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The Epistle to the ROMANS.
11: 17 - 36.
pp. 5 - 9
Coming therefore to the parable of the olive tree, we must remind ourselves that the
Israel of chapter 11: must be the same as the Israel of chapter 9: An exegesis that
makes Israel the literal nation in the ninth chapter and then changes it by spiritualizing
into another people when one reaches the chapter we are dealing with is not acceptable.
We must also get quite clear in our minds what grafting into Israel actually means.
Is this only another way of expressing the salvation of Gentiles, or is more than this
intended? Let us give Paul's words:
"If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot,
have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive
root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: you do not support the
root, but the root supports you. You will say then, `branches were broken off so that I
could be grafted in'. Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you
stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural
branches, He will not spare you either" (Rom. 11: 17-21, N.I.V.).
We may ask ourselves, why does the Apostle introduce the theme of the olive tree at
this point? We may be sure of one thing, he did not do so to introduce theological
argument. He has been showing the purpose of the Lord in introducing Gentile believers
was to "provoke" Israel to emulation. This "provocation" is the theme of this context and
its object was to stir the nation up spiritually, to make them realize what they were losing
through unbelief. This is the real reason for the figure of the olive and its grafts and to
miss this is to miss the whole point of the parable. It should be obvious, after the clear
teaching of chapter 8:, that no Gentile could be justified or saved by being placed in
the position forfeited by one of the natural branches of the olive tree. Chapter 8: has
stressed that no believer who is justified by faith can ever be separated from the love of
God, or can ever be condemned and lose eternal life, so the threat of excision in
Rom.xi.22 cannot refer to this, otherwise we have absolute contradiction.
Firstly, let us get the Scriptural answer as to what the olive tree represents. The
Apostle quotes Jeremiah in this chapter and it is this prophet who gives us the clue. In
chapters 11: and 12: we read:
"The Lord thy God called thy name, a green olive tree, fair and goodly fruit . . . . . the
branches of it are broken" (Jer. 11: 16).
"But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the
Lord" (Jer. 12: 17).
The broken branches are very much like the olive tree of Rom. 11: Yet we must not
misread these verses into thinking this would be the end of the nation, for the prophet