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Romans 11:16

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

For if the first fruit be holy - As the consecrating the first fruits to God was the means of drawing down his blessing upon the rest, so the conversion of Abraham to the true faith, and the several Jews who have now embraced Christianity, are pledges that God will, in process of time, admit the whole Jewish nation into his favor again, so that they shall constitute a part of the visible Church of Christ.

If the root be holy, so are the branches - The word holy in this verse is to be taken in that sense which it has so frequently in the Old and New Testaments, viz. consecrated, set apart to sacred uses. It must not be forgotten that the first converts to Christ were from among the Jews; these formed the root of the Christian Church: these were holy, ἁγιοι, consecrated to God, and those who among the Gentiles were converted by their means were also ἁγιοι, consecrated; but the chief reference is to the ancestors of the Jewish people, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and, as these were devoted to God and received into his covenant, all their posterity, the branches which proceeded from this root, became entitled to the same privileges: and as the root still remains, and the branches also, the descendants from that root still remain: they still have a certain title to the blessings of the covenant; though, because of their obstinate unbelief, these blessings are suspended, as they cannot, even on the ground of the old covenant, enjoy these blessings but through faith: for it was when Abraham believed God that it was accounted to him for righteousness; and thus he became an heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For if the first-fruit be holy - The word “first-fruit” ἀπαρχή aparchēused here denotes the firstling of fruit or grain which was separated from the mass and presented as an offering to God. The Jews were required to present such a portion of their harvest to God, as an expression of gratitude and of their sense of dependence; Numbers 15:19-21. Until this was done, it was not lawful to partake of the harvest. The offering of this was regarded as rendering the mass holy, that is, it was lawful then to partake of it. The first-fruits were regarded as among the best portions of the harvest; and it was their duty to devote to God that which would be the best expression of their thanksgiving. This was the general practice in relation to all that the land produced. The expression here, however, has reference to the small portion of dough or kneaded meal that was offered to God; and then the mass or lump φύραμα phuramawas left for the use of him who made the offering; Numbers 15:20.

Be holy - Be set apart, or consecrated to God, as he commanded.

The lump - The mass. It refers here properly to the dough of which a part had been offered. The same was true also in relation to the harvest, after the waive-sheaf had been offered; of the flock, after the first male had been offered, etc.

Is also holy - It is lawful then for the owner to partake of it. The offering of a part has consecrated the whole. By this illustration Paul doubtless means to say that the Jewish nation, as a people, were set apart to the service of God, and were so regarded by him. Some have supposed that by the first-fruit here the apostle intends to refer to the early converts, made to the Christian faith in the first preaching of the gospel. But it is more probable that he refers to the patriarchs, the pious people of old, as the first-fruits of the Jewish nation; see Romans 11:28. By their piety the nation was, in a manner, sanctified, or set apart to the service of God; implying that yet the great mass of them would be reclaimed and saved.

If the root be holy - This figure expresses the same thing as is denoted in the first part of the verse. The root of a tree is the source of nutritious juices necessary for its growth, and gives its character to the tree. If that be sound, pure, vigorous, we expect the same of the branches. A root bears a similar relation to the tree that the first-fruit does to the mass of bread. Perhaps there is allusion here to Jeremiah 11:16, where the Jewish nation is represented under the image of “a green olivetree, fair, and of goodly fruit.” In this place the reference is doubtless to Abraham and the patriarchs, as the root or founders of the Jewish nation. If they were holy, it is to be expected that the distant branches, or descendants, would also be so regarded. The mention of the root and branches of a tree gives the apostle occasion for an illustration of the relation at that time of the Jews and Gentiles to the church of Christ.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The gospel is the greatest riches of every place where it is. As therefore the righteous rejection of the unbelieving Jews, was the occasion of so large a multitude of the Gentiles being reconciled to God, and at peace with him; the future receiving of the Jews into the church would be such a change, as would resemble a general resurrection of the dead in sin to a life of righteousness. Abraham was as the root of the church. The Jews continued branches of this tree till, as a nation, they rejected the Messiah; after that, their relation to Abraham and to God was, as it were, cut off. The Gentiles were grafted into this tree in their room; being admitted into the church of God. Multitudes were made heirs of Abraham's faith, holiness and blessedness. It is the natural state of every one of us, to be wild by nature. Conversion is as the grafting in of wild branches into the good olive. The wild olive was often ingrafted into the fruitful one when it began to decay, and this not only brought forth fruit, but caused the decaying olive to revive and flourish. The Gentiles, of free grace, had been grafted in to share advantages. They ought therefore to beware of self-confidence, and every kind of pride or ambition; lest, having only a dead faith, and an empty profession, they should turn from God, and forfeit their privileges. If we stand at all, it is by faith; we are guilty and helpless in ourselves, and are to be humble, watchful, afraid of self-deception, or of being overcome by temptation. Not only are we at first justified by faith, but kept to the end in that justified state by faith only; yet, by a faith which is not alone, but which worketh by love to God and man.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 249

