Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Use and Abuse of Romans 9-11

Romans 9

Theme of Romans 9: The past national election of Israel

Introduction to Romans 9: Calvinists typically use the following verses in their attempt to prove that God unconditionally elects some people to Heaven and others He unconditionally chooses to damn to Hell for His good pleasure. (The Calvinistic doctrine of double predestination is contrary to such Scriptures as: 2 Sam. 14:14; Ezek. 18:23; Ezek. 33:11; Jn. 10:10; 2 Pet. 3:9, etc.). In the Calvinistic way of thinking, the people whom God elects are unable to resist getting saved, but the others God just damns them to Hell because, they say, it's His good pleasure to do so. However, Romans chapter 9 is not dealing with individual salvation from Hell; the apostle Paul has already discussed that in Romans chapters 1-5. Although Romans chapter 9 refers to saved people, the context is not individual election to salvation, but national election to a place of privilege. In Romans chapter 9, Paul is dealing with national election; explaining why God chose Israel. God’s unconditional election of Israel was a national and corporate election in which each Israelite still had to personally come to saving faith in Yahweh God through personal belief (see Romans chapter 4). Therefore it is not valid to suppose that Israel’s national election to privilege and blessing proves individual election to salvation. Let's look at Romans chapter 9 verse-by-verse. The apostle Paul writes:

"I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart." (Romans 9:1-2)

The apostle Paul is going to show that God had not rejected His people although they have been set aside for a time in unbelief. Since God had not rejected Israel neither had Paul. This is clearly seen by the apostle’s emotional response concerning his nation.

"For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh," (Romans 9:3)

"my kinsmen according to the flesh": Kinsman can mean cousin, speaking of a blood relative (Luke 1:36), or in a wider sense fellow countryman (Mark 6:4); the latter meaning is in view here.

"who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 9:4-5)

"Israelites": This is speaking of the nation of Israel.

"according to the flesh": This is speaking of a natural or physical relationship, not a spiritual one.

"to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.": Paul is speaking of Israel’s national privileges.

"But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;" (Romans 9:6)

"For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel": In other words, they are not all spiritual Israelites simply because they were physically descended from Abraham. Though they may be Israelites physically (circumcised outwardly, in the flesh), they are not necessarily Israelites spiritually (circumcised inwardly). Entering into the nation of Israel was not synonymous with salvation. Subsequent to being chosen or born into the nation, each Jew still had to personally come to saving faith in the Lord.

"nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: 'THOUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.'" (Romans 9:7)

"neither are they all children": Isaac was the child God promised to Abraham through Sarah; Ishmael was a product of Abraham’s unbelief. Isaac was miraculously born to Sarah and was the promised child. He was part of the physical nation of Israel while Ishmael was not. Ishmael was not chosen to be part of the physical nation of Israel, however, this does not mean that God consigned him to spiritual damnation.

"That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." (Romans 9:8)

"children of the flesh": This is speaking of the physical descendants of Abraham.

"children of God": These are physical Israelites who trust the Savior, as Abraham had done.

"children of the promise": This is referring to saved Israelites (Gal. 3:6-9). It is apparent that each ethnic Israelite had to personally come to faith in Christ. Although they were part of a chosen nation and experienced many privileges that the Gentiles did not, that alone did not provide salvation. In order to become “children of God,” each Israelite had to personally trust Jehovah God, as their father Abraham had done (Gen. 15:6).

"For this is the word of promise: 'AT THIS TIME I WILL COME, AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.'" (Romans 9:9)

"Son": An Old Testament prophecy referring to Isaac (Gen. 18:10, 14). God refused to bless Abraham through Ishmael, who was a product of unbelief. Instead, Abraham had to trust in God to provide a son through Sarah. “Because Isaac was the child of promise, the Scriptures view him as being of faith in contrast to Ishmael, who was of the flesh . . . . It was necessary for Abraham to believe the promise God made concerning a son in order for Isaac to be born”.1

"And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac;" (Romans 9:10)

While verse 9 is referring to Isaac, verse 10 is speaking of Jacob, next in the chosen line.

