Romans 9-11: Jews, Gentiles and Calvinism

What is Paul's purpose in Romans 9-11? How does this purpose fit into the purpose and argument of Romans as a whole?

In this pericope Paul has come to "speak the truth in Christ" and that the truth he is speaking is confirmed by the Holy Spirit in him (Romans 9:1). It is clear then that what Paul is telling us, here, and in prior chapters, is that he is not merely speaking as a man but is transmitting divine truths inspired by God Himself. Any audience, especially if it included a faith ful Jew, would have paid close attention to what Paul is declaring in Romans generally and in this pericope. His presentation, of Justification by Faith, then was probably an antithesis or at the very least a merging belief, to present Judaism or religiosity in general.

Primarily, I believe the question or issue of Israel's future or continued purpose in God's plan of salvation for the world rests in chapters 9-11. In the application of Justification by Faith though Paul is drawing lines, especially in his culture. With these lines, though, came the issue of the "New Israel" or "Spiritual Israel" or how this salvation, to all men, be applicable to Gentiles and Jews. Questions then arise like, is the Church Spiritual Israel, what of future Jewish salvation, are the Jews still God's chosen people, or does God have two brides, for whom did Christ die, and etc.

Paul explains that ancestry or lineage is not an entitlement to salvation, it is those within the covenant or promise--no matter their bloodline (c.f. Galatians 3:28). I have always thought that the Jews were feeling excessive entitlement due to their lineage. I think some focus may have shifted from a covenant with a people to a people in a covenant, the emphasis turned to self-preservation. It is the covenant that was binding and important to God, not necessarily a particular race. I think this is very much of what Paul is making plain in this pericope.

In these chapters lay a veritable gold mine of dicussion. One thing I learned as I studied these chapters though, or the book of Roman generally, is that I feel Paul speaks to both groups collectively (both Jew and Gentile) at times and then to an individual group alone ("I speak to you who are Gentiles..." Romans 11:13. See, Lake, Kirsopp (1911). The Earlier Epistles of St. Paul (370). London: Rivingtons).

Second, I believe Paul is more concerned with Jewish and Gentile relations than we may give him credit for or ponder upon much today. Today, there is one body, the Body of Christ of which all can be a part. Immediately this view flew in the face of Israel and currently it flies in the face of Calvinism's ideals.

As mentioned earlier, it is possible that the Jews, possibly not all, felt entitlement due to race and not because of a covenant situated by God. I feel that many felt that they were in an eternal entitlement where many were actually "astonshed" (Acts 10:45 NIV) because God would allow Gentiles to be saved (c.f. Acts 10:40-48).

As it relates to Calvinism, I believe it weakens the third point in the T.U.L.I.P., limited atonement (1). I believe as well that the Calvinist and the Jew may find some common ground here, sadly. The Jews were in a covenant whereby God had elected them as a people. Conversely, the Calvinist feels that this relationship is maintained whereas Paul is clearly telling us that the covenant includes true Jews (c.f. Romans 9:6-8) and Gentiles, or non Jewish people--whosoever will. The Jew and the Calvinist then seem to verge on an excessive view of particularism. Someting God is In Romans 10:13 Paul states, "For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." (NKJV) "The word whosoever is used more than 110 times in the New Testament and always with an unrestricted meaning."(2) (cf. John 3:16; Acts 2:21, 10:43).

In addition, in Romans 5:6 Paul states, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." (NKJV) "The word all, or an equivalent term, is used to denote everyone. Christ died for the ungodly—everyone is ungodly (Rom. 5:6); Christ died for all, suggesting everyone (2 Cor. 5:14–15; 1 Tim. 2:6; 4:10; Tit. 2:11; Heb. 2:9; 2 Pet. 3:9)."(3)

God does not avoid particularity, but neither does he create men for wrath and without access to salvation. “The Bible teaches that Christ died for ‘sinners’ (Rom. 5:6–8, 1 Tim. 1:15; ). The word ‘sinners’ nowhere means ‘church’ or ‘the elect,’ but simply all of lost mankind.”(4) I believe Dr. Elmer Towns sums up my view nicely, "the death of Jesus Christ was for all people of all time."(5)

Chapter 11 is perhaps my favorite among this pericope. In it we see that Israel's rejection was not total nor was it final (1-10), that salvation has come to the Gentiles (11-25), and that all Israel will be saved (25-end). In this one chapter we see a panaromic view of God's salvation from Jew to Gentile and a possible eschatalogical salvation of Israel.


1. "limited atonement Also, particular redemption. Doctrine in Calvinism that Christ died only for the elect who are the only recipients of salvation. Many medieval schoolmen had similar teachings." Kurian, G. T. (2001). Nelson's new Christian dictionary : The authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs.

2. Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary, 1947), 3:204.

3. Enns, P. P. (1997, c1989). The Moody handbook of theology (327). Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press.

4. Elwell, Walter E. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 99.

5. Towns, Elmer. Theology for Today, Copyright © 2002 by Wadsworth Group. Pg. 428

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