Acts 13:48

War Memorial, Vermont Capitol.

Saturday, 28 January 2023 

Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. Acts 13:48

Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)

You can also read this commentary, with music, courtesy of our friends at “Discern the Bible” on YouTube. (Click Here to listen), or at Rumble (Click Here to listen).

In the previous verse, Paul and Barnabas cited to the Jews the words of Isaiah, demonstrating that the gospel going to the Gentiles was anticipated even in their own Scriptures. Now, Luke continues by saying, “Now when the Gentiles heard this.”

This is the great throng of Gentiles that were mentioned in verses 44 & 45, there called “almost the whole city.” They were obviously listening to the words spoken between the apostles and the Jews of the synagogue. They were elated that these men who brought the good news of Jesus’ salvation had identified them as also being recipients of God’s favor in Christ. With that, it next says, “they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord.”

Both verbs are imperfect and demonstrate that the words didn’t just bring about a sudden rush of emotion which then ended. Rather, “the Gentiles were rejoicing and were glorifying the word of the Lord.” They began to rejoice and continued to do so. They also glorified the word of the Lord and they continued to do so.

With this going on in their hearts, some of the most abused words in Scripture concerning the doctrines of election and predestination are next cited by Luke, saying, “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

What one believes about these doctrines will immediately set forward in the mind what that person believes is being conveyed. It is obvious that the Pulpit Commentary sides with the Calvinistic view –

“This can only refer to the predestination or election of God, viewed as the moving cause of their faith.” Pulpit Commentary

Both election and predestination are mentioned by Paul. Thus, they are valid doctrines. The way in which they are explained is the issue. Paul mentions election in Romans 9 and 11. He speaks of the elect elsewhere as well. He refers to predestination in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1.

Those who side with Calvin will, like the Pulpit Commentary, say that God was the force behind both their belief and their salvation unto eternal life. Essentially, their argument is that God chose them to be saved, He caused them to believe, they believed, and they were saved.

On the other hand, there is the view that man has free will to believe or to reject what has been presented. Those who believe are the elect. Essentially, the argument is that God seals them with the Spirit upon belief, a cause of their own movement, and they are then saved by God.

There is quite a bit more involved in this but going with those two main views as the initial bias in the words presented in this verse of Acts, even translations reflect what is presupposed. Notice the difference in a few translations –

*and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. NLT
*and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. KJV
*And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. NKJV
*and all those who had been appointed (designated, ordained) to eternal life [by God] believed [in Jesus as the Christ and their Savior]. Amplified
*Everyone who had been chosen for eternal life then put their faith in the Lord. CEV
*Everyone who had been prepared for everlasting life believed. God’s Word
*Meanwhile, all who had been destined to eternal life believed, ISV
*and all who were pre-destined to the Life of the Ages believed. Weymouth
*and did believe — as many as were appointed to life age-during. YLT

The order of the words in Greek is only followed by one version listed here, YLT. The Greek reads, “And believed, as many as were appointed to life eternal.”

To put the word “appointed” before “believed” automatically biases the mind that the appointment came first, whether that is the case or not. To say as the Weymouth, “were pre-destined,” may be true based upon Paul’s noting that there is a doctrine of predestination, but without proper explanation, and placing it before “believed,” biases the mind even further.

Of these words, Albert Barnes goes through each instance of the word tassó, or “appointed,” and concludes that “The word is never used to denote an internal disposition or inclination arising from one’s own self. It does not mean that they disposed themselves to embrace eternal life.”

He continues with his thoughts, saying, 1) “they were disposed or inclined to this from some other source than themselves;” 2) “They were then inclined by an influence from without themselves, or so disposed as to embrace eternal life. … It was not a disposition or arrangement originating with themselves, but with God.” 3) “It was nothing but God’s disposing them to embrace eternal life.”

In other words, he is convinced that these people had no choice in their salvation. They were moved by God, they believed, and then they were saved. But without citing every instance of the word, we can see that his analysis is flawed. For example –

“Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.” Acts 15:2

It was “determined” that Paul and Barnabas were to go up to Jerusalem. Does that mean that this was done without the will of Paul and Barnabas? Absolutely not! It was a decision that was rendered based on a difficulty that had arisen. Also –

“So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening.” Acts 28:1

Here, a day was appointed for people to come and hear the word of the Lord. Nothing is said about the disposition of the people, whether they had to come or not, whether the meeting would be held even if Paul lost his left arm that morning, and so on. It is simply an appointment that is set forth for something to occur.

In the case of those believing, God had set forth an edict, “Believe in my Son and you will be granted eternal life.” Those who believed were then appointed to eternal life. How can we know that this is correct? It is because the words of Acts 13:48 are not isolated from the surrounding context. They are a part of what was occurring right among the people, and they are set in contrast to what was said in Acts 13:46 –

“Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.’”

The contrast is not to God’s pre-ordaining these Jews to condemnation apart from their will, but rather in accord with their will. They judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life. The Gentiles believed and thus judged themselves worthy.

Further, the word “believed” in Acts 13:46 is in the active voice. The people actively believed. However, the word “appointed” is in the middle voice. The Greek middle voice denotes that the subject is both an agent of an action and somehow concerned with the action. Hence, these people were disposed to believe based on what they heard. God initiated the action through the word. The apostles spoke forth the word. The people heard the word and then believed. There is no hint of the Calvinistic doctrine of forced salvation to be found in the words of this verse.

Life application: Context matters. There is a surrounding context to the words of this verse that drives the meaning and intent of what is being said.

Proper translation matters. There is an order in which the words are presented in the original Greek text. Realigning those words may not be appropriate if they will bias the reader or provide a false sense of what is being presented.

Theology matters. Obtaining proper theology on a subject means taking it from the entire body of Scripture. In other words, the immediate context is important, but the overall context is the final decider of what is being presented. As an example, the Bible does not say the following –

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever is predestined apart from his free will and then believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Bible also does not say –

“And Enoch walked with God after being regenerated to believe Him; and he was not, for God took him.”

Such words cannot even be inferred from what is said. Nor can they be inferred from the surrounding text or, more especially, the overall context of the Bible. Rather, they are clear and precise statements that are like an almost innumerable list of other such statements found in Scripture that tell the reader of the Bible that he has a responsibility to respond to the call of God in his life.

Lord God, thank You that You have offered us Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. And more, You have given us the choice to believe or disbelieve. Your greatness is displayed in this. You do not force Yourself upon Your people but appeal to them, asking us to reason with You and do what is right. Thank You for this. Amen.