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Grafted

Romans 11:13-32

March 21, 2021

INTRO: T.Y. to Andrew and Jesse for wonderful, Spirit-led messages…and to you, Mosaic, for Spirit-led responses. It is wonderful to be in a gathering of God’s people that is experiencing an evident work of the Spirit of God.

RECAP: I’m going back just a half-chapter today and next week to fill in a section we skipped over in Chapter 11. It’s really a great way to build a fuller foundation of motivation to what Jesse challenged us with last week—Romans 12:1--“Therefore…in view of the mercies/grace of God” that Paul has laid out for 11 chapters in Romans 1-11, the responses of faith, spiritual action and soul-growth Paul calls for in the rest of the book make total sense. Our responses to God are to be driven by His mercies, not some sense of duty or demand. The kindness of God towards us should move us every day to so want to be ‘living sacrifices’ that the world will never be the same.

So, in today’s section we are wrapping up Paul’s focus on the relationship of Jews and Gentiles to God’s historic arc of salvation. He’s been grieving the failure of his people, the Jews, to embrace by faith God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. He’s been telling Gentile believers like us that, while the Jews are currently experiencing a spiritual hardening towards God, that hardening is also being used by God to reach US! And WE, the Gentile believers, will be used by God some day to turn the Jews as a nation back to Him. But I’m getting ahead of the text.

Three weeks ago we saw how God wants to use good jealousy to draw his Jewish people back to him. And He wants us, non-Jewish believers, to be the cause of that good jealousy in the Jews. He wants our life in Christ to be SO attractive, real and life-changing that it makes them ‘jealous’ for a work of God in them like that.

APP: It’s always ‘good-jealousy’ when what we see of spiritual zeal, passion, fire and life in someone else makes our hearts yearn for the same. Ungodly jealousy wants the wrong things/stuff others have for ourselves. Godly jealousy is a God-given yearning for the right things in our lives that we don’t have but may see in others.

  • When I see spiritual sensitivity I’m not experiencing (as I did last week at a Church Awakening conference) in the lives of other brothers and sisters, God’s Spirit in me should move me to yearn for that.
  • When I see spiritual hunger, spiritual zeal, faith, a heart of service, a love for the saints or lost people…anything that is the life of Jesus at work in a brother or sister that isn’t so prevalent in me, it should move me to a good-jealousy.
  • When I read about revival, hear first-hand stories, or just bump into a move of God in some church or place, it should kindle a godly jealousy for the same or more in my soul.

God is going to do that some day with the vast majority of the Jewish people when he lifts/breaks their hardness of heart that now lies over them.

Romans 11:13-16

13 I am talking to you Gentiles [non-Jews]. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy [good jealousy] and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection [as a nation/Jewish people] brought reconciliation [the Gospel of reconciliation to God in Christ, not actual reconciliation of every person in the world to Christ] to the world, [the Gentiles, the rest of the world] what will their acceptance be [as a nation/ethnic people] but life from the dead? [the return of Christ and the first resurrection of God’s people to reign with Him.] 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; [If the saving of Gentiles is a holy thing, certainly the eventually inclusion of the Jews as a people will be a holy thing too.] if the root is holy, so are the branches.

Here Paul shifts the metaphor or illustration from baking (bread) to agriculture—grafting fruit trees.

ILL: I first got acquainted with grafting of trees when I was a child. My parents bought some property on CDA Lake that had been an apple orchard way back in the day. Actually, hundreds of acres in that area had been in production for some time. But it had been a marginally-successful business that was barely making it. The final ‘nail in the coffin’ was when the barge that was loaded with just-picked apples from the fall harvest ready to take down the lake to CDA for processing and sale caught fire and burned the entire crop. A neighbor who was there at the time, was coming back down the lake, and said it smelled like someone was cooking baked apples. ☹

Anyway, the property we bought had about 15-20 old apple trees on it. There were different red varieties and a couple of yellow varieties. And then there were a bunch of “wild” apple trees. Do you know the difference between a ‘wild’ apple and a ‘domesticated’ apple tree? (Explain.)

When it comes to apples, you usually graft a domesticated hybrid onto a stronger “wild” root stock. But as you can see from your bulletin picture today, you can graft very different varieties of apples onto the same stock. That is the picture Paul picks up (probably thinking of olive trees in his mind).

What’s the “root” that Paul is saying is “holy” here in this illustration? Well, I think it is God himself and the Gospel of faith that comes from Him that is ‘holy’. It could also be the whole group/concept of the ‘chosen people of God,’ be they Israel early on or the church now. The chosen people of God from all ages, the people in this world who are “rooted” in Christ, form that ‘trunk’ into which individual people are ‘grafted into.’

