Does Romans 9 Teach Calvinism?

If any passage of the Bible clearly teaches Calvinism, it would be Romans chapter 9. Calvin himself referred to Romans
9:6-24 as "that memorable passage from Paul which alone ought easily to compose all controversy [concerning election] among sober and compliant children of God". I must confess I have at times been disturbed by what seemed to be the implications of Romans chapter 9, and also parts of Romans chapter 11, concerning the love, justice and goodness of God.

Its possible on a quick reading of Romans 9 to pick up the following ideas:

1. God deliberately hardens people in unbelief so that he can pour out his wrath on them.

2. God deals with humanity as clay in a potter's hands, where the clay just gets worked on and has no influence on its own destiny. Some clay (most clay) is worked by God into vessels of destruction, and a tiny remnant is worked on by God to enjoy eternal salvation. In both cases what happens is totally the work of God.

3. Salvation has nothing to do with us, everything to do with God's Sovereign choice.

4. Anyone who would question this is told by God to just Shut Up, because you are vastly inferior and have no right to ask such questions.

To me these ideas are emotionally unsatisfying. That doesn't mean they are not TRUE, however. I'm committed to the Scriptures and what they teach, even when what they teach doesn't make me rejoice. One example of this is – I believe there is a literal, burning eternal hell. I don't wish this to be so, but I believe it, because I believe that this is what the Bible teaches.

Having said all that, I'm very happy now, however, that I have found some keys to unlocking the true meaning of this passage. The interpretive keys to this passage lie in the context of the whole book of Romans, but especially the first few verses of Chapter 9, as well  as Romans 3:1-3.

For full arguments on the subject I refer people to Robert Hamilton's essay on the subject referenced below, but for now, I will give a basic outline of what I see as the solution to these issues.

1. In Romans 9-11 Paul's basic concern is with God's plan for the Jewish people and how to make sense of the fact that so many of them rejected the gospel in view of the fact that they are the chosen people.

a. Paul is often talking in a corporate sense here, about groups of people, or nations, rather than individuals. God's election certainly is often talked about in corporate, not individual terms.

b. Paul is addressing a concern raised in Romans 3:1-3 – a possible objection to his gospel presentation that could easily be raised, concerning the apparent failure of God's promise to Abraham, which Paul goes on to show is not actually a failure at all – but God is still working on it.

2. There are different types of GRACE referred to in the Bible, that have different effects or different ends. Paul is not always  talking about "Saving Grace" when he speaks of grace, or Salvation when he speaks of Election. There are different kinds of election referred to in the Bible and even in this passage.

3. The "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" mentioned in Romans 9:22 are most likely the UNBELIEVING HARDENED JEWS who have been opposing the ministry of the gospel. God is sovereignly using THESE VERY PEOPLE to cause the gospel to go out to the GENTILES – the non-Jews by stirring up persecution for Jewish believers.

4. This passage (Romans 9: 3-16) refers to a PARTICULAR KIND OF PREVENIENT GRACE given to the people of Israel. This was the grace to have the written oracles of God and more immediate access to spiritual truth. God is under NO OBLIGATION to extend this kind of favor to anyone, nor is He unjust if He extends it to the physical descendents of Jacob and not to others, for example. In THIS RESPECT, God acts unilaterally, without respect to human responses or heart qualities. Again and again in the Old Testamant God informs the Israelites that He did not choose them because they were a great, or a holy people in and of themselves. God said, "For you are a stiff-necked people".


5. Seen this way, there is nothing in this passage which nullifies the idea that SAVING GRACE is given conditionally upon FAITH. In fact, Romans 11:19-23 teaches it explicitly.

Rom 11:19  You will say then, "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in."
Rom 11:20  Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.
Rom 11:21  For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Rom 11:22  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Rom 11:23  And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.


One of the main lessons we can get out of Romans chapter 9 is that there are certain kinds of favor which God bestows SOVEREIGNLY just because He wants to, and can. God picked the Israelites, sometimes He picks certain people's to hear the gospel first, some people receive special favor BEFORE they get saved. God is free to give these favors to some groups and peoples, and not others, and to remain free from the charge of dealing UNJUSTLY with humanity.

As far as salvation goes, God never has limited salvation only to the descendents of Jacob. Salvation has ALWAYS been through faith. The stories of Ruth, Rahab and others in the Bible confirm this.

