This paper was taken, with modifications in July, 2012, from the internet version of my "A Verse-by-Verse Study of Romans Chapters 9-11" that was taken from the original paper published in March, 2001. The internet version has been modified to abbreviate some of the quotations that were included in the original version, since I had received permission to quote extensively for the original version of the paper, but not for the internet version.
I was able to use bold, underlining, italics, and footnotes in the original version of this paper and on the version on my internet site. All quotations from the Bible are from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition unless I note otherwise. Sometimes I will use double brackets [[ ]] and (( )) to make them more obvious. Are you aware that you can click on my name beside any of my articles on this Christian article site and see a listing of all of my articles on this site?
(These page numbers go with the version of this paper on my internet site.)
ROMANS CHAPTER 9..... 5
ROMANS CHAPTER 10..... 37
ROMANS CHAPTER 11..... 43
Much introductory material is included as part of the study of Romans chapter 9 in this paper, so I can be somewhat brief here. In my teaching I often have occasion to disagree with several foundational teachings of Calvinism. ((I had a footnote: These foundational teachings originated with the latter view of Augustine (AD 354-430). John Calvin (AD 1509-1564) and the Calvinists, who have been and still are very influential in Protestantism, followed Augustine's latter view.)) For example, from my point of view, Calvinists overstate the fallenness of man. ((I had a footnote: After the fall man is spiritually dead, having lost his life-flowing relationship with God, but God hasn't totally separated Himself from man. He hasn't totally withdrawn His presence from the earth (including the presence of His Spirit and of His angels), or His truth, or His blessings. Furthermore, He limits what He permits the devil to do. Some generations and some peoples are more separated from God than others; the generation of the flood is an example of a terribly wicked generation.)) They say that man is so fallen that he has no ability to cooperate with the grace of God or to have faith. They say that God must give faith to His elect (the ones that He chooses with no input from man) - the elect must be regenerated (born again) before they have faith, so they can have faith.
I agree that man is so fallen (in spiritual death and in bondage to sin) that God must take the initiative in our salvation, and I agree that we are saved one hundred percent by the grace of God in Christ and that God must receive all the glory for saving us. But it seems clear to me that the Bible consistently shows that faith is something we do in response to God's initiative and His grace and that we can, and we must, cooperate with His grace through faith. ((I had a lengthy footnote (that continues into the following paragraph): We couldn't have saving faith if God didn't take the initiative in our salvation, but it goes too far to say we must be born again before we can have saving faith (or that God gives us saving faith). The Bible frequently speaks of our repenting and believing the gospel (and of our submitting to Christ in faith) so we can be born again (cf., e.g., Mark 1:14, 15; 16:14-16; John 3:16-21, 36; 5:39-47; 6:29; 8:24; 17:20; Acts 28:24; Rom. 1:5, 16, 17; 3:3; 3:21-5:2; 6:17; 10:9, 10; 11:23; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:21-27; Eph. 1:13; Col. 2:12-15; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Thess.1:8-10; 2:10-12; 1 Tim. 1:16; Heb. 6:1; 11:1-39, especially 11:1, 2, 6-8, 39, 40; and 1 Pet. 4:17). Calvinists cite a few verses which they understand to teach that God gives us saving faith (e.g., Eph. 2:8; Rom. 12:3), but it seems clear to me that they are misinterpreting these verses. See my "A Paper on Faith"; those verses are discussed there. That paper is on my website and an abbreviated version of that paper is included on this Christian article site (see Part 6 of "Excerpts from my 'A Paper on Faith' ").
God doesn't give us faith, and he doesn't make us continue in faith to the end (we'll talk more about our need to continue in faith as we continue with this Introduction). But it is Biblical to say that God enables us to be strong in faith and to continue in faith to the end as we look to Him and cooperate with His Word/grace/Spirit. Furthermore, faith is nothing for Christians to boast about. To the extent Christians are boasting in their faith, they show that they don't really understand faith or God's gracious plan of salvation. Faith isn't a work of man; faith involves a humble submission to God from the heart and a trusting, total dependence on Him, and on Him alone; it includes an admission that we desperately need to be saved from spiritual death and sin.)) It's very important for us to understand the meaning of the word "faith" in the New Testament; this is the most important word used in the New Testament to show what God requires of us. (See my "A Paper on Faith.")
Another foundational doctrine of Calvinism that I have to disagree with is once saved, necessarily always saved (eternal security; the perseverance of the saints).
