In Romans chapters 9-11, Paul has been discussing the subject of what has happened to Israel. Why have the Jews not received God’s promised blessings upon their nation? Was God finished with the Jewish people? He asks this same question again in verse 11 but in a little different way. He asks, “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:11). Notice again that Paul is emphatic and vigorous in his answer. He declares, “Certainly not!” Paul is without question rejecting any notion that God is finished with the Jewish people. Remember, these words certainly not literally mean ‘perish the thought,’ or this should never come into your mind as a possible conclusion. Why? Because God has a purpose that is still unfulfilled for His people. What could this purpose be? Paul reveals in these verses that Israel’s fall was not permanent, but there is an ultimate purpose for the Jewish people that is still being accomplished even to this very day.
What is God’s purpose and plan for the Jewish People? Vs. 11-15
The first divine purpose Paul elaborates on is that God is using the fall of the Jews to reveal His saving power to the Gentiles. He explains, “But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” How does God provoke the Jews to jealous discontent? He does this several ways.
1. God has used the fall of the Jews to reveal His love and saving power to the entire Gentile world.
Paul explains, “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead” (Rom. 11:12-15)? Notice that God has poured out His riches on the Gentiles and the entire world by allowing us to experience the riches of His grace and mercy. I would venture to say that the majority of you reading this message are Gentiles. There are only two groups of people that God sees today, Jews and Gentiles. If you are not a Jew, then you are a Gentile. How is it that we Gentiles have been saved and come to faith in the God of Israel, the God of the Jews? How did that happen? Think about this for a moment. The Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, came to the Jewish people. Sadly, the majority of Jews rejected Jesus and would have nothing to do with Him. But the Gentiles received Jesus and the message of salvation with open arms. By God saving the Gentiles along with the few Jews who believed, God was saying to His people, “This is how faithful I am to My promise to save, even if you Jews will not receive My salvation.” Remember, Jesus declared, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). These words are a revelation of God’s grace to all mankind. We Gentiles are saved today because of His incredible love and desire to save us. In Ephesians 1:7, Paul said, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” God came to reveal Himself not only to the Jews but also to the whole world. In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world [Not just the Jewish people] that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” God’s intent has always been to reach the entire world. This is why in the Old Testament God told His people, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Joel 2:32). The word whoever obviously means anyone in this world, Jew or Gentile. God’s plan was to use the Jewish people as a light to the Gentiles by revealing His grace and love to them (Isa. 49:6). But today God is using the Gentiles as a light to the Jewish people to draw them to His salvation. What a reversal of His purpose and grace! Why would God use the Gentiles in this way? Because the Jews have rejected the light of the world sent to them, Jesus Christ.
You see then this two-fold approach to both Jews and Gentiles in the ministry of the Apostle Paul. His method was to always go first to the Jews, and then if they rejected the Gospel, to go to the Gentiles. You see this methodology over and over again in the Book of Acts. Luke records in Acts 17:1-3, “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’” Luke also explains the reasoning behind Paul’s actions in Acts 13:46. “Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” So, Paul being a Jew knew that this was his calling to be a light to the Gentiles, but he also saw his responsibility to help the Gentiles become a light to the Jews.
Did Paul ever stop trying to reach the Jews? No. In Acts 28:28, while Paul was in Rome as a prisoner, he continued to reach out to the Jews. However, they continued to reject his message. What did Paul say to them? “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” This is also my desire, that all will hear the Gospel of salvation, and that people will heed it. I hope that this is your heart too. Both Jews and Gentiles need to hear the message of God’s love and grace that can set them free. Be that messenger!
2. God used the salvation of the Gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealous discontent.
Second, God is using the salvation of the Gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealousy. How does He do that? Let me explain this from a very personal observation. I lived and worked in Israel on a kibbutz as a volunteer in 1969. Every Shabbat I would go to dinner with one of the Jewish families on the kibbutz. I was a brand-new believer at this time and this family knew I was a Christian. They wondered about my faith and asked me questions about my faith. They would say, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” I said, “Yes.” The wife in the family asked me, “Why are you a believer in the God of Israel?” She just couldn’t understand why I believed in their God. This was an enigma to her, as it is to all Jews. This is exactly what Paul is describing here. After many weeks and many questions, she said, “Convince me to be a Christian.” The problem was I didn’t know the Bible very well, so I didn’t know how to convince her. I responded, “All I know is I was lost and controlled by drugs and alcohol, and He saved me and forgave all my sins.” Sometime later after I returned to the United States and had learned more of the Bible, I wrote her several times seeking to convince her to believe in Jesus as her Messiah.
