Arminian Principles for Interpreting Romans 9.

Romans 9 is often the “go to” text for Calvinists. They hold that it is about individual election to salvation – that God unconditionally chooses to save certain individuals, and that he unconditionally rejects and hardens others. John Piper writes that the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9:11-12 was the watershed event that caused him to become a Calvinist.(1)

Arminians come to a different conclusion about Romans 9. We hold that it’s about the election of the nation Israel to serve God’s greater purposes.  Specifically, it’s about how God is just in how he has treated Israel.  And it’s about how he has kept his word in the way that he has treated them.  It is not about Calvinistic individual election. Paul is asking if the nation of Israel can be saved, and if God is fair in the way he goes about treating them as a group.  Are Jews saved by their genealogy? Or must Jews believe in Jesus in order to be saved? Paul argues that even though Jews are descendants of Jacob and Abraham, they don’t get a free ticket because of their ancestry (Romans 9:8). Israel has been blessed as a people group, because salvation comes from the Jews. However, individual Jews are saved the same way that Gentiles are – by having faith in Jesus (Romans 9:31, Romans 10:11-13).

Now on to the Arminian principals for interpreting Romans 9.

1) To understand Romans 9, read all of Romans 9 along with Romans 10 and 11. Better yet, read the the entire book. The larger context is key to understanding the passage. Calvinists prefer to quote only Romans 9:10-24, because that’s the portion that seems most Calvinistic when read by itself. But Romans 9:10-24 shouldn’t be read without an understanding of the surrounding context and the question that Paul is addressing. Here’s the background: Israel was depending on their ethnicity as descendants of Abraham. They thought that being physical children of Abraham saved them by default. Paul uses Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom) to show how ethnicity is not a guarantee of  a blessing. Paul illustrates that both Issac and Jacob were chosen to be blessed over Ishmael and Esau, even though all were sons of Abraham and this even though Ishmael and Esau were the oldest sons. Despite the blessing of being descendants of Jacob, individual Jews are saved the same way Gentiles are – by faith in Jesus. Even though Jews are physical descendants of Abraham (as were Ishmael and Esau), they still must believe in Jesus in order to be saved (Romans 10:11-13). This is Paul’s argument.

Paul states that he is speaking about the nation of Israel in the opening of Chapter 9 (bold mine):

Romans 9:1-5: I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Paul reminds us again that he is writing about the nation of Israel in the close of Chapter 9 (bold mine):

Romans 9:30-32 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.

The nation of Israel is always in scope in Romans 9, 10, and 11. It’s never about Calvinistic individual election. That’s why it’s so important to read all of Romans.

2) When reading the portion of Romans 9 that sounds Calvinistic, refer to the Old Testament passages that Paul uses for his argumentation. They show that Paul is still on the topic of the nation of Israel, and he’s addressing God’s right to use Israel as he prefers. The verses seem to refer to individuals with a casual reading (Jacob and Esau and Pharaoh).  However, the Old Testament references show that the individuals are actually corporate heads of their nations.

For example (bold mine):

Genesis 25:23: The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other,and the older will serve the younger.” (quoted in Romans 9:11-12)

Malachi 1:1-5: A prophecy: The word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.I have loved you,” says the Lord.“But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his hill country into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals.” Edom may say, “Though we have been crushed, we will rebuild the ruins.” But this is what the Lord Almighty says: “They may build, but I will demolish. They will be called the Wicked Land, a people always under the wrath of the Lord. You will see it with your own eyes and say, ‘Great is the Lord—even beyond the borders of Israel!’ (quoted in Romans 9:13)

Jeremiah 18:1-10This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.  Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.  And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted,  and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. (referenced in Romans 9:21)

Especially of note in the Jeremiah passage is that God (the Potter) does not decree what the nation does, but rather he first sees what the nation does, and then forms something out that nation afterwards as a result of their corporate behavior.  This is the opposite of “unconditional individual election”.  God changes his mind on how to treat a nation based on whether or not the nation follows him.  This is particularly relevant to Paul’s argument in Romans 9.  Israel was not following God as revealed in Christ, and as a result, God (the Potter) is going to treat them accordingly.

