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 stand in awe.
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. (ESV)
The Jews were a nation most favored by God for a period of perhaps two thousand years, from the time of Abraham up to the time of Jesus Christ and the beginning of the church. However, we are told in Romans 11:25 that the majority of Israel failed to rejoice in Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, and thus have hardened their hearts. “Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” (ESV) There was at the time of the Jesus, and still is today, a remnant of Jews who are alive to the gospel message and are saved. Romans 11:5 “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.” (ESV) But the majority of Jews are hardened against Jesus Christ.
The question we want to consider today is “Why?” Why is it that the Jewish nation became hardened to Jesus Christ, and why is it that the Gentiles were then grafted into the olive tree whose roots go back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? We find the answer to the first question in the beginning of Romans 11:20 “They were broken off because of their unbelief…” (ESV) The Jews were branches broken off from the olive tree because the majority refused to believe in Jesus Christ, that He is the promised Messiah, that He is the Lord and Savior, that He is the only way to God the Father. We are told concerning Jesus Christ in John 1:11-13 “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (ESV)
The second question is answered in the next phrase of Romans 11:20 “…but you stand fast through faith.” (ESV) The Gentiles have become part of the olive tree because of faith, which is a gift of God. God in His unsearchable mercy took from the heathen Gentile nations a people who were rebellious against God and made them part of His most favored nation. We saw this begin very early in the book of Acts with the Ethiopian Eunuch and Cornelius the Centurion. Romans 11:30-32 says “Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” (ESV) A common characteristic between Jew and Gentile is that all are disobedient. And another common characteristic is that God has chosen to be merciful to the elect of both Jew and Gentile nations.
The primary point that I wish to focus on today is the warning found in Romans 11:20-21. “So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.” (ESV) It would be easy for the church, which is primarily made up of Gentiles today, to become proud and boast against the Jewish nation. Paul warns us that this pride would be ill-founded, and that, instead, the church today should stand in awe before God because of the wonderful work He has done. Otherwise, notice what Paul says in Romans 11:21. God is able to cast off the Gentile nations from His promise just as He did with the Jewish nation. “For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.” (ESV)
I am convinced that we have seen this casting off begin to take place in America. America was once a Christian nation, a nation founded on Christian principles, a nation blessed to see many great awakenings by the power of God, a nation which was a beacon of light for the rest of the world. But now America has fallen largely into a state of unbelief. A repeated theme that I have heard among the most respectable Christians in America today is that the “American Way” is no longer the Christian way. Albert Mohler wrote about this in a blog this week entitled “The ‘American Experience’ and the Death of Evangelism.” Paul Washer has commented that churches in foreign nations no longer want to see missionaries come from America because we no longer hold to the gospel message. We are a perverting influence rather than a saving influence.
It is time that we here in America look at the history of the Jewish nation as an example of what awaits those who fall into unbelief, who reject Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In 70 A.D., Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, and the Jewish nation was scattered across the earth. And ever since, the Jews have been persecuted in practically every land they have settled in. Since 1948, the history of Jews who have returned to Israel has been nothing but warfare and terrorism. We should heed the warning of Romans 11:21 “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.” (ESV) We are called to do two things:
1) notice both the extent of the kindness and the severity of God, and
2) continue in the kindness. In other words, do not fall into a state of unbelief.
And the place to begin this work is within what is left of the church in America.
By Berean Husband