Series: Family Privilege
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Don Pate
Live Wonder: Jessyka Albert
Live Adventure: Jessyka Albert
Live Purpose: Vanessa Rivera
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 11:1-36 in the New Living Translation (NLT).
Reflect: In Romans, the old genius Paul is clearly writing to a specific audience. Even though he (by his own admission, in Verses 16:22-32) had not yet been to Rome and only knew a few of the Christians who had ended up there from other parts of the empire, the apostle knew his audience. It was a predominantly Gentile group, the second generation of the church. Since he knew who and what they were, he’d had enough experience around the empire to know their probable mindset with regard to the “original” generation that had been almost exclusively Jewish.
Paul wasn’t naive. He’d been around. He’d seen the tensions in the church between the waning, original Jewish majority and the increasing Gentile influx. (We can see that issue as early as Acts 6, three chapters before Paul had even become a Christian!) That’s why he knew he had to write this passage.
I hope we don’t feel we’ve outgrown the reminder. People who trust the Bible to be the best “life source” accept its claim that our human nature is not dramatically different from those who have preceded us. That’s why we hold that it continues to speak well to every generation.
So, if our tendencies are the same as those of Paul’s original readers, we also can tend to look down our noses at those who have not had the privileges that have been given to us. Paul would call that “anathema.”
Right out of the box, Paul reminds us that we are dealing with an unchanging God. “If anyone abandoned the covenant relationship it wasn’t God!” This is an eternal truth. It not only clarifies issues with regard to Judaism and Christianity, but puts the whole issue of God’s faithfulness out on the table. “Deal with it!” he seems to say. “You may want to assume you are better than [insert relevant name here]. Dangerous ground, my friends!”
I’m not immune to this kind of thinking and you aren’t either. That’s why this passage will always apply to us until God has eradicated our propensities to self-trust and judgmentalism. It’s always worth revisiting, simply as a walk-up call. In this passage, Paul challenges each of us.
Recalibrate: How easily do I criticize people who don’t see things as I do? How easily do I gravitate to a “holier-than-thou” attitude? What would Paul say to me when I make myself the focus and standard?
Respond: Oh Lord, you know how easily we all establish ourselves as the standard of Your favor. Please gently break us of our arrogance.
Research: I’d invite you to go back to reflect on Deuteronomy 7:7 and consider why God chose you. Do it slowly. Do it a few different times during the day.
Remember: “So I ask, has God abandoned His people? Certainly not!” (Romans 11:1, KNT).
Don Pate is a veteran of ministry, including teaching (seventh grade through college), pastoring, publishing, and radio/television ministry. Now officially retired, he still remains engaged in creative ministry—teaching and preaching nearly every weekend somewhere. But he mostly is increasingly astonished at the generosity of Christ that has allowed him to continue to be the most unworthy servant of the Kingdom.
What did your child do to make themselves your child? They didn’t do anything, they just are, right? Ask them what they think they could do to make themselves more your child. There isn’t anything! The same is true with God. He has given us the gift of grace. We aren’t made His children by the good things we do, or disowned by the bad things we do. We are given His gift of grace and reminded that we are His children no matter what. Ask your child what they think it means to be your child and what they think it means for you to be their parent. Then ask what it means to be God’s child and it means for God to be a parent.
Make a list of the good things and not-good things you have done this week. Write the good things in your favorite color and the not-good things in your least favorite color. Romans 11:5-6 says, “There are a few people that God has chosen by His grace. And if God chose them by grace, then it is not for the things they have done. If they could be made God’s people by what they did, then God’s gift of grace would not really be a gift.” Look at your list of good and not-so-good things. Are you happy that God has given you the gift of grace and it is not up to you to earn His grace?
To fully understand Verses 16-18, we need to learn about gardening. Grafting is when we add two bits of different plants together. Why would a gardener do this? Well, let’s say we have two apple trees in the backyard. One tree has delicious apples and the other one’s apples don’t taste good. So, we get a part of the tree with the good fruit and graft it onto the one that needs help. Somehow, the tissues combine and now our tree will bear better fruit! It’s kind of like a heart transplant. You take a body part out of one body and put it in another body and the body with the new heart is in a better condition as a result. Paul emphasizes that if we are strongly rooted in God, we are bound to have holy fruit. What would your life be like if you were strongly rooted in Him?