“So you see that God is kind and also very strict. He punishes those who stop following him. But God is kind to you, if you continue following in his kindness. If you do not, you will be cut off from the tree. And if the Jews will believe in God again, he will accept them back. God is able to put them back where they were.” (Romans 11:22-23 NCV)
Jesus talked about the vine and the branches. Paul talked about a wild and a cultivated olive tree. The Jews, as the chosen people of God, were the cultivated olive tree. When they refused to believe in Jesus, their branches were removed. Branches from the wild olive tree, Gentiles, were then grafted onto the cultivated tree when they believed in Jesus. Then, Paul issued a warning to the Gentiles: God put you on that tree and God can take you off. God is kind, but strict and if you stop believing, you’ll find yourselves cut off from the tree.
That’s frightening and challenging to my theology. While I’ve never had a perfect belief system, other teaching in the New Testament seems to imply that once you have entered into a relationship with God through Jesus, you can’t be taken away. Earlier in this letter, Paul asked, “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” and his answer was, in effect, nothing. I wish I could reconcile these two passages. In the meanwhile, I’m going to stay true to God. At the same time, there is an amazing promise in this passage that Jews who were cut off from the tree when they refused to believe have an ongoing opening to return to God by believing in Jesus. God didn’t change His mind about the Jews. Just as He provided a way for Gentiles to receive mercy, so Jews also have that same opportunity. None of us, Jews or Gentiles, have a reason to brag about who we are because God is the one who chose us, and God is the one who sustains us. As Paul said elsewhere, if I’m going to boast, I’m going to boast in Jesus Christ. Take the time to reflect on the amazing mercy of God and share His grace with someone else today.
Lord, it’s all about You. It’s all about Your love. It’s all about Your grace. Help me to rejoice in You today and to share Your love and grace with others so that they can rejoice in their own experience with You.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved