Ingrafted Gentile branches. 11:11-24
In chapter 11, Paul declares that God has not cast off his historic people, even though it may seem that way. God has saved a remnant according to the election of grace, v1-10, and his present rejection of most of Israel is certainly not permanent, v11-24. Paul believes that his own Gentile mission will prod many of his countryman to accept Jesus as the messiah. A remnant has already believed, and the day will come when a representative majority of Israel will receive Jesus. In the meantime, Gentile believers should not feel themselves superior to unbelieving Jews. It was only through the unbelief of Israel that the Gentiles (the "wild olive shoot") were ingrafted into the kingdom.
v11. The present unbelief of Israel may seem permanent, but it is not so. Israel's unbelief serves as an instrument of salvation for the Gentiles, which salvation will inturn prompt Israel to look to Jesus as the long-awaited messiah.
v12. Israel's unbelief brought blessing to the Gentiles. Israel's belief will bring even greater blessings to all mankind.
v13-14. Paul now addresses the Gentile members of the Roman church. It may seem to them that he has abandoned his fellow countrymen, but in reality, Paul believes that his Gentile mission will provoke many Jews to accept Jesus.
v15. Israel's rejection of Jesus the messiah goes hand-in-hand with God's rejection of Israel, yet, Israel's rejection of Jesus, culminating in his death, achieves the reconciliation of the world to God. Israel's final acceptance of Jesus will complete that reconciliation, serving as the culmination of all things in the realization of the kingdom of heaven.
v16. Israel remains "holy" (sacred) in God's sight, because the whole is purified by the holiness of the "firstfruit", the "root" - the sanctified remnant according to grace. This remnant is most likely the Jewish believers who are holy through their identification with Jesus, who is himself the true remnant of Israel. Some commentators argue that the "root" is Abraham, or even the Patriarchs. Either way, Abraham's descendents are special to God.
v17-18. Paul now develops an agricultural metaphor (v17-24) which is actually "contrary to nature". Good fruiting stock is grafted to vigorous wild root stock, not visa versa. Yet, the point is simple enough. The Gentiles are spiritually blessed because of their incorporation into God's chosen people, so therefore they should not "boast" (triumph) over Israel, nor over the unbelieving "branches" broken out of the tree.
v19-21. It is true that God has rejected unbelieving Israel, and that Gentile believers now stand in Israel's place, but this is not of works, but faith. So, there is no ground for pride (arrogance, haughtiness). If God didn't spare Israel's unbelief, neither will he spare Gentile unbelief. Be warned.
v22. God cannot be taken for granted; He is both hard and merciful. At the present moment the Gentiles have sought his mercy and have received it. If they reject that mercy, as Israel has, they too will be "cut off".
v23. God's grace, his generous kindness and love, is available to all who seek it. God is willing and able to extend his mercy to Israel again.
v24. If God is able to gather Gentiles into the kingdom, then he is well able to regather Israel into the kingdom.
The "Christ killers"
Haldane writes of this passage, "The Jewish nation was God's olive tree. They were all the people of God in a typical sense, and the greater part of God's true people had been chosen out of them; but now, by their unbelief, some of the branches were broken off from the tree....... And among, or rather instead of, those that were broken off, the Gentiles, who were a wild olive, having had no place in the good olive tree, are now made the children of Abraham by faith in Christ Jesus, Gal.3:26-29. They were grafted into the good olive tree, whose root Abraham was, and were made partakers of his distinguished privileges.... Whenever Gentile Christians feel a disposition to boast with respect to the Jews, let them remember not only that the Jews were first the people of God, but that the first Christians were also Jews. The Jews received no advantage from the Gentiles; but, on the contrary, the Gentiles have received much form the Jews, from whom the gospel sounded out - its first preachers being Jews, and of whom even Christ himself, as concerning the flesh, came to seek and save. The Gentile believers became the children of Abraham, and all the blessings they enjoy are in virtue of that relation."
The relationship between Christians and Jews has not always been harmonious. In "Christian" countries Jews have often been persecuted. For example, in Portugal, Jewish children were forcibly taken from their parents and transported to the colonies, even into the nineteenth century. Persecution of the "Christ killers" in Nazi Germany was barbarous. We do well to recognize the spiritual heritage that is ours through Israel, and remind ourselves of Israel's inevitable acceptance of Jesus as messiah. Such should prompt the warmest of feelings toward those of the Jewish faith.
Today, dispensational prophecy, focused on the emergence of the state of Israel, has also prompted positive attitudes. Yet, our attitude should not be driven by such wild speculation. The illegal and immoral dispossession and subjugation of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel is a blight on international affairs. It is this very injustice that has fired Islamic extremism. Our attitude toward those of the Jewish faith should not be driven by Zionist fervor, but rather by the knowledge of how much we owe to the children of Abraham, and in particular, Jesus, that one faithful Jew upon whom rests the salvation of both Jew and Gentile.
Why is there such hatred toward Jews, and what should be our attitude and why?