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Israel's Future Salvation - Part 3

Tom Pennington • Romans 11:11-32

  • 2019-06-30 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


Well, I invite you to take your Bible and turn with me to Romans, chapter 11, as we continue to make our way through Paul's letter to the churches there in the city of Rome. In the March 2015, issue of the Scientific Journal Current Biology, there was an article on plant grafting; not likely one you've read, not likely to have a whole lot of likes attached to it on the Internet, but it is an important article and this is what the article says:

Since ancient times, people have cut and joined together plants of different varieties or species so that they would grow as a single plant, a process known as grafting. References to grafting appear in the Bible, ancient Greek, and ancient Chinese texts, indicating that grafting was practiced in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia by at least the fifth century BC. [And then the article says this, and you may not be aware of this, but] Today plant grafting is widely used in orchards, greenhouses, vineyards, and in gardens.

Paul uses this ancient practice of plant grafting in Romans, chapter 11, to make a powerful spiritual point. But what he describes here is not the normal kind of plant grafting that would take place. Normally, branches from a cultivated olive tree that actually bear good fruit would have been grafted into a wild olive tree's stalk, that stalk being hearty and hard to kill, but with a graft in it that would then bear good fruit. But Paul describes exactly the reverse; and because of that, it's interesting to read how the liberals, who don't believe the Bible, love to pile on and try to find some occasion to attack the Bible. And in this case, in this section we're going to study today; there are those who have said that Paul was ignorant of normal farming practices, just simply uninformed; he got it all wrong. In fact, one author says that he was simply an uninformed city boy who lacked the curiosity to inquire what happened in the olive yards that were by every road he walked. In other words, this author says, "You know, Paul was basically stupid." Such a condescending point of view and so ridiculous. I promise you this, Paul was far more brilliant at the human level than the one who has criticized him. He knows what he's doing here. In fact, Paul intentionally changes what was typically done to make a profound spiritual point; grafting a wild branch into a cultivated tree was not done, but God in grace, has done exactly that. And grafting a branch that you had cut off from the tree because it didn't bear fruit back into that tree again, that was never done, but God is able to do it, and Paul is going to argue that, in fact, that is what He will do.

In Romans 11, Paul is explaining God's continuing faithfulness to the Jewish people, and he develops that concept of God's faithfulness as we've seen in two basic sections. In verses 1 through 10, we've seen "Israel's Current Spiritual Condition," and then in verses 11 through 32, he shares with us "Israel's Future Spiritual Salvation." We've already looked at the first way he

develops that idea of her future salvation. In verses 11 through 16, we've seen the "Certainty of Her Future Salvation;" it's going to happen; she is going to be restored; she is going to be redeemed; she is going, in the words of verse 16, to be accepted and to experience life from the dead.

But today, we come to the second way that Paul develops this idea of "Israel's Future Spiritual Salvation," and I've called it this, "A Warning in Light of Her Future Salvation," A Warning in Light of Her Future Salvation. That's the message of chapter 11, verses 17 through 24. Let's read it together; you follow along in your copy of the Scriptures or the Bible that's there in the seat in front of you. Chapter 11, verse 17:

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

Now that is a fascinating passage, and my suspicion is that most of you, sitting here this morning, have never heard a sermon on that passage. But it is crucial for us to understand. Now let me begin to make a couple of observations. First of all, there is something that is clear in the Greek text that is not immediately obvious in the English text. Throughout this paragraph, Paul uses the second person singular. In English, when we talk about you, second person, that can be singular, meaning you as an individual, or it can mean plural, you as a group, right? There aren't two different words in English for you.

But Paul, throughout this passage, both in the pronouns he uses and in the verbs he uses, uses the second person singular. Why is that important? It means that he is addressing this paragraph, not to us collectively as Gentiles, most of us here are Gentiles, but rather to each of us individually who are primarily Gentile by birth. If you're here this morning and you are primarily Gentile, Paul wrote this paragraph and ultimately the Holy Spirit wrote this paragraph directed to you personally and individually. There's something very important for you to understand.

