In Romans 11:26, in concluding his consideration of just who the true Israel of God is – that people chosen by God from amongst both Jews and Gentiles, that people called out from every tribe and kindred, from the four corners of the earth, all who are brought to faith in Christ, the election of grace (11:6) – Paul makes this glorious statement “And so all Israel shall be saved”. Yes all Israel shall be saved. All who God chose in Christ from before the foundation of the world. Shall all really be saved? Most assuredly, for “as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.”
God’s people upon the earth, both Jews and Gentiles, are pictured vividly in Romans 11 by the illustration of the Olive Tree. This tree has both root and branches, some branches being broken off, and some grafted in, many of the Jews being broken off for their unbelief, and the believing Gentiles being grafted in. Yet the illustration extends further than that. All those who are but outwardly religious, perhaps born and raised a Jew or perhaps brought up a ‘Christian’, brought up to ‘attend church or chapel’ will, if they remain in unbelief be ultimately broken off from the tree – whilst those people who are brought to true faith in Christ and His Gospel, whether Jew or Gentile, whether brought up religious or not at all, are those branches whom the Lord grafts in.
But whether branches be broken off or grafted in what remains sure, what never changes, is the root of the tree itself – and that root is Christ. He gives the tree its life, He gives it strength, He sustains it. All the branches on the tree have no life but what they receive from the tree, the root, itself. For Christ is the “firstfruit” (Romans 11:16), He is the One who rose from the dead, the Deliverer in Sion whom having taken away His people’s sins conquered death and rose again in newness of everlasting life. The promises to Abraham concerning his Seed were all fulfilled in Christ for all His seed in Him – all those purchased by His blood at the cross, all that “election of grace”, all who by faith are united to Him as branches to His vine. The illustration of the Olive tree reminds us of that wonderful passage in chapter 15 of John’s Gospel in which Christ declares of Himself:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” John 15:1-9
What a tremendous picture is seen here of the fruitfulness of God’s people as united to Christ, the true vine, in whom they abide as those in whom His words abide, those in whose hearts Christ dwells by faith, those whom He calls His disciples. What union, what love is shown here, and what glory is rendered to the Father by the fruitfulness of that vine, the ekklesia of Christ. Yet, despite this, what a warning chapter 11 of Romans presents to us of the consequences of unbelief, of the dreadful end awaiting those whose profession is false, whose walk is but outward, whose association with the things of God is merely in the flesh, merely through natural inheritance, only in the letter and never in the Spirit. All of these, all who despite the profession of their lips, have hearts which are far from God, all in whom remains unbelief of the truth, of Christ in His Gospel, all of these, whatever they may appear before men, will be broken off – cut off, forever removed from the tree, cast into the fire and burned. What an end…. And what a warning.
Have you faith in Christ? Are you a branch on His vine? Is all well with your soul? Or is your profession but in word only? Have you received a love of the truth, of the truth of God’s Gospel as truly set forth in the scriptures? Do you rest in that salvation wrought by God for those whom He chose in Christ, His Israel? Is your salvation by the grace of God or by your own works, your own merit, your own worth? Has God grafted you into His olive tree or do you just put on a show, an appearance, of being a branch, yet ultimately to be broken off on that great day when God judges both the quick and the dead?
The answers to such questions are vital. Do we have faith or not? Do we abide in Christ, and His words in us, or not? Might we at the last be found amongst that company who will cry out “Lord, Lord”, only to receive that crushing response for all eternity: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”? (Matthew 7:21,23)
When Christ, the Son of God, came into this world, born a Jew, “made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3) He came to a people whose hearts had turned from God. An apostate nation. A people who drew near unto God with their lips when their hearts were far from Him. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” John 1:11.
The very ones, the very people, who should have known Christ at His coming, the ones who should have been looking for the coming of Messiah, unto whom had been committed the oracles of God, the scriptures, the Levitical priesthood, the sacrifices, all the types and figures which pointed unto the Deliverer in Sion, failed to see Him at His coming. They failed to see Him for whom He was, for who He is. Their eyes were blinded and their hearts hardened. They followed after the law of righteousness, but never attained to it (Romans 9:31). Lacking faith they stumbled at that stumblingstone laid in Sion (9:33). Despite all the prophecies of the scriptures, all the promises made to their fathers, all being fulfilled before their very eyes, they saw nothing but a man. Though the very Son of God stood before them, though the very Messiah, the Deliverer of Jacob, of whom the scriptures testified, walked amongst them, they saw Him not for whom He was, but merely as a man like themselves, and despite all their religion, all their intellect, all their outward zeal in the things of God, they rejected the very One sent of God as the Saviour, they cast Him out, despised Him, mocked Him, made false accusation against Him, ridiculed Him, hated Him, and, at the last, with wicked hands, crucified Him.
