Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
ROMANS 11:19 “THOU WILT SAY THEN, THE BRANCHES WERE BROKEN OFF, THAT I MIGHT BE GRAFTED IN.
Arrogant Gentiles might have been tempted to say God viewed them as being better than Jews. They might infer that God broke off the Jews because He liked Gentiles more. Paul had to respond to any such potential egotism.
ROMANS 11:20a “WELL; BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF THEY WERE BROKEN OFF,”
The change in Jewish history was caused not by Gentile goodness or worthiness, but rather by Jewish sin. Jews were being rejected because they rejected Jesus.
Unbelief was always a major stumbling-block for the Jews. On the verge of Canaan, their faith failed. They measured giants and city walls accurately, but underestimated God. Hence, a generation of them had to wander and die in a wilderness.
During the Judgeship of Samuel, the people lost faith in God’s ability to reign. They demanded a king, and ended up suffering with Saul. In later times of trouble, they again doubted YHWH. They turned to idols, and ended up in captivity.
The Messiah came and walked among them. However, again they were smitten with unbelief.
ROMANS 11:20b “. . .AND THOU STANDEST BY FAITH.”
The Gentile “standing” is based on faith, not merit. Salvation is not a matter of superiority versus inferiority, but one of belief versus unbelief.
With regard to one’s salvation, no man is, in and of himself, better or worse than any other man. All are equally condemned apart from Jesus. All are equally welcomed who receive Jesus by faith.
ROMANS 11:20c-21 “BE NOT HIGH-MINDED, BUT FEAR: FOR IF GOD SPARED NOT THE NATURAL BRANCHES, TAKE HEED LEST HE ALSO SPARE NOT THEE.”
These words are not referring to individuals. It is impossible for anyone to lose salvation. Paul is discussing groups, communities. It is possible for even the greatest churches, denominations, and nations to fall into ruin.
Groups can lose their blessing. God has no “favorites.” All are judged alike. America needs to remember the fate of Israel, Judah, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and Sodom.
Every denomination needs to recall the wave of death that swept over Judaism. That wave later overtook the churches of Asia Minor, more recently it has stifled the churches of Western Europe. Now it is drawing the veil over much of American Protestantism. Every local church needs to ponder what happened to the tabernacle at Shiloh and to the Temple at Jerusalem.
“Seest thou thy brother shipwrecked? Look well to thy tackling” (Trapp). The anointing of God is not guaranteed for a long time. The blessing abides as long as there is faithfulness, but no longer.
Beware pride! It is a monster that drove angels out of Heaven, and Adam and Eve out of Paradise. Pride hanged Haman on his own gallows, and turned Nebuchadnezzar into an animal.
ROMANS 11:22 “BEHOLD THEREFORE THE GOODNESS AND SEVERITY OF GOD: ON THEM WHICH FELL, SEVERITY; BUT TOWARD THEE, GOODNESS, IF THOU CONTINUE IN HIS GOODNESS: OTHERWISE THOU ALSO SHALT BE CUT OFF.”
Goodness and severity–contradictory and yet complementary. Goodness without severity would decline into mushy sentimentality. Severity without goodness would lack winsomeness.
Goodness refers to God’s kindness toward sinners. Severity refers to His rigorous judgments against sin. God is able to save; God is able to destroy. He answers faith, but will not tolerate unfaithfulness.
The cross is the ultimate picture of God’s goodness and severity. There we see His action against sin, but for sinners. God punishes sin, but also encourages men to repent and flee to Him for mercy.
ROMANS 11:23 “AND THEY ALSO, IF THEY ABIDE NOT STILL IN UNBE LIEF, SHALL BE GRAFTED IN; FOR GOD IS ABLE TO GRAFT THEM IN AGAIN.”
The obstacle to Israel’s conversion is not to be found in God, but rather in them. Salvation by grace through faith is available to them.
ROMANS 11:24 “FOR IF THOU WERT CUT OUT OF THE OLIVE TREE WHICH IS WILD BY NATURE, AND WERT GRAFTED CONTRARY TO NATURE INTO A GOOD OLIVE TREE: HOW MUCH MORE SHALL THESE, WHICH BE THE NATURAL BRANCHES, BE GRAFTED INTO THEIR OWN OLIVE TREE?”
God grafted wild branches into His cultivated tree. Therefore, it can be safely assumed that He is able to graft back in those branches that originally belonged to the cultivated tree. Replacing native branches would be easier than inserting foreign ones.
It is possible for Jews to be saved. It is never right for us to say that salvation is an impossibility for any group. Once such a confession is made, there is no longer any effort made to win people within that group.