God's Warning to Gentiles: Don't Be Arrogant (Romans Sermon 86 of 120)
November 20, 2005 | Andrew Davis
Salvation by Promise, True Israel, Israel's Rejection of Jesus
Introduction: The Most Obnoxious Human Attitude... Pride
We are looking at Romans chapter 11. I just love Thanksgiving, I love to think about it. I like to think about the different many things that there are to be thankful for. And I think the more you go on, the more delightful it is. And as a matter of fact, I think that thankfulness is one of the most delightful states of the human soul to God. I think God loves to see us thankful. I think about how it says in Hebrews 12, "Since we're receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." In other words, that God looks at acceptable worship as the same as thanksgiving in that verse. I know that there's more things besides that are involved, but thankfulness is at the core of our Christian love and faith. And so therefore, I look on it as one of the sweetest spiritual states there is, the state of thankfulness, of thanksgiving.
Conversely, in our text, I believe that Paul is dealing with one of the most repugnant and obnoxious states that the human soul can be in, and that is spiritual pride, arrogance. He is fighting against it in Romans 11:16-24, as you read. I believe that pride is one of the most obnoxious states that we can be in because it means that we do not understand the grace of God, we do not understand what God is giving us. We think we deserve it, and therefore we really cannot be thankful for it. Paul, I believe, is giving a warning to Gentiles in Romans 11:16-24, that they should not be arrogant over the Jews given their spiritual situation. Remember the context of Romans 9-11, Paul is dealing with the almost universal rejection of the gospel by his countrymen, the Jews. He's struggling with that, he's working with it, he's explaining it from all different angles.
I. Paul’s Goals: The Destruction of Gentile Boasting Over Israel and the Unity of the Church
But as he comes now to Romans 11:16-24, I think his heart is getting pastoral. He is being pastoral at this moment toward both Jews and Gentiles alike. And I believe his goal in this section is the destruction of Gentile boasting over Israel, and the unity of the church. That's what he's getting at here.
Now, I believe that pride is rooted in human nature. Saint Augustine said that it is the root of all sin. I don't know if that's true, but I see that it is the root of many of my sins. It is true. Now, what is pride? Well, I think pride starts in infancy. Now, I'm not saying anything against my newborn, she's a sweet little girl, we love her, we think she's wonderful. She's been with us now almost two months, she's doing great. Nothing but a blessing. But we've noticed something about her, as about our other five children, or four children, all together five. And that is that she is intensely self-focused. She is just thinking about number one and there is no number two, except that number two might do something for number one. Number two is definitely my wife, we all disappear. We're not there. We bring her to number two, but she is number one.
And it develops from there, doesn't it? The toddler sitting in the sand box and there are the toys and there are these other beings in the sand box and they are competition. I want all the toys in the sand box and I want it when I want it. And it goes on from there to self-exaltation over others. It escalates into feelings of superiority over other people. Competitiveness comes, boasting and arrogance toward other people, and eventually a desire to exalt oneself by putting other people down. But its most obnoxious form is found in our relationship with God. Pride's ugliest form comes in its manifestation toward God himself. Basically, pride says to God, "You will not rule over me." Pride desires to take God's rightful place to rule over one's own life so that we can determine to do what we wanna do with our lives. Pride displays especially an independent spirit toward God that says to the Almighty, "I don't need you."
And it ultimately reveals itself in our religion. In atheism, which says, "I am and there is no other, there is no God." Or in works righteousness, which says, "I can work my way to God on my own. I can do things that are pleasing to Him, and He will accept me on the basis of what I've done." Or in idolatry which says, "I can make God however I want, and then I can worship the God that I've made." All of this is religious pride.
Heavenly Enemy #1: Pride
Now, I believe that God has made pride, as we might say, heavenly enemy number one. It says in Isaiah 2:12 and following, "The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted, and they will be humbled. The arrogance of man will be brought low and the pride of men humbled. The Lord alone will be exalted in that day and the idols will totally disappear." Therefore, I believe that the ultimate goal of the gospel is the glory of God in a salvation done in such a way that human pride is humbled. God is glorifying himself by saving us in a way that we will all only be able to say, "Praise be to his name and to his name alone. Praise be to the name of Jesus." "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." That's what the Lord is working out here. And that I think is the purpose of the climax of this whole chapter. In verse 32 it says, "God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on us all." He humbled the Gentiles by revealing that we were on the outside, that we were unfit for citizenship in Israel because of our uncircumcised hearts and our uncircumcised lives. And now he humbles the Jews by binding them over to a spirit of stupor to spiritual blindness so that they cannot see in Jesus their own Messiah, their own Christ. So both Gentiles and Jews alike, nationally, are humbled.
