. We can see how awkward and strange Paul’s ministry must appear to them: a learned rabbi (Acts 22:3) who associates with “unclean” Gentiles and accepts them as beloved brothers and sisters in faith. Even so, that does not mean he has ever stopped loving those of his flesh—his Jewish kinfolk. If his ministry to Gentiles results in Jewish emulation (or “jealousy,” as the same Greek root is translated in v. 11, above) and brings some to faith, that is good. Paul wants as many Jews as possible to be saved.

 

15. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

 

Paul now pictures the desired outcome as he uses three more if/then statements across this verse and the next. First, if Jewish unbelief (casting away of them) has allowed the reconciling message of the gospel to be extended to the Gentile world, then the reception of the gospel by the Jews will be like a resurrection from the dead. That would be a miraculous work of God every bit as marvelous as the inclusion of the Gentiles into His people.

 

16a. For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy:

 

Second, if in the process of making bread the part that is offered as the firstfruit be holy, then the entire lump of dough is also holy. This is a reference to the Jewish practice of giving a part of the grain harvest to the priests, a firstfruits offering (see Numbers 15:18-21). This firstfruits offering was given as an act of worship to the Lord, thus making it holy. Paul reasons that if a large batch of dough is created, enough for a dozen loaves, and a couple of the loaves become an offering, then all the loaves are sanctified because of their common source.

 

16b. And if the root be holy, so are the branches.

 

Paul’s logic is similar in the third if/then statement. If the foundational part of a tree (its root system) be holy, then it makes sense that the branches thereby produced are also holy. The apostle is expressing his hope that believing Israel (including himself) will have a positive, sanctifying effect on larger, unbelieving Israel. The example of believing Jews such as Paul, Barnabas, and Peter is to be a catalyst to bring Paul’s beloved nation to faith in Christ.

 

This reminds us of last week’s lesson concerning the history of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The promises and blessings they received still rest on Israel. We note, however, that the concept of holy as Paul uses it here does not mean “set apart for salvation,” but means “set apart” in a general way for passing along the promises of God.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we let God’s holiness be evident in our lives without projecting a sanctimonious “holier than thou” aura in the process?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

At work or school

 

At home

 

In the church

 

In public (at the mall, restaurants, etc.)

 

Other

 

II. Wild Branches, Cultivated Tree

 

                                                             (Romans 11:17-24)

 

 

 

A. Breaking and Boasting (vv. 17-21)

 

17. 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.

 

Remember that Paul is addressing Gentiles in this section. In that light, he takes his final analogy a little further, narrowing the focus from a generic tree to an olive tree. Olive groves abound in the land of Israel, in Greece (where Paul is while writing this letter), and in the Roman countryside. Olives themselves serve as food, but more importantly they yield olive oil, a mainstay of Roman households. Paul knows how to paint a word picture that will connect instantly with his readers.

 

Imagine a cultivated olive tree. As the one who tends the orchard prunes off certain branches, he also grafts in branches he has cut from a wild olive tree. When these wild branches engage with the established tree, they begin to flourish. They receive nourishment from the tree’s root system and produce olives. In this parable-like analogy, the tender of the tree is God. He has removed some of the branches of the cultivated olive tree, a reference to unbelieving Israel. In their place, He has grafted in foreign branches, a reference to the Gentiles. These Gentiles now benefit from the heritage of the Jewish nation as they too become people of faith like Abraham or Paul himself (compare Ephesians 2:11-22). This sets the stage for a warning.

 

18. Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

 

Gentiles should boast not in the fact that they have placed faith in Christ while many Jews have not. The Gentile readers are to remember that their faith is dependent on the faith heritage of the Jews (the root). The root is not dependent on the branches. Without the root, the branches would not exist.

 

This is a warning to be heeded yet today. Our faith is dependent on the examples and promises of the Old Testament and the biblical nation of ancient Israel (compare 1 Corinthians 10:1-13). Paul sees faith in Christ without Jewish roots to be an impossibility. We neglect the heritage of Old Testament Scripture at our peril! “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do you use the Old Testament?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

In private devotional times

 

In Scriptures you memorize

 

In discussions with fellow Christians

 

Other

 

19, 20. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear.

 

Paul’s warning to Gentile believers continues. It is simplistic to think that the Jewish branches have been broken off from the tree merely so that Gentile branches can take their place by the grafting process. Everything revolves around faith and lack of faith (unbelief). When this is realized, the result should be humility (not highminded) and reverential awe (fear; compare Philippians 2:12).

