Chapter # 11 Paragraph # 5 Study # 5
October 6, 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. Paul's Doctrine of Participation in the "Fatness" Continued.
- A. It is Paul's claim that a foreign branch can be grafted into the olive tree so as to become a "fellowpartaker" of "the root of the fatness of the olive".
- 1. As an agrarian reality, Paul's illustration poses no problem.
- 2. There has been, however, a major theological "problem" that arose afterwards because of the false notion that if a foreign branch is grafted in, it becomes what the tree is.
- a. This "problem" shows itself in the doctrine that the "Church" is a "spiritual Israel" that has supplanted the nation of Israel in God's Plan so that Israel, as a nation, has no place in the future.
- b. This "problem" arises, at least in part, because "interpreters" ignore Paul's illustration. There is no example in any physical process of grafting wherein the grafted branch takes on the identity and character of the tree into which it is grafted. This would actually defeat the purpose of the graft. All physical-world grafting is done because the one doing the grafting wishes a different kind of fruit from his "tree". In other words, the grafting has the purpose of a major alteration of what the "tree" produces. For the grafted branch to simply produce what the natural branches were producing would make grafting an exercise in futility.
- B. The meaning of Paul's claim is that God desired a different "fruit" while maintaining the original root.
- 1. In his argument, Paul claimed that some of the "natural branches" had been broken off because they had violated the terms of the "connection" between the root and the fruit of the tree.
- a. These terms were laid out in Romans 4:9-13 as, for Israel, being "of the circumcision" and "walking in the steps of the faith of ... Abraham." These terms were different for the "uncircumcised" as Romans 4:11 clearly declares: for them, there was only one "term"; they had to "believe" like their "father" did. Paul said that this was the "logical conclusion" from the fact that Abraham was reckoned to be righteous by faith before he was put under the constraint of cirumcision (4:9-11).
- b. Thus, when "unbelief" became the characteristic of any given "branch", it could not bear the fruit for which it was designed and became subject to the pruning which Paul describes.
- 2. This raises the question of the nature of the new "fruit" which God was seeking. What does a "Gentile" produce as a branch off of a wild olive when he/she is grafted into the domesticated olive with its "root of fatness"?
- a. To answer, we must remember the process. God selected Abraham out of the "Gentiles" because of the perennial problem of unbelieving rebellion as demonstrated by Babel and its tower. At that point, Abraham was a "Gentile"; an "uncircumcised" element of humanity in general. God selected him to create "from him" a new "nation" that would afterwards be known as "Israel", a name not taken from Abraham or Isaac, but from the grandson, Jacob. This made Abraham "the root" of the "tree" of the new entity called "Israel".
- b. However, because Abraham's "root" was out of the Gentile world, we see in him what happens when "faith" is the operative principle between root and fruit: a distinctive part of the Large Plan of God is produced. In his case, this distinctive part was the new nation named "Israel". So, what happens as, later in the development of the Plan, non-Israelites begin to "believe" as their "father", Abraham, did? It can be argued that a new "distinctive part" of the Large Plan began to develop: the "Church" as a new element in the Plan that had not been revealed to the prophets of Israel.
- c. Thus, a new kind of "fruit" now comes out of an old root and an established tree because new branches are being grafted into the tree and its fruit is being significantly altered. It is now producing the "fruits of faith", but they each have their own distinctiveness because they come from distinctive roots.
- C. The direct implication of Paul's reasoning is that, though the actual nature of the "fruit" is going to be "different", there is a commonality between the distinctive fruits because they share the same "root of fatness".
- 1. The argument for commonality ("fellow partakers") means that there are some basic issues that are going to be "common" even though the outcomes are distinct. The reason for this is that "humans" are all the "same", even though they have different "nationalities" and unique "cultures", and, thus, all have the same basic needs.
- 2. We can see in the promises made to Abraham, in Genesis 12:1-3 before he was circumcised, what the "basic" needs of humanity are. Paul said in Romans 4:13 that these promises coalesced into a single reality: "inheritance of the world". But this phrase is a summary umbrella of three basic commitments made by God in the Genesis 12:1-3 text that have their genesis in the nature and weakness of mankind as revealed in Genesis 2-3. His "nature" is tripartite and his "weakness" is his ability to be deceived into the rebellion of unbelief. Because man is, by nature, a physical creature made out of the dust of the ground, he needs a "land" from which to derive his food and physical sustenance. Because man is, by nature, a living soul, he needs a "kindred" from which to derive his sense of protected connectiveness. And because man is, by nature, a spiritual being, he needs an "identity" from which to derive his sense of significant participation. Thus, God promised Abraham a "land", a "great nation", and a "great name" that, when taken altogether, would make him a "blessing" to the entire world which he and his "branches" would ultimately inherit.
- 3. Thus, the "fatness" consists in having all three needs met as the distinctive elements of the Large Plan develop. The "root" is "father Abraham as the believer in the three-fold promise" from God. He could not be the "root" without the "faith" because, though "root" and "faith" are separate, they are united as the origin of, and process for, the accomplishment of God's Large Plan.