If you reject the doctrines of John Calvin (as I do), here’s a verse that might leave you (as it did me) scratching your head. Acts 13:48 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.
Ordained to eternal life? Like God had already decided it?
Not so fast. Sam Gipp offers an excellent explanation in his commentary, A Practical and Theological Study of the Book of Acts:
Here we find a passage which hyper-Calvinists love to quote. Calvinists are classic for “reading into” a verse something which is not there. Let us first look at what this passage does not say.
It does not say that anyone was “overwhelmed” by God’s “irresistible grace” (a term which does not appear in the Bible) against their will.
It does not say that these people were “fore” ordained from before the foundations of the world.
It does not say that God had “predestinated” them to salvation.
The word “ordain” is defined in scripture in only two places, and both times the same word is used.
Psalm 7:13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.
Isaiah 30:33 For Tophet is ordained of old; yea, for the king it is prepared; he hath made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it.
I will let you check a thesaurus to see the many applications of the word “prepare.” (Fire up your Bible program and see if one of the definitions for “prepare” can’t be used in every instance that “ordained” is used in scripture.)
I will note that there are at least three instances in scripture where something was “ordained,” but the purpose for which it was ordained was not fulfilled.
Romans 7:10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
God prepared the commandment to bring life, yet instead it brought death.
2 Corinthians 9:14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you.
There are some men in the ministry who add outside incomes to what God provides through the gospel. (My comment: Like Paul did. So the point here is not that a “bi-vocational ministry” is unscriptural in any way – in a great number cases, it’s very commendable – but that not everything works out the way God ordained it to.)
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
It is obvious by the pettiness and wickedness found in Christianity that we are not all walking in good works.
The conclusion is simple. God prepares people for salvation. There are two examples. Look how God prepared Cornelius in Acts 10. Also, remember how God prepared your heart prior to your getting saved.
But people who God deals with don’t always get saved. In Acts 13, in Antioch in Pisidia (v. 14), no one who God had dealt with rejected Jesus Christ. That probably doesn’t happen too often.
These Gentiles who believed in Acts 13:48 had sought to hear more about the Lord (v. 42). Since they wanted to find out more about Christ, it appears that God gave them the chance to, and they didn’t shun it.