Audio Link: Dennis McCallum on Romans 9

Here is a link to a good mp3 presentation on Romans 9, by Dennis McCallum: Romans 9 – God’s Soveriegnty. There is also a You-Tube video of the same presentation which can be found here.

HT: Brennon Hartshorn



Filed under Arminian Audio, Arminian Video, Romans 9

25 responses to “Audio Link: Dennis McCallum on Romans 9

  1. TCM

    Hi Kevin,

    One of the main reasons I haven’t been able to make heads or tails of Romans 9 from a non-Calvinist view is the insistance that the chapter be interpreted based on the Old Testament context of the verses Paul cites. Mr. McCallum does the same thing, and it doesn’t seem to me like his method of interpretation for Romans 9 would hold up in many other NT passages, such as in 1 Cor 9:9 (the context in Deuteronomy says nothing about paying preachers of the gospel) or Matt 1:23 (did the coming of Jesus mean the Assyrians were going to invade?).

    In the above passages the NT authors shed light on the meaning of the OT passages they cite that we would not know by reading them in their OT contexts. We cannot force NT passages to have meanings based on OT contexts, but based on their NT contexts.

    I welcome your take on it in case I’m missing something, thanks.

    • Hi TCM, It’s been a while since I listened to McCallum presentation, so I don’t remember specifics. You’re right that sometimes the NT writers take liberties with their interpretation of the OT. Usually for the purpose of pointing us to Christ, but sometimes in unrelated cases too.

      For example, it’s very interesting that the writer of Hebrews quotes from the Septuagint translation (LXX) instead of from the original Hebrew. In fact the arguments from Hebrews are entirely based out of the LXX. So for example, Gen 5:22 says “Enoch walked with God” , whereas the Greek LXX says “Enoch was well pleasing to God”. In Hebrews 11:5 Enoch is described as “one who pleased God.” The writer of Hebrews is running with the LXX! It’s a bit like a pastor who finds some quirky translation that makes his bullet point (like the Good News Bible, or Living Bible), and then runs with it. We usually call this eisegesis or reading into the text. :)

      Anyway, I find that sort of thing interesting, and don’t disagree with you that sometimes Paul does this. BTW, to be clear, I believe the Bible is completely trustworthy. The NT writers were apostles, and could get away with doing that sort of thing, but we don’t have that right to.

      Anyway, to answer your question, certainly Paul may be using the OT texts in Romans 9 in a different light than they were originally written. That’s not an issue at all, because Paul isn’t writing about Calvinistic election. Paul is answering the question of why most of the Jewish people are not following Christ.

      If you haven’t listened to them already, you may also enjoy David Pawson’s sermons on Romans 9-11. He gives a lot of historical background to Romans that I found helpful. He’s a lot deeper than McCallum. Link HERE

      • TCM

        Kevin – Determining what Romans 9 is saying in the context of the book of Romans is definitely the issue, I appreciate your response. The reason I brought up how OT passages are used is because McCallum and almost all non-Calvinists I’ve heard or read on Romans 9 will say something like, “I know it may seem like Calvinists properly interpret chapter 9, but if you look at the OT passages cited in their OT context we find that it was two nations in the womb, Esau and Jacob refer to nations in Malachi, etc. so Romans 9 is not talking about individual salvation”. About every non-Calvinist I know uses the OT contexts as the primary way of arguing their point which has always left me scratching my head, but I do look forward to checking out Pawson’s sermons, I’ll let you know if anything clicks for me.

  2. TCM


    I listened to the Pawson talks on Romans 9 & 10 and I thought he had some good points. I was glad to hear that he believes that we must preach the gospel to Jews and he gave a very good explanation of the gospel in the talk on chap 10 (which is almost entirely still in 9).

    I do have some questions, though, a lot of things didn’t make sense to me. Here’s the two I’d most like to know the answer to:

    He said Romans 9 is primarily about Israel being chosen for service and not about salvation, but where does the part Israel being chosen for service start and where does it end?
    His second talk is almost entirely about salvation (which I thought was kind of weird because he said Romans is not primarily about the gospel and that Romans 9 is not primarily about salvation), in Romans 9 where does the part about salvation start?


    • Hi TCM, Just to let you know, I did see your two recent comments. I will reply some time soon (Lord willing!). I haven’t been able to dedicate a lot of time to the blog recently.

      God bless,

    • Hi TCM, thanks for waiting. Life has been crazy lately. :)

      To answer your question, I see Paul making the transition to talking about salvation (of Israel) in Romans 9:30, and then explicitly stating his desire in this regard in Romans 10:1. “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. ”

      Chapter 9 is almost entirely about how God chose Israel for service. All of 9, 10, and 11 are specifically about the topic of the Jewish people, Paul never changes that primary focus. He is answering the question: “why don’t most Jews believe?”. Of course with a question like that, the issue of salvation comes up, but it’s always related specifically to the salvation of the Jewish people.

      • TCM


        I really appreciate you taking the time to get back to me, I certainly understand life getting crazy.

