Chapter # 11 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2
September 15, 2009
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
1901 ASV Translation:
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and thou, being a wild olive, wast grafted in among them, and didst become partaker with them of the root of the fatness of the olive tree;
18 glory not over the branches: but if thou gloriest, it is not thou that bearest the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20 Well; by their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee.
22 Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that fell, severity; but toward thee, God's goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if thou wast cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and wast grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
- I. Branches Broken and Ingrafted.
- A. There is a significant puzzle in the "logic" of "holy" branches being broken off.
- 1. Paul declared that "if the root is holy, the branches [are] also."
- 2. Then he immediately admits that "some of the branches be broken off."
- 3. Even if we posit a meaning for "holy" that does not include the typical sense of "godly" ("Be ye holy as I am holy"), we are yet left with the "problem" of "holy branches" being "broken off."
- B. Paul does clarify to some degree by arguing that the "breaking" and "grafting" are issues of "faith". His claim is that branches that did not believe were broken off and that the foreign branches were grafted into the plant because they did believe and that a grafted branch can be cut off if it reverts to pride and unbelief and a formerly unbelieving branch can be reattached if it does not continue in unbelief. But, this complicates the claim that the root is what makes the branch "holy" and, subsequently, creates this problem of "holy" branches being "broken off". There is a further bit of clarification in his distinction regarding unbelieving Israelites in that "they are enemies" in regard to the Gospel but "are beloved" for the fathers' sake. However, there has to be a different way to cast our perception of Paul's "logic" so that what he says is not inherently contradictory. He knew what he meant and it is up to us to figure it out without simply saying he was being "illogical".
- 1. It might be possible to argue that there is an attribution of "holiness" to people who are not personally holy with the consequence that their decisions can alter the attribution once those decisions are made. In 1 Corinthians 7:14 Paul made the argument that a believing spouse should not abandon a marriage to an unbeliever (where there is no sexual perversion) because the presence of that spouse "sanctifies" that unbelieving spouse in some way and makes the children "holy". An abandonment makes those children "unclean". This "truth" of "holy children" who are not personally related to God by regeneration is not a permanent truth in the sense that if one is born to a believer, one remains "holy" throughout life. Children grow up and, as they do, they make their own decisions of Love/Faith that result in their own personal "holiness" or "uncleanness". In this same way, the "fathers" mentioned in Romans 11:28 were "holy" and recipients of the promises of God by faith with the consequence that each following generation was "holy" until it made its own decisions regarding those promises. If a member of a generation that had holiness attributed to it because of its progenitor decided to "believe" like the progenitor had, it would take on a different kind of holiness (one attributed to it by faith rather than birth). But if such a member refused to move into faith as the desired progression from father to son, the attributed holiness would dissipate at the point of the refusal and that member would become "unholy" and subject to being "broken off" from the generational tree that is supported by a "holy" root. If this argument is actually what Paul had in mind, it makes sense that branches that once had a kind of "holiness" because of the fathers could be broken off once they indulged themselves in personal unbelief.
- 2. It is clear from Romans 11:20 that the issue of an enduring standing is faith and from 11:23 we know that a recovery of that standing is possible if there is a rejection of unbelief.
- 3. Thus, since Paul's warning against "highmindedness" consists in the declaration that "if God spared not the natural branches, neither will He spare thee [the unnatural ones who move into unbelief]", it is clear that Paul's concept of "holiness" in this text is not a "permanent state" holiness, but is, rather, a tenuous kind of holiness that must be secured by faith or it will be negated by unbelief. This permits us to understand that Paul was addressing the kind of holiness that is attached to the child because of the parent and not the kind that is related directly to one's personal relationship to God.