And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them…
It may be difficult, in such a passage as this, to keep the matters of individual salvation and election to privileges and responsibilities in the kingdom of God distinct. They do naturally bear an intimate relation the one to the other. But we shall be on safer ground in following the tenor of the entire argument here also, and seeing both the Jews of whom he speaks and the Gentiles to whom he speaks as related to God's great world-purposes of salvation. For though it is true that the Jews who believed not forfeited their individual part in the kingdom of God, as well as the honour of extending that kingdom in the world; and that the Gentiles who believed became first partakers of a personal salvation, and then agents in disseminating God's truth in Christ; yet it is the objective kingdom of Christ, and its extension, to which the apostle looks, and to which he would have them look. They, his readers, were now, in place, as it were, of the unbelieving Israelites, entrusted with the living power; it was for them, in conjunction with the believing Jews, to make known salvation to the world. We have here - their position in the kingdom of God, their danger, and the ultimate aspect of the kingdom.
I. First, the position of these Gentiles in the kingdom of God. "Grafted in among them." They had been "without God in the world;" but now, what a glory was theirs! made "partakers of the Divine nature"! And, being saved, charged as the heralds of God to carry this salvation to the ends of the earth] Truly, they had become "partaker of the fatness of the olive tree." And so they seemed to be in the place of the broken-off branches; they were "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets." Out of the very ruin of the Israelites had come their salvation; in the very room of the rejected Israelites they stood. Here was a transfer of blessing.
II. But this very position was fraught with danger. "Glory not;" "Thou standest by thy faith." The danger of false pride was not an imaginary one; Gentiles probably did glory over the Jews. Nay, do they not glory still over these "unbelievers"? Do they not sometimes persecute them even to death? But how false was the pride! They were only grafted branches, borne by the ancient root of Israel. And yet they deported themselves with such consequence, and affected to despise their neighbour branches, as well as those that had been broken off. Another danger was involved in this: false, uncharitable pride was perilously near to a damnable unbelief; it was indeed that unbelief begun. Why had these branches been broken from the ancient tree? "Because of their unbelief." Was not the same excision impending over unbelief still? Instead, then, of pride, let them cherish a holy fear, and walk humbly with their God. For most surely, if God spared not the natural branches, neither would he spare them.
III. Once again, if faith was the condition of a part in the kingdom of God, and unbelief alone incurred exclusion from its benefits and work, then these very Jew. s, unbelieving as they now were, might, in the time to come, by faith become again partakers: "God is able to graft them in again." God is severe indeed, and all wilfully wicked ones incur his wrath; he cuts off his very chosen ones if they cherish an evil heart of unbelief. But God is good, and none shall ever seek his face in vain. And seeking him, and finding him, they shall surely be restored to their forfeited place. Think of the history of the Gentiles - their long abandonment because of unbelief. But God receives them freely as instruments for his work. "Much more shall the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree." Let us learn how terribly we may fall, and therefore be not high-minded. But let us also learn how gracious and forgiving is the God of love, and how he will heal our backslidings, and will not remember our sins. - T.F.L.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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;