Paul continues as if he is writing to one particular Christian. He does that in several places in the Book of Romans, when he needed to warn people severely (2:1-5; 2:17-23; 9:19-21). Here (11:17-24), this person is arguing that the Christians have replaced Israel in Godís plan (11:19).
In his reply, Paul warns that person that his attitudes are proud, and therefore dangerous (11:20-21; 11:25). God acts in a wonderful and generous way when he invites people from every nation to have a part in his plans. Therefore, those people who have benefited so much from his kindness should have a humble and grateful attitude. Such an attitude would not cause them to oppose Israelís people, but rather to recognise Godís love for Israel (11:28).
To explain this, Paul uses a word-picture about an olive tree. The olive is a very special tree. From its fruit comes the valuable oil that people used both for food, and in their lamps.
A skilled gardener can take a shoot (small, young branch) from one tree and join it to another tree. That task is called 'grafting'. Without a connection to a tree, that shoot would soon die. However, its connection to the tree allows it to grow into a strong and healthy branch.
For that purpose, the gardener would not select the shoot from a wild tree. Rather, he would choose a shoot from one of his best trees. However, Paul compares that Christian from a foreign nation, to a wild olive shoot. He wants that Christian to realise what an honour it is for him to join the people of God. When that Christian appreciates properly Godís kindness to him, his attitude towards Israelís people will change. He will desire strongly that God will soon complete his promise to bring Israelís people back to him (11:26-27).
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© 2017, Keith Simons.