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Do you understand what it means to be grafted in? With the increasing number of people drawn to the idea of spiritual oneness, many are left wondering what it really means to be grafted into something greater. This article will provide a deeper exploration of what it means to be grafted in – and give insight into how to bring a sense of belonging within ourselves.
Through an exploration of the history of the concept of being grafted in and its spiritual implications, readers will learn how to incorporate the practice of being grafted into their lives. We will dive deep into the power of this idea and how it can bring a newfound sense of acceptance and connection.
Paul compares the Jewish people with the natural branches of a cultivated olive tree and Gentile Christians to the branches of a wild olive tree in Romans 11:11-24. While some of the natural branches have been broken off, the wild branches have been grafted in to become partakers of God’s promises and receive the blessings of His salvation. In other words, Gentiles can now share in the same hope that the Jews have had for thousands of years – that of being favored in the eyes of the Lord.
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean?
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As descendants of Abraham, the children of Israel were uniquely selected by God to carry out a special mission: to be a shining light for the Gentiles and introduce them to the Lord. But sadly, despite God’s clear instruction, the people of Israel failed to fulfill the purpose He had for them. It is essential for us to understand this history so that we may strive to follow God’s call on our own lives and spread the knowledge of the Lord to the world.
Despite turning away from their calling and worshipping foreign gods (Ezekiel 23), God’s promise of restoration to Israel still stood strong. In anticipation of their return, God sent His Son, John the Baptist, to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was near. God lovingly invited the Israelites to repent and return to Him through his words.
Jesus, the promised Davidic King sent to restore Israel, faced rejection from His own people. To fulfill Abraham’s commission, Jesus called His disciples to preach the gospel far and wide, so that all nations could be blessed. This work will continue until the end of this age when Jesus will return.
For Christians, this reminder serves two important purposes: one, to remind us of our shared heritage and the responsibility we have to spread Jesus’ message of love and hope, and two, to bring us a deeper understanding of our role in the world.
Rejected by the Jews, Paul heralded the gospel of the Kingdom to the Gentiles (Acts 13-28), allowing them to become spiritual children of Abraham by faith and heirs to the promises to Abraham and his descendants. In doing so, he brought the good news of the Kingdom to all. (Galatians 3—4).
Paul’s teaching in Romans 11—that Gentiles become “grafted” into the “olive tree” and nourished by the promises made to Abraham—holds special significance for Christians. The tree refers to God’s collective people, with unbelieving Jews represented by “natural branches” cut off from the tree and Gentile believers as “wild branches” grafted in.
Jewish believers, however, remain in the tree, joining with Gentiles to form the “new body” of the Church. (Ephesians 2:11–22)
Paul knew that among Christian Gentiles, a common question was likely to arise: how could Gentiles, who had no relationship with the Jewish God, be saved? Paul reasoned that the saving grace of Jesus Christ was sufficient for all, regardless of background. He argued that salvation through faith in Jesus was the only path to spiritual freedom.
Gentile believers may be tempted to write off Israel, which appears to be beyond recovery. Many even still argue for supersessionism or ‘replacement theology,’ suggesting that the Church has completely taken Israel’s place in the promises of God, to be fulfilled in a spiritual sense only. However, Christians must remember that God’s promises to His people have not been broken.
According to this view, ethnic Israel is excluded from the promises stated in the Old Testament; this includes the prophecy that the Jews will inherit the Promised Land. Therefore, what is to happen to Israel? Will the Old Testament prophecies be fulfilled, with Israel repenting and permanently restored to the land in the last days? (Deuteronomy 30:1–10)
Romans 11 reveals God’s ongoing faithfulness to His people Israel, even after they temporarily lost the privilege of representing Him. According to the passage, God’s gifts and calls are irrevocable.
Thus, He will fulfill His covenant with the nation of Israel – including the promise of land inheritance – by “saving all Israel.” As such, Gentile believers can take comfort in the fact that God’s plan is never finished and is faithful to His promises.
As part of God’s redemptive plan (Romans 11:30–36), Israel failed, and some of the “natural branches” were cut off. But while this was a redirection, it wasn’t the end—God’s plan is only complete when Israel is grafted back in and takes part in the promises to Abraham and His seed.
This larger story of redemption culminates in the Davidic (or Millennial) Kingdom, which the prophets of old saw as the “final form” of the olive tree. In this Kingdom, Israel steps into the role of blessing the Gentiles, thereby allowing them to join the people of God. It’s a beautiful demonstration of God’s love and redemption for both Jews and Gentiles alike.
Gentiles Who Believe In Jesus Are Grafted In
If the dough offered as first fruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
Verse 16 serves as a bridge between two sections of Paul’s teachings in the passage we’ll focus on today. He conveys his insights using two powerful metaphors.
