The Mystery of the Olive Tree (Gentiles)
General idea: Paul speaking to an agrarian culture uses an illustration that all would know and understand intimately. He gives them a warning and at the same time encourages them, stating there is hope, the ultimate Hope that our Lord gives. We have meaning, we have a purpose, and we are kept in Christ, sealed by His promise and work. Both Israel and the Church are in God's plan and have a future. Even when it all seems like gloom, such as the period of Jeremiah, God always has His remnant (1 Kings 19; Jer. 23:3-4; 42:2), He has His faithful people. The question we ought to examine is, are we one of them? If so, what are we doing about it? Paul crafts an image from the workings of a tree, its roots, and branches then equates it to the role of the Gentile and Jew. Both have a future, hope and purpose. If you are ever discouraged and feel left out in life, you are not! We can have ultimate hope and peace in Christ with no fear of rejection, because He will not reject us, even when we reject Him. We will undergo the harsh reality of consequences due to our wrong decisions to dare flee from Him. Not because God is a killjoy out to get us, but because of the natural laws of the universe that are to sustain us. The sharp knife that is designed to be a tool can also cut our hand by our misdirection. But, His love is always there waiting on our faith to embrace Him, so we can feel and know His embrace already upon us! We may not be able to always explain or understand God, but we can have faith and trust, to praise Him because of His love for us.
1.They stumbled, Israel rejected Christ, and the Gentiles became fully adopted children of God with full status and blessings, not just as an "I told you so" or out of spite; rather because this was God's plan all along. The plan comes full circle, as Israel was to bring the Gentiles to God, now the Gentiles will be used to help bring Israel back to God (Gen. 12:1-3; Deut, 32:21; Rom 10:19).
a.Salvation has come to the Gentiles, as the branch of "Jew" was cut; new sprouts rose up in its place. Through this, He will work in their hearts and minds. Never think you are indispensable, God can always raise people up better than you, but He still desires you!
b.Fullness, here is referring to how we are receiving Christ, fully or partially? It is about commitment and service. Fullness here also means how God is restoring us. The theological debate is who, how, when and how many will God restore in Israel, but the better question is, how is He restoring you?
c.Apostle of the Gentiles, Here is a introspective look in to Paul's' life and call (Acts 9:15; Rom. 9:19; 11:11; Eph. 3:1; Gal. 2:8).
d.The Jews rejected Christ, and then the Gentiles received the blessing, resulting in the Jews becoming envious. This concept will go back in a full circle as the Jews will eventually recant and accept Christ as Lord, through the Gentiles. Yet remember both are still apart of the plan, as they both always were (Gen. 12).
e.God saves all the elect, including Israel, and will bring total restoration (Isa. 27:9; 59:20-21; Jer. 31:33-34; kingdom of God as in Mark 9:47). We see a taste of this happening today in groups like, "Jews for Jesus."
f.Israel will be saved; this is one of the signs that Christ is coming back. How this will come to pass is not revealed to us (Cor. 15:12;-12; 42; Eph. 3:1; Gal. 2:8).
g.A lot of commentators make a lot out of what Israel does and carry it to an extreme. The fact remains that we just do not know the details, only that it will be. It is for us to learn trust, perseverance, and reliance on our Lord; so that we are resting on Him and not on our abilities and knowledge.
h.Life from the dead, perhaps refers to a unique colloquial (not a common saying, but sometimes used) blessing or prayer. Others have maintained this meaning is the resurrection of the Last Days (Rom. 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:12-13, 21, 42).
2.Lump/ dough, refers to the "first fruits" offering, this is the dough made from the grain offering that was offered to the Lord (Nub. 15:17-21). This offering sanctifies the rest, signifying for us God's plan for us is scared. This means God pledges a promise for us, which we need to receive by pledging our faith.
a.A wild olive tree (Jer. 11:16; Hos. 14:6), refers to Gentiles who have been let in the "club" a sacred relationship with God though Christ, that is contrary to logic or nature. Wild tree shoots were grated into domestic cultured dying trees to help save them or help bear more fruit! Then the unproductive braches were pruned off.
b.We are grafted in by faith, the Jews were cut off because of unbelief, not to make room, for God has plenty of room! Therefore it is our duty to honor and respect Jews as our kinsmen. Why? Because Paul tells us that the Jews are the forerunners and co-partakers of the faith we share (Rom. 4)!
c.God never regrets His choices, or changes His position, because He is God: beyond space, time, thought, and our control; He is all-knowing and all-powerful.
d.Branches were broken, a symbol of judgment. God took the Jew's blessing away and gave it to the Gentiles, not because they were better, rather because of belief and faith (vs. 1:16-17; 2:4-17). This does not mean the nation (people/ethnicity not referring to land) or plan of Israel has been cut off, only limited or put on hold (Deut. 4:25-31; 7:8). The Christian Church and Israel share a common faith, but are not a common Church until Jesus Second Coming. This is a testament to the fact that we have no right to ever be arrogant or prideful. We are in danger of rejecting God by elevating ourselves in pride just as the Jews did.
