Monday, 21 October 2013
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. Romans 11:22
“Therefore” asks us to go back and consider the preceding verses. Paul spoke of branches being broken off and branches being grafted in. These things were explained so that we could understand what has happened and what could happen based on whether God’s people continue in Him or apart from Him. Based on his words, he states “Therefore….”
“Consider the goodness and severity of God.” We are asked to reflect on how God deals with man. He is good in His very being and longs to bestow that goodness upon us if we will but receive it. When we do, and when we continue in that goodness, then we are the objects of His favor and the recipients of His many graces. This is how it should be and how God would have it at all times. However, there is a contrast; it is the “severity of God.”
When we fail to remain in God’s goodness, then the opposite of His goodness is the result. This does not indicate any change in God who is unchanging in His being. Rather, this indicates a positional movement on our part. Imagine a fixed column. If we are in God’s good graces because of obedience we will be on one side of the column. If we fail to remain in that state, we move positionally to the other side of the fixed column. Thus, without change in God, we receive His severity because of our choice of failing to comply.
This is what was prophesied to Israel concerning obedience and disobedience, and this is what resulted from those states. Paul says now that we are no different. Though the spiritual banner has passed to the gentiles, can we expect different treatment from the God who does not change? Of course not! Instead, we can only expect the same treatment.
This is what we need to learn from Paul’s introduction – “Therefore, consider the goodness and severity of God…” At the same time, God’s attributes will be viewed differently by the different groups. During Israel’s time of punishment Paul explains, “on those who fell, severity.” They have received His judgment because they didn’t remain in God’s goodness. Contrasting that, he next speaks of what occurred toward the gentiles, “but toward you, goodness.”
Israel’s fall meant “riches for the world.” God’s goodness has been lavished upon the gentile peoples. His favor has been directed to a people who are not a people. But there is a caveat concerning our favored status which is “if you continue in His goodness.” Israel didn’t and they were cut off. The same then, based on the unchanging nature of God, must be true. Speaking to the gentiles, he notes that if they continue in His goodness, they will receive His goodness, “otherwise you will be cut off.”
If God’s chosen and beloved nation was cut off, especially considering that they are natural branches, then what should the wild branches expect? The same severity; an abrupt change in the situation as they are cut off from His goodness.
Having seen this train of thought, as summed up in this “therefore,” it should be evident now that this verse cannot be speaking of individual salvation. In other words, it is speaking on a “group” level, not an “individual” level. This is not a verse which is acceptable to support the erroneous view that one can lose their salvation. Everything must be taken in context or it is a pretext. Disregard any commentary which points to this verse as substantiation for the loss of salvation. If you are in Christ, your are saved – past, present, and future.
Life application: Always check the context of a verse carefully. Who is the thought being addressed to? What are the surrounding verses teaching? What is the overall message which is being conveyed? Can this verse stand alone or is it dependent on other verses to make a point? Etc. Keep these things in mind and may your doctrine be pure and undefiled.
Lord, You have given Your word to us, breathed out by Your Holy Spirit, to guide us, teach us, and testify to us the message of who You are, what You have done for us, and what is to come. I stand on Your word as the ultimate guide for my life, knowing that apart from it come the misguided devices of man. Thank You that I don’t have to guess what path to follow, but I have what I need as given by You. Thank You for your precious word. Amen.