 

What Do You Think?

 

How do you guard yourself against faith-damaging arrogance?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding assessments of your spiritual maturity as compared with others

 

Regarding denominational elitism

 

Regarding level of education

 

Other

 

Honoring God’s Treasure

 

I remember that, as a child, I sometimes heard people speaking ill of other nations that our country had been at war with in the past. These people seemed still at war. I wondered how their biases could coexist with our Sunday school song: “Red and yellow, black and white—they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

 

Annette, a new friend of mine, lived in the northwestern U.S. until her family moved to Iowa. Her attitude toward her new church family is every person here is someone I can learn from. Although she is busy finishing a college degree while raising several children, she acts on her belief by inviting people to coffee and meals. She honors the God-treasure she finds in each person she meets.

 

Our current church family has members from other regions of our country and other nations, so comparisons are inevitable. It seems just human nature to think of one’s own way of life as “correct.” But if we resist the urge to rank one way of doing things above others and, like Annette, have a heart to seek the God-treasure in people from other backgrounds, then we create a welcoming community. Let us marvel at what God is doing in each person so that we remain free to love them, their families, and their nations.—V. E.

 

21. For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

 

Using another if/then statement, Paul expresses the ultimate guard against Gentile pride over Jews: God has proven His willingness to break off branches that do not expect it. The ancient Jews (the natural branches), because of their status as the covenant people of God, never expected to be cut off from their promised land—but it happened when God sent them into captivity in 586 BC. Arrogance and faith are not easy companions. Even as we remember God’s mercy, we should fear His wrath no matter our background.

 

B. Goodness and Grafting (vv. 22-24)

 

22. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

 

Paul now uses the olive-tree analogy to reveal some profound things about God’s nature. A tree tender might be seen as a kind giver of life when grafting and a severe judge when pruning (see Matthew 3:10; Luke 13:6-9). God displays both goodness and severity. He rewards those who are humble and faithful (Genesis 15:1; Proverbs 22:4) and punishes the arrogant and unfaithful (Nehemiah 1:8; Proverbs 16:5). He is kind and gentle, yet consistently intolerant of those who misuse His mercy. If we preach the goodness of God but neglect to mention His severity, we give an incomplete picture of Him.

 

23. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

 

The Gentile readers are further warned to temper any arrogance. They should remember that God, the great grafter, is perfectly capable of grafting the broken-off branches back into the olive tree. This will happen if Jewish unbelievers abide not still in unbelief.

 

This is an important counterbalance to the verses that speak of God’s hardening people against faith. Our faith is not wholly dependent on the actions of God. We play a part too. To continue in unbelief is a personal choice; so is yielding to God in faith. Just as the Gentiles in the church in Rome had chosen to become believers, so too may the many unbelieving Jews of their city.

 

Family Plans, Individual Billing

 

Even as we grow weary of advertising blitzes, it’s hard not to be amused at various marketing attempts. At the time of this writing, a well-known company is offering lower per-line rates for cellular service for customers having 7 to 10 in their group. Of course, not all families are that large. But by billing lines separately (thus eliminating the need for a shared budget), the plan invites potential customers to recruit neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances in order create a “family” and reap greater savings. The commercials illustrate the possibilities by depicting people who don’t seem to have much in common.

 

Sometimes churches may feel like that. On the one hand is the “group aspect” of people from diverse backgrounds having a common allegiance to Jesus Christ. On the other hand is the “individual aspect,” where each is accountable for his or her own faith in trusting that Jesus has paid the bill for sin. More people joining the kingdom of God is better for everyone, since He gifts each of us in ways that we can be a blessing to others. Today’s lesson text reminds us that God’s invitation to join is open to all. We dare not take upon ourselves the authority to determine whom God can and cannot include.—V. E.

 

24. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

 

Paul sums up his thoughts with a straightforward analysis that reveals his hope for his people. From a historical Jewish perspective, the inclusion of Gentiles into the people of God without requiring them to become Jews first is outrageous (compare Acts 15:1). The Jews see themselves as privileged heirs of the covenant of their ancestor Abraham. Their men bear the sign of this covenant: circumcision. Their faith has become systematized and ritualized through their food laws. Gentiles are not just outside the covenant, they are a filth that causes Jews to be “unclean” (Acts 10:28).

