16If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are as well.
17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them …
16For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 17And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of …
In Romans 11:16–17, Paul provides more evidence of why the rejection of Israel was not final. Israel's stumbling was only temporary and because of their fall, the gentiles have received salvation. Paul explains that Israel's belief will be like coming to life from death. In this passage, he uses two illustrations to explain the Jews’ and the Gentiles’ relationship to the truth. In this sermon on Romans 11:16–17 titled “The Terms Defined,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones breaks down both illustrations and defines the words and context of the words. In essence, if one is part of the whole, and the whole is holy, then they, too, are also holy. Dr. Lloyd-Jones points out that the term “holy” does not always mean sinless, but it means set apart by God. Some parts of the "dough" or "branches" (as used in the illustrations) have been cut off, but can once again be grafted in and take the blessings of the whole. God has the power to remove something once and for all, but He can also graft a part back into the whole. This is what will be done with the Jews. It will be a glorious day when all of Christ’s followers and those who believe the true gospel will be raised up and reunited with the whole.
- The apostle Paul wants to explain the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church.
- Verses 16 and 17 state the fundamental relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church.
- The first illustration in verse 16 is that if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy. This refers to Numbers 15:19-21 where the first portion of dough offered to God makes the whole lump holy.
- The second illustration is that if the root is holy, so are the branches. The root determines the nature of the tree and branches.
- The two illustrations convey the same essential teaching. The question is who do the first fruit and root refer to?
- The first interpretation is that the first fruit refers to the first Jewish converts like Paul. But this is unlikely because the unconverted Jews don't correspond to branches coming from these first converts.
- The second interpretation is that the first fruit refers to the patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The root refers to Abraham himself. This fits with the overall argument that the Jews as a nation have a future.
- Verse 17 refers to an olive tree. Some natural branches were cut off, and wild branches were grafted in. But the natural branches will be grafted in again.
- The illustration of grafting in wild branches is contrary to nature. God did something miraculous to save the Gentiles.
- The key question is what the olive tree represents. The interpretation of the olive tree determines your view of the Jews' place in God's plan and eschatology.
The Book of Romans
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.