Election & Acts 13:48



Would you please explain Acts 13:48.  Some Calvinists in our church are using this verse to promote their fatalistic view of election and predestination. 


Acts 13:48 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.



When Calvinists try to defend their double predestination theory by referring to Acts 13:48, here are some things that I point out:


1. The verb “believed” (aorist tense, active voice, indicative mode) stands first in word order in the Greek text, thus it is emphasized. The statement literally is, "And they believed, as many as were ordained unto eternal life" (a perfect tense periphrastic in Greek).  They did not believe because they were ordained unto eternal life.  Simply, they believed; that is, they actively (active voice) expressed positive volition toward the Gospel. This statement of fact is then followed by the fact that they were ordained or appointed to eternal life (due, as I understand it, to the foreknowledge of God).  This is simply another perspective of the fact that believers are “chosen” (elected) in him before the foundation of the world, Eph. 1:4.


“Believed” or “believe” is consistently active in voice in its over 100 uses in the N.T. relative to trust in Christ and Him alone. That means the person who believes is actively, not passively, trusting in the Gospel.  They are exercising their faith, not someone else's and not a faith given to them.


2.   They believed” in this passage expresses salvation from the human responsibility side: it is the response to the Gospel that God expects from human beings.  As many as were ordained to eternal life” expresses the Divine side of salvation: His omniscience and foreknowledge are in view.  Foreknowledge here is not causative. His foreknowledge did not cause them to believe: it simply means that He knew before the foundation of the world that they would.


3.   Contrasted to the ones that believed in the context are those that did not.  We are told that “they spake against the things that were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (v.45).  Again, the verbal voice is active.  They were actively expressing their negative volition to the Gospel, so that Paul follows their blasphemies with the statement “... you put it (the word of God expressed in the Gospel he had just spoken) from you and you judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life” (v. 46).  These verbs also are active voice.  They could not blame their negativeness on Satan or any other.  Paul did not say that God declared these unbelieving Jews unworthy of eternal life: he says that they declared themselves unworthy of it!


4. In 1 Peter 1:2, we are told that believers are “elect in accord with the foreknowledge of God.”  Theologians argue over the meaning of this statement.  However one answers, the following scriptural facts must be taken into consideration:


·      Election is compatible with grace, but incompatible with works, Rom. 11:5,6.


·      Faith is compatible with grace, but incompatible with works, Rom. 4:3-6,16; Eph.2: 8,9.


·      Therefore, election is compatible with faith, and faith cannot be perceived as a good work!


In view of these scriptural facts, one can conclude that God foreknew who would believe the Gospel and on the basis of this foreknowledge elected them before the foundation of the world.  He did not do this on the basis of any good thing that they would do, rather on the basis of a non-meritorious response to the Gospel of grace called "faith." ˘


Ron Merryman served the Lord in Bible colleges for 11 years, 3 of those as Acting President of Western Bible College.  He also pastored Holly Hills Bible Church in Denver, Colorado, for 14 years.  Ron currently teaches in the G.I.B.S., a ministry of Duluth Bible Church.