Israel’s Rejection Not Final
11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
The Israelites have been rejected but their rejection is not total. They are being punished for their sins against the Father by refusing to worship Him from their hearts. Much like a father hates to punish his children who are disrespecting and disobeying him, the punishment must come. For a child it may the loss of a favorite toy for a while – only to be returned when they begin to show you respect and obey their father again. In the same way, they have been removed from the salvation promised to their fathers because of their irreverent hearts and disobeying of God’s commandments to them. This fact is being spelled out for them in this letter so they can see their foolishness, recognize their sins, and turn with a right heart to God asking for the salvation of their souls through Christ Jesus, their Lord. Paul’s heart is that he would be able to save his countrymen AND the Gentiles and if the fact that he’s offering God’s salvation, which was previously only offered to the Israelites, to the Gentiles as well – then this will be something that will provoke them to jealousy and hopefully to repentance. Olive trees are something that have often been used as an example through scripture for the nation of Israel. Not the physical nation, but the spiritual nation which stems from God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 15) and is shown by the faith of the people of this nation. Olive oil was used in massive quantities for lamps, cooking, and in temple worship. The problem was that the wild olive trees didn’t produce much fruit so they would cultivate olive trees that produce much more fruit. The problem with the cultivated trees is that they weren’t very resilient and were pretty fragile. Their fix for this issue was to take a wild olive tree and cut off the branches, grafting in the cultivated branches which produce three to four times as much fruit. This is a very common practice and was something that everyone in that time would be familiar with. God uses this example, through Paul, to explain to the Gentiles how they have been able to obtain the salvation that had been reserved for the Israelites. Our salvation is granted through the history and the promises of God to Abraham and his descendants, and thus, to us through them. We cannot condemn the Jews because God has removed them from His salvation because of their unbelief, nor can we go to them in our pride and say that we have been chosen over them. Their history and their relationship with God is what makes our salvation possible. They are our brothers and sisters through Christ. They are rejected only because of their unbelief in the Messiah and, if God opens their eyes to the truth of the gospel of God through Jesus Christ, then they will be grafted right back in. Explaining verse 21 where Paul states that God may not spare us – that condemnation stands if we who say that we are Christians and are so outwardly in our religion and actions (much as the Israelites were acting even with Jesus in their midst) but we’ve not committed our lives to Him. Think “worldy” or “carnal” Christians who are so embedded in the world that they are not saved at all. We are saved by grace of God through the faith in Jesus Christ which was placed into us by God – that cannot and will not be removed. God promises here that He will happily bring the unrepentant Jews back into His salvation when they turn and worship Him rightly.