“Boast not against the branches; but if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.”

“Boast not against the branches”
Literally:  “Do not boast against the branches.” Literally in the Greek:  “Stop glorying,” or “Do not have the habit of glorying over the branches.”  Don’t attribute your  being grafted into the good olive to your own merits, as if you are worthy of the blessing.  Do not exult over them, as if you were naturally better than they, and were in no danger.

            BOAST:  (Grk.–kauchomai)–“To boast; boast about; take pride in; rejoice; be glad.”

There is too much of this in the prejudice against the Jewish race, that is, the naturaal branches, the Jews.  Stop gloating over them, as if you were naturally better than they are, and were in no danger. The tendency of man is to triumph over one that is fallen and rejected. The danger of pride and boasting on account of privileges is not less in the church than elsewhere. Paul saw that some of the Gentiles might be in danger of gloating over the fallen Jews, and therefore cautions them against it. The grafted in shoot, deriving all its vigor and fruitfulness from the stock of another tree, ought not to boast against the branches.

“but if thou boast”
Literally: “But if you do boast.”  If you are so inconsiderate and worldly, so devoid of humility, and lifted up with pride as to boast, yet know that really have no reason for it.

         If anybody had reason for boasting, it would rather be in the root or stock–the Jews–which sustains the branches; and least of all it would be those which were grafted in, having been before wholly unfruitful.
        If such a vain mindset should prevail, Paul suggests that they would do well to sit down and consider what little reason they had on their side to glory; and if such glorying and boasting, one against another was lawful, the Jews had the greatest reason for it.

“thou bearest not the root”
Literally: {It is} not you {that} bears the root.”–The source of all your blessings is in the ancient stock.  God’s mercy has reached you through Abraham and his sons, not them through you.

It is clear from this, that Paul regarded the church as one; and that the Christian economy was only a prolongation of the ancient dispensation. The tree, even with a part of the branches removed, and others grafted in, retains its identity, and is never regarded as a different tree.

“but the root thee”
Literally:  “But the root {bears} you.”–The riches of grace of the Gentile Christian are due to the fact that he is “grafted in” upon the Abrahamic stock, and becomes his child by faith.

If such a vain temper of mind should prevail, Paul suggests that they would do well to sit down and consider what little reason they had on their side to glory; and if such glorying and boasting, one against another was lawful, the Jews had the greatest reason for it.

 VERSE 19:
“Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.”

“Thou wilt say then”
Literally:  “You will say then;” or, “you will object.”–As a plea for boasting. You who are Gentiles.

Perhaps the Gentile believer might boast over the Jews: “The Jewish branches were broken off, that we Gentiles might be grafted in. Doesn’t this show a preference for the Gentile?” You may think that you have reason to exult over them; because God has been displeased with them, and therefore has broken them off; has cast them out,  and taken you in, in their place.   

“The branches were broken off”
Literally:  “The branches were broken off.”  The Jews were cast out, that the Gentiles might be brought in. 

The Jews were rejected in order that the Gospel might be preached to the Gentiles.  This would seem to follow from what Paul had said in verses 11-12. Perhaps it might be said that there was some ground of exultation from the fact that God had rejected His ancient people for the sake of making a way open to admit the Gentiles to the church. The objection is that the branches were broken off in order that others might be grafted in. To this Paul replies in the next verse, that this was NOT the reason why they were rejected, but it was because of the unbelief of the Jews was the reason.

“that I might be grafted in.”–Paul speaks of contempt for the cast-off Jews. Is not this a preference of the Gentile? You may think that you have reason to exult over them; because it is a fact that God has been displeased with them, and therefore has broken them off; has cast them out, and taken you into it in their place.

         The aim or scope of Paul’s is to exhort the believing Gentiles not to despise and reproach the rejected and unbelieving Jews; and he draws an argument from the condition of the Gentiles, both past and present: in their past condition they were like a wild olive-tree we understand to visible church of God; by the root he means Abraham, he was the root of the olive-tree, the Jewish nation.
         Unfortunately, this admonition of Paul’s went largely unheeded, for even by the end of the First Century A.D., anti-semitism was rampant in the church.  Justin Martyr along with Hippolytus (170-236 C.E.) was obsessed with the belief that the Jews were receiving and would continue to receive God's punishment for having murdered Jesus. Hippolytus writes:

“Now then, incline thine ear to me and hear my words, and give heed, thou Jew. Many a time does thou boast thyself, in that thou didst condemn Jesus of Nazareth to death, and didst give him vinegar and gall to drink; and thou dost vaunt thyself because of this. Come, therefore, and let us consider together whether perchance thou dost boast unrighteously, O, Israel, and whether thou small portion of vinegar and gall has not brought down this fearful threatening upon thee and whether this is not the cause of thy present condition involved in these myriad of troubles.”

