Does Acts 13:48 Support Calvinism?

Acts 13:48 is one of the most referenced proof texts used by Calvinists to support their belief in unconditional election. And, admittedly, this verse when read with the claims of the Calvinistic worldview in focus does seem to support those claims. However, it should be noted, that this is true of any proof text being used to support any given perspective. That is why we call it “proof texting.” Most respectable theologians and scholars know these types of texts can be cited to support both sides of the argument, therefore great care must be taken to fully vet the context and seek to discover the true intention of the biblical author for every proof text that is offered.

Before unpacking Acts 13, let’s 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 theology.
  • Text without context is a pretext for proof-text. We have to look at what is happening at the time the author is writing in order to better understand the possible intent of the author. With this in mind let’s look at the historical 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 between Jews and Gentiles that needs to be understood in order to rightly represent the author’s true intentions.

Consider the fact that the “elect people” (Israelites) were generally not believing the gospel, while the “non-elect people” (Gentiles) were believing the gospel in mass numbers. The big debate of that day was whether God had actually included (grafted in) barbarian sinners from nations other than Israel. The biblical authors, and most especially Paul, go to great lengths to argue the case that the Gentiles were also appointed by God for eternal life.

The question of the first century was not, “Has God elected to irresistibly save some and leave the rest in a hopeless condition?” But rather, the question being debated was in fact, “Has God really appointed those barbarian non-elect half-breeds and uncircumcised dogs for eternal life?”

If we come to the text with the wrong question we will most certainly find the wrong answer. Indeed, we may find an answer the text was never even attempting to address. So, what is being addressed in the historical context of the thirteenth chapter in Acts?

Let’s consider some specific phrases that more clearly reveal what is actually happening at this time. 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.

Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 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; for about forty years he endured their conduct in the wilderness; and he overthrew seven nations in Canaan, giving their land to his people as their inheritance. 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, God haters in need of some sort of supernatural grace to effectuate faith. They already had faith in God, they simply did not know about the Messiah yet.

Granted, these “Gentiles who worship God” had not yet come to specifically believe in Jesus Christ so as to be indwelled by His Spirit, but that is because they had not yet heard this specific good news.  How could they believe in One whom they have not heard, as Paul inquires in Romans 10:14?

These worshipping Gentiles are prepared or ready to receive the mystery of the gospel first being brought to light by inspiration through the holy apostles (Eph. 3:1-10).  One might even say they are “disposed or prepared” (tasso) to hear the truth being brought to them on this day.

Further, could it be 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

Maybe God is directing those who have been listening and learning from the Father to also follow His Son (Jn 6:45)? Doesn’t it make sense that God would want genuine worshippers to know of and follow Christ? With this context in mind go on to read what the text says,

“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 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.’

From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 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.’

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 that He would fulfill His promise to Abraham by blessing all people through his seed. God is making sure that all those who are already genuinely worshipping Him know of His Son too. These are the ones who would be prepared or appointed to receive this good news.

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

“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 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)

Notice the apostle is bringing attention to the fact that anyone and everyone, regardless of their nationality, can be justified before God through faith. He also teaches that righteousness is unattainable through the law of Moses, but does that prove it is equally unattainable through faith?

Calvinists wrongly presume that believing in the One who fulfilled the law for us is as equally unattainable as fulfilling the demands of the law ourselves.

In other words, Calvinists have concluded that if you cannot attain righteousness under the law of Moses, then you must also be unable to put your trust in Christ, the one who fulfilled that law. This is a non-sequitur and is nowhere supported in the pages of scripture. Paul continues in verse 40 saying,

Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you,” “‘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 one continues to rebel by suppressing the truth, then eventually their thinking will grow defiled and God may give them over to their fleshly desires (Rom. 1:21-28). They may even be sealed over into that condition or blinded from truth for a time by God for a good redemptive purpose (Jn 12:39-41; Rom 11). Theologians sometimes refer this as the “judicial hardening of Israel,” which is NOT a representing a condition of the heart from birth, as the Calvinistic system presumes. In Acts 28:23-28, Paul lays out this clear distinction

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 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. “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

 

The 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 and turn…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 blinded 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 are born without the ability to respond positively to the gospel, then why would Jesus use a random child as any example of what we must be like? Isn’t the child just as depraved and hardened from birth as the 80-year-old Israelite according to the Calvinistic system? The difference is that the child is humble and moldable because he has not yet “grown calloused.” The child is sinful, but not yet hardened. The text continues in Acts 13:42-48:

“As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to speak further about these things on the next Sabbath. 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.