((I had a footnote: Many non-Calvinists also believe once saved, necessarily always saved. Many of them (if not most of them) don't realize that this doctrine originated (at least for the most part) with the latter view of Augustine (AD 354-430), which was picked up and passed on by the Calvinists. The doctrine could hardly have arisen on its own with much acceptance without the overall framework adopted by Augustine in his latter viewpoint (the foundational framework that we are so fallen that we can't have any input regarding our salvation and that our becoming believers and our staying believers is strictly determined by God and His sovereign will) because once saved, necessarily always saved has so little scriptural support and so many very clear passages of Scripture in direct opposition to it. See my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved?" It is available on my website and on this Christian article site.))
This doctrine follows as a logical deduction once you accept the Calvinistic idea that our salvation is totally of God and that we don't have any real input as to whether we will become Christians or as to whether we will stay Christians to the end. God, they say, ensures that the elect will continue (persevere) in faith to the end. I don't believe that the Bible backs up the idea that God makes sure believers will continue in faith to the end. There are many very clear passages which demonstrate that it's possible for born-again Christians to turn from God and to lose their salvation. Believers can become unbelievers; they can apostatize. See my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved?"
On the other hand, and this is very important, God isn't trying to get rid of us! Quite the contrary! He loves us! Every true Christian can, and should, continue in faith to the end and inherit eternal glory. God will enable those who look to Him from their hearts to keep pressing on in faith to the end; His grace is more than sufficient for those who will appropriate it through faith. Furthermore, believers can, and should, have assurance of salvation (e.g., 1 John 5:13).
The primary reason that I consider once saved, necessarily always saved to be such a problem is that it is so often understood and taught in a way gives Christians the very wrong assurance that they will stay saved no matter what they believe or what they do. Nothing is required of them. They can just coast. They aren't even required to learn what God says in His Word. Righteousness, holiness, and living for God are optional matters, and Christians certainly don't have to be concerned about all the warnings in the Bible that they could forfeit their salvation. ((I had a footnote: Some Christians (and some of them are evangelical Christians) are so far from the balanced truth of the gospel that they think that things like living in righteousness and holiness are in the category of optional works, and that they only need faith to be saved. (I hear this kind of thing from Christians quite often.) But the apostle Paul would agree with the apostle James (Gal. 1:19) that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26); in other words it isn't real faith/saving faith. When Christians walk in the Spirit by faith (and this isn't an optional matter for Christians) righteous works (fruit) of the Spirit will necessarily be produced.)) The clear warnings are denied or explained away. In our day many Christians do not fear God; they are often told that they are not supposed to fear Him. The Bible, however, very much including the New Testament, repeatedly warns that we must fear sinning against God and that we must make it a top priority to live in His righteousness and holiness by His grace.
The more that Christians aren't walking close to God in His truth, righteousness, and holiness - and it seems clear to me (but I'm not the Judge) that much of the Christian church of our day is sadly lacking in this area - the more serious the problems caused by the doctrine once saved, necessarily always saved necessarily become. One factor that makes the problem far more serious is the apparent fact that many of those who are resting in the doctrine never became born-again Christians in the first place. In our day many people who consider themselves to be born-again Christians have never heard anything close to the gospel taught in the New Testament; many have never been confronted with the word "repent," for example. I'm not saying that none of these people are born again. I'm not the judge. But this type of Christianity is on very shaky ground - if the Bible is true (and I'm committed to the fact that it is, and I hope you are too).
Thankfully, some Calvinists guard against much of the abuse of the doctrine once saved, necessarily always saved by insisting that God requires us to live according to His Word in righteousness and holiness and by insisting that we must take His warnings seriously. If they see a "Christian" given over to sin, they will say that they must have never become real Christians. However, based on what I have observed over the years, many Calvinists don't do much guarding against abuses of the doctrine and many non-Calvinists who hold the doctrine don't either.
I have a lot of respect for the ministry of Charles Stanley (a Southern Baptist), but he substantially abuses the doctrine of once saved, necessarily always saved in his book, "Eternal Security" (published by Nelson in 1990, which is still being sold at amazon.com in July, 2012). He contends that you cannot lose your salvation even if you stop having faith in Christ and no matter how deep you fall in sin. (See his pages x, 5, 28, 29, 72, 77, 78, for example.)
