Does Romans 9-11 Teach Calvinist Predestination?

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Does Romans 9-11 teach Calvinist predestination?

In these few chapters of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Ben Witherington explains that Paul’s aim is to refute certain assumptions that the Gentiles in Rome appear to have believed. Namely, Roman Christians assumed that God now favored the Romans, or Gentiles, rather than the Jews (read more about the church at Rome here). The argument as a whole in Rom. 9-11 then is about corporate election, not individual election.

What about the issues of predestination and salvation, and how do they relate to election? Ben Witherington reminds us that these terms should not be conflated—they each have different meanings. First, you can be part of an elect group and not be saved. That’s because election is about God calling a specific people for specific tasks on earth. For example, Cyrus was God’s anointed servant to release Israel from captivity, but he was a pagan and not saved (Isa. 45:1). Also, although God foreknew Israel corporately, not all were necessarily saved. Only two among God’s elect from Egypt made it to Canaan after wandering the desert.

So does Romans 9-11 teach Calvinist predestination? The point seems to be a different one. It is about not boasting in your status before God, because ultimately, your behavior will affect your standing before God. As Ben Witherington likes to say, “You’re not eternally secure until your securely in eternity.” Indeed, if God has grafted in the Gentiles because of Israel’s failure, should the Gentiles fail, they too can be broken off (Rom. 11:11-24).

View all of our resources on the book of Romans.

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Dr. Witherington joined the Asbury Seminary faculty in 1995. A prolific author, Dr. Witherington has written more than 40 books and six commentaries. He is a John Wesley Fellow for Life, a research fellow at Cambridge University and a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Society of Biblical Literature, Society for the Study of the New Testament and the Institute for Biblical Research. In his leisure time, Dr. Witherington appreciates both music and sports. It is hard to say which sound he prefers: the sophisticated sonance of jazz sensation Pat Metheny or the incessant tomahawk chant of the Atlanta Braves faithful. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, he is a dedicated Tar Heels basketball and football fan. He and his wife, Ann, have two children.


  1. I see there is a video on Romans 7 on sinning and this one on chapters 9-11 but wish there was one on Romans 8 because verses 29-30 are keeping me from agreeing with Ben’s phrase at 5:10 “foreknowledge does not predetermine who is saved.”

    Romans 8:29-30(RSV)

    29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    • The Golden chain of salvation cannot be broken. People chosen from the foundation of the world is seen everywhere throughout the Bible.