WE GENTILES WERE WILD BY NATURE
" . . . thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree . . . " (Romans 11:24, NKJV)
The acceptance of the Gentiles is one of the great accomplishments of the salvation of God. As Peter said, "Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy" (1 Pet 2:10). Paul says of the background of we believing Gentiles, "That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12).
It was some time before the early church was able to receive the inclusion of the Gentiles in God's "great salvation." For nearly a decade, or until the conversion of the household of Cornelius, there was no initiative within the body of Christ to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles. Even when Peter was sent to Cornelius' house, it took a special revelation to convince him it was the proper thing to do (Acts 10:10-17).
When the conversion of the Gentiles was reported to the early church, it spawned great joy among them, as well as several astute observations. Word got to the Apostles and brethren "that the Gentiles had also RECEIVED THE WORD OF GOD" (Acts 11:1). When the brethren heard it, they "held their peace, and glorified God." Rather than questioning God, they refused to doubt or deny what had been done, glorifying the Lord instead. They concluded, "Then hath GOD ALSO TO THE GENTILES GRANTED REPENTANCE UNTO LIFE" (Acts 11:18). Others concluded the Lord had "OPENED THE DOOR OF FAITH" to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27). In our day you will very rarely hear such assessments concerning those who have been turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18). Generally those who are converted are reported as statistics rather than evidence of the work of the Lord.
All of this is made even more remarkable when the condition of the Gentiles is further described. Our text says that in their entirety, the Gentiles were like "an olive tree that is wild by nature" (NIV). SOME branches, or individuals, have been taken from this "wild" tree, and grafted into the Jewish olive tree. The Jewish tree was noted for its "root and fatness," or its "rich" and nourishing "root." This "fatness" consisted of the glorious promises that were given in summary form to Abraham, chronicled in some detail by the Prophets, and fully opened up in Christ Jesus. On the other hand, the Gentile tree was noted for being "wild by nature" – uncultured and uncultivated.
The difference between these two trees was this: one had been cultivated by the Lord, and one had been neglected, growing like an unattended and uncultivated tree in the desert. The latter tree – the Gentile tree – was "wild by nature." From this perspective, no extended Divine attention was given to this tree – it was "wild," growing without any special tending. It was uncultivated and unfruitful. It had not been watered, pruned, or fertilized. No one – not even God Himself – had made an attempt to develop the tree, protect it from blight and disease, or care for and reap its fruit. No prophet was assigned to them. No law was given particularly to them. No promises were made directly to them. No independent revelations were vouchsafed to them.
By saying the tree was "wild by nature," the Spirit means it had been left to itself. Elsewhere the condition is described as being "given over to a reprobate mind," to do things that were not fitting or proper (Rom 1:28).
It is not possible for good fruit to grow on such a tree! A "wild tree" is a "corrupt tree" that consequently produces "evil," or "bad fruit"(Matt 7:17-18). The appointed destiny of such a tree is to be "hewn down and cast into the fire" (Matt 7:18). Technically speaking, it is a tree that the Father has neither been deliberately planted or tended, and thus it will be "rooted up" (Matt 15:13).
Note, the Lord did not take the entire "wild" olive tree and graft it into the good one. Rather, SOME branches were "CUT OUT of the olive tree which is wild by nature," and grafted into the natural olive tree – the one that had been cultivated by the Lord. These branches did not fall off the tree, they were cut out of it – selected and removed by a wise and beneficent God. You cannot otherwise account for them being "cut out," Nor, indeed, did the Lord he down the good olive tree, determining to plant a new one. "Some" withered and unproductive branches on the good olive tree were "broken off," even though they were "natural olive branches" (Rom 11:17) – but the tree itself remained.
Under this figure, at no point is it remotely suggested that the natural tree and the wild tree have been merged. Rather, the natural tree is retained, with the unacceptable branches being removed, and some branches from the wild tree being grafted into it. Of course, this contradicts some theology, but that is only because the opposing theology is wrong, having its origin with men, not God.