God has bound all of them over to disobedience so that He can have mercy on them all, so that when we are on that final day, when we stand before God, we will know as we are escorted into heaven, and as we are welcomed there, that it was not through our own merit or our own righteousness but only through the mercy of God, and we will honor Jesus as our Savior in a way that would be impossible if any of the shred of arrogance and pride were left.
Now, Jewish arrogance over Gentiles was addressed earlier in Romans. Jewish arrogance over the Gentiles was addressed earlier. In Romans chapter 2, Paul deals with it there. Now, the Jews might have had a temptation to be arrogant based on certain lavish things that God had said to them as a people. For example, in Exodus chapter 19 it says, God spoke to Israel and said, "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations, you will be my treasured possession, although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
Now God had given Moses many laws that excluded Gentiles from worship, among them was circumcision. Therefore, the Jews felt that they had ample reason perhaps to boast over their Gentile neighbors. They sometimes would even call them uncircumcised dogs. But Paul strips Israel, strips the Jews of their boasting based on a simple fact, they were unable to keep the law. They could not keep the law of Moses. And so he says in Romans 2, "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew, if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God," he says, "You then who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written, God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." And then later in Romans 2, again, it says, "Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as if you were uncircumcised." In effect, that sets the image for the branches being stripped off. He's saying if you don't keep the law, if you do not follow God, you become as though you were not circumcised.
So there Paul is laboring to strip Jews of any boasting they might have over Gentiles. But now here he is addressing Gentiles who claim to be believers in Christ. And he's using Romans 11 to ward off any reverse Gentile boasting over the Jews. The whole problem of Romans 9-11 is based on the overwhelming success of the gospel among the Gentiles in every tribe, and language, and people, and nation which just seems to flourish, and the overwhelming failure of the gospel among the Jews. And that might leave the Gentiles to get the feeling that they had actually replaced the Jews in God's affections. Look at verse 19 and 20, "You will say then, Branches were broken off so I could be grafted in. Granted," he says. Actually there is a school of theology called replacement theology in which the church just replaces the ethnic Jews. Really, God has literally no concern whatsoever anymore for the physical descendants of Abraham. I think Romans 11 totally rejects that, it's impossible, but there's this idea of replacement. And so, I think Paul here is seeking to put the Gentiles in their place. Look at verse 13, he says very directly, "I am talking to you Gentiles." He's addressing the Gentiles directly.
Now, I think if you read between the lines here and also later in Romans, when you get to chapter 14 for example, when it's talking about some people hold one day more sacred than another. Others think everyday is alike. I really think that the church in Rome was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. A numbers of times in Romans, he addresses the Jews and then another time he's addressing the Gentiles. I think that the Roman church was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. And if you read between the lines, it's possible that there was some tension there, perhaps some controversies or some disagreements. And I think he really wants the unity of the church. He wants Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians really to love each other and to honor God in their relationship with each other. So he's seeking pastorally here for unity. But I believe his biggest concern has to do with the glory of God in salvation. If you are arrogant spiritually, it shows something about you. It says something about how you think you are made right with God. And so he's dealing with the issue of the glory of God in salvation.
II. The Sordid History of Anti-Semitism in Christendom
Now, as we look at the history of the church of what we could call Christendom, there is a sordid history of anti-semitism. There is, in my opinion, a sordid history of the very kind of boasting over the fallen Jewish branches that Paul is warning against here. Now, as I begin to talk about this painful topic of Anti-semitism within those who claim to be Christians, I wanna begin by being very careful about what is not anti-semitic. The Bible, specifically let's say the New Testament, is not anti-semitic. The Gospel of John is not anti-semitic when it claims that the Jews had a role in the death of Christ. It is true. So also did the Romans. And evangelism of Jews in the name of Christ is not anti-semitic.
