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Romans 11:17-18

The Wild Olive

17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; 18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.


Paul wanted the Gentiles to be careful not to be too full of themselves over the fact that they were now children of the kingdom while many Jews were excluded by their own unbelief. So he continues this horticultural analogy that he began in the previous verse. Both he and most of the people of Rome knew all about growing olive trees. It was probably common knowledge that you did not normally graft a branch from a wild olive tree onto a cultivated tree. You graft the good branch onto the wild olive tree.

"Your wild ('bad') olive trees may produce tiny fruit with big stones and a thin layer of bitter-tasting flesh but they have great root systems. So farmers have learnt to graft the productive branches (giving the best quality olives) onto the most effective root systems (able to access all of the plants needs) and so produce a highly productive tree which is able to grow well in poor conditions." (by Dan Metcalfe, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; 14 February 2011; http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers/viewtopic.php?id=5475)

Thus, the Gentiles, being branches from the wild olive tree, were grafted in place of the branches of Israel that had been broken off. They therefore were partakers of the root (i.e. Abraham and his seed, Jesus Christ) and the fatness of the tree, but this was a highly irregular and unnatural procedure. It left them with nothing to brag about. A husbandman had to do the grafting; they could not graft themselves onto the tree.

This is consistent with the words of Jesus Himself who said, "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." (John 15:1-5) Without Christ we are all, Gentiles and Jews, males and females, helpless.

The Gentiles are thus warned not to boast against the other branches, neither against the ones on the tree nor the ones that had been broken off. The people of Israel belonged on the tree. It was their natural place; the root was theirs.

"But if thou boast," We must insert two words to make sense of this sentence. "But if thou boast, (remember that) thou bearest not the root, but the root thee." Remember who holds you up. Remember how you got there. Remember that you do not belong in the kingdom of God, but by His mercy and grace you, the wild tree, were picked up and grafted onto the good tree and, without the root, you would still be dead in your sins.

Before The Throne:

Take the time to confess your sins of pride and ask for forgiveness. We are nothing but wild trees bearing bad fruit until God grafts us onto the good olive tree, which is spiritual Israel. Acknowledge your need to be fed and supported by the vine, Jesus Christ. Without Him you can do nothing, so ask God to help you bear good fruit for His kingdom.

For Further Study:

(v.17)
** some. Ps 80:11-16; Isa 6:13; Isa 27:11; Jer 11:16; Ezek 15:6-8; Matt 8:11-12; Matt 21:43; John 15:6; ** being. Acts 2:39; Gal 2:15; Eph 2:11-13; Eph 3:6; Col 2:13; ** among them. Deut 8:8; Judg 9:8-9; Ps 52:8; Zech 4:3; Jonah 1:16; Rev 11:4;

(v.18) ** Boast not. Rom 11:20; Rom 3:27; 1Kgs 20:11; Prov 16:18; Matt 26:33; Luke 18:9-11; 1Cor 10:12; ** thou bearest. Rom 4:16; Zech 8:20-23; John 10:16; Gal 3:29; Eph 2:19-20;

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