By: Raymond Harris
NOTE: Remember that it is not my intention to compose a thesis giving a critical examination of theological perspectives; my reasoning is somewhat simple, doing such an investigation seems to appeal to a small audience. Instead, I am attempting to reveal how I believe the theology is attempting to process biblical teachings. Within that framework, I will reveal some of my thoughts about why I agree or disagree about the theological perspective.
What is Olive Branch Theology?
Olive Branch Theology has its roots (pun intended) in Romans Chapter Eleven. Olive Branch Theology is called such because of one of Paul’s comments to the Roman Church:
17And 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; 18Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. (Romans 11.17-18 KJV, emphasis mine)
Olive Branch, or Olive Tree, Theology basically seems to convey that the Gentile believers are grafted in, as in attached to, or spliced into some type of Hebraic-Jewish root system.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is arguably one of the toughest letters to read. Because of its difficulty, I imagine that Romans is not on many Top Ten NT reading lists. The Romans epistle is lengthy and tedious and Paul sometimes seems to wander off point. Yet, Romans is one of the powerhouse NT epistles (along with Hebrews, Galatians, and First John) if for no other reason than because of the Theological propositions that Paul asserts.
I have heard many things about Paul’s letters, but it seems that one of the things I remember the most is being cautioned and warned about reading Paul. As such, one of the passages that I had drilled in my head was from Peter. I will quote Peter at length highlighting the main emphasis given to me:
14Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 15And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. 18But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3.14-18 KJV, emphasis mine)
I quote at length not to bore the reader, but to reveal something that Peter recognized way back in the First Century, good-minded, good-intentioned Churches and Christians were misunderstanding Paul’s writings and they were suffering because of it. I quote Peter because I have heard Churches and Christians quote Peter many times warning Bible students to be cautious with Paul’s letters. However, after many years of Bible study and ministry, I am beginning to wonder if the warning is ever used as a self-check mechanism for the ones saying it, myself included.
I am saying up front, Paul’s writings are difficult to read and difficult to understand and I don’t want to twist them and thereby destroy myself or any one else – I am conscious of this fact. But I am also aware that it is distinctly possible and somewhat likely that someone, including me, can be taught or teach the epistle to the Romans and what was taught may not necessarily correlate to what Paul intended. With these things in mind, neither you nor I want to be ignorant nor unstable in applying Paul’s teachings, but I will set out to do my best to reveal Olive Branch Theology based on Romans Eleven and attempt to communicate what I believe Paul is telling us.
The People of the Roman Church
In order to discuss Olive Branch, it is necessary to look at several aspects of the letter to the Romans. Perhaps one of the most important aspects is that while the church was in Rome, the Church consisted of both Jewish and Gentile Christians, this may sound trivial, but seems vital to understanding Paul’s letter to the Romans.
We can know that the Roman church was Jewish and Gentile in a few different ways. One is surmising how the Church of Rome was established, from the book of Acts Chapter Two:
7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2.7-11 KJV, emphasis mine)
Depending on how one reads verses ten and eleven, it could be interpreted that either a Jew, or a proselyte1 who believed in Jesus or both returned to Rome and helped establish the Church in Rome.
Another way we can know that the Roman church was Jewish and Gentile is based upon a statement from Paul to the Romans: “…I am speaking to those who know the law…”.2 A person who knew law would be a person familiar with the Law of Moses and the remainder of the OT. This person most likely would be a Jew, but could have been a proselyte.
We know that there were Jews and Gentiles because of the entire dialogue of Romans Eleven. In this chapter, Paul directly speaks to the Gentile Christians by saying, “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles.”3 From this, we know with certainty that the Roman Church consisted of both Jew and Gentile believers.
While believers accept that Paul is writing by Holy Spirit inspiration, it is still necessary to see the importance of the original Roman audience. While Paul is writing to the Church in Rome, Paul is writing a comprehensive theological dissertation resolving tension between the Jewish and the Gentile believers. While both the Jews and the Gentiles both believed that Jesus was the Christ there is a tremendous collision of religious tension.
The Collision of Faith and the Roman Church
Prior to Christianity, the Jews, for decades, looked for the Messiah, and the Jewish disciples in the Roman Church most certainly believed that Yeshua (Jesus) was the promised one from the Scriptures (the OT). But what is important to understand is that the Jews were simply not required to abandon their Jewish culture or to abandon following the precepts of the Scriptures in order to follow the Messiah.
This may seem unnatural to a modern Gentile believer, but this concept must truly be affirmed as true in order to process the teachings of the letter to the Romans. There is much to be said about this tension between Jewish believers and Gentile believers, but the Apostles lead the First Century Church to resolution regarding this dispute at the Jerusalem Council.
This dispute between Jewish believers and Gentile believers was from Pharisaic Believers in Yeshua who wanted the Gentiles to observe the same rules that they (the Pharisees and other Jews) observed, mainly circumcision and adherence to the Law of Moses.4 The Jerusalem Council was convened to answer this dilemma about circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses,5 and the Church and the Council gave a Holy Spirit approved answer;6 much to the joy of the Gentile believers.7 The Council proclaimed that circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses were not necessary for the salvation of Gentile believers.8
However, and most importantly, what seems to be neglected is that the Jerusalem Council’s resolution neither removed circumcision nor removed observance of the Law of Moses for the Jews. Based upon the Council’s decision, the Jews have complete Holy Spirit approval to do things according to the OT teachings; but Paul reasons that doing these things cannot and does not give salvation. Paul reasons that faith in Jesus gives salvation because salvation is separate and apart from the Law.9 Paul also made it strongly clear to the Jews that their faith upholds the Law of Moses.10
Since it seems unnatural to my modern Gentile faith and while I may have been informed that the Jews were required to forsake the OT and abstain from Biblical OT observances, such is not the case. Participation in and observance of the Law were perfectly natural and acceptable for the Jew as evidenced not only by the Jerusalem Council, but also by James demanding that Paul prove his zeal for the Law,11 Paul proved his zeal by engaging in a vow,12 and the Holy Spirit through Luke revealing that thousands of Jews believed Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah, all while being zealous for the Law of Moses.13
The previous information was presented briefly and perhaps the reader, like me, has to reconsider, re-read and meditate about Acts 15, Acts 21, and Romans. Nonetheless, it is vital to Paul’s argumentation within Romans Eleven; because Paul is going to reveal how three parties (the unbelieving Israelites, the believing Israelites, and the believing Gentiles) fit into God’s plan for the New Covenant.
Olive Branch Theology’s Process of Biblical Teachings
As mentioned at the introduction, Olive Branch Theology is taken from Romans Eleven. As we have seen, there was First Century tension between the Jews and the Gentiles, and while nearly two thousand years have passed since the ascension of Jesus, in some aspects there seems to remain a tension between the Israelite and the Gentile believers.
By inspiration, Paul offered to the Church at Rome a theological explanation resolving the Israelite and Gentile tension. It basically states that while the Gentiles are welcomed and brought into an existing religious system,14 within this system it is not the Gentiles who are the primary provider of spiritual nourishment, but the Israelite believers in the Messiah.15 For me, this brought a whole new perspective to the New Covenant.
It does not seem proper to sound bite Paul’s letter, because his reasoning cannot be condensed into any less methodical thinking than what he presented. This is because Paul has so many interconnecting ideas, and his abundant use of nouns and pronouns make sense only when studied in context.
But in an attempt to have some kind of brevity, I would like to bring the reader’s attention the major importance of realizing that, at a minimum, Romans Chapter Nine and Ten establish the context for Romans Eleven (see my outline of Romans 9-11). Typically, I quote a passage and then provide my comments, but for this section I will provide inline references, in hopes of drawing attention to what I believe Paul is communicating, afterwards I will give my observations.
|Please Read the Note about my in-line references.|
|Dear Reader, I encourage you to take the time to read the following modified English Standard Version of Romans Eleven; it is vital for Olive Branch Theology|
13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15For if their rejection [of Jesus as Messiah] means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance [of Jesus as Messiah] mean but life from the dead?
16If the [Israelite] dough offered [Jesus] as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole [Israelite] lump [holy], and if the [Israelite] root is holy, so are the [Israelite] branches [holy]. 17But if some of the [Israelite] branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others [the Israelite branches that believe in Jesus] and now share in the nourishing root of the [Israelite] olive tree, 18[you grafted in Gentiles] do not be arrogant toward the [Israelites believing in Jesus] branches. If you are [grafted in Gentiles], remember it is not you who support the [Israelite] root, but the [Israelite] root that supports you [grafted in Gentiles].
