Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 15th, 2018.
Romans Road VBS
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
The Kindness and Severity of God. Romans 11:11-24
We have been in Paul’s letter to the Romans for almost 1 year now. I looked back at the first sermon preached by Pastor Phil on Romans back on September 5th of 2017. He introduced Romans by telling you that we were starting a journey that may take up to two years. There have been times where we have slowed down and focused on a few verses and other times where we have taken larger sections. At our current pace it will probably take us about a year and a half to finish. But it is not about the pace we take, it is about the Gospel message Paul is sharing with Christians in Rome - and Christians and until Christ returns.
Some might describe our Romans road adventure as long, winding, with hills and valleys and sometimes what looks like a rabbit trail, but hopefully it has been helpful for you to have a clearer understanding of the Gospel and, as we have been doing with our memory verses, storing it up so that we can use the sword of the spirit to share the Gospel, in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and mission trips like our team in Guatemala or where ever God may send us.
We have spent about 2 months now dealing with the issue of the Jews and God’s plan for their salvation. Chapter’s 9-11 address this issue. Paul started chapter 9 by telling us of the sorrow and anguish in his heart for his brothers and kinsmen. With all the advantages they had - why did so few Jews, as a percentage, believe in the Gospel, the Good news of Jesus Christ, their long-awaited Messiah.
Right away Paul makes clear that it was not God’s word that has failed. God is always faithful to his word, even when we are not faithful. Paul then tells us the reason that not all Israel believes is that - not all Israel is Israel or not all physical Israel is spiritual Israel.
Last week Pastor Phil warned that there might be a tendency to think – well I am not a Jew, so what does Romans chapters 9-11 have to do with me? My first response to that is 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. If we believe this, then Romans chapters 9-11 are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
If you are still thinking I am a Gentile so what does this have to do with me? Our text for today will make that clear. So let us continue our journey down the Romans road today in Romans 11:11-24 (please stand in honor of the reading of God’s word).
Romans 11:11-24 (page 1125 in the black pew bibles)
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the 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.23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
Our text today starts with the same pattern as we began last week with a question and an emphatic answer. Last week the question in chapter 11:1 has God rejected his people? And an emphatic answer – by no means? Today we see Paul start with the question – did they stumble in order that they might fall? And again, Paul answers with an emphatic – By no means!
Paul is speaking here of the stumbling of the Israelites. Now when we think of stumbling often time it involves a fall. But what causes the stumble? Now you have all probably stumbled at one time or another. Some of us, more than others. The reason for the stumble - is you don’t see what is directly in front of you and so you stumble over it.
What did the Jews, not see right in front of them, that they stumbled over? Their own Messiah, Jesus. We saw back in - Romans 9:33 as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” The Jews pursued their own righteousness by works and thus stumbled over, The Righteous One, Jesus.
The Jews obviously stumbled over their Messiah - but did they fall? Paul has already answered that with an emphatic – By no means! Paul has also made clear in Romans 11:1 that God has not rejected his people – Jews and Paul points to himself as evidence. Paul is a Jew.
If the Jews stumbled over Jesus and it wasn’t a fatal fall for the Jewish people, what is the reason or purpose for most of the Jewish people to trespass or sin in rejecting their Messiah?
Paul goes on to tell us in verse 11, two purposes for Israel’s stumbling or trespass. First, he tells us that through their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, to us.
In God’s plan of salvation, before the foundation of the world, God chose a people for his own possession. That plan included both Jews and Gentiles. If you recall throughout Romans, Paul has been addressing both Jews and Gentiles. Going back to our first memory verse last year. Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
I want to take us back briefly to the beginning, where the Gospel was first shared with the Gentiles. In the book of Acts chapter 10 the Apostle Peter shares the Gospel with a Roman Centurion named Cornelius. Before that from Pentecost in Acts 2 up to Acts 10 there were large numbers of Jews believing in the good news of Jesus Christ - the Gospel (even though it is still a small percentage of all Jews), but beginning in Acts 10 we start to see a turn towards Gentiles.
