.. if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! Romans 11 v24

The wild olive branch of Romans 11

Learning from our Jewish Roots   

 Reconciliation between Jews and Christians    -    

the Story of Ruth as a picture of the church and Israel

Olive branches  -  Garden of Gethsemane Jerusalem  (c)

The Olive Tree and the wild olive branch

In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul discusses  Sin, The Law  and Redemption, coming to a climax in chapter 8.   From there on his letter is very neglected.    David Pawson points out that Romans should be studied in its entirety, and not divided by its artificial chapter divisions, and that if we study Paul's letter in context we find that chapters 9 to 11 are actually the climax of the letter - not a minor diversion. 

The church in Rome started out as a Jewish fellowship (those who returned from Pentecost in Jerusalem - see Acts 2 - it was not planted by an apostle)   As the Jewish believers evangelized, Gentile believers were added.  Then Claudius banished all Jews from Rome, leaving the church entirely Gentile.  Twelve years later Nero invited the Jews back, seeing they were good for trade.  Those who returned included believers such as Aquilla and Priscilla.   During this twelve years the Gentiles had become arrogant and refused to allow the Jewish believers back into the church.   They had concluded that Claudius' rejection signified God's rejection.    This was probably the first appearance of Replacement Theology, and since Rome was the centre of the empire, it must have spread from there.   This took place in the 50s AD (CE).

Paul always wrote for a reason, but the reason for Romans has been overlooked.  It was written to counter the Gentile arrogance that became Replacement Theology.  The letter builds up to its climax in chapters 9 to 11 where he explains the relationship between Israel and God and the Gentile believers, to whom Paul was Christ's apostle.     To understand this properly, get hold of a copy of David Pawson's teaching tapes on Romans 9 to 11   -   see Books and media     This section of Paul's letter is not just an interesting note about the Jews for the information of Gentile believers;  it explains the basis on which we have been grafted into God's eternal purposes, as revealed through his people Israel; chosen to be a light to the nations  (Isaiah 60).

Romans 9 v1-5 says,

". . . . .  my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.   Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen."
   Notice that "theirs is . .  " - not "theirs was".   So what covenants is he talking about?   

In chapter 9 he talks of his anguish over Israel and talks about a remnant, such as returned after each exile which happened to the children of Israel.   Remember, Israel is the only nation that GOD has ever dealt with.   He still deals with individual believing Jews,  as he does with Gentiles.    However, the Jewish nation went into exile and is in the process of returning so that  the events prophesied at the end of the book of Zechariah can be fulfilled..

Through chapter 9 and into 10 Paul discusses weighty issues God's choosing and His mercy, the potter and the clay,  how Israel stumbled over "the stone in Zion" ( see Isaiah 8 v14 )  and then he discusses righteousness by faith and why Israel did not understand.   As we move towards chapter 11 he looks at the good news going out to the Nations and its effect on Israel.    This leads into his explanation that GOD did not reject his people but because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles.   This is where Paul is at pains to stop Gentiles reaching a wrong conclusion, becoming arrogant and despising the Jews.   He points out that we Gentiles should live so as to provoke Jews to jealousy and save some of them.   He then twice uses the grafted in wild olive  illustration, which comes with a stern warning.   This leads him into the long term promise "all Israel will be saved" and as that "God's free gifts and his calling are irrevocable."

Paul quickly moves into an outburst of praise to God for the depths of His wisdom and then into exhortation about how to live in the light of all this revelation.   (If 9 to 11 could be ignored, starting chapter 12 with "I exhort you, therefore, brothers . . . . " would have been ridiculous.      

Paul says, 
"You, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root".
  He also points out that we do not support the root:  it supports us.  Cutting off the Jews is not a good idea.

If the church had paid attention to Paul, history would have been very different.   

How much attention is the Church paying now?

Cutting off ones roots - cartoon by Andy Whitlock  (c)

The subject of Israel is not confined to chapters 9 to 11

As Paul draws the letter to a close, he says in Chapter 15 v 7-12, 

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:   "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;  I will sing hymns to your name." Again, it says,  "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people."  And again,  "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples."  And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up,  one who will arise to rule over the nations;  the Gentiles will hope in him."

And verse 27(b) says,   .

"For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings."

This teaching is not exclusive to Romans - see Ephesians 2 v11-23. Note especially that, "But now, you who were once far off" (v13) refers, if taken in context, to being far off from Israel and the covenants and therefore from God - not just far from God, as many folk read it.

There are two varieties of olive tree, the cultivated variety Olea europaea sativa and the wild variety Olea europaea oleaster. The olive is unusual among trees in its longevity, taking from six years in good conditions to twenty years in dry, difficult areas before it will start producing fruit.

