Behold then the kindness and severity of God
Romans 11:13-36 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
In today’s text Paul is comparing and contrasting those who were of God’s chosen people according to their heritage as Jews and through the covenant promises of the law, with those who are God’s chosen by grace, through the cross of Christ. The truth is, the Jews were, are and always will be chosen by God. They were chosen to be those through whom the promise would come, not only the promise to Abraham of an inheritance of land, which was for them, but also the promise that: "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:18) The ancestry of Christ, through whom the promise of the blessing of all nations though the redemption of the cross would come, is traced to and through the seed of Abraham. Now, the Jewish people, like all nations, are called to a relationship with God, through the covenant of grace, rather than by the law or by their natural heritage..
As I read the comparison and contrast, by Paul, of those who were chosen and those who are chosen, I couldn’t help but to think of the church today. Even though, as Ephesians 2:8-9 says: By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast, rather than unity around the grace of God, there is division. There are some who have returned, as the Jewish people did, to a doctrine of works, focusing on righteousness, based on behavior, rather than the righteousness of Christ, imparted and imputed by grace. Others lean wholly on grace, with no regard for the righteousness that it should bring to and in the life of the believer. They reason that since Christ died for sins, once for all, that every sin, past, present and future is covered by grace, therefore in their minds sin, the behavior and actions of individuals no longer matter. It seems, much like the Jews and the Gentiles Paul compares and contrasts, there tends to be those today who follow the path of righteousness or those who follow the path of grace. In Matthew 7:13 Jesus says: "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” There are those today that believe that the narrow way is the side of the road that is based in walking in righteousness. These will sometimes reject and despise those who are being brought into the kingdom of God, while they are seemingly still in their sin. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says, we are saved by grace not by our works. We should not reject or despise those who come to Christ, while they are yet sinners.
On the other hand Ephesians 2:10 says: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Although we are saved by grace, when we are redeemed by the cross of Christ we are recreated in Christ, We are to walk in the good works that God prepared for us. So the narrow way of Christ, is not found by continuing to walk on the side of the path which continues in sin, because Christ has forgiven all sin by grace. The narrow way of Christ is neither the side of works or the side of disregard of righteousness. The narrow way of Christ is the path that walks in the righteousness of Christ, because of grace. In today’s text Paul says: Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. It is difficult for us to reconcile kindness and severity, mercy and righteous judgment. Perhaps because with our human minds and human emotions, we are relegated to either or. Our finite minds cannot comprehend an infinite God. In the same way we struggle to understand that grace and righteousness do equally exist in God’s sight; that kindness and severity also equally exist with Him.
For those who are in sin, Jesus says: "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." (Luke 5:32) He says come. His call is to come not in righteousness, but as sinners. He calls us then to repent. He says: "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more." (John 8:11) Saved by grace alone, we are called to walk in righteousness.
God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Amen.