Does Acts 13:48 support Calvinism? What is Luke’s Intent?

Acts 13:48

Before unpacking this passage lets be reminded of a couple rules for proper hermeneutics (method of interpretation).

  • Didactic texts set doctrine and narratives help inform doctrine. Narratives are meant to tell a story, not teach foundational theological beliefs. Acts 13 is a narrative and though it can help us better understand our doctrinal beliefs it should not be foundational to develop our systematic.Montoya-300x298
  • Text without context is a pretext for proof-text. We have to look at what is happening in the text in order to better understand the possible intent of the author. With this in mind let’s look at the context of Acts 13.

Imagine if the New Testament was written in North America during the civil rights movement. The “historical context” would involve the tensions between blacks and whites and therefore would affect the author’s choice of words within that social dynamic. Likewise, in the first century there is a dynamic that needs to be understood in order to capture the author’s intentions. Consider the fact that the “elect people” (Israelites) were not believing the gospel while the “non-elect people” (all kinds from other nations) were believing the gospel. The big debate of that day was whether God had included (grafted in) the non-elect people (the other nations). “Has God appointed those barbarian non-elect half-breeds and uncircumcised dogs for eternal life,” is the question of the Jewish leaders in that day. That is the point being debated in the first century world. The debate is not whether God has elected to irresistibly save some individuals and leave the rest in hopelessness. Those who wish to prove their individualized perspective assume that meaning on the text.

Let’s consider some phrases in the context of Acts 13 that clearly indicates the intention of the author. Notice in this speech, Paul is speaking to both Israelites and Gentiles. He begins by explaining the national election of Israel and the purposes God fulfilled through the Jewish peoples.

16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors (national election of Israel); he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance.20 All this took about 450 years.

From verse 14 we know the apostles are speaking in a Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath and verse 16 specifies the audience includes Gentiles who are already believers in the God of Israel and desire to worship Him. Many God-fearing Gentiles genuinely believed in God and had not yet grown calloused in the religiosity of the Pharisaical teachings. No one could rightly describe these God fearing Gentiles as totally disabled, hardened or spiritually dead individuals in need of an irresistible calling.

Granted, these “Gentiles who worship God” had not yet come to believe the gospel, but that would be because they had not yet heard the gospel.  How could they believe unless someone preaches, as Paul inquires in Romans 10:14?  These worshipping Gentiles are ready to receive the mystery of the gospel being brought by inspiration through the holy apostles (Eph. 3:1-10).  One might even say they are “disposed or prepared” to hear the truth being brought to them on this day. Further, one might rightly argue that God had already set his favor upon these Gentiles and “appointed them to eternal life” (Acts 13:48) because they have a humble and contrite heart that has believed in what revelation they have been given (Is. 66:2). As the Psalmist clearly explains,

Who are those who fear the Lord? He will show them the path they should choose.”‭‭ -Psalms‬ ‭25:12

“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

23 From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to US that this message of salvation has been sent. (Acts 13:16-26 emphasis added)

Paul summarizes God’s purpose of electing Israel when he states, “God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus…it is to US that this message of salvation has been sent.” God has chosen to bring His Messiah and His Message through Israel. There is nothing said about God choosing to irresistibly save individuals of Israel, but only his purpose in blessing the world through Israel by bringing the LIGHT.

ANTICIPATED OBJECTION: But, someone may object arguing that in order for God to accomplish the purpose of bringing his truth to the world through Israel, doesn’t He have to save the individuals he chooses to bring that truth? Yes. Paul is a great example of this. God used powerfully persuasive means to convince Paul to change his will (blinding light). Like Jonah (big fish) before him this divinely appointed messenger was in rebellion and unwilling to go the “non-elect people” with the truth of God. So, what does God do? He stepped in to persuade (through outwardly persuasive means) these men to believe His message so as to ensure they go into the world to proclaim it with authority. In other words, He elects them and persuades them so that His purpose in electing Israel would stand.

Is God obligated to do this for everyone?

Is God obligated to physically show his scars to the doubters, as he did for Thomas?

Of course not!

