Reading through the Bible together
Paul concludes his gospel appeal to the Jewish nation in this chapter. While it is true that Israel lost its status as the chosen people when they rejected Christ, this does not mean that God has cast away individual Jews. Those who do believe are part of God’s people of grace. Paul reminds his readers that he is a member of the tribe of Benjamin and that God’s grace has saved him. In Paul’s day there were many Jews who believed in Christ, and thus were among those who had been saved by grace and not by works.
Paul shows that Israel did not obtain the glory they were looking for. But what Christ did on the cross accomplished God’s purposes and those Jews who accept His sacrifice are part of the fulfillment of His plan (vs. 7-14). He quotes Isaiah 29:10 and Psalm 69:22 to show that the Jews were blinded and fell asleep and became a stumbling block. This fall, however, led to the salvation of the Gentiles, and it is God’s purpose to use His saving work through the Gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealousy so that they will accept Jesus as the Messiah.
He then shows that the unbelieving Jews are like branches that have been broken off from the olive tree. The Gentiles have been grafted in to replace them. However, if the Jews believe again, they can be naturally grafted in because they are not wild olive branches like the Gentiles. If they can believe in the truth of Christ, it will be very natural for them to be grafted into Christianity (vs. 15-24). Furthermore, if God spared not the natural branches (Jews) because of their unbelief, if the Gentiles, who are the wild branches that have been grafted in, no longer believe, they will be dealt with in the same manner by God as He did with the unbelieving Jews.
Paul closes the chapter by saying that the new spiritual Israel is an olive tree, and is composed of Jews who believe in Christ and Gentiles who have been grafted in. This new Israel is saved by the Deliverer who comes out of Zion and turns them away from the ungodliness of Jacob. Those who are saved are delivered from sin, which comes from the new covenant (vs. 25-36). See also Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:10-13.
Whether a Jew or a Gentile, all are in need of the mercy of God because all have sinned. The depths of the riches and knowledge of God are unsurpassed! His wisdom, knowledge, and judgments are unsearchable. We see that God has done all He can to save everyone, whether a Jew or a Gentile, and He is fair in dealing with those who reject Him. As humans, we cannot completely understand God’s ways, but we know that He loves us and we can trust Him.
Norman McNulty, M.D.
Neurologist, Lawrenceburg, TN, USA