Now also and this is clear in this text, Paul uses an extended metaphor about an olive tree. Now I think you understand that the olive tree is common throughout the Mediterranean world including Israel. The olive tree typically grows to about twenty feet high; its branches are covered year-round with long thin leaves that are green on the top side and silvery on the bottom. The olive produces clusters of white flowers, the buds really of the olives, and in about five to six months after the flowers, the olives are ripe and ready for harvest. The olive tree is amazingly resilient. In fact, there are some throughout the Mediterranean, including in Israel, that are estimated to be more than a thousand years old.

In biblical times, the olive tree was not prized for its fruit; you didn't go to, you know, lunch at the typical diner down the street and, along with your sandwich, have a number of olives to eat. They simply weren't eaten. That's because the fruit of the olive tree is incredibly bitter. If you were to go to an olive tree and pick an olive off of it and try to eat it, you would immediately spit it out. It is incredibly bitter; it has to be very heavily processed in order to be enjoyed.

The idea of pickling or salting olives didn't become popular until the Romans when they found a way to shortcut the process, and it was only then, in the time the Romans, that olives first began to be added to dinner tables. But even today, olives are not used mostly for food. Only 10% of the olives that are harvested today make it to somebody's table; 90% of them are harvested for their oil, and in ancient times, it was the same way. In ancient times, olive trees were valuable primarily not because you got some food from them but rather for two resources that you got from an olive tree. First of all, it's wood. Its wood was highly prized, and in 1 Kings 6, we're told that this hard beautifully grained wood was used in Solomon's Temple to decorate it, make it a magnificent place.

But primarily, olive trees were used for oil. Olive oil was crucial to the economy of ancient Israel and to their daily life. The Hebrew word for oil meaning olive oil occurs over 150 times in the Old Testament. How was it used? Well, see if you use it this way? Olive oil, in the ancient world, was used primarily in these ways.

First of all, as fuel for lighting; your little oil lamp was fueled by olive oil. Secondly, it was used, as many of us do, for cooking. Then it was used for medicinal purposes. And finally, it was used for moisturizing the skin; which perhaps some of the moisturizers you put on this morning have olive oil as a base or have them somehow as part of the ingredient. So that's what Paul is referring to here.

Now in verses 17 to 24, Paul uses olive trees and especially the grafting of olive trees as an illustration of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and God's relationship to both. Now, there are a couple of keys that are important for you to understand this paragraph, let me give you these keys that sort of unlock this passage. Key number one, the first key, is you need to understand the groups that are represented in this metaphor of the olive tree. And these groups, by the way, I am going to give them to you upfront, but they are going to become obvious as we work our way through the passage.

Okay, here are the groups. Number one, you have the olive tree itself, which represents the believing people of God, that's the olive tree. Secondly, you have the root of the tree. It represents, as we discovered last week in verse 16, the patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the promises that God made to them. Thirdly, you have the original branches on this olive tree that remain on the tree that are still there, they haven't been cut off. Those are the physical descendants of Abraham who believe, who are true believers. Then you have the original branches that were on this olive tree that were broken off; they are the physical descendants of Abraham who did not believe. And then finally, you have the wild olive branches that are grafted in and they are us, for the most part, Gentile believers. So those are the groups in this metaphor, and we'll see that as it unfolds.

There's a second key, however, to understanding this section, and that is understanding the main command which this paragraph makes. Look at verse 18, here's the point, "do not be arrogant toward the branches." It's repeated in a different way in verse 20; notice the second half of verse 20, "Do not be conceited, but fear." You see this paragraph is in essence a warning directed at each one of us of Gentile descent. Don't be arrogant toward the branches!

Now, what is this word arrogant? Well, the Greek word simply means to boast at the expense of another. It means to revel in your defeat of or triumph over someone else. In fact, it's used in secular Greek of a gladiator who is boasting over his defeated enemy; that's the concept here. So, this entire paragraph is a warning directed each one of us of Gentile descent, "do not be arrogant toward the branches."

