The Olive Tree (Romans 11)

The Apostle Paul likened God’s place of blessing to Israel and to Gentiles to an olive tree.

Introduction

Paul used the illustration of an olive tree in Romans 11 to disclose one of Scripture’s most important doctrines. Understanding what Paul taught by this illustration is critical for the serious student of the Bible. By the olive tree example, Paul revealed God’s sovereign plan for Israel and Gentiles. He revealed Israel’s place in God’s plan (past, present, and future) and how Gentiles have received a new relationship with God.

According to God’s prophetic, Old Testament program, outlined in Psalm 2, Gentiles were to be blessed through God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12.1-3). Gentile blessing in the Old Testament was, therefore, dependent upon Israel’s obedience to God. After Israel’s rejection of their Messiah (Acts 2.22-24, 3.13-15, 7.51-53) and the offered kingdom of God, God commissioned Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul the Apostle. The ascended Lord revealed to Paul a new plan of blessing for Gentiles. This new plan was not based upon Israel’s obedience but was a result of their disobedience. Instead of pouring out His wrath according to the Old Testament prophetic program (cf. Joel 2, which Peter had quoted on the Day of Pentecost), God poured out His mercy through the salvation of Paul. The risen Lord commissioned Paul as “the Apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11.13) and Paul proclaimed the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20.24; 1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Paul explained that despite Israel’s disobedience, God’s dealings with the nation had not ended. Their being set aside and God’s disapproval was temporary. God would fulfill all His promises at the proper time despite their disobedience.

The Context

Romans 11 concluded Paul’s dissertation on Israel which he began in Romans 9. The three chapters of Romans–9, 10, and 11–interrupt Paul’s main argument in his epistle. One can place chapter 12 next to chapter 8 and not miss a beat. Having said this, these three chapters are critical to understand God’s overall plan for Jews and Gentiles. In other words, while Romans 9-11 is parenthetical to Paul’s main argument, it provides a framework and the context for his main argument (Romans 1-8 and 12-16).

Paul began his argument in Romans 9 in the following manner:

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

We notice the following from these verses:

  1. Paul was brokenhearted over Israel’s unrelenting attitude of rejection of their Messiah (λύπη μοί ἐστιν μεγάλη καὶ ἀδιάλειπτος ὀδύνη). Paul was distraught to the point that if it were possible he would suffer hell to save Israel.1
  2. Paul’s subject was racial Israel.2  He expressed this fact as “his kinsmen according to the flesh” (ἀδελφῶν μου τῶν συγγενῶν μου κατὰ σάρκα). Paul declared that to racial Jews belonged:

a. The adoption as sons
b. The glory and the covenants
c. The giving of the Law, temple service, and the promises

They were the fathers from whom Christ had come according to the flesh. Jesus the Christ was a racial Jew. None of these blessings pertained to Gentiles. God gave them exclusively to Israel. This point is essential to establish, understand, and keep in mind throughout the three chapters. Without this foundation, one cannot understand Paul’s argument or progress further into the text.

The Text: Romans 11

God Preserves a Remnant

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.” But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace (Romans 11.1-6).

As noted above, Paul’s subject was national Israel (“His people”). Paul confirmed this fact with his statement that he was an Israelite (a Jew), a descendant of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin. Paul answered his question of whether God had rejected the Jews with the strongest negative he employed (μὴ γένοιτο). Paul used this negative twice in this passage to make this point (vv. 1, 11). Despite the nation’s rejection of their Messiah, God had a future plan for national Israel independent and apart from His work of forming the Church, the body of Christ. Thus, Paul emphatically stated, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” One may ask, “Why did Paul keep hammering the point that his subject was racial Jews, national Israel?” Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Paul anticipated the rise of false teachings that would come after him. These teaching are those that maintain that Paul was not writing about national Israel and that the Church was the new Israel. Paul made his point so strongly that one has to exert great effort to wrestle the text to get a different meaning. Those who maintain God has no future plan for national Israel do just this. The greatest theological tragedy in the past 1,900 years is that most of Christendom has rejected Pauline theology and declared exactly the opposite what Paul wrote: that Israel stands independently from the Church and that God has a future plan for Israel as a national entity.3

Paul reminded his readers of God’s faithfulness to Israel by the example of Elijah. Elijah’s ministry to Israel made him angry, frustrated, and lonely. Depressed at the unfaithfulness of his people, Elijah thought he was the only believer in the entire nation. He faced 450 of Baal’s prophets and 400 prophets of the Asherah alone (1 Kings 18.19). This was tough odds for any contest. But God assured him He had 7,000 believers who had not bowed to Baal. Thus, even in this time of great spiritual darkness and decline (Ahab was king and Jezebel queen), God had preserved a faithful remnant. Paul’s point was that God always has a remnant. In Paul’s day, a remnant of Jews believed Jesus was the promised Messiah (cf. Romans 9.6). This remnant was according to “God’s gracious choice” and was a result of grace rather than works.

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.” And David says, “LET THEIR TABLE BECOME A SNARE AND A TRAP, AND A STUMBLING BLOCK AND A RETRIBUTION TO THEM. 10 “LET THEIR EYES BE DARKENED TO SEE NOT, AND BEND THEIR BACKS FOREVER.”

