God’s Olive Tree
“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, 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” (Rom. 11:17–18).- Romans 11
With the birth of Christ, the promises to Abram of a good land, a great name, many sons, riches, and authority (Gen. 12:1–3; 15:1; 17:1–8) began to arrive in earnest. As the offspring to inherit these privileges (Gal. 3:16), Jesus initiates the renewal of creation (Rom. 8:18–23), receives an exalted name (Phil. 2:9–11), gains innumerable descendants (Heb. 2:10–11; Rev. 7:9–10), and is given wealth and dominion (5:11–12). Yet Abram’s offspring also includes all who trust in Jesus, and so even Gentiles gain this reward (Gal. 3:29).
Clearly, Moses understood this blessing is for Abram’s physical descendants (Gen. 21:12). In fact, the prophets looked to the day when the full promise would come to the Jews. Indeed, Israel’s gain was seen as so great that while Gentiles were predicted to join God’s kingdom as servants, the privileges of sonship for them are only implied (Deut. 15:6; Isa. 60:12; Zech. 2:11). Why then are ethnic Israelites not prominent in the church?
Today’s passage addresses this issue. Presently, most Jews reject their Messiah, but the Lord has not forsaken His covenant. He is preserving a remnant (Rom. 11:1–10) — those physical sons of Abram who by faith in Christ are shown to be spiritual sons as well.
Paul explains that the hardening of the Jews has occurred so as to allow the Gentiles to come into the kingdom. Yet this hardening may not last forever; one day, Paul’s Jewish brethren may turn to Jesus en masse, bringing great blessing to the world (vv. 12, 15, 24, 32).
Therefore, Gentile believers must keep two things in mind. First, we cannot be arrogant about our status as God’s people. The Lord did not have to include us as full heirs of His promises, and He can cut us off if we persist in arrogance (vv. 21–23). Anti-Semitism or egotistic pride in the idea of being a part of God’s family is thus ruled out.
Secondly, we do not hope for a rebuilt temple complete with sacrificial offerings or a conquering Jewish nation. The prediction that the Gentiles will serve Israel has already been fulfilled. Jesus is the true Israel of God (Matt. 2:13–15; John 15:1–17), and in ruling over all things (1 Cor. 15:25), He is now bringing Israel’s reign to pass.
Though there are many privileges in being a part of God’s family, we must never become conceited that we trust in Christ while others do not. All of God’s people have been chosen from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3–6), but it is not due to our own loveliness. Christians should therefore be the most humble of all people. Think of a non-believing friend and pray earnestly for his salvation. Pray fervently that God would humble you before Him.
Passages for Further Study