KEY POINT: Proof that God uses external miraculous means to convince the wills of his elect messengers from Israel to take the message to the non-elect nations of the world does NOT prove that God elects to make certain individuals believe their message by inwardly irresistible means. This is a foundational error leading to the Calvinistic misunderstanding of scripture.

The text continues in verse 38 to show this historical context:

38 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38-39 emphasis added)

Notice that righteousness is said to be unattainable through the law, but does that prove it is equally unattainable through faith? Calvinists presume that believing in the One who fulfilled the law for us is as equally unattainable as fulfilling the demands of the law ourselves. This is nowhere supported in the pages of scripture. If you ask a Calvinist to find a text that teaches the premise that lost men are unable to willingly respond to the powerful Holy Spirit wrought gospel appeal they will have a list of proof texts, but notice that not one of them actually mentions the gospel.

Could it be that the gospel, and the mysteries contained therein, were being fulfilled at the time the scriptures were recorded? Is it possible, therefore, that the gospel, having not been completed and sent into the world was not drawing or enabling faith prior to Christ being lifted up? (John 12:32) Maybe the enabling, drawing, spiritual, gracious NEED of the natural, lost, unregenerate man is not met until the soul piercing sword of truth is sent to all peoples (Matt. 28:16-20) and the Holy Spirit is poured out like fire (Acts 2)?

The gospel is certainly stronger in accomplishing its purpose to make an appeal for reconciliation than the fallen nature of the one needing that appeal. If not, every unbeliever who perishes burns eternally with the excuse, “The gospel was not sufficient for me.”

Paul continues in verse 40 saying,

“Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you.”

41 “‘Look, you scoffers,
    wonder and perish,
for I am going to do something in your days
    that you would never believe,
    even if someone told you.’”

Israel’s unbelief is predicted, as their hearts had grown calloused after continual rebellion. If there is any doctrine of “total inability” this is it. It is the judicial hardening of Israel, which is NOT a condition of the heart from birth as the Calvinist presumes. In Acts 28 Paul lays out this clear distinction:

For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

peanutstheologyThe apostle explicitly spells out the ability of those who have NOT yet grown calloused. “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts…they will listen.” Anyone who has been involved with mission work can testify to the fact that taking the gospel to areas where it has not been preached before is typically meet with much more reception than the gospel-saturated regions. Why is this? People who reject God’s revelation grow calloused to it over time. They are not born in this condition, mind you, but may grow into this hardened and disabled state through continual rebellion.

This is most likely why Jesus uses a child as an example of what we must become like if we are to enter His kingdom (Matt. 18:3). If all are all equally born under God’s wrath and without the ability to respond then why would Jesus use a random child as any example? Isn’t he just as depraved and hardened from birth as the 80-year-old Israelite according to the Calvinistic system? The difference is that the child has not yet grown calloused. He is born sinful but not hardened.

The text continues:

42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 43 When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying and heaped abuse on him.

46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

Sound familiar? This is exactly what he speaks of in Acts 28:27-28 in reflection of Israel’s becoming calloused to the revelation of God. The elect people were hardened because they were saturated with revelation, so the revelation is sent to the non-elect ones. God “cuts off” Israel and “grafts in” all nations of the world (ref to Rom. 11). This is what “the election” is referencing throughout scripture: God’s election to bring his special revelation (through elect messengers), first to the Jew and then to all other nations.

Notice in verse 46 that Luke regards the Jews rejection of the gospel as THEIR OWN consideration of being unworthy for eternal life (not God’s rejection of them), which is the antithesis to verse 48 where the Gentiles belief in the gospel is proof of THEIR being prepared or “appointed” to eternal life (i.e. grafted in). So, in the same way Israel considered themselves unworthy for eternal life by their rebellion to God’s revelation thus leading to their being cut off, now the Gentiles, who were NOT hardened in like manner, but who were in large part open to hearing and believing the gospel truth, are being grafted in by faith. (See Romans 11)

Now, knowing this context where Israel is hardened and thus unable to see the truth, and the gospel is being taken to all the nations of the world (referred to generally as “Gentiles”), we read:

 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. (Acts 13:47-48)

There are a number of approaches to understanding the intention of this passage within this historical context.  Dr. Brian Abasciano, a notable Greek and New Testament scholar, writes, “The best understanding of ‘tasso’ [appointed] in Acts 13:48 is that it refers to Gentiles who were ‘in position for eternal life’ — ‘ready for eternal life’ — or even ‘intent on obtaining eternal life’ (particularly in contrast to the Jews of the same episode who opposed Paul and rejected the gospel, and so who judged themselves unworthy of eternal life [Acts 13:46]), and that the most accurate translation of the phrase in question would be something like: ‘as many as were disposed to eternal life believed’ or ‘as many as were aligned for eternal life believed’ or ‘as many as were positioned for eternal life believed.‘” (More of Dr. Abasciano’s grammatical perspective can be viewed HERE.)

Some Gentiles, like Lydia or Cornelius recorded in scripture, were referred to as “worshippers of God” or “God fearing” gentiles even before they heard the gospel and believed. It is likely that Luke intends to contrast these God-fearing Gentiles (prepared to come to faith in large numbers) to the self-righteous Jews who have grown self hardened in their stubborn religiosity (thus fitting themselves for destruction). (Acts 28:27; Romans 9:22)

Most scholars agree that God likely showed mercy to those who had even a mustard seed sized faith based on their limit revelation prior to the coming of the gospel message (i.e. Rahab). In other words, people who died prior to Christ’s coming, but who, like Cornelius, genuinely feared the Lord, would have been credited as righteous (i.e. appointed to eternal life) even though they never had opportunity to hear and believe the gospel. After all, God did promise Abram to “bless those who bless you” (Gen. 12:3). Those not even of the seed of Abram may receive the blessing of His mercy by grace through faith in the promise.

Dr. F.L. Forlines reflects on the teaching of notable scholar, F.F. Bruce, regarding the potential meaning of this text, “F. F. Bruce says that the ‘simple monotheism of Jewish synagogue worship’ and Jewish ethics attracted many Gentiles who were not ready to become full proselyte Jews. Some of these Gentiles went to synagogue and became very familiar with Jewish prayers and readings from the Septuagint. Others even observed Sabbath and abstained from certain foods. Thus Bruce argues, ‘That the first Gentile to hear and accept the gospel should be a God-fearer is the more significant because, as we shall see later in Acts, it was such God-fearers who formed the nucleus of the Christian community in one city after another in the course of Paul’s missionary activity.’ These Gentiles who were influenced by Jewish thought, but chose not to become proselytes, are referred to as devout men or God-fearers. If some of the Jews were saved by faith before the coming of Jesus, it follows that some of the Gentile proselytes and God-fearers were also saved by faith. I think that any serious study of Acts must keep this observation in mind. I am not suggesting that all of these God-fearers were saved prior to hearing that Jesus the Messiah had come. There would have been some who would not have taken matters that seriously. However, I do believe that some were saved by believing the redemptive revelation of God given in the Old Testament before they heard the gospel message. That possibility no longer exists. But it did exist during this transition period. The Gentiles who had been influenced by the Jews as they had migrated to different parts of the Roman Empire would not have found the concept of individual salvation as distinguished from corporate salvation as objectionable as the Jews did. I think this could account for much of the early success in reaching Gentiles with the gospel. Now, let us see how this viewpoint helps us understand Acts 13:48. Verse 43 mentions “proselytes.” They were among those who were persuaded by Paul and Barnabas “to continue in the grace of God.” On the next sabbath day “almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God” (verse 44). The Jews were envious of the success that Paul and Barnabas were having and spoke against them (verse 46). Paul and Barnabas, then, turned to the Gentiles. When this move was made to the Gentiles, it is said, “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (verse 48, KJV).

