Romans 9 and Calvinism CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
This lesson is a refutation of Calvinism as supposedly found in Romans 9. Rom 9:11 mentions the purpose of God according to election. Unconditional election is one of the five points of Calvinism. Calvinism is a doctrine that teaches, among other things, that God chose, from the foundation of the world, who would be saved and who would be damned. Those he chose to save are called the elect and their election is unconditional. Unconditional election as taught in Calvinism is a false doctrine, as you will see.
Always remember, when studying a chapter that seems to teach something contrary to the rest of the New Testament, to be careful in handling the passage. Such is the case with Romans 9. Something about Romans 9 is peculiar.
God’s election in Rom 9:11 is that he would fulfill his promise to Abraham through Abraham’s literal seed. God’s choices for this fulfillment were Abraham in Rom 9:7, Isaac in Rom 9:7, Jacob in Rom 9:13 and Jesus in Rom 9:5, 33. That’s the line of the Jews through whom God would fulfill his purpose. Thus, the purpose of God according to election was not through Ishmael and his descendants, and it was not through Esau and his descendants. That’s obvious in this passage and all through the Old Testament.
Now, still addressing God’s purpose according to election as it concerns Israel (Rom 9:11), look at Rom 9:27, “a remnant shall be saved.” This shows us that there will be enough Jews left at the end of the Tribulation to fulfill the promises to Abraham (Rom 9:7-8) so that the purpose of God according to election will stand (Rom 9:11). Israel will be saved (Rom 11:25-27), they will become the ruling nation of the world (Is 60:10-12), Jesus will be their king and king of the world sitting on the throne of David (Rev 11:15, Lk 1:31-33), and the New Covenant promised to Israel will be fulfilled (Jer 31:31-37).
Nothing any man can do down here will change that. That purpose is fixed for Israel. All of this happens because the “purpose of God according to election” stands in spite of the fact that many individual Jews have rejected Jesus Christ (Rom 9:32-33). It was these Jews for whom Paul was so burdened that he could wish to be accursed (Rom 9:1-4). Their rejection will not keep the promises of God from being fulfilled.
Rom 9:1-29 really has nothing to do, then, with INDIVIDUAL salvation. This passage concerns Israel as a NATION of descendants from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The nation is made up of lots of individuals; “the number of the children of Israel [shall] be as the sand of the sea,” Rom 9:27. And of all these individuals only a “remnant shall be saved.” Hence, they were not individually elected, even as we are not individually elected.
You see, ever since the cross of Christ, any man that wants to get in on salvation and the mercy of God must have faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 9:30-33) whether he is a Jew or a Gentile (Rom 9:24; Acts 15:11). If he puts his faith in the finished work of Christ on Calvary (Rom 10:4, 9-10, 13), then he becomes a child of God (Rom 9:8). At that point, God extends to him the benefits of the promises made to Abraham (Rom 4) which include eternal life.
That’s why Paul was willing to be accursed for his brethren, his kinsman (Rom 9:1-4). He knew that they were passing up what God had promised to Abraham by election (Gal 3:14-29) because they were rejecting Jesus Christ. Think about it, if God had already elected some of the INDIVIDUAL Jews and had already condemned the rest of the INDIVIDUAL Jews, then why in the world would Paul want to be accursed for them? If election is predestination to individual salvation, Paul could not have changed a thing by being accursed for them. His curse would have been utterly foolish.
Looking back, we know that “salvation is of the Jews” (Jn 4:22) and that Jesus came to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). Yet, many of these literal descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob went to hell (Matt 23:33, Lk 16:19-23, etc). That’s because they neglected the salvation that was offered to them in Jesus (Mk 10:17-27 for example; Heb 2:3). And that’s the fate of every man who rejects Jesus Christ as his Savior (Jn 3:18, 36). They didn’t wind up in hell because God predestinated them to go there. That would be completely contrary to his will (2 Pet 3:9).
Furthermore, since God said that Gentiles would get in on the promises, as well (Rom 9:24-26), God’s purposes according to election stand for us by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 9:32, Rom 10:4, Gal 3:26-29). That’s what is going on in Rom 9.
Now concerning some of the specifics in the chapter, they are as follows:
Rom 9:11 – neither Jacob nor Esau could have affected what God had already chosen for them. With God’s foreknowledge (1 Pet 1:2) of what Esau and Jacob would do, he chose to continue the line of Christ and the promises through Jacob not Esau.
Rom 9:14-16 – Esau and Isaac were the ones who “willeth;” Isaac wanted to bless Esau and Esau wanted to kill Jacob and cut off his blessing. That didn’t happen. Jacob is the one who “runneth.” After running away, he still made it back to the land that God had promised Abraham (though it took him 20 years). You see, God had a purpose concerning those boys, and that purpose was fulfilled despite what they wanted to do or did.
Rom 9:19-21 – God does have power over the CLAY. He raised up Pharaoh (Rom 9:17). In his foreknowledge, he knew exactly how Pharaoh would handle the words of God preached by Moses and Aaron (Ex 3:19-20). God knew that this Pharaoh was the right king who would give God the opportunity to use everyone of those plagues and show his power in Egypt for the entire world to know.
But God did not predestinate Esau to hell. He did not predestinate Pharaoh to hell. God simply exercised his power “over the CLAY,” (Rom 9:21). The decision whether to follow the Lord or not was still up to the INDIVIDUALS. Pharaoh chose to reject God (Ex 5:2, he professed to be an agnostic) and Esau chose to sell his birthright (Gen 25:31-33). Those individual decisions of the heart were made by the men themselves and not by God.
Therefore, election in Rom 9 has nothing to do with Calvinism or an individual being elected to SALVATION by God. God extends mercy to any person who will put his faith in Jesus Christ apart from the works of the law (Rom 9:30-33; Tit 3:5; Eph 2:8-9; Gal 2:16; etc).
We don’t expect that you will be able to convince a friend who wants you to believe in his doctrine of Calvinism by showing him these verses. When a man has already made up his mind that he is right in his doctrine he will argue until you see it his way or he will just turn you off. That’s too bad. However, we don’t want to discourage you from trying to show him the truth. We mainly pray that he doesn’t poison you with his doctrine.