Monday, February 12, 2024

2024.02.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 11:16–21

Read Romans 11:16–21

Questions from the Scripture text: What is holy (Romans 11:16)? What else must be holy? What is another thing that’s holy? So what else must be holy? What have been broken off of the root (Romans 11:17)? Whom does the apostle call a wild olive tree? Into what was this tree grafted? Of what two things did it then become partaker (Romans 11:18)? What are they tempted to say (Romans 11:19, cf. Romans 11:11)? Is this true (Romans 11:20)? By what means were they broken off? By what means do the newly grafted branches stand? Then what mustn’t they do? What must they do instead? What hadn’t God done with the natural branches who did not believe (Romans 11:21)? What won’t He do with the grafted branches who don’t believe?

What should we watch against in thinking about those who turn from the faith? Romans 11:16–21 prepares us for the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that when thinking about those who turn from the faith, we should be humbled and tremble at the thought that we might do the same. 

Christ the root. Romans 11:16 begins by speaking of a first-fruit that conveys holiness to the whole batch and a root that conveys holiness to the branches. We might understand these as referring to Israel and the Gentiles, or perhaps the patriarchs and Israel. But neither did Israel make the nations holy, nor did the fathers make Israel holy. Rather, it is Jesus that is the vine (cf. John 15:1–8), Jesus that is the root (cf. Isaiah 11:10), Jesus that is the First (cf. Colossians 1:15–16). Israel was not holy or glorious in themselves, but in Christ. Apart from Him, they have no holiness. 

This is what is so devastating for unbelieving Israelites; they have been broken off of Christ, the root, the holiness and vitality of Israel to begin with (Romans 11:17a). And this is what is so beneficial to believing Gentiles. Even though they were “a wild olive tree,” they are grafted in among whatever Israelites are still in the root, and they receive of the richness of the good olive tree (verse 17b). 

The danger of pride. The warnings against boasting in this passage are a reminder that He Who knows our souls sees this as a great danger in us. Whenever others are broken off of Christ, we must watch against the despising or boastful inclinations of our flesh. If we look down upon those who turn away, or feel ourselves superior to them, then we have turned our attention away from “the root that supports us” (Romans 11:18) to the branches that are no longer in Him. 

But turning our attention away from the Lord Jesus puts us at risk of two wicked and harmful sins: ingratitude and unbelief. The statement in Romans 11:19 is true: “branches were broken off that I might be grafted in” (cf. Romans 11:11b, Romans 11:12a, Romans 11:15a). And the beginning of Romans 11:20 affirms that. But, we ought to be humbled with gratitude about this, not elevated in pride. Can’t we see that unbelief itself was the way that they were broken off (verse 20a)? And can’t we see that faith was the way that we were made to stand in the root (verse 20b)? 

The necessity of ongoing faith. So, let us fear. Let us be wary and tremble at the idea of turning our attention away from trusting in the Lord Jesus. This is exactly how we, too, would be cut out of the tree just as Israelites were (Romans 11:21). Pride and faith are opposite one another. It is self-destructive to be proud of being a member in good standing, when life comes not from the membership into which faith might bring us, but from the one in Whom faith believes. Let us cling to Christ! Believing in Him was not just how we came into Him; it is the lifeline by which we continually depend upon Him for our life.

What people are you tempted to look down upon, or feel better than, due to their turning away or being put out of the church? When you let yourself think or feel this way, then away from Whom are you turning your attention? But what will the result be of turning your attention away from Him?

Sample prayer:  We thank You, Lord, that You have giving Your Son, our Lord Jesus, as the holy Root of David. Grant that we would stay thankfully and humbly dependent upon Him, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage” or TPH459 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

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