Chapter # 11 Paragraph # 5 Study # 3
September 22, 2009
Lincolnton, N.C.

<530> Thesis: The warning, "otherwise thou also shalt be cut off", requires us to understand the nature and content of the "faith" that yields the "in-grafting" of a wild olive branch. Introduction: In our last study we approached the "problem" of Paul's declaration that some of the branches of the olive tree were broken off. This is a "problem" because Paul had immediately preceded this declaration with another declaration: if the root is "holy", so are the branches. This notion that branches that are "holy" can be broken off makes no sense unless there is some way in which the "holiness" can be corrupted. What is at stake here has already been addressed by Paul in Romans 9-11. The issue was first raised in 9:6 where the issue is that "Israel", in spite of the phenomenal privileges of 9:4-5, so departed from Yahweh that He refused to "retain them in the tree". This raised the question of whether "Israel's" corruption of its "holiness" meant that God would renege on His promises to the fathers. Paul's answer at this point was that there is an "Israel" within "Israel" because there are two opposite principles at work. The first of these principles is "the production of the flesh" which produces "Israelites" by natural birth. The second of these principles is "the production of the word of promise" which yields "Israelites" by the deliberate action of God in selective election. Then the issue was revisited in 10:21-11:2 because Israel had so corrupted its "holiness" that, in spite of Yahweh's daily appeals, there was a persistent and determined rebellion. The question that was raised was whether this persistent and determined rebellion signaled the reality that God had rejected His people. Paul's answer at this point was that Yahweh has already demonstrated how He maintains the "Israel" that exists within "Israel" in the historical setting of Elijah: He reserves for Himself the "elect remnant". Now, this evening we come to yet another example of the question of what God's response is to those whose attitude is rooted in pride. In the text before us we find Paul warning the "in-grafted wild olive branches" about what God will do to them if they engage in pride: he says He will no more spare them than He did the "natural branches" and will "break them off" if they do not "stand by faith". Clearly, "standing by faith" does not allow "boasting against the natural branches" nor "being highminded". What this boils down to is the question of the nature of the "holiness" that can be corrupted. Last week we considered that Paul actually teaches a "corruptible holiness" in 1 Corinthians 7:14 in context. It is a deficient kind of holiness that is tied to a deficient kind of "faith". If the deficiency is not addressed at the "faith" level, the deficiency that exists at the "holiness" level will result in an ultimate rejection by God. This is precisely what Paul is addressing in the text before us: a deficient kind of "faith" that allows a deficiency in "holiness" that allows "boasting against the natural branches" and "highmindedness" and, if not addressed, will result in being broken off from the olive tree. The issues are complicated so that we must think our way carefully through them.