Romans 11:17-18 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 11:17
  • Romans 11:18

Just because Gentiles have been adopted into God’s family does not mean they are superior to the children who have wandered away. Jews have rejected God, and God has taken this opportunity to save Gentiles. Gentiles are no better than the Jews. Jews are no worse than Gentiles. All of humanity needs salvation, all men are sinners.

Paul is making an analogy of our relationship with Israel: some of the branches were broken off (unbelieving Jews) and the Gentiles are like a wild olive tree, grafted in among the broken branches of a cultivated olive tree, and became a partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, receiving the benefits of its root and health.

The olive tree is a symbol for Israel. In the analogy, Israel is the root of the olive tree, and broken off branches represent unbelieving Jews. Gentiles were grafted in as wild branches. In verse 18, Paul says, do not be arrogant toward the branches. The native branches are the Jews. Gentiles have nothing to brag about, nor are they superior to Israel. God redeems Gentiles through His grace, and He also has plans for Israel’s restoration. Gentiles are grafted into Israel. They are grafted into the promises God made to Israel. Christianity is not a separate thing from God’s relationship with the Jews. It’s an expansion of Judaism and a continuation of the unfolding of God’s promises. The promise we have of righteousness through faith is exactly the same promise Abraham had. We’re all children of Abraham because we are children of the promise. (Romans 9:8) Gentiles are to remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 

In this letter, Paul is answering competing Jewish “authorities” who are slandering him and teaching a false doctrine. He’s rejecting their doctrine. He’s not rejecting them. And he’s making it clear that Israel has not been rejected by God. Paul makes this clear elsewhere also. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians he says the Gentiles were “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel” but were included in that commonwealth by Jesus (Ephesians 2:12). The word translated “commonwealth” can also be translated “citizenship.”

Biblical Text

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.

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