Summary: This is the thirteenth message in a series over Romans 6-11. The series examines how we now live under God's grace. This message is the second of a two part message that examines God's plan for Israel.
Over the years, “The Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch” has sponsored an annual contest for the most absurd warning labels. Among the top winners have been: "Do not use this snow blower on the roof." "Do not allow children to play in the dishwasher." A Clothes Iron had this advice: "Warning! Never iron clothes while they are being worn." On a Superman costume: “Warning: Cape does not enable user to fly.” On a bottle of hair coloring: “Do not use as an ice cream topping.” On a cardboard sunshield for a car: “Do not drive with sun-shield in place.” On a toner cartridge: “Do not eat the toner.” On a portable stroller: “Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage.” Finally, one that is a real eye opener - In a microwave oven manual: “Do not use for drying pets.” As we arrive at the middle section of Romans 11, Paul uses Israel’s example as a warning label. The label might say something like this, “Don’t take your faith for granted” or possibly “Don’t think you’re God’s gift to God.” The Jewish people had become arrogant to the point that they believed they were right to the point that there was no room for anything including the Messiah. This willful rejection of God’s plan opened the door for the Gentiles to come to salvation. Apparently, Israel failed to heed the warning label. Our goal today is to work to draw a final conclusion on if Paul is talking about ethnic Israel or spiritual Israel and what God’s plan is.
I. The far reaching effects of Israel’s rejection of God’s plan.
A. Understanding Paul’s enthusiasm for His ministry.
1. Although Paul’s heart was broken over Israel’s rejection of God, it made it possible for the rest of the world to hear the Gospel and be brought back into the right relationship with Him.
2. Verse 15 actually reaches backward to explain more clearly what Paul was saying in verses 12-14 giving a reason for his enthusiasm.
3. Paul’s ministry causes him excitement because the opportunity that the Lord has presented him with to reach the Gentiles with the message of salvation.
4. Paul’s heart yearns for His people to return to God and accept His great gift of salvation but so many of them have become so hardened that they stubbornly persist in their unbelief.
B. Understanding God’s response to the Jewish unbelief.
1. Paul works to explain beginning verse 15 how God responded to the Jews rejecting Him.
2. The key is found in the Greek word apobolē which is translated rejection. The word can literally be translated “to throw away.” The tense of the word reflects a deliberate action.
3. So the correct way to understand Paul’s words is that some of the Jews deliberately threw away their hope of salvation when they chose to reject the Messiah.
4. As a result God responded by cutting these spiritually dead branches from the tree and grafted in the Gentiles who by faith accepted His gift of salvation.
5. Although Paul sees hope that some of the unbelieving Jews will join the believing remnant and come to faith in Jesus Christ, he realizes that ethnic Israel will no longer have a significant part in God’s plan.
6. To Paul the unbelieving Jews joining the remnant of believing Jews would bring great blessings they would spiritually move from death to life.
II. Two word pictures that help make Paul’s point.
A. Making sense out of the baking metaphor.
1. Under the Law God required the first portion of any product to be presented to Him as an offering establishing His ownership of everything.
2. In his first letter to the Corinthian church Paul used the same Greek word aparchē which is translated first fruits to refer to the first converts in the context in which he was speaking.
3. So one would expect Paul to use the word in a consistent manner here in Romans 11.
4. The first fruits are the early Jewish Christian converts and the batch refers to all Jews especially the unbelieving ones.
5. Paul’s point is that if some of the Jews can come to salvation then the same opportunity is available for each and every Jew.
B. Making sense out of the gardening metaphor.
1. The root system is the equivalent to our circulatory system. The roots makes sure that water and nourishment make it to every part of the tree.
2. This second metaphor includes not only the patriarchs but the entire Old Testament ethnic Israel.
3. The branches refer to believing Jews living under the new covenant and the idea of holiness reflects the idea of being set apart.
4. Jack Cottrell in his commentary on Romans explains it this way: “Even though he no longer has a special purpose for Israel as a nation, nevertheless the love and concern he had for “his people” in OT times carries forward into the gospel era. Every branch, every individual Jew, is just as personally precious and special to him today as was the root, the nation of old. Thus the door of salvation is still open even to the hardened, unbelieving Jews. God is waiting to add them to the remnant.”