It seems to be a fundamental of human nature, that when one is not influenced by God’s word people can become proud of their achievements. Paul makes this point in Romans 11. He warns the Gentile converts not to follow the path of many leading Jews who were proud of their privileged position before God. He uses the analogy of an olive tree. We understand that the trunk of the tree was Abraham, Isaac and Jacob with the Jewish nation as the branches.
Paul then makes the point to the Gentiles, that the natural “branches were broken off” so that you “might be grafted in” (verse 19) adding, “they were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe” (verse 20).
Tragically the Gentile branches have become proud and so many have been broken off or are in the process of dying. Observe the principle stated in verse 22, “Note then the kindness and the severity of God”. It is tragic that so often all the emphasis is on the kindness and love of God as though He is purely a God of love, ever forgiving despite continuing sinfulness.
Paul comments on the future of the natural branches, saying, if “they do not continue in unbelief” they “will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them in again”, adding, “how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree” (verses 23,24). Paul warns the Gentiles not to “be wise in your own conceits” The twin brother of pride is conceit! The thing “I want you to understand”, he says, is that “a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in” (verse 25).
We feel we are close to this “fulness” of time when the Gospel has reached every corner of the world “and then the end shall come” as we read in Matthew 24:14. Let us “stand in awe” as we witness the fulness of time and pray we may remain grafted in – or be grafted in – if we are not yet part of God’s olive tree.