Author Archives: William Chong

Quotes from Semester 1 at Sydney Missionary Bible College, 2018

The sun sets on another semester here at Sydney Missionary Bible College. Year 2 has been harder. We’ve felt busier. God has been good amidst our failures. His Word has searched us deeply and illuminated Christ to us when we needed gospel hope. We’re looking forward to the next few weeks to connect with friends and family and prepare for the second half of the year.

As I’ve compiled previously (Year 1.1, Year 1.2), here are some quotes of what others have said this semester – nuggets of wisdom worth more than the baubles of World Cup football. Most of these were from lectures and chapels; some were from conversations over lunch and dinner with staff and students; a few are quotes from other places. I hope some of these “proverbs” are helpful to you.


From Greek Week

“Congrats on getting through first year. You’ve done the hard yards, now you can start digging for gold.” – Mal Gill

“I pray this will be a difficult year for you, so that you’ll find your identity in Christ.” – M.G.

“Romans is just Isaiah by Paul.” – M.G.

“John’s Gospel is the simplest. But he’s also the most theologically profound. We can be profound and easy to understand.” – M.G.

“Greek is like underwear. Offers good support, should rarely be seen in public.” – M.G.

A post shared by William Chong (@lemmingz) on


On Theology

“If your mind is stretched, that’s OK. We’re talking about the depths of God, and He’s not going to be in simple dot points.” – Mark Adams

“There’s a difference between evangelicals and Catholics regarding attitudes about tradition. Yet we have our own popes. We’re loathe to call them that, but I suspect they function that way. You’re probably inserting their names in your head now.” – Ian Maddock, on the danger of church tradition functioning as a ruling (or co-ruling) norm in theology

“Part of me would love for you all to be carbon copies of me. But that would short-circuit your learning.” – I.M.

“Good theology is often a matter of good grammar. Leviticus tells us sacrifice is not an act of giving up, but giving to God costly acts of devition. Leviticus 1 answers the question: what shall we willingly give to the Lord for all he has done for us?” – Geoff Harper

“Natural theology offers helpful tools. But we can’t argue people in the Kingdom. We need to have confidence in the gospel.” – M.A.

“Is God three? Yes. Is God one? Yes. Is Jesus fully God? Yes. Is Jesus fully human? Yes. We shouldn’t be surprised that the Bible is full of antinomies.” – I.M. on reconciling two apparent truths

“There’s something really neat and tidy about TULIP. There’s lots in it that’s true. But there are lots more strands and threads in the Bible. We should be cautious of collapsing everything about salvation into an acronym. It’s not everything.” – I.M. on understanding Arminian objections to Calvinism

“When we can’t trace your hand, help us to trust your heart.” – Morgan Renew, a prayer concerning God’s sovereignty and the problem of evil

“We’ll get into sticky territory if we use the Trinity as a model for male-female relationships.” – M.A.

“Our culture’s obsession with sex as a core human need makes it hard for Christians to be safely single.” – M.A.

“The bible is mainly interested not in answering, ‘Who am I?’, but ‘Whose am I?'” – M.A.


On Hebrew

“[Biblical languages are vital] because on the mission field, you may end up being the only person who knows Greek or Hebrew.” – Geoff Harper

“No second hand knowledge of the revelation of God for the salvation of a ruined world can suffice the needs of ministry whose function it is to convey this revelation to men, commend it to their acceptance, and apply it in detail to their needs.” – B.B. Warfield


On missions and ministry

“After the terrorist attack in our school, people asked us: is it safe to go back? Well, God will care for us, whether we live or die.” – G.N., former missionary in Pakistan

“The first 20 years of ministry are the hardest. The hardest person to deal with is not other people, but myself, my own sin and weaknesses.” – LT Hopper, who shared about ministry with physical and spiritual arthritis

“We don’t realise how immersed in secularism we are. I was a water-logged Christian in port; or even a submarine Christian.” – Josh Apicezek, CMS France

“Religious freedom is a uniquely Christian contribution.” – Michael Kelleher speaking at the Navigate conference [read a review here]