I'll just mention one more Calvinistic doctrine that I have to disagree with, the doctrine of "limited atonement." This means that Christ didn't die for everybody, just for the elect. The doctrine follows quite naturally once you accept the other foundational ideas, but there are quite a few passages of Scripture which clearly show that Christ did die for all people. First Timothy 2:4-6 and 1 John 2:2, by themselves, would be sufficient to convince me. Calvinists try to explain away such verses, but, in my opinion, quite unsuccessfully. (Most Christians are pretty good at explaining away verses that don't fit well with what they know to be the truth.)
I don't like to disagree with other Christians, and I'm trying to not be argumentative, but we can't avoid dealing with issues as important as these. Our viewpoints on issues like "faith" and "once saved, necessarily always saved" substantially impact our concept of Christianity and our ideas regarding what God requires of us. It isn't bad news to learn that God requires something of us. We aren't robots or low-level creations of God. We were created in His image and for His glory. The fall greatly affected us, but we still have some capacity to cooperate with His saving grace in Christ, and especially after we are born again; His grace is more than sufficient. For one thing, He paid an infinite price to save us!
What does all this have to do with Romans chapters 9-11? A lot! Romans chapter 9 is the primary scriptural passage (but not the only such passage) that is used by Calvinists to support their foundational framework. (Two other foundational passages they use are Rom. 8:28-30 and Eph. 1:3-14. Both of those passages are discussed in some detail in my papers on Romans 8:16-39 and on Ephesians chapter 1 that are available on this Christian article site.) There can be no doubting that the apostle Paul strongly emphasized the sovereignty of God in Rom. 9:6-29 (you could get the idea from what he said in these verses, and many Calvinists do, that he didn't believe that people have any input when it comes to their salvation), and we need to take these verses seriously, but I don't believe Paul said nearly as much in these verses as some Calvinists think he said. He didn't say, for example, that God gives us faith or that (although He provides more than sufficient grace for us to continue in faith to the end) He makes us continue in faith to the end. Furthermore, we must balance out what he did say in these verses with things that he said in other verses. If we just balance out what he said in Rom. 9:6-29 with what he said in the following verses (Rom. 9:30-10:21; 11:17-24), we will see that the apostle didn't teach that God gives faith to the ones He has chosen or that He makes them continue in faith to the end (once saved, necessarily always saved).
Calvinists respect the Bible (at least evangelical Calvinists do), and they must be commended for their emphasis on the need for Christians to give God all the glory. The problems with Calvinism haven't arisen because Calvinists are insincere or because they are unintelligent or uneducated - quite the contrary, but, as we'll discuss in this paper, Calvinists (it seems to me) typically read too much into Rom. 9:6-29 (and several other passages with a similar emphasis), and they don't give adequate weight to the very large number of verses that contradict their doctrines. It isn't that they ignore the other verses, but they (with good intentions) force them to fit with what they already know to be the truth. All Christians have a tendency to do this to some extent.
I'm thankful I can honestly say that I have a lot of respect for Calvinists. In no way is this paper meant to be an attack against Calvinists. They aren't the enemy, quite the contrary. I consider many Calvinists to be my brethren and friends in Christ. They may not have everything right, but they aren't alone in that. I was led to Christ by Calvinists; I was grounded in Christ by Calvinists; and I graduated from a Calvinistic seminary. I'm very thankful for the many things that Calvinists have right and for the fact that many of them are very sincere, committed, born-again Christians who love God. I have learned very much from Calvinists, and Calvinists wrote many of the books that I use the most often (including Bible commentaries). Most Christians could learn a lot from Calvinists and could balance out what they believe with some of the many valid points made by Calvinists.
I don't want to criticize my brothers and sisters in Christ, but I do want to do everything I can do to help Christians (starting with me) come to the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. I want to be a blessing to all Christians, very much including Calvinists. I don't have all the answers, but I believe that the things I say in this paper (and in my other papers) can substantially help Christians find the balanced truth.
Although the things I mentioned in the preceding paragraphs were very much on my mind while writing this paper (because these things come up so often in my studies and teaching), Romans chapters 9-11 deal with more than the things I have mentioned. The apostle Paul deals mostly with Israel in these three chapters. He deals with issues like why so few Israelites were becoming Christians and with God's ultimate plans for Israel. In Rom. 11:26 he shows that the time will come that all Israel (the end-time remnant of Israel) will be saved through faith in Christ. As far as Paul was concerned throughout much of his Christian life, that could have come to pass in his lifetime.