19Then you [grafted in Gentiles] will say, “[Israelite] Branches were broken off so that I [a Gentile] might be grafted in.”
20That is true. They [some of the Israelite branches-cf. 11.17] were broken off because of their unbelief, but you [grafted in Gentiles] stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21For if God did not spare the natural [Israelite] branches, neither will he spare you [the grafted in wild olive shoot Gentile].
22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those [Israelite branches] who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you [grafted in Gentiles], provided you [grafted in Gentiles] continue in his kindness. Otherwise you [grafted in Gentiles] too will be cut off. 23And even they [the broken off Israelite branches], if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.
24For if you [grafted in Gentiles] were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated [Israelite] olive tree, how much more will these [broken off Israelite branches], the natural [Israelite] branches, be grafted back into their own [Israelite] olive tree. 25Lest you [grafted in Gentiles] be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27“and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
28As regards the gospel, they [the Israelite branches that were broken off] are enemies of God for your [grafted in Gentiles’] sake. But as regards election, they [all of the Israelites] are beloved for the sake of their forefathers [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob]. 29For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
30Just as you [grafted in Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their [the broken off Israelite branches’] disobedience, 31so they [the broken off Israelite branches] too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you [grafted in Gentiles] they [the broken off Israelite branches] also may now receive mercy. 32For God has consigned all [every Israelite and every Gentile] to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all [both Israelites and Gentiles].
33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11.13-36, ESV, [references] and paragraphs mine)
Observation: Gentiles, May I Have Your Attention?
In this passage Paul is directly addressing the Gentiles16 and wants the Gentiles to accept that there are some Israelites who have rejected Jesus but believing in him gives an Israelite resurrection.17
Observation: Gentiles, Israel Is Important!
Paul tells the Gentiles their faith in an Israelite Messiah is not possible without first having the Israelites;18 this is upheld by Jesus when he told the woman at the well that salvation is from the Jews.19 Paul also goes on to tell the Gentiles that just because some of the Israelites were cut off from the Israelite root20 does not mean that an Israelite system does not exist.21
While the following was difficult for me to accept, it nevertheless is what Paul made clear to the Roman Gentiles, the Israelites that believe in Jesus are the ones who supply spiritual life and nourishment to the grafted in Gentiles.22 While Paul states that Abraham existed 430 years before the law23 and technically Abraham is not an Israelite, but the grandfather of Israel, it is still true that without the Israelites (the descendents of Abraham’s grandson Jacob) the Messiah could not be, and the mercy that the Gentiles received and the promises of the New Covenant could not have been. As such the Gentiles should not brag and boast, but be circumspect about the origins of the Messiah and God’s relationship to Israel.
Observation: But What about Us Gentiles?
Paul makes it clear that the Gentiles need to recognize that they are grafted into a pre-existing root because of the Israelite situation.24 But Paul also tells the grafted in Gentiles not to become spiritually proud, instead the grafted in Gentiles need to be aware of God’s willingness and power to prune branches,25 which could include a grafted in Gentile.
Again, Paul makes it fairly clear that the Gentiles were not the God cultivated olive tree, but that God cultivated the Israelite olive tree.26 Paul is not hurling an insult toward the grafted in Gentiles and Paul is certainly not making Gentiles second-class disciples (it should be well known that Paul argued that there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile27). But Paul is making it clear to grafted in Gentiles that their faith is placed in an Israelite Messiah, so the believing Gentiles should not be conceited, puffed up, braggadocios, or think themselves superior just because they are a part of God’s people.28
But Paul wants the grafted in Gentiles to also know that there is a future for Israel and Israel’s future depends on the believing Gentiles.29 Paul declares that there must be a “Gentile fullness”30 that comes into the New Covenant before Israel can have “life from the dead”.31 Paul supports his argument by referring to the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah32 saying that part of God’s covenant with Israel is that He will remove their sins.33
Observation: But What about the Israelites?
For me, I have the hardest time with this section and Paul’s wording, but according to several translations, Paul’s use of echthros (G2190) is translated as hated, or enemy and, as such, I remain in context with the translations of echthros.
Paul states that it appears that God considers Israel an enemy of the Good News,34 but God cannot treat Israel as an enemy forever because of God’s promises – God’s words are irrevocable, permanently binding and unchangeable regarding Israel.35 But Paul argues that this status has really nothing to do with Israel, in particular, because it relates directly to God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.36
So, what are the grafted in Gentiles to do? Reveal God’s mercy and grace and live life within the Messiah in such a way that the Israelites are motivated to a type of godly jealousy desiring to be part of the New Covenant.37 It seems spiritually proper to conclude that while the Gentile is not required to become fully Israelite, within the New Covenant, the Gentiles should interact blamelessly with fellow Israelite believers and those Israelite non-believers by becoming “a Jew unto the Jew.”38 Part of that would definitely have to include being aware of customs and dietary teachings, so that in all things no offense is given.39 Paul says this will work because in the presence of God, whether Israelite or Gentile, each is disobedient because each has sinned,40 but God will have mercy and grace for both the Israelite and Gentile.41
Observation: Praise God for His Majesty
Paul’s thinking in Romans Eleven in many ways was contrary to my thinking. From fellow Christians I have received laudable advice, “Either the Bible is right or it is not.” And since I believe that the Scriptures are the accurate standard by which I measure my spiritual thinking, then it becomes incumbent upon me to adjust my thinking to what Paul is describing in Romans Eleven, no matter the challenges.
Since I have begun to accept this, I too feel that God should be praised for the depth of His riches and His wisdom and His knowledge.42 Truly God’s judgments are unsearchable and His ways are inscrutable.43 As such, no one is capable of counseling God because no one truly can fully know His mind.44 How can anyone give back to God anything as repayment?45 As such, everything comes from God; everything that exists is through God and all things are His.46 God receives glory forever!47
Concerns for Israel as a Nation
There was a time when I was certain that the Church replaced Israel, and just as much as I used to be convinced of that, I am now convinced that the Scriptures reveal that there is something for Israel as a people. This comes partly from Paul, but has support from Jesus and Peter.
Jesus and Israel
Just prior to Jesus’ ascension his disciples asked him a question, “wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”48 This question seems overlooked, but is very important. The disciples are not making it hidden, they are not insinuating, they are not suggesting, they are genuinely asking, having full expectation of national restoration, “When will Israel be restored?”
For those disciples, Israel had already been broken apart centuries before their own lives. Israel was first broken when the Israelite Kingdom divided, it was further broken with the Assyrian Invasion, was then further broken with Babylonian Captivity and subsequent return; but those men recognized that the Maccabean Revolt and subsequent Roman Occupation did not truly restore Israel. Even though these Israelites believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, they were still expecting God to do something with Israel. Their concern and question is genuine and so should be our investigation.
But it is not their question that should grab our attention; it is Jesus’ reply. To those disciples who watched Jesus ascend into the clouds, Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”49 It is interesting that the Apostles, but specifically Peter, were given the keys to the Kingdom50 and the disciples were given the mysteries of the Kingdom;51 but Jesus plainly tells them they cannot know the mystery of Kingdom Restoration; yet, Jesus insinuates that God will do something. This oh so brief exchange between Jesus and his disciples about Kingdom Restoration52 sets the foundation for the Kingdom Theology (the future condition for the Israelite nation) of both Peter and Paul.
Peter and Israel
It seems, for me at least, that so much time is spent investigating Peter and what he taught about believing in Jesus that we sometimes miss little subtleties of his Israelite background. But it is no small issue when Peter is preaching on Solomon’s porch53 that he is addressing fellows Israelites. It is not a mystery that the Jews were and still are looking for the reestablishment of the Kingdom, and Peter’s reference to such events should not elude our attention.
Consider this from Peter’s speech:54
“18But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
19Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3.17-21 KJV, emphasis mine)
Peter believes and urges others to believe that the prophecy about Messianic suffering has been fulfilled,55a but that there are things that must be a restitution (restoration) of things, which at the time of Peter’s address, had not yet come to pass. We know this because of the use of the word until which is used as a time marker, this means Event B (restoration as spoken by the prophets), cannot take place until Event A (heaven’s reception of the Messiah) is finished. As evidenced by the Apostles’ question,55b it seems for the Israelite, part of this restoration includes the physical restoration of the Kingdom of Israel.
Paul and Israel
Paul mentions Israel and her role in God’s plan from Romans Nine through Eleven, but Paul makes a strong appeal that God has not discarded Israel in Chapter Eleven. We spent much time looking at Chapter Eleven, so I just want to reiterate only a small portion. It is this thought from Paul:
“25Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob’; 27‘and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ ” (Romans 11.25-27 ESV, emphasis mine)
From this passage, we need to see that Paul is interpreting Israel’s future in light of Jesus’ response to the disciples in Acts 1.6-7. Paul conveys to the Gentiles at the Roman Church that there is a future for Israel and Israel’s future depends upon the “fullness of the Gentiles”. For full disclosure, I’m not certain exactly the extent of what Paul means or refers to when he speaks of Gentiles’ fullness; but for me right now, understanding the Gentiles’ fullness is a side detail. Let us not lose focus on the side detail, when the major issue is that God seems to have something in mind for Israel as a nation.
Today and Israel
It seems spiritually proper to conclude that since we believe Jesus, Peter and Paul to be Holy Spirit inspired, that it follows that we should believe them when it comes to Israel. Since it follows that we believe those men to be God ordained, then if they left information that refers to an uncertain and indeterminate time frame about Israel’s future, then we should believe that God spoke through them and has something in mind for Israel. In a general sense, this type of information is prophetic.
Romans Eleven is a challenging section of Scripture and it has caused me to rethink my role as a Gentile in the New Covenant. But Paul’s theme of the Gentiles being grafted in creates all kinds of questions. As I have discussed this grafting in theme with other Gentiles, it seems the discussion creates a mental block within the Gentile. While the Gentiles seem to properly understand Paul56 and Peter57 when they revealed that Jesus has become a stumbling block to the Israelites, it seems odd to me that the Gentiles have allowed the OT to become their stumbling block.
When discussing this grafted in Olive Branch Theology, one of the immediate responses I routinely hear is: “Then are you saying that Gentiles are to offer animal sacrifice?” First off, why does it seem that this is the first objection? When I hear that question I am beginning to wonder: Do we Gentiles even understand Jesus and His fulfillment of the OT? But to directly answer the question about sacrifice, the answer is an emphatic “No.” The Hebrew epistle (like Romans, the entire Hebrews epistle interconnects in its own context) makes it clear that there is no need for animal sacrifices because Jesus removed this need. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice58 and the propitiation for humanity’s breaking of the Divine relationship, in other words our sin.59 Since he became The Sacrifice, all other sacrifices are unnecessary.
Another objection I routinely hear when discussing this grafted in Olive Branch Theology is: The Old Law is nailed to the cross and has zero authority for the Church. To reply simply, the claim of the OT being one hundred percent abrogated is oversimplified and seems to completely misunderstand Paul’s discussion in Romans Eleven.
In Romans Eleven, Paul made it abundantly clear that there is a Holy Root, and it is the Holy Root that sustains the grafted in Gentile.60 This Holy Root is described in the OT pages as Paul referenced the forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel);61 and God’s Prophetic position toward Israel through Moses,62a David,62b Isaiah,62c and Jeremiah.62d In Romans Three, Paul makes it clear that the OT cannot give righteousness, righteousness is based on faith in Jesus63 and in Chapter Thirteen Paul clarifies that the OT finds its complete fullness when the disciple loves their fellow human.64 In essence, the OT teaches us how to love, which supports exactly Jesus’ teaching of the Golden Rule, (we should take special notice that the Golden Rule is based on the OT65).
This claim that the OT is abolished also seems to misunderstand how Paul tells the church how to use the OT. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul described one of several ways the church is to utilize the OT.66 Paul concludes that section in Corinthians by saying “all these things happened unto them for examples: and they [the OT Scriptures] are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come”67 (emphasis mine).