One more thing to be aware is the Hebraic idiom of “hate” (as used in Romans 9:13 and Malachi 1:3 – “I love Jacob, but I hate Esau…”)  This idiom means to love someone less in comparison to someone else. Just as we have idioms (For example: “It’s raining cats and dogs.”), so did the Hebrews. This idiom doesn’t mean that God unconditionally despised and damned Esau and all of his descendants. It meant that he preferred Jacob’s nation over Esau’s nation, and chose Jacob’s children for the special honor of being the line in which the Messiah came. Jesus uses this very same idiom when he says “Anyone who follows me must hate his Father and Mother (Luke 14:26).” He’s not saying you should actually despise your parents, that would be breaking a commandment! He’s saying that in comparison to our love for God, our love for our parents ought to be much less. The same thing is going on with Jacob and Esau. God loved both of them and their descendants. However, he had a special affection for Jacob and his descendants, and chose Jacob’s descendants over Esau’s for the purpose of saving the world.

In the case of Pharaoh, Paul uses him as an analogy as to how God can fairly treat the nation of Israel, even if he has to “harden” them in the process.  Just as God hardened Pharaoh for his purposes (after a great deal of evil behavior by Pharaoh), he has the right harden the nation of Israel for his purposes.   And we see from the Jeremiah passage that this hardening comes about as God’s response, it’s not God’s first preference.  Importantly, it wasn’t God’s first preference to eternally damn Pharaoh.  God treated Pharaoh fairly, and wanted him to be saved.  For more on that topic, see this post: The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart.

3) Whatever Romans 9 means, it can’t mean that God is a liar, and it can’t contradict the plain meaning of other scripture passages.  If God is love (1 John 4:8 ), we can’t use Romans 9 to prove that God is hate.  This was a point made by John Wesley. Of course, Calvinists don’t claim that God hates or lies, but their line of reasoning in our view leads to this. Typically when you question a Calvinist about the goodness of God in Romans 9, they either equivocate or they equate a rejection of their interpretation of Romans 9 as “talking back to God” (Romans 9:20).  Here’s what Wesley wrote on this:

This is the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of predestination! And here I fix my foot. On this I join issue with every assertor of it. You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say you will prove it by scripture. Hold! What will you prove by Scripture, that God is worse than the devil? It cannot be. Whatever that Scripture proves, it never can prove this; whatever its true meaning be. This cannot be its true meaning. Do you ask, “What is its true meaning then” If I say, ” I know not,” you have gained nothing; for there are many scriptures the true sense whereof neither you nor I shall know till death is swallowed up in victory. But this I know, better it were to say it had no sense, than to say it had such a sense as this. It cannot mean, whatever it mean besides, that the God of truth is a liar. Let it mean what it will. It cannot mean that the Judge of all the world is unjust. No scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works; that is, whatever it prove beside, no scripture can prove predestination.(2)

Wesley is right.  Whatever Romans 9 states, it can’t state that the God of truth is a liar.


1) John Piper, The Absolute Sovereignty of God, What is Romans 9 about?  Side rant here, this is why I can’t stomach John Piper.  Just from the title, you can see he’s implying that to disagree with him is to say that God is not sovereign.  But of course Arminians agree that God is sovereign.  Okay, rant done.

2) John Wesley, Sermon 128, Free Grace


Filed under Arminianism, Calvinism, Romans 9

36 responses to “Arminian Principles for Interpreting Romans 9.

  1. I so very much look forward to reading this through!

  2. Okay, having read this, I can now say, Job well done, my friend! Seriously, this was such an excellent summary of the basic principles of Arminian interpretation of Romans 9. Having come out of a Calvinist understanding of the passage that I was taught by Sproul, Piper, et al., I view what you have written here as a much more objective interpretation than what the best of Calvinist scholarship can offer. Well, perhaps I’m a bit biased now. But I did once believe the Calvinist position, and I now view their interpretive method of this passage as completely untenable contextually. Good on you, friend!