“I was never converted out of homosexuality, but out of unbelief.” – Rosaria Butterfield at Navigate Conference

“The gospel comes in exchange for the life you love, not in addition to it.” – R.B. at Navigate conference

“[For your LGBTI neighbour to listen to you share Christ], you must have a relationship that’s stronger than your words.” – R.B. at Navigate conference

“I used to think being a missions mobiliser meant presenting Matthew 28 [Go into all the world…]. But what’s actually been more effective is to present Matthew 27 – Jesus dying as a perfect sacrifice of atonement for our sins. Then the rest will flow on from there.” – DB, missionary in South East Asia

“Terrorists as well as saints are the outcome of spiritual formation.” – Dallas Willard on the importance of spiritual formation, Renovating the Heart p.2

“We don’t just learn spiritual formation to prepare for cross-cultural ministry. Entering cross-cultural ministry will lead to spiritual formation.” – Jonathan James

“For every three years you’re away, it takes a year to feel readjusted to home.” – DN, about returning from missions in Pakistan

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From chapels, books and life

“Our goal at this college is for God to form the image of Christ in you. We want to deliver you from barren academia.” – Stuart Coulton’s commencement address

“One of the worst catastrophes for the church is Christian leaders whose capabilities outstrip their character.” – S.C.

“For those so inclined, study and books are a lot more attractive than people and pastoral problems; indeed, because the book that is our chief study is the Bible, we may actually justify our callousness towards people by claiming the priority of the study of the Bible, when a little self-examination suggests that at least in part we are pursuing our preferences.” – Don Carson, The Trials of Theology: Becoming a Proven Worker in a Dangerous Business, p.119 [article here]

“Unity only works when we remember what God has done to make us one – it cost him His Son.” – Kit Barker, on Psalm 133

“You can’t walk away from the supremacy of Christ and doubt your forgiveness. You also can’t walk way and think Jesus is only moderately important.” – S.C. on Colossians 1:16-23 [audio here]

“I LOVE weeding! It’s like pulling out SIN!” – Heidi Sham

“[For the early Israelites,] Presenting a present to God was a bloody and self-involved affair. It’s worship with an apron.” – G.H. on Leviticus 1

“So has your character changed in any significant way? Or have you just grown fat and useless?” – S.C. on Psalm 19

What is sin? Where did it come from? How is it transmitted?

(Note: This is a practice exam response and is sketchy in some places)

Scripture presents the history of how humanity is separated from God because of their sin, and how God orchestrates a plan in order to remedy humankind’s state. But what is sin, and how has it come to us today?

1. A definition of sin

In Western culture, it is common to talk about certain socially harmful activities as sins – smoking, overeating and so on. However, biblical sin must be understood primarily in reference to God, not to personal or community standards. Therefore, Grudem summarises biblical sin as: “Any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude or nature.” This definition covers not only things we do which go against what God requires of us, such as lying, stealing or committing adultery (Ex 20:2-17), but extends to sinful thoughts such as anger (Mt 5:22) or lust (Mt 5:28), and even our very essence (Eph 2:3, Rom 5:8).

The Bible describes sin using many different words and pictures. The most common term for sin in the Bible (OT: חתא; NT: ἁμαρτια) carries the meaning of missing the mark, or falling short of something. While the idea of sin as falling short is most well-known, it is by no means the only one in the Bible. Since sin is our disposition before a Holy God, it can variously stated and described, depending on which aspect of God a writer is presenting. For example:
– If God is King, sin is rebellion (OT: פשׁע)
– If God is Husband, sin is adultery (e.g. Hosea 1:2, Ezekiel 16)
– If God is Judge, sin is lawbreaking (NT: ανομια, παραβασις)
– If God is Glory, sin is idolatry (e.g. Romans 1:23)
– If God is Wisdom, sin is foolishness (e.g. Proverbs)
– If God is Holy, sin is impurity or uncleanness (e.g. Leviticus, Isaiah 6)
The variegated images of sin in the Bible underscores both its ubiquitous nature, but also the limits of employing a single definition.

