An Olive Tree, Its Branches and You

Church Family: When you read the Old Testament, you quickly see that there were essentially three groups of people: national Israel, true Israel (the faithful remnant) and the Gentile (pagan) nations. You see that the nation of Israel was repeatedly involved in idolatry, apostasy, and rebellion, yet God always kept for Himself a faithful remnant. The remnant was those who trusted in God and would not bow the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). As you keep reading you see that Israel was circumcised in the flesh, but their hearts were not circumcised. There were only a small number of Israel who lived with their hearts circumcised unto the LORD, set apart living holy lives. So, even in the Old Testament, we see that not all of ethnic/national Israel were actually true Israel (Rom. 9:6-8).

Then, here comes the promised Messiah to Israel, the birth of Christ Jesus. At that time there was a small faithful remnant (true Israel) who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Simeon and Anna were some of these Jewish believers (Luke 2:25-38). During Jesus’ ministry, true Israel was most visible in the Jewish disciples who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Those who rejected Jesus were not true Israel. This included many of the scribes and Pharisees. They were physically, ethnic/national Jews, but they were not true Israel (Rom. 2:28-29). True Israel then became defined as those who trusted in Jesus Christ, the prophesied Messiah, for their righteousness (Gal. 3:16, 29).

Next, the promised Holy Spirit of God, on the day of Pentecost, comes upon true Israel. God the Father poured out His Spirit on “Jews, devout men and women from every nation under heaven.” These Jewish believers in Jesus, who received the Holy Spirit, then became the core establishment of the New Testament church (Acts 2). While true Israel received the Holy Spirit, the majority of ethnic/national Israel continued to reject Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The gospel was then given to the Gentiles giving them access to true Israel, those who trusted in Jesus Christ, the prophesied Messiah, for their righteousness (Rom. 10:1-4).

Paul knows that this distinction between ethnic/national Israel of the Old Testament and now the New Testament can be difficult, so he gives us an analogy of an olive tree in Romans 11:13-24. Don’t forget, the olive tree analogy is to bring clarity and simplicity to something difficult to grasp. Here we go:

1- The cultivated olive tree represents Israel, the covenant people of God.
2- Broken off branches is unbelieving Israel (11:17)
3- Branches from a wild olive tree that have been grafted into the cultivated olive tree are believing Gentiles (11:17-23)
4- Natural branches that were broken off will be grafted back in are the remnant/elect (11:5-7) of unbelieving Israel coming to Christ from Paul’s time to today and in the future (11:24).

God sustains and nurtures and protects and has great purpose and promise for redemption for the same one olive tree throughout the Old and New Testaments. The olive tree that continues after the dead branches are removed is the true Israel. Gentile believers are now grafted into this already existing old tree (true Israel/the true church). There is only one good olive tree throughout the Old and New Testaments.

But wait, don’t forget. God is not done with unbelieving ethnic/national Israel. All of us in the olive tree of God are to be announcing to ethnic/national Israel the gospel of righteousness through Christ alone (Rom. 10:14-17). As Gentiles we are also to be loving the gospel so much through our changed lives with great hope and joy that the cut off branches of unbelieving Israel get jealous and come to Christ, being grafted back in to God’s olive tree of His people.

See you Sunday, humbled as God's chosen people, Steve

No Comments