ROMANS CHAPTER 9
In Romans chapters 9-11 the apostle Paul deals, for the most part, with Israel. "The true theme of chapters 9-11 is God and Israel..." (James D. G. Dunn, "Romans 9-16" [Word, 1988], page 520). Why have so few Israelites become Christians? Has God failed to keep His covenant promises with Israel? (Not that Paul could actually entertain the idea that God could be unfaithful - God isn't unfaithful, and He isn't on trial.) What will happen to Israel? Paul was often confronted, sometimes he was attacked, with questions like these. Paul answers these questions in Romans chapters 9-11. He has already spoken a lot about Israel and about the Law in the first eight chapters of Romans (see Rom. 1:16; 2:1-21; 3:1-22, 27-31; 4:1-16; 5:20; 6:14, 15; 7:1-25; 8:3, 4, 7; also compare Rom. 1:2, 3; 5:13, 14).
Romans chapter 9 (actually Rom. 9:6-29) is probably the most difficult of all the important doctrinal passages in the New Testament. The body of Christ is extremely divided on the interpretation of this passage. Some Christians (for example, the Calvinists) seriously grapple with the strong emphasis on God's sovereignty presented in these verses, but (from my point of view) they take quite a bit more out of Paul's words than what he actually said or intended to communicate, and they fail to adequately balance out what he did say here with what he said as he continued with Romans chapter 9-11, and with many other relevant passages; some substantially miss the balanced truth.
Other Christians are so busy reacting against the Calvinists and some of the things they teach that they don't adequately deal with what the apostle said here. (I see this a lot.) We'll consider these things in some detail in this paper. It's very important for us to understand what Paul said in this passage, and what he didn't say, and it's very important for us to come to the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. For one thing, what we believe very much affects the way we will live. For another thing, true Christians can unite around the balanced truth, and it is very important for us to be united (cf., e.g., John 17:20-23).
I encourage the reader to read all that I say (or quote) regarding the meaning of Rom. 9:6-29 and then all that I say (or quote) regarding the meaning of Rom. 9:30-11:36 instead of making quick judgments about what has been said. For one thing, I'm not attempting to present the fully balanced truth under any one verse.
I'll quote part of what Douglas J. Moo said as an introduction to Romans chapters 9-11 ("New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1994], page 1142). "...the theme of these chapters is the place of Israel in God's plan of salvation, and this is a theme that is much involved with Paul's concerns in Romans. From the beginning of the letter (1:2; cf. also 3:21, 31; chap. 4) Paul has been concerned to demonstrate that the gospel stands in continuity with the OT. He wants to make it clear that the coming of Jesus Christ and the new regime of salvation-history that he has inaugurated is no innovation in God's plan for history, but its intended culmination. However, the unbelief of the majority of Jews in Paul's day presents a potential problem for Paul's attempt to establish such continuity. Was not God's promise of salvation given to the people of Israel? How can he remain true to that promise if it is now fulfilled in the church instead of in Israel?
These are the questions Paul answers in chapters 9-11, as he defends the thesis that It is not as though God's word has failed (9:6a). Jewish unbelief at the present time does not mean, Paul asserts, that God's promises to his people have failed because (i) God had never promised to save every single Jew (9:6b-29); (ii) the Jews are themselves responsible for failing to believe (9:30-10:21); (iii) God's promises to Israel are even now being fulfilled in a remnant, of Jewish Christians (11:1-10); and (iv) God will yet save all Israel (11:12-32). Throughout, Paul is concerned to show that God's promises to his people Israel - when correctly understood - remain fully intact."
I'll quote part of what Leslie C. Allen said as an introduction to Romans chapters 9-11 ("New Layman's Bible Commentary" [Zondervan, 1979], page 1405). "It is important to understand the angle from which Paul was writing. He had no intention of answering those who queried, or were curious about, the truths of divine sovereignty and election and human responsibility and their compatibility. Rather, he is interpreting the first-century missionary situation in terms which he shared with both his Christian and Jewish contemporaries. He with them had taken over the viewpoint of the OT and it did not occur to him to question it. His Jewish critics demurred only at his application of these OT doctrines, and not at the doctrines themselves.
