Check Your Roots

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, September 26, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

It takes almost 100 years for an olive tree to produce a regular harvest of good olives. You might see it produce fruit in its first 5-10 years, but your children or grandchildren would be the ones to benefit from the tree. Olive trees are resilient, and the health benefits from their fruit amazing. Grafting was often done to try and accelerate production, or to pair a strong root with high producing varieties of branches.

Grafting can be done several ways, and it is still done today in order to increase health, production, etc. "Cleft grafting" is a type of graft where most, if not all, of the natural branches of an olive tree are cut off about 3 ft above the ground. The trunk is split. Branches of another olive tree, usually younger, are bonded into that split. The old root will supply more substantial support to the branches, and the young branches can produce a harvest greater than they would have by their immature natural root.

I believe this is the type of grafting Paul is mentioning in Romans 11:11-24. Take a moment and read that passage. Then I am going to give you some related thoughts and Bible quotes to explore to help connect the dots on Paul's point.

Did you follow his picture about the olive tree? He is giving an illustration of God's relationship to believers (Jew or Gentile). God is the root, specifically His promise to Abraham (Genesis 12-15), which was and is accomplished through Jesus Christ. (For more on the promise, see this video.)

Jesus himself said, "My father is the gardener… I am the vine you are the branches… apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:1-5). What if John the Baptist was referring to cleft grafting when he said, "produce fruit in keeping with repentance… do not say we have Abraham as our father (root)… the ax is laid at the root of the tree" (Matthew 3:7-10)? John was warning Israel that they had started living and believing in a direction different than what God intended. Jesus was reminding everyone who and where life comes from.

Going back to the Romans passage, notice what Paul says to the new believers from outside of Israel, the Gentiles. He reminds them that they do not support the root; the root supports them. He also reminds them that they too can be cut off if they stop believing, and any Jew who believes can be grafted back in.

These are humbling and encouraging statements. Last week I shared that God graciously holds out hope for anyone to believe; yet He is firm in His dealing with rebellion. God may even intensify rebellion for the sake of others. Here we see Paul saying that is exactly what God did with Israel. In this one picture of how olive trees are cultivated and grafted, Paul provides strong encouragement that no one is beyond hope of coming to faith in Jesus Christ and being added into God's promise. He also provides a strong warning that anyone who becomes arrogant in their position as part of God's promise, who begins to live and grow apart from the will of God, can and will be cut off.

Not everyone will be saved, and not everyone is doomed to be lost. There is ALWAYS hope. And there is ALWAYS consequence for rebellion.

The question for you and me is, are we humbly walking in relationship with God, grateful and eager to do His will? Interceding for those who do not yet know God? Warning those who arrogantly presume they are "in" with God? And constantly drawing our life, strength, perspective, and purpose from the root?

Be encouraged, and be warned. Stay humble and fix your eyes on Jesus. Stay unified with other followers of Jesus. Stay hopeful, and keep your prayers and hands extended toward anyone who is apart from God.

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