(I found an earlier question on this but it is a word comparison between Rom 11:32 and Luke 5:6).

Though as startling and controversial as it may sound, the Scripture seems to be emphatic: it is God Himself who has shut up the whole mankind in unbelief!!!:

“For God has shut up (συγκλείω) ALL in unbelief, so that He might show mercy to ALL” (Romans 11:32).

The Greek word for “shut up” is “συγκλείω” (I am not sure about the pronunciation), used 3 other times in the NT. In Luke 5:6, the disciples “netted/enclosed” (συγκλείω) a lot of fishes. In Galatians 3:22, “the Scripture “locked up” (συγκλείω) ALL under sin”. In Gal 3:23, “before the coming of faith”, all were “shut up (συγκλείω) to the faith about to be revealed”.

Just as the fishes were unaware of and not responsible for the enclosing (disciples were responsible), the ALL (mankind) are unaware and are not responsible for the “shutting up” in unbelief. It is God who is said to be responsible for it as per the Scripture!

This is so because nobody should boast that he has found God on his own and has earned his own salvation (Eph 2:8-9)!

It is always, without exception, God who takes the first initiative. John the Baptist was filled with Holy Spirit and he said, “A man is able to receive nothing unless it has been given to him from Heaven” (John 3:27).

This is what Jesus also said:

"No one is able to come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). "Because of this, I have told you that no one is able to come to Me except it is given to him from My Father" (John 6:65).

A Case Study

Let us take the case of the Apostle Paul. If Moses was a murderer (Exo 2:14) before his conversion at the burning bush, Saul was an accomplice in the martyrdom of Stephen. He was “still breathing……murder” (Acts 9:1).

At that time, he was a perfect Jew as far as the ritualistic Mosaic Law (Phil 3:6) added with “the traditions of” his “ancestors” (Gal 1:14) was concerned. Yet inwardly (spiritually) he was a sinner (Acts 22:16):

“the one who before was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and insolent; but I received mercy, because being ignorant I did it in unbelief” (1 Tim 1:13).

There it is! Let me rephrase it:

‘For God has shut up (συγκλείω) Saul in unbelief, so that He might show mercy to Saul’.

So, it is clear that in spite of Saul’s great erudition at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), he still suffered “unbelief”! It is only when God “converted” him that he came to the Lord!

This, again, is the same idea given by Paul:

“There is a secret truth, my friends, which I want you to know, for it will keep you from thinking how wise you are. It is that the stubbornness of the people of Israel is not permanent, but will last only until the complete number of Gentiles comes to God” (Rom 11:25; GNB).


Isn’t it God who has shut up the whole mankind in unbelief so that He will show mercy to all as stated in Ephesians 1:9-10?

[Note:- Two Greek words are used for unbelief; “G543 - apeitheia” in Rom 11:32 and “G570 - apistia” in 1 Timothy 1:13. But both the words originated from the same root, “G3982 - peitho”.

G543 is derived from G545 which is derived from G3982.

G570 from G571, from G4103, and from G3982].

  • 1
    Calvinists believe the answer is "YES". Many would argue for "NO". This is a complex theological problem about which many books have been written.
    – Dottard
    Dec 29, 2023 at 5:31
  • I think the Calvinists believe that except a few “predestinated” few, God has shut up all in unbelief. But as far as I know they don’t believe that “God will show mercy to ALL”. I was never interested in studying Calvinism. Dec 29, 2023 at 6:06

5 Answers 5


The headline question has "Is God responsible...according to Romans 11:32?". So in this answer I want to stay in the grammar of Ro 11:32 and not stray into theological stances.

'has consigned'/synekleisen is aorist/indicative/active. Indicative/an objective fact. God has done it. He has consigned.

'may have mercy'/eleese is aorist/subjunctive/active. Subjunctive/potentially might. A contrast to indicative. A possibility.

This verse has a dramatic contrast between these two verbs: Objective fact all have been consigned contrasts with the possibility "may" be shown mercy.

'all'/pantas comes twice in this verse. It means the same in both cases. "All" are consigned to disobedience [in sin] and "all" are therefore in a state in which they potentially can be shown mercy.

Christians have a variety of belief systems. The grammar of this verse is clear. 'that he' God, has the possibility of showing mercy because firstly all were consigned to disobedience. Those to whom he does not show mercy will remain in the sin to which he consigned them.