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

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, the barbarian sinners. 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 specific revelation (through elect messengers), first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles (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. This is precisely what Paul explains in his summary of Romans  chapter 9:

“What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.” (Romans 9:30-32)

 

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:

“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.’ 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)

So, why were these God-fearing Gentiles appointed for eternal life? Below are two possible answers to this question. Use your own discernment, under guidance of the Holy Spirit, while considering what we just learned about the context of the first century, and you decide which of these answers best fits the narrative:

Why were the God-fearing Gentiles appointed for eternal life?

(1) For mysterious reasons never explained to us God chose certain individual Gentiles and effectually worked within them the desire to believe the gospel, while leaving the unbelieving Jews in a hopelessly innate corrupt condition that they had no ability to correct or change from the time they were born.

or

(2) The Gentiles were “prepared for” or “appointed to” eternal life because they humbly recognized their sin and believed in God, unlike the Jews who had willingly rebelled and grown calloused to the truth of God.

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 of Christ 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 Christ and knowledge of His redemptive work (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 specific gospel of Christ. After all, God did promise Abraham to “bless those who bless you” (Gen. 12:3). Those not even of the seed of Abraham 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 Acts 13,

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.

“The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. 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. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. 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 believed and enforced 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 Israelites’ objections to God’s in-grafting of many nations rather than the Calvinistic conflict we see today created by Western individualism.

12 thoughts on “Does Acts 13:48 Support Calvinism?

  1. In the same way that this one verse taken out of context could be used to set patterns or doctrines….. the following verses could be also…

    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.

    ————
    “Biblical Instructive 1” If anyone persecutes you, shake he dust off your feet and move on (to Iconium if possible).

    “Biblical Instructive 2” Disciples are filled with joy and the Holy Spirit at the same time, and only after dusting their feet off.

    “Biblical Instructive 3” Be aware of Jewish leaders, God-fearing women, and leading men.

    “Biblical Instructive 4” [from previous verse] Always present the Gospel first to Jews, and if they resist move on to Gentiles.

    Doctrine anyone?

  2. Great point here Leighton:

    “No one could rightly describe these God-fearing Gentiles as totally disabled, hardened, God haters in need of some sort of supernatural grace to effectuate faith. They already had faith in God, they simply did not know about the Messiah yet.”

    That is what I cannot get any Calvinists to explain to me. They say all men are God-haters and will never seek God or do any good until they are regenerated by God.

    The Scripture shows us lots of examples of “God-fearing Gentiles” in the Word.

    Calvinist: Yes… because they were regenerated to be able to seek God and “fear” Him.

    Me: But sometimes the seeking takes years (such as with a person today in a discover Bible Study). So…. is that person regenerated for years before he then decides to follow Christ?

    Calvinist: Regeneration precedes faith… and usually instantaneously-close in time.

    Me: Why were these people called “God-fearing Gentiles” (think: Cornelius who was “a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people.”)? Scripture says he was righteous and God-fearing…. perhaps for a long time (to get that reputation). That just does not fit with the Calvinist “regenerated then they instantly come to faith” idea. Unless they say that a person can be regenerated for years and years and then come to faith. Never heard one say that.

    My question to Calvinists:

    Your teenager brings a non-believing friend (say, 15 years old) to Youth Group. That person continues to come to Bible studies, asking great questions for years. At the age of 27, and after years of faithful attendance at Bible studies, camps, retreats, and church services, that person professes Christ.

    What was that person doing for 12 years (while reading the Bible, looking for answers, asking questions)? Was he “seeking”?

    If your answer is “Yes he was seeking” —then it follows that he had to have been (according to Calvinism) regenerated (since otherwise he is a God-hating, non-seeker). So, regenerated for 12 years before professing Christ.

    If your answer is “No he was not seeking” (since unregenerate people cannot seek— and he was only regenerated right before his profession of Christ)….. then what was he doing for 12 years?

  3. This post brought tears to my eyes, and great rejoicing to my heart, as it painted the picture of my own life. I see myself as a young child, like the Gentile nations who had some understanding of who this Creator God is due to him having revealed himself to and through the nation of Israel. The stories of Israel were known far and wide, of their mass exodus from Egypt, their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and probably most of the other stories now written in the scriptures.

    I vaguely glimpse myself as a small child, having heard stories about God, his goodness, his love and his mercy, but not really understanding the point of Jesus, if you will. I recall some of the little old ladies who would sing and testify of how much Jesus meant to them, and I felt somewhat guilty for not sharing their passion. I believed in God, that he was and that he loved all men, but I did not understand what the cross was all about.

