Friday, April 15, 2016

In or Out?

Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, whose backgrounds were still deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, to let them know that the gospel of grace and forgiveness is also available to the Gentiles. He called himself the apostle to the Gentiles and that was predominately his target audience throughout his ministry. 

Needless to say, many Jews were still having some difficulty accepting Gentiles as Christians.  The section of the book of Romans we will look at today, addresses the subject of who is in and who is out; who can be a part of God's family and who cannot.   Look closely at this excerpt from Romans:

"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."  Romans 11:22-23

It is a terrible thing to be segregated from something of which you have been a part.  This section of Romans lets us know that there were branches of Israelites which were cut off and the reason they were cut off was their own unbelief.  In like manner, Paul tells the Romans that there are branches of Gentiles that have been grafted in because of their faith.  The analogy Paul uses is that of a grafted tree  in which a husbandman has carefully removed unproductive branches and attached the more productive branches. 

We could liken this to other instances of us being "cut off" from things which are necessary to our lifestyle. Try not paying your water bill this month.  You will be cut off.  Perhaps you make bad decisions at work and your mistakes cost the company irreparable damage, more than likely your income will be cut off. Kids get cut off from friendships when their friends pick other friends they like better. So we know what it is like to suffer a separation from things that are common to us.

Paul's picture in Romans is a plea to faithfulness and unity in the body of Christ. In making the plea he talks with firmness to his hearers. He establishes some truths about the standards by which we enter and remain in God's family; truth that is easy to understand. Those who remain faithful will continue to live in the kindness of God. Those who are unfaithful will be cut off. Then he says those who do not persist in unbelief will be grafted in.  

Now the really good news. For those who have been cut off, the goodness and grace of God allows us to be grafted back in. The love of God that made us a part of his family, continues to be extended to us to bring us back to him when we stray.  Through prayer and repentance we can be brought back into a right relationship with God. 

Just remember, it is also in the book of Romans, "Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord."  Romans 8:39


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