Read Romans 11:13-36
13I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17If 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, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
"The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
28As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. 32For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
34"Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?"
35"Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. (NIV)
Paul here switches who he is talking to. In the preceding portion of this chapter, it was to the Jews in answering a hypothetical question a Jew might ask. Now he turns his attention to the Gentile hearers. I don’t think we have the problem he was addressing in the first part, but in a way we have it in another form. He begins this section by telling the Gentiles not to get to puffed up that they have been accepted by Christ as the Jews who do not accept Christ as Savior are being rejected. I don’t see that today.
But I do see that different churches and denominations can get to the point that they think they are in and others are wrong and therefore out. We have this problem among the various different traditions of Christianity. Paul says we should not think like this because of God’s mercy. He uses the image of a branch being grafted into a tree. He reminds us that we are just branches and that God is the tree which supplies life to the branches, not the other way around. We cannot and should not judge other believers of other traditions. That is God’s role. I have always told people that we live out our faith in the context of a group of believers. Ours is not to say how God reacts to other believers who emphasis different points of the faith that our group does. I love what John Wesley said on this matter of the various denominations. He said we all have something wrong in our thinking because if we didn’t, we would all be together. The problem, he said, was we didn’t know what we were wrong about, but God still loves us and accepts in spite of our error in thinking.
I believe this is what Paul is eventually getting to at the end of this letter. He is basically saying we all have erred so that God might show mercy upon us and receive us when we say yes to Christ as Savior. God is ready for all to come to him to receive forgiveness of all that is wrong in our lives and receive God’s great mercy. As Paul thinks about this great act and love of God, he breaks out into prayer of joy at the end of this chapter.
What does it mean to your personally that God is ready to accept anyone who turns to him? How has God’s mercy been manifested in your life? As you think about God’s love for you, does it cause you to sing God’s praise?
Blessings and Peace