Paul used the above verses to fortify his point. National Israel had not obtained their Messiah because they refused to repent and come to Him. However, individual Jews had obtained their Messiah for they had believed in Him. The majority of the nation became hardened. Paul used the aorist, passive, indicative of πωρόω which means to harden by reason of a callus. Metaphorically, it means they had become dull of understanding.

11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. 12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! 13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if some how I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Verse 11 is a parallel of verse 1. Here, for the second time, Paul employed his strong idiomatic negative (μὴ γένοιτο) in response to his question. In the latter part of the verse, Paul explained the result of Israel’s stumbling. The first reason was so salvation might come to Gentiles. What did Paul mean by this statement? With God’s call of Abraham, God laid the foundation for the creation of a new race, the Jews. From that time forward He dealt with them exclusively (with a few exceptions). In this new plan Gentiles were blessed through Israel on the basis of the Abrahamic covenant. This was God’s revealed plan to bless Gentiles. God had revealed no other plan in which Gentiles could be blessed apart from the favored nation. What Paul revealed in these verses was that God had now created a new plan in which Gentiles could be blessed apart from national Israel. Thus, Paul wrote, “by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles” and “if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles.”4 Notice Paul’s words: transgression (παράπτωμα) and failure (ἥττημα) had resulted in riches (πλοῦτος) for Gentiles. This was impossible under the Old Testament, covenant program.

In the latter part of verse 12, Paul introduced the future hope of Israel. Israel’s stumbling had resulted in Gentiles being blessed through God’s call of the Apostle Paul as the “apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11.13) But God had not forgotten Israel. He would fulfill His covenant promises to the nation. They would become what God intended for them (e.g., Exodus 19.4-6). God is sovereign and His plans cannot be overturned. Thus, Paul wrote that if Israel’s transgression (disobedience) had resulted in Gentile blessing, imagine what would happen when they obeyed God (πόσῳ μᾶλλον τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῶν). Paul’s phrase was, “how much more the fullness of them” and in verse 15, τίς ἡ πρόσλημψις εἰ μὴ ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν, “what will their receiving (πρόσλημψις) if not life from the dead?” The Greek noun πρόσλημψις is a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον and is related to the verb προσλαμβάνω. Paul’s used this word to mean “accept” or “receive” those who were formerly estranged (cf. Romans 14.1, 3, 15.7; Philemon 1.17).

Paul’s second explanation of how good had come from Israel’s stumbling was his hope that as “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11.13) he might cause Jews to become jealous of and long for the blessings Gentiles were receiving in Christ. Paul hoped Israel’s jealousy would lead them to Christ.

Gentiles Grafted into the Olive Tree

16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either (Romans 11.16-21).

Paul began his analogy of the olive tree with an example of a lump of dough. Just as a piece of dough from the lump shares the properties of the whole lump, the branches of a tree share the properties of the root. If a lump of dough is holy, a piece of the lump is holy. If the root is holy, so too the branches.

The olive tree represented God’s place of blessing. In essence, the Abraham covenant is the olive tree. The Jewish nation acquired their place of blessing from the Abrahamic covenant. Paul likened Israel as natural branches of a cultivated olive tree (Romans 11.24). God’s subsequent covenants with them (Land, Mosaic, Sabbatical, Davidic, and New) were the “cultivation.” Gentiles, on the other hand, were wild branches. Gentiles had no covenants (Ephesians 2.11-12) and God set Gentiles aside when He called Abraham. The Abrahamic covenant ended God’s direct dealing with Gentiles. All God’s dealings with Gentiles from that point going forward were mediated through Israel.

Due to their unbelief (stumbling, transgression) God broke off national Israel (natural branches) from the tree. God then grafted Gentiles (wild olive tree branches) into the place of blessing. Gentiles now occupy the place of blessing previously held by Israel.

Notice Paul did not mention the Church, the body of Christ, in his illustration. This place of blessing is for ALL Gentiles, not just the Church. This is an important point to apprehend and requires some reflection. In God’s covenant program, Israel occupied God’s special place of blessing. Were all Jews saved? No, most were not saved. Yet they occupied the position of blessing. In the same way, God has placed Gentiles into his special place of blessing. Are all Gentiles saved? No, most are not saved.

In the program God revealed to Israel, Gentiles could be blessed only through a relationship or association with Israel. In God’s program of the Church, the body of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles are blessed by believing the gospel of grace (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Peter’s remarkable statement at the Council of Jerusalem confirmed this fact (cf. Acts 15.7-12). Such a statement would have been impossible in the Jerusalem church before the Council. Two things are noteworthy:

  1. One plan operates at a time. When natural branches were on the tree, wild branches were not. Wild branches were grafted in when the natural branches were broken off.
  2. Most of those blessed by God in the Old Testament program were Jews. That was the status quo for 2,000 years. Since the time of Paul, most who have been blessed by God are Gentiles–the new status quo for the past 2,000 years.

In verse 17, Paul issued a warning to the wild branches (Gentiles):

  • Warning to Gentiles: Do not boast against (κατακαυχάομαι) the natural branches (Israel).
  • Question: Why not?
  • Answer: Because the wild branches (Gentiles) do not support the root (God, the Abrahamic covenant, the source of blessing)–the root supports the branches.
  • Objection: But the natural branches, (i.e., Israel) were broken off so that I, the wild branches (i.e., Gentiles) might be grafted in.
  • Rebuttal: Correct–but remember–the natural branches (Israel) were removed because of unbelief. The wild branches (Gentiles) stand only by faith. Don’t be conceited but fear. If God broke off the natural branches (Israel) do you think He would not remove wild branches (Gentiles)?