Perhaps you saw recently a story concerning the chaplain to the Washington Nationals baseball team? His name was Jon Moeller. He was dismissed from his ministry by the team because he affirmed with a nod only, he affirmed that Jews who do not trust in Christ will be lost eternally if they do not repent. A Washington Post reporter put this story on the front page of the Washington Post, and a Washington Rabbi loudly stated that the Washington Nationals' locker room was now being used, listen to this, to preach hatred. I guess, done with a nod. To say that Jews and Gentiles need to trust in Christ for their salvation is not anti-semitism. It is the truth. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost in Israel first. Paul says, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile, the gospel is for salvation, for everyone who believes. It is not anti-semitic to say to a Jewish person, you must repent and believe in Jesus Christ for the salvation of your soul. It is true that his blood was shed for both Jew and for Gentile alike and it is not anti-semitic to tell them the truth.
But that does not mean that there has not been anti-semitism in the history of Christianity.That is false. If we were to say that the church has never been guilty of this. You could look for example at the crusades. Beginning in the 11th century, around 1096 Christian leaders launched a series of crusades against Muslims to win control of Palestine back from the Muslims. On their way to the Middle East, the crusader armies attacked Jewish communities along the route. The first crusade was especially bloody. Entire communities of Jews were forced to choose between baptism and death, and because most of the Jews refused to choose baptism, there was a slaughter. Maybe as many as 10,000 Jews were killed in the first crusade, in the first six months alone. Godfrey of Bouillon, leader of the first crusade, vowed this, to leave no single member of the Jewish race alive and ordered the synagogue in Jerusalem burned to the ground with its entire Jewish congregation inside. The first crusade.
Then medieval Europe. In many cities in medieval Europe the Jews were gathered into communities and high walls were put around them. This led to further, obviously, separation and alienation 'cause they didn't interact much. And when the black plagues swept through and killed a third of the population, it was the Jews that were blamed. Then there was the inquisition in the Roman Catholic church in Spain. The original purpose was to root out heresy, but it spread to include Jews, and they were forced to wear ridiculous looking conical hats and subject to public ridicule and some of them were even tortured. Therefore, many Jews fled Spain to live in North Africa.
Martin Luther, during the time of the reformation, wrote a terrible treatise against the Jews. As a matter of fact, as you read it you wonder if it's the same man that wrote the things you're reading at another time in his life. I think he originally had hoped that with the gospel openly having been reclaimed and now preached in its purity that the Jews would now flock into the church. And so he was very open and friendly and welcoming early in his ministry, but toward the end he wrote this terrible document which was later used by the Nazis. In the late 1800s, there were pogroms against the Jews in Russia and Poland, organized with at least complicity from the church. She didn't speak out against it. And then, of course, the worst example of all is in supposedly Christianized Germany during the rise of Nazism. And we all know what happened as 6 million Jews were murdered simply for being Jewish. Adolf Hitler had visited the Passion Play at Oberammergau in 1934, that's just a reenactment of the Passion of Christ, the death of Christ, and it's done every 10 years.
And he was there in 1934 and this is what he said, he said, "It is vital that the Passion Play be continued at Oberammergau, for never has the menace of Jewry been so convincingly portrayed as in this presentation of what happened in the time of the Romans." So, it's a dreadful history. The kind of boasting over the stripped off branches that Paul is talking about here has actually happened, it's actually occurred. Now there is a very serious threat in the text to those who boast. Look at verses 20 and 21, he says, "Do not be arrogant but be afraid, for if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either." In other words, and we'll talk about this, God willing, next time. But if you're the kind of person who boasts over people who are stripped off from God, what does it say about your own heart? I'll talk more about that later in this message next week, but be afraid. There's a threat of eternal condemnation for those who act this way and have an arrogant attitude.
III. Six Reasons for Gentile Humility Toward Unbelieving Jewish People
Well, Paul, instead of just stating that we should not boast over these branches gives six reasons for Gentile humility toward unbelieving Jewish people.
