Romans 11 is the conclusion of Paul’s excursion into Israel’s rejection of God through their rejection of Christ. Chapter 9 began this exposition of God’s purpose to use Israel’s apostasy and hardness of heart as a means of bringing the Gentiles into God’s final covenant, the gospel of Jesus Christ. In chapter 10 Paul revisits Israel’s pride and false faith in law-keeping (10:1-4, cf 2:17ff) and again shows that all men must be reconciled to God through obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ (10:16, cf Mark 16:15-16). Finally, chapter 11 begins with the expression of hope that Israel’s rejection is neither total nor insurmountable.
Paul describes Israel’s rejection of and by God as the removal of bad branches from an olive tree. He then describes the Gentiles’ inclusion in the gospel plan as the grafting in of wild olive branches into the original tree.
But, as the Gentiles were first warned concerning the universality of sin in chapter 1, followed by the condemnation of the Jews in chapter 2, now we have the Gentiles warned against becoming prideful and boasting against the Jews because of their own special place in God’s plan. Listen to Paul’s warning:
“You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.”
This is where the title of today’s blog arises. Israel didn’t have to be lost because of their pride, but the Gentiles must also fear lest their own pride cause them to be cut off. This would have been a particular tragedy seeing as they were grafted in rather than being natural branches.
Paul’s conclusion is that, as all men are condemned under sin, all men can also be the recipients of God’s mercy, being reconciled to God through the faith that is in Jesus Christ.
Finally, this has been God’s plan all along. And it came to pass, not because God decreed it by way of hard determinism, but through His ability to see and know the future (v 33).