"for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who call," (Romans 9:11)

"His choice": The context here is national election to a place of privilege and blessing, not individual election to salvation. Therefore, the choice concerns blessing, not salvation (cf. Gen. 12:1-3). Although Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3), Isaac (Gen. 17:21), and Jacob (Gen. 25:23) were chosen by God to be the patriarchs of Israel, obviously a place of physical blessing and privilege, they still had to individually come to saving faith in the Lord.

"but because of Him who calls,": Notice this verse cannot stand alone, for it is an incomplete sentence and thought. Verse 11 must be interpreted in light of and along with verse 12. God’s calling in verse 11 is directly referring to verse 12. Specifically, God’s calling in verse 11 is referring to national election, not individual election to salvation (Gen. 9:12, cf. Gen. 25:23). God’s choice (Rom. 9:11) is concerning service (Rom. 9:12), not salvation. God is prophesying that the nation of the older, the Edomites, will serve the nation of the younger, the Israelites.2

"it was said to her, 'THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.'" (Romans 9:12)

This is an Old Testament quotation from Genesis 25:23, which was a prophecy given to Rebekah around 2,000 B.C. In Genesis 25:23, God is speaking in prospect; prophesying the future of Jacob and Esau while they are still in their mother’s womb. In Genesis 25:23, God is speaking nationally, not individually. Three times this is emphasized in Genesis 25:23: "Two nations;" "two peoples;" "one people shall be stronger than the other". Further evidence that this prophecy is national is found in the fact that Esau, the older, did not actually serve Jacob, the younger. But Esau’s descendants, the Edomites, eventually became servants of the Israelites (1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:14; 1 Kings. 11:15-16, 22:47; 2 Kings. 14:7). It is important to remember that God is not appointing Jacob to salvation and Esau to damnation. God is speaking nationally and predicting one nation (that of the second born) will be stronger than the other nation (that of the firstborn).

"Just as it is written, 'JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.'" (Romans 9:13)

"Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated": The apostle Paul may be using a Semitic idiom to signify preference or choice. If so, he would mean that God preferred Jacob over Esau. Love and hate in this sense would signify preference, not emotion. The statement would then be a comparison, not an absolute statement. The Scriptures employ this idiom in both the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis, it is used of Jacob loving or preferring Rachel over Leah (Gen. 29:30-31). Jesus employs the idiom when he declares: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14:26; cf. Matt. 6:24; Jn. 12:25). Paul, however, may be taking these words literally. If this is the case, it is important to remember that in Romans 9:13 Paul is quoting from Malachi 1:3, a prophecy given to the nation of Israel by the prophet Malachi around 400 B.C. in which God is speaking in retrospect, looking back on the lives of Jacob and Esau and the nations they represent. In Malachi 1:1-4, God is speaking nationally more than individually (as each son represented their respective nations): "The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel; But you say, 'How hast Thou loved us?'; Though Edom says, 'We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins'; thus says the LORD of hosts, 'They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.' And your eyes will see this and you will say, 'The LORD be magnified beyond the border of Israel!'”3 God did not choose in eternity past to hate Esau or the Edomites. Only after Esau despised his birthright (Gen. 25:34) and lived an immoral and godless life (Heb. 12:16) did God conclude, “I hated Esau” (Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13 A.V.).4 Esau, much like Pharaoh after him, rejected God, and in turn was rejected by God.5

"What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!" (Romans 9:14)

"What shall we say then?": In other words, what is our response in light of what Paul has previously said?

"injustice": or unrighteousness (cf. Rom. 3:5: "The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He?") Is God unrighteous because He chose to bless Israel (Gen. 25:23; Rom. 9:12)? Is God unrighteous because He loves Israel (Malachi 1:1, 2) and hates Edom (Malachi 1:3, 4)? May it never be! God always deals according to His justice (although not to the exclusion to His love, mercy, or other attributes).