[NOTE: announce the new quarter of Leadership Training starting after Easter, Sunday April 11. It’s a course called “Rooted” that is designed to ‘root’ each of us more deeply into Christ and the church. Sign-ups start next Sunday. We’ll have a limit of 50 this first round. It’s something that I would like to see EVERYONE who is a part of Mosaic participate in over the next 2 years…everyone!]

Now Paul launches into this illustration of what God is doing by ‘grafting in’ we Gentiles while allowing the Jews to be temporarily hardened by their rejection of Christ. Romans 11:17-21.

17 If some of the branches have been broken off [most Jews], and you, though a wild olive shoot [Gentile], have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches.

What a beautiful picture—that we’ve been grafted into the life of Christ, ‘wild shoots’ that we are! When we came to faith in Jesus, we got included into this amazing “tree” of God’s chosen people. We became a branch on the tree along with saints of old like Adam & Eve, Able, Noah, Methuselah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Josiah, Mary, Paul, Peter, etc. We’re in the same family as these amazing Jewish saints of God that we read about in this book.

Just as they drew spiritual ‘sap’ from their connection with God, so we are to. The same life of God is available to us! The same nourishment that made them fruitful is available to us. The same kind of God-connection. In fact, ALL the ‘sap’ of God himself is available to us when we are really grafted in and start drawing life from the roots and trunk of God.

APP: This is the same image Jesus used in John 15 telling us how vitally important it is for us to ‘abide’ in Him, the true vine, in order to have a fruitful life.

  • Being here today with a hunger in your soul for God is one way to enjoy the ‘sap.’
  • All the spiritual disciplines are a way to draw more of God’s life into our lives.
  • Crying out to God in times of need…listening to godly counsel…seeking time with God daily…living in humble spiritual submission to godly saints/family.

Another reality: we didn’t get to be connected to God because we were such a great catch or find. No, we were “wild olive shoots’ that would have been barren and useless unless God had grabbed us and grafted us in. We didn’t graft ourselves in, God did. That should humble every one of us! Why should I be one of the ones whom the love of God melted and placed into Christ? I don’t know.

That reality should produce humility of heart, not any sense of superiority or spiritual snobbery. Vs. 18—“…do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches.”

STORY: Thursday Bible study this week in Romans 2. There is a tremendous tendency to judge others when we’ve been exposed to the truth of God. What a tragedy that the people of God, the church, are known for our judgment of sinners rather than our compassion towards them. Showing them the compassion we’ve experienced in Christ would likely draw them to Jesus. But judging them has only driven them away from us and the living God.

Paul tells us that when we adopt a mindset that considers ourselves in any way “superior” to lost people, particularly Jews,

…consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble.

Here’s the spiritual reality:

  • Unbelief of God always breaks relationship with God…always!
  • Belief/faith in God always creates relationship with God…always!

ILL: Adam & Eve—like the plants they named in the Garden, they knew that if you broke off a shot/branch/stem of a plant, that plant would die. God was giving them a living illustration of what would happen to them when they chose unbelief—they would be broken off from God and experience death. The spiritual death came immediately; the physical death would come gradually.

Flowers from Evie’s funeral here today.

Rather than arrogance and pride, judgmentalism and condemnation of others, God calls us to what? More faith. More humility. More ‘trembling’ or motivating holy fear of what could happen to us if we become like the Jews themselves in their attitude of having it all together and being a privileged people.

Perhaps we’re not used to thinking about God warning us about our standing with Him. This warning is not opposed to the biblical teaching of eternal security (Rm. 8:28-39). But it is in agreement with the biblical teaching of genuine faith. Genuine faith actually perseveres in faith. Dead faith (James) doesn’t. It deceives itself that some form of “belief” is persevering faith when, in fact, it isn’t. That’s what the Jews thought: “All I have to do is a minimal amount of religious activity that convinces me that I’m doing the right thing, and I’m good.” That kind of ‘faith’ led most of the Jews to reject Jesus.

Genuine faith recognizes the difference. It recognizes that I can pervert real faith and think that coasting on my loreals, going through the religious routine, is enough to insure that I’m “in the faith,” “in Christ.” To those in the church thinking that, Paul writes,

21 For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jews], he will not spare you either [who don’t engage in genuine faith but rather reject utter dependence on God]. 22 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.

