What the Bible says about
Grafting Branches Analogy
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God's annual holy days reveal that this is not the only "day of salvation"—that He is working with only a relative few right now, and the rest of mankind will have an opportunity for salvation either during the Millennium or after the Second Resurrection. Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost hold great significance for the firstfruits who have already made the New Covenant, but they have little spiritual meaning for the Israelites who have not. Next, the Feast of Trumpets, the pivot point in the holy day calendar, is meaningful for firstfruits, for Israelites, and for all of mankind because it pictures the return of Christ to establish His Kingdom on earth.
After that are the holy days associated with the second harvest, the fall harvest—particularly the Feast of Tabernacles, which pictures the Millennium when the resurrected and glorified firstfruits will have responsibilities. Yet, the greater meaning concerns Israel. The remnant of Israel—those who survive Jacob's Trouble—will then have the opportunity to make the New Covenant, even though, as a nation, they will not be a part of the first resurrection.
The apostle Paul goes to great lengths to explain this phased approach to salvation, using the metaphor of an olive tree with natural branches, representing Israel, being broken off, and wild branches—Gentiles—being grafted in (Romans 9-11). To summarize, Paul explains that God will use the Gentiles, and by implication, those making the New Covenant now (including individual Israelites), to make the majority of Israel jealous, to bring her back to Him when she sees the spiritual blessings. Paul shows that God has not at all disowned Israel. Even in his day, a small believing minority of Israelites had been chosen by grace, of which Paul was a part.
Only the elect—whether Israelite or Gentile—have obtained God's favor at this time, while the rest of Israel has become callously indifferent to it. Israel was broken off the olive tree because of unbelief, and others were grafted in because of true belief. But, Paul warns, there is no room for pride, because if God did not spare the natural branches when they fell into unbelief, neither will He spare us if we do the same thing. Now notice Paul's conclusion:
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. And 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; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:25-29)
When Christ confirmed the covenant during the 3½ years of His earthly ministry, the covenant was not just for those alive at the time. The firstfruits have been making that covenant for nearly 2,000 years now. Similarly, there will be another 3½ years, finishing out that final week, during which Jesus will complete the confirming of the covenant. This will set the stage for the salvation of all mankind, but in particular the salvation of Israel.
If we use Jesus' earthly service as a guide, most of the 3½ years were spent in preaching and in preparing His servants. This is how He "confirmed" the covenant, even though it was not actually sealed until the end of the 3½ years, at that last Passover. If this pattern holds, it indicates that the final 3½ years of "confirming" will also consist of preaching to, and a rigorous and even violent preparation of, a remnant of Israel. Then, at the end, they will enter into the covenant.
At that final Passover, Jesus said that He would not drink the fruit of the vine again—that symbol of His shed blood and of the covenant—until He drinks it with His disciples (and, by extension, all of the glorified firstfruits) in His Kingdom (Matthew 26:29). That joyous occasion corresponds with the time when Israel will also drink of that cup of the New Covenant, but for the first time. That covenant, then, will be available throughout the Millennium and into the time of the Second Resurrection. The Seventy Weeks will have been fulfilled, but the effects will continue.
David C. Grabbe
Finishing the Week
In Matthew 15:24, He says of His own commission, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Christ sent His apostles only to the scattered Israelites, most of whom had migrated into Europe centuries before. Acts 2:39 shows that they were not sent even to every last one of "the lost sheep" of Israel! Peter says, "For the promise [of the gift of the Holy Spirit] is to you and to your children, and to all that are afar off [geographically and in time], as many as the Lord our God will call." Thus, the Father limits the preaching of the gospel to those He calls! The apostle urges them to save themselves from this "perverse generation," that is, those who were not offered God's Spirit (verse 40).
As we saw, Christ said that He was not sent to the Gentiles. So why did He send Paul to the Gentiles? (Romans 11:13). Is that not a contradiction? No, Christ does not contradict Himself. It was prophesied. Paul's commission was in addition to the other apostles' work; it did not negate or replace their going to Israel, for even Paul's commission included preaching to Israel (Acts 9:15).
The main thrust of the gospel is the work among the descendants of Israel, not the Gentiles! The world would have us believe that God stopped working with the "Jews," and the Gentiles became His chosen people. Nothing could be further from the truth! He sent only one apostle to the Gentiles but all the others to the people of Israel!
In Romans 9—11, Paul clearly explains why Christ sent him to preach among Gentiles. Because His own nation, the Jews (as well as the other tribes of Israel), rejected Jesus their Savior, He called a new people as the "Israel of God" (Romans 9:1-8; Galatians 6:16). God is very resourceful!
Paul quotes Moses, who prophesied of the Israelites' failure to keep faith with God. "I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will anger you by a foolish nation" (Romans 10:19). Paul concludes: "I 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" (Romans 11:11).