e.Fear, here it is the awe of Proverbs 1, being respectful without any arrogance.
f.So many Jews today are agnostic (believe in a God, but do not believe that He is active or cares about our day to day activities or choices).
g.Many scholars debate the understanding of "Fullness" vs. 25" its possible meaning refers to a number of Gentiles who will be saved, after God has turned His back on Israel (Mark 9:47). This may also refer to the specific number of individuals who are to be saved before Christ returns. But this view is not strictly supportable by any other Scripture (maybe Rev. 6:11). Paul may also be referring to specific prophecies already given in the Old Testament. Elsewhere in the NT "fullness" means wealth, or as predicted. Fullness for a Christian is first seeking Christ and His work in you (Matthew 6:33-34), so you are pursuing righteousness and all that is good, as a way to glorify Christ as Lord. Fullness equals knowing who you are in Christ, and what He did for you on the Cross-that we are complete in Him (Mark 7:1-13; Matthew 5:6; 16:24-27; Romans 6: 12; 19-23; Galatians 2:20-21; 5:19-21; Ephesians 5: 15-21; 1 John 4:19)!
3.Do not desire, The OT is full of Scriptures how the Jews would witness to the Gentiles and how the Gentiles would be the witness of God.
a.All Israel will be saved. It does not mean all of the people; rather the essence of the nation and the people who are faithful in that nation. God promises Israel He would remain faithful even when they rebelled and bring them back (Deut. 4:25-31; 30:1-6; Hos. 14:1-7; Joel 2:12-3:2).
b.This also parallels how our arrogance is the saw that cuts us off! He is the grafter who seeks to bring healing and restoration (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; 2 Pet. 3:9).
c.Mystery, here refers not to a riddle or something unknowable, rather a divine secret that has not yet been revealed or fully made known, such as the Grace of Christ in the OT (Rom. 16:25-27; Eph. 3:1-13).
d.If we want God to be kind to us, we need to do something about it ourselves; be kind back, and to each other (Gal.5). One day the disobedience of our will and heart will end. As Israel will turn, so will the Gentiles and disobedient Christians. Repentance will be to our Lord's glory, as we turn away from our wicked ways to His best (Rom. 1:16; 3:19-23)!
e.Deliverer, is a quote from Psalm 14:7 (Isa. 27:9; 59:20-21).
f.Paul gives us a concluding Doxology of Wonder, we have hope and ultimate Hope beyond the hope we can see! The only barrier to this hope will be our discouragement, our feelings all resulting due to a lack of faith and spiritual maturity, for this impacts all that we are and do in life!
We may not be in the loop with God's plans and purpose, but we can take comfort that He is in control.
1.God does not need us to reconcile all the truths and reasoning of theology, or His dealings with humankind: He only desires our simple faith.
2.We can praise Him for His glory, even when we are being persecuted, and are suffering.
3.We are to keep our focus on who He is and not on our circumstances.
We must realize God's providence and plan for our global Church, our local church, and our personal lives. Besides salvation? It is all about our growth and maturity in Him! For it is biblical and proper to help one another in need! Some people in Christendom may feel this inappropriate. Hence why most Christians do not serve or give, or give as well as serve little. Of course these Christians are the first to complain, gossip and be obtuse towards those who do! It is my contention that a mature Christian will serve our Lord, stand up for the poor and oppress and seek all they can to help. They will show their faith by their daily lives. Not to earn salvation, but to respond. God gives us all we have and the ability and the resources, and our carrot on the stick is the hope He gives us! I say this in love and in sadness: The only barrier is our apathy, which comes from our lack of faith and spiritual formation! We are to focus on His goodness and faithfulness, so we can build and model such characters. It is all about God's greatness and our response with trust and obedience. If we do not stand up and help another in great need while we go on in our plenty, this may be the true sign we may be lost or at least missed out on opportunities and the Lord's favor. Our apathy has become the god we worship! What can we do to line up to God? Study the Bible with a proper attitude. The goal of Bible study and worship is to develop His character, and follow His will. It is not just about the gaining of knowledge, but the indwelling of His love. Everything about life, thought, deed, and meaning is all about God; God is everything (not pantheism). Our service is because He first loved us, and our love back to Him.
Learning Outcomes: a. Know how to build and apply a value system to last a lifetime. b. Know the value of God's love and allow it to effect us and flow to those around us. That we are living in response to His love, in the value of love.
1.What is a craft project you did that you were proud of? If you were a tree, what kind would you be and why?
2.God always has His remnant (1 Kings 19; Jer. 23:3-4; 42:2), He has His faithful people: are you one of them? If so, what are we doing about it?
3.As a tree what do you need for nourishment? Now equate this to your Christian walk, what do you need from God for nourishment?
