Gifts and callings are without repentance
William Branham believed that a person was born with their "spiritual gifts" and often quoted Romans 11:29 as proof of this:
- For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
But is this what that passage refers to? Or was William Branham simply using it to point to himself as being a special type of prophet?
What the Bible teaches
One of the main keys to interpreting scripture is context. So let us look at the passage in more detail:
- For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. 28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
It is also advisable to look at other translations of the same passage:
- As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.
- In regard to the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were formerly disobedient to God, but have now received mercy due to their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 11:32 For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.
The “call” of God clearly refers to the election according to which the Jews were God's chosen race. The “gifts” may then be combined with “call” as one idea — “the benefits of God’s call” — or be taken as a distinct category — “the gifts and the call of God.” The relationship between this passage and Romans 9:1–5 suggests that Paul referred to the “gifts” as a summary of those privileges of Israel that he enumerated in Romans 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.” The rare word “irrevocable” emphasizes the point that Paul made at the beginning of his argument: “The word of God has not failed” (Romans 9:6a).
"Without repentance" is translated in newer versions as “irrevocable” but the basic meaning is “without regret,” as in 2 Cor. 7:10, the only other use place where this term is used in either the Old or New Testament: “repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret.” The meaning of this term is confirmed in the writings of Aesop (“but his coming was without regret” - τοῦ δὲ ἀμεταμελήτως ἐλθόντος, Fabulae 83.2.6) and Plato (“of a deed done without regret”).
Although God was free to withdraw the privileges extended to Israel (like humans often come to regret and then to renege on their gifts and commitments), God’s faithfulness remains firm. In the end, despite the current rejection of the divinely designated Messiah by a large portion of Israel, the divine gifts and calling will achieve their intended purpose of salvation.
What is very clear is that the passage does not refer to the gifts of the Spirit. It refers only to the nation of Israel.
Quotes of William Branham
- The Bible said, "Gifts and callings are without repentance." You're born with these things. You believe in foreordination? For everybody? But things are foreordained of God. Jesus Christ was foreordained to be the Son of God at the garden of Eden. You believe that? "Thy seed shall bruise the serpent's head."
After that, why, I thought, "If I could only get where these two main men was that spoke in tongues and interpreted!" That was burning me up in my heart, I wanted it so bad. Well, as I've told you at the beginning, a little gift that you pull over. You know, gifts and callings are without repentance, you have them all your life, see, you're born with them, if they're gifts of God. So I always, since a little bitty baby, it always happened to me, people who knows me all my life, they know that's true. Well, if I thought… I didn't know what it was then, and call it a vision, I just didn't know what it was. But I thought, "If I could ever talk to them!" Well, and the spirit that was in the building felt like it's really the Spirit of God.
A gift of God is some way you have of getting yourself out of the way. And gifts and callings are the predestination of God. "Gifts and callings are even without repentance." You are born with it. A little gear that you pull yourself over in, but you cannot step on the pedal. See? God has to operate it. You have to get yourself out of the way. Your faith can operate it, not mine; yours. Mine just takes it out of the way. You believe with all your heart that Jesus Christ lives today.
Now, I am not He, but I am His servant. I do not believe that you lay hands on people and give them gifts. "Gifts and callings are without repentance." They are predestinated, of God, to meet the age and the time of that age. Any Bible student knows that's the truth. Moses was born just in time. Jeremiah, in time, all the rest of them. John the Baptist, in time. Jesus was in time. And we're in time. This is what is supposed to happen.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ro 11:27–32.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ro 11:25–32.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 11:28–31.
- Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ro 11:28–32.
- Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 732.
- Robert Jewett and Roy David Kotansky, Romans: A Commentary, ed. Eldon Jay Epp, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2006), 708–709.
- 50-0227, God In His People
- 65-0118, The Seed Of Discrepancy
- 65-0120, Lean Not Unto Thy Own Understanding
- 65-0427, Does God Change His Mind?