This teaching of Paul is foundational to an understanding of Christianity. If I do not explain it to you, re-read the Scriptures and study commentaries until you fully understand Paul's words. You should, then, have no question about the relationship between God and Jews, God and Christians, and Jews and Christians.
This essay is based on Romans 11:11-32. We need to consider a few Scriptures first:
Hosea 14:6: ...his branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon.
In speaking of Israel's restoration in the end times, God promised that Israel would be like a flourishing olive tree. The olive tree was special to the Jews. Olive oil was used to anoint kings and prophets and was burned in the menorah (the stand for the seven lamps of the Temple.
Isaiah 11:1-5: 1There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. 3His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.
Understand these things:
PAUL'S TEACHING: Paul taught a very important lesson in Romans 11:11-32.
Romans 11:11-12: 11I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!
The Jews entered the final phase of the Diaspora in A.D. 70 because, one generation earlier, they had rejected Jesus as their Messiah. The Jews found themselves judged by God, as are all people judged according to a simple formula: God offers us a gift out of the abundance of His love. If we reject God's gift, God's judgment for rejection may follow. Israel rejected the Messiah, and the punishment was banishment from their homeland into all the nations of the world for a lengthy period of time. An individual person may reject God's plan of salvation, and the punishment will be banishment into the Lake of Fire (Hell).
God used the Jews' fall for His plan. He raised up another people–- the Gentiles–- to carry out the plan He had first desired the Jews to accomplish. Through the Jews' failure, richness came to the Gentiles and the world. But, God is not finished with the Jews. His plan has always been to redeem them as His people before the end of the ages.
Romans 11:13-15: 13For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Peter was considered the Apostle to the Jews and Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul, as a Jew, had great love for and concern about Jews. It was his prayer that he could provoke jealousy (create love for) Jesus among the Jews by telling the Gentiles about Him. Thereby, he hoped to raise the Jews from death to life.
Romans 11:16: For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
Jesus was the Firstfruit. As the Son of Man, He was the first to be resurrected to eternal life under God's New Covenant relationship with man. All believers who follow Jesus are assured of being resurrected to eternal life, as He was. Jesus was resurrected on the ancient Feast of Firstfruits. ("Firstfruits" or "Resurrection Day" should be a name preferred by Christians, rather than the pagan name "Easter," which was chosen by early church fathers to honor the pagan goddess Ishtar.)
Paul states that if Jesus is holy, then, too, should His followers be holy. "Holy" characterizes God, and it should also characterize God's children. The Hebrew word for "holy" has such meanings as "consecrated," "sanctified," "prepared," "dedicated," "separated," and "honored as sacred."
In this verse, Paul introduces his concept of God's olive tree. The root of the tree is God Himself, as told to us throughout the Bible– especially Old testament teachings. Since the Root is Holy, the nourishment (God's Word and His covenants with His people) sent to the branches of the tree should also make the branches holy.
Romans 11:17-18: 17And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
God, as the husbandman, tends His olive tree, as any earthly husbandman would tend his orchard. God's olive tree was intended to bear fruit (souls for the Kingdom), just as an olive tree in an earthly planting is expected to bear fruit (olives). By the time of Jesus, Jews had become unproductive. Chosen by God and given His Word–- both in writing and in the flesh– the Jews had trivialized and made ineffective the written word (Scriptures) and rejected the Living Word (Jesus).
Any husbandman prunes out dead and unfruitful wood from a tree, in order that fruitful branches may overtake the tree and bear fruit.
God pruned out the dead, unfruitful branches from His tree in A.D. 70. By this date, God caused a number of events to happen, including: The veil to the Holy of Holies was rent (torn apart); the priesthood was abolished; animal sacrifices were abolished; the Temple was destroyed; the Jews were removed from their homeland by death or by enslavement in foreign lands; the Church–- the Body of Christ–- was established; and a New Covenant, based on the blood sacrifice (crucifixion) of the Lamb of God was given.
When God removed the Jews from their homeland, He literally ripped them from His olive tree. The trunk of the tree–- which represents Jesus Christ–- was left bare, but not for long.
The Church was born on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus' resurrection. The birth of the Church is recorded in Acts 2:1 and following verses.
God took branches from a wild olive tree-– the wild olive tree (the Branch from the stump of Jesse) that sprang up beside the natural olive tree (Israel). God grafted the wild branches (Christians) into the tree trunk (Jesus).
But at all times, whether the branches have been natural (Jews) or wild (Gentiles, Christians), the branches received nourishment (truth) from the root (God) through Scriptures and other means. The root anchors and supports the branches of a tree. The branches do not hold up the root. Without the root, the branches wither and die.
A distinction that should be made: Believers were ordered to spread the Gospel. The Gospel spread through Jerusalem, then through Judea and Samaria, and then to the rest of the world. Whether this spread was logistical or Divine, I am not sure we are told. Understand this: The early church was Jewish in character. It was Jewish, with a major distinction-- persons in the early churches believed that the Messiah had come, and that the Messiah's name was Jesus (Yeshua).
Harsh anti-Christian words came from Jewish rabbis and leaders and harsh anti-Jewish words came from early church fathers. These words caused the character of the church to change from its Jewish (Hebraic) roots to a Greco-Roman institution (the Roman Catholic Church; then, the Orthodox Church; then, the Protestant churches).
As the Catholic Church spun away from its Hebraic roots, anti-Semitism entered the body of believers. This anti-Semitism was often violent (Inquisitions and the Nazi Holocaust, as examples). Jews were called "Christ killers." (Every believer's sins caused Christ's death. Jesus died for my sins and your sins.)