Despite sin’s variegated nature, there are three core characteristics of sin: a distrust of God’s Word (Gen 3:1), a misplaced desire (Gen 3:6a), and consequently a disobedience of God’s Word (Gen 3:6b). The prototype transgressions of Adam and Eve is seen time and time again throughout the biblical narrative – in the lives and actions of the patriarchs, arrogant judges, adulterous kings, disobedient Israel and bloodthirsty nations, and through to the moral depravity of our own generation. Behind every sin is a desire to displace God with something else that absorbs our heart and affections more – whether ourselves (i.e. pride) or something else (i.e. idoltary). Romans 1:18-32 offers an anatomy of sin, where the worship of the Creator is replaced with the worship of creation, resulting in a corrupt state that is beyond our own ability to remedy.

2. The origin of sin

Where did sin come from? To affirm the good and just character of God (Deut 32:4) we must clearly affirm that God Himself is not responsible for sin. Rather, each person is “tempted when, by his own desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (James 1:14) Yet we should not say either that sin is some kind of eternal power equal to God (i.e. dualism). If we assume the truthfulness of the historical fall of Adam and Eve (3:1-16, see also 2 Cor 11:3), then sin originated with them – firstly with the distrust, covetousness and disobedience of our first parents, yet also inside every subsequent human heart (Mk 7:20-23). Yet by assigning the responsibility to humanity, we are not then placing sin outside the foreknowledge or providence of God (who works all things according to the counsel of his will, Eph 1:11). While God is not the author of sin, He has permitted sin in His world with a predetermination to overcome it at great cost to Himself, through the cross of Jesus Christ.

3. The transmission of sin

There are a number of ways in which the sin of the first humans described in the Bible (Gen 3:1-16) affects us today. The first is that, because of Adam’s sin, all humans inherit a sinful nature (depravity). Oliver Crisp calls this “the morally vitiated condition from which all subsequent human beings suffer.” The Bible presents this inherited sinful nature as a matter of fact. For example, David, while confessing his sin, mentions in Psalm 51:5 that “surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” The Apostle Paul notes that prior to our salvation by grace, we were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:3). Because of God’s kindness and restraint through civil laws, societal norms and our own consciences, this “inherited tendency” to sin does not mean that every human being is as bad as they could be. Yet without the work of Christ, every person is “darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Eph 4:18)

The second way which Adam’s sin affects us today is that all humans share in Adam’s guilt – though Christians differ on their views regarding the nature of our relationship with Adam’s sin. Some argue that we inherit both Adam’s sinful nature and his guilt (Federal View). The clearest passage outlining that we inherit his guilt is Romans 5:12-21. While comparing Jesus with Adam, Paul states that “Just as the result of [Adam’s] trespass led to condemnation for all men…” (Rom 5:18a), and that “just as through the disobedience of the man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Rom 5:19) Paul’s point is that Adam served as our legal representative before God, and we are counted culpable before him (just as in Christ we can be counted righteous through faith in Him).

Some disagree that Adam serves as our federal head – often because of a moral or legal objection to the idea that Adam’s sin is imputed directly to the rest of humanity who were not there to “sin with him”. Instead, some argue that Adam’s guilt was transmitted to us because we were united to him in a real sense – we were actually in Adam when he sinned (Realist View). In this view, we are either literal chips off the block of Adam (the individualised nature argument), or were pre-existentially united to him (the fission / “Interstellar” argument), or share in his nature directly as members of the human race (the participation argument). Still others would argue that Adam’s guilt was not shared with us, but only his morally deficient nature (the Zwinglian view).

The overriding concern from those who reject the Federal View seems to be a sense of legal injustice – how can I be held guilty for Adam’s sin? This objection fails to recognise that we are also guilty before God in a real sense because we have sinned ourselves: “For there is no difference: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Rom 3:23) The charge of unfairness could also apply to Christ serving as our righteous representative – how is that fair either? So an appeal to our limited sense of fairness cannot be the only criteria for assessing this point. The Bible itself does not speculate extensively on whether this sin is mediately or immediately imputed to us, but simply acknowledges that humanity shares in both Adam’s sinful nature (Rom 5:12, 17) and his guilt (Rom 5:16, 18). How marvellous it is then for God to orchestrate the reversal of sin’s penalty and effects “through the one man, Jesus Christ”! (Rom 5:17)


(Time: 2 hours… too long!)

Sources and helpful links

  • Adams, Mark. “Doctrine of Sin.” NT601 The Knowledge of God (Lecture Notes), Sydney Missionary Bible College, 2018.
  • Grudem, Wayne. “Sin.” Pages 490-514 of Systematic Theology. Leiceister: IVP, 1994.
  • Crisp, Oliver. “Sin.” Pages 194-215 of Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic. Edited by Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016.

What are the key elements of justification in Paul’s letters?

[Note: this is a practice essay response, and is therefore sketchy in places]

How does a Holy God forgive guilty sinners? How is one justified, or made right before God? This question lies at the heart of the entire Bible, and is answered in full by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, the NT author who writes most about the doctrine of justification, teaches that there are three main elements to justification: a removal of God’s wrath against our unrighteousness, a crediting of Jesus’s righteousness to us, and that it is received by grace through faith in Christ.

1. Justification is the removal of God’s ANGER

The first element of justification is that it is the removal of God’s settled opposition to human sin – His wrath. Paul opens his letter to the Romans by reminding them that “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Rom 1:17, quoting Habbakuk 2:4). The reason that faith is the basis for righteousness is given in the very next verse: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth…” (Rom 1:18) These transgressions are not merely horizontal in nature (e.g. Gentile-Jew relationships), but a self-centred rejection of God Himself (Rom 1:21) and is evidenced in all kinds of ways. Paul’s argument over Romans 1-3 culminates in the summary that “there is none righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10).

It is inconsistent with God’s character and actions over history to “justify the wicked” (Ex 23:7, Prov 17:15). As a result, the fair response from God “for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth” must be “wrath and anger” (Rom 2:8). Given this state of affairs, in order for God to clear the guilty and “declare righteous the ungodly” (Rom 4:5), some kind of action to turn away this wrath is required.

Paul repeatedly teaches that Christ’s death solves this dilemma; in His death, he bears God’s wrath for sin in our place. Romans 3:24-25 states that sinners have been justified (δικαιούμενοι) freely by God’s grace through Christ, of whom God presents as a propitiation (or atoning sacrifice) for our sins. This language of Christ taking our penalty as a substitute is also evident in other passages such as Galatians 3:13 (“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us”) and 2 Cor 5:19 (“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”) So to understand what it means to be justified, we first recognise that it involves the removal of God’s wrath against our unrighteousness.

2. Justification is a righteousness TRANSFER

Justification is not merely the removal of guilt; a mnemonic like “Just as if I never sinned” actually falls short of fully covering what occurs. According to Paul, the second element of justification is that God in Christ credits, or imputes His genuine righteousness to us. Paul summarises chapter three by stating that one is “justified by faith apart from the works of the Law.” (Rom 3:28) Then, in Romans 4:2-6, citing Abraham’s response to God, Paul uses a new term, λογίζεται (reckoned, credited), to illustrate a close connection with justification. culminating in the use of both terms his summary in Romans 4:6:

“just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works

The last clause (underlined) mirrors the syntax of Romans 3:28, except that Paul swaps the term “justified” with “reckons righteousness”. This language of crediting helps us to visualise that justification is also a transfer of Christ’s righteousness. In Romans 5:18-19, Paul states that “through the obedience of the One many will be appointed righteous” – he does this to emphasise that when sinners are justified, Christ’s obedience is genuinely transferred to our account.

Therefore, justification does not only mean “just as if I’ve never sinned”, but also “just as if I’ve always obeyed” – because the righteousness of Christ’s perfect life has really been transferred to us.

