In our 2-part look at the Parable of the Sheep and Goats we noted that the "least of my brethren" reference by the Lord in that passage in Matthew 25 is to Jews in the tribulation. We noted that those being judged are the "nations" (i.e. gentile nations). Remember, God sees the world, since Babel, as his chosen nation (Israel) and the 70 nations (see the list of nations descended from Noah after the Flood in Genesis chapter 10).
The Most High assigned nations their lands;
he determined where peoples should live.
He assigned to each nation a heavenly being,
but Jacob's descendants he chose for himself.
[Jacob is the place of His inheritance]
And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel:‘ You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth [land] is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming [FUTURE], says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
But [Jesus] answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen [kinsmen/relatives] according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
To physical Israel pertain the adoption [inheritance as the first born], the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the service of God [the priesthood], and the promises to the fathers. Paul reaffirms this last point later in the same epistle.
Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a minister to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers.
We note that Romans 9 is dealing with national Israel (the root of Romans 11). It is spoken of as a whole. To the nation belong these blessings. These earthly blessing are the blessings into which the believing Gentiles in the Acts Age were "grafted in." This is NOT resurrection life truth as these same Gentiles (not Jews) could be "cut off" from the root (Israel) if they became haughty against that root.
Let's walk through Romans 15, starting with verses 1 and 2.
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.
This is the physical seed of Abraham. There is also a spiritual see of Abraham spoken of in the epistle to the Galatians. That seed is made up of both Jew and Gentile believers. But here in Romans 11 (as we see earlier in this epistle in a number of places, including our selection from Romans 9) we see the physical seed of Abraham, that is, the Jews.
A believing Gentile could never say "of the tribe of" as he, by definition, was of no tribe of Israel. We are squarely in the ground of physical and earthly Israel. So as we move ahead in the epistle, we must keep this context in mind.
I say then, have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their [Israel's] fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their [Israel's] fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their [Israel's] fullness!
Before us are two distinct groups: Israel and Gentiles. In the Acts Age, the rejection of the Kingdom preached by the Lord and his disciples has opened the door to certain blessings to Gentile believers. When Peter preached to Cornelius in Acts 10, he tells us Cornelius already believed. And Peter saw Gentile believers in Matthew 8 (the Centurion) and in Matthew 15 (the Canaanite woman).
Acts 10 was years after Pentecost. So we can conclude two things from that chapter:
- There were no Gentiles at the Jewish Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2
- What surprised Peter was not Cornelius' faith, but that he received prophesied spiritual gifts
And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
They'd never seen that. The pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost was a partial fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel for Israel. To Israel "pertains the promises." This is all connected to those promises made to Israel. These have to do with what was spoken in scripture to Israel. And we know why God started to pour out his Spirit on Gentile believers. Paul (chosen Apostle to the Gentiles, the uncircumcision, who was redeemed in Acts 9) tells us it was to make unbelieving Israel jealous. The goal was to drive Israel to faith in the Messiah; the Messiah believed on by these gifted Gentiles.
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
The context demands that Paul is speaking of physical Jews. These are Jews who had not believed yet in the Messiah (the Christ). With physical, earthly Israel in mind, Paul continues his teaching on the inclusion of Gentiles into Israel's EARTHLY blessings. We cannot read here that Gentiles were grafted into spiritual Israel by the new birth (the new nature). To do so, we would have to ignore Paul's arguments in Romans 1-8 solidifying that for anyone (Jew or Gentile), the gift of Resurrection Life is by grace alone through faith alone. The grafting in MUST be to Israel's earthly promises and hope.
We pause here to reference two people from scripture: Adam and the Malefactor on the cross. Neither of these had a hope of a kingdom or a priesthood. When the Malefactor asks the Lord to remember him when he comes into his Kingdom, the Lord promises him a place in "Paradise." That is a specific word. It is was Adam lost by his sin. It was Adam's hope and the hope of all before Abraham. We see in the Malefactor, it was still the hope of believing Gentiles before the grafting in.
With the earthly blessings and the promises to physical Israel in mind, we continue.
For I speak to you Gentiles... For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them [Israel], and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Gentiles are warned not to boast against the branches that were cut off. These would be unbelieving Jews. Remember, ONLY GENTILE believers receive this warning. As with all truths in scripture, we must ask, "is this truth for today?" Do we practice this in this hour? Do we warn Gentile believers only not to boast against unbelieving Jews? Here we pause again to note that a Jew is still a Jew, unbelieving or not. For more, see our 3-Part series on "Who Is A Jew?"
You [Gentiles] will say then, “[Jewish]Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you [Gentiles] also will be cut off. And they [Jews] also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
The Olive Tree is Israel. It is the place whence their blessings flow. For Israel has the inheritance and the promises. Jews are the "natural branches" for these blessings. Gentiles are also olive branches, but wild olive branches, That is, they have no fatness (blessings) unless grafted into the blessings of Israel. And just as they were grafted in, the could be "cut off."
If we ignore the context and hold that the grafting in to Israel is the free gift, then the cutting off would deny what Paul had argued in the first eight chapters of this epistle. We'd have to conclude that resurrection life is not a gift of God. We could then boast that God is our debtor for we maintained our free gift. The gift would then no longer be a gift.
Do you see the pernicious implications behind misinterpreting this passage? Do you see why we must rightly divide Israel from Gentiles? Earthly blessings from heavenly? The gift of life from blessings and rewards and hopes? Why we must understand the inheritances and hopes (plural) in scripture? Why we must see the Acts Age hopes as different from the hope of this age?
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 [physical, national Israel];
For this is My covenant with them [Israel],
When I take away their [Israel's] sins.”
This teaches us, from the prophets (remember, Paul taught nothing that was not found in Moses and the Prophets, Acts 26:22) that God's Plan always included the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel (Acts 1:1-6; Acts 3:12-22). This truth is truth revealed "from" or "since" the beginning of the world [ages] ("things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world [time]began" -Acts 3:21). The truths for today were hidden from the prophets and were hidden in God from "before" the ages began. The truths for today and its blessings (and riches) concern heavenly places, not the blessings of earth. We find these truth in the epistles written AFTER the Acts Age
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me [Paul], who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the dispensation [stewardship]of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.
We pause to also see that Paul is now casting himself as "the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles." rather than as in chains "for the hope of Israel" as he teaches in Acts 28 ("because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain - Acts 28:20). Paul also testified to this at his trial in the Acts Age ("And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain" -Acts 26:6-7).
Again we see the twelve tribes and the fathers. The contrast here is with physical promises to Israel. We can never claim access or inclusion in either way.
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.
Finally, for this short study, we note that physical and national Israel became enemies of the gospel for the sake of God's plan (which was spoken by the Prophets) to bless Gentiles. But in noting that fact from the Acts Age, Paul reminds us (the Holy Spirit thus reminds us) that God's calling and Plan for Israel and the Kingdom and the Priesthood and the land are "irrevocable." There will be an Israel made up of believing Jews. The New Covenant with the House of Israel will come to pass.
There is a plan for national, physical Israel, and the induvial responsibility of Jews to believe. We must rightly divide these truths when we read scripture.
We note again, however, this does not involve the calling or hope of the present age.