Imagine you were adopted by loving parents who gladly sacrificed for you and provided for you and raised you into maturity. As you got older, your parents described the inheritance they had been preparing for you, showing you the papers and how everything was in order. And, at the proper time, they told you that you had a much older brother, to whom they also promised an inheritance, including a particular piece of property previously purchased. That news wouldn’t cause you to question your adoption. It would cause you to rejoice in the goodness and generosity of your parents.
For what we count as the first eight chapters of Romans Paul has been showing us the goods of our salvation. All have sinned, any can be reconciled. Those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We’ve “received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:15, 17).
And starting in Romans 9 Paul brings up the older brother.
The radical point of Romans 11 is about how God promised to save Israel and how He will save them just as He said. God purposed to bless the Gentiles with salvation blessings so as to make Israel jealous, to want their inheritance through the Messiah. For (us) Gentiles, that is cause for highest praise. It also, turns out, has become a source of great pride. Paul emphasized the jealousable argument to win the Jews in Romans 11:11-15, and now he argues and warns against Gentile arrogance in Romans 11:16-24.
There’s no way that I appreciate to the full all the blessings I’ve been given in Christ. At the *least* we have been blessed “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). Having not been a people, but now being God’s people; having not received mercy, but now having received mercy (1 Peter 2:10), these are gracious blessings from the Lord. Our justification apart from the law/works, our peace with God, our reconciliation and access to grace, our adoption as sons, our hope of glory - a hope that does not put us to shame, these are all rejoicing reasons. We’ve been given so much we do not deserve, and should work to grasp how great we have it through the gospel.
But the point in Romans 9-11 is not only that God is sovereign in salvation, but that He is sovereign in the salvation of Israel. While we may be grafted in to salvation blessings, we are wild branches, and God isn’t done with the natural branches. Too many Christians seem to unwittingly disobey this very passage. Paul commands: “do not be arrogant” and “do not become proud.” And yet all those who act or teach that the church has replaced Israel are the target. Don’t forget the older brother.
There are six parts to the conditional arguments, though my points aren’t limited to the “if this, then that,” and we’re only going to see the first two points in this message. We’ll set up the key terms of root, branches, grafted in, broken off, wild, natural.
# Analogies (verse 16)
Most of the Greek and English copies that have paragraphs keep verse 16 with verses 13-15. Paul is continuing to address Gentiles, and while this is a transition, the second of the two analogies used in verse 16 set up the discussion through verse 24.
> If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. (Romans 11:16 ESV)
The first analogy is the **firstfruits**, a concept from Numbers 15:17-21, where the first part represents the rest. Here it’s specifically the **dough** out of the **whole lump**. You don’t get a different loaf than the starter (e.g., sourdough bread).
The second analogy is the **root** and **branches**, which are parts of the same tree.
What is the **root**? It appears to be the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel. They were the first to receive the adoption, the glory, the covenants, and the promises (Romans 9:4), back where we started in this section of the epistle. To the Jews “belong the patriarchs” (Romans 9:5), from their race came the Christ (Romans 9:5), and Israel is “beloved for the sake of their forefathers” (Romans 11:28). The patriarchs were the start.
The **branches** are generations of Jews, those that came from the patriarchs, as we’ll see contrasted with Gentiles who are “wild olive shoots.”
This is the first conditional argument: if this, and this *is*, then this. If the first and root were chosen for salvation blessings, and they were, then it’s expected that blessings are naturally belonging to the lump and branches.
# Admonition (verses 17-18)
Here is the second conditional argument with such an obvious conclusion that a command becomes obvious.
> 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. (Romans 11:17–18 ESV)
Again, the **branches** are Jews. They are compared with the **wild olive shoots**, so Jews are “natural branches” (verses 21 and 24). They belong with “their own olive tree” (verse 24). **Some of the branches were broken off**. The broken-offs are all the sons of the patriarchs who did not believe. Ishmael and Esau were broken off, all those who stumbled over the stone were broken off, all those who were not the remnant.
**You** are the Gentiles, per verse 13. And the Gentiles are ** a wild olive shoot, grafted in**.
Grafting is a common method used to propagate and reproduce desirable characteristics of plants. The process involves taking a cutting or bud from one plant, known as the scion, and attaching it to a rooted portion of another plant, also called the rootstock. It involves making precise cuts on both the scion and the rootstock, aligning them carefully, and securing them together until they heal and form a successful union.
The procedure Paul describes in verse 17 is atypical arboriculture (the cultivation of trees and shrubs, a little more specific than horticulture). It was typical that a cultivated branch growing good but weak fruit because found on a weak tree, would be cut off and grafted onto a healthy wild root for growing strong. The strength of the wild root would get pushed out of the non-wild branch in good fruit. There’s no good reason to put a wild branch into a vigorous non-wild root; a healthy non-wild root would likely already have healthy branches. Paul knew that this is “contrary to nature” (verse 24). You wouldn’t do it except for fun, or grace.
Gentiles who believed in Christ are those who **now share the nourishing root of the olive tree**. It could be translated “a partaker of the root and *fatness*” (KJV), or the “root of the *riches*.” It’s a different word than the “riches” in verse 12, but a “state of oiliness” (BAGD), the “nourishing sap” (NIV), the life-juices, the good stuff.
There are a number of places in the Old Testament where Israel is compared to an olive tree (e.g., Jeremiah 11:16; Psalm 52:8). But the **olive tree** can’t be Israel in Paul’s analogy because Israel are the branches *on* the tree.
What does it mean to be **grafted in** and sharing the *fatness*? It means to enjoy salvation blessings. Gentiles don’t become Israel. Gentiles and Jews share God’s righteousness from faith to faith, they share God’s life. These blessings were promised by God to the patriarchs—the root, starting with blessings for a nation and then for all the families of the earth through Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3).
Be glad, but don’t gloat. Don’t get too big for your branches. **Do not be arrogant toward** or “boast over” (κατακαυχῶ - BAGD: “of a gladiator over his defeated foe”) or consider yourself superior to the natural branches. His reason is that **it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.**
So shouldn’t it be don’t be arrogant toward the root? But that’s how much the branches belong with the root. If the root is holy, so are the branches. There is something that belongs to them inherently.
> “The Gentiles are not taker-overs, but partakers of Jewish spiritual blessings.” —Fruchtenbaum, _Israelology_
Israel has not been displaced. They were an elect people, given great privileges.
The natural branches were not cut off from being Israel/Jews, but from the blessings. We are not grafted into being Israel/Jews, but into many of the blessings promised by God long ago. We are blessed in Abraham among "all the nations" as Gentiles, and that doesn't replace the particular people God promised to bless in Abraham as *a* nation, Israel.
So rejoice, and jealousably so, in your blessings, and rejoice in the Father’s promised but unfinished work for our older brother.
> "I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this." -Charles Spurgeon, “[The Church of Christ](https://www.reformedreader.org/spurgeon/1855-28.htm)” June 3, 1855.
Church, your blessings have been given by the Lord, don't be arrogant toward others, including in your theology of Israel. Members of the body, your blessings have been given by the Lord, don't be arrogant against, or jealous of, other parts of the body. You have been grafted into blessings, the sap of God’s salvation promises and grace makes you fruitful.
> May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–6, ESV)