This is an Old Testament quote from Exodus 33:19, in which God is allowing Moses to see His glory on Mt. Sinai: "And He said, 'I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.'" The context has to do with God revealing His glory in a special way. The context has to do with special revelation, not salvation. Like Moses on the mountain, Israel had the special privilege of seeing God’s glory as other nations didn’t. God uniquely revealed Himself to Israel in various ways: through the pillars of cloud and fire during the Exodus (Ex. 13:21, 22, 16:6, 7, 10); through the Mt. Sinai experience (Ex. 24:17; Deut. 5:22-24); through the Shekinah glory (Ex. 40:34-35; Num. 14:22); through the tabernacle (Lev. 9:23; Num. 14:10); through the temple (1 Kgs. 8:10, 11; 2 Chron. 7:3); and through His divine appearances to the nation of Israel (Ex. 29:43-46). God’s reason for revealing His glory to Moses is stated in Exodus 33:17: "for you have found favor in My sight."6 Favor here is the same Hebrew word as grace, and means undeserved favor. Like Moses, it is only by God’s grace, mercy and compassion that the nation of Israel is privileged to see God’s glory revealed to them in a special way: "The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers" (Deut. 7:7, 8a). Through God’s gracious election, Israel was privileged to see God’s glory in a special way that other nations didn’t.

"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." (Romans 9:16)

"So then": Paul is about to conclude his line of reasoning.

"it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy": Romans 9:16 describes at least three people. Who has the apostle Paul been talking about in the previous verses? He’s been talking about at least three men in the immediate context, namely: Moses, Jacob, and Esau. These three individuals are clearly “men who will” or “men who run”:
1. Paul is describing Moses. In Romans 9:15, Paul referred back to Exodus 33:19 which speaks of God’s mercy and compassion in allowing Moses the privilege of seeing His glory in a special way. Notice in this passage Moses is clearly seen to desire a blessing. He wants to see God’s glory, for he pleads to God in Exodus 33:18, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory” (cf. Ex. 33:13)! Notice the context has nothing to do with salvation, but everything to do with blessing and privilege. Moses is clearly seen to be, as Romans 9:16 describes it, a “man who wills”.
2. Paul is describing Jacob, for he too is in the immediate context, and was clearly a “man who wills” and a “man who runs”. Jacob’s life was characterized by will power, determination, and perseverance. Even from before birth, he is seen to be struggling against his brother (Gen. 25:22). Hosea says of him, “In the womb he took his brother by the heel, and in his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought His favor” (Hosea 12:3-4a).7 Genesis 32:24-30 describes the account of Jacob wrestling with God. Here, like Moses, he clearly desires a blessing, for he says to God, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26). Jacob is seen to be a “man who wills” and a “man who runs,” for the Scriptures declare that he had “striven with God and with men and had prevailed” (Gen. 32:28).8 Again, the context is not salvation, but blessing and privilege. What was the blessing? Clearly that God changed Jacob’s name (meaning deceiver) to Israel (meaning prince). Like Moses, it was here that Jacob saw God “face to face” (Gen. 32:30).
3. Paul is describing Esau, for he too is in the immediate context, and was a “man who wills”. The word “wills” (Greek thelo) here in Romans 9:16 means, “to will, have in mind, intend, to be resolved or determined, to purpose.” This is the same word that is used to describe Esau in Hebrews 12:17, “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired [Greek thelo] to inherit the blessing [just like the others], he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.”9 It is clear that in Romans 9:16, Esau in view when it says, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills”. The context of Romans 9:16, just like the context of the entire chapter, is not concerning salvation, but blessing and privilege. So we see negatively, that Romans 9:16 is referring to Esau. The Scriptures are clear. Esau is referred to in the immediate context of Romans 9:16 and the same Greek word is used to characterize him in Hebrews 12:17. The book of Hebrews tells us that Esau was not seeking salvation, but blessing! Isaac, Jacob, and Moses were sovereignly chosen in grace to be recipients of God’s compassion and mercy – not in the context of salvation but in the context of special blessing. Here in Romans 9:16, Paul uses key individuals to demonstrate how God sovereignly blesses some more than others. Notice God did not damn to Hell those who were not chosen for special blessing. Although Ishmael and Esau were not chosen, God still physically blessed them (Gen. 17:20, 33:9, 36:7), although in a much less personal way. In light of verse 17, Romans 9:16 can be seen to describe two types of people, those who receive the blessing (Jacob and Moses), and those who don’t (Esau and Pharaoh). Notice none of them deserved a blessing, for the Scriptures declare that it was only by God’s grace, His undeserved favor, that Moses was blessed. Jacob too, was unworthy of God’s blessing, for he was Jacob, the deceiver. Notice this is not concerning salvation, but special blessing. In the context, Jacob and Moses were not saved because they received a blessing, neither were Esau and Pharaoh damned because they did not receive a blessing. In the Old Testament, individuals were saved from Hell just like we are today, by faith in Christ (Gen. 15:6; Jn. 8:56, 12:37-41; Acts 2:31; Rom. 4:1-8; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). Romans chapter 9 refers to saved people, but the context is not salvation. The context is blessing. Often I hear people say that individual election to salvation is referred to in Romans chapter 9, thus proving national election to salvation. But in Romans 9:16, we have just seen three of the main individuals referred to and salvation is not being discussed! Further, the context of Romans chapter 9 is not national election to salvation, but national election to a place of privilege and blessing.