22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? (Romans 11.22-24)

The kindness of God was grafting wild branches (Gentiles) into the olive tree. His severity was breaking off the natural branches (Israel) from this place of blessing. God’s kindness is experienced upon response (faith) to His kindness. Paul warned Gentiles, like Israel, only stand by faith.

Both verses 22 and 23 are third class conditional sentences, “more probable future condition” (ἐὰν plus the verb in the protasis in the subjunctive mood). The “if” is assumed to be probable or true. Thus, Paul assumed Gentiles, in particular the Church, would continue in faith (v. 22), just as he assumed Israel would not continue in unbelief (v. 23) but would be regrafted into the olive tree. Paul had more to write on this matter in the following verses but suffice to say at this point that He understood and relied upon God’s sovereignty from passages such as Zechariah 12.10, 13.5-6, and Matthew 23.37-39 to make his point.

Paul ended this section with the statement in verse 24: “For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?” In this statement, “if” is a first class condition (εἰ plus the indicative) and the condition is assumed to be true. Gentiles, likened as wild olive branches, were grafted “against nature,” i.e., without covenants, into a cultivated olive tree (the place of blessing). If this was so (and it was), Paul asked how much more likely would it be that the natural branches would be regrafted into their own tree.

25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery–so that you will not be wise in your own estimation–that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” 27 “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”

As noted above, God provided Paul with the revelation that Israel’s present condition of unbelief would end. Paul knew the Old Testament promises and the words of the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry. But the ascended Lord had revealed to him a “secret” about Israel’s blindness. Paul revealed “this secret” (τὸ μυστήριον τοῦτο) to ward off any inclination by the Church (composed chiefly of Gentiles) to be “wise in your own estimation,” i.e., the temptation to “boast against the branches” (Israel) that had been cut off. This secret was “a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved.” The partial hardening (πώρωσις ἀπὸ μέρους) was/is national Israel’s present condition of unbelief. It was partial because not every Jew was/is hardened by unbelief. Thus, the hardening affected national Israel, not individual Jews. Paul also revealed the secret of how long this condition would afflict the nation. It would continue until “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (ἄχρις οὗ τὸ πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν εἰσέλθῃ).

What did Paul mean by the “fullness of the Gentiles?” In light of the context of Paul’s argument, the phrase must refer to the completion of the body of Christ, the Church. No distinction in this age exists between Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ (Romans 10.12; Colossians 3.11) yet the Church is composed primarily of Gentiles. Thus, Paul employed the phrase, “fullness of the Gentiles” to refer to the Church which is composed mainly of Gentiles. God alone knows when He will complete His body but completion will occur when the last person trusts in Christ by believing Paul’s gospel of grace (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). When the body of Christ (the Church) is complete, God will remove it from the earth.

Once God removes the Church from earth He will restart His covenantal plan with national Israel and Israel’s blindness will begin to be lifted. Luke’s account in Acts 13.6-12 of Paul’s confrontation with Elymas, the Jewish the magician, was a prophetic anticipation of this truth. Paul told the false prophet he would “not see the sun for a time” (μὴ βλέπων τὸν ἥλιον ἄχρι καιροῦ). John revealed God will use the events described in the book of Revelation to convince the Jews that Jesus is the true Messiah, not the Beast. At the mid-point of the Tribulation, after 3 1/2 of the 7 years have passed, Jesus instructed the Jews to flee to the mountains when they saw the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24.15-16; Daniel 9.27, 12.11). As Jews see the words of Scripture being fulfilled, their spiritual eyes will begin to see (1 Corinthians 1.22). Some will began to recognize the one they accepted as Messiah is a pretender (John 5.43). At the end of the seven years (the end of Daniel’s 70th week–the Tribulation, the Day of the Lord, Revelation 1.10) every Jew will be saved (noted in verse 26, “all Israel will be saved”).5

When Paul stated “all Israel” (πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ) he meant “all Israel,” i.e., every Jew who is alive at the time. Peter had declared this same message to the nation on the Day of Pentecost. He told the nation, “let all the house of Israel know” (Acts 2.36). He told them they had killed their Messiah. When they asked him what they must do Peter replied,

“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2.38)

The word “each” is ἕκαστος which means “each” or “every.” Every Jew had to repent (cf. Acts 4.10, 13.24). Peter’s message at Pentecost was a repeat of Jesus’ teaching:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” (Matthew 23.37-38)

In a future day, every single Jew will repent and verbalize (either aloud or in his heart) Jesus’ words. When these words are spoken, the prophecy will be fulfilled. Jesus will return and fulfill His promise as Israel’s Messiah. Thus, “all Israel” will be saved (cf. Isaiah 66.8; Ezekiel 39.25-29).

To demonstrate God’s faithfulness to save all Israel, Paul quoted the prophets:

26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”” 27 “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.” 28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

The clear implication of the quotation “remove ungodliness from Jacob” is that the removal will be total: the entire nation. To men, events often seem out of place and without reason. But not to God. Paul concluded God will sovereignly bring all things to their proper end. No one received greater persecution from his kinsmen than Paul. Yet he concluded, “they are enemies for your sake” but “beloved for the sake of the fathers.” Paul knew God was sovereign. His statement, “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” is the strongest statement possible to acknowledge that God Israel has not forgotten the Jewish nation. He created her and will keep His promises. This statement should make ashamed any who hold to replacement theology.

