Romans 9 Exegesis by Dr. James White

Recently, Reformed Baptist apologist Dr. James White has offered a helpful exegetical consideration of Romans chapter 9 on his webcast, The Dividing Line. Beginning with the last section of Romans 8 and working his way through all of Romans 9, Dr. White demonstrates how the subject of God’s electing love in this passage must refer to individuals, rather than nations. (Hear the exegesis HERE.)

To prompt discussion at this blog, I would like to to pose SBF readers with the following question- one that is alluded to, but not directly discussed by Dr. White. The question is this: In the verses known as the “Golden Chain of Redemption” (Romans 8:29-30), why is the word “sanctified” left out, when we may expect to find it between “justified” and “glorified”?

I know that it is often unwise to ask why God did not choose to place certain things in Scripture, but I believe that there is a discernable reason why “sanctified” would have been out of place in this passage.

Explore posts in the same categories: Exegetical Issues

23 Comments on “Romans 9 Exegesis by Dr. James White”

  1. Ted Says:

    Because Paul’s subject in this section of Romans is our legal standing before God, both before and post-regeneration. He leaves the subject of sanctification (progressive, that is) to the last section starting with Ch. 12, which is the “how shall we then live” section. In order to not confuse the two, he decides to use different terminology in the “Golden chain”. Once he’s convinced his readers of the fact of their justification and how it was accomplished, and how the “gentiles” should relate to unregenerate Jews, Paul then goes on to apply this aspect to the Christian life on earth starting with transformation by the renewing of the mind.

  2. George Rank Says:

    It would seem to me since we are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son that’s a guarantee of our sanctification as well, no need to say it again.

  3. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Not to forget Hebrews 12. As does Romans, Hebrews follows the pattern of election. After explaining justification by faith, that which the ancients like Abraham were commened for, the writer, whom I believe to be Paul, speaks of the sanctification that is to take place in a progressive sense as the sons of God. Both the concepts of definitive and progressive sanctification are covered in Hebrews and are mentioned in conformity to justification. Definitive sanctification could be termed glorification and is eschatological pointing toward the resurrection. Chapter 13 continues the admontions to live and pursue the holiness that is demanded by the law of righteousness. When we track back to Romans 9, then, we, as George says, do not need that sanctification is mentioned again, as it is included in the predestination passage and is include with in the concepts of justification and glorification. And as Ted says, the normal scheme of the epistles is doctrine first then the application. Consequently, in Romans, Hebrews, Ephesians and elsewhere, the reasonableness of the doctrine is first delineated, then the admonishments to stir on another towards good works.

  4. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Oh, are you going to tell us what the discernable reason is?

  5. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Have you listened to the rest of White’s discussion of Steve Gregg’s position? White has indicated before, and am I right, that White considers the logical outcome of Arminian Theology, to be a form of open theology.

    I was up until four or so years ago teaching an open theology to my daughter based on my understanding of the Arminianism that I was being feed in my SBC church. It cannot be escaped if one must preserve the inviolable free-will of man.

    Does White correctly conclude, as Whitefield did, that Arminianism is heretical?

    Sorry my thoughts are strung out, I have only had one pot of coffee this morning.

  6. Ted Says:

    Thomas makes a good point in correlating Hebrews. I hadn’t thought of that. I too believe Paul’s preaching to be the source of Hebrews, however I would say that some other person (probably Luke) compiled Hebrews from Paul’s sermon notes after his death.

  7. Thomas:

    I’m fairly certain Dr. White would consider open theism to be the logical conclusion of Arminianism, but I’m very sure that he does not believe all Arminians actually follow their system to that extreme. Also, as far as Arminianism being heresy, most Reformed theologians would consider it to be an error, but not heretical in the sense of indicating that one who is an Arminian is necessarily not a Christian (in contrast, for example, to a heresy such as Arianism, which is entirely antithetical to Christian doctrine in such a way that any Arian is necessarily not a Christian).

