One of the most profound warnings in the Bible is found in Romans, chapter 11. The Gentiles have been grafted into the Olive tree through faith. The unbelieving Jews are cut out of the Olive tree for refusing to believe. The basis for abiding in the tree is always faith in God’s provision for us. It’s all about believing and trusting God. But the way to eternal life, the way to the tree of life, is open to all on a different basis. It’s the basis of God’s grace received through the channel of faith. Even though the Jewish nation as a whole rejected the Messiah, Paul says that still, “…at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” Everyone, and anyone, can find eternal life hanging from the tree of life! It’s appropriated through faith.

But Paul warns his readers that, “Then you will say, Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in. That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 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.” I hope you don’t miss the fact that the whole passage rests on faith. Israel was cut off because they refused to believe. They preferred to eat from the tree of Law. Their unbelief results in a works-based righteousness. Remember how Paul begins the book of Romans. Verses 16 and 17 say, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written: The righteous shall live by faith.”

On the other hand the reason that the Gentiles were grafted in is because they believed. Paul warns the Gentiles not to “boast” about their position as a branch now. The New Living Translation puts 11:18 this way, “But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.” It’s only those who live according to the knowledge of good and evil (law!) that would boast. Ryan Rufus writes, “If you are boasting in the branches it shows you don’t have faith in Christ but in yourself. That means you’re not a true branch! You’re a false branch. The graft hasn’t taken. You can go to church and sing the songs and talk the talk and look like a branch that’s in the olive tree, but if your faith is in yourself and not in Christ you’re in danger!” Whose righteousness do you trust in? If it’s your own, you are eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and attempting to cover your sin with fig leaves. But to eat from the olive tree is to rest in God’s grace and in His righteousness. We have Christ’s righteousness and Jesus gives us His rest.