Adoption is something that is common. Families adopt children every day. What is unique is that these families have a bond of love as strong as families who have not adopted children. God’s love is like that. It is strong enough to love adopted children as much as natural children.
In our text (Romans 11:17-32), Paul is addressing gentile believers in Christ. He does not use the language of adoption but speaks about gentiles being grafted into the natural olive tree. The natural tree represents Israel. The gentiles are the wild branches that are brought in from the outside and made a part of the natural tree. However, adoption is a good illustration of what Paul is speaking about.
He is warning the gentile believers in Christ not to become too proud. In using the analogy of the tree, Paul is reminding them that God brought them into the family. However, despite that truth, because of their faith in Christ, they are as loved and accepted as though they were natural born sons. This, however, does not give them license to look down upon the sons who have rejected their Messiah. Indeed, Paul’s purpose for writing chapters 9-11 is to convince his Jewish brothers that Jesus is the Messiah. Paul’s heart is broken for his countrymen who are lost (Rom. 9:1-3). His great desire is to see all of Israel come to saving faith in Christ.
As Paul admonishes the gentile believers, he reveals that the heart of God is for all people, both Jew and gentile, to embrace Christ so they may be saved. The only correct position to have towards non-believers is one of grace. While God’s judgment is real (Rom. 11:20-22), His grace is assured to everyone who places their faith in Jesus (Rom. 11:23-24). And anyone who is saved, is saved only because of God’s mercy (Rom. 11:30-32).
As believers, we can forget that great truth and find ourselves looking at a lost world with both pride and contempt. Pride that we are in the family of God and contempt for a world who rejects our Savior. However, as Paul finishes chapter 11, he makes clear that God’s wisdom works to bring people into the family of God. God has contempt for no one. He desires all people, even those who reject Jesus, to be saved. He can work in ways unforeseen to us to bring them into the family of God. He ends the chapter with praise, recognizing that God is actively working to that end.
If that is what God is doing, what should be our approach to a lost world? In gratitude we should make ourselves available so that, as Paul was doing, we can be a vehicle through which God works to bring the lost into saving faith in Christ.
It is tempting to look at the wickedness of our world and think they are not qualified for the gift of salvation. But if we remember that we, ourselves, were grafted in to the natural tree and adopted by God as his children, then we will not see people worthy of wrath, but potential brothers and sisters with whom we can one day celebrate the goodness of God for saving wretched, unworthy sinners such as ourselves.
Indeed, let us marvel at the “depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33). In His wisdom He has saved us. In His love he will use us to save others.