Does Romans 9 Teach Predestination for Some or Salvation for all?

Many take Romans 9 to say that God has chosen some people to be saved and others to be lost without any will or choice of their own. They call this predestination. So let’s take a deeper look at this chapter and see for ourselves. We will also let the Bible explain itself. 

With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. Romans 9:1-3 NLT 

Wow! This is amazing. Paul would rather be eternally lost rather than see his community perish. This reminds me of Moses’ prayer in Exodus 32:32. It reminds me of Jesus being willing to die the second death in order to save the world. I have to ask myself if I love those I give Bible studies to this much? I can only imagine that such love must really change lives. By is Paul so concerned about his fellow Jews? 

They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.  Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.  For God had promised, “I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” This son was our ancestor Isaac. When he married Rebekah, she gave birth to twins. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” Romans 9:4-12 NLT 

Paul is concerned because not all of his fellow Jews have accepted Christ. Yet they think they are God’s special people just because they are Jews and Abraham is their father.  In John 8:31-59 Jesus told the Pharisees the real children are Abraham are the ones who believe in Him as the Messiah. There was nothing special about being a Jew or a descendant of Abraham apart from the promised Messiah.  Paul shares a similar message with the Galatians in Galatians 4:21-31. in this passage Paul tells us that Hagar represents bondage to legalism and works while the child of promise, Isaac, represents those who believe in God’s promise and accept salvation by believing in the promised Messiah. The entire book of Romans assures us that while the promised Messiah came from Abraham’s Jewish blood line that salvation is offered to the entire world. 

After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Romans 3:29-30 NLT

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Romans 5:18 NLT

It is important that we keep in mind that the entire book of Romans is clear that salvation is offered to everyone regardless if they are Jew or Gentile. Romans 9 is not grappling with who is chosen to be saved, but rather who was chosen to be ancestors of the promised Messiah who would bring salvation to the entire world. 

In the words of the Scriptures, “I loved Jacob, but I rejected Esau.” Romans 9:13 NLT

This does not mean that God rejected Esau for salvation. It only means that God rejected Esau from having the birthright and being the ancestor of the promised Messiah. Jacob was preferred to be the ancestor of the promised Messiah. In the KJV it says, Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated.” It is important for us to see how the KJV uses the word hate and even more important how Jesus uses the word hate. 

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 KJV 

Of course Jesus did not mean we must hate our families the way we think of hate today. Love and hate show our preferences. To love means to put one first and to hate means to put one last. The NLT helps clarify this idea. 

If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 NLT 

So the NLT also helps clarify how the KJV is using the word hate when God says He loves Jacob but hated Esau. Eternal salvation is not the issue. God simple preferred Jacob to have the blessing of being the promised Messiah’s ancestor over Esau. 

Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it. For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?” No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?”  When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles. Romans 9:14-24 NLT 

Some take these words to mean that God chooses some people to be lost without any will of their own, but this clearly is not idea of this passage. First none of us deserve salvation in the first place. God is not defending His right to not save people. We all have sinned and deserve death. In this passage God is only defending His right to be merciful. You may not believe what I am saying but stay with me! In a moment the Bible is going to explain this passage itself. Meanwhile let’s understand what God is talking about when he says the potter makes one jar for decoration and another for holding garbage. Again this is not talking about eternal salvation. It simply means once again some were chosen to be a part of the promised Messiah’s bloodline while others were not. Also that God uses some of us to glorify God by being honored and He uses some of us to glorify God through our suffering. For example Elijah honored God by being taken into heaven in a chariot of fire. John the Baptist honored God by being beheaded in a lonely prison cell. Did God love Elijah more than John the Baptist? No way! Is Elijah the only one of the two who are eternally saved? Not at all! Both are saved, but one the Potter used as a jar for decoration while the other was used a garbage jar. Both have their part in the big picture of salvation. Both are dearly loved by God. Romans 9:14-24 is making the point that God honors some and dishonors others in order to save the entire world. 

Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, “Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.” And, “Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God. And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth quickly and with finality.” And Isaiah said the same thing in another place: “If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.” Romans 9:25-29 NLT 

Instead of saying that God only wants Jews to be saved this passage is telling us God plans to save Gentiles as well as Jews. Romans 9 is not about God having the right to deny anyone salvation. It is about His right to save the entire world. Now so there will not be any confusion on this point Paul is about to sum it up. The Bible is about to explain itself as I promised. 

What does all this mean? Romans 9:30 NLT 

Okay here is our cue to pay close attention. To avoid all confusion about the meaning of Romans 9 Paul is getting ready to tell us exactly what it all means. 

What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path. God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, “I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Romans 9:30-33 NLT 

Does Paul tell us that everything we just read in Romans 9 is about predestination? No! It is about how we are all saved Jews and Gentiles alike not by our national heritage, works or legalism. We are all saved, Jews and Gentiles alike by believing in the promised Messiah who came through Abraham’s ancestry. As God told Abraham, “All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” See Genesis 12:3. The Jews were not preferred above the Gentiles for salvation. The Jews were only preferred to be the ones who would give birth to the Messiah Who was  promised to every nation. 

I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Haggai 2:7 NLT 

Let’s not make the same mistake many Jews made in the days of Jesus and the days of Paul. Let’s not trust our national or even our religious affiliations to save us. Let’s not trust our works or legalism to save us. Let’s put all our hope in our only hope- the Promised Messiah.

As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:11-13 NLT 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School Lesson here.