The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
AS MANY AS WERE ORDAINED TO ETERNAL LIFE BELIEVED
- Paul's first recorded sermon and his longest sermon is found here in Acts 13. He preached it in a synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia.
- The rest of Acts 13 describes the response to Paul's message. Some believed the Gospel, and some rejected the Gospel.
- It has been said, "The same sun which hardens brick, melts butter. The Gospel is to some a savour of life, and to others, of death. All these people had the same opportunity; they heard the same message, from the same preacher, but some of them believed and others blasphemed" (W. Graham Scroggie, The Acts of the Apostles).
SOME REFUSED TO BELIEVE
- Some of the Jews were so angry at Paul's message that they left the synagogue before the meeting ended (13:42). I have had people walk out when I was preaching. I'd rather see people walk forward!
- These unbelievers publicly avowed their contempt of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as their contempt for Paul and for his preaching Christ in their synagogue.
- Furthermore, they were demonstrating their contempt for the Word of God. The Word of God is referred to seven times in Acts 13.
- Acts 13:5 says that when Paul and Barnabas "were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews."
- Acts 13:7 says the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man, "called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God."
- Paul said in Acts 13:26, "Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent."
- Acts 13:44 says, "And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God."
- In Acts 13:46, Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you."
- Acts 13:48 says, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord."
- Acts 13:49 says, "And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region."
- But most of these Jews had no interest in the Word of God. In his message, Paul had quoted from the book of Psalms, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, but most of those in that synagogue would not believe the Word of God. Paul had warned them (Acts 13:40, 41).
- John Phillips said that by this time, the trend among the Jews was "away from the Torah, away from the Bible, and toward the Talmud and the traditions and the teachings of men. By the time of Christ, the Jewish world would be firmly controlled by rabbinical Judaism, by Pharisaical hypocrisy, by legalism, and by Sadducean liberalism" (100 Devotions For Pastors and Church Leaders). What a mixture!
- Acts 13:45 says that when the Jews saw the multitudes gathered together to hear the word of God, "they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming." These are works of the flesh: hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions (contradicting and blaspheming) and envy, etc. (Galatians 5:19-21).
- "They were filled with envy" (13:45) because the multitudes gathered to hear Paul and Barnabas preach the Gospel, but few people were interested in their dead and dull synagogue services.
- Acts 13:46 says, " Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you..." The Gospel went to the "Jew first."
- Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."
- But the Jews rejected their Messiah, and so Paul and Barnabas said, "but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts 13:46b).
- This is a great theme than runs throughout the latter part of the book of Acts (13:47; cf. 14:27; 15:3; 18:5, 6; 21:18, 19; 22:21, 22; 26:20-23; 28:23-28).
- The Jews stirred up enough women and men to drive Paul and Barnabas out of town (13:50, 51).
- But despite their opposition, verse 49 says, "And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region." This was cause for rejoicing (vs. 52).
- Despite fierce opposition, many souls were saved. Acts 13:42 says that the Gentiles "besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath." And "many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas" (13:43).
- Not all the Jews rejected the Gospel, though their leaders were stirring up opposition (13:45, 50).
- "And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God" (13:44).
- I would like to say a few words about Acts 13:48 -- "and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Unfortunately, some people have misinterpreted this verse to mean that God has chosen some people for heaven, and He has chosen the rest for hell.
- Some people, realizing how terrible that sounds, have softened it to: God has chosen the elect for heaven, and He has "passed by" the rest.
- First of all, "passing by" is just as terrible as God predestinating someone to hell. If a fireman is able to rescue ten people out of a burning house, but he deliberately chooses to rescue only three of them, leaving the other seven to die, he is guilty of killing them.
- But is this what the Bible teaches? That people can only believe if they are first "ordained to eternal life"? No, that is not what the Bible teaches (cf. John 3:16; Acts 16:30, 31; Rom. 10:13; etc.).
- The response of the Gentiles is in contrast to the response of the Jews, who rejected the Gospel (Acts 13:46-48).
- In the original Greek text, the verb "believed" comes before the verb "ordained." Furthermore, "ordained" does not mean "predestinate."
- Jerome's Latin Vulgate translated the Greek word tassō as "pre-ordained," and Jerome's Vulgate had a big influence on Augustine, and then later John Calvin and the other Reformers.
- J.R. Lumby wrote, "In verse 46 we are told that the Jews had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life, and all that is meant by the words in this verse is the opposite of that expression. The Jews were acting so as to proclaim themselves unworthy; the Gentiles were making manifest their desire to be deemed worthy" (The Acts of the Apostles, The Cambridge Bible).
- Oliver Buswell says Acts 13:48 means, "as many as were prepared for eternal life" (Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion).
- God certainly does prepare the hearts of sinners (cf. Acts 16:14), but God does not arbitrarily choose some for heaven, and some for hell.
- Henry Alford (1810-1871), often referred to as "Dean Alford" because he was the dean of Canterbury Cathedral, said the word "ordained" in Acts 13:48 means, "disposed."
- Dean Alford wrote this in his book, New Testament for English Readers, "The meaning of this word disposed must be determined by the context. The Jews had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life (verse 46); 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 particularized. We know that is God who worketh in us the will to believe, and that the preparation of the heart is of Him: 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" (emphasis in original).
- God is omniscient; God is eternal; God is sovereign. God knows who will be saved, when they will be saved, and how they will be saved.
- The Bible speaks often of election, but God's election never interferes with man's free will and man's responsibility (cf. I Peter 1:2).
- If you are saved tonight, you have been chosen and predestinated for service. We have been saved in order to serve (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29).
THE DISCIPLES WERE FILLED WITH JOY AND WITH THE HOLY GHOST (13:52).
- Our Lord said in Luke 9:5, "And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them."
- He said the same thing in Luke 10:11, and that is what Paul and Barnabas did (Acts 13:51).
- Iconium was about eighty-five or ninety miles southeast.
- Paul and Barnabas, and the disciples in Antioch, "were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost" (13:52). They knew the Lord was closing a door in Antioch in Pisidia, but opening a new one in Iconium (14:1).
- The preaching of God's Word divides men (cf. 14:4).
- Some believe; some blaspheme (13:45b).
- Some agree with the Gospel message; some contradict it (13:45b).
- On one side of this great divide are those who reject the Word of God, and judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life (13:46).
- On the other side are those who believe and are "ordained to eternal life" (13:48). Which side are you on?
- If you are on God's side, then let me encourage you to get busy winning souls!
- "Lord, give us wisdom from above
To share the message of Christ's love;
And help us always persevere
To make that message loud and clear" -- copied