The Greek word for “ordained” is tassō. It means “to ordain,” “to appoint,” “to allot,” or “to assign.” The form of the word that appears in verse 48 is tetagmenoi. It is a perfect passive participle form of tassō. It is preceded by ēsan which is the imperfect form of the Greek word eimi (to be). The expression ēsan tetagmenoi is what is called in the Greek a periphrastic pluperfect construction. The literal meaning would be “as many as were having been appointed to eternal life believed.” Or in a less literal way, it would be “as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” The “had been appointed to eternal life” or the “appointment to eternal life” had occurred before they heard and believed the gospel that was presented by Paul and Barnabas. However, the wording does not require that this appointment to eternal life must be a reference to eternity past. I think what the verse is telling us is that all of those who had been saved prior to their hearing the New Testament gospel subsequently believed when they heard the gospel being presented by Paul and Barnabas. At the moment of their salvation in the past, they were appointed to eternal life. When they heard about the redemptive work of Jesus the Messiah, they believed and became New Testament believers.” [Forlines, F. L. (2011). Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation. (J. M. Pinson, Ed.) (pp. 164–165). Nashville, TN: Randall House. Emphasis added.]

The national conflict imposed by the Jews is made even more obvious in the final words of this chapter:IsraelGentilewords

49 The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 50 But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:49-52 emphasis added)

The overwhelming point of contention among the people of the first century is the mystery that is just then being revealed for the very first time in history. That mystery is explained by Paul in Ephesians 3:1-6. It is the mystery that has become very common to us now and we refer to as the “good news” or the “gospel.”

It is this gospel truth “…that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus…”(Eph. 3:6). But imagine living in a world where the most notable spiritual and political leaders strongly believe and enforce through beatings and imprisonment their view that only the Jews are appointed to eternal life. Just imagine the conflict and type of words that would be used by the “apostle to the Gentiles” as he attempted to rebut this contentious war against the mystery of God’s eternal plan for the redemption of all nations. In that historical context a statement like we see in Acts 13:48 most likely carries the intent to address the Israelite’s objections to God’s in-grafting of many nations rather than the Calvinistic conflict we see today created by Western individualism.

31 thoughts on “Does Acts 13:48 support Calvinism? What is Luke’s Intent?

  1. I appreciate your attempt to link the interpretation of this Calvinistic sounding verse with the biblical teaching on corporate election. And since it is a reasonable alternative, it truly undermines the dogmatism that Calvinists try to get from this verse for their reasonable interpretation. It is obvious when looking at the Greek text, that the Calvinistic translation of “ordain” is a theological nuance forced upon the word τασσω. Also, to assume that God is the subject of that verb is a theological guess! And finally, the form of that verb is either passive or middle, and since other instances in the NT are found with this verb clearly in the middle voice, it could be so here, meaning the subject is initiating the action as well as benefiting from it in someway.

    I believe, therefore, that another reasonable alternative, also linked to the context, is that Luke is saying, just as Paul had recognized that the Jews had “judged themselves unworthy of everlasting life”, Luke saw that the Gentiles there were putting themselves in a position to receive it as evidenced by their public commitment of faith.

      1. Thank you for this explanation. As someone who was taught the principles of interpretation through my local church despite our lack of background from any bible school, I’ve come across this Calvinist doctrine.

        Although my church rejects predestination by using other biblical verses that would contradict the doctrine of predestination, I would still to hear the explanation using the context of very verses themselves. Hence, I’ve been reading and researching on the calvinist’s explanation of predestination as I wanted to understand how they have to reach that conclusion. Truth to be told, I found their explanation reasonable. I can say that they have a point yet I couldn’t also accept it as truth since there were verses that contradict the doctrine.

        That’s why, thank you for explaining this in a way that we are able to understand.

    1. This translation makes perfect sense considering it is the antithesis of what he said previously regarding the Jews considering themselves unworthy for salvation.

    2. I am a Christian. I see a lot of arguing here and I wonder why all of the energy about this? Why not preach the gospel? Is God going to be pleased that people sat and argued over a man’s (Calvin’s) teachings? You know the reason there is no power in our churches is because we really don’t believe that the gospel has the power to save.

      I believe the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit must convict a person before they can be saved, and that we are dead in trespasses and sins. I don’t think we can deny that can we? After we have received the knowledge of our sins from the Holy Spirit, we believe on the name of the Son of God who died for our sins according to the scriptures, and was buried and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. The Holy Spirit completes the “operation of God.” I’m reminded of the servant seeking a bride for Isaac. The servant didn’t make her come. The servant did show her all of the things his master could provide, much like the Holy Spirit and God’s sweet salvation. What happened, she said, “I will go.” Glory to Hod what a beautiful picture of salvation.