Walking in faith with God will always lead us into His kindness. Walking in unbelief and rejection of His teachings, His pronouncements about life and morality and blessing, will expose us to the ‘sternness’ of God.

This “cutting off” talked about here is NOT about the person who sins, feels God’s convicting work, repents, confesses and comes back to a walk of faith…over and over again. It’s about the one who thinks that some “dead faith” (as James puts it) of praying some “sinners prayer” but not experiencing a heart-reorienting change towards God is all they need. It’s about the person who is religious…as I and my family of origin were for years growing up…but not transformed by the kindness of God into obedient disciples of Jesus. That kind of person will not have a place in Christ, not experience the ‘sap’ of God’s Spirit and life and will be just like Jews who rejected faith and chose unbelief.

What do we learn about God here? Two qualities: kindness and sternness. Let’s think for a moment about the latter, the sternness of God. It’s a word that is only found here in the N.T. It has the idea of being “cut off sharply.” It’s used of “exacting the full provisions of a law/statute.” In other words, getting the book thrown at you in court…not getting off but rather getting the maximum sentence.

To the Jews who thought righteousness and acceptability before God would come by law-keeping, God says, “Okay, so you love the Law more than my mercy and grace? Then you will have to suffer the full penalty of the Law—condemnation and being cut off from Me.” That’s what trying to win with God looks like when you substitute religion for faith.

ILL: Let me try to make an imperfect illustration of this. Bringing it close to home, we have living in WA State, two of the world’s richest families: the Gates and the Bezos. Together they are worth over $300 billion! Combined these two families only have 7 children (Gates has 3, Bezos have 4). That’s unimaginable wealth, right. Pretty much anything you can imagine buying, you could have. If each of those kids spent a million dollars a day for the rest of their lives, they would never run out of money!

Do you ever think their kids might take for granted how wealthy they are? Ever think they may slip into loving the stuff their parents buy them more than they love or appreciate their parents? What about 2 or 3 generations down the line? Do you think it’s possible 1 or 2 or 5 of the kids or grandkids or great-grandkids might love the wealth that goes with the family name but not really value or appreciate their parents?

Of course. It happens all the time to wealthy families. They end up loving the money, fighting with each other over it, getting sucked into the lifestyle of the rich and famous…and losing their ‘family connection.’

Imagine if someday these kids totally reject their parents. Imagine they kill one of their parents and end up spending the rest of their lives in prison for murder, all the while hating their parents.

What if their parents still really wanted to have a family, really wanted to bless kids, really wanted to leave a legacy by having a family. So…they announce they are willing to adopt. And instead of 7 kids there are 7 million kids worldwide who want to join their family! And further imagine that with each adoption, these families just get richer and richer. There is no end to their wealth…or their capacity to love…or to care for children.

Okay, this is a bit of a crazy illustration. But think of it as a form of metaphor. God’s “riches” of the most amazing qualities ever longed for by human beings are so beyond the Gates’ and Bezos’ physical wealth that I’m sort of ashamed to make this a metaphor. God has an endless supply of sacrificial love, of heart-throbbing compassion, of gentle mercy, of abounding grace, of overflowing kindness, of stunning beauty, of overwhelming peace…of everything good, right, just, holy…everything any our souls most deeply long for…AND all the wealth of the universe. I mean, we’re told by astronomers there are entire plants packed with diamonds.

God’s chosen nation, the Jews, became like ‘rich kids’ who grew over two millennium to despise their God, to want his wealth more than his relationship and character. After 2,000 years of experiencing His care and kindness, when He came to them in human flesh, lived among them and offered them His rule over this world, they rejected Him.

So, God came after US! Like the parable Jesus gave of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22, the rejection by the privileged few resulted in the offer being sent to the poverty-stricken many—Gentiles. This is why Paul calls us in chapter 12 to be motivated to self-sacrifice. This amazing switch-out of Jews for Gentiles was a “mystery” that the Jews never saw coming. And if their failure to embrace Christ has resulted in enabling us to encounter Him, how much more, says Paul, will their eventual acceptance of Christ as a people result in unimaginable blessing for the entire world?

Paul continues: Romans 11:23ff

23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

How willing God is to restore anyone who “does not persist in their unbelief.” It is genuine faith in God that grafts us into God… and keeps us growing in the nourishing sap of His nature. This is why faith is the foundation and framing of the Christian’s life. We will never stop needing to live by faith. If you do, you can be sure that you are no longer really being nourished by the life of Christ. You’ve settled for something else.