Now why does God say He is provoking the Jews to jealousy? Some of you are probably thinking, Isn’t jealousy a bad thing? Isn’t jealousy evil? Why would God provoke someone to jealousy? This is a very good question. You must understand that all jealousy is not wrong. There is a godly jealousy, and there is an ungodly jealousy. Do you know the difference between the two? Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband.” Who is that one husband? It is Christ. Notice that Paul declared that there was a godly jealousy. In addition, in the Old Testament in Exodus 34:14, God said, “For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” If God calls Himself a jealous God, and Paul declared that there is a godly jealousy, then all jealousy cannot be evil. Let’s define jealousy in the Bible. The Greek word means to stir up or cause to desire, or provoke to desire something. There is a selfish jealousy that desires for itself something that another person has. But a godly jealousy is to cause to stir up a godly desire to love and protect. A godly jealousy is best illustrated in a marital relationship. When you love your spouse, you want to love and protect them from any harm that may come against them. A godly jealousy looks at your spouse with love toward them, and you want your mate to love you in return. Would you be satisfied if your mate loved everyone else just as they loved you? No! Why? Because a marital love is an exclusive love, just as God’s love toward you is an exclusive love. You would not tolerate your spouse being intimate with other people; neither would God tolerate you loving Him along with the world. This is what God was seeking to do with the Jews. He wanted the Jews to love Him the same way that He loved them.
God has a righteous jealousy over His people. How can I be sure of that? Unrighteous jealousy is when a person tries to force another person to love them in return. God is a jealous God, but he doesn’t try to force anyone to love Him, even though He wants an exclusive relationship with them. This is the entire point of God’s command in Exodus 34:14, “For you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Why does God say this? Because He wants you to love Him alone. This is what a true love for God is all about. To love Him with all your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength, and not to love other gods. God will not be satisfied nor will He tolerate you loving other gods along with Him. He wants an exclusive love relationship with you!
Paul made the same point with the Corinthian church. In 1 Corinthians 10:21-22, Paul warned them about their idolatry and said, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” Again, Paul is telling them that they must have an exclusive love relationship with God; anything less would provoke the Lord to jealousy. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “No one can serve two masters” (Matt. 6:24). You must love Him alone as the Lord of your life.
The entire work that God is seeking to accomplish with the Jewish people is to draw them to love Him again as they did at the beginning of their history. In addition, God is trying to draw all people (Gentiles) to Himself. The most important question to ask yourself as a Christian is this, “Do you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?” If you do, then you will be a provoking light to the Jews to show them what they could ultimately have if they followed Christ too.
What will be the result of the Jews return to God’s favor? Vs. 12-15
What will be the effect of the Jews returning to God's favor, and returning to their land? Notice in verses 12-15 Paul declares, “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness! For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” As you read these words you must first see that Paul clearly understands that there is still a future for the nation Israel. There will be a time when they will experience His fullness again. The Jewish people will one day find His acceptance again. They will go from death in their relationship with God to life. Why did Paul believe this as fact? Because Paul knew the Old Testament prophecies concerning the nation of Israel. He knew what the Scriptures promised concerning the future for his brethren according to the flesh. Paul knew that one day God was going to bring them back again into their land, and they would finally accept Jesus as their Messiah. The Jewish acceptance of their Savior would bring them back into acceptance with God, and they would experience His life within them.
All this will take place when the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to His people again. Paul wrote these words in Romans 11, because he was assured by the prophecy found in Zechariah 12:8-10. It is important to note that the entire context of Zechariah 12, 13 and 14 are talking about the Second Coming of Christ. These passages describe a moment in the history of the Jewish people when it looks like Jerusalem will be destroyed and the Jews annihilated, but God will intervene at the last moment and reveal Himself to them. After this revelation, Jesus will come and set His foot down upon the Mount of Olives, and He will fight for Israel, and will protect them from total annihilation (Zech. 14:1-4). The prophet declares, “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. ‘And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn (Zech. 12:8-10). One day the Jewish people are going to look on the One they pierced and hung on a tree. They will mourn and grieve because of their rejection of their promised Messiah. At that moment the Jews will say to themselves, “Oh no, what have we done? Who is this One who is pierced? They will say, “‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends’” (Zech. 13:6). As you read Zechariah 14 you will understand that this is the moment that the angels predicted Jesus would come again to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:9-12). After the Second Coming, Jesus will set up His kingdom here upon the earth, and the millennial reign of Christ will begin. The millennium is when Jesus will reign as King here on this earth for a thousand years. Then God will fulfill all the promises to the Jews that are still yet unfulfilled (Rev. 20).