    • Thanks! It’s really tough to come with a short post on Romans 9, it always requires a more lengthy explanation than I prefer. I agree that the Arminian interpretation is more objective. I can understand how a regular Joe can come to the Calvinist conclusion on Romans 9 with just a casual one time reading, but it’s difficult for me to see how educated Reformed scholars can come to that conclusion. It’s pretty obvious that Paul is addressing Israel, and not individual election.

  3. Adrian

    “unconditionally chooses to save certain individuals, and that he unconditionally rejects and hardens others”

    My understand of reformed theology is that most of us don’t believe this.

    Although we believe that God “unconditionally chooses to save certain individuals” that is necessary because our natural (sinful) response to God is to reject Him. And yes God does choose to harden some, but as we are His creation He’s entitled to do with us what he wishes (is He not?)

    So it’s not “yes, no, yes, yes, no, no, no …” but “you all reject Me, you are all lost however as an act of love I’ll save you and you and you ….” (not that we deserve it one little bit)

    • stephenwinters

      Then you must deal with God’s self-disclosure in scripture which tells us he would that all be saved (e.g. 1 Tim 2:4). What kind of weakness or duplicity in God would there have to be in order for him to not want anyone to be lost and yet not act to save them. It can’t be his glory, for his self-disclosure in scripture undercuts (Ezek 33:11) the thought that he gets any joy (or glory as he would understand it) from folk not repenting. If he’s doing the picking and that is what matters as far as repentance and faith is concerned, he would pick everyone.

    • Adrian, I recognize that some C’s do not hold to double predestination, while others do (Piper does, for example). I appreciate those like you who do not.

      From the Arminian view, single predestination and double predestination amount to the same thing. God doesn’t save the reprobate even though he has the power to. As SLW points out, if God wants all to be saved (scripture states he does), and God has the ability to save all (Calvinists say he does), then the Calvinist view of God becomes duplicitous, because not all are saved.

      • Adrian

        Keven, you illustrate this well in, as it is a paradox. There are two sides to the story that to the human mind seem incompatible, yet both are Biblical. This is talked about elsewhere, one interesting post being this one on Square Circles (

        Also Kevin you have an interesting chart on what various groups believe (to which I’ve lost my link ’cause I would have put it here if i had it) but unless you and stephenwinters are right to the right on this chart and into open-theology+ then you’ll concede that God knows all things including the future.

        Having read your Bibles (and because you exist) you would also have to acknowledge that God changes the future and in changing the future He changes who gets to exist. A first example would be the flood in ~2300BC. Because of it the current world population are all descendants of Noah. If not for the flood the world would be populated by a completely different set of people and it would be very unlikely you or I would exist and going to heaven. A second example is Jesus not coming back in 1900. If He had over 6 billion people would never have been born like ourselves who are going to heaven (which God knew beforehand) but also like Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot and Mao Tse Tung who (it would appear) will spend eternity suffering in hell (which God also knew beforehand).

        So whether or not you accept that God specifically said I’ll have Adrian and Keven and Stephen in heaven with me or not He did intentionally and specifically make decisions that He knew would result in Adrian and Keven and Stephen being in heaven with Him while billions of others would go to hell. In fact over 216,000 people have been born today and statistically most will go to hell. God could prevent this by allowing the return of Jesus but He doesn’t. God has chosen to allow those people to be born, and to one day die and go to hell.

        If God has knowingly made choices and knows that as a result of those choices you would be one day in heaven where’s the excitement come from when someone says that God “unconditionally chooses to save certain individuals”?

      • Thanks for the comment Adrian. Here’s the chart you’re referring to I think: theological spectrum chart.

        There is a difference between a paradox and a contradiction. A paradox is a mystery that we don’t understand -the Trinity for example. One God, three Persons. A contradiction is to claim that two exclusive opposites are both true. For example, that God wants to save everyone, and that God doesn’t want to save everyone. The Calvinist position results in a contradiction, not a paradox.