 

Yet the God of Israel, in His great wisdom and mercy, has included Gentiles in the new covenant people of God. Their inclusion is based on their faith. Paul’s point is that since God is so surprisingly gracious toward these Gentiles, why would we not expect Him to be patient and gracious toward unbelieving Jews who reverse course and come to faith in Jesus? Even the broken branches of Israel can be grafted back into the tree and its rich root if they believe in him.

 

What Do You Think?

 

How can we do a better job of welcoming “grafted branches” into our churches?

 

Points for Your Discussion

 

Regarding adjustments to our attitudes

 

Regarding adjustments to our actions

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

A. Where to Focus

 

A controversial topic in some churches concerns the position of Jewish people today in relation to the will of God. For some Christians, this question centers on the modern state of Israel, established in 1948 in historic territory in Palestine. Some Christians teach that this nation’s existence is an expression of God’s will, a sign that He has not forgotten Israel. Others wonder about the Jews in their own cities, questioning whether faithful keeping of Torah and the old covenant is still a valid way to serve God and find His favor. Various interpretations of Romans 11:26 (“all Israel shall be saved”) stoke the flames of controversy.

 

We must not allow the importance of that topic—and it is indeed important—to overshadow what Paul is saying to his readers about the basis of their faith and their attitude toward it. That basis is faith in Jesus, and the proper attitude is fear in the sense of reverential awe.

 

B. Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we pray for Jewish people of today who believe in You but have rejected Your Son. May their hearts be softened to hear the truth about Jesus, who wants to be their Savior, as we take the gospel to them. May we speak that gospel humbly. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

God can graft in—and prune away—anyone.

 

 

 

 

Kid’s Corner

God Works Out Sins for Good

Romans 11:11-24

Sunday, August 21, 2016

 

Romans 11:11-24

(Romans 11:11)  I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

Paul had previously stated that not all physical Israelites were spiritual Israelites, and many had stumbled over the stumbling stone (see Romans 9). In chapter 10, Paul stated that salvation was only by faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law; furthermore, believers were responsible for preaching the good news of Jesus and hearers were responsible for believing in the good news of Jesus. Paul’s teachings in Romans chapters 8 and 9 did not remove the human responsibility to preach the gospel and to respond to the gospel in faith, to respond to God’s grace and offer of salvation as the rest of the Bible teaches. In chapter 11, Paul stated that the rejection of Jesus the Messiah by some in spiritual Israel was only temporary, as in his own case. Because of the spiritual Israelites temporary transgressions, salvation came to the Gentiles so the Israelites would become envious, which might result in some reconsidering their rejection of Jesus the Messiah and then turning to saving faith in Him as Paul did.

(Romans 11:12)  Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!

Transgression and sin is the willful violation of God’s law and especially the rejection of God’s offer of salvation through faith in Jesus the Messiah. When the Jews rejected Paul’s preaching, he went to the Gentiles, and many Gentiles received the riches that flow from saving faith in Jesus Christ. Someday, those in spiritual Israel will receive Jesus Christ and because of their former rejection of Jesus as their Messiah, their riches that flow from faith in Him will be even more precious to them: “much greater riches.”

(Romans 11:13)  But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,

In writing to both Jews and Gentiles who were Christians in Rome, Paul now wanted the Gentile Christians to pay special attention to what he wrote. Because of the Jews rejection of Paul and the gospel, he turned to the Gentiles and was approved as the apostle to the Gentiles; whereas, Peter was known as the apostle to the Jews. Paul did not consider himself demoted to a lesser place, but happily and proudly embraced his honorable call to serve the Gentiles and lead many to faith in Christ.

(Romans 11:14)  if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.

Paul wrote of a possible consequence for the Israelites who became jealous and envious after many Gentiles accepted Jesus as the Messiah. As Paul knew well from his own experience as a persecutor of Christians, jealousy can lead to anger and anger to persecution. However, Paul came to saving faith in Jesus, and he began to preach about Jesus to Jews and Gentiles. With prayer and preaching, he hoped that he might somehow save some of the Jews who had rejected Jesus as he once had done.

(Romans 11:15)  For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

By the grace of God, Paul led many Gentiles to justifying faith in Jesus Christ. When God declared these Gentiles right before Him by grace through faith, they came into a right relationship with God (reconciliation). “The world” in this verse means Jews and Gentiles all around the world, people of every race and nationality: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Belief in Jesus leads to receiving the gift of eternal life (see also Romans 10:8-13). Someday spiritual Israel will receive Jesus and eternal life, and it will be “life from the dead,” because the wages of sin is death and Jesus will free them from slavery to sin and spiritual death.