Paul reminded his Gentiles readers they too had been disobedient to God but that God had shown them mercy. God’s mercy came not from Israel’s obedience but because of their disobedience. As God had shown mercy to Gentiles through Israel’s disobedience, He would show mercy to Israel when they believe. He concluded: “God has shut up (συγκλείω–to entrap completely like fish in a net) all in disobedience so that He might have mercy to all.” We are all sinners (Romans 3.22-23). We all require God’s mercy. No exceptions.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Paul concluded his treatise with a paean of praise to God for his wisdom. God inhabits eternity. He is above all. Who can know His thoughts? He is the Alpha and the Omega and all things are by Him and for Him.

Conclusion

In this tremendous  discourse, Paul taught that Gentiles had been brought into a place of blessing and mercy, not through Israel’s obedience as the Old Testament covenantal program had indicated, but through the nation’s disobedience. This blessing was wholly a result of God’s grace. He warned Gentiles not to become arrogant against Israel since their place of blessing was held by faith alone. As God had shown Gentiles mercy in grafting them into the olive tree by breaking off national Israel, He would again show mercy to them and regraft them into the place of blessing. Israel’s blindness and temporary stumbling was a secret: no one before Paul knew about it. The ascended Lord revealed this secret to Paul. Paul communicated the gospel of the grace of God to Gentiles, who are enjoying God’s blessing.

Paul’s attitude parallels Moses’ after Israel worshiped the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law from God. This event occurred shortly after God miraculously had delivered them from Egypt. Moses asked God to forgive their sin but if not to blot him out of his book, i.e., the book of life (Exodus 32.7-12, 30-32).
The term “Israel” is a technical term used only of the Jewish people. Neither Gentiles nor the Church is included in the term. See the author’s study, “Israel” as a Technical Term for more information.
During the Reformation, significant portions of Christendom returned to Paul and regained an accurate knowledge of soteriology. Tragically, the Church did not follow Paul in other areas of theology. Great error and confusion continues to exist in ecclesiology, eschatology, and pneumatology. The Church began its abandonment of Paul’s theology while the great apostle was alive (2 Timothy 1.15, 4.3-4) which has continued until today.
Paul assumed the role of Israel in blessing Gentiles as “the apostle of the Gentles.” This is what the great apostle meant by his statement of being “untimely born” in 1 Corinthians 15.8. Representing the nation according to the Abrahamic covenant, Paul became the proxy of God’s blessing to Gentiles. In the Millennium, Israel will again assume this role (cf. Zechariah 8.20-23).
The “gospel of the kingdom,” not the “gospel of the grace of God,” (Acts 20.24) i.e., Paul’s gospel (Romans 16.25; 2.16; 2 Timothy 2.8) will be preached after the Church has been removed (cf. Matthew 24.14). This time, this gospel of repentance (Matthew 3.1-2; 4.17; Mark 1.15; Acts 2.36-38) will result in Israel’s repentance so the Lord can return and establish His kingdom on the earth (Matthew 6.10, 23.37-39 cf. Romans 11.26).

©2011 Don Samdahl. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold.

Updated April 16, 2012


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53 Responses to The Olive Tree (Romans 11)

  1. peter says:

    wonderful subject but tell me, when you say the whole nation of Israel will be saved you mean the remnant that turn to Christ, true? or do you mean all Israelites that ever lived?, bless you, Peter

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Peter, “all Israel” is the remnant Jews who are alive at Christ’s return. Jesus explained this in Matthew 24.13. The “end” is either martyrdom during the Tribulation for not worshiping the Beast and taking his mark or Christ’s return.

  2. anthony bardsley says:

    its so refreshing that you are very clear on lines thay have been blurred by orthodoxy i truely am blessed to read your articles .

  3. Joseph Sim says:

    I have been attending the lessons by this Dr George Addorai who has published a book on the Gospel of the Kingdom …. your words concur with his.

    Thank you very much for these articles. They have helped me a lot to understand my faith, Christianity and most importantly, God’s plans for us, Gentiles.

    Now, I just hope to visit Israel asap.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joseph,
      Thanks for your kind words and I’m glad the articles have helped. I’m not familiar with Dr. Addorai.

  4. Ron G says:

    G’Day Don,
    I just read an article on Grace Ambassadors web site.(http://graceambassadors.com/books/romans/the-wild-graft-found-in-matthew-21)
    Which seems to be at odds with your identification of the “wild Branches” as being the Gentiles and therefore including the Church.
    Following is a part quote from this article:

    “The Wild Graft and the Church……
    Matthew 21 is a proper commentary to Romans 11:16-24.
    In these eight verses, Paul shows that God had not cast away all Israel, but instead gave his promises to branches that could bear the fruit.
    He cut off the good olive branches (scribes, priests, and unbelieving in Israel), and graft in the wild olive branches (blind, publicans, harlots, fishermen) that made up the faithful little flock.
    After studying Matthew 21, there could be no other identity to the fruitful nation than the little flock of Israel.
    If the branches were grafted in according to the Lord’s words in Matt 21:43, then the wild graft could not be the church which did not yet exist.
    Even so, there are still those who claim to rightly divide who place the church into Israel’s tree, but they do so at great expense to the foundation of mid-Acts Pauline right division.
    If the church is the wild graft in Romans 11:24, then the church must be found in Matthew 21. If the church is found in Matthew 21, then there is no right division between Israel and the Church, and the promises made to Israel are twisted to the point of breaking.”
    The wild olive graft of Romans 11 is the faithful nation that bears fruit in Matthew 21. It was the people of that wild nation that continued in God’s goodness by faith to receive Israel’s kingdom.”