        I hold to simple foreknowledge. See this post for a detailed explanation. This is a different understanding of foreknowledge than the Calvinist view, or even the Molinist view. In the SF view, God knows what we will do because we will do it, not because he causes it. If a person never exists, there is nothing for God to know about that “person”. So I don’t think he can change the future in the way you describe.

    • But how then do we believe that God is no respecter of persons? His Word says this concerning Him. In order to believe in Predestination I have to reject these other Truths. In fact I would have to then say that God has created some for the purpose of sining. I might even need to believe that Adam had no freedom to do anything other than what he did. And then rather than his disobedience against what God had told him, I must see that he really obeyed God so that he could predestine most of those who were born of Adams race to an eternity in the lake of fire. The predestination slope is slippery. I would much rather believe that as Ephesians states “in Him, we are predestined to eternal life, and therefore outside of Him we are predestined to eternal damnation. He is a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. He woes us with His word and we seek Him, and He rewards us with a blessed hope. Jerry Parks

  4. stephenwinters

    Kevin, nicely done.

  5. bethyada

    This is very good Kevin. I note that Ephesians is also a favourite of Calvinists and like Romans, the bigger context is Jews and Gentiles. If the issue is corporate (how come Gentiles as a group can be part of the redeemed) then that individuals used as examples could still be intended as corporate; especially when (as you note) the alluded passages are predominantly corporate in the original (OT) context.

  6. bethyada

    Adrian, God’s choice that allows us to exist (creating) does not mean he chooses for us to be in heaven (against our will). That we can resist God does not mean that our choices are sufficient for heaven. Necessary requirements for us being in heaven include God creating us, God making a way of salvation for us, God making heaven, and—because a requirement of heaven by God’s design being faith in him—our faith.

  7. rnieman

    Hi Kevin,

    Excellent post. I really dug your explanation of the Hebraic Idiom for hate, that creates an even further problem for the calvinist.


  8. Pingback: Society of Evangelical Arminians | Arminian Principles for Interpreting Romans 9

  9. Will Richmond

    Scripture can only mean one thing. We must seek to find that meaning. In short the author believes the context is :”Israel was depending on their ethnicity as descendants of Abraham” Yet the book of romans is written to a mostly gentile Rome. Rather, the theme of Romans is Justification by faith. In the last 11 verses of Romans 8 alone there are 4 verses that specifically mention God calling, choosing, or predestination.

    Romans 8:28 NIV – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
    Romans 8:29 NIV – For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
    Romans 8:30 NIV – And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
    Romans 8:33 NIV – Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

    It makes logical sense that he would then go and clarify this confusing subject. Thus Romans 9. The chapter continues where he left off in in Romans 8 by stating: Romans 9:1 NIV – “I speak the truth in Christ–I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit–”

    Yes, Paul does speaks about the jews, but Romans 9:18 is clear that he is now talking about WHOEVER. “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”

    Lastly, the authors of this article quote Westly himself revealing their additude behind this:

    Do you ask, “What is its true meaning then” If I say, ” I know not,” you have gained nothing; for there are many scriptures the true sense whereof neither you nor I shall know till death is swallowed up in victory. But this I know, better it were to say it had no sense, than to say it had such a sense as this. It cannot mean, whatever it mean besides, that the God of truth is a liar. Let it mean what it will. It cannot mean that the Judge of all the world is unjust. No scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works; that is, whatever it prove beside, no scripture can prove predestination.

    This is not an attitude of a submissive desire to understand god’s word! This is deathgrip on maintaining a preconceived notion of God. They feel that God would be a liar, unjust, and hateful (elsewhere in text).

    Pauls says Romans 9:14 ESV – What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!
    Westly and these authors are those “One of you.” Infact they word for word claim that God would be UNJUST. If we are to accept wesley’s view, than we will no longer have the question that paul asks. Why would paul ask a rhetorical question that we don’t have? We must have a view of Romans 9 that leaves us thinking “Now wait a minute, would that make God unjust?” Paul new how to write, and he used this device to clarify his enhance point –God does what he wants and we we have no right to call God unjust!

