Romans 11: Not Finding What You’re Looking For

What scares me the most about the Bible is that it is written for believers and at the same time about believers… and most of the stories about the believers are not good ones.

In Romans 11, Paul says:

So this is what has happened: The people of Israel did not succeed in what they were seeking for but the ones God chose did succeed. The others were made stubborn and refused to listen to God. (Rm 11:7)

The first thing we have to do when looking at passages like this is put it in context. What Paul of Romans is referring to when discussing seeking is salvation. He just got done referencing Elijah (1 Kg 19:10,14) where God says that he will save a remnant of his people.

Then Paul talks about God saving that remnant by Grace not by their actions. So the seeking here – in context – is Israel seeking to be saved.

The key question becomes: who is Paul talking to and referring to now?

I’m tempted, and I think the church at large is as well, to read passages like this and think these stories and condemnations are about Israel, unbelieving Jews and Pharisees. But Paul is not talking to Israel or Pharisees but rather to believers (see Rm 1:6)!

This is the scary part: Paul is telling believers, people who think they are Christians, that some of them, possibly most of them, will not succeed in being saved.

Saying the Lord’s Prayer or asking Jesus into our heart is not a magical phrase that gets you into Heaven. In fact, many people who say those phrases end up in Hell (see Matt 25:31-46).

I think the churches fundamental misunderstanding of being chosen has lead many to an incorrect worldview that seeks attendees, converts, and baptisms and teaches doctrine full of to-do and to-don’t lists. These converts and attendees end up with the wrong idea that actions can lead to salvation. Instead it is the opposite.

Then I wonder if I have fallen for this same misunderstanding. That scares me.