In the Divine economy, what is wild and what is cultivated cannot be merged together! Further, there is no hope of surviving if one's primary association is with the "wild tree," or the people who have not been cultivated by the Lord. At some point, the individual has to be joined to the tree God is tending, caring for, and nourishing. There is an aggregation of people that are appropriately described as "the temple of God" (1 Cor 3:16-17). There is a "body" of people that has Christ as its Head (Col 1:18). There is a society that is referred to as "the people of God" (Heb 11:25; 1 Pet 2:10). There exists a people in this world who are described as "a royal priesthood, an holy nation," and "a peculiar people" (1 Pet 2:9). That body of people, comprises both Jews and Gentiles, incorporated into "one new man" (Eph 2:15). But they were not formed into a new olive tree. They were "new" from the viewpoint of the branches, but from a larger perspective they were the matured tree, whose roots were found in the promises given to Abraham. That is, the commitment made to Abraham, who had the Gospel preached to him (Gal 3:8), is fulfilled in the "good olive tree," which is carefully tended by the Lord.
The rich things of God that are realized in salvation are traced back to the Jews – for, as the Savior Himself said, "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). The Law that is our schoolmaster, to "bring us to Christ," is the Law that was given to the Jews. The idea of "adoption" – being taken from the populous of men for God's own – pertained originally to the Jews. The glory, or manifestations of the Lord, belonged to the Jews. The covenants, of Divine commitments to bless, belonged to them. The privilege of serving God according to revelation belonged to them. The promises of God were vouchsafed to them. The fathers to whom the promises were made – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – belonged to them. According to the flesh, the Savior Himself, Jesus Christ, came from them. As it is written, "Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen" (Rom 9:4-5). The Prophets who, through the Scriptures, testified of the coming Christ, and affirmed the manner of His ministry, and the character of His followers, were all Jews, and the Jews were their primary hearers (Rom 16:26; Heb 1:1; 1 Pet 1:10). The "promises' of which we partake are NOT the promises of the Law given to those who perfectly kept the Law without a single deviation (Deut 28:1-9). Those who teach such things are doing damage, not delivering edification. The promises of reference are those pertaining to the coming Savior and what would result from His ministry (Deut 18:15,18 [Acts 3:22-23]; Deut 30:6; Isa 9:6-7; 12:3; 40:31; Jer 31:31-34; 33:15; Ezek 36:26; Mal 4:2, etc).
These wonderful benefits are referred to as "the root and fatness of the olive tree" (Rom 11:17) – not the wild Gentile olive tree, but the cultured Jewish olive tree. We Gentiles who have believed, are being fed with a nourishing root – introduced by the Jews, and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Apostolic doctrine was the exposition of the promises given to the Jews, which are realized in the Lord Jesus Christ. The "root and the fatness of the olive tree" are not a description of the Jewish traditions – their clothing, prayer shawls, holy days, feast days, and other outward manners. Those who attempt to restore outward Jewish characteristics in the church are only betraying their ignorance – for those are not "the root and fatness" of which we now partake.
In view of these things, how serious is it for the church to adopt Gentile manners in its speech and conduct – manners that were developed within a void of the knowledge of God? How are we to respond to the incorporation of psychological jargon into a purported theological vocabulary? How do you suppose God views the attempt to mingle Gentile wisdom and philosophy with the Jewish root? Make no mistake about it, "Salvation is of the Jews" because they are the people who were custodians of the promises concerning God's "great salvation" (Heb 2:3). Let no man borrow from the Gentile uncultured tree, attempting to add it to the cultured root from which we draw nourishment.
Blessed day, indeed, when we are cut out of the unproductive and wild olive tree, and grafted into a living and fruitful one! Thank God He did not take the Jews and graft them into the people He had given over to "a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient" (Rom 1:28).
PRAYER POINT: Father, in the name of Jesus, I thank You for developing a proper concept of the coming Savior, then causing it to be realized in Christ Jesus.