Last Lord’s Day in Romans 11:16-24 we saw the introductory Analogies and the first Admonition. Verse 16 offers two illustrations, dough and root are connected to the whole loaf and branches. It’s the root and branches analogy that Paul carries through the paragraph until verse 24. The branches are Jews, and though they shared an identification with the root of the patriarchs, they were broken off from the salvation blessings promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
There are three reasons for identifying the root as Israel’s patriarchs. First (immediate context), the root is like the dough, and both illustrate first parts that represent later parts, both presented to, or for, God. Neither dough or root represent Christ as a first part, the subject is Jews (per verse 14) and where they started. Second (broader context), the patriarchs are referenced at the beginning of Romans 9 (verse 5, to Israel “belong the patriarchs”) and again at the end of Romans 11; Romans 11:28 says in different words the same sort of thing as this paragraph: “as regards election, [the Jews] are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” Third (theological context), while better than a second-grade Sunday School answer, identifying the root as Christ not only misses that the Christ, the Seed/Offspring, was promised *to* and *through* the root, it also suggests that some Jews were in fact *in* Christ and then cut off from Christ. This contradicts Romans 8:1, 38-39, which says there is no condemnation for those “in Christ” and nothing can cut us off from His love.
Gentiles are grafted in to “*share in the nourishing root of the olive tree*.” Believers partake of the salvation blessings first promised by the Lord in His covenant to Abraham. And I say that the tree illustrates salvation blessings, rather than Israel or the Church or even the covenants, because of the previous paragraph, Romans 11:11-15. What makes Jews jealous is that “salvation has come to the Gentiles,” a salvation that is “riches for the world” and “riches for the Gentiles.” The Gentiles aren’t the “new” Israel or the “true” Israel or “spiritual” Israel, but they do receive the sorts of salvation riches first promised to the Jews. This is the “fatness” of the olive tree, the life-juices.
There’s four more parts to the paragraph, with an emphasis against Gentile arrogance and toward anticipation for God’s kindness to the Jews.
# Argument (verse 19)
Paul just said “do not be arrogant toward the branches” and he expects some orthodox push back.
> Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” (Romans 11:19 ESV)
This isn’t an argument about capacity or amount of available space. It’s not as if there were only “this many” that could be saved and grafted in. Unlike a physical plant limited by surface area, or even by the inability of the sap-system to scale up for sustaining extra branches, the point of this interlocutor is about God’s purpose. He had listened to *some* of what Paul said. “Through (Israel’s) trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles” (verse 11). The **broken off so that** is a narrative plot twist. And it’s *true*, but it’s not the last season, it’s definitely not the climax of the story.
# Answer (verses 20-21)
Yes, “quite right” (NASB), and sure. That (most) Jews are out and (many) Gentiles are in, for now, is part of Paul’s point. But the imperative here is less pressing for jealousability and more pressing against being a jerk.
> That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. (Romans 11:20–21 ESV)
**True**, “granted” (NIV), some Jews were broken off. It was part of God’s sovereign plan *and* it was part of Israel’s responsibility. They should have believed. The privileges they had increased their accountability to trust the Lord, and yet many trusted in what they considered to be their own righteousness. They got comfy, complacent.
**So do not become proud, but fear.** Don’t think about yourself in an exalted way, but be humble. Fear the Lord, yes, as you consider that the salvation blessings are gifts, including faith, and that without God sustaining that faith you would fall away. Pride opposes not just humility but *faith*.
The next conditional argument comes in as an explanation. Why should we be humble? **If God did not spare the natural branches**, and we’ve seen that He didn’t, **(then) neither will he spare you.** This sort of warning may have similarities to Israel, but it is not based on being in the covenant as many of the warnings to them were. It is an exhortation, from man’s perspective in light of man’s responsibility, to take heed of superficial confession and so superficial connection, and to keep on believing. The righteous *live* by faith, they don’t merely “pray a prayers” expressing faith and be done with it. We’ll be done living by faith when faith becomes sight.
None are saved because they are born into or grow up in a Christian family, because they prayed a prayer, because they got baptized, because they go to church. Those are all blessings, and they are blessings especially as they stimulate *faith*. Salvation is *always* by faith *alone*.
# Appeal (verse 22)
Two key words, both repeated a couple times: kindness and severity.
> 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. (Romans 11:22 ESV)
**Note** is fine, a focusing imperative, “Behold” or “notice” this. There is **kindness** and **severity**. **Kindness** or “goodness” (KJV) is a “quality of being helpful or beneficial” (BAGD). It belongs with God’s grace, His saving of enemies and generosity toward the ungrateful. He gives riches to the poor who preferred their poverty until He worked in them.
**Severity** or “sternness” (NIV), “harshness” (NET), “rigorousnes” (Tyndale). God’s patience and kindness is significant *because* of His righteousness and glory and severity, His *wrath* (remember Romans 1:18 and Romans 2:5, 8-9). He is the most Jealous for His name. While He is divinely patient He is also divinely inflexible about the standard for honoring His Son and His Son’s name.
Kindness and blessing are for all who believe. Severity, curses, being cut off and judgment are for those who refuse. Believers are to **continue in his kindness**.
# Anticipation (verses 23-24)
We’re nearing the end of the arguments against arrogance, and these two verses summarize the analogy. It’s another “how much more” argument.
> 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. 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. (Romans 11:23–24 ESV)
The repetition is Paul’s before it was mine. We’re back to branches from **a wild olive tree** (Gentiles) and those from **a cultivated olive tree** (Jews). There’s nothing more **natural** than to be **grafted back into their own olive tree**. This is not only what God has the power to do, it is what God has *promised* to do (per the specific New Covenant parties and terms). There is *hope* for Israel (Morris).
Men such as Martin Luther missed this. He wrote “On the Jews and Their Lies” in which he said,
> Thus we cannot extinguish the unquenchable fire of divine wrath, of which the prophets speak, **nor can we convert the Jews**. (Location 3491) … next to the devil, a Christian has no more bitter and galling foe than a Jew. There is no other to whom we accord as many benefactions and from whom we suffer as much as we do from these base children of the devil, this brood of vipers. (Location 3526, as quoted in _Forged from the Reformation_)
For as much as we appreciate God’s use of Luther reading and understanding Romans 1:17 to spark the Reformation, he didn’t read everything as carefully, which is another reason we are Reformed and still reading our Bibles.
Are we (Gentiles) in? Yes. In what? We who confess Christ as Lord are in among the remnant of believing Jews and sharing the fatness of the root. What's the root? *Not* Israel, Israel is also in the root, but we’re in the riches of salvation as promised to the root of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What is Paul's point? Here it is not about us needing to recognize more that we're in, but that Israel will be in, and we’re to be jealousable, not jerks.
Do not become proud, but fear. Stand fast through faith. Remember the kindness and severity of God. “Continue in the grace of God” (Acts 13:43).
> Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24–25, ESV)