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Whom Acts 13:48 has in mind?

aymon de albatrus

"And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." (Act 13:48)

"But you believe not, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:" (Joh 10:26-27)

"There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God." (Rom 3:11)

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (Joh 1:12-13)


"and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

Can there be a more grammatically and theologically clear statement than this one? Besides the words "were ordained" other translations use: "been appointed" or "were appointed" or "marked out" or "were pre-destined" or "who were destined" or "were foreordained"; but all have the same meaning "to be pre-ordained to a certain position".

It is a very remarkable statement, which cannot, without force, be interpreted of anything lower than this, that a divine ordination to eternal life is the cause, not the effect, of any manís believing.

It is God, that orders the end, orders the means, and gives opportunities to His people to hear the Word, and by it He graciously works faith in them whom He has appointed to eternal life (Eph 1:5); without which faith and the renewing of the heart (Eze 36:26,27), there is no hope of life eternal.

The Strong has for the word "ordained": 5021 tasso

There are eight appearances of "tasso" with these translations:
appoint 3, ordain 2, set 1, determine 1, addict 1, meaning:

1) to put in order, to station

1a) to place in a certain order, to arrange, to assign a place, to appoint

1a1) to assign (appoint) a thing to one

1b) to appoint, ordain, order

1b1) to appoint on oneís own responsibility or authority

1b2) to appoint mutually, i.e. agree upon

"Were ordained" is not based on self faith or as some would like to read the verse: "as many as were disposed unto eternal life believed"; but is says and means "were appointed to" not based on the believing first or being inclined to believe, i.e. it was something given to them from above, not earned or self generated. Men are said to be disposed to an habit, or to an act, as to vice or virtue, but not to reward or punishment, as to heaven or hell. Indeed the people that in Act 13:42 requested that the things preached by the Apostles be preached again the next Sabbath were not all saved, for not all converted in Act 13:48, but only those who "were ordained to eternal life believed".

An inward dispositions to spiritual things, as in many of our Lordís hearers; admitting that in some there exists a disposition to eternal life, previous to faith, and that desiring eternal life, and seeking after it, contrary to Scripture (Rom 3:11), yet in many of these faith does not follow; as in the young rich ruler. He came to Christ with such a convinced inquiry, but went away sorrowful when our Lord tested the nature of his believing. As many therefore as are so disposed, do not always believe, true faith does not always necessarily follow such dispositions. Take the case of the Jews themselves, who were externally very religious, and were looking for the Messiah and were disposed unto eternal life, more than the ignorant and idolatrous Gentiles; and yet the latter believed, and the former did not.

As stated the word "tasso" is used but eight times in the New Testament, here the other 7:

Mat 28:16, "Into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them," i.e., previously appointed, or commanded them, before his death.

Luk 7:8. "For I also am a man set under authority", appointed, or designated, as a soldier, to be under the authority of another

Act 15:2. "They determined that Paul and Barnabas, etc., should go to Jerusalem."

Act 22:10, "It shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do;"

Act 28:23, "And when they had appointed him a day," etc

Rom 13:1, "The powers that be, are ordained of God."

1Co 16:15, "They have addicted (appointed) themselves to the ministry of saints."

The Greek word "tasso" correctly means to place; to place in a certain rank or order. Its meaning is derived from arranging or disposing a body of soldiers in regular order; to arrange in military order. In the places which have been mentioned above.

The word is used to denote the following things:

1. To command, or to designate, Mat 28:16; Act 22:10; 28:23

2. To institute, constitute, or appoint, Rom 13:1; 2Sa 7:11; 1Sa 22:7

3. To determine, to take counsel, to resolve, Act 15:2

4. To subject to the authority of another, Luk 7:8

5. To addict to; to devote to, 1Co 16:15.

The meaning may be thus expressed:

  1. The word is never used to denote an internal disposition or inclination arising from oneís own self. It does not mean that they disposed themselves to embrace eternal life.

  2. It has the notion of an ordering, disposing, or arrangement from without, i.e., from some other source than the individual himself; as of a soldier, who is arranged or classified according to the will of the proper officer. They were disposed or inclined to believe from some other source than themselves.

  3. They were then predisposed to believe by an influence from without themselves, or so externally disposed as to embrace eternal life. That this was done by the influence of the Holy Spirit, is clear from all parts of the New Testament, Tit 3:5,6; Joh 1:13. It was not a disposition or arrangement originating with themselves; but with God.

  4. This expresses the doctrine of election. For it was nothing but Godís disposing them to embrace eternal life. And that He does this according to a plan in his own mind (an unchangeable plan, which is unchangeable as God is) is clear from the Scriptures; Act 18:10; Rom 8:28-30; 9:15,16,21,23; Eph 1:4,5,11. The meaning may be expressed in few words: "who were THEN disposed, and in good earnest determined, to embrace eternal life, by the operation of the grace of God on their hearts".

We see in Act 13:48 that not all believed, for it specifically says: "and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed", it follows then that only certain ones were ordained: and therefore God did not only foreknow, but also foreordained, that neither faith nor the effects of faith should be the cause of his ordaining, or appointment, but His ordaining the cause of faith (Eph 2:8).

Indeed only those with a new heart (His elect, His predisposed ones) could really "hear" the Gospel preached by the Apostles for ONLY those belonging to Christ (His sheep Joh 10:27) had an ear predisposed to hear His voice and to believe and to follow Him, but for the rest it would have been utter nonsense: "But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1Co 2:14)

This true interpretation is generally rejected by modern believers, especially among the more naturally religious, because human nature does not take pleasure in being humbled. It avoids admitting that salvation is far more an act of God than earned through our intelligence, goodness, wisdom, morality, purity, conviction, commitment to prayer and study, dedication to seeking Him, or love of God. Human nature is so perverse that even in this, in the face of so much biblical evidence; vanity wants to take credit for what it simply does not deserve.

But the principle is that God by His Spirit supernaturally disposes our minds through His summons and begins to separate us from those He is not calling. At the same time, He begins to reveal Himself and His way. He does not call everybody generally, but those He wants to call. Thus our calling is completely within the will of the sovereign God, who specifically appoints those He desires to understand His ways, at His pleasure and time.


Who Act 13:48 has in mind? Obviously NOT those born of the will of man, but those born of the will of God (Joh 1:13), that is: His elect.