      Hebrews 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. How about we preach the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and allow God to do the rest? If so-called Calvinism was really true then God saved me whether I wanted Him to or not. Isn’t that ridiculous? Is it worth arguing about? Jude 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. These angels made a choice. Did God know they would? Why wouldn’t He? Does God know who will be saved and who won’t? Of course He does. The difference is He doesn’t make them get saved or be damned anymore than these angels “who left their own habitation.”

      A childish and carnal conversation, all of it. 1 Cor 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

      If God made me get saved without my consent then I don’t want it. People need to quit holding the writings of dead men more sacred then our Bibles.

      1. Steve,

        You had said:

        “I believe the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit must convict a person before they can be saved, and that we are dead in trespasses and sins. I don’t think we can deny that can we?”

        My response:

        This is why we argue. Some of us do indeed deny that.

        The Law of Moses is what convicts. And… not everyone is dead in their sins. We are not born dead.

        John 8:9
        And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

        Again, no one is born dead. And that’s why we argue and debate. Because some believe that, others don’t. And what is the origination of that teaching? The Bible? Some say yes, others say no.

        See Romans 7:7-9 for a glimpse of when one dies.

        Ed Chapman

      2. Steve:
        I am a Christian. I see a lot of arguing here and I wonder why all of the energy about this? Why not preach the gospel?
        You might want to review Paul’s letter to the Galatian church.
        You will find Paul going to the point of indicating he wishes certain teachers who are influencing that congregation will “mutilate themselves” (a hyperbolic reference to circumcision).
        Paul finds himself having to write about “False Apostles”, “Super Apostles”, “False Teachers”, “Wolves in sheep clothing – not sparing the flock”.
        The Apostle John – finds himself having to write about a certain teacher who “loves to have the preeminence among the brethren”
        Calvinism is of particular problem – because it justifies certain forms of dishonesty.
        And of course – it has it own unique definition of “The Gospel”
        Calvinist language long ago evolved into a language of DOUBLE-SPEAK
        And that is part of its inherent forms of dishonesty.

        Calvinism’s weakness is its embrace of EXHAUSTIVE DIVINE DETERMINISM (EDD)
        And its embrace of Determinism is what makes Calvinism a DOUBLE-MINDED belief system.

  2. With either translation of the word the clear existence of God fearing Gentiles who were already saved faith followers of God prior to hearing the Gospel negates any necessity to place the time of the appointing to eternal life in eternity past as the Calvinist does.
    As Forlines sttes the time would have been when they came t faith prior to hearing the Gospel.

    Before the Gospel there were not only true faith saved Jews there were faith saved Gentiles.
    Calvin himself makes this truth clear.
    Here Calvin is expounding on what Paul says about Cornelius.

    .2. He saith that he was a godly man, and one that feared God; secondly, that like a good householder he had a care to instruct his families; he praiseth him afterward for the offices of love, because he was beneficial [beneficent] toward all the people; and, lastly, that he prayed [to] God continually. The sum is this, that Cornelius was a man of singular virtues, wherein the integrity of the godly consisteth, so that his life was framed, in all points, according to the rule which God prescribeth unto us. And because the law is contained in two tables, Luke commendeth, in the former place, Cornelius’ godliness; secondly, he descendeth unto the second part, that he exercised the offices of love toward men. This is very profitable to be marked, because we have a way to live well described in his person. Wherefore, in ordering the life well, let faith and religion be the foundation, which being taken away, all other virtues are nothing else but smokes. Luke reckoneth up the fear of God and prayer as fruits and testimonies of godliness and of the worship of God, and that for good causes. For religion cannot be separated from the fear of God and the reverence of him, neither can any man be counted godly, save he who, acknowledging God to be his Father and Lord, doth addict himself wholly to him. And let us know that voluntary fear is commended in this place, when those men submit themselves to God willingly and from their heart, who duly consider themselves what is due to him. Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (2010). Commentary upon the Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 1, pp. 406–407). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

    This is preceded and followed by other comments affirming Cornelius as a God Fearing OT man of faith

    1. There is a problem if we make god-fearing to always equal salvation. Cornelius received an angelic message to send for Peter who would tell him “the words by which [he] and [his] household will be saved” (Acts 11:13-14), indicating Cornelius was not yet saved. And in Antioch there were more at the meeting (vs. 44) then just god-fearing Gentiles.

