My family and I were putting up a small structure one week, and while securing it to the base with some heavy lag screws, my wife made a comment about the ratchet she was using (while I was using a cordless drill to pilot the holes in the foundation). She rhetorically asked, “What did people do before they had tools like this?” My reply was that they probably used a lot of nails (rather than screws), but I’m also sure there are plenty of people who have wielded a wrench (and still do) to secure bolts.
Having said that, I appreciate my ratchet, my limited selection of power tools, and the circular saw that I borrowed from a neighbor for that particular project. My wrenches, screwdrivers, and hand saw continue to serve me well, but a little bit of mechanical advantage and electrical power goes a long way, especially for a large project.
In fact, maybe you’ve been using a tool for a while, but you got the blade sharpened, the batteries recharged, or the engine tuned up. The difference in results can be almost surprising, and you wondered why you didn’t get the maintenance done sooner.
As we continue a study of Paul’s illustration of a gardener (God) taking action to cultivate a healthy collection of branches (us), consider this question: Where does arrogance come from in the first place? An online dictionary aligns with what Paul wrote: that arrogance is “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions”. Arrogance comes from thinking that we’re better than someone else.
Let’s take a look at the following passage:
Consider 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. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After 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!
Romans 11:22-24 NIV
If we are tempted towards arrogance, I think that an understanding of God’s character – His nature – is a good cure for that vice. If we only look at God’s judgment (or His “sternness”, or His “severity” in the NASB), we might start to think that we deserved being saved from that judgment, and start to condemn those who haven’t yet accepted God’s gift of salvation. If we only look at God’s love (or His “kindness”, in this passage), we might forget that He is also holy and just, and we might miss the fact that – if it wasn’t for His grace – we deserved the same punishment as those who aren’t yet part of His family.
Each of us is a branch, and our connection to the vine is a function of our own choice whether or not to receive God’s grace. Just as believing Gentiles can be grafted in, unbelieving Jewish people can be restored even if they were previously removed because of past unbelief.
If a Gentile – whose very culture was opposed to God – can be grafted into the family of God and receive life from Jesus Christ, it should be even easier for a Jewish person (represented by a natural branch) to join in. With all of the background about God from the Holy Scriptures (what Christians typically call the Old Testament), and a passion to love and serve Him, how much more easily should a Jewish person be able to join the family, in light of God’s selection of their nation millennia ago? And, if Gentile branches (like me) can bear fruit for the Kingdom of God, can you imagine the fruit that a Jewish branch can produce, once grafted (or re-grafted) into the vine?
Like using a ratchet (instead of a wrench), a person raised in the Jewish faith and culture has a great head-start in understanding the teachings of God. And, like sharpening a saw, I believe that those of Jewish heritage can find even greater meaning in their Scriptures when they find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
So, if you know anyone of Jewish heritage and culture who doesn’t know Jesus as their Savior and Messiah, won’t you take some time to pray for them? Jesus loved His people, as did Paul, and all who follow Jesus should have a love for Jewish people. In the end, I don’t think that there is any subtraction of identity (in God’s eyes) or faith when a Jewish person follows Jesus – only addition and multiplication.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for March 20, 2022
- The Lookout, March 20, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 2, by Jack Cottrell. College Press Publishing Company, © 1998.