But we know the covenant promise was made back in Genesis when God spoke to Abraham then reaffirmed the promise to Isaac in Genesis 26 and to Jacob in Genesis 28 now is beginning to be fulfilled in Christ - Genesis 22:18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, In Acts chapter 10, we see the start of this blessing to all the nations, the kindness of God flowing to the Gentiles beginning with Cornelius. Let us not forget that God used the mouth of a Jew, the Apostle Peter to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles.
So the first purpose for the stumbling of the Jews in our text today, was to bring salvation to the Gentiles beginning with Cornelius. The second purpose is the end of verse 11 – so as to make Israel jealous.
Right here I want to stop and ask those of us Gentiles here today to ask yourself – have you ever thought of your salvation as a way to make Israel, the Jews, jealous? Now we all understand jealousy, but we usually think of it in a negative sense. Here Paul wants us to see it in a positive way like God tells us about his jealousy for his people that go after idols in Exodus 20:5 for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.
But what are Jews to be jealous of, or for, in us Gentile believers? Simply put – our love for Jesus, their Messiah, is our Messiah – their savior, is our savior. Jesus is holding out his arms to us, saying to Gentiles, in fact to the whole world, to all the nations Matt 11:28 - Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
I am guessing that most of us here today, who believe in Jesus as our savior, have probably not given much thought to making Jews jealous for what we have in Christ? For sure, we want them to know Jesus, but how about making them jealous for Jesus? But, that is what the text says.
I did a little searching on the internet to see how many claim to be Jewish in our area. The little searching I did in Jones and Dubuque County, there are probably less than 100 practicing Jews. How many of us have thought about making any unbeliever jealous of what we have in Christ Jesus? Now for most unbelievers they don’t know what they don’t know, but for Jews -they know of the Messiah, they just don’t believe Jesus was the Messiah.
In verses 13-14, we see Paul speaking directly to Gentile believers in Rome and to all Gentile believers until Christ returns. He says that even though he was an Apostle called to the Gentiles, he magnified his ministry for the purpose of making them, the Jews, jealous. Why does he do this? So that some of his fellow Jews might be saved.
Paul knows it is not he who saves either the Gentiles or his Jewish brothers, but only through faith in Christ. After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus he was brought to Ananias in Damascus. The Lord told Ananias about Paul in Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
While Paul was primarily sent to share the good news to the Gentiles, he was also sent to kings and the children of Israel, the Jews. As such, Paul sought to magnify his ministry to make Jews jealous and save some. Paul wanted the Jews to see his love for, and commitment to, Jesus.
If Paul’s ministry is Jesus, then the more Paul magnifies Jesus, the more both Gentiles and Jews hear the good news of Jesus. How did Paul magnify Jesus in his ministry then? After Paul’s conversion, he was baptized and had something to eat, then we see in Acts 9:20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” The same man who in Acts 9:1 breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, is no longer the same man. He has begun to magnify Jesus in his own life, by his witness in the Jewish synagogue to what Jesus had done. The kindness of Jesus towards him.
Paul goes on to magnify his ministry on three mission trips, including modern day Turkey and into Europe detailed in the book of Acts, in fact, from chapter 13 of Acts to the end of Acts where Paul is in Prison in Rome, we see Paul’s ministry magnified in his witness to both Gentiles and Jews. Paul was God’s chosen instrument to take the message of Jesus to the Gentiles and create jealousy among Jews.
Now we see the benefit for the world in Israel’s failure, that the Gentiles - the nations are blessed in Jesus Christ, and we see that the Gentiles should produce a jealousy for in the Jews for Jesus, but is God’s purpose in the failure of Israel and their rejection just to be jealous?
In verses 12 & 15, Paul is pointing towards something more. In V. 12 Paul makes a statement about Israel in: Romans 11:12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! Then in Romans 11:16 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?
Paul is pointing towards the full inclusion here of all Jews who will believe and have life in Christ Jesus. God is faithful to his people both Jews and Gentiles.