    How would you refute this and does Mathew 21 have any bearing on Romans 9-11?

    Ron G

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Ron,
      Ever since the Abrahamic covenant Israel had been God’s favored nation. All blessings to Gentiles had to come through Israel. The Lord presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah and they rejected Him. Paul wrote that God had broken off the natural branches (Israel) from the root (God’s place of blessing and favor) and grafted in wild olive branches (Gentiles) to that place. Not all Jews were saved (Romans 9.6-7) just as not all Gentiles are saved (members of the body of Christ). National Israel is blinded but some Jews come to a knowledge of Christ and become members of the body of Christ. Matthew 21 is the Lord’s commentary on the nation which He knew would reject Him. The gospel of the kingdom dealt with Israel as a NATION. This is why Peter told the Jews at Pentecost “let ALL the house of Israel” (Acts 2.36) and “every one of you” repent (Acts 2.38). This is why Paul said that ALL Israel would be saved in Romans 11.26.

    • Chris Bivens says:

      If you follow the pronouns it becomes clear that Paul is talking about the Gentiles. Verse 13 specifically addresses the Gentiles and then every “you” after that is spoken to them. If it would have been addressing some other group then they would have been spoken about in this context. I think the flaw of the “grace ambassadors” articles is that it confuses categories.
      “If the church is the wild graft in Romans 11:24, then the church must be found in Matthew 21” (from their article).
      The teaching we have here is that the Gentiles are being grafted in, not the Church. It is important also to remember that the Jews who have been cut out because of unbelief can be grafted back in if they will believe.

      • doctrine doctrine says:

        Chris,
        Yes, Paul’s argument in Romans 11 is that at the present time God has placed Gentiles in the place of blessing that national Israel had enjoyed previously. The Church is included because its composition is 99% Gentile. Paul is laying out large scale programs: God’s dealings with Israel and with Gentiles. The article errs in its statement, “The wild olive graft of Romans 11 is the faithful nation that bears fruit in Matthew 21. It was the people of that wild nation that continued in God’s goodness by faith to receive Israel’s kingdom.” On the contrary, the “wild olive graft” is the Gentile world as opposed to Israel, the “natural branches” (Romans 11.21, 24). Paul’s commentary looked forward to when God would complete the Church, remove it, and restore repentant Israel again to the position of blessing (Matthew 23.37-39; Acts 2.36-38; Romans 11.26).

        • Kyle says:

          I agree with you Doctrine, for these two passages need to be rightly divided between prophecy and mystery. Romans 11:25 is mystery “For I would not, bretheren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel , until the fulness of the gentiles be come in.”
          While Matthew 21 is prophecy, speaking of when the Kingdom is established is given to true Israel that abides in the true vine, Messiah Jesus.
          However Grace Ambassadors ususally does a good job with right division, imho.

          • Kyle says:

            ^^^Where are my manners… I’ve revised my comment a few times that I left out that your article was very inciteful and edifying. Thank you.

  5. Marty Nichols says:

    Doctrine’s explanation of Paul’s olive tree example is correct and the other is not. Paul was writing to Gentiles, not Jewish believers of the “Little Flock” who some say are those “graft in.” The Jewish believers of the 12 apostle’s disciples were already “in the good olive tree” and didn’t require “grafting in.” It is the Gentile nations Paul pictures as “grafted into the place of favor” in this age of grace.

  6. becky says:

    Hi Don, I printed this study out yesterday and spent all day studying, highlighting, cross-referencing, and made connections to other verses. I kept in mind all the things you said to keep in mind. You made it very clear that the Gentiles have not replaced Israel. I have a question about Rom 11:24, For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree….. Is the olive tree referenced here speaking of the Gentiles in general? Another question, do the Scriptures say why the Lord ended his direct dealing with Gentiles and formed Israel?
    One of the things that occurred to me was that Deut 32:21 is the first place He spoke of provoking Israel to anger and jealousy with the Gentiles. Is this correct? How many times I have read this verse and i am just grasping the reality of it.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Becky,
      In Paul’s illustration we have two olives trees–one wild and one cultivated and tended. The latter represented the place of God’s care and blessings. Through it Israel was the beneficiary of the covenant promises and had the Word of God. Due to unbelief, Israel was broken off from this place of blessing and Gentiles were grafted in. The Gentiles are spoken of in general but the Church, composed primarily of Gentiles, is the particular beneficiary. Paul has 3 categories of the human race: Jews, Gentiles, the Church (1 Corinthians 10.32). He also taught that in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile. One becomes “Church”–the body of Christ. God spent 2,000 years dealing with “Gentiles.” The result was the Flood and tower of Babel. In 2,000 B.C. He initiated a new plan to form a particular race–Israel–through whom He would operate.

