Because neither the illustration of the vessel nor that of married life picture anything organic related to God’s dispensation, Paul goes on to use a third illustration—the grafting of one tree to another. In 11:17-24 Paul uses the illustration of branches from a wild olive tree being grafted into a cultivated olive tree. As a result of grafting, the branches from the wild olive tree and the cultivated olive tree grow together organically. Each tree has its own life, but now these lives grow organically together and have one issue.
A surgeon may do what is called a skin graft. In this procedure healthy skin is transplanted from one part of a patient’s body to a wound or burn elsewhere in his body to form new skin. After the graft is completed, the transplanted skin will grow organically with the tissue to which it has been grafted. This growth is possible because both the skin and the tissue have life. The organic element in the life enables them to grow together.
In Romans Paul uses the illustrations of vessels, married life, and grafting. The illustration of the vessels shows that we are God’s containers with God as our content. The illustration of marriage shows that a man and a woman with different minds, emotions, wills, personalities, characters, and dispositions are joined to form one unit. The illustration of grafting shows that two lives are joined and then grow together organically.
A stanza in a hymn written by A. B. Simpson (Hymns,#482) speaks of grafting:
This the secret nature hideth,
Harvest grows from buried grain;
A poor tree with better grafted,
Richer, sweeter life doth gain.
No doubt, when Mr. Simpson wrote this hymn, he had Romans 11 in mind. I do not believe that A. B. Simpson would teach that the Christian life is an exchanged life. According to this hymn, he realized that it was a grafted life, a life in which two parties are joined to grow organically.
In order for one kind of life to be grafted to another, the two lives must be very similar. For example, it is not possible to graft a branch from a banana tree to a peach tree. However, it is possible to graft some branches from a poorer peach tree to a healthy, productive peach tree, for the lives of these two trees are very close to each other. We may apply this principle to the dispensation of the divine life into man. The divine life cannot be grafted with the life of a dog because there is no resemblance whatever between these lives. But because our human life was made in the image of God and according to the likeness of God, it can be joined to the divine life. Although our human life is not the divine life, it resembles the divine life. Therefore, these lives can easily be grafted together and then grow together organically.
In the line of the hymn by A. B. Simpson, the poor tree is grafted to a better tree to gain a richer, sweeter life. The life of the poor tree does not disappear. Rather, it grows together as one unit along with the life of the rich, sweet tree. Once again we see that this is not an exchanged life, but a grafted life.
Furthermore, according to the natural law ordained by God, it is not the poor life that affects the richer life, but the richer life that affects the poor life. In fact, the rich life will swallow up all the defects of the poor life and thus transform the poor life. In the same principle, when we are grafted into Christ, Christ swallows up our defects, but He does not eliminate our own life. On the contrary, as He swallows our defects, He uplifts our humanity. He uplifts our mind, will, emotion, and all our virtues.
© Living Stream Ministry All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.