[Compatibilists would say that God's sovereignty was compatible with free-will. That's a big topic. Ro 11:32 is undiluted God's sovereignty]

  • +1. I liked the “objective” way you analyzed the verse without going into the theology; a difficult task indeed for us. Yes, God has done (synekleisen) it. The contrasting “eleese” could be due to the reason that the salvation God offers to all in the ultimate time period (Eph 1:10) depends on individual response. Saul responded positively surrendering his self and imbibing Christ’s self (Gal 2:20). Perhaps some may resist; hence “might” (eleese) is used. Mar 18 at 15:38
  • +1 Likewise! What most people forget is how hard it is for anyone to imagine the thoughts of God from outside of time. The beginning, middle, and end of everything would be seen by God. Imagine yourself viewing a parade by means of a drone that can easily fly to the end, back to the beginning, and then to the middle. God created space-time so he is not stuck in time nor in space. God can see the results of free-will decisions, can allow certain events, prevent others, and predetermine prophetic milestones. His purpose was to gift humanity with free will. Otherwise, sin could not exist.
    – Dieter
    Mar 18 at 17:16

Your question has often been called the crux theologorum (the crucial issue for theologians). For how one answers that question will shape the rest of their theology. The "crucial issue" is two questions:

  • Why are some saved?
  • Why are others not saved?

Different groups (especially within Protestantism) arrived at different answers.

Protestant Views of Conversion

The Calvinist View

John Calvin looked at all the passages (and there are many) which speak about God choosing people to be saved. And from those very clear passages he arrived at a very clear and logical conclusion: If God chooses people to go up to heaven, then, of logical necessity, he must also choose, from eternity, to send people to hell. God is the cause of people's salvation and damnation. Calvin writes:

But if by the providence of God man was created on the condition of afterwards doing whatever he does, then that which he cannot escape, and which he is constrained by the will of God to do, cannot be charged upon him as a crime. Let us, therefore, see what is the proper method of solving the difficulty. First, all must admit what Solomon says, “The Lord has made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil,” (Prov. 16:4). Now, since the arrangement of all things is in the hand of God, since to him belongs the disposal of life and death, he arranges all things by his sovereign counsel, in such a way that individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction.

(John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), paragraph 2204.)

A little further on, he writes...

The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknow what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree. Should any one here inveigh against the prescience of God, he does it rashly and unadvisedly. For why, pray, should it be made a charge against the heavenly Judge, that he was not ignorant of what was to happen? Thus, if there is any just or plausible complaint, it must be directed against predestination. Nor ought it to seem absurd when I say, that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it.

(John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845), paragraph 2205.)

The Arminian (Baptist) View

Protestants (of various groupings) looked through their bibles and found many passages which speak about people ending up in Hell because of their own stubborn unbelief. They concluded from these very clear passages in God's word that, if one can be able to cause themselves to go to hell by a choice, then, of logical necessity, people must be able to make a choice to then end up in heaven. The popular Baptist preacher, Rick Warren, frames it this way:

“While life on earth offers many choices, eternity offers only two: heaven or hell. Your relationship to God on earth will determine your relationship to him in eternity.”

Likewise, the the Billy Graham website frames it this way:

Congratulations on making the decision to follow Jesus! This is a day you’ll never forget. Your decision can forever change your life and beyond. It’s also the first day of a new journey as you grow closer to God, discover His plan for you and become more like Jesus.

The Lutheran View

The Lutheran viewpoint for this can be found especially in Article XI in the Book of Concord. There is much to walk through and hold in its proper context in this article. The response of Lutherans when it comes to this issue is to strive to hold God's word together and let it stand on its own. There are two questions, not one.

  • People end up in Hell due to themselves: their own sinful, stubborn unbelief. That's the answer to the question, "who/what is the cause for people ending up in Hell?"
  • The other question is: "who/what is the cause for people ending up in Heaven?" The answer to that (for Lutherans) is that God foreknew and chose people to be in heaven.

But this doctrine of Election is different than the Calvinist view because it is one-directional (just to heaven, not to hell). To get at your question, to Lutherans, God is not responsible for choosing and then sending people to hell. And this doctrine is included in God's word for the comfort of Christians. There is much, so much to walk through in article XI. But it is well worth your time to walk through it.

I submit the preceding as a beginning answer to your question. You will have to walk through the sources from various church bodies to dig deeper. But this will, at least, give you place to start.