    Because scripture can have only one meaning, and the author’s view doesn’t fit in context, it cannot be the correct one.

    • Hi Will, thanks for the comment.

      I think you’re incorrect.

      First, we should read Romans 9 in in context of the entire book of Romans, not in isolation. This is basic biblical interpretation. The Calvinist reads Romans 9 in isolation, ignoring anything before or after verses 10-24. By looking at the larger context it is clear the nation of Israel is always in scope. It’s obvious in the opening, it’s obvious again in verse 30-33.

      Second, we should read Romans 9 in context of the OT passages that Paul references. This is also sound. They also show that Paul is talking about Israel. The Calvinist ignores the context of the OT references, because they prove Paul is talking about nations, not individuals.

      Third, God is not a liar. Any interpretation that turns him into one is wrong from the outset. As Wesley says, “Hold! What will you prove by Scripture, that God is worse than the devil? It cannot be.”

      Paul always wrote his letters to address specific problems in the church. For example, Galatians is written to deal with the problem of the Judaizers in Galatia. Corinthians 1 and 2 are written as a correction to the sin and immaturity of the believers in Corinth.

      Paul wrote the letter to the Romans in order to address condemnation of Jewish Christians by Gentile Christians in Rome. In a sense, the book addresses the opposite problem of the one in Galatia.

      The history of the church in Rome helps us better understand Paul’s purpose. The Roman Church was initially exclusively Jewish. Over time Gentile converts were added. Then Emperor Claudius ordered all Jews to leave Rome, likely because they were bickering over whether or not Jesus was the Christ. See Acts 18:2. After the death of Claudius, Nero permitted the Jews to again return to Rome.

      These edicts impacted the church in Rome. The church was first Jewish, and then because a mixture of Jews and Gentiles, then became exclusively Gentile, then finally was again a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. When the Jewish Christians returned they were not welcomed by the Gentile Christians. They were scorned, because the Gentiles believed the Jews being evicted from Rome was evidence that they were now condemned and punished by God. Paul purpose in writing was to address this problem, and Romans 9-11 does in particular. Look specifically at Romans 11. It’s very clear there. Paul is warning the Gentiles to not condemn the Jews, or they condemn themselves.

      It is true that Romans is about justification by faith. Because justification by faith proves Paul’s point that Gentiles should not condemn Jews. Why? Because both Jews and Gentiles are under sin, and both are saved the same way!

      “For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written:There is no one righteous, not even one;”

      • RedSam

        Kevin Jackson : I found your article very interesting, being a calvinist myself. I had never thought about the context of Romans 9-11 being about Israel. But I do think you dismiss Will Richmond’s quotes in Romans 8 a little too easily. So all Romans talk about is Israel and the condemnation of Jewish Christians by Gentile Christians in Rome ? Sorry, that’s a little too simplistic. You cannot eradicate all verses about predestination (not just in Romans, btw) just on the basis of the supposed context of the whole book ! What about Proverbs 16:4 ? What about Ephesians 1:5, or 1:11 ? And so many others ??

      • Thanks for the comment RedSam. Arminians believe in election. But we see it as about Christ, not about individuals.
        So for example, Ep 1 says we were chosen “in him” before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight. The key words are “in him”. We become “in him” by believing (Ep 1:13). Put differently, Jesus is the elect one, when we believe, we participate in the benefits of his election, and this was God’s plan all along. For a good Arminian explanation of Proverbs 16:4, see this article on the web site.

      • RedSam

        Thank you for your answer Kevin Jackson !
        I think your explanation of “election in Him” is a little too far-fetched. There are lots of verses that do not refer to election as being in Jesus, and nothing to me points to Jesus being the elect and we just participating in that election when we believe out of free will. But hey, there’s a reason why this debate has been going on for centuries, right ? :) For me, Adam is the only one who truly had free will. After the Fall, there’s no more free will, because of sin corrupting all mankind. But, as I said to a friend recently, the most important question is not predestination, but “do you believe in Jesus now”. To me, it is not a fundamental doctrinal point that would put Arminians “outside” of the Faith, just as transsubstantiation isn’t. A christian is one who believes that God created the world, that He sent His Son Jesus in the flesh to save sinners, that Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and that he can be saved through faith. The rest is not that important (it is, but it has no impact on salvation).