One question that people often ask me is, how can you know when God will restore the Jewish people, accept them again, and fulfill His promises to them? Did you know there is one sign that is the key to know where we are in God’s time-line? God tells us over and over in the Old Testament and the New Testament what this sign is. What is the sign? The ultimate sign of the soon coming of Christ is the re-gathering of the nation Israel back to their land. This is the key sign that God is about to begin His work again in the Jewish people.
First, in the Old Testament, in Psalm 14:7, David who is described in the New Testament as a prophet said, “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion!” When is salvation coming out of Israel to the world? Notice the rest of the verse, “When the Lord brings back the captivity of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad.” Salvation is coming to Israel and out of Israel when the Lord brings back the captivity of His people, and brings them back to their land. This occurred on May 14th 1948 when the state of Israel was restored again. It also proves that God fulfills His Word and promises to His people.
Notice also in Joel 3:1-2, God said, “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land.” What days is the Prophet Joel referring to in this passage? The very next phrase gives you the answer. It is, “When I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem.” Then notice the next phrase, “I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people.” This part of the prophecy associates God bringing His people back into their land and His judgment of all nations. Note that God says all nations, which makes it clear that this prophecy is referring to the final judgment of all nations at the Second Coming of Christ, and not the judgment of the one nation of Babylon, which preceded the first Jewish return, which the Emperor Cyrus the Great decreed in 539 BCE.
Another way you can be sure that this prophecy references the final judgment of the world is to look at the context of the entire chapter of Joel 3. If you read on in the prophecy God declares, “Proclaim this among the nations: ‘Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, ‘“I am strong.”’ Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD. ‘Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow-- for their wickedness is great.’ Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness. The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. ‘So you shall know that I am the LORD your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again” (Joel 3:9-17). This passage is without question referring to the final battle that is described by the Apostle John in Revelation 18-19. God speaks in this passage about sitting to judge “all the surrounding nations.” But the best evidence that this is the end of time is when God says, “The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness.” These are the same words that Jesus used to describe His Second Coming in Matthew 24:29-30. My point is that this sign of the return of the Jews back to their land reveals to us that Jesus is coming soon, and He will again show favor and acceptance to the Jewish people as Paul has revealed in this passage in Romans.
Another passage that reveals the same truth concerning the Jews return to their land and Christ’s return is Jeremiah 23:3-6. Here Jeremiah says, “‘But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,’ says the LORD. ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’” This prophecy reveals that God will gather His people out of all the countries where they have been driven. This reveals that God is talking about the end times and not the one country, Babylon, where His people had been driven. Also, when they are brought back into their land their King shall reign over them, and they shall prosper, and this King will execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. This King is none other than “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,” Jesus the Messiah. This prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.
One last chapter you should read and understand is Ezekiel 37. The entire chapter of Ezekiel 37 is given over to this theme of the re-gathering of the nation Israel back to their land, and the Second Coming of Christ. At the beginning of Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Prophet sees a vision of very dry bones bleaching in the sun in a huge valley, which shows that these people have been dead a long time. The Prophet Ezekiel is then commanded to prophesy to these bones which he did. All of a sudden, the bones come together, and they are knit together, and the sinew and the flesh come upon them and breath came into these people. Then God declares that these people “Stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army” (Eze. 37:10). God then interprets the prophecy and tells Ezekiel, “These bones are the whole house of Israel” (Eze. 37:11).
Then in Ezekiel 37:15-22, God gives to Ezekiel an object lesson that He wants the Prophet to use as a prophetic promise of His future plan for them. God tells the prophet to take two sticks, and to write on one stick the name Judah, and on the other stick the name of Joseph. These two sticks refer to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel that had been divided for hundreds of years. God tells Ezekiel that He will take these two divided kingdoms, and He will make them one again. Then God repeats the promise again of regathering the people to their land when He says, “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again’” (Eze. 37:21-22).