Since Paul admonished the Corinthians to look to the OT for examples of what to abstain from in order to please God, then is seems proper to conclude that the church is allowed to look at the OT to learn what she can do in order to please God, particularly with worship and moral living. This seems to be one of the things that Paul is insinuating in Romans Fifteen, when he states, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”68 and seems sustained by Paul when he made the following statement to the Colossians: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”69
One of the other major objections I routinely hear when discussing this grafted in Olive Branch Theology is that I am a Judaizing teacher. Again, such an immediate response has me now thinking: “Does my accuser even know what a Judaizer was doing?” The short answer is “There is no way that I can be a Judaizer.” A Judaizer posited that in order to be saved the Gentile had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses70 – I posit no such thing. The Gentile, just like the Israelite, is saved by God’s grace when the person has faith that Jesus is the atonement for sin.71 My understanding of Paul from Romans Eleven in no way affirms Judaizing.
There is more that could be said, but our discussion has become lengthy, so for more of my thoughts about the use of the OT, I refer the reader to my discussions of Dispensational Theology, and Covenant Theology.
Olive Branch Theology takes Paul’s teachings found in Romans Eleven and establishes a sound, but (at least to me) challenging perspective. I have been so accustomed to hearing that the Church is God’s New Israel, God’s Chosen, that reading Romans Eleven is difficult. But it seems that based on Paul’s extensive argument such may not be the case.
In Romans, Paul’s sustains the argument that adherence to the Law of Moses is righteousness based on works72 which is different than righteousness based on faith.73 And whether Israelite or Gentile, being a part of the New Covenant is based on God’s grace through our faith in Jesus,74 and “not works lest any man should boast.”75
From Romans Eleven, it seems proper to conclude that Paul called the Gentiles a wild olive tree, where as he called the Jews a cultivated olive tree. While both the Jew and the Gentile are from an olive tree, it is the Gentile who was grafted into a root system not the Jew. This means that there will be some characteristics unique to the wild olive branches and seemingly contrary to the cultivated olive tree. This does not mean that the Gentiles have to become Israelites nor does it mean that the Israelites have to forsake their Israelite roots. But since the wild olive branches are grafted into the cultivated olive tree, the wild olive branches, at some point, should begin to reflect some of the characteristics of the new root system (this reminds me of Romans 2.29). However, what the Israelite believer and Gentile believer have in common is their belief that Jesus is God’s Promised Messiah.
This means that we grafted in Gentiles are sons and daughters through faith,76 which means that the grafted in Gentiles have permission to look to the worship of Israel to determine how we should worship in this New Covenant.77 This is because the Gentiles do not support the Israelite worship of God, the New Covenant Israelites support the grafted in Gentiles.78
Note about my in-line references.
I spent some time reflecting on how to present Paul’s fellow countrymen: should I use the terms “Jews” and “Jewish”? Or, should I use the term “Israelite”? Or, should I use the terms “Hebraic” and “Hebrew”? It seems that each term could be used to convey what I think Paul is intending. But sometimes the choice of terminology can be taken that the author is being insulting; my aim is to remain insult free. As such, I have chosen to use the term “Israelite” since Paul’s overall context (Romans 9.1-11.36) is referring to God’s plan for the nation of Israel; and the English Standard Version Bible (ESV) reveals that Paul uses the terminology: Israelites (Romans 9.4); Israelite (Romans 11.1); and Israel (Romans 9.6, 9.27, 9.31; 10.19, 10.21; 11.2, 11.7, 11.11, 11.25-26) far more than the terminology: Jews (Romans 9.24; 11.14).
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1. “Proselyte.” Even though this word proselyte occurs in the New Testament, this word occurs at the historical moment of Pentecost, an annual Jewish observance. While Acts Two reveals the beginning of what we know as the church, we must recall that those gathered at the Temple to hear Peter and the other Apostles on that Day of Pentecost were Hebrews/Jews, and Gentiles who had converted to Judaism. This Gentile convert to Judaism was called a proselyte. Addressing our specific issue, a proselyte (a Gentile convert to Judaism) could have been first converted to Judaism, then have heard Peter’s message and then become a believer in Jesus. On a side note, but related to our overall theological discussion, Wikipedia mentions two types of proselytes (righteous proselyte, and gate proselyte), this information may have an interesting and significant influence on the Jerusalem Council’s decision (Acts 15) whereby they did not require the Gentile believers to undergo circumcision or keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proselyte
2. “…I am speaking to those who know the law…”. Romans 7.1.
3. “Now I am speaking to you Gentiles.” Romans 11.13 ESV.