It is true that some people get a much better opportunity to respond to God positively than others. It can be shown, however, from the Scriptures that in fact ALL do get a sufficient opportunity to respond in faith, so that men are "without excuse" if they disbelieve. (Romans 1:20). But the point is, God is not unrighteous if He gives some better opportunities or greater "prevenient" grace to some rather than others. No one who violates God's law with a morally awakened conscience DESERVES anything of God's mercy. It is up to God if He wants to specifically favor one person or group of people with more opportunities than another person or group of people. We have no right to complain about that.


1. (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, Translated by J. K. S. Reid. London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1961. 5:3) as quoted in Robert Hamilton's essay on the subject.


What do YOU think?


About Michael Fackerell

The Christian faith is about Jesus. He came to save the lost. About Jesus Christ, Bible teaching, Testimonies, Salvation, Prayer, Faith, Networking.


  1. MelodyCat says:

    You can find almost anything in the scriptures if you start from your own premise and then search to support it using scripture you think fits your theory.

    No use in arguing scripture as you can twist it any way you like.

  2. lookinforacity says:

    Posted for clarification; – John Calvin was not Swiss.

    John Calvin (Middle French: Jean Cauvin; 10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation.
    He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530, after religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestants in France.
    Calvin fled to Basel, Switzerland, where he published the first edition of his seminal work Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536.
    In that year, Calvin was recruited by William Farel to help reform the church in Geneva.
    The city council resisted the implementation of Calvin and Farel’s ideas, and both men were expelled.
    At the invitation of Martin Bucer, Calvin proceeded to Strasbourg, where he became the minister of a church of French refugees.
    He continued to support the reform movement in Geneva, and was eventually invited back to lead its church. ………Wikipedia,

  3. lookinforacity says:

    Hi Michael

    I’m sure the Calvinists would claim there is a case for Predestination according to verse 11, but alas poor Cal missed it on this one.{:>(

    If we look from verses 1 through 10, we hear nothing but Paul bewailing the loss of the Nation of Israel, culminating in verse 11.
    Rom 9:11
    (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

    This is where we then hear Paul say, “that (THE PURPOSE OF GOD MIGHT STAND)”.
    What was this purpose of God? (ELECTION)
    But this is not the Election that Calvin would have people believe, we hear Paul speaking of the Election of a Remnant of the Jewish Nation, who would believe in their MESSIAH thereby gaining Salvation, and the Gentiles of the 1st. century also, they were the Election Paul was speaking of, that the Purpose of God according to Election might stand, NOT BY THEIR DOING OF THE LAW, (Works of the Law) but of God who calls.

    Paul goes on to give example of God choosing Jacob over Esau, then he just quotes God.
    Rom 9:15
    For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
    God chose Jacob over Esau for the family to be continued, that was according to HIS purpose.
    Paul gives the example of Pharaoh being chosen by God to show HIS Power in him, and that HIS name might be declared throughout all the earth.
    Rom 9:17
    For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

    Paul goes on declaring that God, has the right to do in His earth, what He chooses to do.
    Then in verse 22, Paul begins speaking of both the Jew, and Gentile.
    Rom 9:22,23
    22) What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
    23) And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

    Paul then recounts a prophesy about the Gentiles, from Hosea, how being unloved they would become loved, and how the Gentiles would become the Children of God.
    Rom 9:25,26
    25) As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
    26) And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

    Paul then refers to Isaiah, speaking about God preserving a remnant of Israel, in a short work upon the Earth.
    Rom 9:27,29
    27) Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
    28) For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
    29) And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

    Paul finishes by expounding upon the fact Israel did not gain the righteousness she sought through the Law,
    because they stumbled at the stumbling stone which is Christ.
    But the Gentiles gained righteousness which they were not seeking, by Faith in the Jewish Messiah, that corner stone that the builders rejected.
    Rom 9:30,33
    30) What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
    31) But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
    32) Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
    33) As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

    My addendum to this chapter also comes from Paul
    Rom 11:22
    Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

    So we see by going through the chapter slowly verse by verse, the Predestination that Calvin saw, doesn’t exist, it’s gone up in smoke and mirrors.

    In summery, the Election spoken of here are the Jews, and the Gentiles of the First Church.

    Be Blessed

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