Chapter # 11 Paragraph # 5 Study # 3
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.
September 22, 2009
- I. Clarifying the Issues of "Deficiency".
- A. In the 1 Corinthians 7:14 context, the issue of "faith" boils down to "a refusal to reject" the association that communicates the benefits of the "holiness" that is involved.
- 1. Paul's "issue" in 1 Corinthians 7:14 is the problem of a marriage in which one of the partners believes in God unto an association that communicates a primary "holiness" from Him while the other partner only believes in the believing partner unto an association that communicates a secondary "holiness" from that partner.
- a. One fact of which we need to be aware is that the "faith" of the believer is in a God Who communicates a primary holiness to those who trust Him (this "faith" is, by virtue of the two antagonistic principles involved in defining "Israel", a "faith" that is produced by the determined activity of the electing God; otherwise it is a production of flesh).
- b. A second fact of which we need to be aware is that the "faith" of the unbelieving spouse is in a spouse who is willing to treat his/her partner in an acceptable way (this "faith" is not in God at all and, therefore, is a production of the flesh for the flesh).
- c. A third fact of which we need to be aware is that the "holiness" which God communicates to those who trust in Him is primary and communicable to a degree.
- b. And a fourth fact of which we need to be aware is that the "holiness" that God grants to those who are willing to be associated with His people is secondary (it is only good in "time", not eternity) and is non-communicable.
- 2. This makes "faith", at a fundamental level, "a willingness to abide in a benefit-communicating association".
- a. As a "willingness to abide" concept, there are two corollary issues.
- 1. One is the question of the person of primary value: the "Love" issue.
- a. The believer answers this question with a definitive, "God is the Person of primary value to me."
- b. The unbeliever answers this question with a definitive, "I am the person of primary value to me."
- 2. The other is the question of the integrity of the one being trusted.
- a. The believer answers this question with a definitive, "God absolutely cannot lie."
- b. The unbeliever answers this question with a qualified, "I will trust you if you prove to be trustworthy."
- b. The outcome of this "object of faith" issue is that one can lose the "willingness to abide" if one's expectations are frustrated.
- c. This means that the "faith" is unstable if its object is perceived to be unstable.
- B. Thus, Paul posits the very real possibility of a "faith" that is deficient that will not produce the outcome of permanency in the olive tree if that deficiency is not addressed.
- 1. It is this "possibility of a deficient faith" that caused Paul to write Romans 9-11.
- 2. The outcome of a deficient faith is disaster (Paul calls it being broken off of the tree where the root and fatness exist).
- II. Clarifying Paul's Argument.
- A. At issue in this argument is how Paul can argue, on the one hand, that God's program according to the election of grace is unstoppable and absolutely on target and, on the other hand, that an in-grafted branch can be broken off if it begins to act like the natural branches that were broken off.
- B. Also at issue are two other major realities.
- 1. Human beings are not privy to a clear presentation of God's election (the best they get is an effect-back-to-cause rationale).
- a. Peter did not say, "give diligence to make your calling and election sure" (2 Peter 1:10) just to have something to say.
- b. John did not write, "these things have I written to you...that you may know you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13) because such knowledge is simplistically easy.
- c. The major question is this: why did God tell us of "election" if He was not going to give us a peak at the list?
- 1) He told us of this doctrine because it, more than any other doctrine, eliminates the possibility of salvation by human production (Romans 9:11).
- 2) He told us of this doctrine because it, more than any other doctrine, establishes His integrity (Romans 11:5).
- 3) He told us of this doctrine because it, more than any other doctrine, showcases "grace" so that we may function in the light of it (Ephesians 1:6).
- 2. The faith of God's elect has no place for "boasting" and "highmindedness" (the presence of these factors may well indicate a human-production faith that cannot please God).