If I could reduce its message to one short expression it would be this, "As Gentiles, we must never become arrogant toward the Jews because of our new place in God's plan of redemption; we must never become arrogant toward the Jews because of our new place in God's plan of redemption." We must never boast in our spiritual position at the expense of the Jewish people.

Now, why not? Well, in verses 17 to 24, we're going to see that Paul gives us three reasons we must never become arrogant as the redeemed people of God toward the Jews. Let's look at them together, three reasons. Number one, remember your real relationship to the people of God. This is the message of verses 17 and 18, and he's going to show us that real relationship in several ways. Let's kind of break this down a little bit.

What is our real relationship? Well, the first thing we need to understand about our real relationship to the true people of God is you, Gentile Christian, were not part of the tree; you were not part of the tree. Look at verse 17, "you, being a wild olive." There are two kinds of olive trees in this paragraph and in this metaphor that Paul is using; you see them clearly in verse 24. There you find a wild olive tree; that's, we're told, what by nature we belong to, Gentiles. And then there is a cultivated olive tree; that's the Jewish people and particularly the true people of God within Israel, the branches that were left. So those are the two.

Now, why does this matter? Well, if you don't know anything about olive trees, you may not understand this, but wild olive trees grow from dispersed seeds; either blown by the wind or carried by birds, and those seeds are spread and wild olive trees sprout up. On the other hand, cultivated olives are planted, and typically, cultivated olive trees are planted, using shoots that have grown up at the base of another cultivated tree. Why does it matter? Because, and this is sort of a shocking thing to learn, but wild olive trees are notoriously bad at, guess what, producing olives.

Yeah, you want to say, "You only had one job," right? But they are, they're notoriously bad at it. For an olive tree to be productive, it had to be cultivated. And Paul says in verse 17, "you [meaning the Gentile believer] …you were a wild olive," or in the words of verse 24, "You belonged by nature to a wild olive tree." That is, you were completely unproductive! You encouraged yet? This is what Paul wants you to know. Spiritually, you were completely without fruit, and you weren't part of the tree, which is the people of God. You were completely disconnected from the people of God; you didn't belong. You didn't belong to God's people; you were completely unattached to the patriarchs and the promises that were made to them.

Let me show you what it meant to be born into the tree that represented the true people of God. If you were Jewish, chapter 9, verse 4, the Israelites, okay, the Jewish people, notice their position here:

[To them] belongs the adoption as sons, [that is, God adopted them as a nation, as a whole, as His people. It doesn't mean the salvation of every individual Jewish person, but as a whole, they were adopted.] . . . and the glory [that is they got to see the Shekinah glory of God at the Temple] and the covenants [all of the covenants were made with the descendants of Abraham and we get in on them] and the giving of the Law [they're the ones who received God's Law] and the temple service and the promises, [theirs also was] whose are the fathers, [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] and from whom is the Christ [Messiah] according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever [that was their position].

Do you want to know what your position was? It was the same as mine. Go over to Ephesians, chapter 2; Ephesians 2:11, Paul says, "Let me tell you what it's like to be born Gentile." Ephesians 2:11:

Therefore remember that formerly [that is before you came to Christ] you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision" by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands- [verse 12] remember that you were at that time [before your salvation, now notice this] separate from Christ, [the Messiah, you were] excluded from the commonwealth of Israel [you were a stranger] . . . to the covenants of promise, [and because you didn't have any of the promises you had] having no hope and [you were] without God in the world. [That was our position but thank God for verse 13.] But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Do you see the point Paul is making? He's saying, "Listen, back in chapter 11 of Romans, you weren't part of the tree. Do you get this? You didn't belong to the tree." But he doesn't leave it there. He also makes a second point as he explains our real relationship to the true people of God. It's that you were sovereignly grafted in and became a partaker of the root. This is the message of verse 17 and beginning in verse 18. Look at verse 17, "But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree." Now you'll immediately notice that verse 17, in its entirety, is an if statement. The then statement is the first part of verse 18, "[Then don't] be arrogant toward the branches."

