“Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” – Romans 11:22
Some churches teach, and some people believe, that Romans 11:22 is biblical support that believers can lose their salvation. Is this what Romans 11:22 says? Let’s take a look at the context.
Paul opens up in Romans 11:1 with the following:
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” – Romans 11:1
The entirety of Romans 11 is dealing with Israel as a nation and their rejection of Christ as their messiah. Paul is dealing with two corporate bodies, the Jews and the Gentiles, and is describing God’s redemptive plan for them both. Many people attempt to force Romans 11 into the context of individual salvation, but is this what Paul is saying?
Let’s look at Romans 11:17–24:
“And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?” – Romans 11:17–24
Paul’s imagery in this passage deals with an olive tree. Paul describes the unbelieving Jews as being broken-off branches, while the Gentiles were grafted in as a “wild olive tree.” However Paul warns that if the Gentiles do not continue in goodness, the Gentiles will be cut off (v. 22), and if unbelieving Israel accepts Christ as their messiah, they will be grafted in (v. 23). We know that this will happen because of what Paul tells us in verse 25:
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” – Romans 11:25
“Blindness in part is happened to Israel” until when? “Until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” There will come a time when the “fullness of the Gentiles” will be complete, the Gentile remnant will be cut off, and God will go back to dealing with the nation of Israel. Ultimately Israel’s eyes will be opened, and they will be saved:
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” – Romans 11:26–27
Romans 11:22 is a difficult passage to understand. However taken in light of the context of all of Scripture, it is clear that Paul is not referring to individual believers losing their salvation.
For more information, see Is eternal security true?