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Ordained to Eternal Life (Part 2)
Let us contemplate for a few moments the power of the word of God to radically and permanently change the dispositions of those to whom it is preached. One of the many Biblical illustrations of this truth took place in the synagogue at Antioch during the second missionary journey of the apostle Paul (Acts 13:14-52). After reading the law and prophets, Paul and his company were asked by the rulers of the synagogue to share any word of exhortation they might have for the people (13:15). In response to their gracious offer (and no doubt recognizing the providential hand of God), Paul stood up, and respectfully requested that the congregation give audience to what they were about to hear (13:16). Paul proceeded to deliver an historical and prophetical masterpiece.
He began his message with the captivity of Israel in Egypt. He cited the forty years of wilderness wanderings, the conquest of Canaan, the four hundred-fifty year era of the judges, the work of Samuel the prophet, the kingships of Saul and David, and the preaching of John before the coming of Jesus—the Saviour of Israel, and the fulfillment of all the promises made to David. He recounted the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the Jews at Jerusalem, and concluded with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead as the fulfillment of the promises made unto the fathers.
It is worth noting that this word of exhortation delivered by Paul was also referred to as the word of this salvation (13:26), the word of God (13:43, 46), and the word of the Lord (13:48, 49). His final admonition consisted of three unambiguous assertions: through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins (13:38); by him all that believe are justified (13:39); and beware of despising the message of salvation in Jesus (13:40-41).
The disposition of the Jews toward the word of God stands in stark contrast to that of the Gentiles. The Jews were filled with envy at the Gentile multitudes, and spoke contradictory and blasphemous words against the word of God. Paul boldly accused them of putting it away, and judging themselves unworthy of everlasting life. The Gentiles, on the other hand, desired for these words to be preached to them again the next Sabbath day. They responded with gladness to the fact that God was offering to them the same forgiveness of sins, justification (righteous standing before Him), and eternal life. They glorified the word of the Lord, and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
The word ordained is from the Greek word tasso. It can have a range of meanings depending on the context in which it is used, including to arrange (in an orderly manner), to place (in order), to dispose (to a certain position or lot), to addict, and to determine. The verb form is a perfect passive participle, which tells us that this ordination to eternal life was of a permanent nature, that it came upon them from an outside source, and that it took place prior to (and as a condition for) the exercise of faith.
Our task is three-fold: (1) to determine the sense (meaning) of ordained as it is used here, (2) to identify the source, and (3) to ascertain the time at which it took place. The context enables us to achieve all three objectives, especially since Luke takes great care to represent eternal life as a genuine offer made by God to all men without exception or distinction, and faith as the condition upon which God justifies sinners, whether Jew or Gentile.
The clear meaning of ordained in this context is that the Gentiles had become permanently disposed toward eternal life due to the effect of the word of God upon them. The hunger to hear resulted in an addiction to those things that pertain to eternal life, and a resolute determination to trust in Jesus to receive the benefits of salvation. There is nothing in the context to suggest an act of God in eternity past. The believing Gentiles were ordained (disposed) to eternal life in an historical context after hearing the word of salvation and before they believed. The unbelieving Jews had every opportunity to be ordained to eternal life, but chose rather to reject the word of the Lord.
Brethren, the disposition of the Gentiles to eternal life holds two great lessons for us. First, it confirms that one's response to the word of God is the critical difference between heaven and hell. Secondly, it defines that disposition of soul that always precedes saving faith. How many professing Christians have never experienced a fixed determination to pursue the Lord and or a permanent addiction to those things that pertain to life and godliness? As we embark upon 2002, let us examine ourselves to see whether we have been ordained to eternal life or merely pretenders to it.