But there are two parts to the condition in verse 17. The first part is this, "If some of the branches were broken off." This refers to the physical descendants of Abraham who belonged to the chosen people of God, as a whole, who enjoyed the blessings that came with that, we just saw them in chapter 9, "but they have now been broken off," or cut off, it's passive, but this is what's called a divine passive meaning God did it; God cut them off; God broke them off from those blessings. Why? Why did God cut them off from these blessings? Verse 20, "[Because of] their [own] unbelief." They were broken off because of "their unbelief" and so this is what happened. That condition has been met; it's already happened.

Now, the second condition in verse 17 is, "if…you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree." Now grafted in here is a very technical arborist term. I'm going to show you a couple of slides, and there are pictures of, if you look at the right side, you'll see limbs that have been grafted in, old graphs into existing ancient olive trees and how it's grown through the years; you can see the difference. That's the idea here. You've been grafted in; we were wild olive branches. That is, we were unproductive; we bore no fruit, and we weren't part of the true people of God. But God, in His grace, has grafted us in; He gave us true faith, and He graciously made us part of the true people of God.

Notice the expression "among them" in verse 17. That means among the branches that remained on the tree, in other words, among the believing descendants of Abraham. We have been grafted in among them, and as a result verse 17 says, "[we have] become partakers." The word means participants or partners with them, that is with the true Jewish believers of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, of the rich root of the olive tree. Listen; if you're a Christian, both of the conditions of verse 17 have been met. Some Jewish branches have been cut off and you have been grafted in.

Therefore, verse 18, "do not be arrogant toward the branches." I think he means don't be arrogant toward the branches that have been broken off, the Jewish unbelievers, and don't be arrogant toward the branches that remain, the Jewish Christians.

Now, why would we be tempted to arrogance toward the Jewish people? I don't believe the issue here is primarily anti-Semitism, although that certainly involved, and we talked about that even last week; that's unacceptable for a Christian. I think he's talking about misunderstanding how the Jewish people are now connected to the purpose of God. Here's how Douglas Moo puts in his commentary and I think he's exactly right. He says, "These Gentile believers were apparently convinced that they belonged to a new people of God that had simply replaced Israel." Those Jews who believed, they apparently assumed if some of them came to faith, they could become part of their community and on their terms. It's like look, if they want to come now, there's this new thing God has done entirely separate from the Jews. He's done with them; He's rejected them. We are now the new deal in town; and if they want to come, fine, they come on our terms and our conditions. That's the temptation and Paul says, "Don't you dare, for a moment, be tempted in that direction because you weren't part of the tree, and God sovereignly grafted you in so that you became a partaker of the root."

And that brings us to the third way to understand our real relationship to the people of God. It's you don't support the root, but the root supports you. Notice how he puts it in the second half of verse 18, "if you are arrogant, [in spite of the warning I'm giving you if you try to move forward and do that], remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you."

You see, by boasting at the expense of the Jews, Gentile Christians disdain the Jewish heritage of our faith. You understand that Christianity is not something entirely new that God has done. You're not part of a new faith that originated 2000 years ago. Christianity is the promised fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures and of the true Jewish faith, not the false faith that Judaism had become in the first century, but of the true believers, we celebrate in our Old Testament, the ones listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11. We are merely the fulfillment of what God had already begun to do.

In fact, our Lord Himself put it this way, you remember, in His interchange with the Samaritan woman in John, chapter 4. He says to her, He says, "Listen, you don't even know what you're worshiping." And then He makes this remarkable statement; this is our Lord, "Salvation is from the Jews." Do you believe that? That's what our Lord said, "Salvation is from the Jews." The only reason you have salvation today is because of what God did in bringing the gospel to Abraham and through his descendants through the Scripture through the Messiah, all of which are Jewish, to you. "Salvation is of the Jews." It is through Abraham that we have received all the spiritual blessings and promises of God, including the gospel and the Messiah Himself.