1) Israel’s Lasting Consecration as God’s Chosen People (vs. 16)
Look at the first one in verse 16, and that is Israel's lasting consecration as God's chosen people. Verse 16 there, he says, "If the part of the dough offered his first fruit is holy, then the whole batch is holy. If the root is holy then so are the branches." He takes here that sacrificial language, where in Numbers 15 a part of the dough was offered to God, but the implication is that the whole lump belongs to God. The first fruit offering really represents the whole being really God's ultimately. Now, when it says if the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy. The word holy means sacred or set apart unto God for his special use. And I believe that the part of the dough offered as first fruit to God refers to the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were the first, and to them, the promises were made. With them, the covenants were made. They were set apart to God as holy and therefore, the lineage that comes from them is set apart to God as well.
If you look down at verse 28, it says, "As far as the gospel is concerned, the Jews are enemies on your account. But as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the fathers," on account of the patriarchs. That's Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So what do we get out of that? What it means is that we Gentile Christians are actually seen to be children of Abraham, he's actually our father in the faith. We've become somewhat spiritually adopted children of Abraham. This was already covered in Romans chapter 4. It says in verse 16 and 17, "The promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring, not only to those who have the law, but to those who are the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written, I have made you the father of many nations." We are Abraham's children, we Gentile believers. And we should understand that as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were broken off and given to God, holy and sacred to him, then their lineage as well is in some sense set apart unto God for his sacred use. And so therefore, Gentiles should not boast over the fallen state of the Jewish nation because the nation as a whole is still holy to the Lord, even if individual Jews have not believed and have been broken off. The whole is still sacred or special unto God.
2) The “Olive Tree” Is Jewish in Heritage (vs. 17-20)
Secondly, is this image of the olive tree. Look at verses 17-20, the olive tree is Jewish in heritage. And so Paul picks up on this gardening image and speaks of roots and of a tree, an olive tree. It's an unforgettable image. Now, the olive tree is a living entity, it's got a development, it's got a history, it grows year by year with developing branches coming up off the trunk. And on those branches, the gardener that's tending the olive tree expect to see some fruit. Now, some fruitless branches have been stripped off, it is true, and some wild branches have mysteriously been grafted in. Yes, that's true, but the tree itself remains a tree, it remains alive, it's drawing up the nourishing nutrients and moisture from the soil, and it's sucking it up through the trunk and out it goes. It's an olive tree, and it is Jewish in nature.
And therefore, I believe the tree represents God's people, his children by faith. And until recently in Paul's day, it was exclusively a Jewish tree. It is the Jewish history, it's the patriarchs', it's the law of Moses, it is the prophets', it is the history of God's loving provision for the Jews. God's people found their identity from the development of God's promises to the Jews. Now, the tree is not Israel per se. In other words, we would not say the tree, the olive tree is every physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He's already dealt with that in Romans 9, not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. So, it's not every biological descendant from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but rather it's a heritage that flowed from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it's a Jewish tree. And Jesus made it very, very clear, salvation is from the Jews. We get saved by this Jewish tree, and therefore, Gentile Christians should not boast over fallen Jews because the tree of salvation is Jewish in nature, essentially Jewish, through the promises made to the Jewish patriarchs and through the development of Moses, David, and the prophets.
3) Gentiles Are Wild, by Nature Excluded, by Grace Included (vs. 17-20)
The third reason that we Gentiles should not boast over Jews who do not believe in Christ is, that the Scripture says here that we Gentiles are wild by nature, excluded, only by grace included. I hope that doesn't offend you, it doesn't offend me, I'm a Gentile, to be called the wild olive branch that was grafted in contrary to nature to a tree that's not my own. But that's what Paul says. Look at verses 17-20. "If some of the branches," he says, "have been broken off, and you, the wild olive shoot have been grafted in among the others, and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this, you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.' Granted, but they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid." And look down at verse 24 for more of the same image. "After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?"