        Do you understand Romans 9:1 as the point where the book of Romans stops speaking about salvation and starts speaking only of Israel being chosen for service? Then Romans 9:30 is the end of the part about Israel being chosen for service and the start of speaking of Israel’s salvation?


      • Hi TCM, Romans 8 focuses on living a Spirit filled life, and being victorious in Christ. In Romans 1-8 Paul is laying the groundwork for his arguments in 9-11. He establishes that all are sinful (both Jew and Gentile), no one is righteous (neither Jew nor Gentile), and that righteousness comes through faith in Christ (for both Jew and Gentile). Paul’s argument is that we are all in the same boat. We are all dead in sin because of Adam. We can all become alive in Christ.

      • TCM

        It seems like Romans 9:2-3 and Romans 10:1 are very similar statements. Wouldn’t this suggest some continuity of theme of the salvation of Israel between all of 9 and 10?

      • In Romans 9:4-5 Paul makes a clear transition to speaking of Israel’s election to service. He stays with that theme throughout most of Romans 9.

        In Romans 10:11-13, when Paul clearly is speaking of salvation, he describes it in “Arminian” terms, much different than the way he describes Israel’s election to service.

        As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. ”For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

        And when Paul addresses the issue of Israel’s salvation (Romans 10:16-21) he also describes it in “Arminian” terms.

      • TCM

        What does “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” in verse 6 mean?

      • That’s explained in 9:8 – “…it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”

      • TCM

        So it is “Israel chosen for service” who are not children by physical descent and are God’s children and children of promise?

        I don’t understand how this explains verse 6 though, because it says “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel”. How does it make sense that “Israel chosen for service” is not all who are descended from Israel?

      • Hi TCM,

        Israel “chosen for service” is based on ethnicity. This is the group identified in Paul’s lament in 1-5 (v3 “those of my own race”).

        True Israel (v6) is not the same as ethnic Israel. Membership in true Israel is based on faith rather than ethnicity (9:30-32). True Israel could arguably be the church and/or Jewish believers, but would definitely exclude ethnic Jews who pursue God by works rather than faith in Christ.

        God is not unjust in choosing ethnic Jews to accomplish a purpose, even though some of that group are not part of the promise.

        Hope that helps. You may find Brian Abasciano’s thesis on Romans 9:1-9 helpful. Available HERE. It is quite detailed.

      • TCM

        Thanks for referring me to that thesis, I’ll take a look at it.

        I’m a little confused because after reading that you thought Chapter 9 stopped speaking about salvation in v 4-5 I thought that you would say that verses 6-8 were somehow speaking of the nation of Israel and not those who are saved. I don’t see where you disagree with Calvinism’s assertion that we are talking about salvation at this point.

        Do you think Paul stops speaking about salvation and is only speaking of Israel as a nation in verse 11? (though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls)

      • Hi TCM,

        Paul identifies ethnic Israel in the lament (1-5), explaining that ethnic Israel is not the same as “true Israel” (6-9), and then explaining that God is not unjust to use ethnic Israel to accomplish a task (10-). When referring to ethnic Israel, Paul is speaking of election to purpose, not election to salvation. Salvation is instead based on faith (v32).

      • TCM

        So then in Verse 11 where it says, “not because of works, but because of him who calls” it means that God chose Israel for service instead of Edom for service not because of the two nations works but because of him who calls nations for service?

      • Yes, although your wording is a bit confusing.

        God chose Jacob’s descendants to be the covenant people through which Christ would come, rather than Esau’s descendants. God chose Israel over Edom by sovereign choice, and not based on anything the nations did.

      • TCM

        Hi Kevin,

        I think it’s at verse 11 that I get lost in the Arminian interpretations of this chapter. The previous verses just said that not all Israel is saved just because of their family lineage (6 &7), those who are saved are God’s children, the children of promise (8). Then Verse 9 starts with “For this is what the promise said” which leads me to think this verse is also referring to those who are children of promise, those who are saved.

        Verse 10 mentions Rebekah’s children at which time we could decide whether it is speaking of the individuals or the nations in her womb. It seems strange to me at this point to think this refers to the nations and not the individuals because the immediate preceding verses speak about salvation of individuals because of their relationship with God, not their lineage. It seems like thinking of verse 10 as speaking of individuals is also suggested by verse 11 because the new testament speaks of saved individuals as “elect” and Romans goes to great lengths to explain how an individual’s salvation is what is not by “works”.

        This view also seems to fit better with Paul’s summary of his thesis in Romans 11:5-7:

        “5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
        7What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened”

        Here God chooses people for salvation by his grace which is put in contrast with salvation by works, those saved are referred to as “elect” while others not saved are hardened. His summary in 11:5-7 does not seem to fit with the Arminian interpretation of Romans 9 (especially the very similar passage of 9:11) but fits nicely with that of the Calvinist’s.

        I appreciate your input, I’ve learned a lot thinking through this passage with you.