We already saw this, go back to Romans 4:16. Paul writes, "For this reason justification is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, [now watch the rest of verse 16] so that the promise will be guaranteed to all [of Abraham's spiritual] descendants, not only to those who are [Jewish, who are] of the Law, but also to [the Gentiles] those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all."

Whether you're Jewish or Gentile, if you're a true believer, Abraham is the father of us all, "as it is written, 'A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU.'" This is our faith. Paul puts it even clearer in Galatians; go to Galatians 3:6, he says, "Abraham BELIEVED GOD," and remember, now, Paul is writing to Gentiles primarily. He says in verse 6:

Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU."

He goes back to Genesis 12:3 and he says when God said through you the nations of the world, the Gentiles will be spiritually blessed, that was the gospel because God can only spiritually bless those whom He has brought into right relationship with Himself. It was a promise of ultimately the gospel and the Messiah. Look at verse 14, he goes on even further, he says, "in Christ Jesus, the blessing of Abraham [comes] to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." And he can't say it any clearer than he does in verse 29, "if you belong to Christ, [are you a Christian] then you [belong to Christ. If you belong to Christ,] then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise."

You have been grafted into something that existed before you, and you now reap the rich fruit that comes from the root that is Abraham and promises made to him. There has always been only one true people of God, and we belong, now, to that people, having been grafted in. Now once you belong to that tree, it doesn't matter what tree you originally came from; it doesn't matter whether you are a wild olive tree branch or whether you were part of the cultivated tree, whether you were Jew or Gentile, now you belong to the one true people of God. But the one true people of God to which we all belong, listen carefully, will always have a distinctively Jewish root. And that means our faith has a Jewish heritage, that's what Paul is saying to us Gentiles; the root supports us all.

Now, there's a second important reason that Paul gives back in Romans, chapter 11, for why we should not become arrogant against the Jews; not only because we need to remember our real position in relationship to the people of God, but secondly, remember your position is solely by faith which means entirely by grace. This is the message of verses 19 to 22. The main idea of these verses is that we who have been grafted in have no natural superiority to the Jews, and so we have to remind ourselves of why some of the Jewish people were broken off and why some of us Gentiles were added.

Paul continues his argument in verse 19, by quoting a hypothetical Gentile Christian who is trying to justify his arrogance toward the Jews. He says, okay, you might be tempted to say something like this, verse 19, "You will say then, 'Branches were broken off so that I [and in the Greek text, the "I" is really emphasized, it's emphatic.; so that I, myself] might be grafted in.'"

Paul partially agrees, verse 20, he says, "Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith." He says, "Listen, Jewish unbelievers were broken off because of their unbelief. They weren't true believers in God through His Son in the New Testament era, and Gentile believers were added and stand before God by their faith."

Now if you're not careful, if you read that carelessly, you might come to a wrong conclusion because, at face value, it appears to be enabling us to boast about our own contribution to our salvation. It's like, "Well, they didn't believe, but me, I did." That's not what Paul is saying all.

In fact, in reality, what Paul says here actually removes all calls for boasting. He says, "No way you can mistakenly conclude that your faith is the cause of your salvation." Notice what he does say in verse 20; he says the ground of your being grafted in is solely "your faith."

Now, why is that important? Because we have already discovered in Romans that the reason salvation is by faith alone without any works is so that it might also be completely and totally, by what, grace alone. Paul's made this point crystal clear. Go back to chapter 4, verse 16, again; I intentionally sort of read over a phrase here. Look at chapter 4, verse 16 again; notice how it begins, "For this reason [justification] . . . is by faith, [why] in order that it may be in accordance with grace." He says it had to be by faith alone so they it could be by grace alone. Look at chapter 9, verse 32. He gives this same sort of comparison. He says the Jews pursued being right with God "not . . . by faith, but as though it were by works." Why does that matter? Well, look at chapter 11, verse 6, "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." Do you understand that the only way your salvation could be entirely by grace was only if it was by faith alone, otherwise you contribute some works?

Let me see if I can illustrate this in a totally different context. Let's assume for a moment, and I trust this isn't true, but let's assume that you are totally and completely broke. You have zero dollars, you don't have enough for lunch, you're sitting there wondering, "What am I going to do to eat for lunch?" And I say to you, "Listen, I tell you what, don't worry about it. You can work for me; you do work for me, and I will pay you, and you will have money to buy what you need." Now if we make that arrangement then that is not grace. Oh, there might be a little grace thrown in if I pay you more than you actually earn, but in part, you're going to be earning that, right, because of your work.

But what if, on the other hand, I'd say to you, "Listen I know you're broke; I know you don't have anything; you don't have money for lunch. Listen, just trust me, and I will give you the money you need to meet all of your needs." Your trust in my promise to provide is not work; you're just trusting me to do what I said. You don't work for it at all. I give it to you. In that case, it's not earned, it's not works, it's grace; it's entirely grace. And you're believing my promise isn't work. In the same way, since salvation is by faith alone, it is, by definition, by grace alone. You don't do anything, you don't earn it, you don't contribute at all. Instead, you simply believe the promise of God in terms of what He will do, and therefore you believing that promise isn't a work in any way. It is completely of God.

You see the point here is there has always been only one way of salvation, the way Abraham discovered, and that was by grace alone which means through faith alone without any human work, but faith purely in the work of the Messiah alone. Salvation comes only to those who believe like Abraham, and that means we stand solely by God's grace, and that gift is received by faith, faith in His promise, and there's no work in it whatsoever.

In light of the fact that we stand before God solely by faith alone and therefore by grace alone, notice verse 20, "Do not be conceited, but fear." Literally, the Greek text says, "Do not think high." It means to think lofty high thoughts, to be proud, to be haughty. Don't think too highly of yourself and the position that you have; instead, notice we are to fear.

Fear, in this context, means obviously, a profound respect for and reverence for God. But I think it also means, are you ready for this, fear, like fear. Why? Because notice why we should fear, verse 21, "for [here's why you should fear, fear because,] if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either." Now that's a little disconcerting, isn't it?

Let me tell you what this does not mean. This does not mean that true believers can lose their salvation because that would contradict everything Paul has already said in Romans. It would contradict what he said in Romans 5:1, where he says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." It would contradict chapter 8, verse 1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." It would contradict chapter 8, verses 29 and 30 where he says, "If God called you according to His purpose, He justified you; and if He justified you, He will glorify you." It would contradict the end of Romans, chapter 8, where Paul says, "There is nothing that could separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." In fact, 1 Peter 1:5 says, "[we are kept] by the power of God." So true believers can't lose their salvation.

So, what is Paul talking about here? He won't spare you either. He's teaching what the New Testament teaches in many places, and that is that true believers will persevere in their faith until their death or Christ's return. Our Lord put it this way in Matthew 24:13, "the one who endures to the end . . . will be saved." It doesn't mean your endurance earns salvation; it means your endurance and faith shows that you really had faith. It shows that it's genuine. Look at Colossians, chapter 1. This is Paul's message here in Colossians 1:23, start in verse 22, he says:

[Christ is going] . . . to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – [and then he says this in verse 23] if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard.

You've got to endure, you've got to continue, you've got to persevere. Hebrews 3:6 makes the same point, he says, "[we belong to God's household] . . . whose house we are, [and then he says] if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end." You really belong to God's people if you continue to persevere in your faith. Look at verse 14, "We have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end." As one author put it, "Perseverance is the hallmark of God's authentic children."