The first involves dough.
In Paul’s writings, he is often referring to God’s instructions to Moses in Numbers 15, a passage that is especially significant to Christians. Here, God gives us a set of instructions that serve as a foundation for our faith.
All food must be offered to God before it is eaten. In Numbers 15, God’s law clearly states that if the dough is being prepared, the first portion of it must be offered to the Lord.
This act of faith sanctifies the entire lump of dough—offering each individual bite to God before partaking is no longer necessary. In this way, Christian believers can show their reverence to the Lord with every meal.
The offering of first fruits represents the initial wave of Jewish believers in Jesus Christ as the Messiah—the first to make the shift in their faith from Israel to Christ.
Dedicated to God, this group of converts serves as hope that more Jews will soon come to trust in Jesus, paving the way for a larger spiritual movement.
Paul affirms that God values faithfulness, and from this point, it’s a logical conclusion to recognize that the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – are held dear to the Lord. As these figures represent the root of Christianity, they continue to have a special place in God’s eyes.
God chose the patriarchs for a special purpose: to listen to His Voice and obey His Word. This lineage of spiritual and ethnic ancestors is the foundation upon which the entire nation of Israel stands.
As Christians, it’s vital to recognize the importance of this sacred bond – one that illuminates our own spiritual purpose and identity.
God blessed the nation of Israel with holiness through the faith of the patriarchs.
Just like the offering of the first portion of dough made the entire bread batch holy, the patriarchs’ faith set Israel apart as God’s special possession. In doing so, they were made holy unto the Lord.
The Olive Tree and Grafted In
In verses 16-24 of the Bible, Paul uses the allegory of the olive tree to explain that God’s covenant with Israel remains firm and secure. He paints a vivid picture, comparing the branches of an olive tree to the nation of Israel.
By grafting branches from other trees, Paul observes that, like Israel, the Church of God is a multi-cultural, multi-generational thing. His message? We can trust in God’s promises – no matter who we are or where we come from.
For Christians, an allegory is a powerful tool to help convey complex ideas in a straightforward and engaging way. Take Paul’s allegory as an example. Each element of the allegory – from the characters to the events – symbolizes a particular person or concept.
By studying the elements, we can better understand the underlying message and how it applies to our lives. So let’s take a look at Paul’s allegory of the olive tree and how it conveys being grafted in.
- Believers in Jesus are rooted in the patriarchs, just as branches sprout from a tree. This is clear in verse 16 of the Bible, which reveals the connection between our ancestors and ourselves. As Christians, we honor our spiritual lineage and carry on their legacy in our faith.
- Broken branches in John’s gospel refer to unbelieving Jews who failed to recognize and accept Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah. Many did not believe in Him, even among those who had the opportunity to meet Jesus and hear His teachings. John wrote, “He came to His own people, yet they did not accept Him.” For Christians, this serves as a reminder to spread the good news whenever and wherever possible.
Wild Olive Shoot
- The wild olive shoot symbolizes Gentiles who, through faith, have recognized Jesus as the Son of God and the only Savior. They have put their trust in Him, embracing eternal life through His redemptive work.
- Verse 17 in the Bible speaks of a “faithful remnant” of believers: those who accept Jesus as their Messiah and Savior. This “remnant” is made up of Jews who have faith in Christ. They are the “others” mentioned in the scripture. It’s a passionate example of God’s enduring love, faithfulness, and commitment to His people.
- The olive tree root’s nourishing sap is a metaphor for the depth and richness of biblical Judaism – but it could also symbolize the gospel of justification through faith alone. Both point to the profound truth of Christianity.
In today’s world, some people have questioned the Apostle Paul’s description of the grafting process in Romans 11. In accordance with normal practice, grafted parts must be taken from cultivated olive tree branches and inserted into a wild stock.
Paul appears to indicate the reverse, which is never done and would be of no use. Disagreeing with Paul’s interpretation, these individuals ask: Could he have been wrong?
In 1905, Nobel Prize-winning Scottish chemist Sir William Ramsay penned an influential article exploring ancient and modern authorities — and it’s still widely quoted today. Ramsay applied a Christian worldview to this work, offering a fresh perspective on a shared faith shared by billions of people around the world.
“The process Paul described was still in use in Palestine ‘in exceptional circumstances…’, for ‘it is customary to reinvigorate an olive tree which is ceasing to bear fruit by grafting it with a shoot of the wild olive, so that the sap of the tree ennobles this wild shoot and the tree now again begins to bear fruit.’”