    Whitefield, while using the term “heresy” in its broader sense regarding Arminianism, yet did not go so far as to label Wesley (an Arminian) a “heretic”; on the contrary, Spurgeon quoted Whitefield as saying that he would not see Wesley in Heaven only because Wesley would be so much closer to God’s throne that Whitefield said he would be too blinded by His glory.

  8. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Yes, I do agree. We have to be careful not to judge the hearts of men. We are however to judge their confession, “By their fruits, you shall know them.” Peter backslid, and what Paul called that kind of teaching was “another Gospel.” I do not know how else to characterize another Gospel except heresy. Both contradictory claims cannot be true at the same time. If they are compatible, then let it be demonstrated to be so. If they are not then one is false. The term heresy, may be misapplied and might well be applied to even the most orthodox of reformed believers in any particular doctrine. What I am wondering, is that if the other side calls Calvinism or Calvinistic systems heresy, why is it not acceptable that the shoe be trie on the accuser? Shouldn’t the likes of the Caners and others have to prove what they say to be true?

    I believe Whitefield was quite generous in saying that he would see Wesley in Heaven. He also made it quite clear that Wesley would be converted in his thinking when they got there.

  9. re: I believe Whitefield was quite generous in saying that he would see Wesley in Heaven. He also made it quite clear that Wesley would be converted in his thinking when they got there.

    -Agreed. Also, many wish to make (quite legitimately, I think) a distinction between doctrines of atonement and justification taught in classic Arminianism, and those taught in Wesleyan Arminianism, which (being influenced by Wesley’s reading of Luther) are closer to the Reformed view.

  10. Nathan White Says:

    In 1 Cor 6 Paul says:

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    I find it interesting that, in the midst of rebuking the Corinthians for putting up with such gross sin, the Paul actually uses the past tense of ‘you were sanctified’, because from all outward appearances, this would be the last term we would think of using to describe the church in Corinth. Maybe this relates to your question; maybe not.

  11. genembridges Says:

    Nathan, that text, if my memory serves correctly is a prooftext for the doctrine of definitive sanctification. We’re used to talking about “progressive sanctification” but there is another aspect to the doctrine of sanctification we sometimes miss.

    See Robert Reymond’s New Systematic for more information.

  12. Thomas Twitchell Says:


    Do you have a reference for comparison. One of my greatest errors is to not consider rightly the nuances of differences in the writings of men past and present. Without considering the whole picture it is easy to come to the wrong conclusions about them, eh Gene?

  13. The subject and object of the verbs throughout Rom. 8:29-30 are of key importance.

  14. An old and –warning– somewhat long quote from Nathan, that has bearing on the question:

    Why do people now days speak of faith as the one thing needed, the only thing required when talking about sanctification? Is the holiness of converted people by faith only, and not at all by personal effort and diligence? Are not works an essential part of a holy and righteous life? After all, “Faith without works is dead”. I’m not talking about justification here, for we all know that we are saved by grace and through faith, I am talking about sanctification. Where is it stated in the Bible that we are sanctified by faith through grace? It doesn’t. Paul actually says stuff like : “I beat my body into subjection”, “let us cleanse ourselves, and “let us lay aside every weight and sin”. Does the Bible teach that faith sanctifies us the same way as it justifies us? I don’t see where it does. What about a phrase like ‘holiness by faith, or ‘righteousness by faith’? I don’t find them in scripture either. We can say “faith alone justifies”, but we cannot say ‘faith alone sanctifies’. Like I said before, faith in Christ is the one thing needed for justification, but what about from there on? In this age, faith is laid out completely bare, nothing else needed, and I believe this is a dangerous thing. I’m not trying to make this complicated, and I’m not trying to force the ‘works’ issue, but isn’t faith alone dead if it has no works? And do we just lay back and expect God to perform those works, or is it effort on our part? Remember, faith is completely a gift from God, even in proportion. So where are we commanded to rely on faith to sanctify us? Does faith in any way sanctify us? Where is that said?Are works an essential part of a holy and righteous life? I look forward to the replies.

