The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

Download for free the PDF version of the study, optimized for your e-book reader / table / desktop / smartphone PDF version

Romans 11:22 – God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness

To start let’s go to Romans 11:19-22. There we read about Israel and those of us who believe:

"Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They [he means Israel] were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note 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."

This passage refers to people who "stand fast through faith". For such people, for those of us who stand fast through faith, the kindness of God is upon us. But this is not unconditional: the word "provided", or "if", as other translations have it, clearly introduces a condition, an "if statement". What is the condition? That we will continue in His kindness. If we abandon this kindness and no longer continue with God, then the answer the Word gives is clear: we too will be cut off.

That there are limits after which one is no longer in the faith, is clear also by what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5:

2 Corinthians 13:5
"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"

From this it is evident that it can happen that a Christian is no longer in the faith i.e. he has implicitly or explicitly abandoned it. If there was no such case, there would also be no reason for Paul to tell us to examine ourselves whether we are really in the faith. Perhaps that is why we find him and Barnabas in Acts 14:21-22 doing the following:

"And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."

There would be no point in the apostles exhorting the believers to continue in the faith, if there was no possibility to discontinue in the faith. It is therefore possible for a believer to discontinue in the faith, to discontinue in God’s kindness. What will happen in that case? Romans 11:22 gave us the answer in no unclear terms: he will be cut off. Jesus said exactly the same about those who no longer abide in Him:

John 15:1-2, 6
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away [i.e. "cuts off"] … "If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned."

So being "cut off", or "taken away" is not something impossible, as various people would have us believe, but a serious possibility that will materialize for whoever no longer abides in the vine, according to John’s words, or discontinues in the faith, discontinues in His kindness, according to Paul’s words.

Next section: Colossians 1:21-23 – holy and blameless, if you continue in the faith"

Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou