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The Two Olive Trees
Summary —A Part of Israel Saved. The Rest Blinded by their Hardness of Heart. The Salvation of the Gentiles through the Fall of Israel. The Figure of the Two Olive Trees. The Jewish Branches Broken Off. The Gentile Branches Grafted In. Yet Israel Shall Be Saved. God's Unsearchable Judgments.
1–4. Hath God cast away his people? In chapter 10 Paul has shown that the Gentiles were to come into God's favor, and the Jews, the chosen people, to be rejected. He now asks whether the Jews were finally cast off. He shows that the rejection was not total, but partial, many Jews being saved; and secondly, that it was not eternal, but finally all Israel would come to Christ. I also am an Israelite. Hence all Israel is not cast off, since he, an Israelite, is an apostle of Christ. He shows that he is of approved Jewish descent. 2. God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew. Israel was the people foreknown, “the chosen people.” In verse 1, “his people” refers to the nation; here it must mean the same, not individuals. The nation foreknown and chosen is not totally and eternally cast off. This is what Paul means, and what he devotes the rest of the chapter to proving. He first shows that a portion of Israel is saved. Know ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? The passage referred to is found in 1 Kings 19:10. Elijah, a fugitive for his life, in his appeal to God, assumes that all Israel had fallen into the idol worship of Ahab and Jezebel. But there were true worshipers left, although the nation seemed to have fallen away. In what seemed a general apostasy, there were seven thousand left. So, argues the apostle, there are faithful ones left now in Israel. 4. Not bowed the knee to Baal. Baal was the principal deity of the Phoenicians, and represented the sun. Jezebel, the queen of Ahab, was a Phoenician, and sought to supplant the worship of Jehovah with the worship of Baal. Though it seemed as though she had succeeded, still there were those left who had not bowed the knee to the false God. 55
5, 6. Even so … there is a remnant. As in the times of Ahab, there is “a remnant,” a portion of Israel left, which is faithful. According to the election of grace. “The ideas contained in these words is this: In virtue of the election of Israel as the salvation-people, God has not left them in our days without a faithful remnant any more than he did the in the kingdom of the Ten Tribes at the period when a far grosser heathenism prevailed.”—Godet. The idea is that Israel was the elected (chosen people), and out of it God had always preserved a remnant by his grace. The election of individuals is not referred to, but the election of a remnant to represent the race. 6. If by grace, then is it no more of works. The salvation of the gospel is by grace, that is, it is the gift which springs from the love of God. If that be true, it is not to be earned by the works of the Jewish law. Paul is very emphatic is showing that the Jewish Christians were saved, not because they deserved it on account of keeping the law blameless, but because they accepted the offered mercy of God.
7–10. What then? What is the inference from the fact that the greater part of Israel has fallen away? It is that Israel has not obtained what it hoped and sought for, justification by the law, and is under condemnation, but that the election hath obtained it. “The election” means “the elect,” and this term is applied to all believers. Here it is limited to that portion of the elect people, Israel, which had accepted Christ, and hence were an elect remnant. That “election” does not mean a decree that an individual shall be eternally saved is shown by 2 Peter 1:10: “Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” If an individual was elected before time began to eternal salvation by a divine decree, no act of his could render his election surer. The scriptural election is one that requires diligence on our part, and effort to keep from falling. The rest were blinded. Israel had eyes and saw not. See Isaiah 6:9; also Matt. 13:14, 15. The Savior says they were blinded because they closed their eyes. It was their own act. 8. As it is written. Isaiah 29:10. The deep sleep spoken of by the prophet was sent because Israel abused its opportunities. They who love darkness will finally be left in darkness. 9. And David saith. Psalm 69:22, 23. Let their table be made a snare, etc. This prediction is applied to the enemies of Christ. Its meaning is that their enmity shall react upon and injure themselves. Even their table shall become a place of danger. 10. Let their eyes be darkened. Darkness shall come upon them because they love darkness rather than light. Bow thou down their back. This implies a condition of bondage on account of their sins.
11–15. Have they stumbled that they should fall? Shall we conclude that Israel has fallen forever? The apostle now proceeds to the second branch of his argument, and shows that God, for wise reasons, has cast off Israel for a time, but that finally the nation will be converted. Through their 56fall salvation is come to the Gentiles. Christ said, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” He referred to the cross. Rejected by the Jewish nation, and sent to the cross, he became the Savior of all mankind, Gentiles as well as Jews. So, too, the rejection of the gospel by the Jews, accelerated the preaching among the Gentiles. See Acts 8:4; 13:46. So, too, when the Jews crucified Christ, “the handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross,” the “partition wall” between Jews and Gentiles was broken down. So the result of the Jews hardening themselves and rejecting Christ was, under the providence of God, that the Gentiles should be saved. To provoke them to jealousy. The elder brother, in the parable of the Prodigal Son, was filled with jealousy when he saw the younger son accepted by the father. 12. If the fall of them be the riches of the world. In contributing to the conversion of the Gentiles their fall has been “riches.” How much more their fulness? In the remaining part of the chapter the apostle shows the grand results which will follow the final conversion of the Jewish nation as a body. 13. I speak to you as Gentiles. As an apostle to the Gentiles he reminded them of what they owed to the falling away of the Jews, and was active in his office (magnify mine office), seeking to convert as many Gentiles as possible, hoping thus (verse 14) to provoke to emulation his Jewish brethren. 15. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world. See the notes on Rom. 11:11. Their unbelief caused the preaching of the gospel of reconciliation to the Gentiles. But life from the dead. The apostle, under this strong expression, describes a wonderful resurrection of spiritual life which will follow the national conversion of Israel.
16–24. For if the first fruit be holy, the lump is also holy. See Numbers 15:18–21. Some explain the first fruits by Abraham and the patriarchs. It probably refers, rather, to the Jewish Christians, “the election by grace” (verse 5). If a portion of the nation has been saved, it is an assurance that the whole nation can be saved. And if the root be holy. The root may refer to Abraham. The figure is that of a tree, with the patriarchs for the root. “Holy” is used in the sense of acceptable to God, a common sense in the Scriptures. In the next verse the figure of the root, the stalk and the tree, is expanded. 17. Now if some of the branches were broken off. To understand the next seven verses we must have a clear idea of what is meant by the olive tree. That it means the chosen family of Abraham, not his children merely of the flesh, but his believing children, the heirs of the promise, is clear. The Jewish nation inherited the temporal promises as Abraham's children; we become heirs of the promise when we become his children by faith. See Gal. 3:28, 29. The Jews, the natural branches of this olive tree, “were broken off” by unbelief. The root is Abraham. Thou, being a wild olive, wast grafted in. When the Jews, the natural branches, were broken off by their unbelief, the Gentile Christians, not natural branches, not of the seed of Abraham, but wild olive, “were grafted in;” that is, were adopted into God's family, and became Abraham's children. With them partakest of the root. With Jewish Christians, these Gentile Christians became partakers of all the blessings 57belonging to Abraham's seed. 18. Boast not over the branches. There is too much of this in the prejudice against the Jewish race. The root beareth thee. The riches of grace of the Gentile Christian are due to the fact that he is “grafted in” upon the Abrahamic stock, and becomes his child by faith. 19. Thou wilt say. Perhaps the Gentile believer might boast over the Jews: “The Jewish branches were broken off, that we Gentiles might be grafted in. Is not this a preference of the Gentile?” 20. It is not. Because of unbelief they were broken off. Had they believed, they would have remained. The Gentile is grafted in when he believes. Thou standest by faith. Unbelief would cut off the Gentile branch as well as the Jew. 21. For if God spared not the natural branches, the Jews, but broke them off on account of their unbelief, certainly he would not spare the Gentile, not a natural branch, if he was an unbeliever. 22. Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God. “Severity” is shown in breaking off the Jewish branches on account of their unbelief; “goodness,” in admitting Gentile believers. 23. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief. As Gentile believers will be cut off unless they “continue in the goodness of God,” so the Jews, if they abandon their unbelief, shall again be grafted in. They are not cut off by a decree of God casting them away, but by their own unbelief. 24. For if thou, etc. This argument is to the Gentile. If wild branches were grafted into the good olive tree, the Gentiles grafted into the spiritual stock of Abraham, how much more likely is it that the natural branches, the Jews, shall be grafted again into their own olive tree, the seed of Abraham to which they belong by nature.
25–27. I would not … have you ignorant of this mystery. Any secret thing, known to but a few, is called “a mystery.” The mystery that Paul is about to unfold is concerning the conversion of Israel. He unfolds it lest the Gentile Christians may have incorrect views, or be wise in their own conceits. The first thing noted in explaining this mystery, is that hardening hath happened to Israel. This blindness, or hardening, had been due to Israel's sins, especially to unbelief. The second fact is that it would continue until the fulness of the Gentiles had come in, or the greater part of the Gentile world been converted. 26. So all Israel shall be saved. After the fulness of the Gentiles has come in, the Jews, as a people, shall be saved. That is, of the Jews then living, the 58great part shall be converted. The nation shall turn to the Lord. Even as it is written. Paul does not quote literally in what follows, but cites the sense of Isa. 59:20, 21, and Isa. 27:9. There shall come a Deliverer out of Zion. Christ. He shall turn ungodliness from Jacob. Convert to righteousness the descendants of Jacob, the Jews. 27. This is my covenant unto them. The Lord's covenant unto them is what follows, “Take away their sins.” Hence these passages imply the restoration of Israel to the divine favor.
28–32. As touching the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. Their rejection of the gospel had proved a blessing to the Gentile world. See verse 11. Hence their enmity was allowed for the sake of the conversion of the Gentiles. As touching the election. The nation was a chosen nation. Though enemies of God, God still remembered that they were children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and did not cast them off forever, but remembered them in love. To this day he has preserved Israel, and yet purposes the salvation of the nation. 29. For the gifts and calling, etc. God does not change his purposes or fail to keep his covenant. What he has promised concerning Israel will be fulfilled. 30. For as ye, etc. The Gentiles. Formerly they were without God, but had now obtained mercy. This was due, indirectly, as shown, to the Jewish unbelief. 31. Even so have these also now not believed. These Jews who were now in unbelief. Their disobedience had opened the door for the Gentiles. But the mercy shown the Gentiles, the fact that they are honoring and worshiping God, shall be a means of converting the Jews. Thus shall they also (the Jews) may also obtain mercy. 32. For God hath shut up all unto disobedience. Hath included all under disobedience. First the Gentiles were disobedient, but now were called. Now the Jews were disobedient, but would finally be saved. God would have mercy on all, both Jew and Gentile.
33–36. O the depth of the riches. The rest of the chapter is an outburst of wonder and praise. From a mountain height the apostle surveys the sublime plan of God, and his soul breaks out in a transport of delight. In this wonderful plan for the salvation of Jew and Gentile there is an unfathomable depth of riches, and wisdom, and knowledge. The depth of the knowledge is shown in the latter part of verse 33. The wisdom is described in verse 34, and the riches in verse 35. 59
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