(Romans 11:16)  If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

Paul now turned to illustrations from food offerings and agriculture. As an offering of firstfruits, if you took a part of the dough from a bowl of dough and offered it to the Lord, it meant you thought the whole of the dough in the bowl was clean and holy. The part taken out is similar to the whole; the part is as clean as the whole.

What flows from and through the root of a tree (the sap) flows through every living branch in the tree. If the root is holy and healthy (not diseased), so is the sap that flows from it, and so are the live branches that receive the sap for nourishment. The sap in the tree’s roots in some sense may represent the Word and Spirit of God, and the olive tree represents spiritual Israel. The roots may be seen as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who lived by faith, and the sap flowed through them to all of their spiritual descendants. The olive tree, spiritual Israel, included all those who became Christians under Paul’s preaching and the preaching of others up to that period of time. The first Israelite Christians in Paul’s day were like firstfruits, and they represented what the whole of spiritual Israel would eventually become when unbelieving Jews finally came to believe in Jesus too. Eventually, all of spiritual Israel will come to saving faith in Jesus the Messiah, and even today those who are a part of spiritual Israel do come to know Jesus the Messiah as their Lord and Savior.

(Romans 11:17)  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,

No human illustration will answer all of our questions; but as such, illustrations can further our understanding. Illustrations can sometimes raise more questions — questions with answers beyond human ability to completely understand or learn from God or the Bible or an illustration. Many illustrations are made to simply illustrate one point, not to answer secondary questions. The olive tree and root represent spiritual Israel. Jews who persist in unbelief can be broken off and not receive the life-giving nourishment that comes from faith in Jesus. By grace through faith, some Gentiles have been grafted into spiritual Israel by God; they did not graft themselves in by themselves so as to boast. Just as some in spiritual Israel had come to trust in Jesus as the Messiah, so some Gentile Christians had come to believe in Jesus too. That meant both Jewish and Gentile Christians would receive life-giving nourishment from God.

(Romans 11:18)  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.

Since God saves Jews and Gentiles by grace through faith and not by their good works or perfect obedience to the law of God, there is no room for Jews or Gentiles to feel superior to one another. Paul wrote this part of his letter to the Gentile Christians who could be tempted to think they were better than the Israelites who had rejected Jesus (perhaps temporarily) and the Israelites who had rejected them as inferior to Jews (perhaps temporarily). After all, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the faithfulness of a remnant for centuries in spiritual Israel supported Christian Gentiles with the Scriptures and true faith that had been handed down for generations to them.

(Romans 11:19)  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”

Human nature is such that we can be tempted to think that there is something in us (our past achievements or future promise of achievements) that make us better than others. Since believers are saved by grace through faith, there is no reason for any believer to think of themselves as better than unbelievers and boast about it or feel superior: that attitude of superiority will not lead unbelievers to believe what we believe about Jesus.

(Romans 11:20)  Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;

Believers need to remember that they were not grafted into the Christian faith because they were better than someone who is not a Christian. They were grafted in by grace through faith, and they have the responsibility to stand in faith as long as they live. Earlier in his letter Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). And Peter wrote, “With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it” (1 Peter 5:12). In our spiritual battles, sometimes all we can do is “stand,” Paul wrote, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, tostandStand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Ephesians 6:11-14). In troubled times, sometimes all we can do is stand, as God has commanded us. Because of their unbelief, those who have heard the good news of Jesus and have rejected Him as the Messiah are not Christians. There is no reason for a Christian to be arrogant or proud; rather, a Christian should stand amazed and in awe that God has saved them by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. They should tremble lest they stumble as to fall and are broken off of spiritual Israel as a branch from a tree.

(Romans 11:21)  for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.

One of the ways God preserves in saving faith those who are spiritual Israel is by helping them persevere in saving faith when tempted by the world, the flesh, and the devil to fall completely away from saving faith in Jesus Christ. God preserves believers in Jesus, and believers in Jesus persevere in believing in Jesus when they diligently heed and prayerfully apply the warnings of the Scriptures to their lives. Even if they call themselves Christians, God warns that He will not spare the disobedient and unfaithful: true Christians will come under the corrective discipline of the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be very careful that our human theological inventions do not hinder the ability of the Bible and the Holy Spirit to help Christians persevere in their faithful obedience to Jesus Christ through the Bible’s warnings to believers. By the truth of the Bible and the guidance and power of the enabling Holy Spirit, Jesus preserves believers in a right relationship with God, and true believers in Jesus Christ want to persevere in their faith to the end, even during the darkest days of trials and temptations.

