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Romans 11:16

The Holy Ones

16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

Our past traditions and our old way of life influence the way we think today. In this sense Paul was no different from the rest of us. In his pre-Christian life, he was a Pharisee guided by the old Jewish laws and traditions of Israel. So it should not come to us as a surprise when he reverts back to those things for appropriate illustrations, which will help him explain the relationship between Jew and Gentile in eschatological Israel.

He begins by relying on a religious tradition practiced by both the Jews and the Gentiles. Both practiced the offering of the first fruits of the harvest to their gods. The Mosaic Law commanded, "Ye shall offer up a cake of the first of your dough for an heave offering: as ye do the heave offering of the threshingfloor, so shall ye heave it. Of the first of your dough ye shall give unto the LORD an heave offering in your generations. (Numbers 15:20-21)

A piece of dough was always broken off the main loaf, baked and given for an offering to the Lord. It was not permitted to eat from the dough until the first fruit was offered. The offering was holy and also made the rest of the dough, "the lump," acceptable to eat and holy.

Now Israel as a nation was made holy through the promises made to Abraham. Holiness, of course, can not be inherited, so the individual Israelite was not automatically made holy by being born into the nation. The first fruits, refers to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or perhaps only to Abraham. Since Abraham believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness, he is truly the first fruits that made the nation that descended from him holy. It was the nation as a whole, the seed of Abraham, that was set aside for God's purpose.

The second metaphor in this verse is open to a slightly wider interpretation than the first. Israel is often described as a vine or as an olive tree, as in Jeremiah 11:16, "The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken." The idea of "broken branches" leads us to the verses that we will study tomorrow. The Holy Nation of Israel, serving as the root of God's people, makes the branches that grow upon the tree, whether they are natural branches or grafted onto it, holy.

But we might also consider that out of Israel came another root, One that is truly holy. "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53: 2) The passage obviously refers to the Christ. He came into the world, born a Jew, at a time when the nation of Israel was all but dead. They were like dry ground that could not support the growth of anything holy, but Christ grew up as a tender plant to bring newness of life to the nation.

"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." (Isaiah 11:10) The Gentiles would seek the root of Jesse, the living Christ, and he would offer them a rest much greater than the rest Israel had received when she entered the Promised Land. Just as the root is holy, so are the branches.

God is not a respecter of persons. Every soul taken into His kingdom is holy, which means that they are set aside for His divine purpose. Gentiles and Jews are all on equal footing when they come to Christ, repent of their sins, and are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. He calls everyone to follow Him. He calls them by the testimony of those who are already a part of the vine. He calls them by the works of the branches that produce good fruit. Eschatological Israel is itself a miracle of God's wisdom and grace.

Before The Throne:

Stay attached to the tree. Pray continuously, without ceasing. Pray that God would help you to bear good fruit for the kingdom of heaven. Confess your prejudices toward other people and ask Him to remove them so that you can be an effective soul winner. Thank Him for making you holy through His Son Jesus Christ.

For Further Study:

** if the first-fruit. Exod 22:29; Exod 23:16, 19; Lev 23:10; Num 15:17-21; Deut 18:4; Deut 26:10; Neh 10:35-37; Prov 3:9; Ezek 44:30; Jas 1:18; Rev 14:4; ** and if. Gen 17:7; Jer 2:21; 1Cor 7:14;


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