Because of the growing power of the Church, Christian theology and the Church Fathers were to become more and more obsessed with Jewish guilt.  Origen (185-254 C.E.) echoed the growing hostility:

“On account of their unbelief and other insults which they heaped upon Jesus, the Jews will not only suffer more than others in the judgment which is believed to impend over the world, but have even already endured such sufferings. For what nation is in exile from their own metropolis, and from the place sacred to the worship of their fathers, save the Jews alone? And the calamities they have suffered because they were a most wicked nation, which although guilty of many other sins, yet has been punished so severely for none as for those that were committed against our Jesus.”

Augustine, the great Roman theologian, was also guilty of the growing hatred toward the Jews.  In a sermon on Catechumens, he said:

"The Jews hold him, the Jews insult him, the Jews bind him, crown him with thorns, dishonor him with spitting, scourge him, overwhelm with revilings, hang him upon the tree, pierce him with a spear…The Jews killed him."

"But when the Jews killed Christ, though they knew it not, they prepared the supper for us.”
In another sermon he characterized the Jews as “willfully blind to Holy Scripture,” and “lacking in understanding”  and “haters of truth.” 

The Church Fathers had sown the seeds of intolerance and antisemitism, and  as a result, Jews were to become the object of hatred and persecution all over Europe for centuries to come.

“Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith.  Be not high-minded, but fear”

               “Well; because of unbelief”–Their unbelief was the cause of their rejection. 

             WELL:  (Grk.–kalôs)—“Good!” “It is true they were broken off.” Admitting the fact.  You are right.  Perhaps ironical, though Paul may simply admit the statement (cf. Mark 12:32) and show the Gentile his real situation.

           “It is true they were broken off;” but in order to show that there was no occasion for boasting, Paul adds that they were not rejected in order to admit others, but because of their unbelief, and that their fate should make an impression on those who really have no reason for boasting, but who themselves might be rejected for the same reason.
         Had they believed, they would have remained. The Gentile is grafted in when he believes. This statement is all true; but then, consider, why is it that the Jews were cast out? Wasn’t it because of their unbelief?  And remember, unbelief would cut off the Gentile branch as well as the Jew.

         “because of unbelief they were broken off”
         Literally:  “For unbelief they were broken off.”  Their unbelief was the cause of their rejection.

         “and thou standest by faith”
         Literally: “And you stand by faith.”– You were made partakers of these blessings by
faith; so don’t be high-minded.

          To put it simply, Paul is saying, “You stand, not because they fell, and not because you are  Gentiles,  but solely by faith.”  So let this simple fact humble you, not exalt you in your own estimation.  If the blessings were received by faith, and consequently not by works; and if not by works, then you have no merit and what you have received is through the mere mercy of God.  They once stood by faith; but they gave place to unbelief and fell.  You now stand by faith; but it is just as possible for you to be unfaithful as it was for them, and consequently you too may fall under the Divine displeasure, just as they have done; but faith cannot live in those “whose soul is lifted up” (Hab. 2:4).
          This statement is all true; but then, consider, why is it that Israel was cast out? Was it not because of their unbelief?   “be not high-minded, but fear;”  literally: “Do not be high-minded, but fear.”Stop thinking high (or proud) thoughts, and watch over yourselves with godly jealousy. See that you always stand in awe of God. And you stand by faith.  You were made partakers of these blessings simply by faith; so don’t be “puffed up” or high-minded.  
         Just think: if these blessings were received by faith, and not by works; and because it is not by works, you have no merit; and what you have received is merely through the mercy of GodThey (the Jews) once stood by faith; but now they given place to unbelief, and as a result, they fell.  You now stand by faith; but it is just as possible for you to be unfaithful as they now are. So consequently, you may fall under the God’s displeasure as they have done.  Therefore, do not be high-minded, but watch over yourselves with godly jealousy. Unbelief will cut off the Gentile branch just  as it did the Jew.
         Walk humbly in the fear and love of God, lest you too be broken off and perish. Men who have the right views of God and His ways, and of themselves and their relations to Him and their fellow-men, will not be proud, haughty, or censorious, but will be humble, meek, grateful, and benevolent.

           FEAR:  (Grk.–thobou)Literally:  “that which may cause flight; dread; terror.” 

There is the reverential “fear”  of God, that will make a controlling motive for one’s life in matters spiritual and moral, and not simply a “fear” of His power; but rather the “fear” that gives us a dread of displeasing Him and will inspire a constant carefulness in our daily lives.

“For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee.”

“For if God spared not the natural branches”
Literally:  “For if God did not spare the natural branches.”–If God did not refrain from rejecting the Jews Who became unbelievers, assuredly He will not refrain from rejecting you for the same reason.

