I ask, then, have they stumbled in order to fall? Absolutely not! On the contrary, by their stumbling, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling brings riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full number bring!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. In view of the fact that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if I can somehow make my own people jealous and save some of them. For if their rejection brings reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? Now if the firstfruits offered up are holy, so is the whole batch. And if the root is holy, so are the branches.
Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not brag that you are better than those branches. But if you do brag — you do not sustain the root, but the root sustains you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” True enough; they were broken off by unbelief, but 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. Therefore, consider God’s kindness and severity:severity toward those who have fallen but God’s kindness toward you — if you remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not remain in unbelief, will be grafted in, because God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from your native wild olive and against nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these — the natural branches — be grafted into their own olive tree?
So that you will not be conceited, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery: A partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
The Liberator will come from Zion;
He will turn away godlessness from Jacob.
And this will be My covenant with them
when I take away their sins.
Regarding the gospel, they are enemies for your advantage, but regarding election, they are loved because of the patriarchs, since God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. As you once disobeyed God, but now have received mercy through their disobedience, so they too have now disobeyed, resulting in mercy to you, so that they also now may receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all.
We are commanded in our text to consider God’s kindness and severity. So let’s linger there a bit.
Out of all the people groups in the world, God choose a specific nation called Israel. He chose them not because they were special or smart, but simply because he wanted to make himself known through them. He could have done this through the Philistines or the Cananites, but he passed over them.
The Old Testament is filled with a recollection of stories that tell of the rebellion and disobedience of this nation called Israel. It shows the character of God who time and time again calls them to repentance and trust. God was the faithful husband who, again and again, calls his prostitute wife back to himself because he loves her and desires that she come home (think Hosea and Gomer). God shows that he is kind.
Yet he does not remain kind toward a rebellious nation forever. In his providence he chooses a time to blind the eyes of this nation from being able to see his outstretched arm of love any longer. He is severe toward them as they suffer the fait their disobedience deserves.
Then there’s us…a nation of Gentiles who wanted nothing to do at all with God. Also in the providence of God, he raises up the Apostle Paul to declare a gospel of grace to the Gentiles. He tells us that the wrath of God is coming upon us for our rebellion against God. He then tells us of a Savior to the Jews. Through this Savior, God is willing to graft us into the Jewish vine so that we can receive the blessing of the forgiveness of our sin, and eternal life to boot. This is kind.
Yet he will not remain kind toward a rebellious nation forever. If you and I remain in our sin after we have come to faith in Jesus Christ, there no longer remains a sacrifice for us which covers our sin. We have trampled and splashed in the blood of Jesus like a child playing in a mud puddle on a rainy day. We are warned in our text that if our condition of disobedience persists, we will be plucked out of the vine we were grafted into. We will then be cast into the fire to be burned with the rest of the branches. After all, what good is a branch that is not connected to the tree? It is good only for firewood.
Consider the kindness and severity of God.