In verse 16 Paul uses 2 metaphors to help us see what this looks like. He starts with Romans 11:16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump. Now normally when we see firstfruits we would think of Christ, and some think that is what Paul means. Many scholars disagree about these metaphors, just who is Paul speaking of? But in the context here of the Jews and Gentiles and salvation, many believe Paul probably has in mind the Jewish forefathers going back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the promises that were made to them.
Paul may be giving us the key to who is who in the last part of Romans 11:28 But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.
The firstfruits metaphor doesn’t really give us much to know for sure who Paul is assigning as firstfruits and who as the whole lump. Paul goes into more detail with the second metaphor regarding the root and branches to help us inform the first metaphor and another clue later in Romans 11:28 But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. Let’s look at Paul’s application of the second metaphor to find more insight into who is who.
In the second metaphor about the olive tree, Paul tells us some of the branches were broken off, implying that these branches were those who stumbled over Jesus, they were part of the tree, and were broken off from the tree. These would be the Jews who did not believe - who did not see Jesus as their savior.
Gentiles – including us here today who believe, Paul describes as wild olive shoots, we were grafted in and now share in the same nourishing root of the olive tree. I knew very little about grafting and olive trees, so I did a little horticulture research and found a several reasons why grafting was done, and it can be very interesting. The one obvious reason for grafting shoots, which is not yet really a branch, is to produce more good fruit.
Here I want you to see the kindness of God - that we Gentile-wild olive shoots can produce, but only when grafted into a cultivated olive tree. Without the nourishing root we are without hope of producing good fruit.
What is that nourishing olive tree root comprised of? Jews that go back to the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the nourishing root and following branches of Jews. But some of those branches were broken off for their unbelief. Here we see the severity of God. Literally breaking off those branches of Jews that stumbled over Jesus for their unbelief in him. They were connected to the tree until they were broken off for there unbelief.
Here Paul gives a clear warning to the Gentile, wild olive branches, do not be arrogant toward the branches, the Jews. Remember it is the Jewish root that supports you not the other way around. We are experiencing the blessings promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Now Paul is inspired by the Holy Spirit and he is able to write our wild olive shoot natural response to our being grafted in. We may have a tendency to look down at those fallen Jewish branches and show arrogance to the tree that still supports us and arrogance to those fallen branches on the ground. Paul says, we may say “those branches were broken off so I might be grafted in.” Paul gives the answer saying, that is true. But he describes it the way we should look at it. They were broken off for their unbelief, but we stand fast through faith, and here comes the warning - so do not become proud.
You may think you are grafted in, but you are a wild olive shoot – not yet a branch, but if you produce only the fruit of arrogance, like a wild olive branch, God will not spare you, he will cut you off - so fear God. To be clear here, Paul is not saying that people who believe and are elect are ever broken off the tree whether Jew or Gentile. This is a metaphor and metaphor need to be taken for what they are. Some people want to make the metaphor into more than it is. To produce good fruit you must have faith like Abraham.
We see this clearly stated in Paul’s letter to the Galatians 3:6-9 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
We, Gentiles, need to see both the kindness and severity in God, and if our faith is real, we will produce fruit of the spirit like the kindness we have received from God. That kindness towards others, both unbelieving Jews and Gentiles, should cause them to be jealous of the source of our kindness - the Spirit of Christ in us.
We should display all the fruit of the spirit towards Jews and all unbelievers like those listed in Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
We like Paul should magnify our ministry to make others jealous of what we have - peace with God through Jesus Christ. We magnify our ministry whenever we lift the name of Jesus high. We magnify our ministry when we show the fruit of the spirit is in us in the way we treat others. We want to display the love and kindness God has blessed us with.
Would the people of Cascade, Monticello, Anamosa, Dubuque and the surrounding area be jealous of what we have? Are our unbelieving family and friends jealous of what we have in Jesus. We want all to know the kindness of God in Christ Jesus, but we also remember the severity of God and warn others of the severity of God. Jesus will come again to judge and we don’t want anyone to be found cut off from the eternal blessings found only in Christ Jesus.
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! The kindness and severity of God displayed in his plan for saving a people for himself both Jew and Gentile.