A fourth argument that demonstrates the error of the deterministic interpretation of Romans 9 concerns Paul’s summary at the end of this chapter. Whenever we are struggling to understand a complex line of reasoning such as we find in Romans 9, it is crucial to pay close attention to the author’s own summary of his argument, if and when he provides one. By all accounts, Romans 9 is a difficult, complex and highly disputed passage. Fortunately, Paul provides us with a very clear summary of his argument in this chapter (vss. 30-32). Unfortunately for the deterministic interpretation, it appeals to free will as the decisive factor in determining who “receives mercy” and who gets “hardened.”
Paul begins his summary by asking, “What then shall we say?” (vs. 30). If the deterministic interpretation was correct, we would expect Paul to answer by saying something like, “The sovereign God has determined who will be elect and who will not, and no one has the right to question him.” As a matter of fact, however, Paul doesn’t say anything like this. He rather summarizes his argument by saying:
Gentiles, who did not strive for righteousness, have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works” (vss. 30–32).