Friday, October 10, 2008

Appointed to Eternal Life

Many American Evangelical Christians shy away from the doctrines of election and predestination as if they are some sort of evil. I have heard numerous Christians actually say that it wouldn't be fair for God to elect some people to salvation but not others. Having been raised in an Arminian denomination, I cannot even begin to tell how many times I've heard the doctrine of election described as God's looking into the future to see who would choose Him, and then He elected them.

I do not understand why Christians, at least in this country, generally struggle with accepting the fact that it is God who sovereignly selects who will be saved and who will not. I believe that a fair reading of the scriptures shows this to be true.

For example, in Acts 13:48 we read in the ESV, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed" (emphasis mine).

The NASB, NKJV, NIV, and HCSB also use the word "appointed" in this verse. The KJV and Wycliffe New Testament use "ordained."

The context of this passage has Paul and Barnabas in Antioch in Pisidia on the first missionary journey. On a Sabbath, a group of Jews was contradicting Paul. In response to this, Paul and Barnabas said that since they rejected the gospel message, Paul and Barnabas would turn to the Gentiles. That is the conclusion of 13:47. Immediately after this, we read 13:48.

In the original Greek language, the meaning is the same (to see it, click here). Luke clearly writes that some Gentiles were assigned, appointed, or designated to eternal life. Those who were thus appointed were those who then believed. The Greek verb form is a perfect passive participle. The key is that it is passive. This means that someone else appointed those who would believe. Who did the appointing? It is clear that God did.

I have read various people attempt to make Acts 13:48 say something other than it does. The reality, however, is that the language is clear and plain. It is not difficult to read or understand. In Acts 13:48, a certain number of Gentiles believed. They were the ones God appointed to believe.

God is sovereign over the election of who is saved and who is not. When we submit to this truth, it gives us a broader, deeper, and sweeter view of the glory of the cross.

I thank God for saving a wretch like me!


Richard said...

The idea of sovereign election is one I tend to discuss more frequently than other points of doctrine.

What I have learned is this:

Persons not agreeing with the Reformed doctrine of election have no clue why they're saved.

"Why are you going to Heaven? Most people don't."

- Because I have faith.

"Why? Most people don't."

- Because I saw my need for a Savior.

"Why? Most people don't."

....Um.....Go away.

It's almost comical, really. They try to attribute their election to themselves, yet when they realize the implications of it, they find themselves in a corner.

Like the old hymn writer said, I once was blind but now I see...but only because God has chosen to give me sight.

Eric said...


I agree with you completely.

For me, the issue is settled with total depravity (total inability). When I understood my utter sinfulness and depravity, the only thing left was that God must have elected me out of His glorious grace.

It is sad that so many Christians in this country, whether they have thought about it or not, view their faith as a work.

Aussie John said...


For this sinner,I can only say "Amen" to what you have written.

My concern in our country is that, although most church leaders who would claim to adhere to the same Reformational doctrines of grace, still preach a doctrine of works and performance, which they enforce by carefully designed, harsh, guilt-tripping sermons.

Eric said...


It certainly is strange how we hear that on the one hand "salvation is by grace," but on the other hand "you must do this (insert behavior X) in order to be saved." The theology being preached is often not consistent, and as you have said, "guilt-tripping."

Matt said...

I think part of the lack of willingness to accept predestination comes from the obsessive individuality of our culture. If I do not choose my own path in every situation, then my rights have been violated. I have to have a say in what I eat, what I wear, who my congressman is, what color the carpet is at church, etc etc etc. This attitude, I think, plays heavily into the surge of Arminian-esque theology that pervaded Western Christianity in the nineteenth and twentienth centuries, i.e. after all the ideas of the Enlightenment had firmly taken hold.


Eric said...


I agree with you completely. The ironic thing is that God's election is a beautiful gift. It's not as if He is predestining us to something bad.