(Romans 11:22)  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.

Paul emphasized human and Christian responsibility and the fact that our choices have consequences. Believers should consider the kindness and the sternness of the Lord and behave accordingly; they can continue in God’s kindness or turn (fall away) from God and act unkindly toward others and suffer the consequences. Unhappily, believers can turn from faithfully following the Lord Jesus Christ and come under His sternness and discipline and not know why they are suffering. Not all suffering, but some suffering, is a consequence of being cut off from the life-giving nourishment of God’s Holy Spirit and the true understanding of God’s Word as God disciplines His disobedient child in an effort to correct them. Paul did not say that true believers in Jesus Christ could not be grafted back into the tree again if God finds it necessary to cut them off. Paul writes carefully so God’s warnings in the Bible will have God’s intended effects.

(Romans 11:23)  And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

One might ask how a person who is predestined, called, justified, and glorified can persist in unbelief. Paul did not answer that question, because he was led by the Holy Spirit to emphasize that Christians are saved by grace and for no other reasons known to them (though God always reasons and acts with love). Whole theological systems have been invented by people trying to provide answers to questions the Bible does not definitively reveal to our human understanding (at least not to my human understanding). To preserve us and help us persevere in faith, God encourages believers with the fact that if they do not persist in unbelief, then God is able to bring them back into a saving relationship with Him. See the parable of the Prodigal Son, as well as the parables of the Lost Coin and the Lost Sheep, in Luke 15.

(Romans 11:24)  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?

Olive trees are slow-growing and live to an old age. Nature does not graft olive trees, people do. Humans graft olive trees, usually by taking a young budding stem and placing it into an older and established olive tree. With grafting, olives of a desirable quality will be more quickly produced from the branch that has been grafted into the tree. In Paul’s illustration, the Gentiles did not have the cultivation of spiritual Israel with their many gifts from God (see Romans 9:4-5), especially the promises and teachings about the coming Messiah and the law of love. By God grafting Gentile believers (Christians) into spiritual Israel, these Gentile believers would become cultivated (civilized in the Kingdom of God) through the Scriptures and their growing faith in Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit helped them understand and use God’s gifts to them. As a Jew, Paul readily and eagerly became a Christian because he knew the Scriptures as a Pharisee, and when he met Jesus he saw how Jesus had fulfilled the Scriptures. Paul knew that because of their spiritual cultivation (see Romans 9:4-5) that others in spiritual Israel could and would readily become Christians too with God’s timing and in God’s way: see Romans 10:9 — “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” After Christian Gentiles were grafted into spiritual Israel, the early church flourished and produced much good fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

God Works Out Sins for Good

Romans 11:11-24

Sunday, August 21, 2016

 

“Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious” (Romans 11:11).

 

God can work out anyone’s sins for good. In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28). Many Christians know from their own experiences when God worked good out of evil for them. Paul gave an example of how God worked good out of the sins of those who rejected Jesus. After many of his people rejected his preaching, Paul turned to the Gentiles; many of them listened, turned from their sins, trusted in Jesus, and received salvation. When some of those who had rejected Jesus as their Savior became envious of the Gentiles, they reconsidered the evidence, came to believe in Jesus, and were reconciled to God and the Gentiles. God took the sins of some and repurposed those sins with their evil consequences so others could hear the good news and come to faith in Jesus. Some who have sinfully and violently rejected Jesus and God’s people have had their lives worked out for good, because God had a purpose, God repurposed them: Paul is a good example. Many Christians have found better church homes because they loved God in spite of the sins committed against them. God worked out unimaginable sins against them for their good and the good of others as God gave them new opportunities. In addition, after they have become Christians, some have become aware of forgotten transgressions; and where they could not make amends or ask forgiveness, they have prayed for God to bless those they have harmed.

 

          

Thinking Further

God Works Out Sins for Good

Romans 11:11-24

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Name __________________________

          

 

1. When Paul “failed” in his outreach to the Jews, what did he do and how did he feel about it?

 

 

2. What did Paul mean by “the world” and the reconciliation of “the world.”

 

 

3. When he used an olive tree as an illustration, how did Paul describe the Jews who rejected Jesus and what could happen to them?