3. The MEANS of justification is “by grace through faith”

How is the removal of God’s wrath and the crediting of Christ’s righteousness appropriated to us? Paul uses the terms “by grace” and “through faith” repeatedly throughout his writings to emphasise the only means of being made right before God (e.g. Rom 3:24, 4:16, 5:17, Tit 3:7, Eph 2:8). The distinction between the two is that God’s grace is the source of our justification, while our faith is the means by which we receive this justification.

For example, while explaining how Abraham was justified by faith not works, Paul explains that justification is received by “the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly” (Rom 4:5). Other passages in Paul’s writings clearly portray faith as the instrument for receiving a righteousness from God (e.g. Rom 3:22-30, 4:6, 5:1, Phil 3:9). This faith is also in view when Paul states in Romans 10:10 that “for with the heart one believes, [resulting] in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [resulting] in salvation.” The appropriate response therefore, is to “declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9)

In conclusion, Paul’s teaching on justification is that firstly, it is a removal of God’s wrath against sin, it is a crediting of Christ’s righteousness, and that this “great exchange” is obtained through a personal response of faith in what Jesus has done on our behalf.


[60 minutes]

Sources and helpful links:

  • Thompson, Alan. “Righteousness and Justification in Paul.” NT635 Romans and Pauline Theology (Lecture Notes), Sydney Missionary Bible College, 2018.
  • Thompson, Alan. “Greek Exegesis: Romans 1-6.” NT635 Romans and Pauline Theology (Lecture Notes), Sydney Missionary Bible College, 2018.
  • PSALLOS, Romans album.

What are some different views of how the Bible is inspired?

(Note: This is a practice answer to a possible exam question and is therefore sketchy in places)


How can the Bible be both a divine book and a human book? How should we understand the words of Scripture to be God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16)? Christians have proposed a number of views regarding the inspiration of the Bible, which we will survey briefly. Each view attempts to explain how the Scriptures can be written by humans and divinely given at the same time.

At the outset, we should clarify that the technical term “inspiration” is potentially misleading, given the contemporary use of the term to describe far less than God’s divine supervision (e.g. songwriters, athletes and performers are “inspired”). Some have suggested abandoning this term: for example, AT McGowan prefers the term “divine spiration”, while Wayne Grudem avoids the term altogether and simply states that Scripture is God’s own words. For our purposes we will retain the term inspiration, acknowledging its longstanding use.

Firstly, the mechanical (or dictation) view states that humans were passive in the process of recording God’s Word. They functioned like typewriters or instruments and played little part in the process. Most patristic writers and some Fundamentalists today hold to this view. For example, Athenagorus wrote: “the Spirit [made] use of them as a flute player breathes into a flute.” While this view is attractive because of its simplicity, there is a docetic assumption behind it which devalues the human authors’ contribution to Scripture (for example, Luke’s polished historical narrative, or Mark’s marketplace narration). Christians need not resort to an Islamic or Mormon view of inspiration, where the human authors were merely downloading Scripture from God.

Another view formulated by German theologian Karl Barth is the encounter view. In this view, the Bible is not viewed as God’s revelation; rather, Jesus Himself is. The Bible, rather, functions as a witness to “the event” – an existential encounter with God. Only once this encounter occurs does the Bible become God’s Word. Barth’s view of inspiration arose from a broader desire to form a theology around the Word, as well as him being wary of bibliolatry. As a result, he chose to define revelation so that it is not an objective item to be dissected and analysed (i.e. the Bible). The encounter view therefore, would not affirm that the Bible in its essence is God’s Word. This view is attractive to some as it avoids the issue of attributing difficult passages or human elements to divine supervision (since the Bible is merely a witness to revelation and not the revelation itself). However, the encounter view fails to consider the possibility that God’s Word can be both the content of the revelation and the revelation itself. Ian Maddock offers the analogy that, while a handwritten marriage proposal becomes a proposal (the event) once it’s opened, even if it is not opened the document (the content) is still intrinsically a proposal. In other words, using Barth’s terminology, the Bible can certainly be God’s Word in itself, and become it.