Paul found three different clues [I prefer a different word than clues] that helped solve his problem. The first is a number of OT precedents and promises of divine control over the history of God's people for His appointed ends. He stressed God's sovereignty in order to hit out at the cocksure Jewish notion that God had to save them, bound by the bonds of the law, circumcision, and good works. Paul insists strongly that God is free and gracious. Side by side with the first clue he places a second one without attempting to square the two. The Jews have refused to go God's way, and, as long as they do not believe, put themselves out of God's saving reach. The third clue, again uncoordinated with the earlier ones, is God's faithfulness. The One who never breaks a promise can be trusted to bring Israel to salvation. God's present tactics may [seem to] be pro-Gentile and anti-Jew, but his overall strategy is for the ultimate benefit of the Jews and the enrichment of the Church."
I'll quote part of what William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam said as an introduction to Romans chapters 9-11 ("Epistle to the Romans" [T. & T. Clark, 1977 reprint], page 226). "Now [that Paul has finished Romans chapters 1-8] he is at liberty to discuss in full the question: How is this conception of Christ's work consistent with the fact of the rejection of the Jews which it seems to imply? The answer to this question occupies the remainder of the dogmatic portion of the Epistle, chapters 9-11.... ...in 9:6-29 the faithfulness and justice of God are vindicated; in 9:30-10:21 the guilt of Israel is proved; in chapter 11 St. Paul shows the divine purpose which is being fulfilled and looks forward prophetically to a future time when Israel will be restored...."
I'll also quote part of a paragraph from their page 267 that deals with the interpretation of Romans chapters 9-11. "We must...remember - and it is quite impossible to understand St. Paul if we do not - that the three chapters ix-xi form one very closely reasoned whole. ... He isolates one side of his argument in one place, one in another, and just for that very reason we must never use isolated texts. We must not make deductions from one passage in his writings separated from its contexts and without modifying it by other passages presenting other aspects of the same questions. The doctrinal deductions must be made at the end of chap. xi and not of chap. ix."
Lastly, I'll quote from C. E. B. Cranfield's lengthy introduction to Romans chapters 9-11 ("Epistle to the Romans," Vol. 2 [T. & T. Clark, 1983], pages 447, 448). "With regard to the special difficulties which the contents of these chapters present, those features which have struck very many students of the Epistle to the Romans - not surprisingly - as offensive and repugnant, several things may usefully be said at this point.
It is of the utmost importance to take these three chapters together as a whole, and not to come to conclusions about Paul's argument before one has heard it to the end; for chapter 9 will certainly be understood in an altogether unPauline sense, if it is understood in isolation from its sequel in chapters 10 and 11."
I'll include some more quotations at the end of the discussion of Rom. 9:1-29. Now we'll start with Rom. 9:1.
"I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying [Compare Gal. 1:20; 1 Tim. 2:7. The apostle knew that many of the Jews considered him to be an enemy of Israel and of the Law of God.], my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, (2) that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. (3) For I could wish that I myself were accursed [cf. Ex. 32:32; 1 Cor. 16:22; and Gal. 1:8, 9], separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh [cf. Rom. 11:14], (4) who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons [Israel was adopted by God as His covenant people (cf., e.g., Ex. 4:22, 23; Deut. 7:6; and 14:1, 2).], and the glory [cf. Ex. 40:34-38; 1 Kings 8:10, 11] and the covenants [cf. Gen. 17:1-14; Deut. 29:14; Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; and Eph. 2:12] and the giving of the Law [cf. Deut. 4:13, 14; Psalm 147:19] and the temple service [cf. Heb. 9:1, 6] and the promises [cf. Acts 2:32; Eph. 2:12], (5) whose are the fathers [starting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; cf. Acts 3:13; Rom. 11:28], and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh [cf. Matt. 1:1-16; Rom. 1:3], who is over all [cf. Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; and Col. 1:16-19], God blessed forever. [["Christ, who is God over all, forever praised" (NIV); "Christ...the eternally blessed God" (NKJV). Christ is deity with the Father (and the Spirit), and it is scriptural to call Him "God" (cf., e.g., Isa. 9:6; John 1:1; and 20:28), but I assume that the last words of this verse were intended to bless God the Father (not Christ), "Christ, who is over all. God be blessed forever!" The word "God" is typically reserved for God the Father in the New Testament, and He has the preeminent role in the Trinity. See my papers, "Who Do We Pray To?" and "Who Do We Worship?" "...Messiah. May God, supreme above all, be blessed for ever!" (NEB). "Messiah (I speak of his human origins). Blessed forever be God who is over all!" (NAB).]] Amen.
We'll continue this verse-by-verse study of Romans chapters 9-11 in Part 2, starting with Rom. 9:6.