Chapter # 11 Paragraph # 5 Study # 6
October 13, 2009
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:
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. Boasting Against the Branches.
- A. The concept is developed from a combination of two: the main idea is the "feeling" Paul described in 2 Corinthians 7:4 ("filled with comfort", "exceedingly joyful") and described again in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 ("hope", "joy", "crown of rejoicing") [Note that James 4:15-16 clearly identifies the bottom line issue as the "feeling" that goes along with "dreams of success in agressive pursuits" -- i.e., a matter of "spirit" in which the "spirit of man" claims credit for great accomplishment. It seems that "peace" is the fundamental issue of "soul" and "boasting" is the fundamental issue of "spirit"]; and the other idea is the "focus" that brings on the "feeling".
- 1. There is nothing inherently "bad" about "boasting" (note Romans 15:17) even though Romans 3:27 seems to say there is. The major issue in regard to the "morality" of "boasting" is the identification of "what brings it on". It is a "feeling": all such are soulish reactions to the combination of Love/Faith/Perception of Circumstances. If an object is seen as 'valuable' and there is a 'belief' that the circumstances are going to gain that value for the 'believer', this "feeling" automatically exists in the soul. Thus, the major "moral" issue is whether it is a godly "love", a godly "faith", and a godly "perception", that brings the "feeling" into existence. This is the heart of 1 Corinthians 1:31 where there is a direct allusion to the concept of Jeremiah 9:23-24. The major factor is the actual presence of the love, faith, and perception of God in the heart of the one who is "boasting".
- 2. The "evil" in "boasting" exists when, as Paul illustrates in the text before us, a person "feels" exultant about personal gain in the face of another's personal loss as the cause of the gain when that gain/loss reality is rooted in the abilities of the one having gained. In other words, the evil of "boasting against the branches" exists in the delusion of personally created triumphalism. A very clear example of this is our current culture's high exaltation in competitive activities where someone has to "lose" in order for another to "win". Thus, Paul's next, and immediate, comment is "you are not bearing the root; it is bearing you."
- a. This declaration is bound up in Paul's use of "bearest". He used this word in a sufficient number of contexts to make his understanding clear: "to bear" means "to do for another what he/she cannot do for himself/herself" [Note Romans 15:1 and Galatians 6:2]. This, ipso-facto, means that Paul's doctrine of the root and branches is that the root is the one doing for the branches what they cannot do for themselves. This absolutely destroys any notion by the branches that they are the cause of their presence in the tree and whatever fruitfulness they may have borne. Any other notion is simply pride run amuck.
- b. The stark reality is this: the branches had nothing to do with their "being", their "presence in the olive tree of God", or their "ability to bear worthwhile fruit". No human being "exists" out of his/her activity (parents do not ask the children if they wish to be born or have any contribution to make so that they may be born, nor do parents become parents by their own action since the fruit of the womb is a gift of God). No human being has his/her "presence" in their particular setting in life by their own decision-making or activity-taking (human beings are born into their setting in life without any one seeking, or getting, their permission). And, though human beings are granted certain powers and developmental skills, even their accomplishments are theirs by the "grants given", not by their own sovereignty over their skills and abilities.
- B. The destructiveness of this concept is rooted in the intention to gain at the expense of another. This is totally contrary to the biblical notion of the love of God Who deliberately loses in order for others to gain.
- C. The root of this destructiveness is also the root of the variously developed doctrines of "salvation by works" when "works" means "some form of human merit". The clear biblical fact is that God's love for His creation and all of its creatures in all of the complexity of "Love" is rooted in Himself, not the creation/creatures. He is not "prodded" to love by their being or activities, nor does He withdraw His love by reason of those factors. We do need to understand something that, though it is a part of the "clear biblical fact", is a subset of that clarity and, thus, not as clear: some of God's creation/creatures are "loved" because they were created to be means to an end and cease to be "loved" once that end is met. Paul's "Jacob I have loved, but Esau have I hated" fits into this "less than clear" subset of the overall truth that it is God Who determines who, what, why, how, and for how long anyone or anything is "beloved".