NKJV - 16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
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Paul makes this statement in the context of discussion of God's grace in accepting Gentile Christians into the covenant relationship that He formerly had exclusively with Israel. Paul compares the acceptance of the Gentiles to the grafting of a wild olive shoot (that is, the Gentiles) onto an existing olive tree (the long history of God's dealings with the Jewish people, starting with Abraham), and says that if the root of the tree (that is, the patriarchs of Judaism, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) are holy or blessed by God, then the Gentile Christians who have been figuratively grafted on to the tree are blessed, also. In the same way, a lump of dough (representing the Gentile Christians) is made holy or sanctified by the offering of a firstfruit portion of that lump (representing the patriarchs) to God (as described, for example, in Numbers 15:19-21).
The apostle here is clearly talking about the faithful of Israel that had continued in His divine purpose, the Church which He began to build from the start of His ministry. They were the holy remnant that kept the Word of God and followed those of the Old Testament whom had also stayed connected to the purpose of the divine will. Christ and (1Cor 15:23) The apostles including Paul were the firstfruits and the New Testament Lump who’s roots were founded on the promises of the Old Covenant Rom 11:16 - For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. The lump here means the mixing of a liquid with a solid and probably refers to dough which when kneaded is completely affected by the leaven. The Church through the Holy Spirit was completely affected by the Holinness of God. The whole lump was Holy and now there was a transferring of that holiness to the wild olive branches (The Gentile Converts) so they indeed have now become holy by their connection to the Heavenly Olive tree, the Church. This has no relationship to Natural Israel because we understand that those natural branches would indeed become a part of the Church should they choose to no longer remain in unbelief. (Rom 11:23) Natural Israel must be connected to the Church because they cannot avoid Christ before becoming a part of it. Christ is the only door to enter the New Covenant continuation of the Divine Plan of God. All that reject Christ are outside of that plan. The Church does not become part of Natural Israel but Natural Israel must become a part of the Church by faith in Jesus Christ. The branches then that had been broken off from the Olive tree were now no longer Holy because they had been disconnected from it but still were given a chance should they repent of their unbelief and believe.
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