4. Dispute about whether the Gentiles believers were required to be circumcised and observe the Law of Moses. Acts 15.1, 15.5.
5. The Jerusalem Council was convened to answer this dilemma about circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses. Acts 15.6.
6. The Church and the Council gave a Holy Spirit approved answer. Acts 15.28, cf. Acts 15.22.
7. The joy of the Gentile believers. Acts 15.31.
8. Circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses was not necessary for the salvation of Gentile believers. Acts 15.22-29.
9. Paul reasons that faith in Jesus gives salvation because salvation is separate and apart from the Law. Romans 3.20-30.
10. Paul also reasoned to the Jews that their faith upholds the Law of Moses. Romans 3.31.
11. James demanded Paul prove his zeal for the Law. Acts 21.22-25, for James cf. Acts 21.18.
12. Paul proved his zeal by engaging in the vow requested by James. Acts 21.26-27.
13. Thousands of Jews believed Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah, all while being zealous for the Law of Moses. Acts 21.20-21.
14. The Gentiles are welcomed and brought into an existing religious system. Romans 11.17.
15. The Israelite believers of Yeshua as the Messiah are the primary provider of spiritual nourishment. Romans 11.18.
16. Paul directly addresses the Gentiles. Romans 11.13.
17. Paul wants the Gentiles to accept that there are some Israelites who have rejected Jesus but believing in him gives an Israelite resurrection. Romans 11.15.
18. Paul tells the Gentiles their faith in an Israelite Messiah is not possible without first having the Israelites. Romans 11.16.
19. Jesus told the woman at the well that salvation is from the Jews. John 4.22.
20. Paul tells the Gentiles that some of the Israelites were cut off from the Israelite root. Romans 11.17.
21. Paul tell the Gentiles that just because some of the Israelites were cut off from the Israelite root does not mean that an Israelite system does not exist. Romans 11.18.
22. The Israelites that believe in Jesus are the ones who supply spiritual life and nourishment to the grafted in Gentiles. Romans 11.18.
23. Paul states that Abraham existed 430 years before the law. Galatians 3.17.
24. Paul tells the Gentiles to recognize that they are grafted into a pre-existing root because of the Israelite situation. Romans 11.19-20.
25. Paul tells the Gentiles not to become spiritually proud, but be aware of God’s willingness and power to prune branches. Romans 11.20b-23.
26. Paul tells the Gentiles that God cultivated the Israelite olive tree. Romans 11.24.
27. Paul argues there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile. Romans 2.9-11; Galatians 3.26-28; Colossians 3.9-11.
28. Paul tells the Gentiles not to be conceited just because they are a part of God’s people. Romans 11.25a.
29. Paul tells the Gentiles that there is a future for Israel and Israel’s future depends on the believing Gentiles. Romans 11.25b.
30. Paul declares that there must be a “Gentile fullness”. Romans 11.25b.
31. Paul declares that there must be a “Gentile fullness” that comes into the New Covenant before Israel can have “life from the dead”. Romans 11.15b.
32. Paul supports his argument by referring to the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Isaiah 59.20-21, Jeremiah 31.33-34.
33. Paul says that God through his covenant with Israel, He will remove their sins. Romans 11.26-27.
34. Paul states that it appears that God considers Israel an enemy of the Good News. Romans 11.28a.
35. Paul states that God’s words are irrevocable, permanently binding and unchangeable regarding Israel. Romans 11.28b-29.
36. Paul argues that God’s unchangeable words regarding Israel relates directly to God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Romans 11.28b.
37. Paul tells Gentiles to reveal God’s mercy and grace and live life within the Messiah in such a way that the Israelites are motivated to a type of godly jealousy desiring to be part of the New Covenant. Romans 11.30-31.
38. The grafted in Gentile would consider it is necessary to adapt Paul’s thinking and become a Jew unto the Jew. 1 Corinthians 9.19-22.
