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©Michael Player

Chapter 11:17-24 (ESV)

Posted on January 10, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 11:17-24 (ESV) - But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

Question to consider: Who are the natural branches, and how are they to be grafted back into their own olive tree?

Among Christians there seems to be a variety of views regarding those today who consider themselves direct ancestors of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. While many of the ancient genealogical records were destroyed during the siege against Jerusalem in AD 70, there are some who believe they have been able to trace their lineage back to a particular tribe through DNA testing or a forensic study of their surname. One of my closest friends believes he is from the tribe of Benjamin which happens to be the same one as the apostle Paul.

The extreme negative view of Jews today comes from Christians who take Jesus’ words against the Pharisees and extrapolate them out to everyone who believes they are a natural branch. In Revelation, Jesus referred to those of the synagogues who persecuted the church as a “synagogue of Satan”. John the Baptist called the religious leaders of his day a “brood of vipers” which was a reference to the offspring of the serpent in Genesis 3:15. Jesus had direct confrontations with the scribes and Pharisees calling them children of the devil and rejecting their traditions which at some points even contradicted the Law. I know Martin Luther was accused of holding such views toward the end of his life, but I don’t know if his words were intended for all who professed to be Jewish or just some of the leaders that opposed the work of the gospel. I would hope he didn’t paint everyone with a broad brush, but even if he developed a prejudice toward the end of his life, I profess to be Lutheran based on the doctrinal confessions of the denomination and not necessarily the personal views of the man. 

For those who take this negative view, I think you should heed Paul’s warning above to “not become proud, but fear”. God has shown kindness to you and expects you to continue in his kindness to treat people from every tribe and nation as someone who is able to receive the gospel promises.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, are those Christians who believe that the modern nation of Israel is the apple of God’s eye, and that God has some kind of special promises yet to keep with them. Religious leaders like John Hagee are considered “friends of Israel” and will profess that the Jews are under a different covenant so we shouldn’t reach out to them with the gospel. If you believe this, I would ask you to re-read this study in Romans because Paul spent a lot of time proving that the only way someone can be saved according to the Law is to live by it perfectly. If you believe that the temple is going to be rebuilt and start allowing the sacrifice of animals to cover over sin, you really need to study the book of Hebrews. If you indeed are a true friend to someone who is Jewish, you should love them enough to be able to teach them of the righteousness that comes by faith through Christ. You should love them enough to be able to prove from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah who reigns in the heavenly Jerusalem and will one day come to judge the living and the dead.

We should have the same desire as Paul in today’s chapter that the natural branches be grafted back into the true vine which is Christ Jesus. I can attest to the fact that it is heartbreaking to risk a friendship in order to tell someone the truth, but genuine love is expressed in being truthful.


Dear heavenly Father, please give us a heart for those who profess to know You but are clinging to their own attempts at righteousness. Open their eyes to who Jesus is and what He has done for all people who call upon His name. Amen.