    I was, if you will, a God-fearing person, seeking and finding comfort and help from God as I called out to him, for as long as I can remember. I knew all of the Christianese, sang the songs, led the youth group and, for as long as I could remember, had self-identified as a Christian. But I recall so well the day, as a college student, when an understanding of who Jesus was, and what he had done for me, became personally real.

    Ironically, it was in, for the first time in my life, pondering the Calvinistic concept of OSAS, that I found myself asking questions about what salvation meant, who it was for and how one could ‘know’ if they were ‘saved’, that I was finally led to ponder just what this salvation I had long claimed actually meant. Like the Gentiles in first century Israel, I had come to a knowledge of God in a setting rife with bad theology, in a holiness church in which the loss of your salvation was always one sin away (which is why I am no more ‘Arminian’ than I am Calvinist).

    Visiting a friend one weekend I read a poster in the stairwell of a church (same denomination) quoting from Romans 8:31: ‘He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with him?’ I had always liked Romans, and particularly chapter 8, but seeing this verse standing alone like this resonated deeply with me. When I got back to my dorm I turned to Romans 8 to read the rest of this passage, which I had read so many times. And it was as if I was reading it for the first time.

    Suddenly, I could hear in my mind all of those old saints’ songs, and now I knew what they meant, why they just had to sing ‘Oh, how I love Jesus’! Jesus’ suffering and death was a testimony of God’s great love for us! And if God would give up his own precious Son in such a manner, what would he withhold from me? I was not sure whether or not I was embracing OSAS or not, (and I knew nothing of the rest of Calvinism’s theology) but at that moment I knew, and experienced deeply the love of God for me. I didn’t know (and still don’t) what exactly my theology was going to look like, but I knew that this God whom I had long ‘known’ desired for me to know him better, personally, as a loving Father who would do anything to protect me.

    That very emotional, deeply spiritual experience was unlike any of the emotionalism of my holiness trips to the alter. I knew that I was forever changed, that I had an assurance of God’s love for me that no one could ever take away. Due to my brand of ‘Arminism’, I thought I must have become a ‘Calvinist’. 🙂

    Fast forward thirty years, and I finally stumbled upon hard-core Calvinism. I danced with it for over a decade, and thought, as best I understood it, that I was embracing it. I will forgo the long story, but various circumstances led to my beginning (once again, as I had done so a decade earlier) to research Calvinist theology and try to fully understand what I was embracing. I had lived without it, and I had lived with it, and I knew I was God’s beloved child for whom he sent his Son to redeem, whatever doctrines I embraced.

    Yet, it became increasingly apparent that my Calvinist pastor had not presented the Calvinist doctrines of salvation fully; in fact, he had always deliberately avoided a head on study of Calvinism, which, it now seemed, was rather odd for a Calvinist church to avoid. But as I began to wrestle with the unavoidable dilemmas of Calvinism’s theology, I could see why a Calvinist pastor would prefer to keep such things in the closet.

    In short, I felt as if I had been deceived by someone I had trusted and loved. Imagine having been married to someone for a decade to only then discover your spouse was a Satanist. This is the sort of betrayal I felt; I had been led along under false pretenses by a pastor and a denomination which stopped short of honestly describing the theology they were selling. Worse, I had raised my family under this false image of Christianity, and my children had taken wing with this as their only understanding of who God is.

    I was devastated, crushed, and with nothing left but that precious faith that God was good and that he had demonstrated his love for me through Jesus. In all honesty, I am still in the process of discovering who God is and what he genuinely wants from me and from all men. And when I read scripture, I now do so having tried many disparate lenses. To some degree, this gives me greater insight into how easily a lens can distort what one is reading. I can ever escape having some sort of framework, but realizing that I view scripture through a hermeneutic of some sort makes me less certain, less liable to grasp at one meaning and insist it is the only ‘true’ interpretation. In my opinion, that is a pretty good place to start, if you truly want to understand what God is trying to tell you about himself.

    1. TS00,
      Thanks for that good post. I feel your pain bro. Similar path.

      Reading now the just-released book by Austin Fischer (the guy who wrote “Young Restless and No Longer Reformed”). It is called “Faith in the Shadows: Finding Christ in the Midst of Doubt.”

      Stay the course man.

  4. Leighton,

    I agree fully with your analysis of Acts 13:48.

