Summary of passage: Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. Israel can still be saved. Israel’s unbelief has paved the way for the Gentiles. However, Israel can still come to faith and the Gentiles must not boast over their salvation because they too can still fall. Therefore, be kind for God can still cut off the Gentiles.
8 ) Paul says because the Israelites have stumbled in their belief that Jesus is the Messiah, God has granted this opportunity to come to Him to the Gentiles in the hopes it will make Israel jealous and more Israelites will come to faith in Christ. The good is that now all have been invited to sit at the hand of God through His Son, Jesus. Before, only the Jews were chosen to receive God’s Word. Now all may come.
9) Paul is warning the Gentiles to not boast over their inclusion in God’s plan and over their faith and the Jews’ unbelief for God (being God) can cut off the Gentiles like He did the Jews. In essence, Paul is warning don’t boast and instead be grateful and humble over your inclusion.
10) Personal Question. My answer: Kindness is all of my blessings. Sternness is when my blessings are taken from me temporary in order to grow, which in the end is a kindness as well. The results are I have grown as a person and become more Christ-like and less me-like as I realize all things are from God. It is all about Him. I am more grateful than ever.
Conclusions: It’s taken me up to this lesson to realize every day now has a personal question. Love the grafting analogy and it would have been crystal-clear to the farmers of first century AD. They would immediately have understood Paul’s point of bringing in the Gentiles at the expense and support of the Jews.
End Notes: Israel stumbled, but did not fall. They are still in God’s plan! The Gospel only went out to the Gentiles after the Jews rejected it (Acts 13:46, 18:5-6, 28:25-28). Israel’s stumble was riches for the Gentiles for it gave them more opportunity to hear the Gospel. The Gentiles were supposed to show the Jews how awesome a Christian life was, make them jealous, and have more come to Christ. Instead, throughout history, they have more often than not persecuted the Jews for their beliefs when it fact it was because of the Jews that they themselves enjoyed salvation.
Part of the dough made from the first of the harvested grain (firstfruits) was offered to the Lord (Numbers 15:17-21). This consecrated the whole batch (the Jewish people). Not all the Jews are righteous (i.e. saved) but that God will be true to his promises concerning them. Paul saw a future for Israel.
The salvation of Gentile Christians is dependent on the Jews.
Some commentators see the firstfruits as the first Christians, who were Jewish. Their conversion was something holy and good for the church. After all, each of the apostles and most of the human authors of Scripture were Jewish. If the conversion of this firstfruit was good for the Gentiles, how much better will it be when the complete harvest is brought in! However, many commentators take the firstfruit here as the patriarchs.
Botanists and orchard growers commonly use grafting to improve their stock of flowers and fruit. Usually they graft a weaker, cultivated branch onto a wild but sturdy root stock. Paul admits that, contrary to nature, God has grafted the wild branches (Gentiles) onto the cultivated roots (Jews)–a reverse technique sometimes used to reinvigorate an olive tree.
It is only by God’s grace that they can be grafted into the “tree” of God – the “root” of which is Israel.
Paul reminds the Gentiles that the root supports the branches – not the other way around. Any Gentile standing in the “tree” of God is there by faith only, not by works or merits. If Gentiles are unbelieving, they will be “cut off” just as much as unbelieving Israel was.
Any adequate doctrine of God must include both kindness and sternness. When we ignore his kindness, God seems a ruthless tyrant. When we ignore his sternness, God seems a doting father.
We must continually abide in God’s goodness (also expressed in John 15:1-8.) Paul warns of pride. The Jews are not cut off permanently. There is hope for all.