And you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share the nourishing sap from the olive root, Romans 11 v17

The Wild Olive Shoot

In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul discusses  Sin, The Law  and Redemption, coming to a climax in chapter 8.   From there on his letter is very neglected.    David Pawson has pointed out that Romans should be studied in its entirety, and not divided by its artificial chapter divisions, and that if we study Paul's letter in context we find that chapters 9 to 11 are actually the climax of the letter - not a minor diversion. 

Olive branches in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem.

The church in Rome started out as a Jewish fellowship (those who returned from Pentecost in Jerusalem - see Acts 2 - it was not planted by an apostle)   As the Jewish believers evangelized, Gentile believers were added.  Then Claudius banished all Jews from Rome, leaving the church entirely Gentile.  Twelve years later Nero invited the Jews back, seeing they were good for trade.  Those who returned included believers such as Aquilla and Priscilla.   During this twelve years the Gentiles had become arrogant and refused to allow the Jewish believers back into the church.   They had concluded that Claudius' rejection signified God's rejection.    This was probably the first appearance of Replacement Theology, and since Rome was the centre of the empire, it must have spread from there.   This took place in the 50s AD (CE).

Paul always wrote for a reason, but the reason for Romans has been overlooked.  It was written to counter the Gentile arrogance that became Replacement Theology.  The letter builds up to its climax in chapters 9 to 11 where he explains the relationship between Israel and God and the Gentile believers, to whom Paul was Christ's apostle.      This section of Paul's letter is not just an interesting note about the Jews for the information of Gentile believers;  it explains the basis on which we have been grafted into God's eternal purposes, as revealed through his people Israel; chosen to be a light to the nations  (Isaiah 60).

Romans 9 v1-5 says,

". . . . .  my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.   Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen."
   Notice that "theirs is . .  " - not "theirs was".  

In chapter 9 Paul talks of his anguish over Israel and talks about a remnant, such as returned after each exile which happened to the children of Israel.   Remember, Israel is the only nation that GOD has ever dealt with.   He still deals with individual believing Jews,  as he does with Gentiles.    However, the Jewish nation went into exile and is in the process of returning so that  the events prophesied at the end of the books of Ezekiel and Zechariah can be fulfilled..

Through chapter 9 and into 10 Paul discusses weighty issues God's choosing and His mercy, the potter and the clay,  how Israel stumbled over "the stone in Zion" ( see Isaiah 8 v14 )  and then he discusses righteousness by faith and why Israel did not understand.   As we move towards chapter 11 he looks at the good news going out to the Nations and its effect on Israel.    This leads into his explanation that GOD did not reject his people but because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles.   This is where Paul is at pains to stop Gentiles reaching a wrong conclusion, becoming arrogant and despising the Jews.   He points out that we Gentiles should live so as to provoke Jews to jealousy and save some of them.   He then twice uses the grafted in wild olive  illustration, which comes with a stern warning.   This leads him into the long term promise "all Israel will be saved" and as that "God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable."

Paul quickly moves into an outburst of praise to God for the depths of His wisdom and then into exhortation about how to live in the light of all this revelation.   (If 9 to 11 could be ignored, starting chapter 12 with "I exhort you, therefore, brothers . . . . " would have been ridiculous.      

Paul says, 
"You, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root".
  He also points out that we do not support the root:  it supports us.  Cutting off the Jews is not a good idea.

If the church had paid attention to Paul, history would have been very different.   

How much attention is the Church paying now?

The subject of Israel is not confined to chapters 9 to 11

As Paul draws the letter to a close, he says in Chapter 15 v 7-12, 

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:   "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;  I will sing hymns to your name." Again, it says,  "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people."  And again,  "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples."  And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up,  one who will arise to rule over the nations;  the Gentiles will hope in him."

And verse 27(b) says,   .

"For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings."

This teaching is not exclusive to Romans - see Ephesians 2 v11-23. Note especially that, "But now, you who were once far off" (v13) refers, if taken in context, to being far off from Israel and the covenants and therefore from God - not just far from God, as many folk read it.

The teaching about the wild olive relationship of Christians to God's Olive Tree of Israel is explored more fully at www.wildolive.co.uk

 

 

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