This blog post deals with unpacking what “gifts” are in view in the phrase, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29, NET). This enquiry relates to the assertion that it is ministerial spiritual gifts and callings and that these gifts are irrevocable. For example, Kenneth E. Hagin promulgates the following meaning from the text:

It means that God won’t change His mind about what he has called you to do. If God has called you, that calling is still there, whether or not you have obeyed. And if God gave you a gift, that gift is still there! Whatever God has called you to do, He has also gifted you to do it. You may not have heeded God’s call on your life in the past, but the call is still there. Make a decision today to stir up the gift within you and to fulfil the call of God.[1]

An analysis of the phrase in biblical context and Paul’s discourse flow does not appear to support such an interpretation. The section context of the text can be described as God’s mysterious working, salvation through rebellion and jealousy (Rom 11:11–32). The passage’s immediate context concerns Israel’s salvation (11:25–32). The pericope (11:25–32) is not only the climax of chapter 11 but also the climax of the larger context of chapters 9–11. The rhetorical question in 11:1 states the central problem Paul has been addressing—has God rejected his people? What drives Paul’s discussion in these two chapters is his grief over Israel’s rejection of the gospel (9:1–3; 10:1; 11:1) and the question of God’s faithfulness towards both Israel and Gentiles. Chapter 11 contains two subsections that function as a transition between Paul’s discussion of Israel’s past and present to Israel’s future (vv. 25–32). Verses 1–10 summarize essential elements of what Paul has been saying and set the stage for the final argument. Paul reaffirms the faithfulness of God by reiterating important terms from earlier in the argument, such as a remnant, by grace and not works; God rejects the rest. Verses 11–32 make a case for the future salvation of Israel and the importance of this salvation for the world.

Romans 11:25–32 serves to confirm Paul’s conviction of Israel’s future salvation by expressing that (1) it is confirmed by scripture (vv. 26b–27), (2) it is rooted in God’s faithfulness to his promise to the patriarchs (vv. 28–29), and (3) it demonstrates God’s impartiality to all people (Israel and Gentiles, vv. 30–32). Introspectively then, although the immediate context deals primarily with Israel’s salvation, the central theme of chapters 9–11 is God’s faithfulness. If God is not faithful to Israel, how can Gentile Christians trust God?

By using the word “mystery” (Rom 11:25), Paul draws attention to the importance of what he is about to reveal. Romans 11:29 contributes to Paul’s argument in verses 25–32 by emphasizing that the promises of God to Israel are “irrevocable”, contextually meaning that regardless of Israel’s present hostility toward God by rejecting the gospel—a rejection that is “partial” (v. 25b) and temporary (“until”, v. 25c). The promises are designed by God to both allow the Gentiles to “come in” (v. 25b) and to encourage Israel’s repentance through jealousy (vv. 11, 14).[2][3] Consequently, God’s remarkable plan provides salvation for “all people” and vindicates his impartiality to all ethnic groups (v. 32).

Paul’s assertion of Israel’s dual status in Romans 11:28 succinctly summarizes the dilemma that drives the whole argument of these two chapters: Although Israel is now at enmity with God, at least regarding the gospel, they are still beloved from the perspective of God’s irrevocable choice. The rare word “irrevocable” in verse 29 emphasizes that the word of God has not failed—Israel’s salvation “in Christ” or at least a representative number of Israel as a corporate people, in contrast to the present remnant, is still the eternal object of God’s electing love and mercy because his promises, once made to the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), can never be revoked. It is not because of the patriarchs in and of themselves that Israel is still beloved; it is because of God’s promises to them.

Although the passage’s immediate context concerns Israel’s salvation, the primary purpose of Romans 11:25–27 is to dismiss Gentile pride (v. 25a) and to create an appreciation for the roots of the gospel and the place that the nation [Israel] holds in salvation history. Contemporary the pericope still calls the church to repudiate anti-Semitism in every form and that God still has a future plan for Israel. Romans 9:30–10:21 speaks of stumbling Israel, but 11:11 explicitly asserts that this stumbling does not mean a fatal fall. The mystery revealed in 11:25–27 makes explicit what has implicitly driven the argument since 9:6—the interrelatedness of Jew and Gentile in salvation history (Toews 2004). Paul does not suggest that Gentiles have replaced Israel; instead, he sees Israel as the legitimate heir of the promises to the patriarchs and occupying an “irrevocable” place in the divine economy of salvation—If God can graft wild olive branches onto the olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree? (v. 23) Consequently, the Christian mission to the Jewish people, which continues the mission of Paul, is to call God’s beloved to faith in Messiah—Christ Jesus

Although the history of interpreting Romans 11:29 is long and complex, what is very clear is that the passage does not refer to the gifts of the Spirit. The “call” of God refers to the election according to which Israel is beloved (v. 28). The “gifts” (v. 29) may then be combined with the “call” as one idea or be taken as a distinct category. The relationship between this paragraph and 9:1–5 may suggest that “gifts” summarizes those privileges of Israel that Paul enumerated in 9:4–5. God’s “call” then is probably to be seen as one of the most important of those gifts: “the gifts and especially, among those gifts, the call of God” (Moo 2018).


Works Cited

Bruce, F. F. 1985. Romans: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 6 of Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Moo, Douglas J. 2018. The Letter to the Romans. 2nd ed. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans.

Toews, John E. 2004. Romans : Believers Church Bible Commentary. Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press.

[1] Hagin K. 2022. “The Gifts and Callings of God”. Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 12 June 2022.

[2] What exactly Paul meant by “all Israel” In Romans 11:26 has often perplexed New Testament scholars and given rise to many interpretations. There are four main views regarding the identity of “all Israel.” The Jews—Every Jew ever lived. The church—Jews and Gentiles deemed to have been saved throughout all generations. The chosen remnant—all Jewish believers within ethnic Israel that have been saved throughout history. Ethnic Israel—the people of Israel will receive salvation at the end of days.

[3] The writer concurs with Bruce (1985) that “It is impossible to entertain an exegesis which understands ‘Israel’ here in a different sense from ‘Israel’ in verse 25”, especially given the sustained contrast between Israel and Gentiles throughout verses 11–32. The term Israel occurs some thirteen times within chapters 9–11 but nowhere else in the rest of the epistle. Apart from 9:6, due to context, in all its occurrences unambiguously refers to ethnic Israel.


Short Bio: After serving as the General Manager of Sulzer SA 1989–2007, Jose left the corporate world and dedicated himself to theology, earning his MTh in Biblical Studies. He has served as a lecturer at SATS since 2007, during which time he has also been actively engaged in course development. Jose is married to Isabella; they have an adult daughter, Candice.