Does Romans 9 Teach Unconditional Salvation?

Some have taken Rom 9:15-16 (“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. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”) to teach unconditional salvation. But the context shows us the text is not talking about individual election to salvation, but the choosing of the Gentile nation as a whole (more of them accepted the gospel).

God chose the Jews as his special people (nation) in the Old Testament. God elected Isaac, and then Jacob over Esau to be the men his chosen people would descend from (verse 7b). The potter and clay illustration in verse 21 is taken from Jer 18:6-10 which is discussing God’s favor or punishment “concerning a nation.” So Romans 9 is a discussion of choosing a nation (Genesis 25:23, Malachi 1:1-4), not any individual’s eternal destiny. The point is → just as God had the right to choose the Israelites as his chosen people back then, so now he also has the right to select another people (the Gentiles, verse 24).

Verse 15 quotes from Exod 33:13-19 where God reiterates that the Jews are his chosen people. That is the sense in which God would have mercy, He would bless them as his chosen people. Even the Calvinist agrees this is not talking about individual salvation, because not all Jews were saved.

God’s people now are equal to the saved (from whatever nation), and that salvation is conditional:

· Rom 9:30 … the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

· Rom 9:33 … whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

We become a “vessel of mercy” (9:23) conditionally: II Tim 2:21 – If a man … purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, … meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.

“Mercy” (individual forgiveness of sins) is conditional:

· Proverbs 28:13 He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

· Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and … let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Conclusion: Romans 9 does not teach unconditional salvation, but defends God’s sovereign right to accept the Gentiles on par with the Jews (Gal 3:28).


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