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    Thank you for the summary! Deep inside, I suspect that all of these are incorrect at some point. Can my father also be my brother or can my mother also be my sister? The validity of any and all of these views is judged by the lives of those who hold them. Some historical proponents of a particular doctrine were directly involved in the deaths of some who had different views. What would you imagine that Jesus will say to such people at the Judgment?
    – Dieter
    Mar 18 at 17:40

There is another possibility that all might at least consider, seeing how this topic is just as much in contention now as it was in C.H. Spurgeon's day ( who I believe was both Calvanist and Baptist). ______ _ God definitely chooses certain elect for his divine purposes. Abraham was definitely chosen by God. Abraham did not first appear to God, but God did first enlist Abraham for his special purpose. Moses follows a similar paradigm or pattern. Now for the sake of time let' fast forward to Paul. Can anyone argue that Paul was seeking Jesus at the time he was struck down on the Damascus road. One could fill in many heroes of faith in between Abraham and Paul. Did they not all seem to be elect or chosen by God. ____________________ So here is my conclusion: Many are called , but few are chosen. Just as God chose Moses and Moses became a leader of millions, God down through time chooses his leaders. Those that are led by the leaders seem to have more of a choice. " Choose this day who you will follow ". Just maybe both Calvin and Arminios were both right. Not either or. ____________________ _The expressed thoughts do not necessarily agree with Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange, but are mine alone and are offered free of charge. You may CHOOSE TO AGREE OR NOT.

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    I don’t disagree. But we need to take into consideration all aspects/sides of a topic before coming to a conclusion. Otherwise we will be partially correct. Rom 11:32 says God shut up all in disbelief. Yet the Scripture talks about “some” as “predestinated” to be called to the truth (Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:5, 11). Jan 9 at 16:48

At the outset, let's be clear whom Paul is talking about. This is clear from the context:

Just as you (Gentiles) once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their (Jews') disobedience, 31 so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may [now] receive mercy. 32 For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

Paul thinks God predestined the Jews to reject Christ in order that everyone (including Jews) could be shown mercy. This is consistent with what he wrote in 2 Cor. 7:7-8

we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew; for, if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Whether God is truly responsible for Jesus' rejection or not depends on whether one believes what Paul wrote here is true. The same goes for whether God is responsible for the disbelief of non-believers.

  • Peter witnesses that “what Paul wrote here is true” because it is the Word of God and hence part of the Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). And it says God is responsible for the disbelief of non-believers. Jan 9 at 16:33
  • could you specify which translation you are using here? I don't see the words "what Paul wrote here is true" in any of them. Most say things like "Some things in Paul’s letters are hard to understand." Jan 9 at 16:59
  • I was quoting it from your last paragraph. Jan 9 at 17:14
  • If God predestined the Jews to reject Christ, then why did any Jews accept Christ? Have you ever heard the adage, "The ax may fall, but not on me"?
    – Dieter
    Mar 18 at 17:31

God is the creator and has established the law governing the salvation of every individual. However, it is important to note that God being responsible does not mean that He makes everything happened. Rather, God proclaims the law to tell people what is good or evil, and it is up to each individual to choose their own path.

In Romans 7:7, Paul said, "What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said." This passage highlights the importance of the law in our lives. Imagine a lawless society, we would blame the government is irresponsible. Similarly, when God created an orderly world, He assumed His responsibility. However, the curse of evildoers, that is, the verdict has been pronounced to all individuals. Similarly, the salvation of repentant has also been given. Each individual chooses their own path.

In Romans 11:28-32, Paul affirms that the Israelites are still elected people of God, and this election is irrevocable. However, due to their disobedience, the mercy of God now extends to the Gentiles, with the purpose of the Israelites seeing it and returning to God. It is important to note that although every individual has sinned, salvation is given to all, not just the elected people. The Israelites were chosen to lead everyone to salvation, but due to their disobedience, the Gentiles lead. Nevertheless, the mercy of God is for every individual, regardless of their background, if they choose the right path.

  • If they are shut up in unbelief by God’s Will (Rom 11:32), how they can “choose the right path” is the real question. Jan 9 at 16:38
  • @NepheshRoi - It appears to me that your argument is based on the meaning of "shut up" (strong 4788) that NASB translated. However, other English translations use words such as "imprisoned", "bound", "concluded" or "consigned". It is worth noting that God has provided a way to Salvation, and "Shut up" is not an absolute term. As Jesus said in Matt 9:12, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick". Romans 11:32 can be understood as "For God has bound everyone having sick so that he may heal them all". However, God is not responsible to those who don't think they are sick. Jan 9 at 21:18
  • Yet, it is God who convinces a person that he is sick just as Paul was convicted (1 Tim 1:13)! The issue is, God has “consigned” all in unbelief in the present age. Yet He “foreknew”, “predestinated”, “called”, “justified” and glorified” (Rom 8:29-30) some in the present age. But He will show mercy to ALL (Rom 11:32 in future tense) in the coming age? Jan 11 at 6:05
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    Don't forget what God told Cain before he chose to murder Abel. " If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” - Genesis 4:7 ESV. Why did God bother to tell Cain that he had a choice and could rule of over sin unless Cain really did have a choice and really could rule over it?
    – Dieter
    Mar 18 at 17:26

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