24 February 2014

Romans 11:13-24

“For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead!” (v. 15)


Romans chapters 9-11 tackles the important question of whether and how God remains faithful to the promises made to Israel. Previously, Paul has explained that - even though a remnant recognise the Messiah - many within Israel remain "hardened" (Romans 11:7). Here, Paul warns the Gentile (non Jewish) believers against looking down on the Jewish people, and expresses his hope that the success of the gospel (good news of Jesus) among Gentiles might lead many Jews to recognise Jesus as their Lord. God has not given up on Israel.

While called to be a missionary to the Gentiles, Paul explains to his readers that such a ministry also seeks to promote the gospel among his own people (verses 13-14). By spreading the good news of Jesus among gentiles, Jews might be provoked to 'jealousy', and so to explore Jesus for themselves.

With his use of horticultural imagery, Paul seeks to prevent any arrogance or pride among Gentile believers. Gentile believers are like foreign branches grafted in to the olive tree, a symbol of God's covenant community. They are "grafted in" by faith (vv. 17, 19), however, and so can only stand in awe at God's generosity and mercy (verse 20). God also has the power to 'graft' back into the tree those within Israel, and Gentile believers should treat those Jews who do not believe with humility and with the hope that they too will accept Jesus as Messiah. God is both 'severe' and 'kind', and his kindness persists for those who trust in God's own kindness (verse 22).

Paul's argument here may seem like a digression, but his reflections on Israel seek to show that God is faithful and trustworthy to the ancient promises made. They are also intended to warn Gentile Christians against treating arrogantly those Jews who had not yet accepted Jesus, while also accepting the cultural and religious practices of those Jews who had.

To Ponder

  • Why is it important that God keeps God's own promises?
  • Do you think it is possible to be 'cut off' from God's salvation? Why or why not?
  • Why is arrogance and pride so dangerous in the Christian life? 

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the discipleship development officer for the Methodist Church, a role that involves developing and promoting a range of resources to help Christians grow as followers of Jesus. His previous experience includes working as evangelism, spirituality and discipleship officer at Methodist Church House, lecturing in New Testament Studies at Birmingham Christian College, and working as associate leader of B1, a 'fresh expression' of church in Birmingham.