*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Romans 11:19-24 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Romans 11:19
  • Romans 11:20
  • Romans 11:21
  • Romans 11:22
  • Romans 11:23
  • Romans 11:24

If we let ourselves become arrogant, if we lord over others, God will discipline us. God is in the business of redeeming, He will bring Israel back to Him, therefore Gentiles should not look down on unbelieving Jews.

The Israelites’ branches were broken off, so that the Gentiles might be grafted in. Grafting is an agricultural technique whereby a branch from one tree is placed into a cut on another tree and that branch begins to grow and becomes nurtured by its new host tree. Similarly, Gentiles are now receiving the benefit of all the promises God made to Abraham and Israel. It’s pretty natural for anyone to assume they are superior to those who fell before them, but God is adamant that is not true in this case. God loves Gentiles and Jews alike.

Paul says that branches in the natural tree were broken off to make way for the Gentiles’ branches to be grafted in and it is, they were broken off for their unbelief. Paul is essentially warning the Gentile believers, “Don’t attribute your standing before God to yourself. You didn’t earn being justified before me; you are not better than the fallen Israelites,” they can only stand by [their] faith. He is warning them do not be conceited, but fear. This applies to Gentile Christians of today. If Gentiles become haughty, conceited, and look down upon Israel, they will suffer consequences (verses 20-21).

Sin has consequences for everyone, including believers. This is one of Paul’s most emphasized points in the letter to the Romans. Can we sin and grace will abound? Yes. Nothing can separate believers from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39). If we do sin, are there consequences? Yes. If we go back into the death from which we were delivered, what are we going to get? Negative consequences. The result of sin is separation from things that are good for us; this separation is what the Bible calls “death.” If we go back into slavery from which we were delivered, what are we going to get? We’re going to get slavery and addiction.

Through our faith we receive God’s kindness, through our conceit we experience God’s severity. He will not spare you, either (11:21): what does that mean? Elsewhere in the Bible, there is a “sin unto death” (1 John 5:16, Acts 5). We believers are going to heaven, nothing can separate us from the power of Christ’s resurrection, but we can separate ourselves from the blessing of God, by being haughty and following our own way. 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. In Acts 7:53 Stephen makes it clear that Israel’s rejection is a pattern. God’s people were exiled for disobedience and not listening to the prophets. Believers who do not listen to Jesus are following in that same example. But in both cases God does not reject His people. He did not reject Israel, they just experienced the negative consequences of their choices, and if we choose to be slaves to sin, the wages of sin is death; the fundamental problem in each case is pride.

For the Jews, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. The Jews will be grafted back into their own olive tree, the true nation of Israel. The Gentiles 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 (Jews) be grafted into their own olive tree? The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. Rebellious Christians can always turn back to walking in the Spirit. Righteous Christians can always stumble and fall away from walking in faith. There’s no retirement from sanctification/discipleship. So, believers should not be conceited, we should instead fear the severity of God. As we saw in Romans 1, if we desire the things of the world and the flesh, God will let us have it if we insist, along with the negative consequences of those sins.

Some things are unconditional. The gifts and calling of God are unconditional (Romans 11:29). God birthed Israel as a gift, and will never take that back. Our birth as believers is unconditional. God gives it to us, and we just receive it. The gifts God gives us, He simply gives them to us. Being an heir of God, having God as our inheritance is unconditional (Romans 8:17a). But there are a lot of things that are conditional. It’s conditional whether we actually have the benefits of the resurrected life based on whether or not we walk by faith. It’s conditional whether we’re joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17b). If we want to be joint heirs with Christ, we have to suffer the sufferings of Christ. And if we want the blessings of our faith, then we have to walk in belief.

The theme verse of Romans is found in 1:17, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.'” God clearly commands us to live by faith; this is the way He designed us to live, trusting totally in Him. If we become haughty and lord our position over people who have fallen away, God will deal with us.

Biblical Text

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?

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