    When I came across this verse years ago, I asked myself…. “If people like Cornelius and Lydia had passed away before the death of Christ upon the cross, where would they have gone?” I said “Abraham’s bosom” or “paradise”.

    After careful study of Acts 13:48 I came to realize this verse has no application for us today, but rather for those during a time of transition. Cornelius and Lydia are just a couple of biblical examples of people who “worshipped God”, but now, after the cross, had to come to the knowledge of Jesus as the promised Messiah who would take away the sins of the world.

    Acts 18:9-10 (NKJV)….
    Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”

    God was not telling Paul “I have many people that I have unconditionally elected to salvation”, but rather that there were many God fearing people, just like Cornelius and Lydia, with a heart ready to accept Paul’s teaching of grace.

    1. Philip,
      If a person starts with Total Depravity as a given (non-negotiable) then he can “scaffold” together a verse from here and there (interpreted a certain way) and uphold Calvinism.

      But it is in reading the whole Bible that one has to ask…. what is the message?

      Is the message that God planned before time to create in such a way that all men’s actions/ thoughts/ ideas/ words are pre-planned by Him… and that He would purposely redeem a tiny fraction of those “created in His image,” then blame the rest for things they had no control over, and tell us to call that “Good News”?

      Or,

      Is the message that God planned before time to create in such a way that He would provide freedom to man —who may sin in the garden — and provide “a way of escape” for those created in His image, blaming those who reject because, “His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Is the message—- the “Good News” —- the idea that His love and redemption can be “clearly seen”? That would be Good News!

      1. FOH,

        Well, apparently you can still believe that all men are totally depraved, but that God sent His Son to partially redeem mankind thus enabling them with a new endowed freedom (which they didn’t have before) to either accept or reject Christ.

        But then here’s the kicker. If regenerating grace (Calvinism) and prevenient grace (Arminianism) are a result of the death of Christ upon the cross (which, by the way, happened at a moment in time. Our Lord was not always in heaven with His hands pierced), how exactly did those before the cross believe?

        The topic of this thread asks…. “Does Acts 13:48 Support Calvinism?”

        The answer is… “All of scripture doesn’t support Calvinism”.

  5. I would like to make another observation.

    Leighton wrote… “The elect people were hardened because they were saturated with revelation, so the revelation is sent to the non-elect ones, the barbarian sinners.”

    Just throwing this out there, but could the root of Israel’s hardness not be because of revelation, but rather as being constantly exposed to the Law? I would say it wasn’t due to saturation of the word, but rather being consumed by, or inundated with, the Law. We know that the Law, which was ordained to bring life, brought death (Romans 9:7) and that the letter kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). But what if it was constant exposure to the Law that hardened Israel?

    This would also explain why some of today’s denominations are resistant to Paul’s gospel of grace. Those like the Roman Catholic Church and The Church of Christ, just to name a couple, are beat over the head with the Law and it is precisely these kinds of people that are the hardest to witness to.

  6. Daily reading brings me to Isaiah 15, Gal 1, Ps 58, Prov 23:12

    Gal 1:15 But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him 16 to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles.

    ——–
    Paul is recounting his story: Persecutor, called, Arabia, Jerusalem….

    In the middle of the story he reminds the readers that he is especially anointed (a similar thing was said about Jeremiah (Jer 1) and David (Ps 139)).

    Yes… special….set apart. That is his point.

    Paul could have easily said “we believers are all called before we are born..” or “like you all, I was called before I was born…” but he does not. He is not establishing TULIP here…. he is actually showing it is NOT true.

    HE was called before birth…. as opposed to every believer.

    It is part of his “credentials” — he was called before birth —not the same as everyone.

    Besides being chosen does not always mean you obey.

    God chose King Saul (“Do you see the one the LORD has chosen?”) …. then later said “I would have made you king forever, but you disobeyed…..”

    God chose the Israelites and they are constantly disobeying.

    Christ chose Judas….

    I certainly hope that Calvinist are not still using this verse, yanked out of context, to prove that the “Good News” is that most people were purposely created by God for torment.

  7. More from my daily reading.

    Proverbs 23:12
    Commit yourself to instruction;
    listen carefully to words of knowledge.
    ———-
    Who is this written to? It is a proverb right…so anyone right?

    Why listen carefully to knowledge?

    So you can make wise choices.

    Your choices matter. Decisions matter. Your life matters. Make wise choices…. or not.

    Even non-believers can make the random wise choice….. but not for Calvinists. They say non-believers are all God-hating, only-evil-doing dead men.

    Nah…. that’s not what the Bible says.

Leave a Reply