In modern Greece, wild trees are dug up in the mountains to be used as root stock for cultivated olive shoots to be grafted in. So why did Paul talk of the reverse of this practice?

Perhaps Paul was deliberately inverting the standard practice to make his point to readers who would understand the process and realized that the ingrafting of a wild olive scion was contrary to the world’s practice.   This picture would have been critical of the pretensions of the Greek believers.

Another possibility is that Paul was referring to a practiced described by Collumella, in an ancient work on Mediterranean oleiculture.  A wild olive shoot would be grafted into a cultivated tree which was failing, in order to stimulate fruitfulness. This would only be done to a tree that had become exhausted and unproductive in order to rejuvenate it.   Paul is unlikely to have used this idea if it suggested the Gentiles were rejuvenating the Jews, since he was trying to counter their arrogance towards the Jews, unless it illustrates Paul’s desire to provoke the Jews to envy? (Romans 11 v13-14)

Information from an article by Philip F Esler, of St Mary’s College, The University of St Andrews

The article on the North American species of wild olive ( Forestiera neomexicana ) commented that "Plants growing in the wild are used as indicators of underground water" - Something to ponder.

See also Tu'bShvat for the significance of the olive tree

and  http://faculty.ucc.edu/biology-ombrello/pow/olive.htm

www.internationaloliveoil.org/tm/usa/about_history.asp

www.genomenewsnetwork.org/articles/10_01/Olive_grove.shtml

References to wild olives (Zayith) may also be found in the Tanakh ( Nehemiah 8 v15)

So what do you call a grafted in Gentile?   

The ubmjc web site offers this suggestion.

A Messianic Gentile (or perhaps a better term might be ger - Hebrew for one who, once a stranger, joins himself to Israel in a permanent bond) is a non-Jew who has accepted Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel and his or her personal redeemer, has chosen to follow the teachings of Scripture, and has chosen to unite him or herself with the Jewish people in lifestyle and calling. A Jew does not become a Gentile, nor does a Gentile become a Jew. 

The broken down wall

In Ephesians chapter 2, verses 11 to 22 Paul explains how Jesus broke down the wall of hostility which separated Jews and Gentiles for so long.   "to reconcile both through the cross by which he put to death their hostility" ( v16 )   "Consequently you are no longer foreigners but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Messiah Yeshua himself as the chief cornerstone."   (verses 19 & 20)

(In the Complete  Jewish Bible, verse 14 reads ,

"For he himself is our shalom, he has made us one body and has broken down the m'chitzah which divided us."
The explanation for m'chitzah is "divider which separates people into groups, eg men and women in an orthodox synagogue.  Here it refers, at least metaphorically, to the the fence which separates the inner part of the Temple, where only the Jews could enter, from the Court of the Gentiles.) 

What we see now is a new wall, skillfully built by Satan to thwart God's plans for blessing both Jew and Gentile.   This website is primarily concerned with the work God is doing, by his Holy Spirit, to break down this wall again.   There has been a wonderful communication from the Jewish side of the wall.    click here to read Dabru emet.

the Wounded Lover - by Christine DargThe Wounded Lover

Christine Darg's book looks at the mystery of the olive tree, in Romans 11, and  also at how the story of Hosea  shows that God has not divorced Israel for ever.

She examines the Christian's position relative to Israel, and our proper attitude to Israel.

She concludes by looking at the Bible's most neglected chapter in the Church (Romans 11) and the Synagogue (Isaiah 53)

 

The book of Ruth 

This book is a prophecy concerning Israel and the Church

Click here for an explanation, Ruth

 

How does all this fit in with your beliefs?

If you believe your position in GOD’s plan of redemption is independent of Israel or in place of it you are a victim of Replacement Theology.   (see History)    Nobody will claim to hold Replacement Theology but many people have a theology which is tainted by it.   

I believe both Christians and Jews suffer from its effects.

Christians miss out . . . . .

On the richness of understanding of scripture with its many layers of meaning and significance  

On the background, character and context of many important scriptures,

On an understanding of Messiah and his coming (both his first and second comings)

On the possibility of communicating to Jews that their Messiah has made his first visit to fulfill Atonement and is soon to return to set up his Kingdom.

Jews Miss out

Why did the majority of God's chosen people reject the one we believe to be their promised Messiah, the fulfillment of all their hopes?    Paul  (Shaul ) writing in Romans 11 v1-10 considered this question.  He quoted Moses' last address to Israel,   (Deuteronomy 29 v4);  "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear".   This appears to have been necessary for the salvation of us Gentiles, the birth of the Church, but Paul believed that his faith, and that of us Gentile believers, should make Israel envious so that they would then find salvation in their Messiah for themselves.    ( Romans 11 v11 )   The Church has generally failed to live up to this ideal, for reasons which lay in Church history, theology and practice.

