Romans 11:20, 21
Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Be not high minded, but fear:…
The pride of man is a bladder easily inflated, and the apostle performed a salutary service when he showed how readily it might be pricked. The throwing open to the Gentile world, with additional advantages, of the religious privileges formerly confined to the Jews, begot in many converts an undue elation. Christianity inspires men with such expansive hopes that there is a danger of overweening vanity and presumption leading to a neglect of the conditions under which alone these hopes can be realized. The mercy of God may be illegitimately strained; the consciousness of spiritual freedom has often degenerated into licence of behaviour, and the "goodness" of God has made men unmindful of his "severity." Hence the useful caution of the text. Distinguish, however, between "fear" and "dread." Reverential, humble fear is quite compatible with gladness of soul and with unwavering trust in the promise of a free and full salvation. Let us adduce considerations that justify the caution of these verses.
I. WE HAVE AN IMPARTIAL GOD TO DEAL WITH. An arbitrary capricious monarch may select favourites, and dispense his gifts without regard to the moral worth of the recipients. Gentiles receiving an account of the river of Divine love abandoning its previous channel and inundating with a flood of blessing the surrounding parched lands, might be lapped into a false security, as if this blessing once granted could not again be withheld, no matter what the use made of the fertilizing influences vouchsafed. This would be to overlook the fact that it was for reasons the Jews were stripped of their exclusive advantages, and that the same reasons of abuse and ingratitude might cause the story to be repeated in the case of Christians, boastful of their position of knowledge and close access to God, and omitting to cultivate the appropriate graces and duties.
II. THE LAW AND AIM OF GOD'S GOVERNMENT IS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Here we ascend to that essential attribute of God which is the guide and end of his dealings with his creatures. Well-being cannot be separated from well-doing. In no other way can the Almighty make his people happy than by inducing them to practise what is "lovely and of good report." Christ died to save men from their sins. His offering frees men from the overwhelming burden of their past enormities, wipes off the score against them, but requires the pursuit of holiness as the consequence and token of their forgiveness. The bearing of good fruit is the sure criterion of the improved condition of the tree. The rose which blooms not tells not of proper grafting. Faith in Christ admits to his kingdom, and continued faith showing itself by works of obedience keeps us united to the source of prosperity and progress. Heaven needs a prepared people to enter into its bliss and service. Greatly do men err, therefore, who plume themselves on their conversion and go not on unto sanctification of life.
III. HISTORY TEACHES US HUMILITY. History is God in action. The facts of history are naught apart from the revelation of a Divine order they bring to the illumined mind. The fate of Israel is a tablet whose letters of fire should brand themselves on the memory as a declaration of the forbearing goodness of God to the faithful, and his ultimate severity to the disobedient. God changes not; what he has done he may do again. If "the natural branches" were not spared, why should he spare the objects of his after-clemency when they too turn aside to rebel counsels? The story of the antediluvians swept away by a torrent of righteous indignation; of the inhabitants of Sodom smitten in their pride and idleness; of the Canaanites "spued out" of the laud for their wickedness; of Babylon and Nineveh, where civilization was a hot-bed of vice, its riot and fumes extinguished by the desert sands; of Judas, who by transgression fell from his apostleship; of the temple at Jerusalem profaned by its guardians and then given over to the flames; of the candlesticks removed when the Churches of Asia "lost their first love;" - all these are so many voices echoing the warning of the text, "Be not high-minded, but fear." God spares long, but at last the thunderbolt falls. Sin marches to its destined grave.
IV. THE DECEITFULNESS OF OUR HEARTS CALLS FOR CONSTANT VIGILANCE. Human nature remains true to itself, brings forth the same fruit in all ages. Even in the renewed nature of the Christian, "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit." The serpent of evil is scotched, not killed. Our environment exposes us to unceasing attacks. At any moment of relaxed tension, the foe may assault and carry the fortress. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." The Saviour emphasized the caution, "What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!" Children are often reckless because they perceive not the danger; wise men neglect no precautions. Our safest course is to be intent on "the things that accompany salvation," to fill the hands with beneficent activities, to engage the thoughts on noblest themes. Press toward the goal, and no enchanted meadow shall beguile our steps. Like earnest competitors, read the rules carefully and sedulously conform to them. Prayerful meditation on the Scriptures, humble confidence in God, and the opening of the heart to the sway of the blessed Spirit, will correct any wrong attitude, and enable us to persevere to the end. "Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us," etc. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: