Steve Sewell, “Strong Argument Against Calvinism: Romans 11:7”

, posted by Steve Sewell

“What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened.”  ESV (Romans 11:7)

Perhaps one of the strongest arguments against the Calvinist’s view of election can be seen in Romans, chapter 11.  A lot can be said about this chapter that supports the Arminian view of election, but in this article I only want to focus on one of those points, and it’s huge.

In Romans 11:7, it refers to “Israel” and the “elect” of Israel. It also refers to the “rest” of Israel. Paul goes on in detail about the rest, and how the rest still has opportunity to come to faith in Christ, as he makes clear in Ro 11:11,14,23,24.

According to the Calvinist’s view of election, everyone who is going to get saved was chosen to get saved before man was even created; that it was a done deal somewhere in eternity past. If that is true, then how can Paul refer to the “elect” of Israel on one hand, and then go on to discuss how the “rest” of Israel still has the opportunity to be “grafted back into their own olive tree?” (vs. 24)

Verse 11 says, “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!” (NIV). The stumbling of unbelieving Israel is not beyond recovery. The opportunity is still there for them as individuals. But the whole point that I’m making in this article, is that Paul makes a distinction between the “elect” of Israel and the “rest” of Israel who can still be grafted back into the tree of salvation if they do not continue in their unbelief (vs. 23). But if the Calvinist’s interpretation of election is correct, then how can there be any opportunity for the “rest” to be grafted back in if they are not among the “elect?” The Calvinist position on this point is very hard to defend.

The only way you can make sense out of the distinction Paul makes between the “elect” and the “rest,” is to view it from the Corporate Election position. This “cultivated olive tree” that Paul describes in this chapter, is the perfect picture of corporate election. According to this position, we as individuals are elect because we are members of the body of Christ. We are not, as Calvinism teaches, members of the body of Christ because we are the elect.

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