  15. Barry Says:

    I’ve really got to take my hat off to you Andrew, not everyone who is Baptist would wade into this topic wherein “works” is given serious review toward life and afterlife.

    I think it is helpful to look at it like faith and works rather than faith versus works.

    Conduct, works, deeds and doing good are all part of the old and new testaments. In the bible it is no small matter. It is of the utmost importance to everyone, Jews and Christians. Even in the New Testament I count at least nine places where conduct is stressed. Just as an example in Romans 2:10 “But there will be glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good, Jew first and then Greek”; or Rm 2:6 “who will repay everyone according to his works”. Even in Revelation 22:12 we have: “Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me recompense I will give each according to his deeds.”

    Perhaps the sticking point on this subject is what Andrew alludes to in that some Christians may feel that faith comes first and everything else is subordinate to that. That being the case, there may be so many levels of how we approach “conduct” that, for some, it becomes reduced to an elemental or even insignificant criteria not only for today but for the afterlife.

    It’s quite a topic.

  16. Nathan White Says:


    Ah, looks like I was reading a lot of JC Ryle there 🙂

  17. Barry:

    It is crucial to note that Nathan wrote, “I’m not talking about justification here, for we all know that we are saved by grace and through faith, I am talking about sanctification.”

  18. Gordan Says:

    Not a heavyweight comment, here, but I’d suggest that “glofication” is the end of the sanctification process, and so it encapsulates the whole concept. When you’re glorified, then you’re consummately sanctified…nothing more to do in that regard.

  19. Gordan Says:

    “glofication” Yikes

  20. genembridges Says:

    The question is this: In the verses known as the “Golden Chain of Redemption” (Romans 8:29-30), why is the word “sanctified” left out, when we may expect to find it between “justified” and “glorified”?

    Ahem, this is remarkably easy…

    Read the whole chapter. V. 4 discussing “walking not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” The requirement of the Law (righteousness) is met by Christ for us, and when applied to us, we “become” that which we are declared, as it were.

    The text goes on to develop this concept further, for example around vs. 12 to 15.

    And at v. 16, Paul moves to adoption, whereby we are calleed “children of God.”

    For Paul to be justified is certainly to be declared righteous, not made righteous, but, justification is related to adoption in the chain, for those foreknown are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the first born among many brethren. That is, in context, He is the first one raised from the dead among a family of persons, the sons of God, of which He is both God and the firstborn of the class of mankind known as “the sons of God.” (eg. God’s family). Our adoption as sons, both in our relation to God and our final resurrection are all modeled on and derived from those aspects of Christ.

    These brethren are all persons, in the text, who “walk by the Spirit,” and who are “putting to death the deeds of the flesh” and who are “longing for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (glorification). Therein lies the essence of the doctrine of sanctification. Those who do this are doing so do because of “righteousness.” Whose? Their own? No, that of Christ. They are the justified, and they will be brought to glorification.

    In short Romans 8:28 – 29 encapsulates/summarizes the preceding ideas.

  21. Not to take away from Gene’s comment, which raised an excellent point, but the main issue I meant to get at is simply this:
    “Predestined, called, justified, and glorified” are all actions God performs in regards to His elect. God alone predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies. The reason I believe sanctification, in its progressive sense of growing in holiness, would be out of place in this “chain” is that we actually do take an active part in our sanctification.

    • Timothy Says:

      I’m getting in late here…

      Andrew – the Golden Chain uses 5 verbs; foreknew, predestined, called, justified, glorified. All are active verbs, all are something that God is doing. Of note, the verb foreknowledge – every time God is the subject and foreknowledge is the verb in the NT, the object is personal, it’s never action. For some to try and say “God knew who was going to believe”, there is not an example of that statement in the NT. Those God foreknew He also glorified, and it’s an absolute certainty.

  22. Tim Carter Says:

    I wrote this brief paper (Comments) following a review of Leighton Flowers and James White’s debate over Romans 9 it can be viewed at the link below:

    Click to access koine_comments.pdf

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