4.What do you think your future, hope and purpose is? How often do you feel discouraged, inadequate or feel left out in life? How is He restoring you?
5.When you have such thoughts, how can the knowledge that Christ will not reject us, even when we reject Him, help you?
6.What do you suppose is the ultimate hope and peace in Christ you have?
7.What is in the way of your thinking and walk in Christ to fully acknowledge that God's love is always there? That His love is waiting on our faith to embrace Him, so we can feel and know His embrace already upon us?
8.What are some consequences due to wrong decisions you have observed in others or yourself?
9.Has it ever frustrated you because you may not have been able to explain or understand God?
10. Even if you have been frustrated, do you have true faith and trust, to praise Him because of His love for you?
11. If you were a Jew and you know that Israel rejected Christ, and the Gentiles became fully adopted children of God with full status and blessings as adopted Jews, how would you feel?
12. We are to never think we are indispensable, God can always raise people up better than us, but He desires you anyway! So does your attitude reflect the humbleness and privilege to serve Him? Or do you serve Him out of obligation or some other reason?
13. What is the difference between serving God from a privileged and humbleness attitude to serving Him because you feel you must, out of obligation?
14. A lot of preachers and commentators make a lot out of what Israel does and carry it to an extreme, the fact remains that we just do not know the details, only that it will be. What would be a Biblical balanced approach to the nation of Israel?
15. It is for us to learn trust, perseverance, and reliance on our Lord; so how do you do that?
16. How can you be a Christian who rests on Him and not on your abilities and knowledge?
17. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. He never regrets His choices, or changes His position, because He is God: beyond space, time, thought, and our control. How can this knowledge of God be a light to your spiritual growth?
18. God is a gracious and accommodating God, as He reaches out to us, all people in all time. How can these aspects of His character effect the way you see and treat others who are different from you?
19. Paul was perhaps a very prideful and arrogant Pharisee before His conversion. Why does he spend so much time writing and speaking against being arrogant and prideful?
20. Do you feel the church in America is in danger of rejecting God by elevating ourselves in pride just as the Jews did?
21. Do you think that God (who took the Jew's blessing away and gave it to the Gentiles, not because they were better, rather because of belief and faith) will take our blessing away?
22. So many Jews today are agnostic (believe in a God, but do not believe that He is active or cares about our day to day activities or choices.) So what things keep the Jews close and tight as a people?
23. What is your understanding of "Fullness?"
24. If we want God to be kind to us, we need to do something about it. What do we need to do?
25. What needs to happen for the disobedience of our will and heart to end?
26. What can the church do to change the ways of disobedient Christians?
27. Why would repentance give glory to our Lord?
28. What would it take for a hardened criminal or a really bad person to turn away from their wicked ways to God (remember Paul was a persecutor of the church before he became an apostle)?
29. Do you see God with wonder?
30. If not, why? If so, why?
31. If we do not always know God's plans and purpose, how can we take comfort that He is in control?
32. What is simple faith mean to you?
33. What time in your life did you have the deepest trust and faith? What were the circumstances?
34. What needs to happen for you now to deepen your walk with Christ, with stronger faith?
35. Why should we praise Him for His glory, when we are being persecuted, and are suffering?
36. How can you keep your focus on who He is and not on your circumstances?
37. The goal of Bible study and worship is to develop His character, and follow His will. So what can you do to better facilitate this in your personal life? With your family? In your church?
38. How can you build and apply a value system to last a lifetime?
39. Are you living in response to His love, in the value of love? If not, what do you need to do to root yourself firmer in love to God and then to those around you?
40. Some "carnal Christians" are the first to complain, gossip and be obtuse towards those who serve and are growing in the Lord! So what can your church do, in the parameters of love and care, about this rampant problem?
"Providence:" in Scripture means that God is in total control, and thus we can trust our Lord completely, whatever unfolds before us. The ultimate love of God is that He laid down His life for His enemies!
"God's Will:" Finding God's will is not about programs or methods, it is about a person who is God, who wants us! A loving relationship! Asking the question, what does God want me to do, is the starting point, and the focus of the will of God. Matt 6:33-34 "Seek first the kingdom of God" The will of God has more to do with controlling our hearts, than what we do in our planning and ideas (I PET 5)!! We must be a servant of Christ, to let Him mold and shape us to His Glory and purpose, and remain in this relationship! To know the will of God more intimately, He will reveal it, as we grow close in our experience with Him! The three types of God's will:
1. REVEALED WILL: God's laws concerning lifestyle and righteous living for all Christians (it is not God's will to ever leave your spouse or start a cult!).
2. DETERMINED WILL: That cannot be thwarted or stopped by anything (predestination, it will happen!!!)
© 1992, 2001, 2005 Dr. R.J. Krejcir, Into Thy Word Ministrieshttp://www.intothyword.org/