with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive treePosted: November 6, 2009
(Post taken from Tony Warren, in his exposition of Romans 11)
I enjoyed reading this in the wee hours of the night/morning whatever is was. But it was great! You can read it all here.
“And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;”
Verse seventeen continues with the theme of God’s sovereignty in deciding who He will have in the Covenant tree Israel. And note this verse shows the telescoping of Covenant Israel (the old into the new) pictured in the likeness of an olive tree. The Jewish people of Covenant Israel are signified as the branches that were growing out of this same olive tree. We read there that some of the branches of this tree (some of the Jewish people of the Old Covenant congregation Israel) were broken off, and branches from the Gentile nations (Symbolized by a wild Olive tree) were then grafted into that same Covenant tree, Israel. This signifying the telescoping of the Old covenant congregation into the New. And we must be clear on what this imagery represents before we can have any chance of truly understanding what is being said here.
God is making the distinction between the natural olive tree branches (the Jewish people, who are naturally of Covenant Israel) which are the original children, and the wild olive tree branches (the people of the Gentile nations) which were not naturally His covenant people, but that are now brought into God’s Covenant relationship with Israel.
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Both Jew and Gentile are made one body of this Covenant tree, Israel. Both are now the Children of Israel, by the faith of Christ. Has the Promise to Israel of a New Covenant and an everlasting inheritance been abrogated? No, but Israel shall be defined by God, not by man. If we are in Christ Israel, then we are all Abraham’s seed and inheritors of the promises to Israel.
Again, it’s very important to understand that distinction in Romans 11:17. Because the symbolism in this Olive Tree ‘proves’ that this tree representing Old Covenant Israel is now telescoped into a tree representing New Covenant Israel. And it is a congregation of Jews and Gentiles alike, in one body. The Gentiles branches were grafted in among the remnant Jewish branches of Covenant Israel. And now ‘with them’ they partake of the root and fatness of this olive tree. The Jews or remnant branches not broken off, are partaking of the fatness of the tree. And God says now we Gentiles are grafted in ‘among them’ in this same Olive tree and also are partaking of the fatness thereof. They are all one people, so we cannot bifurcate this olive tree, negating its one body and one Root. It represents one undivided children of God.
Symbolism is rampant in God’s word, and using objects to illustrate truth is a mainstay of scripture. Thus this imagery of one tree being Covenant Israel (Old Testament Israel), the other being the Gentile nations or peoples collectively, cannot be mistaken. Obviously, if the Olive tree is Covenant Israel and the branches are the Jewish people of that Israel, then when the Gentile branches are taken from their tree and are grafted in with that Israel, they then become part of that Covenant Israel which the tree represented. To say anything less is absurd. They’ve left the Gentile people, and have entered into the tree of the Jews, so that now they are heirs of the promises to ‘Covenant Israel’ right along with the Jewish branches that were not broken off in God’s judgment.
By the same token, those branches broken off (Jewish people who were not truly saved, and are blinded) they are not considered true Israel in God’s eyes. In the Biblical vernacular, they have been cut off from their people. That is the illustration that we saw in Romans chapter nine declaring that, “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” Some in covenant Israel have no Root, and thus are not in Christ, the True Seed of Israel. They are those who are cut off from the tree (Covenant Israel) and are made spiritually blind, as some Gentiles have been grafted in, their blindness lifted as they are made to see. Gentiles are now part of Covenant Israel right along with the remnant like the Apostle Peter, Paul and all Jewish people (believers) who rest in Christ. This includes any Jewish Christians today. They are the Jewish remnant and together we make up this Covenant Israel tree. Together we abide in the House that is Christ, Israel. All theological rhetoric not aside, there are not two Godly trees, nor two New Covenants (Testaments) with Israel. There is one children of God, which is the body of Christ consisting of Jews and Gentiles. This is just as Ephesians so boldly declares on this matter:
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”
Where once we were Gentiles, strangers and aliens (noncitizens) of the commonwealth of Israel, we are now fellow citizens. How much clearer does it have to be? We are no longer foreigners or strangers from the Covenant, but are fellow saints. The blood of Christ makes us near. The question is, made near to what? The answer is that, “made nigh by the blood of Christ,” is in answer to how we were once, “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise.” there can be no mistaking it’s meaning.
In Christ there is one salvation program for Gentile and Jew. It is man’s pride, political agenda, wishful thinking, and Church tradition that promotes the idea that God has two separate salvation plans. The false dichotomy between Israel and the Church has been the stmblingblock to so many Christians. Yet there is one tree, one body, one Israel, and one deliverance of that Israel. Which is not a future event, but that occurred at the cross.
Another thing to be considered in God’s illustration of the Olive tree, is that it simply cannot represent the literal nation Israel, because if it did, that would mean Gentiles were leaving their literal land from the time of the Cross unto today to go live physically in the land of Israel. We clearly understand that this cannot possibly be. i.e., we’re not being grafted into the literal earthly or physical nation of Israel. We are being grafted into “Covenant Israel,” which is not a physical nation nor land, but a corporate or covenanted people of God, once represented in by that nation.
Likewise, the tree cannot be the Spiritual indivisible Israel of God that many Christians think it is. Because in that true Spiritual Israel from above, all are saved. Thus none could have ever been broken off if this was an image of that Israel. It’s important to understand this imagery represents “corporate Israel.” It represents the covenant congregation of the children of God both on the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant side of the cross. And we should not lose sight of the fact that this is the “same” Israel tree (how else could these old testament branches be broken off), but in a New Covenant Israel dispensation. In the New dispensation (Ephesians 1:10, 3:2-6; Colossians 1:25-27) Gentiles are being grafted into this covenant congregation. As indeed we did read in Ephesians chapter 2. It is important for us to understand what it cannot represent, so we may better comprehend what it “must” represent. And that is an external Covenanted congregation of Israel relationship.
Many in God’s congregation today (like many in Israel then) are not truly saved, and they will be cut off. Indeed, in verse eighteen of Romans 11, God warns the Gentiles not to boast. Because if they do, they are deluding themselves thinking that they are something better, or are the ones responsible for their salvation. God assures us, they didn’t bear the Root, but the Root bore them. In other words, we have nothing to boast about, for Christ (the Root) is our help, our strength, the author and finisher of our faith, and we cannot take one ounce of credit for being better than the Jewish people. Such pride brings about the same fall as Israel suffered.
The overview of verse seventeen is that it is illustrating to us that by the Root we partake in the fatness of the olive-tree. Thus we should understand that we are privileged, and all benefits and blessings are by Grace of God. The People of Old Covenant Israel were not broken off from relationship with God, and the Gentiles were grafted in among them because of our own fatness. It is by the Root we partake of the fatness that makes us holy and strong, not by any goodness of our own. Along with the remnant, we are partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, and that is what bears us up. We are no better than the Jews, and we can be judged just as the Jews were. God is warning that we stand by Grace, and we are exhorted not to despise or reproach the unbelieving Jewish people. And the following verses underscore that.