Given the limits of the two views above, it seems best, therefore to embrace both the divine supervision and human contribution to the formation of God-breathed Scripture. A verbal plenary view of inspiration states that all of the Bible, down to each word, ultimately comes from God. For example, 2 Peter 1:21 describes this process: “…men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Again, this is not to subscribe to a mechanical view of inspiration: rather, God superintends the background, heritage and circumstances of individual writers so that their written work is both their own free compositions, and the very Word of God. The meticulous research of Luke’s history in Luke and Acts is as divinely inspired as John receiving the letters in Revelation 2 by dictation.

The verbal plenary view of inspiration is held by many evangelical Christians today. A verbal plenary view contends that every word written is superintended and guided by God, regardless of the means. Michael Horton notes that biblical writers were moved to say things, both by God entering their lives and thoughts, as well as by his Spirit preparing and guiding their lives to make His Word come forth from their own minds and hearts. This dual-authorship view of the Bible upholds both divine and human agency so we are able to confidently believe that the Bible is truly God’s Word to us.


Evaluate the ‘verbal-plenary’ view of inspiration in relation to alternative theories of inspiration.
(40 minutes)

Sources and helpful links:

  • Maddock, Ian. “Characteristics of Scripture: Inspired and Authoritative.” NT601 The Knowledge of God (Lecture Notes), Sydney Missionary Bible College, 2018.
  • Grudem, Wayne. “The Authority of Scripture.” Pages 73-89 of Systematic Theology. Leiceister: IVP, 1994.
  • Horton, Michael. The Christian Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.
  • Frame, John. Review of AT McGowan’s The Divine Spiration of Scripture, 2007. https://frame-poythress.org/review-of-andrew-mcgowans-the-divine-spiration-of-scripture/

 

What part does Romans 9-11 play in the structure of the whole letter?

(Note: This is a practice exam question response and is therefore sketchy in parts)


How Paul’s extended discussion of Israel in Romans 9-11 fits into the wider argument of the letter is debated. Views range across a spectrum: some see Romans 9-11 as an unrelated segué from Paul’s exposition of the gospel (cf Dodd); others see it as a systematic treatment on the topic of predestination (cf Augustine, other Reformers); while some go further and champion Romans 9-11 as the “germ and centre” of the letter (cf FC Baur). My contention is that Romans 9-11 is not a random sidebar, but a necessary and timely response to what Paul has presented so far in Romans 1-8 concerning the gospel of God.

1. Background to Romans 9-11

Paul’s magisterial exposition was written to a mixed audience of Jew and Gentile believers. If we take the lead of Luke’s description of the Jews being expelled from Rome in Acts 18:2, and allow for a subsequent return, it seems plausible that a power shift has occurred within the church in Rome. Jewish believers formerly in leadership roles have now been replaced by the remaining Gentiles. In addition, Paul’s anguish for his kinsfolk seems to imply that, despite their privileges (Rom 9:4-5), Jewish people are not experiencing the blessings of salvation (Rom 9:1-3). A natural question from a Jewish person would be: “Has God’s Word failed?”

Doug Moo also notes that this tension is partially Paul’s own doing, since in chapters 1-4 he has argued strongly that the Mosaic law has no salvific benefit, and since in chapters 5-8 he has attributed to Gentile believers numerous Old Testament prophecies, the promises of Israel, and even the language of sonship and adoption into God’s family. A question naturally follows: if Jews aren’t responding to the gospel in faith, while Gentiles are being “grafted in”, has Israel been excluded from God’s promises? This is the underlying question that likely prompts Paul to switch to the extended discussion in Romans 9-11.

2. Summary of Romans 9-11

We see in Paul’s exposition of the Old Testament (a third of his OT quotations in Romans are found in these chapters) a desire to rebuff the objection that God’s Word regarding Israel has failed. In Romans 9-10, Paul uses several OT examples to underscore the fact that Jews and Jewish Christians do not have a salvific birthright due to their ethnicity. For example:
– God chose Isaac and not Ishmael to bear Abraham’s descendants (Rom 9:7; Gen 21:12)
– God chose Jacob and not Esau to be loved (Rom 9:12);
– Hosea records God’s unexpected mercy for an adulterous Israel
– Gentiles have accepted the gospel, and not Israel (Rom 10:16-21)