 

 

4. How did Paul use an olive tree to describe Gentiles who believed in Jesus?

 

 

5. What warning did Paul give the Gentile Christians?

 

                                     

 

                                      Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

 

1. When Paul “failed” in his outreach to the Jews, what did he do and how did he feel about it?

Paul preached to the Gentiles and led many to faith in Jesus the Messiah. He felt sorry

for those who rejected Jesus and knew that some could still repent and turn to true faith in Jesus later. He felt proud of his ministry to the Gentiles, and hoped he still might save some of the Jews.

 

2. What did Paul mean by “the world” and the reconciliation of “the world.”

“The world” is people of every race and nationality. Through faith in Jesus Christ, people

in the world, not only the Jews, could come into a right relationship with God (be reconciled).

 

3. When he used an olive tree as an illustration, how did Paul describe the Jews who rejected Jesus and what could happen to them?

Paul described them as branches that had been broken off of the olive tree because of

their unbelief. If they did not persist in their unbelief, they could be grafted in again

 

4. How did Paul use an olive tree to describe Gentiles who believed in Jesus?

They were wild branches that had been grafted in so they could share the nourishing sap of the olive root.

 

5. What warning did Paul give the Gentile Christians?

Do not become arrogant or feel superior to the Jews “the other branches.” Instead,

Gentile Christians are to tremble, fear, stand in awe (compare translations of Romans

11:20). Since God did not spare the natural branches but punished them, He can punish

the branches that He grafted in; God can cut them off from the nourishing sap. Therefore, Gentile Christians need to be kind toward the Jews and remain in God’s

kindness or suffer the consequences.

 

 

Word Search

True and False Test

God Works Out Sins for Good

Romans 11:11-24

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

A P V R T G H E W D S A Y O X

N S M E Q P E V L A F R K T M

O X W J T D B N L B E C F J I

I G U E N S W V T V M L I S N

T S N C F E A E O I X U P C I

A S B T W T B C N R L W T X S

I E G I I F E D I Z O E H S T

L R Q O C R V C E V U C S F R

I G N N J M H S O T N D J U Y

C S L T A E C L C A F I E P M

N N E K S K I H R E B A V C Q

O A A B W V X B S U D L R O W

C R R T E M A C C E P T J G N

E T S H B D H S I R U O N P J

R J I E L T S O P A R O O T H

 

Stumble

Recovery

Transgress

Salvation

Gentiles

Israel

Riches

World

Apostle

Ministry

Rejection

Reconciliation

Accept

Olive

Root

Branch

Grafted

Nourish

 

 

 

 

True and False Test

God Works Out Sins for Good

Romans 11:11-24

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Name ____________________________

 

Circle the true or false answers. Correct the false statements by restating them.

 

1. Paul rejoiced that so many Jews were coming to faith in Jesus the

Messiah that he had time to reach out to Gentiles too.True or False

 

2. Not everyone who rejects the gospel of Jesus Christ stumbles beyond recovery. Paul was a good example of this truth.True or False

 

3. It is a transgression to reject the good news of Jesus Christ.True or False

 

4. Some in Israel were envious when they learned that salvation had come to the Gentiles.True or False

 

5. Paul warned the Gentile Christians against feeling superior to Jews.True or False

 

6. Paul wrote that God changed wild olive trees into natural olive trees by

His undeserved grace and unlimited power.True or False

 

7. Paul wrote that once a branch is broken off the olive tree it can never be reattached.True or False

 

8. Because of their unbelief, branches were broken off of the natural olive tree, which represented Israel.True or False

 

9. Paul wrote that all unbelievers would persist in unbelief and never repent of their transgression. True or False

 

10. Paul wrote that those who are saved need not worry about whether or not they continued in the kindness of God.True or False

 

                                                

                                                 Answers to the True and False Test

Romans 11:11-24

Sunday, August 21, 2016

 

1.   False

2.   True

3.   True

4.   True

5.   True

6.   False

7.   False

8.   True

9.   False

10. False

 

 

 

Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, we pray for Jewish people of today who believe in You but have rejected Your Son. May their hearts be softened to hear the truth about Jesus, who wants to be their Savior, as we take the gospel to them. May we speak that gospel humbly. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.