Paul’s Hope for His People, the Jews
By this time in his argument, it could be that some Gentiles were feeling mighty proud of themselves: “Yeah, it might have all started with the Israelites but look at them now, while we have inherited the promises in their place. Well, aren’t we special!” Paul is going to nip this in the bud right away. But even more than that, he is going to reveal God’s plan, which he must have received by revelation from God (a blessing with which the apostles were uniquely gifted, e.g., Galatians 1:12), and that plan included the ultimate ingathering of the Jews.
Paul presents the matter as a case of simple justice: If the trespass of the Jews (rejection of Christ) has brought riches for the world (salvation for the Gentiles), well then, what would their full inclusion mean? Again, if their rejection means reconciliation for the world, what would their acceptance mean? Indeed, the ingathering of the Jews should be something for which Christians yearn and pray for with all their hearts, for with their acceptance of Christ must come one of the greatest blessings upon the world than we could ever imagine. In the meantime, Paul preaches to the Gentiles so as to make the Jews jealous in hopes that some will come in. Yes, God’s people will always be a remnant as I said yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a bigger remnant.
Paul then uses the illustration of the olive tree with its root and branches. The root is God’s promises going all the way back to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and even further (Genesis 3:15). Paul says that the natural branches were broken off (the Jews) that the wild olive shoot might be grafted in (the Gentiles). But this is no reason for boasting as the wild olive shoots only stand by faith. And Paul goes on to say, the wild olive shoots which were grafted in can more easily be removed than the natural branches. And then Paul writes something we desperately need to hear: “Note then the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.”
A fearful word of warning to ever keep us humble. One more point: We must remain in the root; that is, God’s promises to the patriarchs and prophets of ancient Israel. The people in the Old Testament are our people, the promises to Israel are ours also (4:16-18). So read the Old Testament; you need to know it to understand the fullness and richness of the faith.