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"Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off."

— Romans 11:22Paul grieved over the fact that most his people had rejected Jesus as their Messiah and the forgiveness of sins that Jesus offered them through faith in Him. However, Paul rejoiced that this had opened the door wider for the Gentiles to hear the good news about Jesus and come to faith in Him. To explain himself, Paul used the illustration of an olive tree. The root of the olive tree was holy, but the unbelieving branches (some unbelieving Jews) were broken off; then, God grafted in the believing branches (some believing Gentiles) from a wild olive tree, which made the olive tree more fruitful. Then, Paul warned the Gentiles not to become arrogant and despise the unbelieving Jews; rather, from what happened to them, the believing branches should fear and stand fast through faith: “For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (Romans 11:21). Unhappily, sometimes believers focus so much on the kindness (or mercy) of God that they lose sight of the justice of God. Believers can enjoy the mercy of God “provided they continue in his kindness” by taking sin seriously and not taking God’s forgiveness for granted. Persistence in practicing sin can lead to forgetting God and the life Jesus expects from His followers. To serve as a warning to others and uphold His law, God sometimes needs to cut off a supposed follower of Jesus Christ who is living hostile to God. Still, there is the possibility of being grafted in again through repentance and faith.

Parkhurst Jr. writes the International Bible Lesson Commentary at www.theiblc.com. Send email to lgp@prayersteps.org.

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