  10. Brother, I love your work on this, well done. The God who would that every man come to the knowledge of the truth cannot at the same time condemn those same men to Hell in an arbitrary and capricious fashion. Furthermore the Edomites were to be allowed back seemingly on an individual basis into Israel’s fellowship following God’s condemnation in the passage you referenced above concerning Esau’s Nation. Thanks for your good work Jerry Parks.

  11. Pingback: Responding to Kevin Jackson’s “Arminian Principles for Interpreting Romans 9.” | The Caylor Family


    In light of your interpretation of Romans 9. How do you explain Luke 10:20-22?

    Luke 10:20-22 Amplified Bible (AMP)
    20 Nevertheless do not rejoice at this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
    21 In that very hour He was overjoyed and rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and He said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things [relating to salvation] from the [a]wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to infants [the childlike and untaught]. Yes, Father, for this way was [Your gracious will and choice, and was] well-pleasing in Your sight. 22 All things have been transferred and turned over to Me by My Father and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.”


    Hi Kevin — I value your perspective on Romans 9. It gives me a better understanding of your view, even though I do not entirely share your view.

    In this endless theological debate, I take my guidance from Deuteronomy 29:29.

    Deuteronomy 29:29 New King James Version (NKJV)
    29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

    The revealed will of God is God’s declared will concerning what we should do or what God commands us to do. On the other hand, God’s secret will usually include his hidden decrees by which he governs the universe and determines everything that will happen. He does not ordinarily reveal these decrees to us (except in prophesies of the future), so these decrees really are God’s “secret” will. We find out what God has decreed when events actually happen.

    1 Timothy 2:4 New King James Version (NKJV)
    4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    2 Peter 3:9 New King James Version (NKJV)
    9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,[a] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

    Luke 10:20-22 Amplified Bible (AMP)
    20 Nevertheless do not rejoice at this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
    21 In that very hour He was overjoyed and rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and He said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things [relating to salvation] from the [a]wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to infants [the childlike and untaught]. Yes, Father, for this way was [Your gracious will and choice, and was] well-pleasing in Your sight. 22 All things have been transferred and turned over to Me by My Father and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.”

    Romans 9:14-18 Amplified Bible (AMP)
    14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOMEVER I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOMEVER I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then God’s choice is not dependent on human will, nor on human effort [the totality of human striving], but on God who shows mercy [to whomever He chooses—it is His sovereign gift]. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “I RAISED YOU UP FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE, TO DISPLAY MY POWER IN [dealing with] YOU, AND SO THAT MY NAME WOULD BE PROCLAIMED IN ALL THE EARTH.” 18 So then, He has mercy on whom He wills (chooses), and He hardens [the heart of] whom He wills.

    In conclusion, both the revealing of the good news of the gospel to some and its hiding form others are said to be according to God’s will. Luke 10:21 must refer to God’s secret will, for his revealed will is that all come to salvation. Both Paul and Peter tell us that God wills all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Thus, the fact that some are not saved and some have the gospel hidden from them must be understood as happening according to God’s secret will, unknown to us and inappropriate for us to pry into. In the same way we must understand the mention of God’s will in Romans 9:18 and Acts 4:28 (“to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place”) as references to God’s secret will.

    In closing, whatever our theological persuasions are on this matter I believe we can all agree that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ and that there is a lost world that desperately needs to hear this good news. This past weekend I went to a Voice of the Martyrs conference held at a Reformed Church. It was refreshing to see people from both theological persuasions coming together in one accord proclaiming the Gospel.

    Kevin, I would like to thank you again and I will let you have the last word.

    God Bless you brother,
    (Phil. 2:12-13)

    • Hi Ken, thanks for the comments. Couple of thoughts.

