Living in Light of Grace

In spiritually mature Christians pain has purged them of pride and a keen memory of where they came from keeps them sweetly self-effacing and genuinely gracious. By contrast, a lack of spiritual trials and a short memory almost always produces a spirit of entitlement and a judgmental attitude. There are few things more repulsive than an arrogant Christian.

Having assured Gentile believers of their place in God’s family as adopted sons and daughters, and having described the temporary setting aside of the Jews, Paul recognizes the potential for a new kind of danger. Gentiles now enjoy a place of honor in God’s grand plan to redeem His creation, a privilege the Jews once enjoyed. Thus, Paul gives the Gentiles a lesson on humility, so we don’t become arrogant or smug.

To help Gentile believers understand their place in God’s plan, Paul draws on a widely understood image within the Mediterranean world: the cultivation of olives. However, most of us have no experience with an olive grove so here is the point:

What we are now enjoying was once reserved for the Jews and it will be the Jews’ honored place someday in the future. The Jews are being disciplined in this Church age but it’s temporary. Gentiles now have a place of honor, but we must be careful not to be arrogant.

In Romans 11:15 Paul remarks that the Jews are like members of the family who has been tragically killed in an accident. The surviving members can live and even grow spiritually from the loss, but how wonderful if the deceased could be resurrected and return to the family!

In v. 17-18 Paul begins the illustration of the olives and the practice of grafting. Did you know it’s possible to graft a branch from a pear tree into the stock of an apple tree? But that doesn’t change the nature of the pear. It doesn’t begin producing apples just because it’s receiving nourishment from an apple tree! In the same way, wild olive branches cannot produce better fruit simply because they have been grafted to a cultivated tree.

Paul is simply saying that God did not set aside the Jewish branches then include the Gentile branches in His redemptive plan because one is better or more useful than the other. Paul teaches that both are valued, but different. Elsewhere, such as Ephesians 2:14-16, Paul stressed the unity of the Jewish and Gentile believers. This is a paradox and I cannot explain how both can be true but I take the evidence at face value and affirm each truth without slighting the other.

Paul’s purpose in this passage is to prevent Gentiles from becoming arrogant. He reveals that a partial hardening of Israel has occurred. However, the current era of temporary discipline will end when the fullness of Gentiles has come. During His earthly ministry, Jesus revealed that God’s plan included bringing elect Gentiles into the fold.

Only the Father knows the number and identities of the Gentile individuals. All we know is that since the days of Israel’s exile, the Jew has lived under the heel of the Gentile world. When the Gentile era end, all Israel will be saved. This isn’t determined by numbers, but belief.


1. You must reject arrogance
When one of my boys needs to be disciplined, I watch the attitude of the others to make sure they don’t add humiliation to an already humbling event. God’s disciplining the Jews doesn’t mean His love has diminished, His discipline demonstrates Fatherly love.

2. You must esteem Jews, believing and nonbelieving, as honored
In sports, when a player has been suspended, even when the replacement plays well, he is wise to respect the player whose position he occupies because it’s just temporary.
3. You must respect the place of honor you occupy and steward it well
A place of honor in god’s redemptive plan comes with great privilege and responsibility.

As children of the new covenant, we have a privilege far greater than land or wealth, we have the very presence and power of the Almighty God living within us! You have a responsibility to manage the privileges you have been given.
Pastor Chris Williams
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