There are many in the religious world who contend that God predestined some individuals to be saved, and that He predestined most souls to be dammed, regardless of their free will or personal decisions. This doctrine is usually known as special predestination. While the Bible teaches the notion of predestination of the church (I.e., that God has predestined that those who are in the church will be the ones who are saved from Hell-Ephesians 1:1-5), it is important to realize that this predestination factors in the free will of the individual (e.g., while God predestined salvation is in the church of Christ, He has made it clear that each individual freely chooses whether or not to be a part of His church-see Deuteronomy 30:19; Isaiah 1:18-19; Proverbs 1:29; John 5;40).
Nevertheless, our Calvinistic friends claim that there is a passage in the Book of Acts which supports their claim. Luke records:
Acts 13:48-Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.
Special attention is emphasized with the word “appointed” (KJV-ordained). It is claimed that God here appointed that some were predestined to eternal life. What shall we say to these things?
First of all, it is important to realize that different translations of the Bible render this passage in very different ways. As we learn about these different translations, we will be able to get to the bottom of the issue. Dave Hunt has written:
“A number of paraphrases, however, give a decidedly non-Calvinistic rendering. The Living Bible puts it, “…as many as wanted eternal life, believed.” Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible says, “as many as had become disposed for life age-abiding….” The Nazarene Translation 2000 by Mark Heber Miller has, “…all those who believed were disposed to ageless Life.” Whatever the differing opinions of translators and commentators, this one verse cannot undo what hundreds of others establish. The Calvinist, to support his beliefs, assumes that tetagmenoi must mean “predestined to salvation.” Yet that is clearly not the meaning in any of the seven other usages of tasso in the New Testament. If that were the intent, why was tasso used and not prooridzo (predestinated)? In fact, Adam Clarke declares rather dogmatically, “Whatever tetagmenoi may mean, which is the word we translate ordained, it includes no idea of preordination or predestination of any kind…. [O]f all the meanings ever put on it, none agrees worse with its nature and known signification than that which represents it as intending those who were predestinated to eternal life; this is no meaning of the term and should never be applied to it.”6 Nor does the context support the Calvinist rendering, as numerous commentaries declare. McGarvey comments that “the context has no allusion to anything like an appointment of one part, and a rejection of the other, but the writer draws a line of distinction between the conduct of certain Gentiles and that of the Jews addressed by Paul…. Luke says, many of the Gentiles ‘were determined’ for everlasting life. It is an act of the mind to which Paul objects on the part of the Jews, and it is as clearly an act of mind in the Gentiles which Luke puts in contrast with it….”7 Several authorities trace the KJV’s “ordained” to the corrupt Latin Vulgate, which, as T. E. Page points out, “has praeordinati, unfairly…”8 Cook’s Commentary reads, “The A.V. [KJV] has followed the Vulgate. Rather, [it should read] were…disposed for eternal life, as in…Josephus….”9 Likewise Dean Alford translated it, “as many as were disposed to eternal life believed.”10 The Expositor’s Greek Testament says, “There is no countenance here for the absolutum decretum of the Calvinists.”11 A. T. Robertson likewise says: “The word ordain is not the best translation here. ‘Appointed,’ as Hacket shows, is better…. There is no evidence that Luke had in mind an absolutum decretum…of personal salvation.”12”. (Dave Hunt, What Love Is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation Of God, 6912-6945 (Kindle Edition); Bend, Oregon; The Berean Call).
The Greek word used here for “appointed” (Tasso) can have a wide variety of meanings, depending on the context. If the verb is in the middle tense in the Greek, then it strongly carries the idea that the ones who did the believing in the passage are the same ones who did the “appointing.” Shank has pointed out:
“Commentators are divided on the question of the precise significance of tetagmenoi, which the Authorized Version (following the Vulgate) renders “ordained,” as do most English versions, including the Revised Standard Version. As in the case of many words, tasso possesses latitude, and the determination of its meaning in any instance becomes a matter of interpretation. tion. It is imperative that full consideration be given to context in determining the precise meaning of tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48. This men have failed to do who have presumed to find in the verse support for the thesis in question. Alford comments: The meaning of [tetagmenoi] must be determined by the context. The Jews had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life: the Gentiles, as many as were disposed to eternal life, believed. By whom so disposed is not here declared: nor need the word be in this place further particularized. ized. We know that it is God who worketh in us the will to believe, and that the preparation of the heart is of Him:14 but to find in this text pre-ordination to life asserted is to force both the word and the context to a meaning which they do not contain. The key to the word here is the comparison of [I Cor. 16:15 and Rom. 13:1 ] in both of which places the agents are expressed, whereas here the word is absolute. See also ch. xx. 13…. Wordsworth well observes that it would be interesting to enquire what influence such renderings as this of praeordinati in the Vulgate version had on the minds of men like St. Augustine and his followers in the Western Church in treating the great questions of free will, election, reprobation, and final perseverance: and on some writers in the Reformed churches who, though rejecting the authority of that version, were yet swayed by it away from the sense of the original here and in ch. ii. 47. The tendency of the Eastern Fathers, who read the original Greek, was, he remarks, in a different direction from that of the Western School.”15…Rotherham translates Acts 13:48, “And they of the nations, hearing this, began to rejoice and to be glorifying God, and they believed-as many as had become disposed for life abid-ing.”17 abid-ing.”17 Rotherham’s rendering “had become disposed” is fully “”.warranted. Citing examples, Bloomfield asserts (as do others) that the passive voice of tasso often conveys the middle sense and that the use of the passive does not necessarily suppose any over-ruling impulse from without. The expression tassesthai eis may here have the sense it sometimes bears, `to be thoroughly disposed for, or purposed for, bent on,’ like the similar one euthetos einai eis, `to be fitly disposed for.’ Of this signification several examples are adduced by Krebs and Loesner … in all of which passages the middle sense is very apparent. Chrysostom goes so far as to say that the expression tetagmenoi is employed to intimate that the thing is not a matter of necessity, or what is compulsory. And thus, far from favouring the system of an absolute decree, the words would lead to the opposite conclusion, that the Creator, while `binding nature fast in fate, left free the human will.’ (Robert Shank, Elect In The Son: A Study In The Doctrine Of Election, 1812-1852 (Kindle Edition); Minneapolis, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers)
In discussing whether or not this verb is passive or middle, we need to look at the context. When we look at verse 36, we see that the word “appointed” is best understood in the middle tense. Wayne Jackson explains:
“Calvinists fantasize that this provides some support for their doctrine of predestination. Nothing could be further from the truth. The term ‘ordained’ means to arrange or to set in order, to ‘determine.’ “Here the word may be either a passive form, ‘were ordained,’ or a middle form, ‘determined themselves’ (Lenski). The context indicates that the latter is the case, because these Gentiles are set in contrast to the Jews who thrust from themselves the message of salvation. Hence, the sense of the passage is this: ‘Those who believed were those who had determined for themselves that they had been offered and would accept God’s gift of eternal life.” (Wayne Jackson, A New Testament Commentary, 228; Stockton, CA; Christian Courier Publications)
Far from teaching that an individual has been predestined to Heaven or Hell by God regardless of a person’s free will, this passage powerfully demonstrates that those individuals who desire salvation will find it. It actually reminds me of what John said at the end of Revelation:
Revelation 22:17-And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
God has predestined that all those in His church will be saved (Ephesians 1). How do we become a member of His church. The Bible teaches that God adds people to the church when they are saved (Acts 2:47). How are we saved? Only through Jesus Christ and following God’s Word can be saved from sin (John 14:6; Matthew 7:21-23). The Son of God laid down His life on Calvary to save us (Matthew 20:28). He was buried and arose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He has declared that all who hear His Word, trust in Him, repent of sin, confess Him before men, and be baptized for remission of sins will be saved (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38). Why not obey Him today? If you are a child of God who has left your first love (Revelation 2:4-5), why not repent of your sin and turn back to Him in prayer (Acts 8;22; 1 John 1:9)?
The churches of Christ stand ready to assist you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.