Paul’s reference, therefore, is not to the ordinary process of grafting the young olive tree, but to a method of stimulating new growth and fruitfulness in an older olive tree that had stopped bearing fruit. In this case, what is contrary to nature (verse 24) is not the “grafting” but the “belonging,” namely, that the shoot has been cut from the wild olive tree to which it naturally belonged, and has been grafted into the cultivated olive tree to which it does not naturally belong.John Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World
Throughout his allegory, Paul develops two distinct themes that play off each other. The first deals with broken-off branches, teaching Gentile believers a warning against presumption (verses 17-22). The second is a promise of hope for unbelieving Israelites that they, too, can be grafted in.
This message of hope and perseverance is both a reminder of God’s mercy and forgiveness to those who seek it. For Christians, Paul’s words provide an ever-important spiritual reminder: don’t give up, for even those who have been broken off still have an opportunity to be grafted in.
Some Important Reminders About Gentiles Being Grafted In
Believers in Jesus, take heed: Presumption is a dangerous thing. As Gentiles, you may be tempted to presume the goodness of your standing with the Lord when the truth could be something entirely different.
God is the one who decides where you stand, and it is not within your power to do so. So be vigilant, and pay attention to your relationship with Him lest you find out the hard way that you were wrong in your presumption.
Don’t be arrogant toward the branches
Don’t feel entitled because you were not part of God’s chosen people from the start. Don’t look down on others who were, for you too, have been grafted in. You were an outsider to the family, not of these branches – but when you chose to follow Jesus, you were welcomed in.
You were once excluded from the blessings of God’s people, yet now you are part of a divine connection to the root of Israel – and the same sap is feeding your spiritual life.
You do not support the root, but the root supports you.
As Christians, it’s important to remember that we have a dependency on the root. Branches alone cannot sustain life; they require a vital connection to the root in order to thrive. This relationship serves as a reminder of our need to rely on God for life and nourishment.
Fear, but do not become proud
Many Christians accept the misconception that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people in His kingdom. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In Romans 11:1-2, Paul clearly states that this is not the case, providing us with the correct understanding of what it means to be part of God’s covenant.
Israel’s privileges had been revoked due to their lack of faith, a lesson for all Christians. Paul emphasizes that God will not bless any with His favor based on their works or heritage. We must rely on our faith alone to remain stable in His grace.
Paul cautions us not to think too highly of ourselves but to be in constant awe of God. We all, both Jew and Gentile, are sinners who stand before our Creator as unworthy. As such, we should always keep humble and reverential. “Do not become proud, but fear”
Christians should have a reverent attitude of awe toward God, recognizing that only through His grace can we stand before Him. This realization should spur faith in Jesus as the only means to this end. In other words, “fear” God – in the sense of respecting His power – as you trust in Jesus to restore your relationship with Him.
Remember that God is both kind and severe
God’s kindness manifests His goodness, providing us with what we need without a trace of harshness or blame. It’s a blessing that truly knows no bounds.
God’s justice is impartial and uncompromising – an expression of His severity. As Christians, we must accept and honor this despite our own human understanding.
Paul reaffirmed that nothing can break the bond of divine love between God and His faithful children in Christ Jesus. While He will never reject believers, they will be tested: Persevering in His kindness and strength, enabled only by His grace. This is the ultimate authentication of our faith.
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Be thankful to God for granting you salvation. Pray for the restoration of Israel to their faith in Jesus, the Messiah. Revere God’s power and grace in granting us all this grace and mercy.
By being grafted into Israel, we have not only a deep connection to the Jewish people and their heritage but also the rich and diverse tapestry of blessings and miracles associated with the land of Israel. Being a part of the family of Israel gives us a purpose and a place in the world and helps us to fulfill our unique and eternal mission.
All of this makes being a part of Israel a special blessing for those who choose to embrace it. We should continually strive to strengthen our connection with Israel so that together we can get closer to the ultimate goal of redemption and bring peace and tranquility to the world. As Jewish tradition teaches, “All Israel is responsible for each other,” and that makes our responsibility to Israel that much more meaningful.
The possibilities of being grafted into the family of Israel are vast and deeply inspiring. We are fortunate to be part of such a rich and meaningful nation, and by living our lives with that in mind, we are better able to reach our full potential. Let us now continue to build a stronger and better Israel so that all of us – as one family – can feel proud of our connection to the land of Israel.
You may enjoy this related video: Are Gentile believers in Jesus grafted into Israel’s Laws?
Or one of these recommended resources:
Grafted In: Israel, Gentiles, & the Mystery of the Gospel by D. Thomas Lancaster
GRAFTED IN: UNDERSTANDING GOD’S ROLE FOR YOU AND YOUR JEWISH NEIGHBORS by Todd Michael Morehead
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”