So, if genuine believers will persevere in their faith, which is exactly what the Scriptures teach, we are kept by the power of God, then what is the purpose of warning passages like the one in Romans 11, and in other places? What's its purpose? Well, it serves a dual purpose. First of all, for true believers, those who really are believers, the warning passages serve as a motivation to continue to persevere in our faith. In fact, I would go a step farther; the warning passages are one of the tools God uses to keep us in the faith. Because true believers read those warning passages and you know how they respond? They're like, "Oh, I don't want that to be me. I want to press on; I want to follow Christ; I want to obey Him." That's how true believers respond to the warning passages, "Oh, I never want that to be me."

You know how unbelievers respond to the warning passages? "Yawn, not going to be me, I'm good." And so, God uses the warning passages to keep us persevering. Acts 13:43 says, "When the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, [listen to this] were urging them to continue in the grace of God." That's perseverance.

These warning passages also have a purpose for professing unbelievers, that is people who profess Christ but don't really belong to Christ. Because they serve as a warning that you are not a genuine believer if you do not continue to believe in Christ, to follow Christ, and to bear the fruit of obedience in your life. I like the way James Montgomery Boice used to say it. He said, "If you're not regularly following Christ in faithful discipleship, then you're not a disciple. And if you're not a disciple, then you're not Christian."

Now in verse 22, Paul summarizes and brings out the implication of what he's been teaching. Notice verse 22, "Behold then the kindness and severity of God." Paul says, "Behold." Notice what I've been teaching about these two attributes of God. First, there is the kindness of God. That is a word which includes the idea of God's goodness, His kindness, and His generosity. "And [the] severity of God." This Greek word occurs only here in the biblical Greek, and it's the opposite of God's kindness. Now, don't misunderstand, God is kind to all; the Scripture teaches that. He's kind to all sinners; but here we're told, sinners will get eventually His severity. In other words, He is in an unwavering way opposed to evil. His moral purpose is inflexible; He cannot tolerate evil; and eventually, He must treat it with severity. So, verse 22 applies it, "to those who fell, severity." That is, all who failed to believe in God's way of salvation will receive, what, God's severity. He, in the words of verse 21, "will not spare [them]'; verse 17, "He will cut them off from the people of God." In the words of John 15, "He will throw them in the fire as worthless, fruitless branches."

Listen, understand this, if you don't believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son, it's very tempting for you to believe because you enjoy, right now, some of the kindness of God, to think that you and God are okay and that when you stand at the judgment, it's going to work out. Let me tell you something, "It's not going to work out." Paul says, and this is ultimately the Holy Spirit Himself saying, "You will face the severity of God if you don't believe in His Son." Verse 22, "but to you, [that is those who have believed] God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness." Those who believe only do so because of God's kindness, or we could say, "because of His grace." But we must continue in His kindness; that is, we must persevere in the grace of God, continuing to believe in His Son. Verse 22 says, "otherwise you also will be cut off." If the professing believer does not continue in the grace of God, continue believing in His Son and thereby producing fruit, just like the unbelieving Jews, he'll be cut off from the tree, from the true people of God.

He will, [in the words of Douglas Moo], be severed forever from the people of God and eternally condemned. [Moo goes on to say this.] Paul echoes a consistent New Testament theme [listen, listen carefully], ultimate salvation is dependent on continuing faith. Therefore, the person who ceases to believe forfeits any hope of salvation.

You see, the person who stops believing proves that he never really believed at all. It's what

1 John 2:19, says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." True believers persevere.

There's a third reason we should not become arrogant toward the Jews; it's in verses 23 and 24, remember that God is able to add believing Jews back to the people of God. Paul offers hope here that the Jews eventually will be renewed spiritually and saved. Look at verse 23, "And they also [that is the branches that were cut off for their unbelief], if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again." If Jewish unbelievers come to believe in Christ, they will be grafted in.

Now an arborist, in the real world, would never do this. He would never graft branches that he already cut off because they were unfruitful, back into the tree because he can't make them live again, but God can. This is the miracle of divine grace. He is able to graft them in again. Verse 24, here's one reason it shouldn't surprise us if God does exactly that, "For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree [you Gentile believers], and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree [which is the people of God, notice these words], how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?"

