Tuesday, January 03, 2006

While discussing Romans Chapter 11, someone asked if 11:17-24 means that you can lose your salvation. This is a hotly debated topic, and you can Google “Eternal Security of the Believer” or “Once Saved Always Saved” to immediately see both sides of the debate. I don’t believe that salvation can be ‘taken away’ or ‘lost.’ I believe that our salvation is gift from God, and He will not take his gift away.
Paul is making the argument that since the majority of Jews continued to reject Christ, the message of the Gospel was taken to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11). God brought a “partial hardening” to the Jews in order to bring the gospel message to the Gentiles. (Romans 11:25-27)
With this background in mind, you can properly interpret what is being said in 11:17-24

17But 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, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. (ESV)

Paul is teaching that since the Jews were not accepting the teachings of Christ and the gospel message, the message was taken to the Gentiles. He is telling the Gentiles not to become arrogant towards the Jews because they now have the same opportunity for salvation that the Jews have. He is saying that God can harden the hearts of the Gentiles like He did the Jews. It is also interesting that even among the Jews there is still a remnant of believers (Romans 11:5). This passage is not teaching that individual Jews or Gentiles who had accepted Christ were stripped of their salvation. He is speaking about the people as a whole, and how if the gospel message is not being accepted where it is preached, then Paul will preach it somewhere else.

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