24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches [Israel], be grafted into their own olive tree!

What is Paul talking about here? Ten times in chapters 9-11 Paul uses this term “Israel.” Every time it is used clearly in the ethnic sense of the term. He’s talking about the Jews as distinct from the Gentiles. So he’s not mixing the two groups of people. He’s clearly distinguishing between the two.

You may be thinking, “Big deal! What difference does it make whether Israel or the Jews are distinct from the church, from saved Gentiles? While Jewish believers clearly form part of the church, the point in these passages is that they are a small remnant of the Jews. But a day is coming when that is going to change. Here’s how Paul describes it.

25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

[Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9; Jer. 31:33,34]

Is there ‘mystery’ about how God works out history? Of course. Paul acknowledges that it was a ‘hidden reality’ that the Jews didn’t…and still don’t…understand.

  • That their failure would mean blessing to the whole world was a mystery.
  • That most of the nation would reject Jesus was a mystery.
  • That millions upon millions of Gentiles would benefit from their temporary rejection was a mystery.
  • That God had a massively bigger plan for mankind than the little Jewish nation could comprehend was a mystery.

But Paul tells us there is a CLOCK ticking on this mystery. It’s no marked by minutes but by the souls of Gentiles like you and me. “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in….” God alone knows what that “full number” is, but if you are a follower of Jesus Christ by faith, you are part of that number. And some day one of God’s children is going to share the Gospel with that last person to make up that “full number”, and then there is going to be a shift in the hearts of the Jewish people…and “all Israel will be saved.”

This doesn’t mean every single Jew will follow Jesus. But it does mean that the nation as a whole will surrender to Him. That is what many of us believe will usher in the Millennium—the physical, geographic, literal and authoritative reign of Jesus Christ on this earth for 1,000 years. It’s talked about in Revelation 20. Satan and his minions will be bound in the Abyss. People and nations won’t be deceived by him as they now are. The world will experience what it is to know Jesus Christ as reigning Sovereign, King of kings and Lord of lords.

Both this passage in Romans 9-11 and Revelation 20 are a couple of reasons why many of us are what is called “premillennialists.” We believe the Lord will return to this earth pre…or prior to…a literal 1,000 years in which He will reign on this earth. [Amillennialists believe we are now in the millennium, that Satan is to some degree bound, and that the advancement of the church is the growing reign of Christ over the souls of people. But amillennialists don’t see any special future role for the nation of Israel or the acceptance of a majority of Jews of the Messiah Jesus.]

There are a bunch of important and significant applications of this passage to us today. “So what?” you should be asking yourself. So, let’s think about that for a moment.

1.) Learn from the Jewish nation…and don’t be satisfied with anything less than constant spiritual renewal & revival. None of us is beyond doing or becoming hardened in heart as they have. This passage is a clarion call to run as hard as we can from growing indifference about spiritual issues. It’s a call to despise our tendency to spiritual pride: to think of ourselves better than those around us, to be judgmental of others, to not embrace the eternal plan of God when it comes to us in a form that we don’t expect. It’s a call to not be satisfied with anything but continual spiritual renewal/revival. NOTE: be prepared to be surprised when God brings revival!

2.) Long for the re-grafting in of the Jews…and avoid anti-Semitism (and any racial prejudice) like the plague (more than Covid!). God still loves the Jews. He still has an amazing and history-shaping plan for them in the future. Their eventual faith in Christ will usher in a period of unparalleled blessing like the world has never seen. We should be praying for their salvation. We should be seeking out relationships with them. We should be speaking and acting against anti-Semitism at every turn. And that attitude should spill over towards any racial animus or prejudice we may have against any racial group different from whatever we are.

3.) We must be diligent to be living lives that are deeply grafted into Christ—drawing continually and constantly on the “sap” of the life of Jesus Christ. If we have grown dormant, we must confess that and not be content with mediocrity of spiritual experience. Shake it up! Engage in different spiritual practices…or reengage in ones that fed your soul in the past in fresh ways. Don’t let the truth that you’ve been grafted into Christ dull you to the reality that He wants to flow through you and engage you in bearing fruit that will last forever.

4.) Live longing for the “full measure of the Gentiles” to come to Christ (Rm. 11:25). Live forever grateful that we have been included in this amazing group of people from all over the world. Look at every person as if they might be the last one God is waiting to come to Him before He ushers in the re-grafting in of Israel. Imagine the blessing that is awaiting the world when the last Gentile puts their faith in Jesus and God reignites His Jewish people with the light of Christ!

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