At this point in the prophecy, God begins to speak about the King that will reign over His people and what their lives will be like when this King rules over them (Eze. 37:23-28). God tells them that they will not defile themselves anymore with idols nor transgress against Him. He promises to cleanse them, and the Jews will become His people. Then the most powerful part of the prophecy is spoken. God tells them that “David My Servant” shall be the king to reign over them. Now this presents a problem, because when Ezekiel wrote these words King David had been dead for over 400 years. So, how could David be their king? The answer is simple, because God is referring to His Servant, the Son of David, the Messiah. How can you be sure of this? Because God declares that David shall reign over them as their king forever, and God will set His sanctuary among them forevermore (Eze. 37:24-28). This prophecy is referring to a future time in history, because the Jews are still defiling themselves, and God’s sanctuary has still not been rebuilt in the city of Jerusalem.
These are clear passages of Scripture that tell us we are in the last days, and we are very close to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul was absolutely sure that God had not cast away His people and that He still has a plan for the nation Israel.
Paul’s warning to the Gentile church. Vs. 16-24
In the last few verses of this section of Scripture, Paul gives a warning. He warns the Gentiles about having an arrogant and prideful attitude. It’s interesting to see that Paul is not partial toward Jew nor Gentile. In Romans 2, Paul warned the Jews about arrogance toward the Gentiles. Now he turns around and warns the Gentile about having arrogance toward the Jews.
Note the two metaphors.
In these next few verses Paul uses two metaphors to bring home a simple truth that the Gentiles would understand. He refers to an olive tree and a lump of bread dough. These two metaphors were to show the Gentiles just how united they were with the Jews, and that God would not deal with the Gentiles any differently than He did with the Jews. How does Paul explain this truth?
Paul used both metaphors in his first sentence and then only refers to the olive tree as he continues. Paul explains, “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. 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. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree” (Romans 11:16-24). The grafting of branches into olive trees was a practice well known to the farmers of Paul’s day. This example would surely have been understood. The natural olive tree refers to the Jewish people, and the wild olive tree refers to the Gentiles. The idea that branches were broken off is referring to the Jews who were rejected by God because of their unbelief and their rejection of their Messiah. Paul’s warning to the Gentiles is that they should not boast, thinking they were something special, remembering that the Gentiles do not support the root of the natural olive tree, but the root supports the Gentiles. In other words, Gentiles are partakers of the promises made to the Jewish people that their Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, would save the world from their sins. The Gentiles were grafted in, or mixed into the lump of bread dough, not the other way around. Paul reminds the Gentiles that the Jews failed to receive God’s promised blessings because of their unbelief and were temporarily cut off. He warns them of their arrogance and the possibility that they too could be cut off if they get arrogant. This truth highlights the fact of God’s goodness and His severity. God’s severity fell on the Jews, and the Gentiles received His goodness. But Paul warns them again that this goodness of God will only continue if they continue in faith and walking in God’s goodness. Otherwise, he warns them that they also will be cut off. Paul leaves them with the assurance that if they or the Jews do not continue in unbelief, God can and will graft them in again, for God is able to do this. What a blessing these simple truths are in keeping a believer in the right attitude of humility and faith.
Now, think about what God is able to do. He can do all things. He can break off a branch, or He can graft one in again. He can do whatever is needed. He is a powerful God. So, for people to think that God is finished with the nation Israel, just because God has chosen to work with the Gentiles, is nonsense. God has taken us as Gentiles and grafted us into His olive tree. God can do anything He promised to do. Never forget that!
One last thought. This use of the olive tree is also a very special image. The olive tree and fig tree are both used in Scripture for the national symbols of Israel. In Jeremiah 11:16, the olive tree is used in reference to Israel. God said to His people, “The Lord called your name, ‘Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit.’” In Hosea 14:6 God spoke again of the nation and said, “His branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.” God has taken a wild olive branch, referring to the Gentiles, and He has grafted us into the holy root stock of His promises and plan for this world.
Don’t take God’s grace for granted.
