As Many as were ordained to Eternal Life believed

The following exegesis by Jesse Morrell gives an alternative interpretation of Acts 13:48. It shows that it is not necessary at all to believe in the Calvinist interpretation of that verse.


‘If it really is a person’s own free choice to believe the gospel or not, why does the Bible say “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48)? This is a common proof-text of Calvinists who say that it is not man’s choice to believe but that God predetermines who believes and who doesn’t.

The Greek word used here for “ordained” however “includes no idea of pre-ordination or pre-destination of any kind” [1] according to Adam Clarke. John Wesley said, “St. Luke does not say fore – ordained. He is not speaking of what was done from eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the gospel.” [2]

The word which is translated as “ordained” in this passage simply means “disposed.” [3] Therefore this verse is saying “as many as were disposed or had such a disposition to eternal life believed.” As Adam Clarke said, it teaches the “disposition or readiness of mind of several persons in the congregation…” [4] Their disposition to receive the gospel is contrasted with the disposition of the Jews just two verses before. We read, “Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).

The meaning of the word used in verse 48 and the context of verse 46 helps us to properly exegetically interpret verse 48 consistently with the rules of hermeneutics, namely, interpreting a passage based upon the meaning of the original language and in light of the immediate context.

In light of this, this passage means that those who “judge” themselves “unworthy of everlasting life” did not believe, but those who “disposed” themselves “to eternal life believed.” Whether they believed or not depended on whether their heart rejected or accepted the gospel which was preached to them. Those who hardened their hearts did not believe, but those who softened their hearts did believe. What made the difference was the disposition which they choose to have in response to the message that was preached. Therefore, this passage should not be used to teach that it is not man’s free choice to believe, as it is implied all throughout the Bible that it is man’s choice to believe or not.’

Source: Jesse Morrell, “Repentance, Impenitence, Faith & Unbelief Are Free Will Choices of Men” (biblicaltruthresources).

Footnotes:

[1] Adam Clarke (Commentary on Acts 13:48).

[2] John Wesley (Commentary on Acts 13:48).

[3] Strong’s Definitions.

[4] Adam Clarke (Commentary on Acts 13:48).

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