      I still lean that the participle – τεταγμενοι, is better understood as middle voice. The Gentiles are the subject of each of the verbs in 13:48. It makes sense they are the subject of this participle, “getting in line” for everlasting life to make their public commitment of faith in Christ. Their personal acceptance mirrors the personal rejection of the Jews. The middle voice for this verb is other places in the NT. Outside the NT this verb is regularly used in the middle voice for soldiers who arrange themselves in line. 1Corinthians 16:15, though not middle voice, indicates that this verbal action can be done to oneself.

      1. This is an important point of clarity, Brian. Thank you!

        I’m not arguing that fearing the Lord is equal to salvation. Even the demons fear him. I’m merely suggesting that one who does fear and believe in God is going to be open to hearing the gospel and believing it, which certainly would have described well the large numbers of Gentiles responding positively to the gospel during that time.

        That large response is either because God just so happened to elect and effectually draw a bunch of Gentiles to be saved at that time or it was because they were disposed or prepared to believe and accept the gospel of repentance because they weren’t calloused in self-righteous religiosity like the Jews were at that time.

      2. I’m sure not every God fearing gentile was truly a person of faith and in right standing with God.
        On the other hand I’m sure there must have been some who were true faith believers in the promised Messiah.
        These were already disposed to accept the now full revelation of the Messiah.
        They would have been so disposed by what God had already done in bringing them to OT faith in the promise.

  3. The absolute sovereign particular choice of God in salvation (and the resulting double predestination) is impossible to escape–even in the view of Mr. Flowers. How? Let’s grant the moving of the pivot of salvation over to man’s will and choice—-now….I ask you….WHO chose to give the prudence, sensitivity toward God, heart inclined toward humility, and detachment from the love of sin to the one particular group of individuals who believed? Answer? God. And now I ask, WHO deprived those virtues and sensitivity from the others who did not believe?
    Answer? God. And WHO KNEW with 100% certainty the end result of every soul God brought into this world–even before the world was made? God. So you have the same double predestination, and you have the same God choosing 100% in either system. So stop fighting these doctrines. You are busted. Your “unfair” God is in your own system.
    I am waiting for any Arminian to answer this point I make. I have not heard one. I wait…

    1. And who just misrepresented the God of the Scripture without any Scripture, and didn’t interact even with the reasonable meaning of Acts 13:48 presented in this post and supporting comments…? Roy!

  4. Honestly, I cannot understand how you people who are so dead set against the plain doctrines of predestination, election, particular atonement, effectual grace doctrines can deceive yourself that you are being led by The Spirit of God. All you are doing is the same thing that Jehovah’s Witnesses do in their philosophical premise that God cannot be a trinity, Christ cannot be divine, and hell cannot be real.
    Surely you have seen them duck dodge and deny the plain texts of Scripture that you give them….you do the same thing in opposition to your most disliked doctrines. The reality is the gospel as written offends you. Just face it. Don’t make strawmen called “Calvinists” that have nothing to do with these Biblical doctrines. Your dishonesty and denial is so obvious to everyone.

    1. Roy, you wrote, ” I cannot understand how you people who are so dead set against the plain doctrines of predestination.”

      Yet, if what you believe is true the only real reason we are dead set against your interpretation is because God has so ordained it. He has in his sovereign wisdom decreed not to grant us the needed grace to understand and accept your interpretation. That is a significant problem for your perspective IMO. It is not consistent to continually appeal to our wills if only God’s can change ours.

  5. Thank you Dr Flowers for giving a reasonable (and convincing) alternative to an otherwise confusing passage. It is interesting to me that the only complaint leveled came with no scriptural proof but rather personal attacks and philosophy. I have listened to most of your podcasts and wish to thank you for all that you have done. I have grown much in the Lord by them.