      When it comes to the “unrevealed” things of God, it’s consistent biblically to say that we see things now as in a clouded mirror (1 Cor 13). When we look into a clouded mirror, some things are fuzzy, yet it still reflects what is there. So we might look into the mirror, see the ocean, and miss the boat. At the same time, we can be fully confident that we’re not looking at a desert. God’s revealed and unrevealed nature is like that. Since he states that he wants all to be saved, we can be confident that what is still hidden from us is consistent with that.

      I don’t see the “secret will” view in Luke 10 either. Rather, Jesus says that God hides things from the wise, and reveals them to children. I’ve seen this before, and I’m sure you have too. Sometimes the least educated and most childlike see God most clearly, and best explain him to us..

      Regarding the two wills…I like this analogy that CS Lewis made, explaining how one can have two separate wills that don’t contradict. From Mere Christianity:

      “But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, “I’m not going to go and make you tidy the schoolroom every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.” Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate. That is against her will. She would prefer the children to be tidy. But on the other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy. The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school. You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it. That is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.

      It is probably the same in the universe. God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata-of creatures that worked like machines-would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.”


  14. charlie

    Greetings, in within the argument that says Romans 9 is not dealing with individual salvation, but rather the nation of Israel, how would you interpret v.24: “even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

    Doesn’t that verse show the objects of mercy are indeed individuals within both Israel and gentiles nations?

    • Thanks for the comment Charlie.

      Romans 9-11 is primarily about the nation of Israel. But in 9:24-33 Paul contrasts believers with the nation of Israel. Believers are corporate, “…even us, whom he also called…” The OT references are corporate as well. “I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”.

      Corporate election refers to God’s choice of a group – those who are “in Christ”. For more about that see Brian Abasciano’s good article HERE.

  15. Susan Martens

    How precious is the Word if God! Oh how I love Jesus because of his great love wherewith he loved us! Not that we love him but that he loved us! So thankful for your clear presentation of scripture. God bless you !!

  16. Reblogged this on And Then Messiah Shall Come and commented:
    This is a great explanation of The meaning of Paul in Romans where he is teaching on Esaw and Pharaoh, and predestination vs. each man’s responsibility to God.


    I very much found this discussion to be helpful and informative. It would appear to me that the underlining crux of the issue is what is meant biblically by the “free will” of mankind.

    Thus, when we ask whether we have “free will,” it is important to be clear as to what is meant by the phrase. Scripture nowhere says that we are “free” in the sense of being outside of God’s control or of being able to make decisions that are not caused by anything. This is the sense in which many people seem to assume we must be free. Nor does it say we are “free” in the sense of being able to do right on our own apart from God’s power. But we are nonetheless free in the greatest sense that any creature of God could be free—we make willing choices, choices that have real effects. We are aware of no restraints on our will from God when we make decisions. We must insist that we have the power of willing choice; otherwise we will fall into the error of fatalism or determinism and thus conclude that our choices do not matter, or that we cannot really make willing choices. On the other hand, the kind of freedom that is demanded by those who deny God’s providential control of all things, a freedom to be outside of God’s sustaining and controlling activity, would be impossible if Jesus Christ indeed “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). If this is true, then to be outside of that providential control would simply be not to exist! An absolute “freedom,” totally free of God’s control, is simply not possible in a world providentially sustained and directed by God himself.

    God is able to work out his sovereign will within the distinctive characteristics of what he created. He moves a rock as a rock, and moves a human heart as a human heart. He does not turn a person into a thing when he brings about his sovereign intentions in a person’s life. Paul describes sanctification as the result of both human effort and ultimate divine enabling when he commands believers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil.2:12-13). He sees no conflict between divine and human activity. Rather, God is uniquely able to bring about his purposes within human beings so that they are fully engaged as persons and responsible for their own decisions, attitudes and actions.

    Moreover, by denying that God can make creatures who have real choices that are nevertheless caused by him, diminishes the wisdom and skill of God the Creator.

    Romans 8:28 Amplified Bible (AMP)
    28 And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.

    God’s Grace and Peace to you all!!!
    Ken Winters

  18. Pingback: Society of Evangelical Arminians | Friday Files, 21 February 2020

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