For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. – Rom 11:29 ESV
In the midst of a discussion on the security of the believer, it is important to find passages that deal directly with the topic.
Many believers who follow after the eternally secure (OSAS) teaching find support in the passage we are looking at. God’s faithfulness is emphasized in the passage above, but the application of the truth to the security of the believer seems to be misapplied.
You see, a characteristic of God (His faithfulness) is revealed in this passage, but the object of God’s faithfulness is the nation of Israel, not the salvation of the individual believer.
Regarding the security of the believer, the passage is not particularly comforting.
This verse is found near the end of Paul’s eschatological (end time) discussion (Romans 9 – 11) on the Jewish nation. Paul is addressing the complex topic of God’s faithfulness to the nation of Israel, and how the church is relates to the promises given to the nation of Israel.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord made promises to the nation of Israel. To be considered faithful, God must keep the promises to those who are of the nation of Israel.
But that is the point.
How can the promises to the nation of Israel be taken away without reflecting adversely on the faithfulness of God? Is God an “Indian giver”? (I have actually heard this type of accusation in church about the character of God.)
Earlier in the passage, Paul defined Israel as the people of God, those faithful to His covenant, such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Such as Peter, James and John. Such as Simeon and Anna in the Temple, Zechariah, Malachi, Hosea and the host of prophets and believers that were in the physical nation of Israel.
In other words the remnant.
The Israel of God.
Today we call this group of believers the Church.
By the time Paul gets to the last few verses of Romans 11, he is making his closing argument. God’s gifts and calling are without repentance. All those who follow the Messiah receive the gift and calling of being of the nation of Israel, with all of its promises and benefits.
But please notice that it is God’s gift and calling that are without repentance. Since it is a covenant between two parties (God and the believer), we cannot assume the second party in the agreement has no bearing on the successful completion of the covenant. Paul is defending God’s faithfulness to the covenant, not the believers responsibility in the covenant.
Earlier I mentioned that the passage gives little comfort to the eternally secure position. It is important to remember that this topic had to be addressed due to the loss of covenant that the physical nation of Israel was experiencing in the early days of the church. As a matter of fact, the reason the physical nation of Israel lost the privileged status of the Sinaitic Covenant was their constant rebellion against the covenant the nation entered into with God.
The faithlessness of the physical nation of Israel resulted in the loss of covenant privilege. Paul is reminding us that we cannot shift the blame to God, or assume God’s faithfulness will ignore rebellion.
The Babylonian and Roman seiges on Jerusalem seems to lay that false security to rest.
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