The last point you should take away from this section of Scripture is God’s warning to the Gentiles not to become arrogant against the Jews. This is a serious warning. There are several very important truths that I want to stress with you concerning this issue. When you look at the history of the Christian church you see that it has not treated the Jews in a loving way. In many cases the Church has been incredibly evil toward the Jews. God, knowing the future, probably inspired Paul to write this warning to the Gentile church. The church should have never hated the Jewish people, but should have shown mercy to the Jews, and demonstrated the love of God to them. But, they did not. This is a great stain upon Christianity and the church. Instead of the church charging the Jews with killing Jesus, the church should have realized that each of our sins are what put Jesus on that Cross. Paul warns the Gentiles to look at the mercy that God has given to them, and realize God’s severity can also fall upon the church just as it has upon the Jews! Therefore, Gentiles don't get too haughty. Don’t think God has blessed you as a Gentile because you are so good. It would be a huge mistake to think this way. God warned the Jews about this arrogance when He spoke through Moses to them. God said, “Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out from before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people’” (Deut. 9:4-6). If God said this to the Jewish people, I believe it is equally true of each one of us. Don’t be arrogant.
These passages should be a warning to every Christian today. Why? Because if you become arrogant you will fall into the same trap as did the Jews. Arrogance always leads you to depend upon yourself and live independent of Christ. Humility always keeps you dependent upon Him, because you know your source of grace and strength comes from Him alone. You trust in Him because you know this truth. But, when you begin to think, I’m not such a bad guy. My good works are enough to please God. I can do this on my own. At the very moment you begin to think this way, you are headed for a fall. This thinking promotes self-exaltation and unbelief, and not faith in Him. Remember in verse 20 what Paul said, “Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.” The only way you will ever stand strong is when you have a humble faith in Him. Then Paul said, “Do not be haughty, but fear.” This word fear literally means to reverence or to respect God. He wants you to have a reverential respect for Him for the incredible grace that He has bestowed upon you. Humility and faith always go together in the Christian life. This is where your strength will always be found.
I want to double down on this truth before we finish, because many preachers will not say what I’m about to. In verse 21, notice Paul’s clear warning, “If God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God.” We have looked at God’s severity in verse 23, but note God’s goodness toward the Jew. Paul said, “And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” What an awesome and gracious thought that God would graft someone back in again if they will simply repent of their sin and unbelief. God is able to do that. He can break them off as a branch from His blessings, and He can graft them back in again. This is goodness and severity seen together. God is able to either grant grace and goodness, or severity and correction. Think about this for a moment. How does God demonstrate His goodness and His severity? All of us have experienced God’s goodness and His severity. Most every believer has at some point in their Christian life become rebellious or been disobedient. What does God do with you at this point? Did He cut you off and cast you out of the kingdom? No! He was incredibly patient and long-suffering toward you to convict and correct you, while drawing you back to Himself. That’s His grace, mercy and goodness. This is how He worked with the nation Israel for hundreds of years. If a person stays in that rebellious place, then they begin to experience the severity of God’s correction. Ultimately a person will wander away and be cut off from any experience with God or His presence. Jesus also warned His disciples of the same thing. When referring to “abiding in Him” He said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). That is what this warning is all about. If God cut the Jews off of the olive tree, He will do it to anyone who rebels against Him and refuses to abide in Him. Please, beware of any theology that tells you that a Christian can do whatever they please, and live however they want, and God is okay with that. The Bible does not teach that! If a person’s confession of faith is genuine, then that person will be following the Lord, not practicing lawlessness. Remember the warning Jesus gave in Matthew 7:21-23. He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” This is a warning that you need to heed. Jesus is not kidding. He means what He says. You need to be trusting Him and following Him. In 2 Peter 3:9 it declares, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God in His long-suffering is seeking to bring a person to repentance. This is His desire for all men including the nation Israel. Remember the compassion expressed in Ezekiel 33:11. God said, “‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” Does that not sound like a God who cares for people? Does He want the people to perish? No, He wants them to turn and repent so that He can have mercy upon them. When you read Luke 4:18, Jesus said to the multitudes, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Does that sound like someone who wants to destroy people, or heal people? Obviously, Jesus wants to deliver and set the captives free. If you are reading this and question in your mind whether or not God wants to help you and show you His goodness, you need to read and believe the clear message revealed in the Word of God. He wants the best for you. Humble yourself before Him and give Him the respect He deserves by following Him with all your heart. If you have fallen away from your relationship with Him, put your faith in Him and He will graft you again into the tree of life in Christ Jesus. Remember, God’s Word declares the promise, “Whosoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Call upon Him, and He will answer you today!