Romans 11

May 27

I have never really pondered the meaning behind the politically-charged term “grassroots.” I have only thought about it in the most basic of terms.   The people are basic, grass is basic, so as an organization or movement made up of basic people; this must be their connection. These past few weeks creating a garden in a space that was previously untamed ground has really changed the direction of my contemplation on this term. I had taken a great deal of time to till up the ground, remove the vegetation, make a raised bed, and amend the soil.  We sowed new vegetable seeds and waited.  And waited.  And WAITED. To our horror, we watched the most beautiful patch of grass within our entire yard form but not a single seed germinate and reach the surface.  Together my wife and I removed the newly formed grass, this time with great care to remove as much of the roots as possible. We sowed the seed again and waited. This time the vegetables plants grew alongside the grass.

This is when I began rethinking “grassroots.”  There is and was so much of it.  It was impossible to get rid of, to stamp out (at least for the novice gardener). The roots run in so many directions and are intertwined.  Momentarily getting rid of the green is possible, but the grass comes back stronger, greener, and flourishes even more from the pruning.  Culturally and politically, grassroots make a deep connection to this extended metaphor.  As regular folk, we can be part of big ideas or shared values with expectations that are entrenched and hard to amend or move.  However, we are not the root, we are just the greeny growth that thrives off the vine.

“Consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” – Romans 11:18b

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. – John 15:1-4

Romans 11 makes an ever deeper root connection (this is a pun, and you’ll see why in a moment).  In this case, the gardener is not a novice. Grafting branches onto a tree takes an experienced hand.  The metaphorical botanical in this passage is an olive tree. But why? Because they live an insanely long time. They are a millennial perennial. Additionally, the roots of an olive tree can grow deeper under the surface than above.  It is extremely hard to extinguish some of these species.  Impossible, when you consider the species specifically spoken about here: Jesus Christ.  His Father is the Gardener, He is the vine, and we are the branches. We are grafted by God into the Savior, which predates His arrival.  It is the oldest, deepest promise of God.  “After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!” Romans 11:24

No longer is there a single type of branch budding on the tree, but the Good Gardener has chosen a variety.  Each one is equal to the other because none can be supported without the vine.  This makes us all part of the same faith, intertwined in the same hope, which strengthens and flourishes the whole plant, (or body – 1 Corinthians 12)  These roots run from the origins of the universe and the branches are fruiting, growing, and reaching towards Kingdom Come.  Are you accessing the sap of the Spirit? Utilizing your provision to make fruit? Allowing the gardener to prune the dead bits? Tap into the power and the promise that most assuredly lies in the deepest root.

-Aaron Winner

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Reading Romans 11, what do we learn about the Gardener who grafts in branches? How would you describe Him? What is His purpose?
  2. How does the Doxology (an expression of praise to God, sometimes sung) in verses 33-36 tie in with the rest of the chapter?
  3. How is your grafting process going? How have the roots supported you? How are you getting along with the other branches?

The Laughter was Far More Powerful

Romans Chapter 11 –
Paul completes his three chapter address of the fact that the Jews missed the Messiah here in chapter 11.  He emphasizes again that God did not completely reject Israel, for Paul himself is a Jew, and there is always going to be a remnant, until the entire nation will one day believe.


Verse 11 reads, “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?  Not at all!  Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.”  This speaks to a great truth.  Very often, God is able to use transgressions or struggles in our own lives to bring about good.


My wife Susan and I have learned from mistakes in our marriage, and have shared those revelations with others.  I know of people who have wrestled with drug addiction who have then participated in programs to help others who are still wrestling.  In a very public example, Abby Johnson is a former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston, who came to the revelation that what was going on there was wrong, and began a ministry to combat abortion.  (There is a movie titled Unplanned opening in theaters this month about her experience.)


So, yes, things in our lives that we are not proud of can indeed be used for good and for God’s glory.  But Paul continues in verse 12, “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater will their fullness bring!”  When we are fulfilling our purpose in Christ, that is when we are going to be used to our fullness!


greg 4This reminds me of the movie Monsters Inc.  You know the story.  The monsters snuck into kids rooms at night, in order to scare them and collect their screams. They then used the screams as a power source for the monster city.  Yes, it worked, but at a cost, and with a huge amount of effort.  But (spoiler alert) at the end of the movie, it was discovered that laughter was a far more powerful power source, that was much easier to collect.   Maybe this analogy is a stretch, but the point is that God would rather us make good choices (the laughter) and work with that instead of having to work with our mistakes (the screams.)

Speaking of analogies, Paul makes the analogy of Gentiles being a branch grafted onto the tree of Israel.  But he warns the Gentiles not to become arrogant or look down upon the Jews because they do not believe.  Paul says, “do not boast over those branches.  If you do, consider this:  You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”


There is a lot of anti-semitism in the world today.  New York City police records indicate that Jews are the most targeted group in regards to hate crimes.  There are many reasons for this hate, but let’s make sure we are not counted among the anti-semites of the world.  God is going to save a remnant of Israel in the last days.  I for one do not want to stand against God’s chosen people then or now.


Greg Landry

%d bloggers like this: