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 …
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches …
Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. (verses 11, 17-18, 22-23)
“Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!”
Paul is the eternal optimist (putting full weight on those words). He knows that his own people, the Israelites, have by and large rejected the Gospel. They have a “spirit of stupor.”Their eyes are blind. Exactly as Paul himself had been. Like him, they’ve been trying to establish their own righteousness, relying on themselves rather than placing faith in Christ. But without faith, there is no hope.
Yet, against all hope, Paul maintains hope, eager that they themselves ultimately embrace faith. Indeed, as he sees more and more non-Jews come to faith through his ministry of the Gospel, he hopes to spark a God-directed envy in the heart of his own people, so that they, too, will turn, and open eyes, and see, and place faith in Jesus.
In the meantime, Paul wants those of us who do not have Jewish background to understand the full blessing we have received through Israel’s heritage. We’ve been grafted in. Like a branch implanted in a cultivated olive tree with an established root system, we now draw nourishment from that God-given heritage. The patriarchs and the covenants and the law and the prophets all prepared the way for the coming of Christ. We, too, have now become partakers of that rich preparation. Amazing.
How, then, could Christians down the ages have ever engaged in antisemitism? How could any of us have ever ignored the treasure trove of the Old Testament? How could those of us who are Gentiles ever be proud in ourselves, rather than humbly acknowledging we were outside the circle and have been graciously welcomed in? How could we ever by-pass gratitude?
Like a branch that is always dependent on sap flowing from the tree, we ourselves are forever dependent on the abundant kindness of God extended to us. “Continue in his kindness” (verse 22), Paul says. It was his kindness that caused us to be grafted in. Continue to live in it, moment by moment. It’s our only hope of life. Don’t be cut off. Or, as Jesus put it, “abide” (John 15:4).
Meanwhile, the image provides the ongoing hope for the Jewish people, the hope that Paul himself clung to. If the Lord has seen fit to graft non-Jews into this life-giving flow of the Gospel, “how much more readily will … the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree!” (verse 24).
The conclusion? Nurture gratitude. Stay humble. Revel in the rich heritage we’ve been given. Continue in the Lord’s kindness. Abide. And pray for those of Jewish background, that they, too, would turn eyes on Jesus.
Father, I humbly acknowledge again the sheer gift of grace that has allowed me to be part of your family. Thank you for grafting me into this life. Strengthen me, by your Spirit, to abide, rooted in Christ, nourished in your kindness. Thank you. Praise your name.
Reflect: Bring to mind some of the rich heritage of faith you have been grafted into. What stands out to you today? Humbly give thanks. Pray for strength to abide. Intercede for those of Jewish heritage to come to faith.