19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
The reason God broke Israel off was that the Gentiles would be grafted into the tree.
19 You [Gentiles] will say then,
Paul anticipated how the Gentiles in Rome would react to verse 18 by the following statement.
“Branches [unbelieving Israel] were broken off that I [a Gentile] might be grafted in.”
Paul, putting words in the mouths of Gentile believers in the Roman church, said that God rejected the nation Israel because of her unbelief (v.20). This was not the complete truth.
20 Well said. Because of unbelief they [unbelieving Jews] were broken off,
In addition to the Gentile claim of the previous phrase, it was also a fact that God broke off Israel as a nation because of her unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah. This was not true of all Jews because Jews throughout the Roman Empire had embraced Jesus as the Messiah. These Jews were part of the spiritual olive tree. The root and fatness belonged to them.
and you [Gentiles] stand by faith.
The reason Gentiles are Christians and were grafted into the tree is that they accepted the Messiah by faith.
While Israel continues in unbelief, she will continue to be cut off from God. This will remain through the Tribulation, the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7). At the end of this time the nation Israel will accept Jesus the Messiah, when He comes again at the Second Advent.
The word “stand” is in a Greek tense that means the Gentiles began standing at some point in the past with the result that they continue standing up to the present. This “stand” was due to what they believed.
Do not be haughty [arrogant],
The word “haughty” means to think highly of oneself. Gentiles were not to gloat because God cut off the nation of Israel from His program. Believers are not to make themselves superior to the Jews in any way, because it was not who they were but what the Gentiles believed that made the difference. There is no ethnic difference, only a faith distinction.
Gentiles should carry a proper reverence for God’s plan of salvation. It is by God’s plan of salvation by grace through faith that people are saved, and not by anything of themselves.
21 For if [since] God did not spare the natural branches [Israel],
God did not spare the natural branches (Israel). The nation Israel rejected the principle of grace (vv. 5-6). They did this because of unbelief (v. 20).
He may not spare you [Gentiles] either.
If because of their unbelief God put aside Israel as a nation, who belonged to the natural tree (vv. 11-21), He would certainly put aside Gentiles as a group because they came from a mere wild olive branch. There can be no pride in that.
This passage does not speak to individual Gentiles but to them as a corporate collection. Paul did not deal with individual Gentiles in this section of Romans 11, so it does not apply to the loss of salvation for an individual.
Note that Paul throughout this section of Romans 11 viewed Gentile believers and Jewish unbelievers as two groups. Note the singular “you” (Greek) in verses 17 to 24. Thus, this verse does not speak of individual salvation but of corporate salvation.
No one can presume on God’s grace.
The only way we can access God’s grace is through faith, not personal status or effort. God will not bless those who try to stand on their heritage or personal morality. He blesses those who by faith alone access His grace.
If God would cut off apostate Israel because of her unbelief, He would not hesitate to cut off an apostate church due to unbelief. God does not deal in double standards. Today there are many apostate churches that do not believe the Bible or its supernatural claims. Just because someone is religious does not mean he not a heretic. Judgment will come on those who destroyed so many souls by religion.
God will not spare the apostate church (2 Th 2; 1 Ti 4; 2 Ti 3). Much of the professing church in the end time of the dispensation of grace will be apostate. There is no hope for an apostate church because of her unbelief.