  6. Could Isaiah 53:3-8 be a good description of these believing Gentiles?

    Isaiah 56:3-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

    3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
    and let not the eunuch say,
    “Behold, I am a dry tree.”
    4 For thus says the Lord:
    “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
    who choose the things that please me
    and hold fast my covenant,
    5 I will give in my house and within my walls
    a monument and a name
    better than sons and daughters;
    I will give them an everlasting name
    that shall not be cut off.
    6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
    everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
    and holds fast my covenant—
    7 these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
    their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
    for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.”
    8 The Lord God,
    who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares,
    “I will gather yet others to him
    besides those already gathered.”

  7. I personally do find this verse to be possibly the most disconcerting for my non-calvinism, but one thing I’ve noticed but never seen brought up is the nuance of positioning (like in the case of soldiers) And Acts 17 where its said God positions people so that they MIGHT seek him and PERHAPS feel their way to him? Thoughts?

    1. Hi Jessie,
      Personally I don’t see any verse that is problematic for a Non-Calvinist.
      But that’s because I don’t read scripture through the lens of Exhaustive Determinism.
      On your other verse which you asked thoughts on – Dr. Braxton Hunter uses that verse in a Debate to show that it is logically incoherent with Calvinism.

      You can find that debate on youtube.

      1. Within just a couple minutes of reading this, it’s easy to determine what is meant.

        First, read the verse. The denominational problem is with the word “ordained”, of course. So, let’s look at the Greek Word’s “definition” of the word, which also shows the other English words used for that same Greek word, which is: addict, appoint, determine, ordain, set.

        Then look at all the verses with that Greek word in which uses those various English words, and then you can determine what “ordained” is all about, when you INTERCHANGE the English words, to understand it better.

        When you do that, you will see that the context of Acts 13:48 is that they were ordained the MOMENT that they believed, and not a moment sooner!

        For example:

        Acts 14:23 King James Version
        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.

        The problem still remains of “for there is no difference” regarding Jew and Gentile. The following explains.

        Speaking of Cornelius, I believe that the main subject of Cornelius was not necessarily of his salvation as a teaching moment for him, but as a teaching moment for Peter, because at that point, Peter thought that salvation was a JEW ONLY exclusive club, to wit:

        Acts 11:19
        Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

        The “scattered abroad” is the Jews. Also:

        Acts 10:28
        And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation;

        So God was showing Peter that Gentiles were allowed in their exclusive club.

        But here is the meet of it, regarding the Jews:

        Romans 11:8 and 9 and 10 discuss Jews, not Gentiles, and are quotes from the Hebrew scriptures:

        Romans 11:8=Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10
        8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

        Deuteronomy 29:4
        Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

        Isaiah 29:10 King James Version
        For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

        Romans 11:9-10 and Psalms 69:22-23
        And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.



        Romans 15:9-21 and Isaiah 52:15
        9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.

        10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.

        11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.

        12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.

        13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

        14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

        15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,

        16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

        17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.

        18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,

        19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

        20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:

        21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

        Isaiah 52:15
        So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

        NOTE: Let’s keep in mind Acts 10:28 in which Judaism is NOT for the Gentiles, and it took a WHILE for Peter to figure out that Gentiles were allowed in Christianity, therefore, up until that time, it was still JEWS ONLY, in which Cornelius was not invited to join.

        Gentiles were, however, allowed to BECOME a Jew (proselytes), which negated out their “Gentile” status.

        Ed Chapman

  8. I do have a major problem with the following quote from the post:

    Let’s consider some phrases in the context of Acts 13 that clearly indicates the intention of the author. Notice in this speech, Paul is speaking to both Israelites and Gentiles. He begins by explaining the national election of Israel and the purposes God fulfilled through the Jewish peoples.

    16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors (national election of Israel); he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country; 18 for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; 19 and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance.20 All this took about 450 years.

    From verse 14 we know the apostles are speaking in a Jewish synagogue on the Sabbath and verse 16 specifies the audience includes Gentiles who are already believers in the God of Israel and desire to worship Him. Many God-fearing Gentiles genuinely believed in God and had not yet grown calloused in the religiosity of the Pharisaical teachings. No one could rightly describe these God fearing Gentiles as totally disabled, hardened or spiritually dead individuals in need of an irresistible calling.