Truths, precious, vital truths, are bound up with man's eternal well-being both in this life and in the eternity that is opening before us. “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.” John 17:17. The word of God is to be practiced. It will live and endure forever. While worldly ambitions, worldly projects, and the greatest plans and purposes of men will perish like the grass, “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:3. 7T 249.1

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At this time God's cause is in need of men and women who possess rare qualifications and good administrative powers; men and women who will make patient, thorough investigation of the needs of the work in various fields; those who have a large capacity for work; those who possess warm, kind hearts, cool heads, sound sense, and unbiased judgment; those who are sanctified by the Spirit of God and can fearlessly say, No, or Yea and Amen, to propositions; those who have strong convictions, clear understanding, and pure, sympathetic hearts; those who practice the words, “All ye are brethren;” those who strive to uplift and restore fallen humanity. 7T 249.2

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Ellen G. White
Reflecting Christ, 271.6

God will not accept the most splendid services unless self is laid upon the altar, a living, consuming sacrifice. The root must be holy, else there can be no sound, healthful fruit, which alone is acceptable to God.... While worldly ambition and worldly projects and the greatest plans and purposes of men shall fade like the grass, “they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”—Special Testimonies 9:65, 66. RC 271.6

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Ellen G. White
Christ's Object Lessons, 350

God has proclaimed the principles on which alone this co-operation is possible. His glory must be the motive of all who are laborers together with Him. All our work is to be done from love to God and in accordance with His will. COL 350.1

It is just as essential to do the will of God when erecting a building as when taking part in a religious service. And if the workers have brought the right principles into their own character making, then in the erection of every building they will grow in grace and knowledge. COL 350.2

But God will not accept the greatest talents or the most splendid service unless self is laid upon the altar, a living, consuming sacrifice. The root must be holy, else there can be no fruit acceptable to God. COL 350.3

The Lord made Daniel and Joseph shrewd managers. He could work through them because they did not live to please their own inclination but to please God. COL 350.4

The case of Daniel has a lesson for us. It reveals the fact that a businessman is not necessarily a sharp, policy man. He can be instructed by God at every step. Daniel, while prime minister of the kingdom of Babylon, was a prophet of God, receiving the light of heavenly inspiration. Worldly, ambitious statesmen are represented in the word of God as the grass that groweth up and as the flower of the grass that fadeth. Yet the Lord desires to have in His service intelligent men, men qualified for various lines of work. There is need of businessmen who will weave the grand principles of truth into all their transactions. And their talents should be perfected by most thorough study and training. If men in any line of work need to improve their opportunities to become wise and efficient, it is those who are using their ability in building up the kingdom of God in our world. Of Daniel we learn that in all his business transactions, when subjected to the closest scrutiny, not one fault or error could be found. He was a sample of what every businessman may be. His history shows what may be accomplished by one who consecrates the strength of brain and bone and muscle, of heart and life, to the service of God. COL 350.5

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