The Bible-documented shift in spreading the Gospel to Gentiles is regarded as the conversion of Cornelius and his family (Acts, chapter 10). The conversion and baptism of the Roman centurion Cornelius and others marked the beginning of the Gentile Christian church, after the Church was born at an earlier date (Acts, chapter 2).
Anti-Semitism is a direct insult to the King of the Jews–- Jesus–- and to the One Who chose the Jews to be His special people, the apple of His eye, and His wife–- God the Father. Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is again on the rise. There is anti-Semitism in many Christian churches in America. Many of these churches are "mainline" Protestant Christian churches. There is also anti-Semitism among many Roman Catholic leaders, although this is kept quiet. Evangelical Christian churches tend to be among the staunchest defenders of Israel and Jewish people in the world.
Paul warned us against anti-Semitism (verse 18): do not boast against the branches. This boasting may come through the heretical belief of "replacement theology." Christians have NOT replaced Jews; the Church has NOT replaced Israel. Christians are temporarily placed (grafted) into God's tree for one reason-– to bear the fruit (harvest of souls)–- that the Jews failed to bear.
Anti-Semitism is also becoming intense in some European countries and is fanatical in Arabic-Muslim nations. Present-day anti-Semitism fulfills the prophecy that all nations will come against Jerusalem in the last days (Zechariah 12:2): [Says the LORD] "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples as they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem."
Romans 11:19-24: 19You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in." 20Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
Therefore, the unproductive, natural branches were pruned out of God's tree. Unbelief led to lack of fruit production. If the Jews had believed, they would have produced fruit. If Christians believe today, they produce fruit. If they have no belief or only shallow belief, they do not produce fruit.
What fruit should the branches be producing? It is the harvest of souls for the Kingdom (Luke 10:2): Then [Jesus] said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest."
We can become a branch worthy of being grafted into God's olive tree only by faith–- faith in Jesus as Savior (Romans 3:28): Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. But James also warned that a faithful believer must also be a productive believer (James 2:24): You see then that a man is justified by work, and not by faith only.
Paul warns Christians not to be haughty. We are given salvation only by the grace of God. We cannot earn salvation; we can only accept it as a gift. A Christian should never be haughty or boastful, but rather, humble and grateful. Some Christians have a "holier than thou" attitude. I suspect such haughtiness must not be well received by God. Jesus warned against His followers who would behave as Pharisees and hypocrites, those who made a great public display of "holiness" among men. They displayed their "holiness" to receive man's praise–- which they received–- but they did not receive God's blessing (Matthew 6:5, 16): [Jesus said] 5"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. | 16Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward." (There are other Scriptures with the same message.)
Note also Paul's message on the nature of God. He is good, rewarding those who follow Him; but He is also severe, punishing those who disobey Him.
God pruned out the disobedient, unfruitful, natural (Jewish) branches in A.D. 70.
In the place of the natural branches (the Jews), He grafted into the tree wild, unnatural branches (Christians).
Paul taught: Just as God removed natural branches in the past, He will remove wild branches in the future.
When will this removal occur? It will occur at the Rapture, when believers will be "snatched away in the twinkling of an eye" to meet Jesus in the clouds and to be forever with Him in New Jerusalem (Heaven).
Why will God remove Christians, the engrafted branches? After a season of bearing fruit (the Church Age, or the Age of Grace), Christians will be removed because the main purpose of the wild (Christian) branches has been to bear fruit.
Romans 11:25: For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Several Scriptures refer to "the fullness of the Gentiles." The word "fullness" used here comes from the Greek (pleroma, pronounced, play'-ro-ma), and means the filling of a required quota, e.g., filling the number of crew members before a ship sails. In this case, God must have in mind a number of persons (Gentiles) who will be saved before the Resurrection/Rapture (Matthew 24:36): [Jesus said] "But of that day and hour [of His Second Coming] no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only."
The Rapture will instantaneously remove God's people from the earth (1 Corinthians 15:52): ... in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
During the Dispensation of Grace (the Church Age), the Jews have been blinded to the identity of the Messiah Who was born in their midst. Although some Jews have accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as Lord and Savior, most have not. They are spiritually blind, and will remain so until the Tribulation (which occurs immediately after the Rapture).
At the Rapture, all believers–- those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life-– will suddenly be snatched away from the earth. This will leave only non-believers on earth, among whom will be Jews.
26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins."
The Tribulation will follow the Rapture. The Tribulation is the seven-year period when God deals with Israel and causes the Jews to be saved and to return to Him (Jeremiah 30:7): "[For thus says the LORD] ‘Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.'" In this verse, "that day" refers to the Tribulation, as does "Jacob's trouble." Recall that Jacob was renamed Israel, and Jacob's descendants formed the nation of Israel. "Jacob" in this verse means "Israel." Jesus affirmed that the Tribulation would be like no other time in the history of the world. The restraining function of the Holy Spirit (but not the convicting function) will leave with the Church at the Rapture. There will be no Christian churches to restrain evil. Satan's fury and hatred are hurled upon the earth, because he knows that he has only a short time left. God's judgments are unleashed upon mankind. All of this activity is intended to restore Israel to God. Both Jeremiah and Paul reveal that Jacob (Israel) will come through the Tribulation, and that the Jews will be saved.
Romans 11:28-32: 28Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
Paul concludes his teaching by showing us that Jews and Gentiles (Christians) have much in common. Both have been disobedient, but both can be redeemed through the grace of God and the blood sacrifice of Jesus.