“And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy—just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be, too.”
Romans 11:16 NLT
Paul made a controversial statement in our verse today, which perhaps we could take issue with. Did he mean that the Jews could claim to be holy in God’s sight just because they had Abraham, or one of the other patriarchs, as their ancestor? To bring it up to date, just because I had Christian parents, does that mean my salvation in God is assured? But we can’t take this verse in isolation, because, as we find out later in this chapter in Romans, the link can be broken by personal choice.
Paul uses two analogies – branches and dough. Analogies that Jesus used as well. One of the well known, go-to, Scriptures about branches can be found in John 15. Jesus very clearly sets out a scenario based on a grape vine. Perhaps He was standing next to one as He taught His disciples. But we read in John 15:1-4, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me”. Jesus portrayed Himself as the grapevine, a vibrant and vigorous bush that was deeply rooted into the soil and which sprouted many branches, from which the grapes were picked. The grapevine produced all the nourishment needed for the branches to survive and grow the fruit intended. But to the people of His day, they knew it was important that a branch was connected to the vine to maintain its life and health. But Jesus made it clear that if a branch doesn’t produce the fruit, His Father, portrayed as the Gardener, would remove it. It would be cut off and burned. And those branches that do produce fruit would find themselves pruned so that their fruit harvest gets even better.
Some years ago, as the Charismatic renewal was flowing over the UK, I remember a conference speaker warning the Christians caught up in the excitement of the Holy Spirit visitation. He used the grapevine scenario to provide a picture of the branches producing lots of leaves, green and succulent. But there was no fruit. God, he said, wasn’t looking for leaves. It was fruit He was after. And branches producing no fruit would end up cut off and burnt. A warning, timely and relevant. Perhaps we can ask where so many of those Charismatics are today? Jesus gave another illustration through the parable of the wicked farmers, and He ends it with this verse, “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit” (Matthew 21:43).
Well, fellow pilgrims, how fruitful are we? What fruits are we producing? We mustn’t forget that there are good fruits and bad fruits, and, because of sin, the latter is more common. But we can read Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things“! This is the fruit that God is looking for, and, for most Christians, fruit takes a long time to grow. But as we allow the Holy Spirit to gently, but persuasively, work in our lives, fruit will grow. Our faithful Father loves us too much to allow otherwise.
Dear Heavenly Gardener. We pray for more of You in our lives, as we walk on in our journey to Glory. We know that we will encounter all sorts of obstacles but through them all, the encounters will help in growing and ripening our fruit. Please help us. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.