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Ordained to Eternal Life (Part 1)

When we last left the apostle Paul in Antioch of Pisidia, he and Barnabas had persuaded many of the Jews and religious proselytes to continue in the grace of God. If Paul had been carrying a DayMinder business calendar, he might have already flipped over to the page for the next Sabbath day, and penciled in: “Preach again at synagogue by popular demand! God is moving!” These men had issued a bona fide invitation to Paul and his team, and the invite was accepted. So, like yeast in a batch of bread dough, the gospel of forgiveness through faith in Jesus—the One who died and rose again for Jews and Gentiles alike—had seven days to permeate the city…and permeate it did!

Think for a moment about the conversations that must have taken place that week at the work place, in the houses of friends as they visited, around dinner tables, and between attendees of the previous meeting who occasioned to meet. Those that took place between Gentiles must have been especially riveting. They were no doubt overwhelmed by the fact that a merciful God had included them in the offering up of his Son for the sins of the world. No more outcasts! No longer strangers to the promises! No longer relegated to proselyte status! It was an open door afforded to them by grace to stand justified by faith before a Holy God, and on equal footing with the Jews! Oh, that gospel must have been to them like a river of refreshing water in the midst of a dry and thirsty land. It is inconceivable to me that those Gentiles who heard it could have kept silent for a full week. By the way, how is it that we who have tasted grace of God are able to keep silent?

Luke tells us that almost the whole city came together on the next Sabbath day to hear the Word of God (Acts 13:44). That phrase does indeed make the case for permeation! A key omission is any mention of the synagogue. Since the entire city (minus a citizen or two) showed up, the meeting was most likely held outdoors. It’s always a sure sign of God’s grace and power at work when the gospel message actually breaks out from behind the meeting place walls and into the streets of the city!

The Jews did not respond well to this break out (13:45). I can see them leaving home for the synagogue as they had done many times before, expecting one more time to hear the itinerant Jewish evangelist speak of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. Upon their arrival at the meeting place, they were “filled with envy” when they saw the multitudes (plural) of Gentiles that had congregated. God was on the scene, and had messed up their solemn and predictable routine.

I suppose what really stuck in their craw was the fact that God was extending his grace to Gentiles, and willing to by-pass "the chosen” in the process. So envy in the heart transformed these previously respectful men into blaspheming combatants. In my mind, the blasphemy was an accusation that Paul was speaking lies and operating under the power of Satan. There is no greater crime against heaven than that of standing between a lost sinner and the gospel that can save his or her soul!

Paul and Barnabas responded boldly to the verbal attacks (13:46-47). First, they affirmed the primacy of preaching to the Jews. It was necessary as a matter of election. Jesus had come to his chosen people even though they received him not. Secondly, they pulled no punches in spelling out what the Jews were in the process of doing—rejecting the Word of the very God they claimed to worship! Thirdly, they pronounced a self-imposed sentence upon the Jews—unworthy of everlasting life! God imposes such a sentence on those who impose it upon themselves! Eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ was theirs for the believing, but they chose to remain in unbelief. Fourthly, they informed the Jews that they could expect to see more of the same with respect to the Gentiles and salvation.

Those words reassured the Gentiles concerning God’s good grace toward them (13:48). They were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Expositor G. Campbell Morgan is correct when he states: “the word ordained has no reference whatsoever to any act of God” (The Acts of The Apostles, p. 334). He further cites the rendering of Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible, which reads: “they that were disposed to eternal life.” Any Greek lexicon will confirm that “to dispose” is a perfectly legitimate meaning of the Greek word. Nothing in Luke’s inspired record suggests an act of Divine election that took place before the world began. The context makes absolutely clear what ordained (disposed) them to life eternal. It was the Word of God working on their open minds and hearts as they continued in the grace of God!

A week of continuance in grace had finally turned desire into disposition, and faith in Jesus was the result! The unbelieving Jews might have been ordained in like manner if they had continued in the same grace. But envy born of prejudice cut that continuance short, and sealed their eternal fate. Thanks be unto God for his matchless grace!


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