The Jews were brokeen off by God because of their unbelief, certainly He would not spare the Gentile, who is not a natural branch, if he too becomes an unbeliever.  Remember, therefore, the rock whence you were hewn, and the hole of the pit from whence you were dug.  Depend incessantly on God's free grace, that you may continue in His favor.

“take heed lest He also spare not thee”
Literally:  “Lest neither you He will spare.– The added words in italics in the KJV, {takeheed} really add nothing to the sense of verse; rather they tend to detract from it.

If God, in His infinite justice and holiness, could not tolerate sin in the people whom He foreknew, whom He had so long loved, cherished, and had so miraculously preserved and blessed; take heed lest He also spare not you.  Be convinced that the same righteous principle in Him will cause Him to act towards you as he has acted towards them


“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

In this verse Paul is drawing a conclusion from what he said in verse 21. Paul is emphasizing the “fear”

“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God”
Literally:  “Behold, then, {the} kindness and severity of God.”– Behold the goodness of God! This is frequently used among the Jewish writers, when they wish to call the attention of men to particular displays of God's mercy, especially towards those who are unworthy.

Regard, or contemplate, for purposes of your own improvement and benefit, the dealings of God. We should look on all His dispensations of judgment or of mercy, and derive lessons from all to promote our own steadfast adherence to the faith of the gospel. “Severity” is shown in breaking off the Jewish branches on account of their unbelief; “goodness,” in admitting Gentile believers.

            THE GOODNESS: (Grk.–chrêstoteta)The benevolence or mercy of God towards you in admitting you to His favor. This calls for gratitude, love, confidence. It demands expressions of thanksgiving. It should be highly prized in order that it may excite to diligence  to secure its continuance.

           THE SEVERITY: (Grk.–apotomian)–That is, towards the Jews. This denotes a“cutting off;” from (Grk.–apotemnō)—to cut off;” and is commonly applied to the act of the gardener or vine dresser in trimming trees or vines, and cutting off the decayed or useless branches.

         This word sometimes contains the idea of harshness, or even of cruelty. (Webster),  but nothing of this kind is conveyed in the original Greek word used here. Here it refers to the act of God in cutting off or rejecting the Jews as useless branches; and conveys no idea of injustice, cruelty, or harshness. It was a just act, and consistent with all the perfections of God.   It indicated a purpose to do that which was right, though the inflictions might seem to be severe, and though they must involve them in many heavy calamities.
         As “goodness,” (Grk.–chrêstoteta), signifies the essential quality of God’s nature, the fountain of all good to men and angels, so (Grk.– apotomian)– “severity,” as it is here translated, signifies that particular exercise of His goodness and holiness which leads Him to sever from His mystical body whatsoever would injure, corrupt, or destroy it.
         Justice and mercy, goodness and severity, are attributes or qualities eminently found in God; and contrary only in their effects upon men. The same God is both merciful and severe, with respect to different persons and different qualifications. All mercy is not a virtue, but that which is consistent with other perfections of wisdom and righteousness.

            “on them which fell”
            Literally:  “Indeed on those having fallen.”  On the Jews, who had been rejected because of  their unbelief.  

           “but towards thee, goodness”
            Literally:  “But on you, kindness.”

            BUT:  (Grk.–de)–else; otherwise.”

         GOODNESS: (Grk.–chrêstotêti)–Towards the Gentile world, benevolence. This denotes benevolence. Here it signifies the kindness of God in bestowing these favors on the Gentiles.

“If thou continue in {His} goodness;”
Literally: “If you continue in the kindness.”–By continuing to believe and obey Him.  The   word "his" is not in the original Greek text, and this simply reads as, “if you continue in goodness; and the word goodness here may denote integrity, probity, uprightness, as well as favor.

Though it may mean, "if you do continue in a state of favor;" that is, if your faith and good conduct shall be such as to make God continue His kindness towards you. Christians do not merit the favor of God by their faith and good works; but their obedience is an indispensable condition on which that favor is to be continued. It is simply that the grace of God is magnified, at the same time that the highest good is done to man himself. 

“otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”
Literally:  “Otherwise you will also be cut off.”That is, if they walk worthy of this favor from God, and suitably to such a kind and gracious dispensation; otherwise they, the Gentiles, shall         be cut off and cast away just like the stubborn and unbelieving Jews.

The Lord is with a people   only while they are with Him; if they serve and seek Him, He will be found of them; but if they forsake Him, He will cast them off forever.

THOU:  (Grk.–su)–This word refers to the Gentile churches. In relation to them the favor of God was dependent on their faithfulness.

If they became disobedient and unbelieving, then the same principle which led Him to withdraw His mercy from the Jewish people would lead also to their rejectionAnd on this principle God has acted in numberless cases. He withdrew His favor from the Seven Churches of Asia, Revelation chapters 1-3, from Corinth, from  Antioch, from Philippi, and even from Rome itself, and presently, from the United States of America. 


