You often hear Christians say they’ve discovered the Hebraic roots of their faith. Yet so much teaching today insists God is putting Gentile followers of Yeshua into one “tree,” and Jews into another. But does that line up with Paul’s figurative example in Romans 11?
Using a cultivated olive tree for his model, Paul terms the Jews “natural branches” in this tree. And the grafted-in Gentiles as ‘wild olive branches” taken from an uncultivated tree. So we do start out in different trees. But his point is, that except for those Jews who were cut off for unbelief, we are all now in the same tree through faith in Messiah Yeshua! And that all who abide in him, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are being nourished by the same holy Abrahamic root. “For he himself is our peace who made both groups into one…so that in himself he might make the two into one new man.” (Eph. 2:14,15).
Of course, Paul tells us God is not finished with His horticultural project. Future Jewish descendants will also be given the grace to believe in Yeshua, just as the Gentiles were, and be quickly grafted back into their own tree. At the same time he warns the new Gentile transplants not to be arrogant towards the unbelieving “natural branches,” or they’ll suffer the same fate. Snip, snip!
So why do so many Christians still think the Lord has two trees?
One major contributing factor is the different way the Greek word ecclesia is translated. We know from the Septuagint translation that whenever ecclesia is used for chosen Israel in the Old Testament it is always rendered in English as “congregation” or “assembly.” But when you enter the New Testament it is suddenly translated as “church.” Only when ecclesia refers back to ancient Israel in the NT is it rendered as “congregation/assembly” (see Acts 7:38, Hebrews 2:12 NAS).
Of course, if the King James had retained the first NT translation of ecclesia in English by William Tyndale as “congregation,” and not changed it everywhere to “church,” it would be consistent throughout the Bible. And clearer to all that God only had one chosen remnant from Genesis to Revelation. For what is the NT ‘church’ of Jesus Christ, but the continuation of the OT ‘church’ made righteous?
As for Paul’s olive tree….ever notice all the branches are the same type? That Paul didn’t describe the grafted-in Gentiles as coming from a fig tree? Or a horse chestnut? Jews and Gentiles are both olive branches! The only difference is the Jewish branches had been cared for. While we who were Gentile had been growing wild until the Gardener saw fit to feed us with faith and transplant us.
Which raises this question: Were we once under His loving care also but ‘let go’ for some reason? Can you think of any time in Israel’s earlier history when the Lord disowned a large number of Abraham’s family with the promise He’d graft us back in one day under Messiah?
No? Consider 2 Kings 18:9-12, Hosea 1:10,11 and Ezekiel 37:15-28.