Friday 30 March 2012

Bible Book:

"... you stand only through faith. So do not become proud but stand in awe." (v. 20)

Romans 11:13-24 Friday 30 March 2012


One of the remarkable things about early Christianity is thatalthough it is deeply rooted in the Old Testament, and Jesushimself was a Jew, it spread much more rapidly among Gentiles (nonJews) than among the Jewish people. Paul himself contributed tothis, being specifically called to preach to Gentiles, but he wasnot alone. What then of those Jews who do not believe? Romanschapters 9 to 11 are devoted to that question.

Paul cannot believe that God has given up on the Jewish people.Rather, their refusal, in general, to respond to the message wasthe trigger for taking it to the wider world. Now Gentiles areincluded. But Paul warns against a misplaced pride. The key factoris believing. Just as for a Jew relying on birth and observance ofthe law of Moses and looking down on Gentiles is a form ofarrogance, so too for a Gentile to look down on Jews who have notaccepted Christ, as though they were now outside God's love, isarrogant.

Paul resorts to metaphors to make his point. Verse 16 is not whollyclear. The main thrust is that we cannot separate the part from thewhole. If some Jews (and Gentiles) have now responded in faith,that does not mean that the rest have been rejected asworthless.

In verses 17 to 24 Paul turns to horticulture. It was a practice inhis day, improbable as it may seem to us, to graft wild oliveshoots onto a cultivated stem to improve the yield. It would havebeen less usual to graft a cultivated shoot back again. He quotesthe practice as a warning to his Gentile readers. If God can rejectthe Jewish people because of their unbelief, God can equally rejectunfaithful Gentile Christians. And if God has incorporated Gentilesinto his chosen people, then God can re-incorporate Jews. There isno place for pride.

What are we to make of verse 14? Paul hopes that by talking up hiscall from God to preach to the Gentiles he will challenge Jewishunbelievers to reconsider their position.

To Ponder

Reflect on the tendency of religious people tolook down on those who do not share their faith. What are thesafeguards against it?

What may this passage be saying aboutChristian-Jewish relations today?

To what extent does your image of God includeseverity as well as kindness (verse 22)?

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