Now don't misunderstand, Paul doesn't mean that it's easier for God to save Jewish people; nor does it mean that the Jews have an inherent claim on God. We are all sinners, all equally condemned, God must intervene in the same way with the gospel. Paul simply means in verse 24, that if God was willing to graft Gentiles into His people, then it shouldn't surprise us if He chooses to re-graft Jewish people into His people. And in verse 25 Paul is going to tell us that that's exactly what God will do; all Israel will be saved. It's an amazing passage.

Very briefly, let me draw out several lessons; I'm really just going to list them for you; you can think and meditate on these things. Several lessons from this paragraph. Number one, don't allow a sentimental view of God to cloud your spiritual perspective. God shows kindness to those who believe in His Son, but God will show severity to those who don't.

Let me just say to you, "If you're here this morning and you're not in Christ, don't you kid yourself that you and God are okay; and that somehow, outside of His Son, outside of your repenting and believing in His Son, you're going to be fine at the judgment. You will receive the severity of God!" I plead with you to find His kindness and grace in Jesus Christ today; turn from your sin, put your faith in His Son and His life and sacrifice and resurrection, and you will experience the grace of God, "To you who believe, the kindness of God."

Number two, be warned that only those who manifest the fruit of righteous lives belong to the true people of God. I wish I had time to take you to John 15, but why were the branches cut off? Well, it's because they didn't bear fruit. In John 15, he's using not the Jewish people there but professing believers, those who attach themselves to Christ and the church but aren't really believers. God looks at them, sees they aren't bearing fruit, and He whacks them off and tosses them in the fire. Because only those who are bearing fruit of righteousness in their lives really know the Righteous One. Be warned!

Number three, persevere in your faith, persevere. Philippians 2:12 puts it this way; it says, "[you are to] work out your [own] salvation." Not for your salvation but having already received salvation by grace, you are to "work [it] out [in] . . . fear and trembling;" and in the context, he's talking about obedience. Persevere in your faith. Keep on believing; keep on pursuing Christ.

I don't know about you, but even when I hear that expectation, it concerns me, "Can I continue to persevere?" And the answer is if you're in Christ, you can. Why? 1 Peter 1:5, "[because you are kept] by the power of God," so you persevere and that song we sing all the time will be true, "He will hold me fast."

Number four, and this is the point of the passage, don't be arrogant toward the Jews; they still occupied the central place in God's redemptive plan, and we Gentiles have been graciously added. Folks, the church has not replaced Israel; God grafted us into an already existing tree. Our spiritual heritage is Jewish, verse 17, "[we] became [a] partaker with them." Verse 18, "the root supports [us]." We all belong to one true people of God with the same root; Abraham and the promises that were made to him.

And number five, don't give up on those in your life who don't believe, because God is able to give them faith and to graft them in.

Let's pray together. Father, these are remarkable, amazing, encouraging truths. Lord, help us to think biblically about our place in the family tree, our relationship to the true people of God. Thank You, oh, God, that while we were, most of us in this room, were not by nature a part of that tree, yet in Your amazing grace, contrary to nature, You have grafted us into that tree. You've given us faith in Your Son, and we are now part of the true people of God. Lord, we thank You! Help us to think rightly, humbly, and not to become arrogant toward the Jewish branches, those who have remained and believed or those who have been cut off. Lord, thank You that You are able to graft them in again.

Lord, I pray that You would help us to think biblically about ourselves, about the gospel, about all of these things. And Lord, I pray for those here this morning who are not in Christ, help them to see the reality that while You are kind to them as You are kind to all men today, that that will not always be true; that if they will not repent and believe, You cannot help it, You will respond to them in severity with the justice their sins deserve. Oh, God, help them to run from their sin, to find Your kindness and Your grace in Jesus Christ, even today. We pray in Jesus's name, Amen.