48” 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 (Acts 13:48)
The sovereignty of God in salvation is an often controversial and hotly debated subject. It remains an ongoing debate as well as an intramural debate between fellow believers in Christ. I have encountered many people who become visibly agitated at me when I preach and teach from the Scriptures that our justification from God is by sovereign grace alone, through God given faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.
The sovereignty of God in saving sinners is not biblically supported by lifting verses out of their immediate context and having them stand alone. In properly interpreting the Scriptures, we must not only examine a particular verse in question, but how that verse fits in its overall context of the preceding, and following, verses contained within the particular paragraph and chapter. Case in point: John 3:16 cannot be correctly understood without examining it within the context of John 3:1-15 and John 3:17-21.
Regarding the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, today’s text contributes much to the discussion. Within the immediate context of Acts 13:13-43, the results of Paul and Barnabas’ preaching ministry is the salvation of Gentiles in Pisidia Antioch. Upon hearing and understanding that the Gospel was available to the Gentiles (Acts 13:42-47), these non-Jewish individuals began rejoicing and glorifying the Word of the Lord.
Luke then states that “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48b). Notice the cause and effect structure of this statement. Believing, which is the effect, is caused by a sovereign appointing to eternal life.
The word appointed (τεταγμένοι; tetagmenoi) is grammatically a perfect passive particle. This means that it is a past completed action with continuing results. It is a passive verb which means that the action was done by someone, or something, upon the recipients and not by the recipients themselves. Appointed means to be designated, determined or assigned. The designation, determination, and assignment from God upon these Gentiles in particular is eternal life, or an everlasting covenant relationship with God through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
How is this appointment unto eternal life evidenced or effected? The effect of this prior appointment is that many believed (ἐπίστευσαν; episteusan). Belief is trust in, dependence upon, commitment to and worship of the One, True God. Many of the Gentiles believed the Gospel, because God previously appointed many unto eternal life so that they would possess saving faith in order to believe the Gospel.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “God chose these people beforehand (in eternity past), and now giving them repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25) has brought them to faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). Luke uses the passive voice (“were appointed”), indicating that God is the agent. Only God grants eternal life (Matthew 25:46; John 10:28-30; 17:1-2).”
God appointed you before the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 1:3-14) to believe the Gospel and receive eternal life. Therefore, He receives all the glory for your salvation. Take time today to praise and honor Him for His sovereign appointment of salvation for your eternal soul.
Soli deo Gloria!