    Here is my problem:

    Gentiles are not allowed in any Jewish Synagogue whatsoever. I would surely love to know how, in my KJV bible, the words “ye that fear God”, suddently became “GENTILES WHO WORSHIP GOD”, somehow equating the words FEAR GOD to GENTILES WHO WORSHIP GOD.

    Again, let’s be 100 percent clear, that Gentiles are NOT ALLOWED in a Jewish Synagugue, ever.

    Acts 10:28
    And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation

    Unlawful! Like I said in my previous, Gentiles are allowed to CONVERT to Judaism, but not hang out as a Gentile in a worship service.

    Ed Chapman

  9. Now, everyone on this site knows I’m not a Calvinist, but I have another issue with the following from the article:

    Israel’s unbelief is predicted, as their hearts had grown calloused after continual rebellion. If there is any doctrine of “total inability” this is it. It is the judicial hardening of Israel, which is NOT a condition of the heart from birth as the Calvinist presumes.

    My response to that statement is that when we dissect Deuteronomy 29:4, we learn that God NEVER gave the children of Israel understanding, or ears to hear, eyes to see. “Unto This Day” means NEVER, meaning, rebellion had nothing to do with it, and it’s NOT a judicial act as a result.

    This is why Romans 11 was written, so that we can see that God will give those he blinded with mercy. It’s NOT THEIR FAULT that they can’t see. But Christians keep bringing up, “Well, the were disobedient, and so God blinded them!”.

    No, They are disobedient because God blinded them. They are not blind due to disobedience. When that is finally learned, that will settle a lot of Christian misconceptions about the Jews.

    Ed Chapman

  10. I’d like to add the following as an addendum to my previous comments about “ye that fear God”, that suddently became “GENTILES WHO WORSHIP GOD”.

    Now, I don’t really care what takes place post 1948. All I’m concerned with is what took place pre Peter era.

    And when we see:
    Acts 10:28
    And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation…

    As well as:

    Acts 11:19
    Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

    We can ALSO add:

    Acts 21:27-29
    27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

    28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

    29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

    He was being accused (falsely, of course) by the Jews of bringing a Gentile into the TEMPLE (verse 28, Greeks).

    It is interesting that some Christians seem to think that Jews and Gentiles had no problem intermingling in a worship service together, so long as they “feared God”.

    Here is something else to ponder, even as CHRISTIANS, even though, “for there is no difference”:

    Romans 16:4
    Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

    The last 5 words, “the churches of the Gentiles”. The opposite of that would be “the churches of the Jews”. What does the word “church” indicate? Assemblies. Many Christians have a strange notion that Jews and Gentiles intermingled in a church “service” together, having a GENTILE preacher, of course! That would be like John MacArthur preaching to Abraham. Abraham would be like, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP, JOHN! WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT FAITH, JOHN?

    Ed Chapman

  11. From the gospels regarding Gentiles and Jews

    John 4:9
    Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

    Mark 7:27/Matthew 25:26
    But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

    Matthew 10:5
    These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

    John 7:35
    Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?

    John 10:16
    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

    We all know that Jesus eventually helped the “dog”, and healed a child of a Roman soldier, and spoke to a Samaritan woman at the well, AGAINST THE ADVISE OF HIS APOSTLES! And that advice is important to note, because of Peter’s statement that is it UNLAWFUL.

    But sure, why not, let’s go with the notion that Jews and Gentiles intermingled and went to a Synagogue together, shall we? Ughhhh! After all, they “feared God”, right?

    It is easy to determine that Cornelius was a Gentile. The main debate SHOULD BE, was Lydia really a Gentile, or was she a Jew?

    It was a Jewish Sabbath, and Paul was with her on a Jewish Sabbath. And this was the FIRST Jewish Sabbath since Paul had arrived, meaning that he wouldn’t be talking to Gentiles until the Jews first rejected his preaching on a FIRST JEWISH SABBATH AFTER ARRIVING INTO TOWN. It woud not make any sense for him to talk to Gentiles on his FIRST JEWISH SABBATH into town.

    Ed Chapman

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