Anti–Semitism and our use of a Greek version of the name of our Saviour has prevented the Jews seeing any connection with their God and Messiah.

Having suffered holocaust, pogrom and Inquisition all over the World, it is not surprising Jews should be resistant to these things being brought into their own homeland, so "Missionary" activity is justifiably feared.   A desire for Jews to accept their Messiah is wonderful, but you will never win an intelligent Jew with a shallow Gospel and an ignorance of its roots in the Old Testament (its relevance to the Jews).   The "Jews for Jesus" ministry seems rather unfortunately named and could, perhaps, be "Yeshua for the Jews", since our commission was to preach Jesus to the lost rather than to recruit Jews to English Christianity.

Icons on sale in Jerusalem

Walking through the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem the Jew (and Muslim) will see much Christian religion that appears deeply idolatrous.  

religious souveneirs - Jerusalem

Don't assume Jews are Hostile

The Mayor of Jerusalem told us that he regards Christians who pray for Israel as a vital part of the Israel Defence Forces.   

Successive Israeli Prime Ministers have expressed their deep appreciation of Christian support when addressing the Feast of Tabernacles gatherings of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.   

The ministry of the Voice of Hope radio station is supported by the Israeli military and by Jews who are not Christian believers.   

 Those involved in the prayer ministry of Daystar International / Exploits Ministries, have found ordinary Jews to be most kind, supportive and appreciative.

Jews are genuinely surprised, delighted and friendly when they find Christians who explain that they serve the Jew’s Messiah and are interested in learning from them and supporting them in prayer.   

On joining  meetings of the Council of Christians and Jews  (U.K.) we have found the Jewish members to be very kind and friendly.

" I became as a Jew "  

Shira Sorko-Ram wrote this book to explain "how to bridge the chasm between Jewish and Gentile conceptions of salvation".   The book is subtitled "What Jews and Christians should understand about each other."  It is very instructive and even explains important things about Christianity to Christians.

So what are the implications for us?

Blessing for the Believer

GOD'S word promises blessing to the Christian who loves Israel. 

He said to his people, (Num 24 v9)

"He who blesses you I will bless - he who curses you I will curse" 

He also said,( Zec 2 v8 ) 

"Whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye".  
I understand "apple" could also be translated "pupil".    I would not wish to poke my finger in the eye of GOD.   

Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth,  and the truth will set you free."   There is much error and falsehood believed about GOD'S love for Israel and we need to pursue the truth and avoid harming his beloved people.   (John 8 v32 )

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people."
( Hebrews 6 v10 )  

Also, in Matthew 25 v31-46,

"When the Son of Man comes . . . . he will say, 'Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "

The context of this verse means that when he says, "these brothers of mine", Jesus is refering to those who believe in and follow him. (at that time it meant Jewish believers, but now it includes Gentile believers (Christians) too) However, one could reasonably assume that the Jewish Messiah cares about the Jews and how we treat them.

So much of our Bible is Jewish that we will not understand many deep truths if we reject all things Jewish, since their feasts and customs have profound prophetic messages about Jesus' life, teaching, death, resurrection and return.  

There is so much we could learn from Jews who have recognized Messiah and there is so much that we could share with those who have not.   We should not seek to convert Jews to gentile Christianity , and we will not convince Jews that Yeshua is their Messiach if our understanding of Torah is shallow compared with theirs.   If we realize our need and seek GOD'S instruction concerning our attitude to his chosen people Israel,  we can be blessed and used.

The practice of looking at chapters in isolation has led to many serious errors.  This is particularly true of Romans 9, 10 and 11.         (Observations on Romans 9, 10 & 11, made by David Pawson )

Romans 9 Led the hyper Calvinists into wrong doctrines about the basis of God's redemption and who gets saved.
Romans 10 Provides justification for all those who adopt or inherit Replacement Theology.   This can only be justified by slamming the book shut before chapter 11.
Romans 11 Is taken by some Christian Zionists to mean that while we should be reaching out to Jews in love without seeking to turn them into Gentile Christians, that they have no need of Yeshua.

 

A footnote from Chuck Cohen in "Roots of Our Faith"

Much of the church has acted, and still acts, as though it has been grafted into a Christmas Tree - flashing its attractive lights and decorations, but unconcerned about its loss of roots and wondering why it is spiritually drying up and dying."

Updated 11/02/09

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