The picture here is of the wild by nature Gentiles. That's what Paul says. "The tree from which the Gentiles was cut was wild." Now, what does that mean? It means it's not tended, it's not cultivated, it doesn't have a gardener, it's not handled with care and with skill and with intelligence. It's just left to go. You can imagine if you went on one of those long treks through the mountains of West Virginia, or some wild place that you could go for several days, into a place where perhaps nobody had been in decades. And let's say you came to a clearing, and you found an apple tree there. And clearly it's a wild apple tree, you look and see, and it's just sprung up somehow, the birds carry the seeds there, there's no evidence of a human being having been there for years. And you pluck one of the apples off and you notice that the insects have kind of gotten to it. It's not like the apples you see in the supermarket, and you might, if you were up to it and you're organic kind of person, just go ahead and eat the apple such as it is, with everything found inside. But that would be a wild apple tree, uncultivated, untended, left alone.
Let's say, conversely, you went to an orchard. You drove there, and you parked, and you get out and there are the workers in the orchard, and they hand you a bag that you buy for $5 or $10, and you can fill it as full as you want, and they lead you to a certain place where are these long lines of trees, almost laser perfect, like this, and you look and all of the apples are perfectly round, untouched by insects, they are just cultivated and perfect. This is clearly a cultivated apple tree. This is the image that Paul is using. The Gentiles were not tended by God, they were basically left to go to hell whatever way they chose. They developed their own mystics, they developed their own histories, they developed their own sinful habits and shrines and priests and priestesses. They were never confronted by God through the law and the prophets, they were never judged, they were never restored by the loving heavenly Father, they were left to grow wild, and they did grow wild.
But Israel is a tended, cultivated, olive tree. Tended by the promises of God, by the commands of God, through the law of Moses, by the warnings of God through the prophets, by the leadership of God through holy men like Joshua and Samuel and David, and disciplined by the judgments of God as he brought the Assyrians and the Babylonians, and then restored back to the promised land. It is a cultivated olive tree. But the Gentiles are wild, they're just left to go. And therefore, Paul in Acts 14, talking to the pagans at Lystra, you remember that? He goes and preaches the gospel, and there's this great big response. And then when they see the healings, they say, "Oh, well, Paul must be Hermes and Barnabas must be Zeus." And they start offering sacrifices to them like they're the gods come down in human form. And Paul and Barnabas are just so upset, and they go out and they confront these pagans, these Gentiles, and they say this, "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We're bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God who made heaven, and earth, and sea, and everything in them. [Listen] In the past, God let all nations go their own way."
Now, you tell me what that means. That is exactly what he's saying here in Romans 11. They're wild, they're just left to go however they saw fit. He just let them go their own way. And yet, contrary to nature, some have been cut out of their wild olive trees and have been grafted into this Jewish tree. It's an incredible thing, that they are cut out of their wild by nature trees, and they're grafted in. And now, contrary to nature, they're sucking life giving sap from this Jewish tree. Abraham has become our father, Jesus the King of the Jews, has become our King and our Messiah. The Jewish Bible has become for us the very word of God, the promises made to Abraham have become the hope of our future and the joy of our hearts. How could it be? And the Holy Spirit has been given to previously wild Gentiles to make them conform now to the perfections of God's holy law, to give up their sexual immorality, and their idolatry, and their emptiness, and their wild revelry, to give it up. To actually that God has written his holy law on our own hearts, he's done that to us, we who are wild by nature.
And this is done, it says, contrary to nature. What an interesting expression. It's the second time in Romans that's come up. The first time was to talk about what I believe is Gentile perversions, even homosexuality. That they give up the natural relations and do what is contrary to nature. Now, here, he uses it for our salvation. It is contrary to nature for us Gentiles to think of ourselves as spiritual Jews, but so it is. And so, contrary to nature, we have been grafted into this Jewish tree. Therefore, Gentiles must not boast over the fallen branches of the cultivated olive tree, because we were by nature excluded, we were on the outside, we were rejected. We should be very, very, very humble about that process, because the only difference between us and them is the sovereignty and the grace of Almighty God. That's how it happened to us. So, where then is boasting? It's excluded, it cannot be.