        Good blog post today too, by the way :)

  3. Hi TCM, Glad you enjoyed the post today.

    I interpret “children of the promise” as Paul illustrating that the covenant people would come through Jacob rather than Esau. That flows with the passage. Paul is not speaking of individual salvation.

    I also see Jacob and Esau as representative of their nations, not their individual salvation status. In 9:12 Paul says “The older will serve the younger”. In fact, Esau never served Jacob. Rather the reverse is true. Jacob served Esau. However, Edom did serve Israel. Paul also refers to Malachi 1 in 9:13, which is clearly a reference to Edom. For all we know, Esau the individual was saved, I hope so. He certainly seems to have come around at the end of his life.

    Paul makes it clear that Israel’s hardening was a result of disobedience, not for hidden reasons. God’s desire was that Israel be saved. 10:21 states “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people. And 11:20-21 states that Israel was broken off because of unbelief (and we can be broken off too for the same reason). God’s desire was that Israel obey him. But Israel wanted to pursue God by works rather than faith (9:30-32).

    God’s heart regarding individual salvation is expressed in Romans 10:5-13. “The word is near you”. “It is with your heart that you believe and are saved.” ““Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This language is not consistent with the Calvinistic interpretation of Romans 9, but it it flows quite naturally with the Arminian understanding that God genuinely desires for everyone to be saved. It also is consistent with understanding Romans 9 as a reference to God choosing a covenant people to accomplish his purposes in Christ, and not as a reference to individual election.

    • TCM

      In Romans 9:8 do you interpret the children of God and the children of promise as the same or different people?

      • Hi TCM,

        God’s children and the children of the promise are the same, whereas “children of physical descent” (ethnic Israel) are different. Ethnic Jews should not depend on their descent from Abraham as grounds for inclusion in the covenant people.

        Where we differ (I think) is that you are interpreting God’s rejection of ethnic Jews as evidence of their individual reprobation – ie they are not called to salvation. Presumably the same would be true of Esau the individual.

        Here I disagree. The passage is not about God effectually calling individuals to salvation, but rather that the ethnic Jew doesn’t have the right to go God and demand the means by which God saves (ethnicity and the law). When it comes to salvation, God calls everyone on the basis of faith in Christ. God calls the ethnic Jew, and any ethnic Jew can be saved. Esau the individual could be saved as well. Moreover, the ethnic Jew actually has an advantage over the Gentile as a “natural” branch. We are all saved by faith in Christ. The ethnic Jew (despite his advantage) doesn’t have the right to go to God and demand that God save him as a result of ethnicity or adherence to the law.

    • TCM

      Hi Kevin,

      Sorry if I’m messing up the flow of the dialogue, but for some reason your last post isn’t showing up so I’ll respond to it here and paste it in if for some reason it got lost in wordpress world:

      In response to TCM on June 23, 2011 at 8:20 pm:
      In Romans 9:8 do you interpret the children of God and the children of promise as the same or different people?
      Hi TCM,
      God’s children and the children of the promise are the same, whereas “children of physical descent” (ethnic Israel) are different. Paul is establishing that ethnic Jews should not depend on their descent from Abraham as grounds for inclusion in the covenant people.
      Where we differ (I think) is that you are interpreting God’s rejection of ethnic Jews as evidence of their individual reprobation – ie they are not “called” by God. Presumably the same is true of Esau. Here I disagree, the passage is not about individual election to salvation. God does call the ethnic Jew, and any ethnic Jew can be saved. Esau the individual could be saved as well. Moreover, the ethnic Jew has an advantage over the Gentile as a “natural” branch. The promise is that any person (including the ethic Jew and Esau) becomes saved by faith in Christ. The ethnic Jew (despite his advantage) doesn’t have the right to go to God and demand that God give him preferential treatment based on his ethnicity or adherence to the law.

      Here is my reply on June 25:

      On June 22 where you said that “children of promise” from Rom. 9:8 refers to the covenant people coming from Jacob rather than Esau did you mean the old covenant people of ethinic Israel?

      If so, wouldn’t this be in contradiction with your last reply where you said, “God’s children and the children of the promise are the same, whereas “children of physical descent” (ethnic Israel) are different.”?

      I apologize if I’m misunderstanding you, thanks.

      • Yeah, I hid it because I wanted to reword it. That’s ok though, I made it visible again, and it’s essentially the same.

      • It was not my intent to contradict myself, although I can see how it came across that way. :)

        Romans 4 elaborates (In fact Romans 4 is pretty much about this specifically):

        11-12 “[Abraham] is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

        16 “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.”

        So, there is a sense in which “those of the law” (ethnic Israel) are children and benefit from God’s promises. Ethnic Israel was also blessed in that Christ came through them. However, ethnicity in itself doesn’t save, or allow Israel to dictate the terms of their relationship to God.

        BTW, If you are looking for a scholarly overview of Romans 9, be sure to read Abasciano’s article linked above. I am by no means an expert on any of this.

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