That is why Paul was sent to preach to Gentiles. Romans 11:17-26 shows that God broke Israelite branches off the Abrahamic family tree because they did not believe Him. In their place He grafted in believing Gentiles, making them children of Abraham (see Galatians 3:29). In the future, God will graft back in the broken-off Israelites (Romans 11:23)!
The time of Israel's regrafting begins when God adds the "fullness of the Gentiles" to the church. This "fullness of the Gentiles" must be a very small number in comparison to all those called into the church. God tells Ezekiel, "For you are not sent to a people of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, but to the house of Israel, NOT TO MANY PEOPLE of unfamiliar speech and of hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely had I sent you to them, they would have listened to you" (Ezekiel 3:5-6). The church has always been a "little flock" and the Gentiles in it even fewer.
'Go Ye Therefore Into All the World...'
The walk (verse 4) is sometimes quite difficult, but Paul provides encouragement and hope in Romans 6:5-6. As difficult as our march from slavery might be at times, the glory of the resurrection and the complete putting off of the flesh lies before us.
The word "united" ("planted" in the King James) in verse 5 draws our attention because it is elsewhere translated "grafted" or "engrafted." In John 15, Christ describes Himself as a vine, and we are its branches. In Romans 9, Paul compares converted Israelites to natural branches and Gentiles as unnatural branches grafted into the same vine. Union is achieved with all sharing a part. All are receiving of the same source, and all are striving to produce the same fruit.
But how do we know we are attached to that Vine?
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (I John 2:3-5)
There must be something that proves we are united with the Father and the Son, engrafted as part of Them and in union with Them. That something is the manner in which we conduct our life.
Language identifies people and so does the clothing they wear. A person's name is probably the most common of all identifiers. But the sons of God, those in union with the Father and the Son, are identified by commandment-keeping. It verifies that we are united with Christ. Commandment-keeping is love. Biblical love is an action, not merely a feeling. It may contain a positive feeling, even outright affection and passion for the one or ones who are the recipients of the act of love, but its foundation lies in the act rather than the emotion.
Acts of love without emotion can be entirely sterile. This extreme is not biblical love. At the other extreme are those who emotionally say they love Christ. What they say is probably true - as far as their understanding of love goes. Their declaration of love for Him may be motivated by feeling awe and gratitude springing from a recognition that He is indeed Creator, Savior, and High Priest, and that this awesome Being actually humbly sacrificed His life for them personally. Often, such people will then proceed to break His commandments, proving they do not know what love is.
In that kind of relationship, feelings eventually run dry, and the relationship and therefore the union ends. The love of the Bible is always first moral. This morality verifies we are yielding to Him. John commands us in I John 2:6 to walk as Jesus walked, and Jesus walked morally. The only way we can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is to walk as He walked.
This is the reason for our standing with God. We stand before Him as Jesus Christ for the very purpose of living life as He did as closely as possible. We cannot say we do this perfectly because our actions and reactions, our tempers and feelings, our sins of omission and commission betray us, revealing our continual need for the application of Christ's blood to restore our standing to the pristine standard of our Savior, even if for only a short time. Our gratitude to God for His thoughtful foresight and merciful patience is thus renewed in the acknowledgement of our sin.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)
Romans 11:11 introduces a long discourse showing that we should not consider as lost those not currently headed toward salvation. The Bible provides ample evidence of two more periods of salvation ahead. This first of these times of judgment will occur during the Millennium. It will be primarily directed toward Israel and spread from there to other nations. The second period will include all who never had an opportunity for salvation when they first lived, when God simply passed over them, consigning or ordaining them to stumble. This will not commence until after the Millennium (Revelation 20:11-15).
Paul continues to expand this thought in verses 11-14, explaining that God's rejection of Israel is only temporary. He intends His rebuff of them to open the way to include Gentiles in all the promises given to Abraham. When Israel becomes aware of what has happened to them and the Gentiles because of their stumbling, it will work to remove their complacency and motivate them to obey God.
In verses 15-16, Paul lays the groundwork for indicating a time in the future when all Israel will be reconciled to God: "For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches." In other words, those God has cast away at this time (Israelites, the natural branches) will be drawn to Him at some future time and regrafted into the tree. The firstfruit is the church. We are holy and already part of the holy tree, the Family of God. When God regrafts Israel into the tree, they, too, will be holy because we will all be connected to the same root, Christ (John 15:1-5).
The Bible affords those of us called now not even the slightest room for pride because only God knows the reasons for His mercy toward us. Such scriptures as I Corinthians 1:26-29 make it plain that it is certainly not because we are better than others are. God intends that we be humbled by understanding our privilege in having such an awesome gift fall into our laps, and be motivated to respond to Him in submission to His commandments. We do this by showing the same kindness, tenderness, and mercy to others whether or not they have also received this gracious gift.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight
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