So God cut them off, breaking off their branches from the Olive tree and grafting in Gentile believers to whom He sent His Gospel, to whom He sent the word of life, to whom He revealed His Son as their Saviour.
But lest those Gentile believers, lest we, should boast in this, lest we should be found judging or despising the apostate Jews of old, as though we are any better than they, or judging those in the churches today who fall away or reject the truth, Paul reminds the Gentiles, he reminds us, that if grafted into the tree, if kept in the tree, it is only because of God’s mercy, of His grace. It is God who saves, God who shows grace, God who gives His children the gift of faith to lay hold of Christ. Salvation owes nothing to the works or the will of man. As it is written “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.” Romans 11:6-7
Yes, God’s people are saved by grace and kept by grace, and should they turn from this to their own works, should they turn from the truth of the Gospel to another, should they be found rejecting the Son of God as He truly is, then they too, Jew or Gentile, will be branches that are broken off. Profession of faith or not, churchgoer or not, outwardly religious or not, except God grants us true faith in the truth of Christ as revealed in His Gospel, we will not, we cannot remain in that tree, amongst that company who will inherit eternal life.
When Christ came to redeem His people the vast profession of religion amongst the Jews was found to be apostate. It was corrupt. It was rotten. It had an appearance of godliness but denied the power thereof. But for the ones and twos, the “remnant according to the election of grace”, the Simeons and Annas who looked for redemption in Israel, who looked by faith for the coming of Messiah, but for those few disciples whom God called to follow Christ from amongst His earthly people, but for these, the vast profession of Judaism, of the religion of the day, had departed from God. They had words, they had forms, they had outward appearances, but they had no faith in their hearts. They were apostate.
Has not the same thing come to pass amongst the Gentiles today? Look around. Take notice. Has not the vast profession of ‘Christendom’, the great majority of churches, be they Catholic or Protestant, Evangelical or Fundamental, Baptist or Methodist, Presbyterian or Congregational, Conservative or Charismatic, Arminian or Calvinist… whatever the form, whatever the profession, has not the great majority turned from the truth of the Gospel as set forth in the scriptures to another gospel? Have they not turned from the Christ as preached by the apostles, to another Jesus? Do the people not rejoice in their own strength, in their own will, in their own freedom to approach God on their own terms, to worship Him as they will?
Would not Christendom today, the great mass of religious profession, reject Christ if He came “unto his own” as Israel did before them? Would they not, indeed do they not, put Him, the true Christ, to death in their very thoughts and affections? In their rejection of the truth regarding Him, in their rejecting those sent by Christ to preach His Gospel? Do they not prefer their ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’ who loves all, who died for all, and who helplessly stands by desiring the salvation of all, yet is impotent to actually save any? Do they not proclaim a gospel and a Jesus who changes with the times, who adapts to the fashions and trends of the day? Is their Jesus truly “the same yesterday, and to day, and forever”?
Is not the professing church of our day as apostate, nay, more apostate, than Israel was at the time of Christ’s coming?
Surely the words of Christ in Matthew 21:13 ring true about our own day and generation: “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”.
Face the question – is this not the case? Can we not see it all around us?
And, my reader, ask yourself this question: are you among that number? Are you a branch ready to be broken off, ready to be burned in the fire? Might you, like Esau, seek repentance but never find it?
Or have you a better hope? Has God given you true faith, true repentance, as with Jacob? For both faith and repentance are the gifts of God – we can’t simply ‘work them up’. No! We’re dead by nature, dead in trespasses and sins. But I ask – are you by God’s great mercy, by free grace alone, found among that people, that remnant of grace, that poor contrite, lowly company, whose eyes have been opened to see their poverty before God, their pitiful state by nature as wilful sinners, as unbelieving creatures, as ungrateful servants who stand in need of mercy, of salvation. Has God opened your eyes to see Christ in the Gospel, to have the truth of God’s grace revealed to you? Has He lifted you up, as a beggar from off a dunghill and set your feet upon that sure foundation of everlasting salvation by the grace of God, through the Lord Jesus Christ?
For all the election of grace, all those chosen people of God, all His true Israel will be saved, despite their rebellion and unbelief by nature they will be brought to faith, they will be brought to hear the truth of the Gospel, they will be brought to hear the voice of the Son of God say unto them, as unto the dead, “Live!”
For, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” John 5:25.
And all such branches, all God’s people saved by grace, will never, ever, be broken off from that True Vine, from Christ, their Saviour. All these branches, Jews and Gentiles, will surely be brought to faith and find their rest in Christ by the sounding of His Gospel, and none other – “And so all Israel shall be saved”.
“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36
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