      • Becky says:

        Thanks so much for your patience, Don. Yes, yes the first 2000 years dealing with the Gentiles. I now remember reading that. This is definitely foundational, at least in my mind. You answered my questions perfectly. I’m printing out your answer and taping it to the study. This was an amazing study, so rich in truth. I gained a great deal of understanding. I pray that I will come across local brothers and sisters who are excited about this truth. I contacted the Berean society but they don’t have anyone listed in my area, so i gave them my name. Again, thank you.

  7. AJ says:

    Hi, I know that the Body of Christ was a mystery. Would Matt21 unveil that mystery? In Matt21:43, if that nation that does bare fruit is talking about the gentiles who would become the Body of Christ, how can gentiles be labeled as a nation? Looking for some clarification regarding those associations. Thanks. I enjoy this forum.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      AJ,
      Jesus was speaking of a future generation of Jews who will repent and accept Him (see Matthew 23.27-39). The Church, the body of Christ, was a secret until after Paul was saved. God revealed it to Paul alone. The Twelve knew nothing of the body of Christ. They never had a ministry to Gentiles. They were apostle of Israel. They never wrote of the body of Christ. What they knew of it they learned from Paul.

  8. GraceReceiver says:

    Thanks for the great article! It seems so clear to me.

    Can you please tell me, though, what Paul means when he says, “Grafted in AMONG them”? Among who? If the broken off branches represent Israel’s program set aside, why are there any branches left on the tree when the Gentile program is grafted in?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      GraceReceiver,
      Paul’s dissertation is about two programs: His program regarding 1) Israel and 2) Gentiles. God has set Israel aside as a program (broken off). Gentiles, as a program, have been grafted into the place of favor. Paul argued, “all Israel is not Israel” (Romans 9.6), i.e., all Jews were not believers, yet Israel occupied the place of God’s favor due to the covenants. Grafted in “among them” means Gentiles (as a program) being grafted into the place of blessing which individual believing Jews occupied.

  9. Vanessa says:

    Hi Doctrine, What then has become of all Jews over the last 2000 years.? Are we to believe that aside from a few individuals all these Jews are going to Hell because God has blinded them in part. Could Gods anger reach 2000 years into the future.?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vanessa,
      God deals with the Jews on two different levels: nationally and individually. Individual Jews have just as much opportunity for salvation as individual Gentiles. But nationally, for Christ to return, for Him to set up His kingdom, requires that the entire nation repent (Matthew 23.37-39; Acts 2.36-39; Romans 11.26).

  10. Sorry, Doctrine,
    but I didn’t understand your point of view here:
    The “gospel of the kingdom,” not the “gospel of the grace of God,” (Acts 20.24) i.e., Paul’s gospel (Romans 16.25; 2.16; 2 Timothy 2.8) will be preached after the Church has been removed (cf. Matthew 24.14).

    My question:
    If the gospel of the kingdom will be preached after the Church has been removed, why then Jesus said “it shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations”? Who is going to preach it to all nations after the church is removed?

    Mt. 24:14 And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Paulo,
      Thank you. I miswrote and have corrected my error. The gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed after the Church is removed and it will result in Israel’s repentance. God will initially save the 144,000 who will proclaim it. How this will occur is unknown but God always leaves a witness.

      • Paulo Ferreira Blaud says:

        I understand God can leave witnesses after the church is removed. However, how likely it is that the Gospel will be preached TO ALL NATIONS only with such witnesses?

        Is it not easier to understand that the Gospel of the Kingdom is the Gospel Jesus wants us to preach (without wrong doctrines) which shall be preached by the church to all nations before the end comes?

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Paulo,
          Getting the gospel to all nations will not be a problem. The 144,000 will begin the effort and convert many. They will be supernaturally protected and empowered. They will most likely travel supernaturally as Philip did (Acts 8.40).The gospel they preach will be the gospel of the kingdom according to Jesus (Matthew 24.14). The faith part of that gospel is to believe Jesus is the King, the Son of God. No one is saved by this gospel today.

  11. Hi Don!

    I have noticed that some teachers refer to Israel in the feminine gender and sometimes masculine. Also, they sometimes refer to Jerusalem the same way. I have always believed that Jacob is Israel and vice versa, and that Jerusalem as his rebellious wayward bride naturally would have to be feminine. I am really confused! Could you give me your thoughts on this?

    Thank you so much for all the wonderful articles you have written. I am learning so much!

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Tom,
      Thank you. This is not a subject I have studied specifically. Israel sometimes is referred to as masculine (Jeremiah 31.10) but most of time as feminine. I think that it is mostly the latter because Israel is regarded as the wife/bride of YHVH.

  12. alan gordon says:

    Someone argues the olive tree is Jesus. Is there any ground for this?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Alan,
      No. Ultimately, all blessing is from Christ. But the passage in view is about God’s program of blessing, not the person of blessing.

  13. Mike Watts says:

    When Paul says in the Romans 11 about grafting “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either
    I know that a believer cannot lose his/hers salvation so if the Body of Christ is the wild olive branch and can be “cut off” wouldn’t this mean a person can lose their salvation?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Mike,
      Paul is dealing with groups: Gentiles, Israel, not individuals. He is warning Gentiles not to become proud because of their new place of privilege.