39. Being aware of customs and dietary teachings, so that in all things no offense is given. 1 Corinthians 10.31-33.
40. Whether Israelite or Gentile, each is disobedient because each has sinned. Romans 3.23.
41. God will have mercy and grace for both the Israelite and Gentile. Romans 11.32.
42. God should be praised for the depth of His riches and His wisdom and His knowledge. Romans 11.33a.
43. Truly God’s judgments are unsearchable and His ways are inscrutable. Romans 11.33b.
44. No one is capable of counseling God because no one truly can fully know His mind. Romans 11.34.
45. How can anyone give back to God anything as repayment? Romans 11.35.
46. Everything comes from God; everything that exists is through God and all things are His. Romans 11.36a.
47. God receives glory forever! Romans 11.36b.
48. Prior to Jesus’ ascension, his disciples asked him a question, “wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1.6 KJV.
49. Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” Acts 1.7 KJV.
50. The Apostles, specifically Peter, were given the keys to the Kingdom. Matthew 16.18.
51. The disciples were given the mysteries of the Kingdom. Matthew 13.10-11.
52. Dialogue between Jesus and his disciples about Kingdom Restoration. Acts 1.6-7.
53. Peter is preaching on Solomon’s porch. Acts 3.11.
54. Peter’s enter speech at Solomon’s porch. Acts 3.11-26.
55a. Peter believes and urges others to believe that the prophecy about Messianic suffering has been fulfilled. Acts 3.18.
55b. The Apostles’ question was concerning the Kingdom of Israel. Acts 1.6-7.
56. Gentiles seem to properly understand Paul when he revealed that Jesus has become a stumbling block to the Israelites. Romans 9.32-33.
57. Gentiles seem to properly understand Peter when he revealed that Jesus has become a stumbling block to the Israelites. 1 Peter 2.6-8.
58. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. Hebrews 5.9 KJV; Hebrews 9.11-12 KJV.
59. Jesus is the propitiation for humanity’s breaking of the Divine relationship. Romans 3.25 KJV; 1 John 2.2 KJV; 1 John 4.10 KJV.
60. Paul made it abundantly clear that there is a Holy Root, and it is the Holy Root that sustains the grafted in Gentile. Romans 11.16-18.
61. The Holy Root is described in the OT pages, as Paul referenced the forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). Romans 11.28.
62a. The Holy Root as referenced by Paul concerning God’s Prophetic position toward Israel through Moses, Romans 11.8 using Deuteronomy 29.4.
62b. The Holy Root as referenced by Paul concerning God’s Prophetic position toward Israel through David, Romans 11.9-10 using Psalm 69.22-23.
62c. The Holy Root as referenced by Paul concerning God’s Prophetic position toward Israel through Isaiah, Romans 11.26-27a using Isaiah 59.20-21.
62d. The Holy Root as referenced by Paul concerning God’s Prophetic position toward Israel through Jeremiah, Romans 11.27 using Jeremiah 31.33-34.
63. Paul makes it clear that the OT cannot give righteousness, righteousness is based on faith in Jesus. Romans 3.21-31.
64. Paul clarifies that the OT finds its complete fullness when the disciple loves their fellow human. Romans 13.8-10.
65. The Golden Rule is based on the OT. Matthew 7.12.
66. Paul described one of several ways the church is to utilize the OT. 1 Corinthians 10.1-13.
67. “All these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10.11 KJV.
68. “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Romans 15.4.
69. “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” Colossians 2.16-17 KJV.
70. A Judaizer posited that in order to be saved the Gentile had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. Acts 15.1, 15.5.
71. The Gentile, just like the Israelite, is saved by God’s grace when the person has faith that Jesus is the atonement for sin. Romans 5.1-2, Romans 5.11 KJV; Ephesians 2.8-9.
72. Paul’s sustains the argument that adherence to the Law of Moses is righteousness by on works. Romans 10.5.
73. Paul’s sustains the argument that adherence to the Law of Moses is righteousness by on works which is different than righteousness based on faith. Romans 10.6.
74. Being a part of the New Covenant is based on God’s grace through our faith in Jesus. Ephesians 2.6-8.
75. Being a part of the New Covenant is based on God’s grace through our faith in Jesus and “not works lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2.9.
76. Grafted in Gentiles are sons and daughters through faith. Galatians 3.26.
77. Grafted in Gentiles have permission to look to the worship of Israel to determine how we should worship in this New Covenant. Romans 15.4.
78. The New Covenant Israelites support the grafted in Gentiles. Romans 11.16-18.
SOME RESEARCH LINKS
The links are not provided to affirm or deny my perspective; they are, however, provided so that my readers can continue their study drawing their own conclusions.
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