And if some of the branches be broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them…
Two cases are here set before us. There are those who have fallen, and have consequently been broken off from the olive-tree. There are those too who continue in God's goodness, and who still therefore partake of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. These are the present most opposite conditions of the two classes of persons described. It is added that, as the former may by God's power and mercy be restored, so the latter must take heed lest they also be cut off. And, finally, as one great means of keeping themselves in their steadfastness, they are counselled to dwell earnestly upon the thought of the goodness of God, and of His severity, as displayed in the two examples brought to their recollection.
1. First, then, there are those who have fallen, and have consequently been broken off from God's olive-tree. Who in our days are they? St. Paul, in his first Epistle to Timothy, makes a distinction which may assist us here. He says, "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment: and some men they follow after." There are some whose sins are so manifest, that they speak for themselves, and almost challenge the judgment which overtakes them. In our own days, amidst a very general toleration of some kinds of sin, there are others which even the world calls scandalous; which the common language of the least religious condemns; and which are visited even by them with a severity which, if not excessive in itself, is at least most inconsistent with their estimate of the criminality of other transgressions. Of this kind are acts of dishonesty and of meanness, of cowardice and open falsehood. One who has thus fallen meets with no tenderness. His sin goes before unto judgment. He has fallen; and even by the world's sentence he is cut off from God's olive-tree. Now what in such a case says the infallible Word of God? It does not palliate the grievousness of this man's transgression. It echoes the judgment already pronounced upon him by the conscience of his fellow-men; and adds to it, in tones yet more alarming, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." But is this all? Has the gospel no word of encouragement for the fallen sinner, none of special warning to those who have cast him out? To him its language is, Thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Thou hast lived as if there were no God, no Christ; no death, no judgment, no eternity. Because of unbelief therefore thou hast been broken off. God in His infinite mercy — because He desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live — has cut thee off for a while as it were from His olive-tree. He has brought thee to shame and suffering in this life, if perhaps thy soul may be saved in the day of the Lord. And know now that, if thou abide not still in unbelief: if thou refuse not still to hear the voice of Him who has afflicted thee; thy fall is not final: thou shalt be grafted in: thou shalt be restored to far more than thou hast ever yet known of the enjoyment of the grace of God. O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself: but in Me is thy help. And then of warning to all those who may be disposed to judge harshly of one who has thus openly fallen. To them, to all of us, the gospel says, Behold in every such example the severity of God. If for you this particular form of sin seems to have no attraction; if you cannot even conceive yourself to have been tempted to its commission; yet consider, to whom is this blessing due? Remember too that, if there be one class of sins which goes before to judgment, which outruns as it were by its open heinousness the adversary who is haling it to the judge, there is yet another kind which ends in the same result with the former, however much in this life it may seem to differ from it. Your sins may be more secret; you may fence them more carefully from the sight and the hearing of men: yet, if this be all, it amounts only to a postponement of the day of exposure; at last it will come. and will not tarry. Or even if your sins be of such a kind that their disclosure in the world's sight would bring with it no disgrace or punishment; yet a day is before each one of us, which will rectify these erring judgments, and in which even they whose only crime has been that they have forgotten God, that God has not been in all their thoughts, will awake from their sleep in the dust of the earth only to shame and everlasting contempt.
2. But we must turn now, in conclusion, to the other class here spoken of; that of those who, continuing in God's goodness, are partaking day by day of the root and fatness of the olive-tree. Who amongst us are these? What is it to continue in God's goodness? It must be something more than merely keeping ourselves from gross transgression; something more than partaking week by week in the ordinances of Christian worship; something more than the merely being appended, as a dead or fruitless branch may be, to the stock of God's Israel: there must be a vitality in our connection with the olive-tree — a communication ever kept up with its root, with the living centre of all its growth and vigour — to give us any place amongst those Who are truly continuing in God's goodness. Are we daily applying to Christ Himself, as our living Saviour, for grace and spiritual life? Do we return to Him in hearty sorrow when we have sinned? Do we take refuge in Him when we feel the power of temptation? Do we ask strength from Him to resist sin? Do we day by day commit the keeping of our souls to God through Him as to a faithful Creator and most merciful Redeemer? This and this only is the life of one who continues in God's goodness.
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;