This is a quote from Exodus 9:16.

"raised you up": The Hebrew word is most often translated in the Old Testament to mean stood, stand, or stand up. This verse is not saying that God created Pharaoh for this purpose, but simply that He raised him up for this purpose.10 Paul is not speaking of Pharaoh’s birth or his being brought into existence, but being raised up in the sense of his ruler-ship, raised up as king of Egypt. God allowed Pharaoh to appear; brought him forward on the stage of events.11 That no ruler is in power apart from the will of God is seen in Romans 13:1, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Pharaoh was the leader of a nation. Pharaoh was sovereignly chosen as head of the nation of Egypt much like Isaac and Jacob were sovereignly chosen as heads of the nation of Israel.

"So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." (Romans 9:18)

Mercy in the case of the nation of Israel (represented by Moses, Isaac, and Jacob), hardness in the case of Egypt (represented by Pharaoh).

"You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'" (Romans 9:19)

The question is raised, “If God hardened Pharaoh, how can God hold him responsible? Who can resist God’s will?” This is an objection, not necessarily a statement of fact. The fact is, Pharaoh hardened his heart against God first – only after that point did God harden Pharaoh’s heart. What the objector fails to understand is that God did give Pharaoh a choice. But God knew that Pharaoh would harden his heart and for this reason God specifically raised him up as king over Egypt in order to demonstrate His power through him.

"On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it?" (Romans 9:20)

The mere mortal objector who has the audacity to question or stand in judgment concerning God’s sovereign choice of Israel and His hardening of Pharaoh and the nation of Egypt is really not in any position to question or correct God.

"Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?" (Romans 9:21)

"same lump": Here, one category or class of people is in view. Saved and unsaved are not in view, but people in general, of the "same lump".

"vessel for honorable use": This is referring to the church (cf. Rom. 9:23, 24).

"common use": This is referring to unrepentant Israel (cf. Jer. 18:1-18, 19:1-13). God has set aside the nation of Israel temporarily due to unbelief, but individual Israelites can still gets saved by faith in Christ.

"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?" (Romans 9:22) 

"what if": This is indicating a true hypothesis.

"although willing": This is referring not to the “determinate purpose of God,”12 but to the unavoidable judgment upon rebellion that God’s righteousness demands: "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:4-5). Although God would rather deal in mercy, He must judge the unrepentant.

"vessels of wrath": The unbelieving nation of Israel, “they were broken off for their unbelief. . . until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:20a, 25b). Israel is “broken off” due to her stubbornness, rebellion, and hardness of heart. Christ prophesied of the coming judgment upon the Jewish nation: Matt. 24:1-3; Lk. 19:41-44. Paul clearly recognized God’s judgment upon Israel: “. . . the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost” (1 Thess. 2:15b, 16).

"prepared": This verb is in the middle/passive voice (the form of the Greek verb can signify either the middle voice or the passive voice, thus context and cross-references must be consulted to determine which voice the verb takes in any given context). The verb “prepared” must be interpreted in the middle voice (i.e. the vessels of wrath prepared themselves for destruction) because the Scriptures attest to the fact that God does not take on the initiating and predetermining role in preparing people for destruction. Rather, God’s Word teaches that “vessels of wrath” prepare or fit themselves for destruction. This verse is not saying God chose before the foundation of the world to damn certain individuals because it pleased Him to do so. This would contradict the whole teaching of Scripture that God is not “wishing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), because Christ is the propitiation for the sins “of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2), having actively laid on Christ “the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). The only reason the wicked are damned is because they chose to be, not because it is according to God’s good pleasure: “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:4-5, italics added).

"And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory," (Romans 9:23) 

"riches of His glory": This is used in reference to the Church, the body of Christ; composed not simply of Jewish Christians, but of Christian people from every nation (cf. Eph. 1:18, 3:16).

"vessels of mercy": This is referring to the Church (v. 24).

"which He prepared beforehand for glory": unlike man fitting himself for destruction (v. 22), God actively prepares vessels for mercy.13

"even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles." (Romans 9:24)

"even us": That is, the Church, in which there is no distinction between Jews and Gentiles (cf. Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:12-13).

"As He says also in Hosea, 'I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, 'MY PEOPLE,''" (Romans 9:25)

Paul is quoting from Hosea 2:23 to show how the Gentiles were predicted to become God’s people. Ethnic groups are in view, not individuals.


The in-grafting of the Gentile peoples (specifically the Church) was prophesied in the Old Testament (Hosea 1:10; cf. Rom. 11:17).


This is an Old Testament quote from Isaiah 10:2. Although Israelites, God’s chosen people, each Israelite still had to individually come to saving faith in Christ. It has always been only a remnant that is saved. Israel was chosen but that doesn’t mean each Israelite was saved. Remember that not all choosing or election is in regards to salvation. There are different types of choosing, such as: the choosing of Israel to a place of blessing, the choosing of Israel’s king’s (Deut. 17:15; 1 Kings 11:34), the choosing of the twelve disciples to the apostolic ministry, the choosing of the Church, etc. But to interpret every instance of choosing as a choosing to salvation is to fail to see the context of the passage.


This is an Old Testament quote from Isaiah 10:22-23. "His word" (Rom. 9:28) or "decree" (Isa. 10:23); God will execute a complete destruction upon the whole land of Israel (Isa. 10:22-23), with only a remnant being saved.


Romans 9:29 is an Old Testament quote from Isaiah 1:9. The nation of Israel is still loved by God.

"posterity": or seed, descendant. Just as God miraculously provided Isaac, so He also miraculously keeps a remnant.

"What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;" (Romans 9:30)

"Gentiles": The Greek word for "Gentiles" is ethne. This Greek word is often translated as nations. Peoples and nations are referred to, not individuals.

"but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith," (Romans 9:31)

"Israel": This is referring to the nation of Israel.

"Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, 'BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.'" (Romans 9:32-33)

Here the nation as a whole is in view, not individuals. Israel as a national entity was set-aside in unbelief, not individual Jews (for they are still getting saved). Israel was set aside because it did not pursue righteousness by faith, but by works. Christ, a stumbling stone for Israel (Rom. 9:33, cf. Matt. 21:33-46; Lk. 20:9-19), became the Church’s foundation (Acts 4:10-12; 1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20).

Romans 10

Theme of Romans 10: The present national rejection of Christ

Introduction to Romans 10: Romans chapter 10 speaks of Israel's present rejection of God (Rom. 10:1), specifically their rejection of Christ (Rom. 10:4, 10:9-11). The apostle Paul shows that although Israel knew about God (even though they were ignorant of His righteousness, Rom. 10:3), they still rejected Him. Israel knew about God but was unfaithful to Him. Knowledge is a key word in Romans chapter 10. This is important to recognize and keep in mind because when we come to Romans 11:2, we see that God is said to “foreknow”. Besides the etymology of the word, the context will be shown to be simple cognition. The word foreknow (Greek proginosko) obviously doesn’t mean foreordain or forelove as Calvinists like to redefine it.

"Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation." (Romans 10:1)

When the apostle Paul says, "my prayer to God for them" - the pronoun "them" has reference to the nation of Israel (refer back to Romans 9:31). In the future, all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26, but in this present age of grace (i.e. in the church age) the nation of Israel is temporarily set aside in unbelief. Individual Jews can still get saved of course, as Paul has already made clear in Romans 1:16: the Gospel is "to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile" (Rom. 1:16, NIV).

"For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge." (Romans 10:2)

Paul is emphasizing "knowledge".

"For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:3)

Here again Paul is emphasizing knowledge when says: "For not knowing about God’s righteousness . . . ."

"But what does it say? 'THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART' - that is, the word of faith which we are preaching," (Romans 10:8)

Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 30:14: "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART" . This implies that Israel should have known about it.

"that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10) 

"that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus": Romans chapter 10 is a passage especially targeted at Jews (chapters 9-11 are about Israel) who would make the claim to "believe in the Lord" (or Yahweh, the Old Testament name for God). But while these Jews claimed to believe in the Lord, at the same time they rejected Jesus Christ as that very God and Messiah sent to save them. Christ's ministry was first to "the lost sheep of Israel" (Matt. 10:5-6) - that is, to the Jews. Christ's ministry was not initially to the Gentiles, although there were exceptions to this rule - the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4 comes to mind, for example. It wasn't until the Jews totally rejected Christ that God grafted in the "wild olive branch" (the Gentiles) and made the gospel available to them as well (Rom. 11:11, 13-17).

"and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved": The nation of Israel also failed to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.

"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, 'HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!' However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, 'LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?'" (Romans 10:14-16)

Israel had heard from God. They knew about Him. But they did not obey the Gospel. They did not believe it.

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)

Again hearing is emphasized.

"But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; 'THEIR VOICE HAS GONE OUT INTO ALL THE EARTH, AND THEIR WORDS TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD.' But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? At the first Moses says, 'I WILL MAKE YOU JEALOUS BY THAT WHICH IS NOT A NATION, BY A NATION WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING WILL I ANGER YOU.'" (Romans 10:18-19)

Paul is implying that Israel had understanding. Israel knew.


Again, Paul is emphasizing knowledge.


Israel was clearly called (Rom. 10:18), but resisted (Rom. 10:21; cf. Matt. 23:37; Lk. 13:34; Acts 7:51). God’s call to Israel was not deceptive. God does not have a hidden will as some suppose in which He apparently stretches forth His hand to call men to Himself, while all the time intending to prevent their coming. Thankfully such duplicity is not how the God of truth operates, but is only the figment of men’s imaginations. For what do the Scriptures say? It’s clear from the Bible that Israel resisted God’s call. Israel’s rejection of God is a problem for those who hold to the Calvinistic doctrine of “irresistible grace”.

Romans 11

Theme of Romans 11: The future national salvation of Israel

Introduction to Romans 11: Romans chapter 11 deals with Israel’s future salvation. In light of chapter 10, chapter 11 emphasizes God’s faithfulness in spite of Israel’s unfaithfulness. In chapter 10, Israel knew God and rejected Him. In chapter 11, God foreknew unfaithful Israel and still did not reject her (Rom. 11:1), although she is set aside for a time in unbelief.14 Here are some key verses from the chapter that I would like to highlight:

"God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?" (Romans 11:2)

“God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew": Paul continues the knowledge motif in Romans 11:2. God has not rejected His people, and one reason for this is because He knows there is a believing remnant. Again, the Greek word for foreknowledge is proginosko, which simply means “to know beforehand”. By defining foreknowledge in this way (instead of forcing it to mean “forelove” or “foreordain” as Calvinists like to do), the interpreter of Holy Scripture remains in harmony with the plain meaning of the Greek word and the context of the passage.

"Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah": Beginning here, Paul expounds upon what he meant when he said, “His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2a).


This is a quote from 1 Kings 19:10. Here Elijah is responding to an angel who comes and asks him what he is doing hiding in a cave. Speaking from his limited human viewpoint and knowledge, Elijah answers: “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10).

"But what is the divine response to him? 'I HAVE KEPT FOR MYSELF SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.'" (Romans 11:4)

"I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal”: Notice that God knew before any of this ever happened that 7,000 prophets would not bow the knee to Baal. And he knew it before Elijah knew it. To be sure, God kept these prophets, but why did he keep them? He foreknew (knew in advance) that they would remain faithful to Him and not worship Baal. This much is stated even here in Romans 11:4, but becomes even more evident when the original account is read from 1 Kings 19:18. In the wording of the Old Testament, the 7,000 are not even described as men but instead are described as “knees” and “mouths,” (obviously emphasizing what they did, the action, and not who they were, the people): “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”15 Here, God’s dealings with men (i.e. the prophets) are seen to be the result of His knowing beforehand their actions.

"In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice." (Romans 11:5)

God graciously chose a remnant to be sure, but how did He choose them? What did Paul say? “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Rom. 11:2). He chose them according to His foreknowledge (v. 2). Notice that God chose the faithful Jewish remnant of Paul’s day "in the same way" (v. 5) as the 7,000 faithful prophets in Elijah’s time. How did God choose the 7,000 prophets in Elijah’s day? God chose them according to His foreknowledge (“God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah?,” Rom. 11:2), knowing what they would do before they did it, knowing that they would be true to Him and not worship Baal.

That God’s choosing is based upon His foreknowledge is attested to elsewhere in the Scriptures. The Bible says that “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe” (John 6:64). Of course, being omniscient God, Jesus also knows from the beginning who will believe!  Romans 8:29-30 says, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined…and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified, and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” And 1 Peter 1:1-2 states in part, “who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”.

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace." (Romans 11:6)

Grace and works are mutually exclusive. If this is true then how can God choose men based upon what He knows (or foreknows) about them? God can choose men based upon what He foreknows about them (i.e. “they have not bowed the knee to Baal”) because He sees their faith, and faith is consistent with grace (Rom. 3:27-28, 4:16).


1 Theodore Epp, How God Makes Bad Men Good, pp. 260-261.

2 Esau represents Edom, for “Esau is Edom” (Gen. 36:1, 8, 19; Mal. 1:1-5; Rom. 9:13). As Esau is synonymous with the nation of Edom, so Jacob (or Israel, as his named was changed to, Gen. 32:28) is synonymous with the nation of Israel (Micah 3:1, 8, 9; Nah. 2:2; Mal. 1:1, 2; Rom. 9:13, 11:26).

3 Italics added for emphasis.

4 Commenting on Romans 9:13, Dr. J. Vernon McGee declares, “This statement was not made until the two boys had lived their lives and two nations had come from them” (McGee, Romans Chapters 9-16, p. 30).

5 Bruce Demarest (a Calvinist) agrees. He states concerning Pharoah, “Some allege that the approximately ten references to God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (Exod 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; et al.) support the thesis of unconditional reprobation to damnation. But prior to mentioning the divine hardening, Scripture indicates that Pharaoh freely opposed God’s purposes (Exod 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; et al.; cf. 13:15; 1 Sam 6:6). The Bible does not explain the nature of the hardening, but it appears that God’s role was that of confirming Pharaoh’s decisions rather than predetermining them....The hardening thus represents God’s punishment of Pharaoh for rejecting God’s good purposes” (Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, p. 135). Concerning Esau, Demarest adds, “Similarly, Esau was rejected by God only after he had rejected divine grace freely offered (Heb 12:17)” (Ibid., p. 137). It's clear that God’s initial choosing of Jacob and not Esau is not a saving or damning choice, but a national choice. In the national arena to which each was chosen, each still had to individually decide to trust the LORD. Only after Jacob was saved and lived a life pleasing to God did the LORD say, “I have loved Jacob” (Mal. 1:2). Similarly, only after Esau lived a life apart from God did God conclude, “I have hated Esau” (Mal. 1:3). Hate in the Jewish mindset was a comparison indicating preference; it was not emotional (cf. Lk. 14:26).

6 This is not referring to a salvation experience, for clearly Moses was already saved. For how could Moses, if we suppose him to be unsaved prior to Exodus 33: "by faith" consider the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt, see Him who is unseen, keep the Passover, and lead all Israel through the Red Sea (Heb. 11:24-29)? In fact, Hebrews chapter 11 only mentions events in Moses' life that occurred prior to his Mt. Sinai experience, and nothing afterwards.

7 The angel is God Himself, for Hosea goes on to say, “Yes, he [Jacob] struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us – that is, the LORD God of hosts. The LORD is His memorable name” (Hosea 12:4b-5; cf. Gen. 32:28, 30).

8 The term “striven” (Hebrew sarah) carries the idea of persisting, exerting oneself, persevering. Similarly, the word “run” (Greek trecho) in Romans 9:16 denotes “spending one’s strength in performing or attaining something.”

9 What is it that Esau sought with tears? Was it his salvation? Was it forgiveness? No indeed, for what does the Scripture say? “When he desired to inherit the blessing” (Heb. 12:17, italics added). It is the blessing that Esau sought and that he was rejected the opportunity of having.

10 That “raised up” cannot mean “created” is seen in 1 Cor. 6:14. This is the only other time exegeiro is used in the New Testament: “Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.” This passage of Scripture is talking about being raised up in the sense of resurrection. That creation is not in view here is clear, for Christ was never created.

11 Pharaoh’s salvation, or lack of it, is not referred to in Romans 9:17. The context is not concerning Pharaoh’s salvation but his divine appointment as ruler of Egypt.

12 Oliver B. Green, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, p. 320.

13 The verb “prepared” (Rom. 9:23) is in the Greek active voice, indicating that God Himself prepares these vessels for mercy.

14  The word "foreknow" (Greek proginosko) literally means "to know before".

15  Notice that although Romans 11:4 mentions "men" ("I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal"), the people are not the main focus of God's foreknowledge; their actions are the focus. This is seen even more clearly when the original account is read from 1 Kings 19:18. Here the text reads, “Yet I will leaven 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” Notice in this sentence there is no mention of the subject – the person, only the verb – the action. What makes these men special is not who they are, but what they did. It is what they did that made them the object of God’s grace and the reason He chose them according to His foreknowledge (“whom He foreknew”). The critic will inevitably point out that the text does say, as I have quoted, “whom He foreknew” meaning that God does foreknow the person. I do not dispute this. In order for an action to be taken, a person must act. Action is impossible without someone there to do it. My point though is that the person is not the point, but the person’s action is. As seen from the text, what makes these people special is not who they are (they are all Israelites – that doesn’t make the faithful any different from the unfaithful) but what they did – that’s what makes them different (they trusted God)!


gracieallan said...

This was so helpful!! Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I am a "recovering Calvinist" and trying to sort through the bible piece by piece to re-understand what it means. This was extremely helpful, especially the verse by verse aspect.
Thank you again.

Jonathan Perreault said...

Praise the Lord! If you have any questions about it please let me know. God bless