Summary: Paul uses some parabolic language to describe God's dealings with Israel while challenging Gentile believers to holiness.
Holy Dough, Roots and Branches
Israel is often in the news today and the Church speaks and wonders about the future of Israel. Evidently the Church at Rome had questions about Israel’s future too, because Paul spends 3 chapters of in the Book of Romans, discussing how God has always included Israel in His Salvation plan, and has not totally rejected them today.
We looked last week at how Israel’s disobedience has led to the salvation by faith alone in the Lord Jesus for us, the non-Jewish people (Gentiles) of the world. Along with the privilege of knowing the grace and unprecedented favor that God has shown to us, He wills that OUR FAITH will cause the Jewish people, as well as unbelievers everywhere, to be JEALOUS of our faith and be drawn to the Love of God in Christ. We saw how God is a jealous God, not willing to share His glory with anyone else: The only acceptable way to serve a jealous God is with a zealous and undivided heart. We could say that you must have a Heart that is HOLY to God and also WHOLLY (entirely) to Him, but NEVER holey to Him. (Sometimes there seem to be "holes" in our holiness.)
The Heavenly Picture of the Holy
We pick up our study at Romans 11:16: “If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is HOLY, then the whole batch is HOLY. If the root is HOLY, so are the branches.”
What are the prevalent words in this verse? Holy, Holy, Holy. We say, “God is Holy”, but many times we don’t know and realize what that REALLY means and what we are saying about Him when we speak the word “Holy”. That’s why I read Isaiah 6:1-13 to begin, as a reminder, that angels who have NEVER sinned, must cover themselves in God’s HOLIEST of all presence. That passage gives us the picture of man’s total Un-holiness set against the enveloping framework of the Heavenly Picture of THE HOLY: "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts.”
“The clearest sensation that a human being has when he experiences the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness…in the presence of God, we are humbled and become most aware of ourselves as creatures. This is the opposite of Satan's original temptation, "You shall be as gods.” (R.C. Sproul, “The Holiness of God”)
God is the only one who is, and was and will always be ETERNALLY HOLY. God’s Eternal Holiness is why God IS God, and why I am not, and why I will NEVER BE God, and neither will anyone else! God’s HOLINESS is EXCLUSIVE to God and God alone.
There are other words clearly associated with the Holiness of God in scripture: Holy, consecrate, purify, sanctify, set apart, all are relational to God being HOLY. How important is this concept of “Holiness” in scripture? These words alone are used 1,000 times in the 1189 chapters of the Bible; God IS HOLY, so do you think that Holiness, sanctification, purification, consecration should be important to us as human beings? ABSOLUTELY
In Exodus 33:20, when Moses asked God if he could see His face, God said to Moses: "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live !" The angels in heaven shield themselves too. Why? Because of God’s “other-worldly” Holiness, which HE ALONE possesses. He is so radiant and perfect in every single way, to such an extent, that CREATURES will disintegrate in His Presence.
Hebrews 12:14 says: “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” If I am so unworthy and sinful, how can I possibly DO enough, How can I be Holy enough, or righteous enough to enter the Kingdom of God, let alone live and exist in God’s HOLY presence. I am always failing.
This is exactly the point! Without God’s grace to save and sanctify, God’s Holiness would eternally exclude all of us from ANY of God’s goodness, mercy, love, and the benefits of His Kingdom. God’s justice is HOLY too, and without God’s Grace, you would receive God’s wrath. So God says: “You can’t possibly do it, but I can.”
What we cannot do, God accomplishes through the Lord Jesus Christ, and that has been one of the themes of Romans: God’s Holiness is applied to a believer by God: THE JUSTIFIED LIVE BY THE GIFT OF FAITH. Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." The touch of God’s Spirit in the heart and life is by God: It is then that we know that He forgives, He saves, and He sanctifies. What do you do? You receive, repent, believe, confess, trust, and live and love Him.