  14. Mike Watts says:

    Ok one more question. Gentiles have a new place of privilege for sure. We can have salvation by trusting in the finished work of Jesus. But this is an individual belief which is also open to Jews. I am having a hard time with how God would “cut off” the Gentile branches which you say is the Body of Christ unless this has something to do with the rapture and God puts an end to this dispensation of grace by cutting off the branches to take to heaven. Since we are living in the dispensation of grace and God is not dealing with any particular nation is this a warning or even a glimpse into the future where God goes back to dealing with Israel after the rapture and the Gentiles then become cut off?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Mike,
      The Gentile branches are more than the Body of Christ. Every Jew was not a believer but the whole race was in the place of privilege. So it is with Gentiles. The Body of Christ is the principle beneficiary but all Gentiledom is in the place of privilege. Romans 11.22 is a “future more vivid” condition (ἐὰν + subjective and future indicative) which means it is assumed likely. So, Paul’s meaning is “if (and I assume you will) continue in His kindness, else you will be cut off.” The same condition is used in verse 23. We know God will regraft Israel into the place of blessing. So, in reality is a hypothetical supposition. Paul’s main point is a warning that our privilege is a gift.

  15. Liam S. says:

    This is an excellent article, though I have a few questions:

    1. What do you say to the view that this verse “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. ” Romans 11:22 indicates that believers can lose their salvation. They say that before they were cut off they were in a state of holiness “For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.” which indicates they were saved. They would argue that those people were cut off from salvation, because since their response was one of unbelief.

    Could you explain to me why this passage isn’t talking about the possession of salvation, and that the cutting off wasn’t the cutting off from salvation but from something else, the blessings maybe?

    2. You talked a lot about all of Israel rejecting the blessings, but many times this passage indicates that “some of the branches were broken off” not all. Does this disprove the notion that the author was talking about all of Israel collectively? Or maybe he was referring to the group of unbelieving Jews as a collective whole, and that the assigned rejection of those Jews brought in the grafting of the Gentiles?

    My point is, I don’t see all of Israel losing the blessings here, because indeed there were many Jewish believers at the time, and there still are today (myself being one of them).

    If you could clarify those things for me that’d be great, this article has been a great help with my understanding of this rather complicated passage!

    Many thanks,

    Liam S.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Liam,
      Paul’s subject in Romans 11 concerned programs, not individuals. There’s nothing here that relates to individual salvation, gain or loss. At the present time, God has set aside national Israel (natural branches). He grafted wild branches into his program of blessing (previously enjoyed by Israel through the covenant promises). At this time God is building His Church, the body of Christ. In this new program, Jew and Gentile are saved by believing Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) and are equal in Christ. Thus, believing Jews are blessed in the same manner as believing Gentiles. They become members of the body of Christ. At some point, God will complete the Church. When this occurs, He will remove it (Rapture). God’s program will refocus upon Israel and Gentiles. This is the subject of Revelation. The gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed (Matthew 24.14) for salvation, not Paul’s gospel of grace. God cannot fulfill His promises to national Israel until the nation repents (Matthew 23.37-39). Every single Jew will repent (Acts 2.36-30). The Lord will return and establish the promised kingdom (Matthew 6.10). In that kingdom, Israel will be preeminent among the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 28.1, 13) and the Lord will reign as King, as David’s greater Son, as well as King of the world (Zechariah 14.9). Every Jew will be a priest as God intended (Exodus 19.5-6) and God will fulfill all the covenants promised to the nation. Israel will occupy the promised land and its borders will be the Nile, Med, Red Sea, and Euphrates (Genesis 15.18; Exodus 23.31).

      • Liam S. says:

        Israel I don’t think is completely set aside here to receive the blessings, I think that is outside the scope of the text. I think the point of this passage was to illustrate that Israel is now no longer the only beneficiary of the covenant promises. Gentiles are now grafted in. They now have the same blessings Israel has. This I believe is indicated by the “some” used in this passage, to show that the assigned unbelief of those Jews was used to graft in the Gentiles. While those Jews were part of the natural branches, they never represented all of Israel. Meaning, those Jews who fell lost the blessings, not the entirety of Israel. The passage never says that all the Jews as a nation were guilty of unbelief, only some.

        I then think it is more reasonable within the text to say that though some Jews were cut off from the blessings, while others were not.

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Liam,
          Israel as a program has been set aside during the Church age. God deals with one program at a time. This was Paul’s point of the illustration. God placed Israel in the place of privilege for 2,000 years. Because of unbelief, He removed them (temporarily) and grafted in Gentiles into that place. For nearly 2,000 years Gentiles have enjoyed that place of privilege. Paul recognized some Jews believed–just as 7,000 had in Elijah’s day. But that was a tiny minority (1/10th of 1%). In Paul’s day they experienced God’s blessings believing the kingdom gospel (proclaimed by Jesus and the Twelve) and believing Paul’s gospel. But Acts 15 clearly states the kingdom gospel ended when Peter pronounced the words Luke recorded in Acts 15.11 (see my article, The Great Hinge). From that point on, the only blessing for Jew or Gentile was through believing Paul’s gospel. The Gentile program is about over. But as long as it exists the only blessing Jew or Gentile can receive begins with Paul’s gospel.

          • Liam S. says:

            I understand what you are saying there, I don’t necessarily agree with your eschatology, but that’s not what I was inquiring. I was asking you about was the exegesis over that passage. If I understand it correctly, it could potentially dismantle some of the things you were talking about above, since from my understand of the text, it doesn’t say /all/ of Israel were subjected to unbelief, only some. Which would then mean only some of the Jews were cut off from the blessings, while others were not. If you get what I’m saying.

