Pauls Footsteps #368

 “For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead! 16 And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.” Romans 11:15-16 NLT 

No believer should boast of his or her own goodness or feel any superiority over his or her fellow human beings. Our salvation was not earned; it was a gift. Before the Cross, before the standard of God’s holiness, we all are equal: sinners in need of divine grace, sinners in need of a holiness that can be ours only through grace. We have nothing of ourselves to boast about; our boasting should be only in Jesus and what He has done for us by coming into this world in human flesh, suffering our woes, dying for our sins, offering us a model for how we are to live, and promising us the power to live that life. In it all, we are completely dependent upon Him, for without Him we would have no hope beyond what this world itself offers. 

In Romans 11:1 Paul told us that God had not rejected the Jews. Now in vs15-16 he tells us that He has abandoned them. Is Paul mixed up, or am I? How can a logical writer say such apparently contradictory things in the same half chapter? 

Both statements are true. God had cast away Israel as His chosen agency for evangelising the world. But a remnant responded in faith to the Messiah (Rom. 11:5, 6), and the missionary outreach of the church was constantly expanding their number. As Paul noted in v12, the turning away of the majority of the Jews from the gospel had opened the way for Paul and others to bring their ministry of reconciliation to the Gentile world. Thus, their rejection had been a blessing in disguise. But Paul has an unwavering concern for his fellow Jews. He looks forward to the possibility of many of them responding to the gospel message. When they do so it will be a spiritual resurrection from the dead. 

The apostle then moves on to two parallel illustrations in Romans 11:16. The first he takes from Numbers 15:17-21. Paul notes that when the people offer flour as a holy first-fruit offering from their grain crop, the bread made from that holy flour will also be sacred. The second illustration comes from agriculture and compares Israel to a tree. If the tree’s shoot is holy, then so will the shoots from that tree. 

In both illustrations he appears to be referring to the patriarchs, especially Abraham. If they were holy, that would have an effect on the latest branches in the Jewish line of descent. Paul’s heart was never far from missions – missions both to the Gentiles and his own kin. He longed for the salvation of his people, the Jews. 

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