4) Israel Supports Gentile Christians, Not the Other Way Around (vs. 17-18)
Fourth, Israel supports Gentile Christians, not the other way around. Look what he says in verse 17 and 18, "If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, the wild olive shoot have been grafted in among the others, and now share in the nourishing sap drawn from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this, you do not support the root, but the root supports you." What do I get out of this? It means that I as a Gentile, I derive all of my spiritual life and vitality from being grafted into this Jewish tree. Everyday, I suck nourishing sap from this tree. I do it by coming to Christ and calling him my Savior. He is the vine and I am the branch, another image from John 15. And apart from him, I can do nothing, but I'm in him, and his sap is flowing through me, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And also, when I read the Scripture, when I come to this Jewish book, when I open up the law of Moses and the prophets, when I read Job, when I read the Psalms of David, when I read the New Testament written by the apostles, I am deriving nourishing sap from this olive tree. So therefore, Gentile Christians should not boast over the fallen branches, the rejected Jews, because we derive our moment by moment life and health and spirituality from being included in this Jewish olive tree. We are supported by it, we're lifted up off the ground, off the muck and mire of our Gentile pagan ways, we're lifted up into a better life, and ultimately will be lifted up into heaven itself. Where then is boasting? How can we boast over the branches that were stripped off through unbelief? We should be humble, everyday we should turn to that Jewish book, the Bible, and we should draw our life giving nourishment from its pages, and we should turn to Christ. And in this Jewish God, we live and move and have our being. And so the tree supports us, we do not support the tree.
5) Gentiles Will Get No More Special Treatment Than Jews Did (vs. 19-23)
Fifth, Gentiles will get no more special treatment than the Jews got, if we boast and are arrogant. Look at verses 19-23, Paul concedes that individual Jews were cut off from their own olive tree. He says it's true, and he says, "Yes, they're now lying on the ground," metaphorically. But Paul goes deeper and asks why did it happen? What happened to them? Look in verse 19-23. "You will say then, Branches were broken off so I could be grafted in. Granted, it's true, but they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid." We'll talk about that next week. "For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God. Sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again."
Now, the clear teaching that Paul gives here is, the Jews were cut off from their own olive tree because of unbelief. They refused to trust in Christ. In my opinion, the root of that, Augustine was right, is pride. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, who is Christ. Pride in their national heritage, pride in their own law keeping, pride in their religious achievements, even pride in their national sufferings. And therefore, when Christ came and said so offensively, do you think that those Galileans were worse sinners than the others? I tell you, no. But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. They were very offended, very offended.
And when Jesus died on the cross, when he was nailed to the cross and hung up on a tree under a curse of God, and had a sign over his head, 'This is Jesus, the King of the Jews', they were so offended. They went to Pilate and said, "Take that sign off, or say do not say he is the King of the Jews, but he claimed to be the King of the Jews." They were so offended, the death of Jesus was offensive. And when the apostles preached that he died taking their curse on himself, dying the death of a condemned man, because Jews and Gentiles are alike, equally sinful in the sight of God, they were brutally offended by this, very offensive to them. And so therefore, Jesus was the stumbling block to Israel because of one wretched state of the sinful human soul, and that is pride. That's what led them to reject Christ, that's why they didn't believe.
But Paul says, "What would the root of Gentile boasting over fallen Jews be?" What's the root of that? Is it not the same? Is it not pride that would cause you or I to boast over Jews who don't believe in Jesus? To say, "Oh, look at them. There they are praying and God doesn't hear their prayers. They don't know the right way. If only they'd come talk to me, I'd tell them the right way." Isn't that pride?
Now, next week, we'll talk about the meaning of the severe warning to Gentiles who boast. We'll deal with the question of how this fits into the doctrine of 'Once saved, always saved.' I do not believe that Paul is teaching here, that a living branch sucking nourishing sap from the olive tree can't ever be cut off and thrown away. I do not believe it, but I do believe that arrogant boasting proves they were never truly grafted in at all. And therefore, Gentile Christians should not boast over unbelieving Jews, because God will not spare fake Christians any more than he spared fake Jews. And boasting people are not truly saved people.
6) God Is Able to Graft Jews Back In, and Someday He Will
Finally, God is able to graft the Jews back in, and friends, some day he will. Isn't that exciting? Someday, he's going to take branches up off the ground in one generation, and he's going to graft them back into their own olive tree. That's the mystery we're getting to. I've mentioned this mystery, I read it before, and I've mentioned it a few times, but it's coming. God is gonna scoop those branches up and he's gonna graft them back into their own olive tree. Verse 23-24, "If they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature and contrary to nature, were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?" The whole issue in Romans 9, 10 and 11 is God's sovereign grace. God can do anything he wants to do with his grace. He has that kind of power. And if God can take us from our wild background that had nothing to do with this Jewish olive tree and all of its heritage, how can we possibly imagine he can't graft the Jews back into their own olive tree?
Saul of Tarsus, breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He wakes up thinking another good day to kill Christians. What are the odds he's going to lay down that night or go to sleep that night a Christian? What are the odds he's going to believe in Jesus that day? Well, God doesn't do odds, have you noticed? What He does is, he confronts Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus with resurrection glory and says, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" "Who are you, Lord?" "Your world's about to change." "I am Jesus, the one you're persecuting." He is able to take a branch off the ground and graft it back in again. So how can you boast over somebody who might later today be your own brother or sister in Christ? And furthermore, what kind of Gentile believer will it take to get that done? What kind of Gentile evangelist will he send to do the job? One who's arrogant and boasting over the Jews in their broken off state? No, but one who, like Paul, has great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart for the Jewish condition, 1ho is praying in chapter 10, verse 1, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved." One who, in chapter 10, is willing to go and preach the gospel, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news." That's the kind of Gentile it's going to take to bring these Jews to faith in Christ.
And boasting over the stripped off branches is totally inconsistent with that evangelical work.
What applications can we take from this? First, can I urge you... You may think, "Hmm, boasting over Jews that don't believe in Jesus. This is not my number one topic in my life. I'm facing this, I'm facing that, I'm facing the other."
A. Search Your Heart and Your Life for Spiritual Pride
Let me ask you a question, do you really think you're so free from spiritual pride? Do you really think that there is no spiritual pride in you at all? You really totally embraced the doctrine of grace, that you are saved contrary to what you deserve, not because of what you've done? Is it possible that there is no vestige of spiritual pride in you at all? I think it's impossible, and frankly, the longer I go on in my Christian life, the more I see what a monster it is.
And so I want to say in Psalm 139, "O Lord, search me and know me and try me and see if there's anything offensive inside." Show me my spiritual pride. Perhaps, you've said when you heard of some sinful thing, "I'd never do something like that." Be careful. Be careful what you say like that. Perhaps you've comforted yourself with at least you haven't murdered or stolen or committed adultery, at least not with your body. Perhaps you've heard a story about some sin that another Christian has committed, and you excused yourself and felt superior. But have you forgotten how many sins you are cleansed from? Sins of the mouth, gossip, slander, deceit, sins of the mind, unclean thoughts, arrogant thoughts, sins of the wallet, selfishness, and greed, sins of the passions, anger, and lust, and pride. Have you forgotten? Oh, that we might never boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ. Come to the cross again, because it says in Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart O God, you will not despise."
B. Search Your Heart and Your Life for Anti-Semitism
Secondly, can I urge you to search your heart for anti-semitism? Is it impossible that you have no attitude of boasting over the branches that are stripped off? That you have no sense of mockery toward the Jews? Are you where Paul was, where he has great sorrow and unceasing anguish for their present situation? Is there no anti-semitism inside you?
C. Ask God to Give You Paul’s Stance Toward Lost Jews and Gentiles
Thirdly, ask God to give you Paul's stance toward lost people, both Jews and Gentiles. That you could be the kind of person who would have great sorrow over the lost, who would pray for them, and who would be willing to go and witness to them.
D. Take God’s Warnings to Heart
Fourth, as we're going to talk about next time, take God's warnings to heart. You're commanded in this text, "Do not be arrogant, but fear." And we're going to talk about what fear Paul has in mind here, but it is a good state of the soul.
Finally, if I can speak to any that are here that have never trusted in Christ, come to Christ today. We will not survive the kind of scrutiny that this Holy God will give us on judgment day on our own. We need Jesus. You need to trust in Christ, believe in Him, trust in Him. Don't leave this room without trusting in Christ. You don't need to go anywhere, all you have to do is bend in your heart and acknowledge to God, "I am a sinner, Lord. And apart from the blood shed on the cross by Jesus, apart from the blood shed in the cross, I will have no hope of surviving judgment day." Acknowledge it, trust in him. Jesus is a wonderful Savior, magnificent Savior, trust in him today. Close with me in prayer.