            • doctrine doctrine says:

              Liam,
              I understand your point. Some Jews believed. But God required every Jew to repent according to what Peter proclaimed at Pentecost. This was required for God to fulfill His covenant promises to Israel and establish the kingdom of God on earth. This is what Paul wrote in Romans 11.26. The fact some Jews believed had no impact on God’s changing the program. Every Jew had to repent. Isaiah wrote “can a nation be born at once?” (Isaiah 66.8). The answer is, yes. They will be born when all repent, which was the message of John the Baptist and Jesus. According to God’s prophetic program, the Day of the Lord should have come. This was what Peter proclaimed at Pentecost. But God in His mercy set it aside, saved Paul, created the Church, the body of Christ, and began a whole new program that the prophets knew nothing about. God kept it hidden. So Israel has been set aside temporarily and all blessing begin with believing Paul’s gospel. In the Church program, God does not recognize Jew or Gentile. He recognizes the Church, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 10.32).

  16. pushpa says:

    Hi
    its very wonderfull chapter what paul says in Roman11… Thank you for sharing us..i am feeling blessed

  17. Bobbi says:

    doctrine,
    Am struggling with this …
    You said…
    One plan operates at a time. When natural branches were on the tree, wild branches were not. Wild branches were grafted in when the natural branches were broken off.
    But Romans 11:17 says “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being ..”
    Keyword = some. This is giving me trouble.
    So is the “some” the unbelieving Israel? Because it looks like to me there are “some” still good original on the tree in this verse. If it is so then both natural and grafted are on together at the same time.
    And if that is the case, what implications does that infer?
    And to finish the verse
    Romans 11:17 “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;”
    It says both are together…? Do you see?
    Thank you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Bobbi,
      One plan operates at a time but that does not mean there was no overlap. It wasn’t that it was one way one day and the next day it another way. The gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God operated together for a decade (from about 40 to 51 A.D.). The olive tree is essentially the Abrahamic covenant, the place of blessing. All who have believed (since the time of Abraham) are represented in this covenant.

      • Bobbi says:

        Okay. :) Thank you. I also read somewhere that the temple door posts were made out of olive wood, which represented having to pass through the door to where God was.
        So, the “some” of the original still on the tree, must be ‘the little flock’ at that time, right? And then. The wild branches are ‘all the nations’ (all gentiles). So does this mean that:
        1. Israel was cast off, except the remnant, because of unbelief.
        2. All gentiles are the wild grafted branches.
        3. The Body of Christ is not represented in this tree? Because we are neither Jew or gentiles but a new man right?…or…?
        It certainly does require much reflection as you said. I’m stuck lol.

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Bobbi,
          The Body of Christ is in the tree as part of the wild olive branches since the Church is 99% Gentile. Don’t force the illustration to do too much. Basically, Paul is simply saying that Israel held the place of blessing and it has been broken off and Gentiles grafted into that place. Paul declared he was the apostle of the Gentiles because that is the vast majority in the Church.

          • Bobbi says:

            I think what bothers me here is that he says “you Gentiles”, because in the Body, we are no longer Jew or Gentile. So why would he differentiate like that if he’s talking to the Body?

            • doctrine doctrine says:

              Bobbi,
              All Gentiles have been grafted into the place of blessing. While Jew and Gentile distinctions have been removed in the Church, the distinctions remain, just as they do with male and female.

            • Vanessa says:

              Bobbi, Pauls Ministry was the Apostle to the Gentiles so its natural for him to address the Gentiles as Gentiles. It would have been strange had he said that there is neither Jew nor Greek in Christ when addressing Gentiles. Tho this is true. We are still genetically gentiles ever after coming to Christ.

  18. Vanessa says:

    Hi Don, (your quote).God then grafted Gentiles (wild olive tree branches) into the place of blessing. Gentiles now occupy the place of blessing previously held by Israel.

    My question. Are these Gentiles that have been grafted in believing Gentiles. I will have many more questions but I need to ask one at a time.

    Depending on your answer I may have many more questions. Thaning you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vanessa,
      Paul is looking at two programs. All Israel was in the place of favor. Same for Gentiles. Individual blessing is to believers.

  19. Bobbi says:

    Don and Vanessa,
    I see I think what you are both saying. I have come to an understanding on this. However because of the “some” still left on the tree, I think it’s Gentile and Jew BELIEVERS being grafted in. I don’t see all gentiles here. He cut off all unbelievers so to make room for all who would believe.

    Rom. 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
    17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

    Gal. 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
    27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
    28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
    29And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Bobbi,
      The olive tree is the Abrahamic covenant. It is more than believing Israel and the Church, the body of Christ. Paul is writing about programs–Jew and Gentile. God placed all of Israel in a place of privilege–believers and unbelievers. Most of Israel were unbelievers but they were the natural branches. When the Jewish nation rejected the Messiah, God broke them off and placed all Gentiles into this place of privilege. The wild brances include unbelievers and believers. Obviously, believers receive the spiritual benefits of this position but all Gentiles are in it. The “some” in v. 17 are Jewish believers. They cannot be broken off because the are believers. But the Jewish nation has been removed. The “some” of v. 14 refers to Jews who would believe Paul’s gospel. Thus, the illustration deals with corporate bodies–Jew and Gentile–as well as individuals. Clear?

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