Saturday, September 29, 2007

Acts 13:48: "ordained to eternal life"

Acts 13:44-48 states: “And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, “I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.”’ 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

Q1: When does this passage say that these were “ordained to eternal life”?

Q2: What does this passage say that it means to be “ordained to eternal life”?

This passage doesn't answer when, nor does it define what the phrase means. Most Calvinists will point out that at least we know that believing follows the ordination, and that's true, and Arminians agree that the new birth instills within us, a nature that not only implants the desire to want to do the things of God, but also instills a measure of faith, necessary to fulfull each Christian's assigned vocation within the Body of Christ.

The picture above is of ministers and their wives praying for a newly ordained minister. Sometimes Calvinists give people the impression that there is only one type of ordination, and that being a fore-ordination, but such is not the case within our own process of ordaining ministers. Consider Acts 14:23 which states: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” This is a present-tense ordination. However, consider three verses which explicitly reference an eternal aspect of ordination, and notice how the Bible writers make the eternal aspect unmistakable. Ephesians 2:10 describes a “before” ordination. Jude 4 describes an “of old” ordination (Jude 4) and 1st Peter 1:20 describes a “foreordination.” (1st Peter 1:20) Therefore, if Luke had wished to make it clear that Acts 13:48 had a pre-ordination in mind, he could have said: 1) foreordained to eternal life, 2) ordained of old unto eternal life, or 3) before ordained to eternal life. If Luke had intended an eternal ordination at Luke 13:48, why didn't he use any of the aforementioned methods?

I believe that being ordained to eternal life speaks of when the Holy Spirit seals a person in Christ, that is, when a person is made Born Again, and is made a New Creature in Christ. Therefore, I infer Acts 13:48 to mean that, as many of these Gentiles as had been made Born Again, believed.

However, the way that a Calvinist approaches Acts 13:48 is with the perspective that there a two classes of humans, that is, one class of eternally elect sheep contrasted by a class of eternally non-elect goats. Therefore, if a Calvinist infers Acts 13:48 to mean that as many as were foreordained to eternal life, believed, it must also mean that if any did not believe, after having heard that sermon, they must not be what?, a foreordained eternally elect sheep. Therefore, the Calvinist must infer there could not have been anyone there among that crowd who disbelieved on that day, but who later did repent and became saved. Think for just a moment about how absurd that would be, and how unrepresentative it would be of evangelism. For even the apostle Paul himself, initially disbelieved after hearing the sermon of the martyr, Stephen.


Groseys messages said...

G'day Richard,
The greek word used in Acts 13:48 for ordained..Tetagmenoi is derived from "tasso, a military term to place in orderly arrangement. The word “ordain” is not the best translation here. “Appointed,” as Hackett shows, is better. " Robertson
The verse doesn't solve the problem of Sovereignty vs freewill."Paul had shown that God’s plan extended to and included Gentiles. Certainly the Spirit of God does move upon the human heart to which some respond, as here, while others push him away".
However when you go back to Acts 4:28 "to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."
Foreordained (proōrisen). First aorist active indicative of proorizō, “They rise above sight and seem to see the Hand which ‘shapes men’s ends, rough hew them how they will’” (Furneaux).
The same word is used in Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, and 11
We cannot escape the conclusion of Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Although there may be many questions that arise, and many ways we could view these words, the difficulty still lies before us: Scripture does teach both the absolute Sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man to repent and believe.
Every Blessing
(I apologise for being slow to respond, Richard, time pressures and all down here)

Richard Coords said...

Hello Steve,

You are always welcome here, and I've added you to the Contact page.

Let me first say that the interpretation of "disposed to eternal life" does not appear correct.

I agree with how you have described it as an 'appointment' and an 'arrangement.' One of the things that bothered me is how little Luke (through the Holy Spirit) elaborates upon his intention, and I have the same feeling about Jesus' self-description at Revelation 3:14, in which He describes Himself as the "beginning of the creation of God." Some take the Greek word and infer "beginner" though they do not do the same at Colossians 1:18. So, when I come across passages such as the aforementioned, the lack of explicit detail troubles me, and perhaps that is of divine intention.

Consider the comment of James White: “Acts 13:48 shows us how much of a ‘given’ God’s sovereign work of election was to the apostles. Luke did not have to expand the thought or explain the meaning: The person who understands the power of sin that binds the unregenerate heart knows well the necessity of God’s work to ‘open the heart’ and ‘draw’ one to Christ.” (Debating Calvinism, p.381, emphasis mine)

Obviously, I wish that the Holy Spirit would indeed have had Luke expand the thought and explain the meaning. But it is, what it is.

White continues: “This divine appointment obviously precedes and brings about the act of faith. God has appointed them to eternal life, and they believe. Obviously, this statement touches upon not only unconditional election, but upon irresistible grace as well.” (Debating Calvinism, p.96, emphasis mine)

I certainly agree that the new birth instills a new nature which brings a new heart of faith. What I have inferred is a present-tense appointment, in that these Gentiles had opened the door of their heart to Christ, through the power of the Gospel in Paul's sermon, and the result was that God had made them Born Again, with the result that they "believed," in the sense of having become believers, which is how the New Living Translation also paraphrases it. So the question remains whether Luke had a foreordaintion/fore-appointment in mind or a present-tense ordination/appointment in mind. I argue for the latter, and the only thing that I have to back it up are parallel passages from Luke, at Acts 2:47 and Acts 11:21. If there is an additional parallel passage from Luke in the book of Acts, which gives a different perspective than the one that I've offered, I'd like to see it.

Thanks, and God bless as always,

Richard Coords

Groseys messages said...

:) thanks Richard for the kind comment and the invitation
How about:
Acts 16:14 A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul.
How about Luke 10: 21 In that same hour He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. 22 All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.” 23 Then turning to His disciples He said privately, “The eyes that see the things you see are blessed! 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see the things you see yet didn’t see them; to hear the things you hear yet didn’t hear them.”

Many thanks

Richard Coords said...

Hey Steve,

I don't mean to dismiss the Luke passage, but I definitely think that the verse from Acts 16:14 is indeed parallel to Acts 2:47, Acts 11:21 and Acts 13:48.

At Acts 16:14, it's also an example of a present-working of the Holy Spirit, rather than an act taking place from eternity past, and I would definitely infer that what happened at Acts 16:14, likely also happened in the setting of Acts 13:44-48, in terms of an enabling grace which opens hearts in order to make a positive response to the Gospel. This is why I do not feel that Acts 13:48 had an eternal appointment in mind. Surely, Luke did know how to convey the idea of something eternal, as he did at Acts 2:23, in speaking of the Cross, being according to the "predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God." So if Acts 13:48 intended to convey something of a pre-eternal nature, why didn't Luke say at Acts 13:48, pre-appointed to eternal life, or predetermined to eternal life, or foreordained to eternal life. So my point is that Luke 13:48 conveys something of a present-working of the Holy Spirit. So my question is this: Do you believe that Luke meant to convey something of an eternal appointment, rather than a present appointment, and if so, why?, and if so, is there anything in these parallel passages that leads you to that conclusion?

In Christ
Richard Coords

Rose~ said...

Thank you for this post! I had never seen that particular absurdity before. (others, but not that particular one). Thank you for examining that passage and posting your thoughts on it for others to read.