While I was in Israel, the old olive groves renewed my appreciation of them. Seeing the same trees which are now more than 2000 years old, by which Messiah Yeshua – Jesus Christ and the Apostles also used to walk past, made me think about the letter which Paul wrote to the congregations of Rome.
Paul’s Letter to the Congregations
Paul was an Apostle with a different mission. Accepting his call to share the Messianic message with the Gentiles was no easy task. He always wrote with the purpose, to correct and encourage.
The book of Romans was no different. However, his letter needs to be read in its entirety, to understand the challenges they had, and Paul’s response to it.
By considering the historical background, we gain a clearer understanding of the disputes which took place between the Messianic Jews and Gentile believers.
It is unknown who planted the first Messianic Congregations in Rome. The possibility exists that it could have been by the Messianic Jews and proselytes, who were saved and baptized after the feast of Shavuot – Pentecost in Jerusalem, when they heard Peter speaking, filled with Ruach HaKodesh – Holy Spirit. (Acts.2)
The first congregations were made up of both Messianic Jews and Gentile believers until the expulsion of all the Jews from Rome, by Claudius, the Roman Emperor. (ACE 41-54)
Their departure left only Messianic Gentile believers behind, which brought about changes, still prevalent today.
According to the two Roman Historians, Suetonius and Cassius, the Jews were expelled due to continued disturbances between Messianic and Non-Messianic Jews. Among these were Aquila and Priscilla, who moved from Rome to Corinth.
Paul left Athens and traveled to Corinth where he met them. They became co-workers with him until their return to Rome after the ban was lifted, with the death of Claudius the Emperor.
Discord among the Messianic Jews and Gentile Believers
Upon their return, the Messianic Jews found that during their absence, the Gentile believers have changed their position with regards to leadership, theology, and customs.
Paul became well informed about this situation in Rome, and it was clear to him, that the root of their problems laid in the misrepresentation of their new-found identity.
As an Apostle to the Gentiles, and not having been to Rome yet, Paul carefully structured his argument to bring his point across.
He addressed the challenges, to correctly understand righteousness, Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy), faith versus legalism, grace, and mercy. Systematically he leads the believers to the height of his argument which is unity between Messianic Jews and Gentile believers, underscoring that we have all received grace, and are part of God’s unique olive tree.
We need to show the same grace as we have received!
Through the allegory of the olive tree, Paul points us to three groups of people, Jews, Messianic Jews, and Gentile believers.
The Olive Tree Discourse
In Rom.11:16-26, he describes a cultivated olive tree, with some of its branches broken off, and wild olive branches grafted into it. A unique olive tree indeed!
The cultivated branches represented the Messianic Jews, who were saved by grace, as they received Messiah Yeshua as their Saviour. The branches broken off, represented the Jews, who have not yet accepted Yeshua as their Messiah, but who are miraculously sustained by God until they are through faith in Messiah Yeshua, grafted back into their tree based on the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
This tree is unique in that, by the same grace, Gentile believers, as wild olive branches are against natural cultivation practices also grafted into it.
The Privilege of being Grafted in
With privilege, comes responsibility.
From Paul’s letter, we learn the importance of staying humble in our position as being grafted into the olive tree. Humble towards those who are the natural branches and towards those broken off, (who God will gladly graft back) as we are partakers of the same root, Adonai, and Messiah Yeshua. We worship together in the House of Elohim.
A Call to Restoration
When Paul wrote the letter, he addressed a much-overlooked theme. What was once a unity of Jew and Gentile believers, before the expulsion of the Jews by Emperor Claudius, has now been separated from one another.
He focused his letter on restoring the unity between Messianic Jews and Gentile believers. We are part of the same tree.
Unity between Messianic Jews and Gentile believers
The core message from Paul’s letter still speaks to us today. The gap between Messianic Jews and Gentiles believers needs to close. We do not have a history to be proud of in this regard, but thankfully, we can acknowledge it and take Paul’s letter to heart.
It is not too late to learn, and to do!
There is so much we can learn by reaching out to one another. The same principles Paul addressed in his letter to the Congregations of Rome, can be studied from a fresh perspective, drawing us closer towards each other, in sharing and experiencing the richness of His Word.
As we reach out to one another, we enter the spiritual reality that we are grafted into the same tree through Messiah Yeshua – Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Did you gain insight from this message? Please share with us below; I would love to hear from you.