Paul’s argument is that God’s kindness through history has always depended on his sovereign choice, and Jewish people therefore cannot presume to inherit salvation. One might then ask: “Has God rejected his people then?” (Rom 11:1) The reply is an emphatic no! (Rom 11:2). Paul defends God’s character by making two important points to his original hearers: firstly, that Israel’s present rejection is not total (Rom 11:1-10, in particular citing the example of a remnant who do not bow down to Baal in 1 Kings 19:18), and secondly, that Israel’s current plight is not final (Rom 11:11-32). God is faithful to keep his promises, and there will be salvation among national Israel (Rom 11:25-26). Regardless of one’s view regarding the nature of “all Israel”, Paul’s main point is clear – God has not abandoned Israel.

3. Conclusions from Romans 9-11

Paul’s overall argument is sophisticated, as he balances between the gospel’s scandalous assertion that “Christ is the fulfilment of the law to all who believes” (Rom 10:4) with the need to show that this gospel finds support in the OT scriptures. By echoing the theme of God’s unexpected mercy through chapters 9-11 using a plethora of OT motifs such as lineage, grafting and remnant, Paul shows how the gospel of God’s righteousness revealed can be supported by his Jewish audience, and should elicit a response among them of praise at the depths of God’s wisdom, knowledge and might. Furthermore, given that Israel’s plight is not final, it also behoves Gentile believers to avoid our own ethnocentric attitudes, and to pray earnestly for God’s promises to be fulfilled for their Jewish brothers and sisters.

In conclusion, Paul’s discussion in Rom 9-11 is a necessary response to the charge that Israel’s rejection of the gospel undermines the trustworthiness of God’s promises (Rom 9:6). In addition, Rom 9-11’s overall theme of God’s unexpected mercy is closely tied to the letter’s overall message of God’s righteousness revealed through the gospel – the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection for all who believe – both Jew and Greek (Rom 1:17).


(45 minutes)

Sources and helpful links:

  • Thompson, Alan. “Israel and Romans 9-11.” NT635 Romans and Pauline Theology (Lecture Notes), Sydney Missionary Bible College, 2018.
  • Moo, Douglas. The Epistle to the Romans. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.
  • Thielman, F. “Unexpected Mercy: Echoes of a Biblical Motif in Romans 9-11,” Scottish Journal of Theology 47 (1994): 169-81.

Extra notes: Four main views regarding the interpretation of Romans 11:25-26

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. In this way all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25-26, NIV2011)

View 1: All Israel refers to a spiritual Israel, made up of Jew and Gentile

  • Held by John Calvin, OP Robertson, RP Martin, NT Wright
  • Yet the preceding verses (Rom 9:6, 11:27-24, 11:25) and following (11:28) are clearly national Israel

View 2: All Israel refers to all Jewish people, regardless of whether they have faith in Christ

  • A universalist, non-evangelical view
  • Paul’s sorrow and anguish for his Jewish brothers and sisters (Rom 9:2-3) makes no sense with this view

View 3: All “elect” Israel will be saved throughout history, i.e. refers to Jewish people now

  • Held by Donald Robinson, H Ridderbos, A Hoekema, Sam Storms, Colin Kruse
  • AT: Most common view in Sydney
  • If οὕτος means “in this manner” (e.g. NIV2011, ESV) then the logic of v25-26 is: Israel hardens, Gentiles accept. In this manner, Israel will be saved (through history)

View 4: A large group of Jewish people representing Israel will be saved in the future

  • Held by DA Carson, John Piper, CEB Cranfield, James Dunn, Ian Murray, others
  • If οὕτος means “then” or “and so” (e.g. NIV1984, NET, KJV) then the logic of v25-26 is: Israel hardens, Gentiles accept, and then Israel will be saved (at a future date)
  • “All Israel” in Josh 7:15, 1 Sam 7:5 and 1 Kings 12:1 refer to a representative group

The overall point, whether one holds to 3 or 4, is that Paul has not abandoned Israel. God will keep his promises!