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Unbelief is Dangerous

Romans 11:17-21
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. (NIV)

Paul wrote that ancient Israel was like an olive tree stump, and the Gentile believers were like branches from wild olive trees that have been grafted into the 'root' of Israel. Those Jews who rejected Jesus were like branches which were broken off from the original tree. Paul then appealed to Gentile believers not to be proud. They were only grafted into the promise of Israel because of God's grace. They have no right to think they are superior; they were not the reason the church existed; for Jesus Christ is the life of the church.

The original 'branches' were broken off because they refused to trust in Jesus Christ. But that was no reason why Gentiles should look down on Jews; they were not in God's kingdom on their own merit but because of God's grace. Applying the same reasoning, Paul says that the Gentile believers should be in awe of God (who has proved that He can and does remove 'unbelieving branches'). The challenge was to stay true to the faith, keep receiving spiritual life from Jesus and stop being spiritually proud, or risk God's wrath.

Pride is the endemic disease of sinful humanity. It is the pretence that we are better than others and have more value because of our work, wealth or status in society or the church. But it is a lie. The truth is that only God's grace can lift us out of our sin, and only His mercy can keep us away from His wrath. If the Apostle Paul should say, "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature ... (Romans 7:18) - then which of us has any reason to be proud? But more than that, if God did not spare Israelites who disbelieved and refused to fully trust in Jesus, should we not take our faith much more seriously? Unbelief is dangerous because it takes us outside of the blessing of God and exposes us to His wrath. If that was true for the Jews, will it not also be true for us?

Gracious and merciful God. Thank You for grafting me into Your ancient family. I am sad that so many who have received the sign of Your promise have not believed it, and are excluded from Your grace. May I never be so arrogant as to believe that I have gained a place in Your family by my own merit. Forgive me when I have looked down on others with spiritual pride, and keep me mindful that it is only by grace that I am saved. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams