17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree,
18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.”
20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. – Romans 11:17-20
Paul starts using the illustration of grafting branches on to a vine. Grafting is used in horticulture to produce better crops of fruit. If you graft a young branch to an established root it bears fruit far more quickly. The fruit also has the attributes of the root so if the root bears good quality fruit the branch will as well . The grafted branch is also better able to resist disease. That is why this is such an interesting spiritual illustration. If a believer is grafted into the root, The Lord Jesus Christ, then they will bear much fruit (Matthew 7:18), they will be like Christ (Ephesians 3:17) and they will be able to resist the evil one (Ephesians 6:13)
It is also interesting that Paul uses olive trees as the illustration as they produce the oil that was used to keep the lights burning in the Temple and often oil represents the Holy Spirit in the scriptures.
The branch does not support the root but it is the other way round. We can do nothing unless it comes from the power of the Holy Spirit and through the grace of the Lord Jesus. We have no place to be proud. The Children of Israel were “cut off” because of their unbelief. The Gentiles were admitted into the kingdom of God through the grace of God by faith in the Lord Jesus. Salvation is by faith through believing and receiving. Not by our efforts through earning and deserving. Our best response is to fear the Lord.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. – Proverbs 9:10
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, – Deuteronomy 10:12
1 “Now this is the commandment-the statutes and the rules-that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it,
2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. – Deuteronomy 6:1-2
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. – Acts 9:31