“Every branch in me that beareth no fruit He taketh away and every {branch} that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:2).

`This continuance in God’s grace depended on both His favor toward the Gentile believers, and the believer’s own conduct.  The two qualities must be in balance.  The Gentile believer is responsible for his own conduct, and if he fails to honor God he will fall just the same as the Jews.  Why should God spare a hollow, faithless church that fails to appreciate its mercy?  His kindness to Gentile believers is contingent upon their continuing to be responsive to that kindness. And what has been the record of the Gentile church?  The answer is a simply, it has been abysmal;  an utter disasterFor instance:
1.      Regarding the sending out of the Gospel:
         After 2000 years, much of the human race still knows NOTHING about Christ.
2.      Regarding the Doctrine of Salvation by Grace, apart from law or ordinance.
         Instead, we see:
         a.     “Good character” being preached as the way of acceptance.
         b.     Taking the Lord’s Supper being preached as a way of receiving Christ.
         c.      Baptism, instead of the confession of the Savior being relied on as a “means of regeneration.”
3.      Regarding the Priesthood of Believer, in the fellowship of prayer and faith in our churches, we see untold thousands of professing Christians who have never prayed or openly praised the Lord in the local assemblies.
         a.      Myriads of believers who do not have the assurance of their salvation.
         b.      Instead of the believers worshiping in simply homage to Christ, we see open idolatry in the local churches and people looking for signs.
         c.      Local churches putt up crosses and believers wearing little gold crosses as if they were  some sort of good luck charm, instead of preaching the “the word of the Cross.”

Yes, the record of the professing Gentile church has been a total disaster.  Instead of continuing in the goodness of God, we see that Gentile “Christendom” (so-called) has set up the “Christian Religion” with every sort of ism, wasm, and spasm that backslidden “Christians” can come up with.  You can see such by just examining the announcements and events in the “religious” section of your newspaper.

“And they also, if they bide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in:  for God is able to graff them in again.”

         “And they also”
         Literally:  “And those also.”  The Jews.

“if they bide not still in unbelief,”
Literally: “If they do not continue in unbeleif.”–So, we find that their rejection took place in consequence of their willful obstinacy: and, that they may return into the fold; the door of which still stands open

         If they do not continue in willful obstinacy and rejection of the Messiah. As their unbelief was the sole cause of their rejection, so, if that is removed, they may again be restored to the favor of God.  We know from many prophecies that Israel will not continue in unbelief.  They must, of course, see to believe.  Zechariah 12:10 declares that in a future day they shall “look on Him whom they pierced.”  They will turn to God in repentance, and God will save them just as He saves us—by His marvelous, infinite mercy and grace.
         As Gentile believers will be cut off unless they “continue in the goodness of God” (v. 22), so the Jews, if they abandon their unbelief, shall again be grafted in. They are not cut off by a decree of God casting them away, but by their own unbelief.

         “God is able to graft them in again”– And they also, if they do not stay in in unbelief, God is able to graft them in again.

         Even as fallen and degraded as they are now, God can restore them to all their forfeited privileges.  The veil now continues on their heart; but it is not a veil which God has spread there, but a veil occasioned by their own voluntary and obstinate unbelief: but when they do turn to the Lord (Jesus) that veil shall be taken away.  See what Paul has said, (II Cor. 3:6-18).
         Understand this most important point:  Gentile believers will likewise be cut off unless they “continue in the goodness of God” (v. 22), and the Jews, if they will abandon their unbelief, shall again be grafted in. They are not cut off by a decree of God casting them away, but by their own unbelief.
        When God’s purpose in breaking them off has served its purpose, the blindness of the Jews, will be removed (II Cor. 3:14-16), and they will again come into the blessed “advantage” mentioned in 3:2.  Here again we see that God has a contingency plan. He would influence the Gentiles by fear lest they also be broken off; and He would move Israel by hope of regaining their lost standing.  Israel’s rejection is neither final nor absolute.
         Paul’s purpose in these verses is to counteract Gentile pride.  What is important to see is are the arguments he brings in to eliminate their boasting.

1.      Argument #1–v. 18
         Gentiles should not boast because you so not support the root, but the root contains you.
2.     Argument #2–v. 19
        Paul responds to the
Gentile claim that the Jews were cut off from the olive tree so the Gentiles could be grafted in. 

        He says that the Gentiles have wrongly interpreted their inclusion as a sign of their superiority.
3.     Argument #3–vv. 21-2
Paul attacks the Gentile believers who think they would somehow avoid judgment because they were part of the redeemed community. 
This is exactly what many of the Jews believed: that God would never reject the original branches on the olive tree.  But if He did not spare them, because of their unbelief, why should He spare you for the same thing?  Why should God have more regard for a faithless Gentile that He had for a faithless Jew?