Paul’s illustration of the olive tree in Romans 11

The illustration used by Paul in Romans 11 to describe the relation between the Jews and the Gentiles is both memorable and instructive.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,
18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.
21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.
22 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.
23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.
24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. (Romans 11:17-24 ESV)

His point is simple. The Jews were cut off because of their unbelief. Gentiles were grafted in through their faith in Christ. The Jews may again be a part of the tree by accepting Christ. In the photo below we see that new branches have been grafted in the older, well-rooted stump.

Olive tree with grafts at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Olive tree with grafts at Nazareth Village. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

In this close view one can see distinctly the grafting of the “wild olive shoot” into the old stump to be able to “now share the nourishing root of the olive tree.”

Grafts on an old olive stump. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Grafts on an old olive stump. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Paul addresses the problem of arrogance on the part of Gentile Christians. He reminds them that, as branches, they are dependent on the root.

do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. (Romans 11:18 ESV)

Remember that Jesus is the root of David (Revelation 5:5; 22:16). He informed the woman of Samaria that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22 ESV).

In directing tours I have encountered a few guides who think that a Christian group is interested only in “Christian sites.” This is far from true. In most of our churches the majority of the classes at any given time will be from the Old Testament.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4 ESV)

Click on the photos for images large enough for use in your teaching.

More to come about the uses of the olive and oil production.

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3 responses to “Paul’s illustration of the olive tree in Romans 11

  1. Hi, Ferrell. We’re fellow Christians writing a blog about being grafted in. Was wondering if I could have your permission to use the wonderful pictures on your blog of the grafted in olive branches for my blog also. Looked high and low and couldn’t find any better ones on the web!
    Thanking you in anticipation,
    Kind regards, Jayson and Rano

  2. You may use these two photos. I ask that you download the larger photos with the copyright notice on them. Please leave it on the photo you use on your blog. Also, make a notation to this travel blog: http;//ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com.
    Thanks,
    Ferrell

  3. Hello, Mr. Jenkins,

    May I also use your photos, abiding by your guidelines as given above?

    My article at JGIG also has to do with grafting and your photos show the rootstock/branches relationship beautifully.

    Thanks in advance,
    – JGIG

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